A Balanced Reading Program

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A Balanced Reading Program According to the National Reading Panel (NRP), a balanced reading program is one that consists of five components: phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension (Armbruster et al., 2003). Phonemic awareness must occur first in the process as students gain an awareness of the individual sounds that make up words. Phonics instruction follows as students learn the relationships between the sounds represented by letters to make predictable patterns in words. Fluency follows as the students are able to blend phonemes and apply phonics to decode words fluidly as they read. Vocabulary helps students apply meaning to the words they read and aid in comprehension. All components work together to provide students the necessary skills to read well. Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks of Reading Instruction describes the NRP’s findings of scientifically-based reading research and provides a framework for using the findings in the classroom. Twelve key concepts from the NRP’s report concerning the first two components, phonemic awareness and phonics instructions, are discussed below. Phonemic awareness can be taught and learned. Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the smallest units of sound known as phonemes. This skill can be taught to students as early as pre-school through a variety of activities. Students can listen as the teacher says something like boy, ball, and bat emphasizing /b/ and ask students what sound they hear at the beginning of each word. Later students can do word sorts where they match words that have the same beginning or ending sound. Other activities include adding or taking away phonemes in order to make new words such as adding /f/ to lake to get flake and vice versa. Students can also manipulate phonemes by picking the “odd man out” when

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