Unit 3: The Foundations of Early Child Literacy



During this unit, we will closely examine the five essential components of reading instruction. We will be exploring different instructional activities that weave the reading components thoughtfully.

Learning Objectives:

At the end of this unit:

  • Participants will be able to state the five components of reading and its importance.
  • Participants will be able to name activities that builds on the five components of reading.
Scarborough's Reading Rope

Let's Get Started!

Do: Take a look at Scarborough’s Reading Rope. Can you make an inference about which components are necessary for reading instruction? Record your response in your digital journal.

Lesson 1: The Five Essential Components of Reading Instruction

The five essential components of reading instruction.

Lecture: How did the Five Components Come About?

In 1997, Congress made a National Reading Panel to research the most effective methods for teaching reading. Their research became the basis for literacy policies, including the No Child Left Behind Act. It was revealed that students needed to be taught explicitly and systematically. To teach explicitly meant that teachers had to state what was being taught and model it clearly. Systematic instruction refers to teaching skills and concepts in a planned and taught sequential order. Both intentions are set to support students in developing their reading skills which are essential if we want our students to be skilled readers.

Breaking Down the 5 Components

Below is the breakdown of what “The Big Five” entails and its significance:

  • Phonemic Awareness: Phonemes are the smallest units making up spoken language. There are 44 phonemes in the English language. Phonemic awareness refers to corresponding the sounds to words. Students need to have an auditory understanding of phonemes.

Importance: Phonemic awareness helps students advance ways of learning new words. Students need to have an understanding of their sound correspondences before they can make sense of words. Students can access information faster and become more proficient in reading by developing a connection between the visualization of words and phonemes (Best, 2021).

  • Phonics: Phonics is the connection of different sounds with different letters or different groupings of letters. Phonics instruction is to help students understand that there is a predictable relationship between phonemes (sounds) and graphemes (letters). This will support them in using their knowledge and understanding of letter patterns when reading and writing.

Importance: Students need to understand what the symbols of the English language are and know its rules. Students will become faster by "reading on sight." Having this skill builds on their fluency as well.

  • Fluency: The ability to read with speech, accuracy, and understanding (Best, 2021). How a story is written is determined how a story will be expressed.

Importance: The way a student reads a book is significant. When reading a text, students can read smoothly, shift their tone, and pace themselves. A student who has trouble decoding will read at a slower pace or in a monotone voice. Fluency is tied to comprehension, and if students cannot read fluently, they will have difficulty understanding the story (Learning Point Associates, 2004).

  • Vocabulary: The knowledge of stored information about the meaning and pronunciation of words. As students read more texts, they acquire a toolbox of new vocabulary words.

Importance: Vocabulary is essential for a student's confidence. When students have confidence in themselves, they can solve unfamiliar words by looking at context clues or using tools such as a thesaurus.

  • Comprehension: The involvement of constructing meaning from the text to deepen and enrich a student's understanding (Pressley et al., 1992, as cited in Learning Point Associates, 2004).

Importance: Comprehension is the final goal for reading. Word recognition makes one part of the reading formula. It is important that students can draw out meaning to understand what they are learning. This supports their thinking process.

Check for Understanding

Do: Complete the Google Form before moving onto Lesson 2.

Lesson 2: Activities that Promote the Five Components


You will watch instructional videos highlighting each component and how it is demonstrated. In your digital journal, you are going to fill out a chart and answer the following questions:

  • What strategies/skills are the students working on?
  • How do these activities support skilled reading?

Phonemic Awareness






Check for Understanding

Do: In your digital journal, answer the questions: Which component from “The Big Five” would you teach first and why? Which component do you think is the most important to teach? Complete your journal entry before going onto Unit 4.

Unit Takeaways


  • The National Reading Panel developed the five essential components of reading instruction.
  • The components are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
  • Each component has its significance for skilled reading.
  • Various instructional videos support teachers in thinking about incorporating the elements into their teaching practice.

Navigation Links

Sumaiyah Islam's Mini Course

Unit 1: Approaches to Early Childhood Literacy Instruction

Unit 2: How the Brain Learns How to Read

Unit 3: The Foundations of Early Child Literacy

Proceed to: Unit 4: Creating a Lesson Plan


A closer look at the five essential components of effective ... - ed. Learning Point Associates. (2004). Retrieved December 6, 2022, from https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED512569.pdf

Antunez, B. (2018, September 7). English language learners and the five essential components of reading instruction. Reading Rockets. Retrieved December 3, 2022, from https://www.readingrockets.org/article/english-language-learners-and-five-essential-components-reading-instruction

Best, J. (2021, April 7). The 5 components of reading explained. 3P Learning. Retrieved December 5, 2022, from https://www.3plearning.com/blog/reading-proficiency-with-5-essential-components-of-literacy/