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Last updated 26 October 2012 15:28 by NZTecAdmin

Reading and writing are ‘macro’ skills, which are made up of complex sets of sub-skills. Two key aspects of reading acquisition are sight word recognition and decoding skills related to phonological awareness11 (see phonological awareness). Reading, also, most importantly involves understanding the meaning of written text. If decoding skills are over-emphasised, the learner may develop the ability to read aloud without actually understanding the meaning of the text (sometimes referred to as “barking at print”12). To avoid this outcome, literacy development and the beginnings of phonological awareness must be linked to meaningful language. As adults, we use language to comprehend and express meaning related to real-life needs.13 Learners acquire language when they understand the messages or meanings behind the language forms they are learning. This principle is behind the strategies suggested in ‘Knowing what to do’.

Learning vocabulary is a complex and sometimes difficult task for adults. The fact that about 70 percent of English words have more than one meaning14 adds to the complexity of the task. Learning new words takes time. A word is unlikely to become part of a learner’s vocabulary after a single exposure to the word or to one definition of it; it can take multiple exposures to a word in different contexts to understand the full complexity of its meanings and applications. Knowledge of vocabulary therefore includes knowledge of how words work in relation to each other and within specific contexts.

If a learner’s listening vocabulary is limited, a wider vocabulary must be explicitly taught before instruction in decoding (for reading) or spelling (for writing) can begin.

11 Hughes, 2000.

12 Broughton, 1993.

13 Hymes, 1972, Halliday, 1975.

14 Lederer, 1991.

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