We are born with the inate ability to learn to speak, but we are not born to read!
Typical readers must build a neuronal interface over time that allows parts of the brain to interact with each other. There are three main areas of the brain involved in reading. First, the brain’s “letter box” (the left Occipito Temporal Lobes) registers the word. Then it moves to the phonological processor (the left Frontal Gyrus) which is the part of the brain responsible for spreads sounds. After that, and with explicit instruction, students can connect to the language comprehension part of the brain (the left Parieto Temporal Lobes).
When a skilled reader reads text, these connections happen instantaneously and without effort. The path to each part of the brain is well-worn, like a trail. Dyslexic readers have more difficulty with these conventions. Their brains tend to take different neurological paths each time, which means no paths become “well-worn.” We can help them with explicit, systematic instruction by skilled teachers and lots of time to practice.
What should we focus on in early readers?
Phoneme Awareness: a phoneme is the smallest unit of speech in a word. For example, the word "mat" has three phonemes: /m/ /a/ /t/. There are 44 phonemes in the English language. By the end of kindergarten, students should be able to hear the indiviual phonemes in grade-level words.
Graphemes are letters and letter combinations (s, e, r, ch) that represent phonemes. Focus on ensuring the students can name the graphemes that correspond to each phoneme.
Patterns in print (orthography):
Words follow patterns. For example, -ck, dge, and tch only follow short vowels. Oce the students learn these patterns and rules, they can practice and apply them in reading and writing.
What are your best practices for teaching students to read?