Monday, December 20, 2010

Reading Skills, Homonyms, and Homophones

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates a typical sequence for acquiring reading skills for use by parents for homeschools and enrichment. The reading skills are organized using the NCLB (No Child Left Behind) system. The "What Works?" Report found that the five key areas in learning to read are phonemic awarenessphonicsreading comprehensionvocabulary, and reading fluency.

Homonyms & Homophones

Homonyms are words that share the same spelling and the same pronunciation but have different meanings.  For example, bear. 

bear (the animal) can bear (tolerate) very cold temperatures.
The driver turned left (opposite of right) and left (departed from) the main road. 

Homophones, also known as sound-alike wordsare words that are pronounced identically although they have different spellings and meanings.  These words are a very common source of confusion when writing.  Common examples of sets of homophones include: to, too, and two; they're and their; bee and be; sun and son; which and witch; and plain and plane.  SpellingCity is a particularly useful tool for learning to correctly spell the soundalike words.


Homographs are words that are spelled the same, but have different meanings and different pronunciations. Some examples of homographs are:
bass as in fish vs bass as in music,
bow as in arrow vs bow as in bending or taking a bow at the end of a performance,
close as in next to vs close as in shut the door,
desert as in dry climate vs desert as in leaving alone.

Currently, SpellingCity cannot distinguish between homographs, as we are unable to have two pronounciations for the exact same word. We are looking for possibilities in the future.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Reading Skills Pyramid

Build Vocabulary Skills - One Section in the Reading Skills Pyramid

The Reading Skills Pyramid illustrates that there are many steps to becoming a proficient reader. Generally, the skills can be split into two halves: one half is word decoding which is made up of phonemic awarenessphonics. The other half is made up of a set of skills that falls into three categories: comprehensionvocabulary, and fluency.

Reading Comprehension
All parents want their children to become effective readers. 

But, when these parents attempt to educate themselves about reading, they tend to find two types of literature, neither of which are of much use to them. 

There are the "rah rah" articles which lecture parents to fill their house full of books and to take 20 minutes/day to read with their children. While this is good advice, it is not a panacea nor does it provide any insight into the process. On the other hand, there are academic papers full of jargon and complex debates about the process of learning to read. The "rah rah" articles over-simplify; the academics over-complicate.
What has been lacking has been information for parents which simply summarizes the current thinking on teaching reading and helps parent understand what the expectations are at each level of education.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Building Vocabulary

The Significance of Building Vocabulary Words

Building vocabulary words is key to reading, to writing, to verbal expression, and in many ways, vocabulary is key to building analytical and critical thinking. A person's vocabulary skills can be measured in terms of building receptive vocabulary (ie understanding) words and their expressive vocabulary words. People can build their expressive vocabulary in two ways that can get measured: the written vocabulary words or their spoken vocabulary words. Building vocabulary skills improves reading comprehension and reading fluency. Without building a large vocabulary, students cannot read successfully.

Building Vocabulary & Learning Words Starts at Home

Building vocabulary is far more than memorizing words. Ideally, children should be brought up in a rich language environment which is language- and word- conscious. Children take up attitudes and learn from their parents so building vocabulary starts as a family affair. Children are greatly influenced generally by the amount of conversation, by the nature of the conversation (and the vocabulary used), and the "word awareness" of the family.There are a great number of families where vocabulary word games are played with the children as an ongoing game to build vocabulary and "word awareness" skills including phonemic awareness. These games can build vocabulary and phonemic awareness.

Techniques for Building Vocabulary Words - Reading & Other Media

The best method for building vocabulary is to be an active reader. But, there are differences between skilled active readers and less skilled passive ones (see reading comprehension) Students should learn to decode vocabulary words thru a vocabulary building techniques such as context clues and word roots. Word roorts means that students should learn to define words by learning the meanings of root words, prefixes and suffixes. Knowing the basics of the Latin and Greek word roots in English is useful and helps students get insight into how the English language vocabulary words derived and are structured. The use of media greatly affects the building of vocabulary. Some television programs use a large and rich vcoabulary, others are mostly explosions. Whereas many contemporary and classcial films (especially the musicals) had great conversations and rich vocabulary, many others are noticable for their poor quality of conversation (the Power Ranger might stand out as having the most limited vocabulary. Whole episodes consist of a dialogue such as "Lets do it" and "Watch out!", not exactly a sound track to build vocabulary. In interactive media, there are games where the entire sound track is explosions, there are interactive systems with rich vocabulary building, such as Time4Learning.

Time4Learning's Approach to Building Vocabulary Words

Time4Learning helps students review commonly misused words and phrases. There are vocabulary games to build vocabulary word skills through synonyms, antonyms and homonyms. There are strategies, skills, and individual word instruction that students needed to build vocabulary proficiency.
For more information on how the reading skills are developed, look at the Time4Learning Reading Skills Pyramid.