I don't know about you, but I had no idea there were essential reading components when I began my teaching journey 🤷🏽♀️. I knew that reading comprehension was the end goal, but I didn't understand the steps needed to be mastered before comprehension could even take place.
According to the National Reading Panel, there are five major components of reading. They are phonological awareness (as well as phonemic awareness), phonics, fluency, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. A good foundational reading program will have all five reading components, taught explicitly, and in a systematic manner (whoa, that's a mouth-full!) So in other words, if you are using a reading program to teach students the foundations of reading, and it doesn't have a phonological awareness component in it, it may not be as effective. This is one of the reasons for the uproar that happens with "phonics-only" based programs! Students need to be taught that spoken language can be manipulated, before teaching them sound-symbol relationships. Reading to children is a great way for them to learn phonological awareness skills!
I also had no idea that the order in which these five components are taught, matters! I used to collect reading baseline data using only fluency assessments. These are great assessments to use when students have already mastered a few phonics skills and are ready to move on to reading with accuracy and expression. Fluency CBMs and assessments are not good assessments to use for students who have not learned decoding rules (i.e., letters make sounds, vowel team rules, diphthongs, etc.) Here is the correct sequence for teaching these components:
1. Phonological awareness (phonemic awareness)
2. Phonics (decoding instruction; not relying heavily on the "whole-language" approach)
3. Fluency (reading with accuracy and expression with the assumption that students have mastered a few phonics skills in which they are being assessed)
4. Reading Comprehension (switching to the reading-to-learn instead of the learning-to-read model)
5. Vocabulary (teaching new words found in higher-order thinking texts)
Well, what do you do if you assess a student using a fluency assessment and they are not reading with accuracy, expression, or fluency? I first like to determine if students can sound out unfamiliar words and recognize syllable types such as vowel teams. If they are not able to do that task, I give students a phonics assessment to see which skills they are having trouble with. The phonics assessments can determine if students are lacking knowledge in short vowel sound words, long vowel sound words, beginning/ending consonant blends, r-controlled words, vowel teams, diphthongs, multi-syllabic words, and prefixes/suffixes. After getting this information, I can tailor my lessons to whatever phonics instruction is needed for that student!
If after being assessed using a phonics assessment, and the student is significantly lacking phonics skills, I will then move up the list to phonological awareness and assess to see if students can manipulate sounds in spoken words. You can also move in the other direction of the reading component list. If students are given a fluency assessment and they can read the words with accuracy, but with no expression or have a low word count per minute, the student may need extra time to practice reading those words with automaticity. Move up and down the chart as needed based on student performance.
The five components of reading are systematically and explicitly taught at Holmes Tutoring. During student's mandatory first session, they are given different assessments to determine what they know and what they may need more help with. An individualized plan is then made to put the student in the right program, given the content that will help close their achievement gap. No need to waste countless hours going over information that the student either already knows or may not have any knowledge of. Placing a student in the correct program and level is vital for their growth, confidence, retention, and success.