According to the Virginia Department of Education, the goal of literacy instruction in Virginia is to ensure that all children have the necessary skills to become successful readers, writers, speakers, and listeners with the critical thinking skills that are required to be successful as they progress and transition through the stages of their lives.
In kindergarten through third grade, the primary goal is to teach all students to read fluently and to comprehend a variety of fiction and nonfiction selections that relate to all areas of the curriculum. As they progress through the elementary grades, students continue to acquire and refine strategies for comprehending and analyzing selections that encompass all literary types, exemplify universal themes, and relate to all subjects. K-3 standards are organized in three strands: Oral Language, Reading and Writing. Beginning at grade 4 the strands become Communication: Speaking, Listening, Media Literacy, Reading, Writing, and Research.
Studies show that the best way to teach kids to read is to pair them up with books at their instructional or independent reading level. Students can build their fluency and comprehension skills when they read books that are on their level, allowing them to concentrate on comprehension instead of struggling in decoding unknown words. Richard Allington states in his book What Really Matters for Struggling Readers (2001) that struggling readers are probably reading books that are above their reading level and should be provided with appropriately leveled texts.
Effective reading instruction should include elements that teach five critical areas of literacy: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension (Reading Panel, 2000). These skills are also aligned with the state’s Standards of Learning and should be addressed in the general education curriculum. Most experts agree that reading skills instruction should be systematic and explicit (Reading Panel, 2000; Ritchey, 2011; Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2003).
SOL Vocabulary Review
In order to become independent readers, students must build vocabulary by applying their knowledge of word structure and context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words. Teachers need to provide both direct and indirect instruction in all areas of vocabulary development across all content areas.