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Getting Involved

Learning to Read

CSD Reading Corner - Learning to Read

Many people think that learning how to read happens naturally like learning to talk.  In reality, learning how to read is a complex process that requires explicit instruction in both the foundational skills for decoding and the comprehension skills for understanding and thinking critically a variety of texts.   

Many people think that learning how to read happens naturally like learning to talk.  In reality, learning how to read is a complex process that requires explicit instruction in both the foundational skills for decoding and the comprehension skills for understanding a variety of texts.    

The key components of reading and language arts include: 


Oral Language

Oral Language is 

  • how we use spoken words to express our knowledge, ideas, and feelings. 

Oral Language  is important because it allows

  • development of phonological and phonemic awareness.
  • student’s to recognize thousands more words for comprehension.
  • expressing ideas and describing experiences. 

Oral Language can be developed by  

  • providing opportunities for adult to child conversations and child to child conversations..
  • asking questions, keeping the conversations going with explanations and comments.
  • reading with  student’s  daily and discussing the vocabulary and illustrations for new ideas and content.

Oral Language instruction is most effective when 

  • students have sentence starters for partner talk.  
  • discussion is a part of the learning and paired with reading and writing.
  • students participate in large group discussion formats and smaller collaborative discussion groups. 


Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is

• the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds, phonemes, in spoken words. 

Phonemic awareness is important because it

• improves children’s word reading and reading comprehension.

•  helps children learn to spell.

Phonemic awareness can be developed by

• identifying phonemes (individual letter sound).

• categorizing phonemes. 

• blend phonemes to form words.

• segment words into phonemes.

• delete or add phonemes to form new words. 

• substitute phonemes to make new words.

Phonemic awareness practice is most effective when

• children are taught to manipulate phonemes by using the letters of the alphabet.

• instruction focuses on only one or two rather than several types of phoneme manipulation.

(Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006)



Phonics instruction

  • helps children learn the relationships between the written letters and the spoken sounds.

Phonics instruction is important because

  • it leads to an understanding of the alphabetic principle – the systematic and predictable relationships between letters and sounds.

Phonics instruction is effective when it provides

  • systematic instruction —the instructional plan includes a carefully selected set of letter-sound relationships that are organized into a logical sequence.
  • explicit instruction—the instructional plan provides teachers with precise directions and routines for the teaching of these relationships.
  • ample practice opportunities for children to apply what they are learning.
  •  activities include practice with 
    • letter and sounds
    • individual word reading
    • sentences
    • paragraphs
    • stories

(Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006)



Vocabulary refers to

  • the words we must know to communicate effectively.
    • oral vocabulary refers to words that we use in speaking or that we recognize when listening.
    • reading vocabulary refers to words we recognize or use in print.

Vocabulary is important because

  • beginning readers use their oral vocabulary to make sense of the words they see in print.
  • readers must know what most of the words mean before they can understand what they are reading.

Vocabulary can be developed two ways

  • indirectly – when students engage daily in oral language, listen to adults read to them, and read extensively on their own.
  • directly – when students are explicitly taught both individual words and word-learning strategies.

(Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006)




  • is the ability to read text with appropriate rate, accuracy and expression.

Fluency is important because

  • frees the cognitive load sounding out words. 
  • moves the cognition to understanding reading (comprehension).

Fluency can be developed by

  • modeling reading.
  • repeated readings to improve accuracy and rate.
  • reading using expression.

Monitoring progress in fluency

  • motivates student progress with fluency.
  • useful for evaluating instruction.

(Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006)


Text Complexity:  Readers develop vocabulary and comprehension when reading complex texts.  Complex does not always mean difficult or longer.  An “easier” text can have features that make the text complex.  Ideas, sentence structure, dialect and even  the set up of a text can make it complex.  This is why text complexity has three distinctive components.  Quantitative: the “level” of the text, such as,  3rd grade text, or a Lexile Level 650.    Qualitative: the structure and ideas in a text, such as dialect, plot, and theme.  Reader and Task:  what task will the reader do, such as understanding,  present, summarize, model.  The more complex a text is, the more vocabulary and comprehension development will happen.  

In Canyons School District, students are presented with a wide variety of texts to support vocabulary and comprehension development.  When a text is at an easier reading level, the ideas are complex and are supported with discussion and writing tasks.  When a text is at a more advanced level, discussion is simpler and tasks are not as complex.  This allows students to grow their vocabulary to think critically and discuss topics that are meaningful to them.  

To find out more about Text Complexity, click here


Text comprehension is important because

• comprehension is the ultimate goal for reading.

Text comprehension is

• purposeful.

• active.

Text comprehension can be developed

• by teaching comprehension strategies.

Text comprehension strategies can be taught through

• explicit instruction.

• discussion.

(Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006)




  • is a process that can incorporate a student’s knowledge of phonics, vocabulary, and text comprehension. 
  • includes practice in  opinion, informational, narrative.

Writing instruction is important because

  • applies the literacy skill of reading and speaking.  
  • it is present in all disciplines.
  • demonstrates critical thinking. 
  • allows for feedback between readers and writers.

Effective writing instruction provides instruction in 

  • grammar and conventions.
  • direct instruction on the craft of the writing (how to write an introduction, conclusion, cite evidence etc.).
  • text structure e.g., opinion, informational, narrative.

(Armbruster, Lehr, & Osborn, 2006)

Effectively teaching reading and language arts to students across grade levels requires knowledge of research-proven practices.  Canyons use the most current and reliable research to strengthen reading instruction and to select materials that are most likely to yield results.  The resources below provide an overview of the science behind teaching reading.

 The graphic below shows some of the subtypes of reading disabilities, they include Phonological Awareness deficiency, Rapid Naming (fluency) deficiency, and Comprehension (Language) deficiency. These deficiencies can overlap making reading supports essential.  

Each student’s school has reading resources to support individual student needs, in addition to classroom reading instruction. These resources may include small group instruction using curriculum aligned to specific skills, state and district software licenses specific to each school, and extension activities.

CSD believes in a three-tiered model of reading supports.  This model incorporates an increasing intensity of instruction based on student needs.  Data is used to determine skill deficits and match deficits to evidence-based instruction. Ongoing data is collected and used to inform instructional changes to make student gains.

  • Tier 1:  evidence based program with reading delivered to all students. Tier 1 evidence based programming and supports in CSD:
  • Tier 2:  intensified evidence based program for groups of students needing supplemental reading instruction.
  • Tier 3:  intensive evidence based instructional interventions to increase student’s rate of progress to close the gap.  These interventions are usually longer term and may or may not include special education services. 

Lucie Chamberlain

Alta View Elementary

If a movie about super teachers were ever made, Lucie Chamberlain would be a prime candidate for a leading role. Fortunately for her kindergarten students at Alta View Elementary, she already thrives in a supporting role for them. Parents thank her for being a “super teacher.” She is also described as an “amazing colleague.” Whether students need help in the classroom or from home while sick, Lucie goes above and beyond to help them learn, overcome fears, and feel important and cared for. Lucie is the reason a number of kids went from hating school to loving it, according to parents. The way she exudes patience, sweetness, positive energy, and love for her students with special needs melts is appreciated and admired. One parent noted: “Both my kids wish she could be their teacher forever.” Another added:  “She treats every student like their learning and their feelings are her priority.” Super teacher, indeed!

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