The following list includes some of the important literacy competencies.
Oracy – Oral language
This is developed in the classroom by informal and guided conversations, by asking questions, by giving learners opportunities to explain their learning and thinking.
Vocabulary encompasses the words we must know to communicate effectively and includes oral and reading vocabulary. Learners will learn the meanings of most words indirectly through their experiences and conversations and they also develop vocabulary as they read on their own and listen to adults read aloud.
This refers to the strategies or skills readers use to figure out letters/words when reading and spelling. The following lists some of those strategies: recognising or identifying letters/whole words that follow irregular spelling patterns (sometimes called ‘sight words’); using configuration clues, e.g. sometimes the distinct shapes of words can help readers figure them out; recognising the formation of words (also called morphology or structural analysis). Early readers need to be taught to identify and understand the meaning of word parts - roots, prefixes and suffixes, e.g. ‘play’ and ‘play-ing’, and ‘agree’ and ‘dis-agree-ment’; using context clues. Proficient readers think about the meaning of what they are reading and use their understanding of the surrounding words, sentences, or even paragraphs to help them read an unfamiliar word.
Developing literacy requires an awareness that the spoken language can be taken apart in many different ways, e.g. sentences broken into words, words divided into syllables (sis/ter), and syllables divided into smaller, individual sounds (phonemes) such as /c/ /a/ /t/. Some phonemic skills are: listening for, counting, and identifying distinct sounds (not letter names); hearing, matching, adding, chopping off, or rearranging sounds; and separating or blending sounds to make words. Phonemic awareness can be taught explicitly or indirectly through games, manipulative activities, chanting, and reading and singing songs and poems. Phonological awareness includes knowledge of rhyming, alliteration (hearing similarity of sounds, as in ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’) and intonation.
The process of ‘arranging ideas to form a clear and unified impression and to create an effective message’ is composition (The Literacy Dictionary, IRA. 1995, p. 38). Identifying the purpose for writing offers pointers for structuring writing: the purpose to describe, share feelings and thoughts, express opinions, and create a story or narrative, etc.
Finding and constructing meaning in a text – the reason for reading. Explicit modelling and instruction can help students be aware of what they do understand; identify what they do not understand; and use appropriate strategies to resolve difficulties with comprehension. Examples of teaching methods for comprehension are asking learners to predict what will happen next, asking questions about the content, helping students to access background knowledge, model making connections when reading.
Fluency is the ability to read text accurately and quickly. Fluent readers recognise and comprehend words at the same time and their reading is effortless and expressive. Teaching methods to develop fluency include shared reading with the teacher and classmates; and repeated readings of texts.
Fast, easy and accurate word recognition grows out of repetition and practice. Teaching strategies could be using lists of high frequency words, personal word lists and word walls for learners. Automaticity allows a learner to concentrate more on other aspects of reading, such as comprehension.
We need to teach literacy/decoding skills – they are not inbuilt developmental milestones. Think about how you teach literacy/decoding skills in your classroom/lessons.