The Science of Reading: Your Wordle Secret Weapon
By John Bennetts, Secondary Curriculum Manager
Like hundreds of thousands of others across the world, my wife and I love to play Wordle every night. It’s a fun little ritual we share to unwind after work that gives us some lighthearted but challenging brain training at the end of the day. Although my wife, a K-12 Director of Humanities, is much smarter than I am, I have a secret weapon that gives me a competitive edge when I play: I have a deep understanding of the science of reading.
As the Manager of Secondary Curriculum here at Lexia, I am a passionate advocate of teaching the science of reading to all children in order to close widening opportunity gaps in classrooms. But through my nightly Wordle routine, I’ve come to appreciate the ways in which understanding the science of reading can continue to benefit us, even as adults who are years out of school.
The Science of Reading
“The science of reading” encompasses a wide swath of information drawing upon extensive neurological, cognitive, and linguistic research that pertains to how exactly human beings learn to read. To understand the science of reading is to understand a variety of important literacy-related concepts, from phonemes to morphology, semantics, syntax, and more.
The science of reading is, in simple terms, the science of how we derive meaning from printed text. When most people think of reading, they imagine picking up a book and absorbing its meaning. This is reading comprehension, which is the ultimate goal of literacy. But before we can independently comprehend the meaning of words in print, we must first be able to decode them. By “decoding,” we mean having the skills to read words quickly and accurately, both familiar and unfamiliar, in and out of context.
We know that readers must be able to independently decode the words on a page in order to attempt to make meaning of a sentence as a whole. The solution is to use what we know from the science of reading to explicitly teach all students the skills they need to decode so that, as they progress through school, they can focus on deriving meaning from the texts.
According to Gough and Tunmer’s Simple View of Reading (1986) - decoding, or fluent word recognition, is a crucial component of the science of reading. The Simple View of Reading explains reading skills as an equation, where both decoding and language comprehension must be mastered for reading comprehension. As a Wordle secret weapon, I’ll be focused on sharing some knowledge that supports fluent word recognition.
I realized the real-world impact the science of reading can have for adults while solving a Wordle puzzle with my wife a couple months ago. Our first guess was “grade,” and Wordle informed us that the word has the letters d, g, and e in it. Thanks to my phonics knowledge (part of the Simple View of Reading’s word recognition component), I immediately recognized that combination of letters as a trigraph, ‘dge.’ A trigraph is a single sound represented by 3 different letters. I also knew that this particular trigraph always comes at the end of a word. This knowledge informed my next guess, “badge,” which turned out to be the correct answer.
The benefits to my Wordle scores didn’t stop there. I’ve found that many science of reading concepts have aided my ability to play the game, including my understanding of the structure of English, specifically syllable types. The six syllable types are: closed (short vowel sound, usually ends in a consonant); open (ends with a vowel, vowel has long sound); magic E (silent E at the end creates long vowel sound); vowel team (two vowels create one sound, like “boat); R-controlled (at least one vowel followed by “R,” like “star”); and consonant -le (like Wordle!). This knowledge helped me again the other day, when the word was “forgo.” Once I realized there were two Os and an R, I immediately guessed that the word would have an R-controlled syllable (“for”) and an open syllable (“go”). Decoding skills, along with vocabulary knowledge (from the language comprehension component of the science of reading), helps me decide what to guess (and what not to guess) on a regular basis!
Literacy for All
The science of reading, and the literacy skills we can gain from it, matter—both inside and outside the classroom. While it is my secret weapon for solving Wordle puzzles every night, it is particularly important for beginning readers and students with reading difficulties. Here at Lexia, we believe that every student can learn to read, which is why our literacy software features culturally responsive, adaptive, differentiated instruction and covers six key areas of reading identified by the science of reading. By providing an encouraging environment where students have a choice over their path and pace through the program, we help them strengthen their reading skills in a fun, low-stress way.
Literacy is essential, and the science of reading is the only proven way to help all students master reading. Whether it’s reading street signs for directions, encountering new concepts in a college textbook, or enjoying popular word puzzles like Wordle, the science of reading provides the skills students need to succeed in school and beyond.
Interested in bringing the science of reading into your classrooms? Watch a recent webinar Lexia hosted with District Administration: Moving Literacy Education Forward.
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