One question I often get asked is, “How soon into the year do we begin literacy instruction in our classroom?” To which I respond, “Right away!”
Implementing good literacy instruction and routine is crucial in the early years of reading. And implementing it right away – well, that’s just best practice! But why is early literacy instruction so important in the early years?
The Importance of Early Reading Instruction
It takes a lot to make a great reader: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, the list goes on. Learning to read can be nuanced and complex, and there’s a lot to cover. So starting solid literacy instruction in the early years is essential to future reading success. We know that a child can learn an astounding amount in the first six years of life. Their brains are like sponges, making connections at every turn. So when we introduce basic reading skills at an early age, kids are able to grow in reading at astounding rates.
Early reading implementation also lends itself to future academic success. The earlier these instructions can be implemented, the better. When you implement reading routines right away in your classroom, they will become embedded into the routine seamlessly. My Short Vowel Reading Intervention Mats won’t make you wonder where to start – they’re the perfect reading activity for your classroom because they cover an array of reading skills.
But more on these life-saving reading mats later. Let’s take a look at some important aspects to reading instruction (and hint: these mats cover them all).
IMportant Aspects of Reading Instruction
There are five main important aspects of reading instruction. Phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, comprehension and vocabulary are top priorities in reading instruction. These five aspects need to be part of your literacy lessons, every single day. When keeping these five elements in mind, students will all have the opportunity to improve their literacy skills, daily.
Phonics and Phonemic Awareness
At the very center of reading, we find phonics. Without proper phonics instruction and practice, students cannot thrive to their full reading potential. When you give your students the gift of phonics, you’re actually giving them a toolbox – a toolbox they can use to unlock and decipher all kinds of words they come across while reading. Children who are masters of phonics have the tools they need to decode and then read real words. And that’s why it’s so influential for students to practice these skills early, and from day one.
A students’ ability to recognize sounds in words, blend sounds together, rhyme, segment syllables, etc. is essential to mastering all other aspects of reading. With these essential skills, early mastery is key. Phonological awareness also helps children with spelling, fluency, comprehension, and more.
Good literacy instruction begins with phonics, but it doesn’t end with it! Fluency is another essential component of early literacy instruction. A student who can read fluently can also better understand what’s being read. This is because they don’t have to concentrate on sounding out every. single. word. on the page – they simply just read it. When fluency is mastered, children can smoothly read out loud and make connections while doing so.
A student who is fluent is also gaining confidence in himself or herself as a reader. Practicing fluency each day can give your kids the confidence they need to feel like a reader. Fluency also lends itself to one of the main reasons we read: to comprehend!
Comprehension and Vocabulary
Comprehension and vocabulary go hand-in-hand when it comes to reading. The more vocabulary a child knows, the more likely it is that they’ll be able to comprehend what’s being read. On the other hand, the more a child is able to comprehend a text, the more likely it is that when they stumble across an unknown word, they’ll be able to figure out its meaning. Studies show that early intervention and teaching of vocabulary directly correlates to their ability to read in later grades.
So, although phonics gets the spotlight often in early reading instruction, we can’t forget to implement vocabulary and comprehension instruction into our routine. Students need to be taught comprehension skills (and asked comprehension questions) throughout a reading. This makes them better equipped to be life-long learners who are curious about the world around them.
Short Vowel Intervention Mats
So, how do we possibly cover all of that into our daily instruction? My Short Vowel Reading Intervention Mats are here to save the day! These gems hold so much goodness all wrapped up into one activity. They cover phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. That’s a lot of reading instruction in one little mat!
The goal with these mats is to help early and emergent readers to develop their literacy skills and also gain confidence as a reader. These mats come with 10 mats for each short vowel – that’s 50 mats in all. High frequency words are also included on the mats (the, a, I, to, and, was, for, you, is, of), as well as some from the Dolch-Primer list.
How Do They Work?
Here’s how they work. In the phonemic awareness portion, the teacher will ask the student to say the sounds in the short vowel word. As they say each sound, the student will pull down a pom pom, small eraser, or other manipulative into the box. For the phonics portion of the mat, the student will say each sound in the short vowel word and place their finger on the smiley face below the sound. They will then blend the sound together to make the word.
Then, the students will practice fluency words in isolation and then again in context within a sentence. And let’s not forget vocabulary (yes, the list is still going!). Students will write the word representing the picture with one letter per line. Lastly, students will answer a comprehension question about the short sentence at the end.
These mats can be stapled into a booklet and shared with your reading intervention group. Or rather, you can slip them easily into a dry erase pocket folder with some dry erase markers and you have yourself a literacy center! Pairing up a student who has mastered CVC words along with a student who is early in their understanding of them is also a great way to use these mats if you’re looking for partner work.
Who Can Use Them?
These mats aren’t just for classroom teachers. Reading interventionists, tutors, and homeschool parents can use them as well. No matter who is teaching, these mats can be used for daily instruction and work best for students who are in kindergarten and first grade. They also work best when all short vowels have been covered in the classroom
Don’t just take my word for it – grab my free sample and see just how useful and magical these little mats are! If you’re ready to dive right in, take a look at my Reading Intervention Mats Bundle to save and be prepared all year!
There can be a lot to cover as far as reading instruction goes, and the stakes can feel really high. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, these mats are what make teaching phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension so easy and so concise. What more could we ask for?!
If you need more ideas for working with early readers, check out this blog post all about moving from letter sounds to words!