In my previous article, “Why Can’t All My Students Read: The Solutions,” about how to adequately prepare trainee teachers to teach reading, I concluded that any short-term solution was likely to be piecemeal. Most likely it would involve professional development to address the science of reading and how to teach “The Big Five.” State-by-state licensure initiatives might also help. This article will be introducing you to the National Reading Panel and their “Big Five” essentials for successful reading.
Congress appointed a National Reading Panel (NPR) in 1997 to review reading research and determine the most effective methods for teaching reading. The NRP reviewed over 100,000 studies and analyzed them to see what techniques actually worked in teaching children to read. The group only looked at quantitative studies, which gathered data in a numerical form and through structured techniques. Qualitative studies, which gather data through observations such as interviews were not included. In 2000 the NRP submitted their final report. The results became the basis of the federal literacy policy at that time, which included “No Child Left Behind.” We still base our understanding of evidence-based reading research on the NPR, but sadly, some of their major recommendations have been largely ignored. As a result we are continuing to experience a reading crisis, as I have discussed in a previous blog “Won’t Read, Can’t Read, Part 2.” So what were their findings? They concluded that there were five essential components to reading, known as “The Big Five:”
1. Explicit instruction in Phonemic Awareness.
2. Systematic Phonics Instruction.
3. Techniques to improve Fluency. These include guided oral reading practices where the student reads aloud and the teacher makes corrections when the student mispronounces a word. A teacher can also model fluent reading to the student. Fluency includes accuracy, speed, understanding and prosody. Word calling is not the same as fluency.
4. Teaching vocabulary words or Vocabulary Development.
5. Reading Comprehension.
Teaching a student to read is like building a house, and you need to lay a foundation first of all. Without the foundation the building is unstable and will eventually fall down. That foundation is Phonemic Awareness. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that all spoken words are made up using a subset of about 44 individual sounds, called phonemes. Mastery of the skill of phonemic awareness has to be to the point of automaticity in order for fluency to be developed.
On top of this comes systematic Phonics. Children learn that the sounds in spoken words relate to the patterns of letters in written words. Not just mastery of the skills of systematic phonics, but automaticity in those skills, is also necessary for fluency to develop.
With these two layers in place and developed to the point of automaticity, techniques to improve Fluency can begin to be effective.
Vocabulary Development can be built next, including learning the meaning of new words through direct and indirect instruction, and developing tools like morphemic analysis, to discover the meaning of an unknown word.
Then Comprehension Skills can be added. Comprehension skills are the strategies a reader can use to better comprehend a text.
This is the foundation of reading, but it is also the foundation of education generally. Every subject is dependent on reading, and mastery of these subjects depends on developing a strong foundation in these early literacy skills.
In the next five blogs I will discuss each of “The Big Five” individually and in more depth, and I will describe how they can be developed, and provide some resources that will help.
The Orton-Gillingham Online Academy has developed a suite of training courses, webinars and other resources to develop “The Big Five.” Visit their web site to discover more about each of these.
1. The Five Strands of Reading-2015 Master Teacher Training, Part 1 by Logic of English.
2. David A.Kilpatrick, Ph.D. Equipped for Reading Success
Lorna Wooldridge is a dyslexia specialist tutor with over twenty-five years of experience and qualifications in the field of learning differences, from both the UK and USA. Lorna has a unique perspective on this condition as she has dyslexia, and her passion is to serve this community in any way she can.