What is a Comprehensive LA Program?

A comprehensive approach to literacy is multi-linguistic: it teaches reading and writing together, using three key components:

  • Phonological Processing including Phonemic Awareness

  • Orthographic Knowledge teaching spelling patterns and conventions

  • Morphological Awareness teaching word study of structure, affixes, derivatives, and inflections

Not only do these three components need to be a central to literacy instruction, they also must be applied in the following:

  • Oral Language practice in "saying sounds" while writing, repeating concepts recorded in the LA Binder, story telling and re-telling, and discussion of new ideas—emphasizing that reading and writing are extensions of listening and speaking

  • Reading practice in words, sentences, passages, and stories—emphasizing decoding, fluency, and comprehension

  • Writing practice in handwriting, words, Intentional Copywork, Dictation & Editing, and original sentences & projects—emphasizing foundational skills of letter formation, spelling, and mechanics, as well as the flow "from head to hand" (fluency) and composition

At Rooted in Language, we incorporate all of these learning elements—teaching the educator how to incorporate each component and practice level into their language arts instruction.

Why a Multi-Linguistic approach?

In her meta-analysis "Teaching Literacy Using a Multiple-Linguistic Word-Study Spelling Approach: A Systematic Review," author Julie Wolter gathered research that included at least two of the above components: Phonemic Awareness, Orthographic Knowledge, and Morphological Awareness. Each proved to be more effective when combined together, which she calls "word-study instruction." Each component was also most effective when practiced in reading and writing. "The evidence suggests that school-age children's writing and reading improves when linguistically based word-study spelling instruction is linked to written composition and reading practice."

Why these three components?

Phonological Processing + Phonemic Awareness:

We teach the speaking and listening aspects of phonological processing, which encompass phonological working memory and phonological retrieval. In addition, we teach the sound-to-letter connections of phonological awareness (including phonemic awareness), needed for "sound mapping skills," which in turn are needed for "word form memory." Each element  of processing must be included.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, "Phonological awareness is the umbrella term: phonemic awareness applies when the units being manipulated are phonemes [the sounds of one's language], rather than words, onset-rime segments, or syllables." We need to strengthen the student's phonemic awareness skills for manipulating sounds. This need is supported by research, and it has been recently popularized by David Kilpatrick, who links these skills to improved word form memory. This includes the need to explicitly teach students to connect sounds to letters. Wolter states, "A reciprocal relationship exists between phonemic awareness and literacy development: phonemic awareness strengthens literacy skills while reading and spelling strengthen skills in phonemic awareness."

Orthographic Knowledge:

We increase orthographic knowledge by explicitly teaching spelling conventions, rules, and patterns. There is ever-growing research to support explicitly teaching and practicing spelling patterns and conventions as they relate to sound. No matter one's dialect, literacy growth involves connecting the sounds we say to the letters we see to the words we understand and express. 

Wolter writes: "Researchers believe that children use their orthographic knowledge of individual letters, letter sequences, and spelling patterns to recognize words visually while reading and spelling." These skills improve word recognition and production for improved fluency.

Morphological Awareness

Using word study, we explicitly teach morphological awareness by teaching word structure, as well as word derivations and their relationship to meaning and grammatical structure. While this research is relatively new, the evidence supports teaching morphology awareness in conjunction with—not separated from—the other components. At RiL, we think of word study as the story of spelling.  

There is still a great deal of debate regarding the "how to" and "how much" of word study is needed. Therefore, we include and emphasize the most functional aspects to meet the student's literacy goals: to develop an "awareness of the morphemic structure [of words] and the ability to reflect on and manipulate that structure." This approach is supported by Wolter in her review of research outcomes: "Specifically, knowledge of morphology helps children to spell, decode, and comprehend new words . . . This is not surprising given that approximately 60% of new words acquired by school-age children are morphologically complex," especially from grade 3 and above.

Rooted in Language is here to help you create a multi-linguistic comprehensive LA program. This is easily accomplished using our Pinwheels early literacy program. If you have an older student, start with our Foundations for Teaching Reading, Writing & Spelling online educator training course.

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