English teachers use a variety of tried and tested methods to teach reading. Here are some of the top techniques that are used to teach learners, no matter young or old.
1. The Alphabet Method
This is an age-old method dating back to the days of Ancient Greece and Rome. In this method, the emphasis is on learning the names of the letters of the alphabet in the sequential order: A, B, C, D and so on. Pupils are then made to memorize words as consisting of these ‘named’ letters. There are often songs that are taught to preschoolers so that they will memorize the letters of the alphabet. Though it centers on rote learning, this method is still favored in some preschools since plenty of print material is available to teach reading this way.
2. The Phonic or Syllabic Method
This method is considered to be an improvement on the alphabet method. Here, the emphasis is not on the name of the letters but on the sounds each of them represents. Students learn to read words by stringing together the sounds of the letters. Since the English language has many words that are not pronounced as they are written, students are taught exceptions too, as ‘tricky words’. A very popular and highly developed version of the phonics method is the Jolly Phonics, which is used in many preschools around the world.
3. Reading using Contextual Clues
With very young children, it is possible to use a mixture of words and pictures to teach reading. For example, on a flash card, the teacher can show the word ‘apple’ and then point to an apple. The advantage of this method is that it works well for visual learners. Moreover, it helps young learners to read a word and understand its meaning at the same time. The disadvantage of this method is that it can be used to teach only a limited number of words, mainly the names of things, fruits, and vegetables and so on.
3. The Whole Word Method
In this method, the learner is taught to read each word as a word-picture, without attention to individual letters. This helps him to avoid incorrect spelling as the pronunciation of a word is leant as one single item, and not as a combination of the sounds of the letters. The popular ‘Look-and –Say’ method of teaching reading at the beginning stages is based on this method. In Look-and-Say, pupils look at the words flashed before them and say the words as quickly as possible before the flash cards are taken away. Reading complete words is an automatic process and is often called sight-reading. The words thus leant are high frequency words in English. One very commonly used list of such words is the Dolch sight words list, which is a set of words that make up almost 75% of the basic vocabulary found in children’s books.
4. The Sentence Method.
In the sentence method, whole sentences are taught to students as meaningful units in specific contexts. For example, ‘Please stand up’ can be taught as it is, without breaking down to individual words, if the students are all sitting down and the teacher gives the command orally and shows the sentence on a flashcard at the same time. This method depends a lot on the ingenuity of the teacher to be effective.
5. The Story Method
A lot of adults may remember the ‘Peter and Jane’ books that they were required to read in preschool. Indeed, the role of short and simple stories in the teaching of reading cannot be underestimated. This method takes advantage of the fact that children generally love stories.
6. The Language Experience Method
The language experience method makes use of the fact that each child’s life experiences are unique and there are certain words and contexts that he is familiar with. The teacher or caregiver makes use of the words the child already knows and teaches him to identify it when written. At the next stage, teachers and parents can create stories out of the child’s preferred words complete with drawings of the characters in the story. This method is popular with a lot of parents who are able to give individual attention to their children.
7. Read together everyday
Be it in the classroom or at home, having an adult read to the child is an invaluable strategy to teach reading. There are plenty of books that facilitate parent-child reading sessions. Apart from teaching reading, such sessions serve as opportunities for emotional bonding between the parents and children.