Developing Literacy Abilities of Reading and Writing

Teaching High-Frequency Words

Words are an important aspect of learning in view of the fact that they allow students to create meaning from print. It is estimated that there are approximately a million words in the English language and studies indicate that proficient readers are capable of recognizing about 50000 words at sight (Johns & Wilke, 2018). They know the words automatically and seldom need to sound the words to identify them. Struggling readers face challenges in school because they know fewer words than proficient readers. The fact that some words occur more frequently than others can be used to design effective teaching strategies.

For instance, thirteen words account for an estimated 25% of the words in school textbooks (Johns & Wilke, 2018). Therefore, it is essential that struggling readers learn the high-frequency words at sight. In essence, they gain automaticity with about 25% of the text they encounter (Johns & Wilke, 2018). Increased automaticity propels beginning readers towards proficiency when handling a variety of texts.

High-frequency words form the foundation of teaching strategies aimed at improving reading proficiency. The thirteen common words are you, was, to, the, that, of, it, is, in, he, for, and, a (Johns & Wilke, 2018). Assessing struggling students’ knowledge of high-frequency words is essential because it allows the teacher to apply the most appropriate strategy in the classroom. There are specific techniques that can be used to facilitate effective learning.

Explicit Instruction

This technique involves the selection of a high-frequency word that students should learn by sight. The word is written on the board, and each of its letters is spelled out aloud. The students are then instructed to write the word on their notebooks, after which they should repeat the teacher’s actions by touching each letter and spelling it out loud (Johns & Wilke, 2018). The next step involves giving the students a poem or a story that uses the word multiple times. They should circle it, read it out loud and practice spelling it throughout the day. Finally, the instructor should write sentences with a blank space for the chosen word. Students should complete the sentence and read it out loud in the classroom.

A Fluency Development Lesson

Fluency development refers to a simple and consistent approach to reading instruction. It can be applied to large groups of normally developing primary school children. It is a daily 20-minute lesson in which students are tasked with mastering a short passage comprising between 100-200 words each day (Rasinski, 2017). The teacher must select a section of text for the day from a story, poem, or song.

The next step involves reading the text out loud for the students while they follow along silently. The teacher then conducts a brief discussion of the text’s content, after which the whole class reads it out loud. The students must then be divided into groups of two or three and allowed to practice reading the text for five to ten minutes (Rasinski, 2017). The teacher then helps the students choose at least five words from the passage that will be used for the day’s word study activities. The process continues at home, where the students are encouraged to read the passages to family members. The cycle is renewed the next day when the teacher selects a new passage to use during the lesson.


Sight word intervention activities have the potential to improve reading proficiency. For instance, using word walls allows students to easily identify words during routine instruction (Johns & Wilke, 2018). Asking students to create easy rhyming and easy ending word lists is a beneficial and fun activity. The teacher may also pick a word from the word wall, write it down on a piece of paper, and give the class clues to see if they can identify the mystery word (Johns & Wilke, 2018). Creating word families is another effective way of ensuring that students remember frequent words. Teachers may also create word search puzzles depending on the students’ age and capability. Finally, it is essential to encourage students to read books as this builds confidence and increases automaticity.

Structured Literacy Instruction

Structured literacy approaches are recommended for lessons in classrooms across the country. It is the most effective mode of teaching for students facing difficulties with reading and writing (Moats, 2019). They involve the sequential, explicit and systematic teaching of literacy at levels such as letter-sounding relationships, morphemes, sentence structure, and phonemes (Spear-Swerling, 2019). In addition, they include ongoing reviews and cumulative practice, a significant degree of teacher-student interaction, corrective feedback, and the use of carefully chosen examples. Structured literacy’s explicit nature refers to the fact that the instructor teaches important concepts and skills clearly and directly (Spear-Swerling, 2019). Therefore, students are not expected to make inferences from exposure. In addition, the learners are expected to only practice the content taught in class.

Structured literacy instruction in an elementary classroom would cover a specific literacy area and require the practice of a specific skill through well-defined activities. The first area is phonemic awareness, where students are expected to practice phoneme bending. The teacher is expected to show the students how to orally bend five-phoneme words starting with words that have continuous sounds as opposed to those with stop consonants (Spear-Swerling, 2019). The students then respond orally, and the instructor provides immediate corrections and feedback as required.

The second area is phonics, where the skill in practice is the ability to decode silent-e words. The teacher begins by explaining the pattern of the chosen words. It is critical to note that the first vowel is long, and the final “e” is silent (Spear-Swerling, 2019). The instructor then proceeds to provide examples while offering guided practice on how to identify the words in a sentence. Another area students can learn about in a structured literacy lesson is irregular words. They are expected to identify these words in common texts. For instance, the instructor is expected to model a tracing activity using a specific word such as “what.” Students are then taught how to trace each of the word’s letters while saying it out loud. In the event mistakes are made, the tracing process is repeated until all individuals understand it.

Vocabulary is an important area to teach in an elementary classroom. The students learn the meanings of commonly used unfamiliar words. The instructor first explains the word’s meaning in a language the students can understand. Examples of items linked to the word must then be provided after which students as asked to classify specific items that fall into the category of the chosen word. The syntax is essential for students in the sense that they learn how to combine short sentences into longer grammatically correct ones (Spear-Swerling, 2019). The structured instruction process involves the presentation of short sentences, which are modeled into long grammatically correct versions. It is essential to discuss the incorrect versions of the short sentences and offer guidance to students as they practice with other examples of kernel sentences.

The final area in which structured instruction can be applied in a classroom is paragraphs. Students must be equipped with the skills necessary to identify signal words that tie a paragraph’s ideas together. The teacher’s first step is to choose a paragraph and point out signal words such as “because” and “consequently” (Spear-Swerling, 2019). They must then explain how paying attention to the identified words helps students to understand the text’s content and meaning. The next step involves giving students a different paragraph in which they can identify and highlight signal words. The instructor must offer immediate feedback and make corrections where necessary to ensure the students apply the lessons learned in their personal writing.

Reading-Writing Connection

Effective literacy programs allow learners to speak and listen as a means of extending their literacy skills. Primary school teachers are expected to improve their students’ reading abilities in English and other subjects such as geography and history. The integration of reading and writing is based on the premise that simultaneously teaching the two improves learning (Alghonaim, 2018). The whole language approach highlights the fact that reading and writing are complementary. Students often treat language as a continuum and are, therefore, likely to apply what they read in their writing (Alghonaim, 2018).

It is essential to focus on real activities that relate directly to the learners’ interests and needs. In essence, students can use texts to develop writing skills that can be applied for various social and academic purposes. In the primary school context, the use of the reading-writing connection is essential for learning how to write narratives. The process is divided into stages, each of which involves specific activities.

Building Context

The first step involves building the context for the text under examination. It is essential to establish the learners’ shared understanding of the various socio-cultural functions the text plays (Victoria State Government, 2019). For example, narratives are a reflection of societal values, and students can be guided in appreciating their place through discussions on the types of stories they like to read. In addition, tutors can help students evaluate how authors build tension within the narrative or how they allow readers to form specific opinions about characters. It is essential that teachers engage their students in dialogic talk through the presentation and co-construction of knowledge (Victoria State Government, 2019). The focus of this stage is the facilitation of guided discussions and vocabulary buildings.


The second step involves modeling the features and structure of the selected text. It is essential that the teacher focuses on the close examination of specific language features. For instance, they may evaluate the use of prepositions of place to establish the narrative’s setting (Victoria State Government, 2019). The tutor must select a section of the text and use a linguistic lens to highlight specific structural features and the meanings created by the word choices used.

The lesson’s focus should be on teaching students how language can be used to create different meanings in a text. There are a number of activities that can be applied in a classroom context in this stage. For instance, the teacher can lead a discussion on the different levels of the text and the purposes they serve. In addition, they may highlight keywords and phrases which facilitate the student’s understanding of the text. Finally, the class may engage in activities aimed at identifying patterns in the chosen text.

Guided Practice

The guided practice stage consolidates the learning that has occurred in other states. The focus of the teaching process is on text composition through directed dialogue where learners are guided by their tutor (Victoria State Government, 2019). The teacher helps students construct phrases of their own by giving prompts, paraphrasing, asking questions, and elaborating on responses. In addition, the students are offered guidance on essential processes such as editing and drafting. It is vital to note that the time taken to co-construct text may vary depending on the student’s age and ability. The upper years of primary school tend to focus on a section of text within a lesson. For instance, the learners may be guided on how to identify an action-reaction pattern in a passage or the evaluation of a section exploring the narrative’s main theme.

Independent Composition

The final stage is the independent composition phase which occurs when the students are ready to compose their own texts. They must draw on lessons learned from the modeling and guided practice phase to complete assigned tasks. It is worth noting that the teacher is expected to guide learners by helping them to creatively construct and compose phrases independently. Students with low confidence levels may require close supervision to ensure that they meet the lesson’s goals and objectives.


Alghonaim, A. S. (2018). Explicit ESL/EFL reading-writing connection: An issue to explore in ESL/EFL settings. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 8(4), 385. Web.

Johns, J. L., & Wilke, K. H. (2018). High frequency words: Some ways to teach and help students practice and learn them. Texas Journal of Literacy Education, 6(1), 3–13. Web.

Moats, L. (2019). Structured literacy: Effective instruction for students with dyslexia and related reading difficulties. Perspectives on Language and Literacy, 9–11. Web.

Rasinski, T. V. (2017). Readers who struggle: Why many struggle and a modest proposal for improving their reading. Reading Teacher, 70(5), 519–524. Web.

Spear-Swerling, L. (2019). Structured literacy and typical literacy practices: Understanding differences to create instructional opportunities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 51(3), 201–211. Web.

Victoria State Government. (2019). Teaching-learning cycle: Reading and writing connections. Web.

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