How can I teach reading skills

Promotion of reading skills and decoding performance when reading

Promotion of reading skills ...


The following article summarizes the various aspects of the workshop “Promotion of reading skills in primary schools” at the specialist conference of the Association for Integrative Learning Therapy in Bonn, November 2006. The print edition was published in “Sprachrohr Lerntherapie” 1/2007.

1. The phonetic choice of words

As for learning to write at the beginning, the principle of sound fidelity is also useful for learning to read. Since there are 42 sounds and even more dialectal pronunciations for the 26 letters and the rules also turn out to be pronunciation variants of the stressed vowels in the word, one should reduce the variety of sound variants at the beginning of learning to read. With faithful reading courses, such as For example, in the “Lauttreuen Reading Exercises” (1), which were presented in a revised new edition, words can first be selected whose sound sequence is simple and whose accented vowels are only spoken long. As a result, such simply structured words correspond to the initially learned competence of phoneme-grapheme assignment, in which children usually emphasize the individual sounds and pronounce them long.

In a second step children learn the difference between stressed and unstressed syllables of a word and only in a third step the difference in stress between long and short vowels is conveyed. Only the last form of the melodic pronunciation then corresponds to the rules of doubling the consonants and stretching them with h or ie. In the reading book “Till Eulenspiegel and his cheeky pranks” (2), all words are connected with the syllable form.

2. The central position of the syllable in learning to read

The syllable is the most important segment in words for learning to read, as it immediately coincides with our rhythmic speaking. We spontaneously break down pseudo-sounds into a syllable pronunciation.

And the visual decoding of words is not a photograph of whole word images, but a combination of capturing segments in words and an interpretation strategy assigned to them.

Since the syllable plays such a central role, reading individual letters should be reduced to a minimum. In the sound-based reading course, only the vowels and umlauts are introduced at the beginning with phonological exercises in order to then combine the consonants with the vowels in syllable units. Choosing the syllable as the basis for reading exercises is also useful when introducing explosive sounds, because when spoken in isolation they are always associated with a vowel sound, even if only the unstressed e is spoken when making letters aloud.

In addition, the emphasis is given by the letter sequence of the stem syllables - usually the first syllable of a word - in the open syllable (Fa) the vowel is spoken long, in the closed syllable (falcon) it is spoken short.

The sound reading course therefore only works with words that have an open syllable in the root of the word. Only in the second part do words follow with closed syllables in the word stem and therefore with the short emphasis on the vowels.


3. The importance of decoding

When reading, one has to distinguish between expectation of meaning, decoding and extraction of meaning. The expectation of meaning ensures that when we read a certain topic, we think about contexts that are constantly updated while reading, like a kind of background knowledge. The decoding, i.e. the differentiation of the letters, their order and their transfer into the sequence of the sounds, ensures that what the text or the word wants to convey is perceived. Thus, one can imagine decoding as a control of the expectation of meaning, which then leads to the correct extraction of meaning. If you learn to read too early with a meaningful expectation, guessing reading can result. Children then usually fix the beginning of a word and think of a suitable continuation, which they do not check against characteristic features of a word. A new test procedure that can test decoding performance is presented below.

4. Complementary forms of syllable structure

In order to facilitate the decoding, the design must be observed. A variety of designs for letters, syllables and words are possible and at the same time ensure a change in reading. In summary, the most important are: reading ribbon, syllable block, syllable staircase, rhyming words, word pyramid, word snake, word structures and recurring syllables.

The design forms for sentences and texts are: one-word line, overview line, sentence pyramid, articulated word sentences, sentence rearrangement, sentence expansion and meaning step structure. All forms of design were presented in an earlier "mouthpiece for learning therapy" (3).


5. Individual reading promotion through self-assessment of the children with "Bild -zeichen"

So that children can design their learning-to-read process individually, 40 "picture signs" / symbols have been developed, each representing a work task and can be selected by the children independently. The children either paint the selected characters in their reading workbook or paste in the characters cut from a copy and thus determine their reading work.

Some examples of the “picture symbols” follow here and at the same time show the tasks that a child learns to solve. The prerequisite for this is that the signs have been explained to the children the first time, so that they can also solve the work tasks independently.

The children receive a copy of some of the reading pages from the reading exercises on the sheet on which the 40 "picture symbols" are written and put them in their folder or folder. Now, in consultation with educators or therapists, they look for signs, i.e. the tasks with which they want to work on the reading sheets. The following is an example with the selection of 9 characters to be used for editing the reading pages with syllables and words:

(1) On the reading pages I can read all letters and segments in all directions crisscrossing.

(2) As an aid, I use the reading slide or my reading aid finger with which I guide my eyes.

(3) I will pronounce the individual sounds and segments in different ways - loud, soft, high, low, laughing, singing, etc.

(4) I paint the order in which I will read the syllables beforehand with the reading zigzag tape so that a point always points to a syllable. I can use different colors to paint several reading sequences, which can also overlap.

(5) For each letter or segment I read, I think of a word that contains these parts.

(6) I will listen to other children who read and check in my mind whether I would also read that way and whether I understand the meaning of the words.

(7) Where I mean that one should read differently, I am curling these parts under. After reading it, we'll talk about it.

(8) After the reading exercises, I count all the parts I have read and write the total on my reading pass. Now I wonder how much effort I have put into my exercises overall and whether I have worked with few or many interruptions. For that I give myself four, three, two or a plus sign.

(9) At the end I write the homework that my teacher or therapist and I consider important in my reading workbook. I will do these tasks at home.


6. New test procedure to check decoding performance

In addition, the “Lauttreuen Reading Exercises / Lauttreuer Reading Course” also offer an aid to test the ability to decode in 1st and 2nd grade. The test developed by Findeisen / Melenk / Hanke was used at the Institute for Dyslexia and Learning Therapy, Bonn, and it makes it easier to identify decoding problems in dyslexics. The procedure is to be presented here in an abbreviated form.

a. The test checks the differentiation of the letter forms, their spatial position and sequence in syllables in a comparative procedure. One can tell if children are proficient in visual analysis.

b. It checks the assignment of syllables to a meaningful word. You can determine whether children can already read syllables and - conveyed via short-term memory - can assign a first syllable to the correct syllable from two other syllables.

c. He also checks whether children recognize an unnecessary wrong letter in simple, loud words.

The short form has three parts. Two minutes are given for each part, so that the three tasks should be completed in six minutes. All children in a group / class should carry out this test in order to calculate a mean value and to be able to identify deviating performance. The test in its short form has no percentile ranks as it is used for qualitative analysis and information.

The mean value of the total number of completed tasks is the sum of the incorrectly solved tasks for all students divided by the number of students. This indicates the level of performance within the given time.

Counting the reading errors: All errors = raw values ​​of the group / class are counted, then the sum of the raw values ​​is divided by the number of students, which gives the mean value. This makes it easy to determine the slight and strong deviations. If there is free reading time, the children can write down the start time and then the end time on top of the sheet. By adding all the times and dividing by the number of children, you get the average time and thus also the small and large deviations.

The decoding test cannot replace an accurate diagnosis of visual perception or phonological awareness. However, it gives teachers and therapists initial information about some moments of the decoding process.

Interpretation of the three test items:

  1. Incorrect markings when comparing letters indicate a clear visual problem. Differences in the good solution of this task and many mistakes in writing tasks in school lessons then do not point to a visual problem, but to a problem of assigning characters and sounds. In this case, auditory and visual perception exercises are to be combined.
  2. Incorrect assignment of syllables: The syllable is not read correctly or short-term memory fails. Phonological exercises on individual letters and simple syllables are useful. By choosing the letters for the syllables, the repetition effect is great, so that these children have enough material with the first 44 pages of the loudspeaker course.
  3. If the wrong letters are not found in words - and task 2 was solved correctly - then the child has already over-generalized the interpretation strategy through which they can grasp the entire word in an overview and no longer succeed in fine-tuning it visually. This child then has difficulty finding their own spelling mistakes. The syllable structure is important for these children to break down the sequence of letters and so, combined with speaking out loud, to pay attention to the syllable ends and the beginning of the following syllable. The meaningful expectation is guided by the decoding.


(1) Findeisen, Melenk, Schillo, Lauttreue Reading Exercises - Reading course from the syllable to the text, completely revised new edition, Bochum, 2007, Winkler Verlag

(2) Flita Findeisen, Till Eulenspiegel and his cheeky pranks, Bochum 2005

(3) Findeisen, U. / Melenk, G., Design forms of reading material, in: Sprachrohr Lerntherapie, No. 1/2000, pp. 16 - 24

(4) Findeisen, U., Melenk, G., Hanke, A., Decoding performance test (TEDEL), Bonn 2006

You can order a short form of the Decoding Performance Test (TEDEL) by email. The copyright rests with the authors. The test can be copied by teachers for the purpose of diagnosing decoding performance. Commercial use is prohibited.