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Teaching Reading Strategies

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Teaching reading strategies is subjective based on the documented learning progress of students. Reading strategies that effectively cover the needs of most students are those which demonstrate that a student has mastered comprehension of reading strategies and assignments comparable to his or her grade level. Implementing reading strategies is an integral part of a student’s overall education. Strategies that can be utilized must be planned out in phases in order to be most efficient. Since reading does not only include being able to pronounce words, but also the ability to comprehend content, teachers must pay careful attention to the ability of each student utilizing a reading strategy that subjectively addresses the needs of each student. Teaching Reading Strategies

Historically, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the methods of teaching reading despite a substantial amount of research into the effectiveness of the various methods used in early reading instruction.  In general, the research has found support for both the phonics-based and whole-language based instructional strategies.  A skills acquisition theory underlies the phonics-based instructional technique while the whole language instructional technique is supported by constructivist theory, which contends that learning occurs through interaction with the environment and others. There has, however, been relatively little research comparing the two methods, with the small amount of comparative research suggesting that a combined approach that uses both phonics and whole language techniques may produce the best overall results for reading skill acquisition.

Teacher Involvement

Some students may need to read in his or her native language initially in order to improve his or her cognitive skills. Teachers may assign reading for students to do at home based on the student’s native language, including a list of questions to be answered based on the reading. An effective reading strategy accounts for preparation to read, help during reading assignment and analyzing progress upon completion of a reading assignment. Before reading, teachers can prepare the student by setting a purpose or decide in advance what to read for. During reading, teachers can monitor comprehension by determining what is and is not important to understand. After reading is completed, teachers can evaluate the student’s comprehension level by evaluating overall progress as related to a particular type of reading task. In teaching these strategies, teachers must take into account the fact that reading assignments must be authentic and make sense to the student.

Phonics or Whole-Language Instruction?

The issue of the most effective teaching method of reading instruction and development has become somewhat politicized, with various organizations supporting one instructional method or the other. 

Supporters of Phonics-based education:

Supporting the whole language position:

  • The majority of university researchers
  • National Association of Developmental Education 

The International Reading Association contends that there is no one method that is best for all educational purposes and suggests that a combination of phonics and whole language methods should be used as appropriate for the individual student.

In this controversial context, the research problem is to determine whether a viable comparison can be established between the phonics and whole-language instructional methods based on the outcomes produced by the use of these methods in a controlled educational setting.  In addition, the research problem should focus on establishing a statistically significant correlation with measurable outcomes produced by both instructional methods to determine whether one method is superior to the other.  In the event that both methods produce approximately equal results, such research would provide support for the position that both methods should be simultaneously used for developmental reading programs. The methodology used in examining the subject of the relative effectiveness of the phonic and whole language reading instructional methods is based on a literature review of the topic.

Freppon and McIntyre (1999) conducted research to determine the effectiveness of different instructional methods on the reading strategies adopted by early readers.  The theoretical approach of the researchers was from a whole language position, with the working definition of reading strategy based on the child’s use of print knowledge such as letter-sound correspondence, or phonics, and the use of visual cues, self-correcting and other types of practices that demonstrated a whole language approach to reading.  The research was conducted at two Midwestern schools, with samples from skills-based and constructivist kindergarten classrooms and first grade classrooms that were selected by teacher interviews and observation.  To establish comparisons, individual students from the skills-based and constructivist classroom were paired and tracked from the beginning of kindergarten to the completion of the first grade.  Evidence of the child’s language skills was obtained from testing at the beginning and end of the observation period, with the testing including a number of criteria such as intentionality, story structure cognition and alphabetical principle that served as a proxy for reading skill level.  In addition, data was collected from classroom observations and recorded student readings of common texts that occurred outside of the classroom.  The data was analyzed by outside experts in reading in order to minimize the potential of researcher bias. In addition, each child in the study participated in a controlled reading event that was recorded and analyzed.  The researchers found that all study subjects that participated in a constructivist whole-language based program read far longer in the controlled reading event than the study subjects from a phonics-based instructional program.  At the same time, however, there was no substantive difference in the reading development outcome between the two educational strategies as measured by the written reading test sample.  One of the main limitations of this study is the very small number of participants, which consisted of only six students.  This precluded the use of statistical comparison methods such as ANOVA in order to establish a definitive correlation.

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