Revisiting the Introductory Challenge


The Introductory Challenge for this unit asked you to remember reading instruction you experienced as a child in elementary school. It mentioned three approaches to teaching reading that teachers used years ago and that teachers still use today—phonics, or a sound-based approach; a sight-word approach; and a whole-language approach. The following procedures lead you to imagine some of the advantages and disadvantages of these different approaches.


  1. Read the following “learner outcome” from a scope and sequence curriculum for development of reading skills:
    “Student begins to track words when listening to a familiar text being read.”
  2. Try to remember how you learned this skill.
  3. Reading aloud while pointing out each word helps some students master this reading skill. Many teachers still use “big books” to teach students to follow along as the teacher reads the words aloud. They often talk about the story, mentioning some of the words in the book as they introduce the story by asking questions about students’ experiences related to the story. Today, however, computers are sometimes used to teach this skill. Words are presented on the screen as the computer program reads a sentence in which the words appear; or, a whole sentence is presented and each word of the sentence is highlighted as the sentence is read aloud. What advantages do you see to (1) the way you learned this skill, (2) the approach in which the teacher reads “big books” to the class (if that method is different from how you learned it), and (3) the use of a computer to teach the skill to students?
  4. What disadvantages do you see to each method of teaching the skill?
  5. How might a sight word list be used to help students master this skill?
  6. What other ways in addition to the “big book” approach might be used to teach this skill while also focusing attention on the meaning of the written words?
  7. If you are working through this unit on your own, write your ideas in a reflective journal.
  8. If you are working through this unit with others, your group facilitator might want you to share your ideas with several of the people in your group or with the group as a whole.