Reading’s Fab Five

by Ana on May 1, 2008

Better known as The Five Components of Reading, the Fab Five are the crucial instruments that research has shown kids need in order to become successful readers. Research is great . . . but are these really so important and are they necessary? My answer to both questions is a big resounding YES! Each one is important and they are absolutely necessary to teach so that your kids not only build a strong foundation of skills, but also continue to develop them in order to become accomplished readers that go on to do well in other subject areas.

Before I break down each of the Fab Five, it’s important to note that these components are not “steps to reading”. They are not meant to be introduced one at a time and mastered before moving on to the other. While it’s true that children will have to learn parts of some components before they can work on others, they are meant to work together throughout the process of learning to read. This means that you will be working on different aspects of the five components as your child’s skills grow. For example: Your child may need to work on some phonemic awareness skills before he/she can work on phonics. Yet another child can be working on vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension all at once in the same story. It may sound confusing at first, but you’ll get the hang of it once you see examples in the teaching methods and lesson ideas!

Phonemic Awareness: Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the different sounds of our language (phonemes). Often confused/used interchangeably with phonological awareness, this component is actually a subpart of phonological awareness.

  • Not the same as phonics and does not involve print because this component is auditory
  • Critical in laying the foundation for later letter-sound correspondence
  • Example: (first sound isolation) What’s the first sound in the word sun?

Phonics: Developing an ability to correspond sounds (phonemes) with letters (graphemes).

  • Leads to an understanding that there are predictable relationships between sounds and letters
  • Readers use the relationships to recognize familiar words and to decode unfamiliar ones
  • One main difference between good and poor readers is the ability to use letter-sound correspondence to identify words

Vocabulary: The ability to understand and use words in our language in order to communicate through speech and writing. There are four different types of vocabulary:

  • Listening vocabulary – the words needed to understand what is heard
  • Speaking vocabulary – the words used when speaking
  • Reading vocabulary – the words needed to understand what is read
  • Writing vocabulary – the words used in writing

Fluency: The ability to read text quickly, accurately, and with prosody (with stress and intonation in your voice – not monotone).

  • Should be automatic and effortless
  • Acts as a bridge between recognizing words and comprehension
  • Fluent readers use less mental energy on decoding (figuring words out) and more on comprehension (understanding what they read)

Comprehension: The cognitive ability to process and understand text that is read. It’s the ultimate goal and purpose of reading.

  • Should be intentional and active
  • Thinking strategies can be taught to improve comprehension

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