Teaching English literacy in the United States is dominated by a focus on a set of discrete decoding skills. From this perspective, literacy — or, rather, reading — comprises a number of subskills that can be taught to students. These skill sets include phonological awareness, phonics (decoding), fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Mastering each of these subskills is necessary for students to become proficient readers.
From this same perspective, readers of alphabetic languages must understand the alphabetic principle to master basic reading skills. For this purpose a writing system is "alphabetic" if it uses symbols to represent individual language sounds, though the degree of correspondence between letters and sounds varies between alphabetic languages. Syllabic writing systems (such as Japanese kana) use a symbol to represent a single syllable, and logographic writing systems (such as Chinese) use a symbol to represent a morpheme.
There are any number of approaches to teaching literacy; each is shaped by its informing assumptions about what literacy is and how it is best learned by students. Phonics instruction, for example, focuses on reading at the level of the word. It teaches readers to observe and interpret the letters or groups of letters that make up words. A common method of teaching phonics is synthetic phonics, in which a novice reader pronounces each individual sound and "blends" them to pronounce the whole word. Another approach is embedded phonics instruction, used more often in whole language reading instruction, in which novice readers learn about the individual letters in words on a just-in-time, just-in-place basis that is tailored to meet each student's reading and writing learning needs. That is, teachers provide phonics instruction opportunistically, within the context of stories or student writing that feature many instances of a particular letter or group of letters. Embedded instruction combines letter-sound knowledge with the use of meaningful context to read new and difficult words. Techniques such as directed listening and thinking activities can be used to aid children in learning how to read and reading comprehension.
In a 2012 proposal, it has been claimed that reading can be acquired naturally if print is constantly available at an early age in the same manner as spoken language. If an appropriate form of written text is made available before formal schooling begins, reading should be learned inductively, emerge naturally, and with no significant negative consequences. This proposal advances knowledge and understanding because it challenges the commonly held belief that written language requires formal instruction and schooling. Its success would change current views of literacy and schooling. Using developments in behavioral science and technology, an interactive system (Technology Assisted Reading Acquisition, TARA) would enable young pre-literate children to accurately perceive and learn properties of written language by simply exposure to the written form.
The broader impacts of this possibility are far reaching. The inability to read is prevalent around the world and discouragingly present even in American society. The cost of illiteracy as well as the huge cost of formal literacy instruction is one of the major financial burdens on societies. In addition, many students who are considered literate still have difficulty in comprehension which may be related to making reading instruction contingent on spoken language. By embedding the child in written language, their learning to read becomes embodied in the same manner as learning spoken language. The success of the project will have a huge impact teaching, training, and learning. This innovative intervention would also help redirect financial resources where they will have the most impact. Although 90% of private and public education spending is on children between the ages of 6 and 19, 90% of brain growth occurs before age 6. Spending for nurturing children for literacy before age 6 will be a large market and will have the most impact in improving the quality of life, especially those children who reside on the wrong side of the digital divide.
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Famous quotes containing the word teaching:
“May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth.”
—Bible: Hebrew, Deuteronomy 32:2.