Reading is all about understanding the meaning of written language, so effective reading lessons focus on meaning. Even lessons to help students recognize new words can focus on the meaning of those words. Because reading is a complex activity, reading instruction, especially for students who are just learning to read, typically incorporates a set of activities providing different reading experiences. These experiences involve:

  • recognizing new words (often called “vocabulary”),
  • understanding the meaning of new words,
  • linking sounds with letters (often called “decoding” or “phonics”),
  • recognizing meaningful parts of words and word combinations,
  • reading aloud,
  • understanding the meaning of what’s written, and
  • understanding how to learn from written materials.

In the table below are examples of different kinds of activities that teachers often use to provide these different types of experiences.

Illustration: Unit 5 Table

Type of Reading Experience

Examples of Activities

Recognizing new words
  • Practicing new words with flashcards
  • Having students use a list of new words to fill in the blanks in sentences
  • Asking students to match new words to pictures of the things those words denote
Understanding the meaning of new words
  • Asking students to write sentences using new words
  • Having students create a concept map that shows how the concept that a new word denotes relates to other already well-known concepts
Linking sounds with letters
  • Telling students about a word family (e.g., the “ate” family) and asking them to add different consonants at the front of the word and then pronouncing the different words that belong to the word family (e.g., “date,” “gate,” and “late”)
Recognizing meaningful parts of words and word combinations
  • Having students divide compound words into their separate parts and then use the separate parts as well as the compound words in sentences
  • Focusing on prefixes such as “un” and “in”, generating a list of imaginary words using those prefixes, and talking about what those words might mean
Reading aloud
  • Asking a group of students to read aloud in unison (known as “choral reading”)
  • Having older children read books aloud to younger children
Understanding the meaning of what’s written
  • Talking about a story in order to recreate the sequence of events
  • Discussing the major life lessons presented in one or more fables
Understanding how to learn from written materials
  • Examining the parts of a book and comparing the information in the table of contents with the information in the index
  • Asking students to read the headings and subheadings of a chapter in a book (but not the text itself) and talking about what they already can and cannot figure out about the major points presented in the chapter