top of page

Learning to Read

Combining elements of the Orton Gillingham, Davis Correction, and Barton Reading methodology.
Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness refers to the recognition that words are made of separate sounds (phonemes) combined together. Phonemic skills are entirely based in the sound of a word. When children can hear a word and produce the sounds in isolation, they are mastering phonemic skills. Reading programs address phonemic awareness with rhyming activities and deleting or substituting phonemes to make new words. If readers do not have phonological awareness, they may spend an inordinate amount of time on pronunciation instead of remembering what they are reading.

Phonics & Decoding

Phonics instruction teaches the relationships between the written letters and the spoken sounds of a language. Instruction in phonics begins with letter naming and recognition and progresses to learning the sounds that letters make. Decoding is when we use letter-sound relationships to translate a printed word into speech. Eventually children will learn to look at a word, say the sound for each letter and then blend them to make the word. Phonics is essential for decoding (sounding out) words and spelling. 


Vocabulary development is the key to reading comprehension. Sounding out words is not enough. Readers cannot understand what they are reading without knowing what most of the words mean. Vocabulary is taught in two ways: explicitly and implicitly. Teachers use vocabulary lists and give direct instruction on the meaning and usage of each word in explicit instruction. Implicit instruction occurs during reading when children are able to figure out the meanings of words by looking at context clues from pictures or other words in the same sentence or paragraph often through everyday experiences with oral and written language.


Fluency is the ability to read accurately and smoothly with expression and at a rate that enables readers to comprehend what they are reading. Reading fluency serves as a bridge between word recognition and comprehension. Because fluent readers do not have to concentrate on decoding the words, they can focus their attention on what the text means. They can make connections among the ideas in the text and their background knowledge. In other words, fluent readers recognize words and comprehend at the same time. Fluency should become stronger as a student is exposed to more books and has frequent opportunities to read. Reading programs stress fluency through the use of activities like echo and choral reading.


Learning to spell is built on a child's understanding that words are made up of separate speech sounds (phonemes) and that letters represent those sounds. As they get more experience with words, children begin to notice patterns in the way letters are used and recurring sequences of letters that form syllables, word endings, word roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Good spellers end up as better readers and writers.


Comprehension is the culmination of reading skills learned in the other four components of mastering reading and is essentially, the ability to understand what's being read. A student who can decode words, understand their meanings and read fluently will be able to comprehend a story. Comprehension can be assessed with questions that ask readers to identify basic story components like characters, setting and plot. Advanced comprehension, including predicting, summarizing and critical thinking, are introduced in more advanced grade levels after students have a firm grasp of the basics.

bottom of page