The National Reading Panel has identified five significant components of reading: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. We work on each of these components in Reading Lab. First through fifth-grade students engage in the following activities:
- Drill: This is the first component of our class. It is a 2-3 minute review session. Students are asked questions that they must answer in complete sentences. This helps them solidify their learning while building oral language skills. Some questions get tricky, but the students rise to the occasion! (Teacher: What is the rule for a closed syllable? Student: The rule for a closed syllable is one vowel followed by at least one consonant, and the vowel sound is usually short.)
- Phonological/Phonemic Awareness: This component is a favorite for most students. Phonemic awareness is known as a foundational reading skill that can be done in the dark. Children need to be able to listen to words, identify individual sounds, and manipulate sounds to become proficient readers. We practice these skills each day. Often the students think we are playing games. A low-level phonemic awareness task is rhyming. Can your child tell you a word that rhymes with silly? (willy, nilly, philly, chilly)
- Phonics-This is the meat of Reading Lab. At its most basic, phonics is knowing letter names and sounds. However, it becomes more complex as students learn the sounds of various letter combinations and how to read multisyllabic words. Our phonics lessons are developed systematically so that students build their phonics knowledge in layers to become proficient decoders. For example, early on, they learn short vowel words like "cup." Later they learn Magic E words like "cake." Eventually, they learn more complex words like "cupcake." Higher-level phonics skills teach students to combine prior knowledge to read words with three or more syllables.
- Fluency-This component of Reading Lab is about automaticity. We are not worried about students reading "fast" just to say they read fast. However, we do want them to be proficient with their decoding and therefore recognize words quickly. Students read word lists that they previously mastered in the phonics section and try to improve their rate each day. Their fluency goal is personalized because our goal is to become more automatic with reading. Many students enjoy this part because they get to graph their results on the Ipad using bar graphs. They even get to color their bar rainbow if they want! Once a week, students read a story to me as a different type of fluency measure to see how they are putting all of their reading knowledge together.
- Comprehension-This is the goal of reading. Students apply their decoding knowledge (developed through phonemic awareness and phonics activities) to read passages with fluency to make meaning. In Reading Lab, students read stories that utilize the phonics patterns they practice. This allows them to be very successful. After reading, they work on various questions to show that they comprehend the text. This is an excellent bridge to the more complex texts they read in their other classes.
*** Vocabulary is an essential part of reading. We do not typically get an isolated vocabulary block in Reading Lab, but we work on vocabulary throughout our other components. During drill, students work on phonics definitions, vocabulary from their stories, and morphemic meanings. During phonological awareness, we use pictures to build background knowledge. During phonics and comprehension, we discuss word meanings and look up pictures as needed to help deepen our understanding of words.
Your children do a lot of work during our 30-minute Reading Lab block. I appreciate their hard work and effort. I expect a lot of them, and I am proud to say they rise to the occasion. Through hard work and dedication, we will all grow this year. Thank you for trusting me to help your child, and please reach out to me if you have any questions or concerns.