Reading Sentences and Simple Stories


What skills are required to read sentences and simple stories?

In order to read a sentence, the learner must

  • Track through the sentence from left to right in the correct sequence and potentially across multiple lines of text
  • Decode, or recognize by sight, each word in the sentence
  • Access the meaning of each word
  • Hold the words in sequence in memory
  • Process the words together to determine the meaning of the full sentence
  • Relate the meaning of the sentence to the rest of the story and to prior knowledge and experience

Learning to read sentences and simple stories requires the integration of many skills

  • Letter-sound correspondences
  • Sound blending
  • Decoding
  • Sight word recognition
  • Language skills
    • Vocabulary knowledge
    • Understanding of sentence structure 

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Why is it important to read sentences and simple stories?

Learning to read and understand short stories and other simple texts is the ultimate goal of early reading instruction.

Once learners can read and understand stories, they will begin to truly realize the many benefits of literacy skills; such as:

  • Participate more fully at school
  • Increase opportunities for learning
  • Improve communication
  • Facilitate access to the Internet
  • Enjoy reading as a meaningful leisure pursuit

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Sample goal for reading sentences or simple stories

When presented with a simple written sentence, the learner will

  • decode, or recognize by sight, the words in the sentence and
  • indicate the meaning of the sentence
    • by reading it out loud, signing it, or selecting the appropriate picture illustrating the sentence with at least 80% accuracy or
    • by answering questions summarizing the meaning of the sentence with at least 80% accuracy
      • Who is it about?
      • What happened?

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Instructional Task

Here is an example of an instructional task to teach reading of simple sentences.

  • The instructor presents a simple written sentence.
  • The learner
    • looks at each of the words in the sentence in the correct sequence
    • decodes the words, or recognizes them by sight
    • reads the sentence out loud, signs it, or selects the picture that illustrates the sentence from a group of illustrations provided.

Or, here is another way to teach reading of simple sentences.

  • The instructor presents a simple written sentence.
  • The learner
    • looks at each of the words in the sentence in the correct sequence
    • decodes the words, or recognizes them by sight
    • summarizes the meaning of the sentence by answering two simple questions
      • Who is it about?
      • What happened?

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Instructional Materials

Here is an example of instructional materials that were developed for a learner who liked the actor, Zac Efron.

  • The written sentence is Zac has a hat.
  • The response options show pictures of Zac with a hat (the correct answer), mom with a bat, Mom with a hat, and Zac with a cat.

Zac with Hat personalized story

The pictures are carefully chosen.

  • The learner cannot simply hone in on one of the words in the sentence.
  • He or she must attend to all parts of the sentence to choose the correct picture.

Analyzing the learner’s errors can help to identify areas that require more instruction.

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Instructional Procedure

The instructor uses the procedures described earlier:

  • Model
    • The instructor demonstrates reading sentences for the learner.
  • Guided practice
    • The instructor provides scaffolding support or prompting to help the learner read a whole sentence successfully.
    • Points to the words in sequence
    • Slowly decodes each word in sequence
    • The instructor gradually fades this support as the learner develops competence.
  • Independent practice
    • The learner reads the sentences independently.
    • The instructor monitors the learner’s responses and provides appropriate feedback.

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Student Example

Jackson is 5 years old in this video.

  • Jackson has Down syndrome. He attends a regular preschool. He is getting ready to enter Kindergarten in a few months.
  • He uses speech and signs to communicate with others.
  • We started to work with Jackson and his parents to teach him literacy skills when he was 4 years old.
  • This video was taken after approximately 15 months of instruction (approximately 45 minutes a week).
  • At this point, Jackson is learning to read simple books independently. He can decode regular words and recognizes many sight words. In this example, Jackson is reading a personalized book about two of his favorite characters – Curious George and Lightning McQueen.
    • Janice
      • helps Jackson point to each of the words in the book in sequence
    • Jackson
      • looks at the written words
      • decodes the words or recognizes them by sight
      • says and/or signs the words
  • After approximately 15 months of instruction (approximately 45 minutes a week), Jackson is able to read simple stories independently.
  • He is ready to enter Kindergarten as a successful reader. His literacy skills exceed those of his typical peers. Click to learn more about Jackson’s success learning literacy skills.

Unauthorized copying, transmittal, or exhibition of this video outside of this website is prohibited.

 

 

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Pointers

The goal at this stage of instruction is to ensure:

  • accurate reading of the sentence(s)
  • factual understanding of the entire sentence (not just one or two words)

As learners develop these basic reading skills, it is important that they continue to build their reading comprehension skills, including:

  • factual understanding as well as
  • critical analysis and inference

Click here for more information on building reading comprehension skills.

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Last Updated: August 31, 2012