Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, comprehend and work with the individual sounds which words comprise of. It is important that children are able to understand the way in which words are made up of different sounds, or phonemes, if they are to progress effectively from speaking to reading print. Phonemic awareness and phonics are not the same thing, however. Phonics relates instead to the understanding of the link between the phonemes and the letters that represent these sounds in the written language, which are termed graphemes.
From this association, it should be possible for children to realise that there are predictable patterns in the ways which the written words relate to the spoken words. Fluency is the ability to read written text accurately and quickly. This ability is associated with automatic recognition of the words in the text, which will develop according to having learnt phonic representation, and through repeated exposure to the written forms of the words. Fluency also means that the reader is able to read text in a manner that sounds natural.
It is an important step in the reading process as it is a bridge between recognition of the written words and comprehension of those words (Katzir et al. , 2006). Vocabulary refers to the words which are needed for effective communication. Children will develop oral vocabulary and reading vocabulary, usually needing to develop the oral vocabulary first. The reading vocabulary relates to the words which the child recognises in the written text, while oral vocabulary is that which is used in everyday oral communication.
Reading vocabulary is important in developing comprehension, as children cannot understand what is in the written text without building the reading vocabulary to the necessary standards. Comprehension is the final step in the reading process, and is the ultimate reason for reading. Without comprehension of the text, children are not actually reading, as true reading has a purpose (Partnership for Reading, 2003). All five components interact during the reading process in order to produce the final overall ability to read (Katzir et al.
, 2006). It is a process whereby there are visible steps in the process for each new set of words, but the reader will always be at different stages of the process with different sets of words. Even readers who are considered to be competent will meet new words which are unfamiliar, and will go through the same steps in order to achieve comprehension. From the study it is clear that the five components are all equally important in developing overall comprehension.
At present I personally use an interactive approach in which all five components are dealt with equally, rather than using only one specific strategy (SIL, 1999). Therefore the research has reinforced the methods which are currently used, confirming that they are the appropriate way in which to teach children. On way in which the method used in the classroom may be improved, however, is to ensure that children do not forget the earlier steps in the process such as phenomic awareness as they progress through reading levels.
Katzir, T. , Kim, Y. , Wolf, M. , O’Brien, B. , Kennedy, B. , Lovett, M. and Morris, R. (2006) Reading fluency: The whole is more than the parts. Annals of Dyslexia, 56(1), 51-82. Partnership for Reading (2003) Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. Jessup, MD: EdPub. SIL (1999) What is a Reading Model? SIL International. Taken from CD Rom published by LinguaLinks Library.
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