Literacy – Part I – Critical Components of Literacy

Teachers have a responsibility to provide a high-quality education to all students in their classes. Should they fail in this responsibility, their class moves on to the next grade far behind their peers.  Moving these students to the next grade makes it extremely difficult for teachers and students because they have to catch them up from the previous school year, and prepare them for the next grade level.

While this is certainly detrimental in every subject, the skill most affected is literacy.  If students can’t read, they can’t master the basics of most subjects which means they can’t move to the next grade level ready to master that level.

According to the National Literacy Trust, “Literacy is the ability to read, write, speak and listen in a way that lets us communicate effectively and make sense of the world.”

It stands to reason that literacy is of critical importance in school because it’s a skill that’s used in every subject area, not strictly limited to English Language Arts class.  Mastering literacy takes years to complete as one literacy skill builds on the next because these skills are completely intertwined.  Once the basics are mastered, each level of literacy continues to propel students to the next level and is incorporated in other subjects that rely heavily on literacy, including math. 

There are 4 areas that build literacy strength:

  1. Reading
  2. Writing
  3. Speaking
  4. Listening

When it comes to reading, the 5 essential components of reading are:

  1. Phonemic Awareness: The ability to combine the smallest units of language into syllables and words
  2. Phonics: The ability to recognize the relationship between a letter and it’s sound individual sounds to effectively read and spell
  3. Fluency: The ability to read with speed, accuracy, and expression without having to stop to decode each word individually
  4. Vocabulary: The ability to understand a variety of words to make sense of a text or the spoken word.
  5. Comprehension: The ability to fully understand what has been read.

There are also 5 steps to the writing process:

  • Pre-Writing: Deciding on a topic, considering your audience, and brainstorming
  • Research: Finding information and creating an outline
  • Drafting: Paraphrasing and summarizing research in your own words
  • Revising: Making your writing even better
  • Editing and Proofreading: Correcting grammatical errors and formatting

The 4 speaking skills every student must learn:

  1. Fluency: The level of comfortability and confidence one has while speaking
  2. Vocabulary: The variety of words one speaks
  3. Grammar: The structure one uses while speaking
  4. Pronunciation: The stress, intonation, and rhythm one uses while speaking

The 5 stages of listening are:

  1. Receiving: Intentionally focusing on what is being said
  2. Understanding: Attempting to learn the meaning of what is being said
  3. Remembering: Recalling what is being said
  4. Evaluating: Judging what is being said
  5. Responding: Providing feedback about what is being said

Mastering the various literacy skills is essential when it comes to being successful in school,  in the workforce and in life.

Many students in K-12 settings across the United States are not mastering these critical skills.  This impacts their ability to succeed in all aspects of their life and, unless they correct these deficiencies, will continue to negatively impact them the rest of their lives.