Reading instructions : the ins and outs

Ask the experts

January 20, 1999|By Susan Rapp

Much of the debate about how to teach reading centers upon whether to focus on whole language or on phonics. However, whole language has moved out of the limelight while phonemic awareness tops the scale of hot issues in 1999. The International Reading Association conducted a survey about 30 topics related to teaching reading and published the results in the current issue of Reading Today.

The respondents selected had national and international perspectives on reading, came from various geographic locations across the United States and represented different populations involved in literacy education. Some were researchers, some teachers, some university professors. The results, written up by Jack Cassidy, a professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Cristi, and Drew Cassidy, an independent educational writer, illustrate the complexity of the reading process and demonstrate that a balanced approach to teaching reading is the most widely accepted one.

Topics were rated as hot if they were receiving current and positive attention in the field of reading. In descending order from hottest (100 percent agreement) to very hot (75 percent agreement), here are what the reading experts suggest will be items of interest in our schools this year:

Hot

* Phonemic awareness -- all respondents were in agreement that this is the hottest topic

* Balanced reading instruction -- one that combines language development (stories and books) and skill learning (letters and words)

* Decodable text -- one that emphasizes phonics

* Early intervention

* Phonics

* State/provincial/national assessment -- testing

* Volunteer tutoring

Topics were rated as cold if they were receiving negative or very little attention in the field of teaching reading. In descending order from extremely cold (100 percent agreement) to very cold (75 percent agreement), these are topics that the respondents felt were no longer popular issues educationally:

Cold

* Whole language -- all respondents were in agreement that this is the coldest topic

* Comprehension

* Portfolio assessment -- while 75 percent rated this topic as very cold, several counties in Maryland still keep folders of students' writing samples throughout the year

* Process writing -- more emphasis is being placed on the content of a student's written compositions than on the steps the student took to achieve a final product

* Word knowledge/vocabulary

Village Reading Center

Pub Date: 01/20/99

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