Teaching reading to young learners

The Russian traditional methodology for teaching reading in English is to teach how different letters are pronounced in different positions and combinations, a method similar to phonics. The phonemic alphabet is usually taught alongside with letters. Russian students have been taught this way for ages, and could read relatively well (I'm speaking about the technical aspect of reading, not comprehension).The problems with this approach are the following:1) Students tend to confuse letters and phonemic symbols.2) They have two similar reading systems to internalize at the same time.3) There are lots of letter combinations in English, more or less common, and it's time-consuming to cover all of them.4) There also exceptions, especially in the most common words.5) The approach is 100% deductive, which may be inappropriate for young learners whose logic is still developing.After the country became open to the world, teachers learnt about other methods. Many foreign textbooks in which whole-word reading was taught appeared. Many teachers were not satisfied with the outcome of such teaching. The result was worse than in the previous case. Of course, our brain learns to recognize patterns, but that requires a great amount of exposure, which is not possible in EFL situation.The most effective I find the combination of phonics and whole-word reading.First I teach the most common "sight words" or "Dolch words" as whole words. We play games with word cards, students do exercises. This way they get used to letters, the shape and sound of words.Then the phonics stage comes. Students start to analyze word structure and transfer the experience onto other words. Here drills and simple readers really help. But wordcards are not abandoned at this stage, we continue to play and work with them.How do you teach reading?

Average: 2.6 (15 votes)


Elena Nikitina's picture
Elena Nikitina

I like teaching reading exercises in an old textbook by Vereschagina. They helped.Nowadays I don't pay too much attention to rules (because of so many exceptions).

bogolepovasv's picture

Yes, reading drills such as in Vereschagina help, but as you mentioned, there are too many exceptions to the reading rules, and mostly in common words, so we have to use other resourses. Also, reading drills are rather boring.