Some learners at different school levels exhibit different reading problems. These challenges include areas such as phonics, decoding and phonemic awareness. Some may have the three problems while others may experience one or two of the reading difficulties. Throughout the education sector, research studies have been conducted to formulate suitable measures to overcome the challenges (Cooper, Chard, & Kiger, 2006). It is necessary that the teacher identifies the reading difficulties individual students experience in order to employ appropriate measures. In this study paper, we explore the various recommendations and strategies to employ in cases of phonics, decoding, and phonemic awareness reading difficulties. This will be in relation to an individual student, Jahleal, whom I worked with through my case study. Jahleal enjoys reading but does not feel confident to read aloud because he is not confident in his reading ability. However, the student seemed to enjoy reading with me one-to-one unlike when he was in a group setting. Most of the discussed recommendations for remediation have been tried and given positive outcomes in particular situations. In relation to the projected recommendations, some are for particular difficulties in reading while some cover for general reading problems. This is a clear indication of the interrelation of reading difficulties. Essentially, proper foundation of one reading will automatically help in molding another area. (Dodici, Draper, Peterson, 2003).
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Phonemic awareness refers to the learner’s ability to hear, recognize, and use the individual sounds in spoken sounds. During my interaction with Jahleal, I identified that he had this challenge hence and it hampered his writing and reading development. In addition, the learner exhibited a moderate delay in the development of overall language skills, mild delay in the development of receptive language skills as well as expressive language abilities. The main basis for reading and writing in school is for learners to have the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the sounds in words. It is essential that learners realize that words are composed of individual speech sounds. Phonemic awareness comprises of segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds of words. From this perspective, researchers recommend various activities which can support learners to achieve phonemic awareness. In cases of phonemic awareness, surveys on the subject recommend the use of instruction. In essence, teachers play a major role in the development of learners’ phonemic awareness abilities (Cooper, Chard, & Kiger, 2006).
Teachers dealing with learners experiencing phonemic awareness reading challenges need to create activities which will help to develop the areas of phonological awareness, rhyme, and alliteration. For instance, Jahleal exhibited poor performance in identifying and describing the associations between words. This was an indication of having difficulties with phonemic awareness. One of the recommended activities which entirely helped Jahleal in this problem is rhyme activities. Rhyme activities include offering learners with opportunities to hear and identify rhymes through regular reciting of nursery rhymes and other simple compositions. The reciting of these simple rhymes should take different forms allowing learners to capture the sounds of words (Dodici, Draper, Peterson, 2003). In my case, I allowed Jahleal to fill in the rhymes missing words after substantial practice. In addition to repetitive approach, to help the learner I included supporting activities such as using pictures, motions, or act-outs. Alliteration activities can also be helpful to readers having trouble in phonemic awareness. This involves reading out stories and alphabets to the learners. For instance, the story books need to have words starting with a similar alphabet. This will help the learner to capture the sounds of different words. Tongue twisters, rhyming picture cards, and games can also be helpful in this case of developing phonemic awareness.
Decoding, on the other hand, is the learner’s ability to translate a printed word into a sound. Having this ability enables learners to recognize familiar words quickly and to figure out words they have not seen before. Jahleal had a deficit in the development of phonological awareness skills. This will negatively affect his decoding skills. The deficit was remediated in speech therapy sessions through a highly structures multisensory reading approach called the Wilson Language Program. In cases where learners exhibit difficulty in decoding words, teachers can use manipulative to help teach letter-sound relationships. For instance, in relation to the case study, I used manipulative such as sound boxes, counters, and magnetic letters. With the help of pictures and objects, I let Jahleal to say the letter sound repeatedly to create familiarity with words and their sounds. In my experience with Jahleal, the use of simple, decodable words while teaching greatly enhanced the ability of the learner to relate sounds to words (Dodici, Draper, Peterson, 2003). Researchers on the same recommend the development of anchors or supportive cues like picture cards for each sound spelling for the learner to create a relationship between an image and a key word. The approach of teaching whiling from known to unknown has also been helpful in these cases. Allowing the learner to say words as he or she writes them out can also help in the creation of sound-word relationship. In helping learners to decode words, teachers can also use prompts which lead to developing strategies, teach them to scan for and underline unknown words to increase familiarity. Most importantly, teachers need to give the learners ample chances to read and reread easy books at an independent level in order to build sight word mastery and facilitate fluency (Cooper, Chard, & Kiger, 2006).
If Jahleal increases his sight word vocabulary, he will manage to increase his reading level. He should read fiction and non-fiction texts daily and write a summary to increase his reading comprehension. Jahleal is not a fluent reader and by reading daily, his fluency should improve. Currently, Jahleal read word for word, which causes him to be a slow reader. Since the parents are not actively involved in his education, it is up to the teacher and paraprofessional to help Jahleal with his reading problem. Jahleal should continue receiving speech help from the classroom teacher and speech teacher. He tries hard and wants to succeed. Learners who are in a self-contained class have major processing problems and they come in at a deficit because their masterly of vocabulary is poor as compared to children in the upper to middle-class level. Exposing children to new words daily will help them gain a better understanding of new words and their meaning (Justice, 2006).
According to studies carried out on the same, teachers can teach phonic skills in two main approaches. This is through letter-to-phoneme approach which requires the teacher to allow learners to recognize letters then instruct them to represent the letters to speech sound. Another approach is phoneme to letter where readers identify the sound before the word. Teaching letters and then attaching letter sounds has been the conventional approach to phonics instruction with positive outcomes. Inclusion of spelling in teaching phonics can also enhance the learners’ abilities to correctly comprehend the phonics aspect of reading and writing (Cooper, Chard, & Kiger, 2006).
Several studies on the reading difficulties have revealed the need for early reading materials to cater for phonemic awareness, phonics, and decoding issues in reading and writing abilities. Findings on the same indicated that most reading materials fail to provide a proper foundation in these areas hence difficulty in reading. Curriculum materials employed by teachers in any classroom setting need to provide a strong platform for young readers and writers. In this case, teachers need to use other recommended materials to enhance reading abilities in learners (Sze, 2010). There are materials in the field which can be helpful in assisting readers with difficulties in reading like phonics, phonemic awareness, and decoding. Relying on the curriculum materials only can greatly lead to more serious issues for the readers. However, the major recommendation is for teachers to capitalize on one-on-one instruction which will be instrumental in identifying individual learner’s disabilities in reading. Explicit phonemic awareness and systematic phonics instruction must be taught for emergent readers to develop decoding skills. While dealing with readers having trouble, teachers must seek to address all the above cited areas in reading. This is important as most learners with poor phonemic awareness have difficulties in letter to phoneme relationships (Dodici, Draper, Peterson, 2003).
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