Archive article #99–02

One Down and 80,000 to Go: Word Recognition
Instruction in the Primary Grades

Connie Juel & Cecilia Minden-Cupp


This study examined how different types of instruction appear to affect students entering first grade with different literacy foundations. The researchers focused on four first grade classrooms with experienced and commended teachers and similar demographics (70% subsidized lunch, 60% African American, 36% Caucasian). They observed the language arts activities and overall dynamic in each classroom to identify the specific instructional practices that appeared most successful for children entering the first grade with minimal reading skill. In order to gage success rates for the intructional practices withing each classroom, the authors assessed children’s reading periodically throughout the study, focusing of their ability to read and their ability to utilize word learning strategies such as phonemic awareness, etc. They observed a considerable variation in the instructional practices of each classroom, which appeared to affect children’s reading achievement. The authors then concluded that children who enter first grade with low literacy benefit from early and heavy exposure to phonics. Once they can read enough independently enter the world of books, however, these children then profit from the increased vocabulary work, text discussions, and variety of text types that are characteristic of their higher range peers' reading curriculum.


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