Viva Phonics: A Truly Research-Based Program
Let’s delve into what reading research reveals about how children learn to read and how Viva Phonics aligns seamlessly with this research.
The National Reading Panel Report
When I began my journey in teaching children to read, I wanted to make sure I was using resources and methods proven to be effective. During this exploration, I came across the National Reading Panel Report. This pivotal document, released in 2000, evaluated research and evidence to investigate the most effective ways of teaching children to read. Even before this report’s release, and certainly since then, the knowledge of how to teach reading effectively has been available. Yet, many children still struggle with reading.
Understanding Why Kids Struggle with Reading
Teaching children to read demands dedication, considerable time, and consistent practice. Those who strayed from the Reading Panel’s recommendations believed that the reading process was overly challenging and might discourage children from developing a love for reading. Consequently, they sought methods to simplify the process of learning to read.
Programs centered on having kids memorize a handful of sight words, integrating them into books filled with large words and vivid pictures that assisted children in deciphering the larger words. Suddenly, kids began reading faster than ever before. Gone were the days of rote memorization of letter sounds or painstakingly sounding out words. Instead, words were now memorized in their entirety, and in some instances, by their shape! It’s hard to believe, but it’s true.
Today, there are still programs adhering to this flawed methodology. These programs purport to be research-based, yet they don’t align with any proven, effective research. Distributed by well-known publishers, they are taught in schools across the country and around the world.
Aligning with Reading Research: The Viva Phonics Approach
Viva Phonics is a program directly developed from the reading research compiled by the National Reading Panel and ongoing recent reading research. Here are the key takeaways and how Viva Phonics aligns precisely with the National Reading Panel report findings.
1. Effective Reading Instruction Includes Five Key Components:
- Phonemic Awareness: Understanding that spoken words are made up of individual sounds (phonemes) and being able to manipulate these sounds.
- Phonics: Recognizing the relationship between the written letters of the alphabet and the sounds of spoken language.
- Fluency: Developing the ability to read text accurately, quickly, and with proper expression.
- Vocabulary: Building a wide and varied vocabulary, which is crucial for comprehension and overall language development.
- Comprehension: The ability to understand and gain meaning from text, which involves various strategies like summarizing, predicting, and inferring.
The Viva Phonics program effectively builds phonemic awareness and phonics skills by teaching students the sounds of letters and how to blend these sounds into words. According to the National Reading Panel, this letter-based approach is the most effective way to achieve phonemic awareness. Children consistently expand their vocabulary by encountering new words during reading sessions and further develop their language skills through discussions and interactive games. This multifaceted approach ensures a robust and ongoing growth in their vocabulary. To develop fluency, children are engaged in repeated reading exercises, focusing on enhancing their phrasing, pacing, smoothness, and expressiveness. As they become fluent readers, they can understand and extract meaning from the text, moving on to summarizing the key points of short passages.
2. Systematic and Explicit Phonics Instruction is More Effective:
The report emphasized that systematic (following a specific sequence of letter-sound relationships) and explicit (direct teaching of reading strategies) phonics instruction is significantly more effective than non-systematic or no phonics instruction.
Viva Phonics offers a comprehensive learn-to-read program. It adheres to a sequence akin to the most prevalent phonics sequences, beginning with reading three-letter short vowel words that have direct sound-to-letter correspondence. Gradually, we introduce more challenging phonics patterns, incorporating spelling practice along the way. As students progress, the stories they read become longer and more complex.
3. Reading Instruction Should be Comprehensive:
It’s not sufficient to focus on just one aspect, like phonics or vocabulary. A comprehensive approach that includes all five components is necessary for effective reading instruction.
As a comprehensive reading program, Viva Phonics fully integrates the five key components recommended by the National Reading Panel. This encompasses a focused approach on phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. By incorporating each of these essential elements, Viva Phonics provides a well-rounded, research-aligned education in reading, ensuring the holistic development of literacy skills.
4. Early Intervention is Key:
Early identification and intervention for children at risk of reading difficulties are crucial. The earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes.
Viva Phonics utilizes the trusted DIBELS 8th screener to identify children at risk of reading difficulties. DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) is a widely recognized assessment tool, specifically designed to measure and monitor the development of early literacy and reading skills in children, typically from kindergarten through sixth grade. Additionally, we consistently progress monitor to ensure the effectiveness of our program, making modifications as needed. We offer interventions for children as young as five years old. While we cater to children of all ages, we also recognize the critical importance of early intervention.
5. Teacher Education and Professional Development are Essential:
Teachers need proper training and ongoing professional development in the science of reading to effectively teach these skills.
Viva Phonics teachers are distinguished by their prior classroom experience and their status as current or former certified educators. Their deep understanding of the Science of Reading and research-based instruction comes from a combination of college coursework, ongoing professional development, and specialized training provided by Viva Phonics. To discover more about our skilled teachers, please visit the Viva Phonics Tutors page.
6. Tailored Instruction to Meet Individual Needs:
Recognizing that different children have different reading needs, instruction should be tailored to the individual learner.
Our one-on-one tutoring program is specially designed to meet the unique needs of each student. We begin by conducting a thorough screening to ensure that our research-based phonics program aligns well with each child’s specific requirements. A detailed phonics survey is completed to determine the most appropriate starting point for each student. We prioritize moving at the child’s own pace, focusing on ensuring mastery of each concept. This approach includes ample review as needed to reinforce learning and we offer the flexibility to adjust session lengths or frequency to accommodate the need for more time or intensified focus, ensuring each child receives the support they require.
7. Use of Technology in Reading Instruction:
The report also acknowledged the potential benefits of technology in supporting reading instruction, though it emphasized that it should not replace direct instruction by teachers.
While technology can be a useful tool, relying solely on an internet-based program might not suffice. This is where the crucial role of teachers comes into play. Viva Phonics is a program that has been specifically crafted and optimized for online learning, featuring a comprehensive suite of resources including videos, games, interactive activities, and books. When these resources are paired with the guidance of a live, expert reading teacher, the fusion between technology and teacher expertise becomes both invaluable and irreplaceable.