There are FIVE big ideas in

beginning reading:
1. PHONEMIC AWARENESS: The ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words.

2. ALPHABETIC PRINCIPAL: The ability to associate sounds with letters and use these sounds to form words.

3. FLUENCY WITH TEXT: The effortless, automatic ability to read words in connected text.

4.VOCABULARY: The ability to understand (receptive) and use (expressive) words to acquire and convey meaning.

5. COMPREHENSION: The complex cognitive process involving the intentional interaction between reader and text to convey meaning.


Phonemic Awareness
Means knowing that spoken words are made up of smaller parts called phonemes. Teaching phonemic awareness gives children a basic foundation that helps them learn to read and spell.
The panel found that children who learned to read through specific instruction in phonemic awareness improved their reading skills more than those who learned without attention to phonemic awareness.
Phonics Instruction
Phonics teaches students about the relationship between phonemes and printed letters and explains how to use this knowledge to read and spell.
The panel found that students show marked benefits from explicit phonics instruction, from kindergarten through 6th grade.
Fluency means being able to read quickly, knowing what the words are and what they mean, and properly expressing certain words - putting the right feeling, emotion, or emphasis on the right word or phrase. Teaching fluency includes guided oral reading, in which students read out loud to someone who corrects their mistakes and provides them with feedback, and independent silent reading where students read silently to themselves.
The panel found that reading fluently improved the students' abilities to recognize new words; read with greater speed, accuracy, and expression; and better understand what they read.
Comprehension: Vocabulary instruction
Teaches students how to recognize words and understand them.
The panel found that vocabulary instruction and repeated contact with vocabulary words is important.
Comprehension: Text comprehension instruction
Teaches specific plans or strategies students can use to help them understand what they are reading.
The panel identified seven ways of teaching text comprehension that helped improve reading strategies in children who didn't have learning disabilities. For instance, creating and answering questions and cooperative learning helped to improve reading outcomes.
Comprehension: Teacher Preparation and comprehension strategies instruction
Refers to how well a teacher knows things such as the content of the text, comprehension strategies to teach the students, and how to keep students interested.
The panel found that teachers were better prepared to use and teach comprehension strategies if they themselves received formal instruction on reading comprehension strategies.
Teacher Education in Reading Instruction
Includes how reading teachers are taught, how effective their methods of teaching reading are, and how research can improve their knowledge of teaching students to read.
In general, the panel found that studies related to teacher education were broader than the criteria used by the panel. Because the studies didn't focus on specific variables, the panel could not draw conclusions. Therefore, the panel recommended more research on this subject.
Computer Technology in Reading Instruction
Examines how well computer technology can be used to deliver reading instruction.
Because few studies focused on the use of computers in reading education, the panel could draw few conclusions. But, it noted that all of the 21 studies on this topic reported positive results from using computers for reading instruction.

Five Big Ideas of Early Reading Instruction

What it is

How it’s taught
Phonemic Awareness

The ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds in spoken words

  • Focus on sound
  • Identify & blend:
    • Onsets (initial consonant or consonant clusters)
    • Rimes (vowel and consonants that follow the onset)
  • Segment, blend and manipulate sounds

Phonics and word study (decoding strategies) involve the systematic instruction of letter-sound relations to read and spell words accurately and quickly.

  • Practice knowledge of letter-sound correspondences
  • Decode and read words
  • Manipulate, categorize, and examine the similarities and differences in words

How children acquire an understanding of new words and concepts

  • Provide key experiences
  • Promote wide reading
  • Lead discussions through questioning

Reading quickly, accurately, and with expression

  • Practice reading words automatically (accurately and quickly with little attention or effort)
  • Increase speed (or rate) of reading while maintaining accuracy
  • Practice reading with expression

The process that enables readers to make meaning of text, and to communicate meaning about what was read

  • Read text aloud
  • Communicate to others about what they read
  • Promote thinking and extended discourse through questioning and discussions

Evaluating and Selecting a Core Reading Program

The selection and adoption of an effective, research-based core reading program in the primary grades is a critical step in the development of an effective schoolwide reading initiative. The investment in identifying a core program that aligns with research and fits the needs of learners in your school will reap long-term benefits for children's reading acquisition and development.
A critical review of reading programs requires objective and in-depth analysis. For these reasons, we offer the following recommendations and procedures for analyzing critical elements of programs, using the Consumer's Guide to Evaluating a Core Reading Program Grades K - 3: A Critical Elements Analysis. First, we address questions regarding the importance and process of a core program. Following, we specify the criteria for program evaluation organized by grade level and reading dimensions. Further, we offer guidelines regarding instructional time, differentiated instruction, and assessment. We trust you will find these guidelines useful and usable in this significant professional process.

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What is a core reading program?

A core reading program is the primary instructional tool that teachers use to teach children to learn to read and ensure they reach reading levels that meet or exceed grade-level standards. A core program should address the instructional needs of the majority of students in a respective school or district.
Historically, core-reading programs have been referred to as basal reading programs in that they serve as the "base" for reading instruction. Adoption of a core does not imply that other materials and strategies are not used to provide a rich, comprehensive program of instruction. The core program, however, should serve as the primary reading program for the school and the expectation is that all teachers within and between the primary grades will use the core program as the base of reading instruction. Such programs may or may not be commercial textbook series.

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Why adopt a core reading program?

In a recent document entitled "Teaching Reading is Rocket Science," Louisa Moats (1999; see References) revealed and articulated the complexities of carefully designed and implemented reading instruction. Teaching reading is far more complex than most professionals and laypersons realize. The demands of the phonologic, alphabetic, semantic, and syntactic systems of written language require a careful schedule and sequence of prioritized objectives, explicit strategies, and scaffolds that support students' initial learning and transfer of knowledge and skills to other contexts. The requirements of curriculum construction and instructional design that effectively move children through the "learning to read" stage to the "reading to learn" stage are simply too important to leave to the judgment of individuals. The better the core addresses instructional priorities, the less teachers will need to supplement and modify instruction for the majority of learners.

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August & Shanahan (editors) (2006) Developing Literacy in Second-Language Learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children & Youth.
NAEYC & IRA (1998) Learning to Read & Write: Developmentally Appropriate Practices for Young Children. Available online
National Reading Panel (2000) Teaching Children to Read: Report of the National Reading Panel. Available online:
National Institute for Literacy (2001) Put Reading First: Helping Your Child Learn to Read: A Parent Guide: Preschool through Grade 3 Available online:
Armbruster (2001) Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read. Available online:
Fillmore & Snow (2000) What Teachers Need to Know about Language. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics
Vaughan Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts.

(Go to at school, then teaching effectively, next scan down to fluency)

Rationale: This website is helpful for both the student teacher and classroom teacher who are looking for methods to increase fluency in beginner readers.