Assignment #5

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
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
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.