Practice: Key Terms

From the National Reading Panel: Convened by Congress in 1997, the National Reading Panel issued a report in 2000 which reviewed research in reading instruction (focusing on K-3) and identified instructional methods that were consistently shown to relate to reading success.

  • Phonemic awareness: The ability to notice, think about, and work with the smallest individual sounds (phonemes) in words.
  • Phonics: The ability to recognize patterns in the relationship between the letters (graphemes) from written language and the sounds (phonemes) from spoken language.
  • Fluency: The ability to read text accurately and quickly. Fluent readers read aloud effortlessly and with expression; their reading sounds natural, as if they are speaking.
  • Vocabulary: The ability to use an increasing number of words to communicate effectively, both orally and through writing.
  • Text comprehension: The ability to make meaning of written text--the ultimate purpose and essence of reading. If readers can read words, but don't understand their meaning, they have not achieved text comprehension.

To learn more about the National Reading Panel's components of reading instruction, go to (PDF).

From Classroom Practice: Teachers routinely develop and study instructional strategies such as those listed below to discover and refine methods that promote student achievement in literacy.

  • Picture walk: Previewing a book before reading it in order to activate prior knowledge, introduce new vocabulary, and create excitement about the text. Elements of a picture walk include looking at the front cover; pointing out the title, author, illustrator; paging through the book without reading; discussing the illustrations; and making predictions about the story.
  • Questioning strategies: Asking questions that help readers monitor their own comprehension. Good questions are open-ended, and not framed for "yes" or "no" answers; they promote critical thinking and deeper engagement with the text. In addition to questioning students directly, instructors should model self-questioning as they read and encourage students to do the same on their own.
  • Reader's theater: Dramatization of a story or text. Reader's theater does not involve sets, costumes, or memorization of lines. Students play the roles of different characters (or the narrator) in a selected play or story and read their lines from the script or book, practicing fluency and deepening their connection to the text.
  • Storybuilding: An interactive, spontaneous, and collaborative drama activity that allows students to construct "virtual" events and reflect on their meaning. Active engagement within story forms provides intense experiences that develop both literacy and subject proficiency. Students undertake focused verbal interaction, develop listening skills, experience story construction (beginning, middle, and end), and reflect on meaning.
  • Sustained silent reading (SSR): An activity in which learners choose a book to read silently and without interruption. Ideally, the instructor or activity leader reads also—rather than working on paperwork or other tasks—to model reading independently for pleasure.

From Educational Program Evaluation: Federal and state legislation establishes the framework for formal assessment of student achievement, which results in a system of state standards, benchmarks, and testing in subject areas. Within this framework, local school districts, schools, and teachers conduct their own ongoing evaluations of student work.

  • Assessment: Measurement of student progress toward established learning goals. Assessment can be formal requirements of the district and state such as standardized tests, teacher reports, and student portfolios. Assessment can also be informal, used primarily to inform instruction—student reflection, group discussion, and teacher or parent observations.
  • Benchmarks: Descriptions of student performance at various developmental levels that contribute to the achievement of performance standards. The earliest literacy benchmarks specify reading skills, such as recognizing letters, words, and reading sentences. Advanced literacy benchmarks specify more complex tasks, such as composing essays or constructing debates.
  • State standards: The curriculum guidelines developed and/or adopted by individual states that define expectations for student learning. These standards become the framework for periodic state testing of student achievement.