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Reliable Research that Supports Integrated Multicomponent Instruction

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The individual perspectives and converging finding of researchers whose work we relied on:

Linnea Ehri’s theory of orthographic mapping is based on “bonding” with a word’s pronunciation, spelling and meaning. She describes how proficient readers’ decoding skills mature so words are effortlessly stored and retrieved from a specialized sight word memory. This allows readers to focus fully on meaning and comprehension. Ehri’s later work with Susan Gray on multicomponent reading instruction emphasizes that POM awareness is best taught in an integrated manner so that the components reinforce and enhance each other.

Maryanne Wolf and colleagues use the abbreviation POSSuM: Phonology, Orthography, Semantics, Syntax, Morphology to define language-literacy abilities that are integral to comprehension “through the simplest forms of connected text like two -word sentences.” They emphasize that the connections between components should be developed at sublexical (word part), lexical (word), and connected text levels.

Virginia Berninger and colleagues state that “all three kinds of linguistic awareness (phonemic, orthographic and morphological) ... need to be coordinated and applied to literacy learning.” They also found that morphological instruction had a significant effect on vocabulary, spelling, reading comprehension and decoding. These scholars insist that the National Reading Panel report be amended to stress “the importance of both orthographic and morphological awareness, and not only phonological awareness.”

Nell Duke and Kelly Cartwright’s active view of reading shows that reading difficulties have multiple interconnected causes that are best addressed in unison. This model connects word recognition and comprehension by “bridging processes”, including reading fluency, vocabulary knowledge, morphological awareness and “letter, sound and meaning flexibility”. Cognitive processes are central to their active approach, including executive functions, and cognitive flexibility.

Young-Suk Grace Kim --“Word reading and listening comprehension are upper-level skills that are built on multiple language and cognitive component skills, which have direct and indirect relations among themselves.” These include word level processes such as phonological, orthographic and morphological awareness, as well as vocabulary development and sentence-level syntactic understanding.

Mark Seidenberg’s connectionist model of reading is based on the interaction of orthographic and

phonological sequences tied to semantics (word meaning). Seidenberg states that reading instruction should substitute step-by-step, single component instruction, for an integrated approach, so that “reading and speech become deeply intertwined.” His work also emphasizes statistical learning, the ability to subconsciously learn a broad range of spelling, sound and meaning patterns as we read. 

Kenn Apel and colleagues add spelling into the set of interacting components. Students who can spell a word automatically will read that word fluently. Fluent spelling is dependent on a “repertoire” of linguistic abilities that integrate phonemic, orthographic, and morphological knowledge of a word. This gives students a clear mental image of the word that is easily accessed during reading and writing.

Cristy Austin and colleagues work stresses that isolated word reading instruction is less effective than integrated word-reading and word-meaning instruction, including for multisyllabic academic words.

John Kirby and Peter Bowers show that morphological awareness is often overlooked in literacy instruction as it runs automatically in children and adult readers' minds. Morphology is critical to initial and long-term reading development, as it acts as a "binding agent" that unites sound (P), spelling (O), word meaning (M) and syntax (S). Children who are taught that words are primarily made up of letters and sounds benefit from explicit investigations into the morphological structure of words.

Charlies Perfetti’s profound concept of lexical quality states that the strength and flexibility of a word’s mental web determines how easily and meaningfully it will be retrieved from memory. “Flexible representations of meaning, allow for rapid and reliable meaning retrieval” from memory. High lexical quality supports general word reading while weak word webs define reading difficulties.

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