EDRD 6529 Teaching Reading: Strategies of Instruction

EDRD 6529 Reflection #2

Teaching advance word patterns is, “…a powerful tool for helping students discover how words work.” (Rasinski & Padak, 2008)  This statement rings even more true for me after reading chapter six of our text.  The exploration of words, prefixes, suffixes, not only helps students decode, it also offers a window into the meaning of the word as well; word patterns offer students a key to unlocking word meanings.

Teaching affixes, the prefixes and suffixes of words, offers students a way to compare and contrast words and their meanings.  But how should they be taught?  Starting in the first grade, by teaching the suffixes (-s) and (-ed) allows students to understand basic quantity and tense.  After the first grade the text suggest students be taught approximately 50 affixes per year in grades two through eight.   As with any methods of word study, multiple methods of teaching affixes should be practiced with students.

Studying root words, or derivational patterns, is one way for students to understand where each word is derived from.  Knowledge of these patterns or roots can help student decode meaning and practice correct pronunciation.  For example, if students were to study the affix cardio- and understand that cardio- means heart, they might understand that the word cardiac related to the heart.  The student might then have a better understanding of how to pronounce the words cardiologist, cardiogram, cardiology, cardiopulmonary.  Additionally, the student would have a logical basis for assuming that the word has something to do with the heart and might be able to decode the meaning within a text.

By the third and fourth grade students typically have a good foundation of reading skills and the ability to apply meaning to the words in text.   These grade levels then provide the perfect opportunity to examine and play with derivational patterns and root meanings.  This could look like a word wall, starting with the study of part of a word, (re-) to do again, and then asking students to come up with words they that use this prefix: recycle, reduce, reuse, reconstitute.  Then the task could be to have the kids use these words in their writing for the day, their dialogue throughout the day, and in their homework.  There could be an option of finding more words to add to the list the next day; so that learning and thinking about language does not stop outside of the classroom but becomes a conscious effort in the “real world”.

As students progress in their knowledge acquisition of root words and derivational patterns they should become adept word-sleuths; Shakespeare, poetry, and other difficult text could be examined for deciphering the meaning behind the words. Understanding how text can be a representation for something different, ironic, or that some words may have hidden meanings, is an important component for achieving word-mastery.  This approach would be particularly valuable for reaching exceptional students on both ends of the spectrum. For example, students who need a higher academic challenge could word-sleuth through a Shakespearean passage, while those who might be struggling academically may find a reader’s theater play challenge enough.   Additionally, the understanding students find through acting out and absorbing text through emotion and kinesthetic activity, can help with the decoding of meaning as well.  A phenomenal example of this type of absorption of text, understanding meaning and acting out with emotion, is exemplified through The Hobart Shakespeareans a vision of teaching students led by Rafe Esquith. The documentary shares the passion and dedication of how, Rafe Esquith, a revolutionary teacher, embodies and focuses on the main idea, “There Are No Shortcuts”.  This ideology exemplifies word-sleuthing on an incredible and creative level and is a reminder that hard work can pay off.

Throughout our lecture about vocabulary on October 20, 2011, the importance of intentional vocabulary curriculum became evident; repetition of vocabulary strategies is a necessary in the classroom for students to absorb word meaning.  Dr. Beers compared a learning vocabulary to be much like a “conveyor belt”: words need to keep appearing and reappearing to become part of a student’s vernacular.  First time around the “conveyor belt” a word is unknown to the student.  The second time around, the student becomes acquainted or familiar with the word.  It is only with subsequent rounds on the “conveyor belt” that the word becomes established, for each student, on different levels.  Students will have to become confident enough in their understanding of the word to be able to use the word in their speech or writing.

Teachers need to offer creative choices and encourage and allow for diversity in learning styles to support development of word patterns, word investigation, and vocabulary curriculum.   There is no one “right way” for all students.  Differentiated curriculum, repeated word patterns, and vocabulary opportunities that encourage students to hear, see, experience and use words often is what is necessary to build and retain word sense.

Works Cited
Rasinski, T. V., & Padak, N. D. (2008). From Phonics to Fluency-Effective Teaching of Decoding and Reading Fluency in the Elementary School. Boston: PearsonEducation, Inc.

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