Academic journal article The Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention

Using Visual Phonics as a Strategic Intervention to Increase Literacy Behaviors for Kindergarten Participants At-Risk for Reading Failure

Academic journal article The Journal of Early and Intensive Behavioral Intervention

Using Visual Phonics as a Strategic Intervention to Increase Literacy Behaviors for Kindergarten Participants At-Risk for Reading Failure

Article excerpt

A primary task of schools is to teach young children to read. Teaching reading is a complex task, further complicated by the fact that this intricate skill is more difficult for some participants to learn than others (Bursuck & Damar, 2007; Moats, 2000). In addition, children enter schools with varying levels of pre-reading skills, thus requiring different levels of instruction. The challenge for teachers of reading is to meet the diverse instructional needs of all children in their classrooms.

Once children fall behind in reading, a challenging instructional task becomes even more difficult. Children who are behind in reading at the end of the first grade usually continue to be behind at the fourth grade and throughout their schooling (Francis, Shaywitz, Stuebing, Fletcher, & Shaywitz, 1996; Hall & Moats, 1999; Juel, 1988; McGuinness, 2004, 2005; Stanovich & Siegel, 1994). Consequences for participants who do not learn to read proficiently are often dire. Children who are poor readers are at increased risk for having behavior problems (Walker, Colvin, & Ramsey, 1995; Walker & Severson, 2002), special education placement (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998), and low paying jobs as adults (Chhabra & McCardle, 2004).

On the other hand, proficient reading remains the most essential skill required for academic success (Chhabra & McCardle, 2004). The ability to identify those children who need extra assistance can allow teachers to target their instruction to benefit all children. The last decade has seen an intensive effort to identify participants that are at risk or high risk for reading failure and to intervene before they experience failure (Kame'enui et al., 2006). For example, the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) (Good, Kaminski, Smith, & Laimon, 2001) has proven to be an effective assessment and predictive tool for early reading success/failure.

The DIBELS is an assessment tool that allows teachers to determine if a participant is demonstrating the appropriate level of pre-reading and reading skills for his or her grade level and age. In other words, it answers the question of whether the participant is on target (at benchmark) in prerequisite skills to be a proficient reader at the end of third grade. If the participant is on target then the current instruction should be continued. However, if the participant is not on target that participant should receive additional explicit instruction with the intensity of the intervention based on the degree to which the participant is below benchmark standards. Unfortunately, many teachers do not know what to do with the results of the DIBELS assessment, particularly how to modify instruction or provide more intensive instruction in problem areas.

Curriculum-based measures (CBM) are an assessment tool that can be used to supplement DIBELS. CBMs are generally probes of particular performances on skills related to the on-going classroom instruction. We discuss one effective modification for teaching kindergarten children letter/sound relationships using the DIBELS and CBMs as the dependent variables.

Important indicators of future reading difficulties in young children are deficits in phonemic awareness skills (Ehri, 2004; McGuinness, 2004, 2005). That is, young children who are at risk for reading failure have difficulty discriminating between the sounds in English words and consequently they have difficulty associating the sounds with the appropriate letters. Letter sound relations require a child to perceive individual sounds and associate the sounds with letters. This two-fold task encompasses both phonemic awareness and beginning phonics instruction, crucial prerequisites for mastering the alphabetic code.

Bowey and Francis (1991) found that kindergarten participants who were nonreaders did not have adequate phonological awareness skills. …

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