Methods for Teaching Reading and Writing
It's the responsibility of families and schools to encourage and accompany each child in the process of learning to read and write. With that in mind, we want to look at different methods for teaching reading and writing to children.
In our language, there are two main methods for teaching reading and writing: synthetic and analytical methods. However, there’s also a third method that mixes the two, which we’ll talk about more below.
In elementary education, it’s essential that teachers know each one of the methods they can put into practice for teaching reading and writing. That way, they’ll know which is the most appropriate according to the characteristics of their students. Let’s look at the basic characteristics of these teaching methods below.
These methods start with the smallest unit in order to reach the most complex one. That is to say, children begin by learning the letters of the alphabet and then move onto syllables. Then, the combination of syllables will lead children to form words and phrases. Therefore, it begins with the abstract in order to reach the concrete.
Through these approaches, children learn to read and write simultaneously. This is the oldest and most traditional way of teaching. However, one of the criticisms toward these methods for teaching reading and writing is that they promote more memorization than understanding.
Now, within the synthetic methods, there are, in turn, three other methods.
The alphabetical or spelling method
In this method, children learn the letters of the alphabet by heart and in order. Then, after they’ve memorized the names of the letters, they move on to learn the syllables by spelling. And, finally, they learn to form words and phrases.
The disadvantage of this method is that the little ones don’t learn the sounds of the letters, just their names. So, they don’t understand well what they’re reading.
The phonetic method
This differs from the previous method in that children don’t learn the letters by their names. Rather, they learn them by their sound. In other words, children learn the grapheme-phoneme correspondence. Normally, they learn the vowels first and then the consonants. Then, once they learn the sounds, they combine them into syllables, which they repeat several times to establish the association.
Educators use pictures and cards to support this learning, as illustrations help children remember more easily. In this method, children learn reading and writing simultaneously.
The syllabic method
The syllabic method starts with syllables in order to reach the words. Children learn each consonant combined with the five vowels. First, in direct syllables (ma, me, mi, mo, mu), then, in inverse syllables (am, em, im…). And, finally, mixed syllables (pan, pen, pin…) and compound syllables (pra, pre, pri…).
After learning these syllables, children learn to combine them to form words and phrases, which will be accompanied by images.
Analytical or global methods
In analytical or global methods, unlike synthetic ones, we start from bigger units to reach smaller and more abstract ones. In other words, we start from phrases or words with meaning in order to learn the syllables and letters.
Thus, the foundation of the global method is that young children first perceive the overall nature of things and then the details. This is why many children at the age of three are able to recognize some brands, their names, animals, etc… They know what they are and what they mean since they’re words that they encounter regularly.
This method of learning to read and write is more dynamic and motivating than analytical methods. However, as in the previous methods, the child must still memorize. The nuance is that, since words and phrases are meaningful to the child, it promotes more understanding of texts. And, of course, this is much more motivating.
However, this method must follow a process that includes several phases.
The process begins with words and their corresponding illustrations. Each day, children receive a teaching sheet with the written word and its picture. In this way, they relate the word with its meaning, even though they don’t know the name or the sound of the letters that form the word.
Another way to teach reading and writing is to create labels with the names of objects in the classroom (table, chair, blackboard, window…); or to hang posters with the days of the week, the seasons, the weather, etc. Children will learn to read these words, which are habitual for them, by seeing them every day.
Once children know several words, they work on graphomotor skills, copying, and the dictation of words they already recognize.
This part of the process involves reinforcing what children have learned in the previous phases. At the same time, they begin to work with the sounds of the syllables and letters of the words they already know. In this way, children will be able to form new words from the combination of syllables they’ve broken down into other words.
Children reaffirm everything they’ve learned. They also begin to put into practice what they’ve learned by creating sentences and short essays. At this stage, they also begin to work on new vocabulary and reading comprehension.
Eclectic or mixed methods, another way of teaching reading and writing
Mixed methods aim at integrating the best of the synthetic and the analytical methods. Educators choose what they’re most interested in and create their own method.
This is based on the importance of the child’s overall understanding of the text. First of all, children learn small texts and familiar words, which makes reading motivating from the beginning. At the same time, they learn spelling and sounds, and vowels and consonants. Thus, the mixed method focuses on word recognition, comprehension, and grapheme-phoneme correspondence.
As we’ve seen, there are several methods for teaching reading and writing to children. This results in teachers being able to give a varied educational response according to the needs and potential of their students.
In this sense, teachers are aware of the need to master different methods and to know their students. That way, they can choose the best strategies to help children in the learning process.
At the same time, the involvement of the family is fundamental in the process of learning to read and write. We must involve children in real and meaningful reading and writing activities. Bringing our children into contact with a literate world is an effective way to teach them to read and write.