Over the last two years California has seen a decline in the reading
test scores of its students and increased concern among educators and parents,
along with renewed interest and accelerated research into the teaching of
reading. In the Fall of 1995, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction
issued a report from the Reading Task Force that called for balance in the
way reading is taught. Since that report, many schools and districts have
been attempting to design and implement comprehensive programs. This document
lays out the current research base along with proven practices for effective
literacy instruction, particularly in the early grades. In addition, recommendations
are included for preservice and inservice education that will guarantee
a well-prepared teaching force to tackle the complexities of literacy and
teach all of our children to read well.
This report was prepared by Linda Diamond and Sheila Mandel
of theConsortium on Reading Excellence, a division of the Institute
for Policy Analysis and Research, 2200 Powell Street, Suite 250A, Emeryville,
CA 94608, (510) 450-2555.
In the Fall of 1995, California issued a report from the Reading Task Force
appointed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin.
The Task Force Report called for a return to balance in the way reading
is taught. The Task Force also emphasized the importance of a comprehensive
approach to reading that includes both direct skill instruction and the
activities and strategies most often associated with effective whole language
Teaching reading has never been easy. While oral language seems to develop
naturally for most children, reading does not. In addition to the "unnaturalness"
of reading for many children, reading instruction has often been at the
center of philosophical and political debate. Teachers, administrators,
and parents have watched the pendulum swing one way and then another for
so long that they are weary. However, enough is now known about reading
that the destructive and often rancorous debates about how best to teach
it can and should be put to rest.
The research presented in this document draws on the entire field but
especially highlights three respected practitioner/researchers: Hallie Yopp,
Professor, Department of Elementary and Bilingual Education, California
State University Fullerton; Marilyn Adams, Ph. D., Senior Scientist, Bolt
Beranek and Newman, Inc.; and David Pearson, Professor at Michigan State
University. All experts emphasize the importance of a systematic and research-based
instructional approach aimed at giving students control as they learn to
read. This systematic approach has two critical elements:
- teaching the system of language
- linking instruction in a logical sequenced progression
throughout the grades
Such an approach is not a return to dull, repetitive drills in classrooms
devoid of engaging literature; rather it is part of a broader language-rich
program consistent with the best practices of whole language and the California
Language Arts Framework. The implications, then, for teacher preparation
arise out of understanding what is required to teach reading: teacher education
should include an "understanding of how the English language system
works, how students learn to read, and state-of-the-art best practices in
both skill development and whole language activities" (Professor Gerald
Treadway, California State University at San Diego).
This report builds on the Task Force Report by describing the clear research
base for changing the way reading is taught and by providing practical ways
for schools to implement such comprehensive reading programs. It covers
three main topics:
- the latest and best research on how children learn to read
- the effective practices for educators based on the research
- the implications for professional development
- recommendations for the field
Because of the convergence of research and best practice, it is now abundantly
clear what it will take to enable children to become skilled readers. All
successful early reading programs must:
- base instruction on accurate diagnostic information
- develop print concepts
- develop knowledge of letter names and shapes
- convey the understanding that spoken words are composed of sounds (phonemic
awareness) and that letters correspond to these sounds
- provide systematic and explicit instruction in sound/ symbol
- connect that instruction to practice in highly decodable text
that contains the sounds and symbols taught
- make use of rich and varied literature and read to children regularly
In addition, direct instruction and practice comprehending the meaning
of text must start early and build through the grades. Instruction in the
upper grades must extend and build upon the skills developed earlier. All
of these skills must be taught as part of a comprehensive approach that
includes varied and abundant printed materials, active learning, and the
development of written and spoken language through highly engaging activities.
Hallie Kay Yopp, Ph.D, Professor, Dept.
of Elementary and Bilingual Education,CSU Fullerton
Professor Yopp addresses the critical role of phonemic awareness in the
early stages of reading acquisition. She defines phonemic awareness as "the
awareness that phonemes exist as abstractable and manipulable components
of spoken language. It is the ability to reflect on speech and experiment
(play) with its smallest components (phonemes). Phonemic awareness is not
phonics and not auditory discrimination."
The research outlines a progression of phonemic awareness development
in pre-school, kindergarten, and early first grade that includes the ability:
- to hear rhymes or alliteration
- to blend sounds to make a word (e.g., /a/-/t/ = at)
- to count phonemes in words ( how many sounds do you hear in "is"?)
- to identify the beginning, middle, and final sounds in words
- to substitute one phoneme for another (e.g., change the /h/ in "hot"
- to delete phonemes from words (e.g., omit the /c/ from "cat")
Key Research Findings About Phonemic Awareness:
- Research has identified phonemic awareness as the most potent predictor
of success in learning to read. It is more highly related to reading
than tests of general intelligence, reading readiness, and listening comprehension
- The lack of phonemic awareness is the most powerful determinant
of the likelihood of failure to learn to read because of its importance
in learning the English alphabetic system or how print represents spoken
words. If children cannot hear and manipulate the sounds in spoken words,
they have an extremely difficult time learning how to map those sounds
to letters and letter patterns - the essence of decoding. (Adams, 1990).
- It is the most important core and causal factor separating normal
and disabled readers (Adams, 1990).
- It is central in learning to read and spell (Ehri, 1984).
Phonemic awareness can be developed in children by providing them with
rich language experiences that encourage active exploration and manipulation
of sounds. These activities lead to significant gains in subsequent reading
and spelling performance. Most children will learn basic phonemic awareness
from these activities. Some children need more extensive assistance. Children
should be diagnosed mid-kindergarten to see if they are adequately progressing,
and if not, given more intensive phonemic awareness experiences. For all
children, the more complex phonemic awareness abilities are learned in the
context of learning letter/sound correspondences.
A close relationship exists between a child's control over sounds and
his reading ability. Some quick test instruments that reliably assess development
of phonemic awareness in about five minutes include the Rosner, the Yopp-Singer
tests, and the Roswell-Chall.
In numerous studies, correlations between a kindergarten test of phonemic
awareness and performance in reading years later are extremely high. Thus,
phonemic awareness has been identified by researchers in replicated studies
in many countries as a very potent predictor of success in reading and spelling
achievement. In fact, Professor Yopp indicates that such high correlations
remain even after controlling for intelligence and socio-economic status.
Marilyn Adams, Ph.d., Senior Scientist, Bolt Beranek
and Newman, Inc.
Dr. Adams focuses on the need for children to develop automatic word
recognition and the system to achieve this. Dr. Adams supports Dr. Yopp's
conclusion that training in phonemic awareness is the foundation for learning
to recognize words. Such training is necessary because most children enter
kindergarten without the conscious awareness that words are made up of distinct
sounds; rather they hear words as complete units. Dr. Adams discusses the
value of whole language in encouraging flexible class organization, the
use of quality literature, and the emphasis on early writing. However, she
faults the methodology of whole language for operating under the mistaken
assumption that skillful readers "skip, skim, and guess" instead
of reading what's on the page.
Extensive eye movement research replicated by brain scans shows that
skillful readers move their eyes from left to right, are "meticulously
respectful of the words, and irrepressibly translate print to speech as
they read line by line." The goal of reading instruction is to make
the process of reading words effortless and automatic so that the mind can
be free to reflect on meaning. In order to do this children must have "detailed
knowledge of words, of how they are spelled, and of how they map onto speech."
Both whole language and some conventional phonics programs are faulted for
not teaching that speech can be broken down into sound (phonemic awareness)
and for not providing detailed knowledge of the language system.
Research shows that IQ, mental age, perceptual styles, handedness, race,
or parents' education are all weak predictors of reading success.
The factors that contribute directly to reading ability are:
- letter knowledge
- linguistic awareness of words, syllables, and phonemes
- knowledge about print
After phonemic awareness, the best predictor of first grade reading is
a child's ability to recognize letters.
Dr. Adams emphasizes the importance of organized phonics instruction
because it allows children to use the system of language rather than to
guess. Research indicates that a direct and organized way of acquainting
children with the major components of our alphabetic system is more effective
than an indirect approach which lacks precision, order, and clarity. While
some children will intuitively figure out the system, many will learn faster
and better by receiving organized and explicit instruction. In addition
to direct instruction, Dr. Adams states that students must be able to practice
what they have been taught in decodable text mostly comprised of words that
contain the sounds/symbols being taught. Dr. Adams' study of the research
has shown clearly that students who do not develop basic phonemic awareness,
letter recognition, and the ability to decode words quickly will have difficulty
learning to read. Many of these children end up identified as dyslexic and
require special education.
A major series of research studies directed by G. Reid Lyon of the National
Institute of Child, Health, and Human Development (NICHD) in Bethesda, Maryland
and others confirms this. These studies looked at the features that predispose
children to having reading disabilities. The major problem appears to be
Three areas of phonological processing difficulty predispose children
to reading disabilities:
- a lack of phonemic awareness
- difficulty with lexical access, or the ability to rapidly name pictures,
colors, and objects
deficits in phonological memory, which is the ability to hold lexical units
in memory and then to operate on those units (e.g., repeat a string of
numbers, or follow a set of oral directions)
For these students, without systematic and explicit instruction in the
code system, reading becomes a probabilistic guessing game. The NICHD studies
identify the best strategies to use with these children.
The following three strategies need to be in place for all successful
- explicit work to help children understand the sound structure of the
language at the phonemic level
- intensive and explicit work in sound/symbol associations, ranging from
thirty minutes a day, five days a week to one hour at a time in a 1:1 tutorial
- explicit application to connected text with controlled vocabulary
Furthermore, the NICHD research indicates that interventions must begin
early. Research shows that if schools delay intervention until age seven
for children experiencing difficulty, 75 percent will continue having difficulties.
Professor Foorman of the University of Houston finds that dyslexic problems,
if caught in first or second grade, may be remedied 82 percent of the time.
Those caught in third to fifth grades may be improved 46 percent of the
time, while those identified later may only be treated successfully 10-15
percent of the time. Robert Slavin's effective reading program, Success
For All, which focuses on early intervention, has actually reduced special
education populations more than 25 percent in schools using his approach.
In addition to organized phonics, Dr. Adams talks about the value of
invented spelling because it serves as an excellent diagnostic tool and
it engages children in the sounds of words. Professor Adams and others encourage
this practice as a way for children to begin to express their ideas unconstrained
by their limited orthographic knowledge. Adams (1990) points out that students
who have ample experience with invented spelling improve in both reading
fluency and spelling. She goes on, however, to indicate that direct instruction
in word analysis and consonant blending is a necessary adjunct to children's
spelling development. Furthermore, Professor Adams and others (Woloshyn
and Pressley) urge an organized, spelling program starting around the middle
to late first grade as a productive and often neglected strategy to help
children learn to read.
Unlike the old phonics programs of the past which relied heavily on drill
and rote memorization, Professor Adams and others, notably Stanford University
Education Professor Robert Calfee, cite the importance of making decoding
and spelling instruction active. Calfee encourages "word work",
10-20 minutes of daily word play during which small groups of students construct
words. Such interactive lessons treat students as "budding cryptographers"
and problem solvers and integrate decoding with spelling (Calfee and Moran,
Finally, Professor Adams indicates that in addition to the skills for
decoding, children need to explore the language of books, hear texts read
aloud, and read a large number of books.
David Pearson, Ph. D., Professor, Michigan State University
David Pearson focuses on the need to systematically develop students'
comprehension skills. His comments are directed at helping students with
text meaning, which requires teaching students to be good thinkers
when they read by instructing them in metacognitional strategies, providing
opportunities for in-depth discussions, encouraging extensive authentic
reading and writing activities, and immersing them in literature. Professor
Pearson finds that in many classrooms, students spend little time actually
reading texts. Much of their instructional time is spent on workbook-type
assignments. The skill/time ratio is typically the highest for children
of the lowest reading ability (Allington, 1983). Furthermore, the research
indicates that teachers are spending inadequate amounts of time on direct
comprehension instruction. A study completed in 1979 (Durkin) concluded
that teachers used either workbooks or textbook questions to determine a
student's understanding of content, but rarely taught students "how
to comprehend." In 1987, Dr. Pearson (and Dole) described the importance
of "explicit instruction" for teaching comprehension.
Such instruction involves four phases:
- teacher modeling and explanation
- guided practice during which teachers "guide" students to
assume greater responsibility for task completion
- independent practice accompanied by feedback
- application of the strategies in real reading situations
Dr. Pearson emphasizes that comprehension instruction must be embedded
in texts rather than taught in isolation through workbook pages.
Dr. Pearson describes what good comprehension instruction should include:
- ample time for text reading in order to have regular practice,
acquire new knowledge and concepts, and build vocabulary
- teacher-directed instruction in comprehension that includes both
modeling and guided practice of such strategies as summarizing,
predicting ,and using the structural elements of text
- opportunities for discussing what's read with the teacher and peers
to enable students to learn to defend opinions based on their readings,
thus deepening their understanding of the texts and their ability to use
a whole range of responses from literal to critical and evaluative
Recommendations for Schools and Classrooms
Given the extensive research into effective reading practices, schools
will need all of the components described below to have comprehensive, balanced
Early Literacy Program
Beginning in pre-school and continuing through the primary grades, schools
must include language activities that develop listening and expressive skills.
Such activities include:
- listening to stories, poems and expository text
- telling and retelling stories and nursery rhymes
- singing and chanting (including the alphabet song)
- discussing word meanings, ideas, books and experiences
- making predictions about words and stories
These activities develop understanding of vocabulary, syntax, and story
structure in all children. They are especially important for English language
learners and for children who do not come from homes where literacy is nurtured.
Schools must build activities which teach children concepts about print
and foster a love of reading. Children should be read to daily, using books
with predictable patterns, repetition, and rhyme. The classroom needs to
be full of print that is varied and meaningful to the children. This includes:
- labeling children's cubbies and work areas
- listing birthdays, chores, and daily activities
- teaching page arrangement, directionality and story structure through
repeated readings and repetitive texts (big books are especially useful
for these purposes)
- noting words that begin or end with the same sound, words with the
same pattern, and punctuation cues
- Sharing wonderful stories and informational literature
- creating and posting student-generated stories
These activities support developing readers.
Starting in pre-school and continuing in kindergarten, phonemic awareness
should be developed in linguistically-rich environments where children are
encouraged to play with the sounds of language through developmentally appropriate
activities. Phonemic awareness may include:
a general awareness ( that some words are longer than others, for example)
- initial sound
- final sound
- medial sound
Activities that capitalize on children's natural curiosity and sense
of playfulness would include (Yopp):
- sharing books that play with language
- reading and reciting nursery rhymes
- singing songs that play with sounds
- engaging in games that encourage word play
- sharing riddles and rhymes that focus on songs
- activities that allow for phoneme substitution
All of the activities above start through oral development. Children
"hear" the words and see pictures of the objects (e.g. a milk
bottle, a top, a man, a cup). These activities should be dynamic, not done
through drills and rote memorization.
Schools should assess students' phonemic awareness development and should
intensify experiences for students who are not progressing.
- Begin assessment in mid-kindergarten
- Build phonemic awareness activities into instruction in letters and
Research has shown that about twenty minutes a day, three to four times
a week, will result in dramatic improvement for students who need further
development in phonemic awareness. Both formal and informal assessments
should be conducted that will allow teachers to assess which phonemic insights
need continued development in order to help students progress in decoding.
Again, the school needs to have in place intensified intervention in phonemic
awareness for any student in the primary grades who has not developed this
Starting in pre-school and kindergarten, schools should help students
learn the names and shapes of letters. Schools should make use of various
fun strategies to familiarize children with the names of the letters thus
giving them a "peg to which their visual perceptions can be attached"
(Adams). Instruction in recognizing the shape that matches the letter name
takes "time and practice and takes careful visual attention" (Adams).
Research suggests important points to consider when teaching the alphabet:
- teach upper and lower case letters separately
- begin with upper case letters in pre-school (However, since the ability
to read lower case letters is more important for reading text, it may be
wiser to emphasize the lower case letters when working with first graders
with little letter knowledge.)
- incorporate printing into instruction in letters as a powerful means
of developing letter recognition
- use letter/keyword/picture displays when introducing letter-sound instruction
By learning letter names through playful and engaging repetition, students
may be protected from confusing the sound of a letter with its name.
In late kindergarten and early first grade, schools must provide organized
and systematic phonics instruction that is based on diagnostic information.
Many children enter school with lots of prior print experience. For these
children, the content of the phonics lessons will consist more of review
and clarification than of new information, and sound/symbol lessons may
proceed quite rapidly.
Other children, however, enter school with little prior print knowledge
and will require more instruction. For these children, sufficient and repeated
practice spread over time will be essential, along with frequent opportunities
for evaluation. Instruction should be based on the following critical points:
Students must learn that the symbols of the alphabet are worth learning
and discriminating because each stands for at least one of the sounds that
occur in spoken words (the alphabetic principle).
Phonics instruction must be explicit and should include instruction in
blending letter sounds.
Explicit phonics provides children with the real relationships between letters
and sounds, or at least the approximations of them (Juel).
Teachers need to provide instruction in word attack skills, including
sounding out, syllabication, recognizing common letter patterns and generating
alternative pronunciations that will enable children to start to read beginning
Students need ample opportunities to practice in books they can read
independently, and teachers need to reinforce phonics instruction as they
share literature with students.
Without the right skills, children will over-rely on context rather than
visually store words and letter patterns that will lead to automatic word
recognition. Adams points out that a solid base of letter/sound correspondence
knowledge supported by, rather than relying on, context will enable students
to sound out and then identify any written word that is in their listening
The best instruction provides a strong relationship between what the
children learn in phonics and the stories they read. There should be a "high
proportion of the words in the earliest selections children read that conform
to the phonics that they have already been taught" (Becoming a Nation
of Readers). These selections also need enough high-frequency words
so that the texts sound natural.
Reading predictable texts to children may help them develop syntactic
awareness, semantic knowledge and vocabulary; however, predictable (when
they are not decodable using grapho-phonic cues) texts do not support children's
growing understanding of the alphabetic principles of English.
The best practice combines immersing children in rich language by reading
to them and providing access to a variety of texts, while explicitly and
systematically teaching them the sounds and their symbols and connecting
these to decodable texts.
Phonics instruction need not be tedious. Instead, activities which promote
play with words in hands-on ways will contribute to children's growing understanding
of the sound/symbol system. When children are able to decode automatically,
they can concentrate on the meaning of text.
Although a formal spelling program need not begin until late first grade,
schools should encourage and accept invented spelling as soon as children
begin to write spontaneously. Invented spelling is a diagnostic tool that
provides a window on children's developing knowledge of speech sounds and
orthography and frees children to experiment with print. Research has shown
that writing can precede and support reading. Students should be given regular
opportunities to express themselves on paper. Below are some examples of
early writing activities:
- writing captions and stories for drawings
- creating lists
- writing notes and cards
- recording observations
Direct spelling instruction is also necessary. Recent research has shown
that children progress faster in both spelling and reading if they are taught
how to analyze speech sounds in words and taught how to spell them by using
sound/symbol correspondence. Moreover, Adams points out that "the process
of copying new words strengthens students' memory for those words and does
so rather enduringly" (Whittlesea, 1987).
A daily writing program beginning in kindergarten (for those who already
have the necessary fine motor control) and in first grade is essential to
help children learn phonics.
Encoding the sound/symbol correspondences in both directed and free writing
sessions provides practice for the children and information for the teacher
about how much each child knows about these correspondences.
Opportunities to write stories, letters, and reports, as well as instruction
in mechanics, grammar and usage, should all be part of the writing program.
Further, student-authored books contribute positively to a classroom library.
Schools should consider a number of different grouping strategies to reduce
the span of skills so that instruction can be efficient and effective, and
to avoid a lock-step curriculum that is too easy for some and too difficult
for others. Some flexible grouping practices include:
- skills-organized groups
- every six to eight weeks based on assessment reconstituting primary
grades into mixed-age classes, each with a specified curriculum for ninety
minutes a day
- organizing (and reorganizing after assessment) five to six groups within
the first grade based on what children are learning
Because of the critical nature of reading, sufficient time must be set
aside for instruction. In kindergarten, it is recommended that at least
one third of the day be devoted to language arts activities. In the early
primary grades, at least two to three hours should be spent on language
arts activities, including reading, writing, oral language and spelling.
Language arts activities in general and reading in particular can and should
also be linked to other areas of the curriculum.
Instruction in writing continues through the grades.
Children should have opportunities to practice the process of writing
as well as to fine-tune and edit writing. Writing instruction needs to develop
fluency as well as correctness.
Children should learn complex sentence structure, paragraphing, organization,
and more advanced grammar and usage both directly and indirectly through
daily writing that encourages them to write across the curriculum.
Children should be writing for a variety of purposes and to a variety
It is important to encourage oral reports, debates, and group discussions
so that children continue to develop their oral skills. Learning to take
turns and respond to questions should be part of this oral skill development.
Spelling lessons that are based on diagnostic information continue to be
For those children who continue to struggle with the sound-symbol system,
spelling lists organized by sound themes remain critical.
In addition, irregular words, homonyms and high-utility morphemes should
Research suggests that immediate self-correction of tests is critical to
progress in spelling.
Decoding skills should continue through the elementary school years as needed.
Students should be taught more advanced skills, including how to make use
of complex letter/sound correspondences, word roots, prefixes and suffixes,
Vocabulary development continues through extensive reading opportunities,
during oral discussions and explanations, and through strategies such as
synonym building and semantic trees.
Advanced strategic reading skills such as summarizing, predicting, questioning,
and visualizing should be modeled and directly taught in the context of
reading varied materials. This presupposes regular time for reading and
discussion in groups as well as independently.
Activities to foster "deep discussions" about books should be
built into the school day. Such discussions should focus on important questions
and extend and deepen children's understanding of texts.
Parents should be enlisted to support the development of their child's
reading skills by:
- reading to their child
- listening to their child read
- discussing what has been read
This home-school connection should be supported by schools and teachers
through regular communications with parents about classroom activities and
expectations. Materials should be sent home for parents to read with their
Because ongoing assessment is a critical part of successful reading programs,
children who need more intense instruction should be identified beginning
in mid-kindergarten. For these children, tutors should be made available
on a daily basis. Children who transfer in to a school should be immediately
assessed and provided tutoring assistance if the need is warranted.
- Classrooms need a variety of appropriate books to meet the needs of
children at many different reading levels.
- Children must read material in which they can recognize at least 90%
of the words if their reading time is to be effective.
- On the other hand, if they are reading books in which they recognize
98 to 100% of the words, they are not going to progress.
Students should be given ample opportunity to read in order to put their
skills to use. Children should be reading twenty-five to thirty-five grade-appropriate
books each year from accepted fiction and non-fiction lists. Teachers should:
- conference regularly with children
- engage in in-depth discussions
- introduce children to a variety of genres
- require reading in different subject areas
- provide guided reading sessions
- read to children regularly
Flexible grouping should be used throughout the grades to ensure children
are acquiring the skills they need.
Implications for Professional Development:
Preservice and Inservice
Teaching reading is a complex activity. Teachers must be equipped with
the necessary practical skills and underlying linguistic understandings
in order to have a repertoire of techniques that will enable all children
to learn to read. So much has been learned about reading and literacy recently
that both preservice educators and those already teaching will need up-to-date
information on best practices. The key to improving literacy instruction
in California is professional development and teacher preparation.
Marilyn Adams and Hallie Yopp both cite the need for teachers to have
diagnostic-based professional training that includes a serious examination
of language, literacy, and cognitive development. Professor Treadway reiterates
this position, adding that good materials must also be available to support
instruction, and that teachers need enough theory to be able to use the
materials well. Preparation should include:
- an understanding of how the mind works
- information about how people use language
- knowledge about the English linguistic system
- diagnostic and research information
Given the body of information to be learned and the practical experience
to gain, many are now calling for five-year programs in teacher education,
with reading and literacy preparation beginning prior to the fifth year.
Beginning teachers need practical experience student teaching and observing
in classrooms taught by veterans identified as effective teachers of literacy.
These apprenticeships should be joined to a seminar that provides the research
base and diagnostic information to reinforce what teachers are seeing and
doing with children and which can serve as a vehicle for collegial learning
and problem solving.
The linguistic system itself is a complex topic that will require in-depth
preparation. Louisa Cook Moats, director of Teacher Training at the Greenwood
Institute in Putney, Vermont and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Clinical
Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School, talks about the importance of teachers
understanding the phonological structure of words since so much research
now points to the importance of phonemic awareness as a predictor of a child's
reading success. In addition, she calls for instruction to beginning teachers
in the morphemic structure of words since poor readers and spellers
have limited structural awareness. Furthermore, she cites the lack of understanding
many teachers have of the basic alphabetic system and the importance
of "code-based instruction" for beginning and problem readers.
Informed teachers will be able to present linguistic concepts accurately
and be better able to assess a student's stage of reading and spelling development.
Such knowledge provides a solid foundation on which to base instructional
Others in the field of teacher education stress the importance of clinical
instruction for teachers in training. Professor John Shefelbine at California
State University, Sacramento, has trained master teachers and then places
his student teachers with those masters to work directly with students.
By regularly reflecting upon and discussing the students' development, pre-service
teachers are able to gain practical insights into the way children learn
Because so much reading instruction will require teachers to diagnose
students and group them for specific instruction, teacher education must
arm teachers-in-training with a repertoire of effective diagnostic tools
and with an understanding of how to manage a classroom in which students
will be working at different levels in small groups.
Effective Beginning Teacher Programs:
- start during the undergraduate years
- provide practical experience teaching and observing in highly effective
- include a seminar that provides the research base and diagnostic information
and serves as a forum for discussion
- contain course work that includes cognitive research, language theory
and the background of the English linguistic system
Many veteran teachers may not have been able to keep current with the
growing body of research into reading. In addition, many new teachers have
entered the profession without the background described above. Thus, inservice
education needs to address the same topics and information as that of preservice
education. Inservice professional development should include:
- enough theory and up-to-date research to provide teachers with the
rationale for specific instructional changes in the ways they currently
- important topics about which we have new and clear information
- training in understanding phonemic awareness and ways to teach it
- phonics instruction that is dynamic, systematic, and reinforced through
- instruction in teaching spelling
- instruction in the use of appropriate diagnostic tools
The training should be presented through workshops which include demonstrations,
practice with children, and opportunities for discussion and problem solving.
Effective Inservice Education:
- includes current theory and research
- provides training in phonemic awareness assessment and instruction
- conveys dynamic methods to teach phonics and make use of connected
- demonstrates effective ways to teach spelling that will reinforce reading
- includes a diagnostic toolkit that will enable teachers to teach what
- includes whole language strategies and powerful uses of literature
- provides practice with children in a clinical setting with ample opportunity
for feedback and support
- assists teachers to effectively implement balanced literacy programs
Such workshop training should be supported at the school sites by regular
staff discussions about the research as well as about implementation issues.
Furthermore, school staff should extend their knowledge by conducting case
studies on individual students and/or controlled group studies to assess
their own and the school's progress over time. Teachers will need school-based
support through coaching and feedback as well as time to observe in classrooms
where teachers are highly effective in teaching children to read.
Citations in this document are taken from Professor Adams' book identified
in the resource list below and directly from presentations made during a
February 29, 1996 seminar sponsored jointly by the California Education
Policy Seminar and The California State University Institute for Education
Reform. References in the section on Professor David Pearson are from his
work cited below. The source documents for other citations are noted below
in the Resources and Organizations list.
Resources and Organizations
Adams, M. Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print.
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990.
Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., and Johnston, F. Words
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