Paola Dalmonech ELE 203.1456 – Language and Literacy in Childhood Education Dr. Sterling-Deer Reading Reflection Paper #5 October 19, 2009 In the book, Literacy for the 21st Century: A Balanced Approach (2006) by Gail E. Tompkins, there are important contents that have valuable resources that a future teacher can utilize by providing instructional as well as assessment activities, guided reading, mini lessons and literacy. The text illustrates components of literacy development. This is oriented on chapter five, titled “Cracking the Alphabetic Code” which mainly focuses on lower grades. Likewise for the previous chapters, the author introduces the topic in study by giving a real example of lesson. This is the case of Mrs. Firpo’s classroom who is aiming to identify the long i and the long e sounds for letter y. The teacher starts the lesson with an oral activity in which the students are asked to recognize the objects showed on cards and pronounce the name slowly, so then they are able to distinguish the two ways for pronouncing the letter y. Then, she makes them actually write out the words using magnetic letters. In this way, the first graders learn the alphabetic code. The teacher’s task consists of guiding the students through three interrelated abilities; the phonemic awareness ability, the phonics ability, and the spelling ability. 1. When a child is aware of the fact that words are composed of a series of individual sounds, we could say that he/she is applying the phonemic awareness, and this is already something significant for a young learner. How did he/she become phonemically aware? Well, there are certain strategies that could be considered useful. For example, identifying sounds in words or categorizing sounds in words make a student recognize what sound/s stand out simply by saying the word. Interestingly, the teacher may also say a word and then the children identify the sounds at the beginning, middle, or end of the word. This is a crucial example of the teaching activities for the phonemic awareness. At this point of the chapter, the writer analyzes the planning of effective phonemic awareness for English learners, and clearly stated that teaching to this category of students is more complex than teaching to native English speakers. What the author suggests is the need of explicit instruction on phonemic awareness and the practice opportunities for English learners. Additionally, teachers need to be familiar with English learners’ home languages and understand how they differ from English. Phonemic Awareness is particularly important as it is considered to be a prerequisite for learning to read and also the most powerful predictor of later reading achievement. 2. Phonics is the second ability that students need to acquire in order to learn how to read. According to Tompkins (2006), “phonics is the set of relationship between phonology and orthography” (p.155). The basics of phonics refer to the number of phonemes (44) and the number of letters, also called graphemes (26) present in the alphabetic code. Moreover, in English we have vowels and consonants that compose words. When blending or combining sounds readers are learning how to decode words. Similarly to the teaching of phonemic awareness, the best way to teach phonics is through a combination of explicit instruction and authentic application activities. Theoretically, phonics instruction starts in Kindergarten and continues all the way up to grade 3 until children are able to connect the sounds to the letters. In order to assess students in phonics, teachers use tests, observation, and reading and writing samples that permit them to monitor the students’ progress and how they are using the strategies taught. It’s well understood that phonics is a controversial topic because some people think that teaching phonics is effective, while others believe the opposite. However, I will discuss and present this debate in depth when writing my research paper, since this was the topic I chose. 3. Learning to spell out words is also part of the alphabetic code. Usually, students spell words conventionally so that they can communicate effectively. However, they also need to learn other strategies and information in order to write orthographically correct. Five are the stages in which students move through the spelling process. Emergent spelling when children don’t associate what they write to any phonemes. Letter name-alphabetic spelling when children learn to represent phonemes in words with letters. Within-word pattern spelling where students begin to spell short words. Syllables and affixes spelling consist of focusing on syllables. Finally, the derivational relations spelling when students explore the relationship between spelling and meaning. Again, for English learners this is more difficult to understand because they are less familiar with the grammar of English. The best way to learn is by testing the students as much as possible and also by exercising with daily activities. Word Walls is a good way of helping students to remember “important” words they learn in class. What I think deserves attention is the way teachers assess students’ spelling. What I learned from the end of this chapter is that teachers give weekly spelling tests in which students have to demonstrate they learned how to spell certain words. Then, the author clearly explains how a typical spelling test looks like in terms of the structure of it. In other words, students are given a series of twenty or more words of varying difficulty from which they have to select the words to study and the spelling of those words too. I think that spelling is crucial and relevant to young students, as it will benefit their later reading and writing. Even researchers believe that misspelling errors appear more often in lower grades, but then it gets better in terms of percentage, especially when students reach upper grades. I feel that this concept could be applied to other disciplines of the literacy field because children improve and become more aware of their skills and abilities.