Reading is a Complex Process

Over the past 8 years of teaching I taught grades 3-4, with most of my time spent in 4th grade. I taught at a school where the majority of my students came from families who were very involved in their child's education, and were great readers.  Over the years I did have several students who struggled with Reading, but more in the area of comprehension rather than phonics.  This year I switched schools and the students come from very different backgrounds.  I saw students who were reading well below grade level and struggled with other components of reading rather than just comprehension.  As the Instructional Coach I felt I wasn't as strong as I should have been in this area to help my teachers, so I am spending my summer freshening up and reviewing the complex process that reading is.

I plan to share what I learn, rediscover, or reminded of with you!  I think going back to the tried and true information in education is more powerful than the latest trend or educational craze.

Reading is complex and consist of several components.  These components cannot be taught in isolation, but are interlocking components that depend on one another. When one or more component is missing the interlocking system of reading is weakened and unable to function for lifelong use. Simply put, no component can be missing.

The Five Domains of Reading:

1. Phonemic Awareness
2. Phonics & Decoding
3. Fluency
4. Vocabulary
5. Comprehension

Some researchers have a sixth component...Higher Order Thinking.

Reading is an easily learned skill when taught from good teachers who model balanced literacy instruction. What is "balanced literacy"?  We hear this term a lot in education and the definition may be different from school to school or district to district. The common definition I have found is where literacy instruction includes explicit teaching, holistic reading and writing that is combined to create more capable readers. As educators we know that children do not all learn the same way and need a variety of methods and strategies that help build their reading skills.  Within the balanced literacy a good teacher will use a variety of strategies during both explicit and holistic instruction.

Over the next several weeks I will dive deeper into each domain of reading, including Higher Order Thinking.  I hope you stop by to sharpen your understanding of the complex process of reading. :)

What is something you hope to learn about reading this summer? Or what are you working on this summer to help next year be more successful for you?


  1. It's been about 10 years since I was heavily trained in Balanced Literacy. So much has changed since then, yet so much has stayed the same...if that makes sense. I can't wait to read more of your series and especially the part on Higher Order Thinking. I love to re-learn and grow!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  2. I find that it's so easy to put most of my focus on comprehension. Most of my fourth graders can decode well, but I really want to place more emphasis on fluency this year. I know it ties directly to comprehension. Plus, fluency activities tend to be fun and engaging. I am looking forward to your posts on the reading process (actually, all of your posts!) It will be nice to catch up over the summer!

    Fit to be Fourth

  3. One thing I added last year, and I want to be more purposeful about it next year, is having kids read aloud at home to build the fluency. Parents don't think reading aloud at home is necessary even though I ask, prompt, require, beg all the time!


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