Unfortunately, in some settings the quality of instruction in word-recognition skills has become equated with the number of workbook pages or ditto sheets that students complete. Research indicates, however, that there is no relationship between the number of worksheets that students do and their achievement in reading (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). The best practice for helping students to gain proficiency in word-recognition skills is real reading and writing activities.
As beginning readers write using temporary spelling, they have many opportunities to use the word-identification skills they are developing. As they construct sentences of their own in writing, they are developing a greater sensitivity to meaning or context clues. As they utilize invented spellings, they are reviewing and applying what they know about letter-sound associations. Consider the sample writing by Cassie, a first-grade student. (See below.)
The correspondence between the sounds of the words and the letters that Cassie uses to represent those sounds is excellent. Imagine the amount of practice she had in using letter-sound associations as she composed this sentence. Clarke's (1988) research demonstrates the powerful effect that encouraging children to use temporary spellings has on their word-recognition abilities.
Children also have numerous opportunities to use their developing word-identification skills as they read on their own. By using some simple texts that have very limited word-recognition demands, teachers have an opportunity to check the degree of independence that students are developing in word recognition; the use of these books also has a very positive effect on students' concepts of themselves as readers. Clearly, meaningful reading and writing activities are by far the best ways for students to practice and extend their word-recognition skills.
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