Something we often say is the fact that some people dream great dreams, others stay awake and accomplish their dreams. What is happening in ECOLTECH and LECTOR at this time is a dream for all of us who are a part of it. This is not only our dream, but also the dream of Willem Fourie, father, mentor and teacher of many of us. As we come together to make a real difference in the reading skills of our country, I trust you will be motivated and strengthened by this newsletter.
The National Reading Panel in the USA identified five skills that all children need in order to become good readers: (1) phonemic awareness, (2) phonics, (3) vocabulary
(4) fluency; and (5) comprehension. Literacy, on the other hand, entails a bit more than just reading. It means students should be able to; understand and create a variety of texts, use the information, and express the meaning of what they have read in a variety of ways.
Research indicates that if a child does not read well by the third grade, chances are he or she will never catch up. Reading is the basis of all other academics, and a child cannot be academically successful without strong reading skills. The National Research Council in the USA has noted that a student who is not a “modestly skilled reader” is unlikely to graduate from high school.
In research done during 1999 by ECOLTECH at training centres in the Limpopo Province the following interesting facts came to light:
• Reading speed:
This is a crucial skill in the learning process and therefore it is important that reading speed should at least be on the expected level. The reasons for this obvious shortcoming cannot be determined only on the basis of a paper test. One can presume that most probably concealed optic-motor problems (limited eye span, long duration of fixations, too many regressions and fixations etc.) inhibit the reading speed of the candidates.
It is obvious that the comprehension does not comply with the expected percentage norm. An analysis of the answers indicates that the higher level questions proved to be a problem for both groups. This phenomenon will have a detrimental effect on the scholastic achievements of the group. The results indicate that the larger number of the group is comfortable with answering the immediate recall questions.
An incidental observation was sub-vocalizing. In some of the smaller groups it was apparent that up to 25% of the pupils sub-vocalized during the reading act. Such a habit will influence the reading speed negatively. It also indicates that during the initial phase to learn to read, an incomplete transfer was made from sound to orthography as medium of communication.
With a few exceptions, it will be in the interest of the pupils to attend a reading improvement program. The following aspects will need serious attention:
• Structured attention should be focused on the higher-level comprehension skills. A developmental reading and study program will address the problems in this area.
• Sub-vocalizing by readers need urgent attention in order to remedy their reading speed. Specific optic-motor skills as well as applied visual motility skills will aid the learners in breaking this habit of reading aloud.
• The pupils need to be tested on an individual basis to determine the concealed reading errors. Modern sophisticated technology is available to do this evaluation fast and effectively.
In the next newsletters we will take a look at different assessments that can be used to measure development in reading skills. It is a well known fact, even stated by the Minister of Education, that one the biggest problems facing education in South Africa is the lack of reading skills in our learners. For an effective response to intervention plan it is of utmost importance to have an adequate assessment in order to remediate struggling, correct or support at risk, and enhance established learners in their reading skills.
We will discuss the topics below in detail in the subsequent newsletters.
- Reading comprehension
- Language comprehension
- Background knowledge
- Linguistic knowledge
= synthesis of phonology, semantics, syntax
- Cipher knowledge
- Lexical knowledge
- Phenomene awareness
- Knowledge of the alphabet principle
- Letter knowledge
- Concepts about print
We trust that the insights received from this information will empower you toe elevate the skills levels of your learners for a better future.