Writing is used to teach and extend word identification skills.

It has long been recognized that asking students to write words (not copy them) is a very effective approach to developing word recognition and reading skills (Adams, 1990; Clay, 1985). For example, in the Early Intervention in Reading Program the students select a sentence to write. The teacher then encourages each student to think about the spelling of each word and to write as much of the word as he or she can. Teacher support is offered only as needed in order to ensure that the students write the word accurately. For example, for children who are having difficulty with phonemic awareness (the conscious awareness that spoken words are composed of units called sounds and the ability to manipulate those sounds), the teacher draws a box for each of the sounds in the word. The children are guided to think about the number of sounds in a word and the letters that represent those sounds. For example, the teacher would draw three boxes for the word teach, grouping the 'ea' and 'ch' in separate boxes since in that word 'ea' and 'ch' represent single sounds.

[letter
boxes]

The writing used in the early intervention programs is somewhat different in nature than writing instruction in a regular language arts program. In a regular language arts program, the primary emphasis is upon communication, expression, and organization of ideas. In first drafts, children are encouraged to use "temporary" (also called "invented") spellings in order to move on with their ideas, and then, as they move through process writing, to revise and edit their writing. In the early intervention program, communication remains a purpose, and the writing is always meaningful, often based, for example, on something of interest to children or on a book just read; however, the writing is also more specifically used to draw students' attention to the details of printed words in order to reinforce and extend a student's growing word identification skills. As Clay, who developed Reading Recovery procedures, puts it, "A case can be made for the theory that learning to write letters, words, and sentences actually helps the child to make the visual discriminations of detailed print that he will use in his reading" (Clay, 1985, p. 28).

Given the brief amount of daily instructional time available in each of these early intervention programs, teachers must make choices about where to focus their instruction. As noted earlier, these programs are not comprehensive language arts programs. The area of writing is a good example. The child who participates in an early intervention program still needs classroom writing instruction that focuses more pointedly on organizing and clearly communicating ideas through writing and in engaging in the full process of writing, including revising and editing.


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