Phonemic awareness

Teacher question

The National Assessment of Educational Progress says that only 37% of 4th graders are reaching reading proficiency. Why is it so low?

Shanahan's response

Why do so few American kids read well?

There seems to be plenty of blame to go around. Parents? Society? Too much screen time? Poverty? Immigration? You and me?

Teacher question: 

Should we teach letter names or letter sounds to beginning readers?

Shanahan's response:

Twice recently teachers have asked this question. In both instances they said they’d been told teaching letter names confused children and that “best practice” was to focus on the sounds rather than the letter names.

Man, sometimes when you publish a blog entry you’d wish you stayed in bed.

You hope to write something that someone will find useful. But the responses might make you feel more like you’ve been dropped onto the set of Fox News or MSNBC.

Recently, I’ve experienced some interesting responses.

For example:

Teacher question:

I coordinate reading interventions for my district. I have been told to stop referring to the National Reading Panel, as it is old and no longer relevant. Our universal screener is based on the 5 components of reading, and our basal interventions are also aligned to the "big 5". I don't think there is any way for me to stop referencing the NRP. Would you please comment?

Shanahan's response: 

Teacher question:

I am interested in understanding how phonemic awareness and phonics can support students who do not have a structure for learning the English language. For example, English Language Learners who have no structure for language in their home language or in English. If you can suggest resources that address this matter I would be so grateful.  

A few months ago, I read Mark Seidenberg’s Language at the Speed of Sight. Seidenberg is a psychologist who studies reading, and his book is remarkably intelligent, frank, and witty. I think there is an occasional mistake or ambiguity here and there, but overall I was mesmerized.

Teacher question:

What makes good readers? What are kids lacking making them not so good readers?

Shanahan's response:

Great report about beginning reading achievement in the most recent issue of Educational Researcher (Literacy Achievement Trends at Entry to First Grade). D’Agostino and Rodgers show that, beginning literacy skills have improved annually from 2002 through 2013. Beginning first-graders have steadily improved in letter identification, phonemic awareness, concepts about print, writing vocabulary, word reading, and text reading.

Principal's question:

Teacher question: Our district is trying to determine the proper pacing for introducing letter names/sounds in kindergarten. One letter per week seems too slow; 2 seems a bit fast. Most teachers are frustrated by 2 per week. We are thinking about going with 1 for the first 9 weeks, then doubling up. This would have all letter names/sounds introduce by February. Can you offer some advise? How much is too much?
Shanahan response:

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"Reading is not optional." —

Walter Dean Myers