Monday, August 17, 2020

Russ on Reading: Phonics, Fluency, and Flexibility

Russ on Reading: Phonics, Fluency, and Flexibility

Phonics, Fluency, and Flexibility

If you have ever read one of Peggy Parrish's delightful Amelia Bedelia books to young children, your efforts were no doubt greeted by howls of laughter. Children delight in the word play involved when Amelia "dresses the turkey" in coat and pants, or when she "pitches a tent" by throwing it poles and all, into the bushes. The children's delight comes, of course, from the humor derived from Amelia's totally literal understanding of words and the children's growing knowledge that words can have more than one meaning. If you are reading these books to first and second graders you may also notice that some children are not in on the joke. They may laugh along with others, but they may not yet have the cognitive flexibility to get the joke. 

Cognitive flexibility is defined as the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts or to think about multiple concepts simultaneously. If you can't switch between two different concepts of "dress" or "pitch" you can't get the humor of Amelia Bedelia. Likewise, if you can't switch between two or more different concepts about how words are constructed, you will have great difficulty becoming a fluent reader. Recent research indicates that cognitive flexibility contributes to beginning reader's fluency, that low achieving readers lack cognitive flexibility, and perhaps, most importantly cognitive flexibility can be taught. (See References Below)

When you think about this it makes good sense. Phonics knowledge can only get us so far in decoding. If children approach every unknown word with CONTINUE READING: Russ on Reading: Phonics, Fluency, and Flexibility