Knowing Kids: A Developmental Approach to Literacy
by Chase Young

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Literacy instruction is deliberate and individualized. Students in the classroom should receive comprehensive and effective literacy strategies, and proper strategies should be taught when students are developmentally prepared (Bear, Invernizzi, Templeton, & Johnston, 2004).
Phonemic awareness is the first important aspect of a literate student. It is a learner’s awareness of language and its association with sound (Tompkins, 2003). It is often a good indicator to a student’s ability to learn phonics (Laureate Education, 2001). Phonemic awareness is necessary, and is usually definitive of a student in the emergent stage (Bear et al, 2004). 
Phonics is the ability to association sounds with written language (Laureate Education, 2001). Students need a foundation of phonics in order to acquire automaticity when decoding; this promotes a more fluent reader (Rasinski, 2003).  
Spelling is another integral part of the balanced literacy program. Students use phonic analysis, morphemic analysis, analogies, and syllabic analysis (Tompkins, 2003). These strategies also overlap with reading strategies. Often good readers are good spellers (Laureate Education, 2001). In addition to spelling, vocabulary development is very important in the literacy classroom. It is crucial in the development of literate person (Cunningham & Allington, 2007). 
Each of the previously described categories is taught to the developmental level of the student. The emergent reader is often described as a pre-reader, and is typically emergent spellers. The beginning reader is often a letter-name speller. As students progress into the transitional reading stage, their writing abilities follow into the within word pattern spelling. Intermediate and advanced readers are usually categorized as syllables and affixes spelling, and derivational spelling respectively (Bear et al, 2004). 
Knowing the correlation between reading, writing, and many multilevel language arts activities is a powerful way to address student needs, goals, and readiness. Meeting students on their level is the only way to carefully nurture their literate mind. 
Challenges facing teachers who choose to adopt a multilevel developmental learning environment and effective word work instruction catering to individual student stages are many. Constant assessment and reflective teaching will be the greatest tools apart from the science of word work and developmental knowledge. However, those who do not are simply piling up disservices to a growing number of students. 

Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2004). Words their way: Word study for phonics, vocabulary, and spelling instruction (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall.

Cunningham, P. M., & Allington, R. L. (2007). Classrooms that work: They can all read and write (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Laureate Education (Executive Producer). (2001). Strategies for literacy instruction, part 1 [Educational video]. Los Angeles: Author.

Rasinski, T. "From Phonics to Fluency." Mckinney Independent School District. Building Fluency [Conference]. 17 Oct. 2006.

Tompkins, G. (2006). Literacy for the 21st century: A balanced approach (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill Prentice Hall. 

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