Consider how word-recognition skills might be interrelated with listening, speaking, reading, writing, and spelling. Return to Byron Barton's retelling of the "The Little Red Hen." Certainly, if some children didn't know the meaning of the word hen when they heard it, it would be appropriate to develop the meaning of that word orally. Some children might be familiar with the words chicken or mother chicken, but not the word hen. Through listening and speaking activities and the use of story illustrations, meaning can be developed for the text that is to be read.
One of the important criteria for effective phonics instruction is that it should be meaningful. Given the title "The Little Red Hen," it would be very meaningful to focus word-recognition instruction on the short e vowel (found in both red and hen) and phonograms with short e, certainly -ed and -en. In order to expand children's skill base, common phonograms like -et and -est might be added.
The sound of the short e and the short e phonograms should be directly, explicitly, and clearly taught. Children can practice working with onsets and rimes by adding various consonants to the phonograms with short e. They can return to the story of "The Little Red Hen" to search for other short e words (application).
It would also be beneficial to encourage children to write sentences and words with short e and short e phonograms and to provide spelling instruction, practice, and assessment that focused on this same skill. In this way, the language arts can be interrelated so that they are mutually reinforcing.
Children who are developing independent reading skills do not rely solely on any one of these approaches to word identification but, instead, strategically use balanced combinations of these skills depending on the word to be identified and the context in which it is identified. The word undo, for example, lends itself to recognition of word parts, while the word skip does not.
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