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FIVE

Reading in the Primary Grades

Just as the preschool years are a prelude to a successful beginning in reading, so success in the primary grades builds a firm foundation for effective reading in years to come.

Starting with a desire to read and the ability to differentiate ob­jects by observing their distinctive details, the child learns to recog­nize a number of words at sight. By the end of the third grade he should be able to identify instantly the basic Dolch vocabulary x of 220 words, which make up at least 50 per cent of the running words in his elementary school books. He will know other words, too, whose meaning he does not have to stop and puzzle out.

Having acquired an ample speaking vocabulary of meaningful words, the ability to identify sounds in words, and a knowledge of letter names, the child is in a position to begin mastering word-recognition skills. He first thinks what the word might mean in the sentence. Then he uses his stock of sound-letter associations and his knowledge of familiar syllables and other structural word parts to arrive at its pronunciation and, possibly, its meaning. Thus he becomes an independent reader, able to enjoy the many stories and other books appropriate for children of his age and reading ability.

Parents should not be disappointed if their child does not come home with a book the first day of school. Most children need pre-reading experiences before they are ready to read.

Having heard or read about the importance of phonics, many parents want to be sure their child is being taught by this magic method. We shall therefore go to some lengths to put phonics in its place, as one of several important word-recognition skills, each of which plays its part in the total reading program.

To counteract the tendency to think of reading as word calling —mere ability to pronounce printed words—reading should be pre­sented from the beginning as a thought-getting process. Parents can help reinforce the teacher's accent on meaning.

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