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The Importance of Meaning

A Look at the Latest Scientific Research

Davis Learning Strategies provide systematic, meaning-based instruction to beginning readers. Through Davis Symbol Mastery®, children learn to think about the meanings of words as well as the sounds. Children practice using words in sentences and use clay to model the meanings of basic sight words and small function words of language - words like the or and.

The latest scientific research shows that such meaning-based instruction is critical to development of more advanced reading skills. Researcher Sally Shaywitz followed the progress of students from kindergarten through high school graduation. Some students identified as struggling readers in primary years remained persistently poor readers throughout their school years; whereas others became accurate readers with strong comprehension skills by the time they were in high school.

Using fMRI brain scanning technology, Dr. Shaywitz discovered that the improved readers had developed strong compensatory strategies that distinguished them from the persistently poor readers. The good readers had more advanced vocabularies and used context and semantic skills to gain meaning from text. The poor readers appeared to rely solely on phonetic decoding strategies and memory, without having developed good word analysis skills.

Dr. Shaywitz wrote:

These findings have important educational implications and are of special relevance for teaching children to read. Consistent with our knowledge of the components of reading, children need to be able to sound out words to decode them accurately, and then, they need to know the meaning of the word, to help decode and comprehend the printed message. Both the sounds and the meanings of words must be taught.

(Shaywitz, et al., Neural Systems for Compensation and Persistence: Young Adult Outcome of Childhood Reading Disability, Biol. Psychiatry 2003: 54: 25-33)

The Davis Learning Strategies are designed to integrate well with any curriculum materials or program already in place at a school. At the primary level, the Davis tools provide an easy and direct way to develop cognitive skills and enable children to learn word meanings at the same time as they are introduced to other decoding strategies. These provide the foundational skills that later enable at-risk children to overcome barriers to learning and to become capable readers.

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