English language remains the main means of communication worldwide. It is a language of commerce, science, politics, history, and technology. Besides, it informs communication in official institutions including local, state, and federal government institutions. Also, English forms the backbone of communication in education and a compulsory subject in most schools worldwide. Unfortunately, the past three to four decades have witnessed deterioration of English among young students. Schmoker (2011) argues that language arts remain the most affected of all disciplines in schools since children who start school tend to be behind grade level in reading by forth grade. Although English remains a global language, it is slowly deteriorating among learner due to increased used of context cues in reading and phonics without phonological awareness.
Context cues in reading inform the deteriorating state of language arts. Typically, children use context cues when they encounter unfamiliar words when reading. Context cues entail information from pictures or sentences that surround the unknown words (Campbell & Cuba, 2015). However, the extent to which children should be encouraged to rely on context cues remains one of the most misunderstood topics in reading instruction. This is partly due to the failure to distinguish between application of context cues in reading and comprehension.
While teachers remain adamant in the use of context cues, the theory that people use things like context and visual cues to read words is wrong. This theory assumes that learning to read is a natural process and, therefore, exposure to context would enable children figure out words. In contrast, beginner’s primary task is to code and children should be encouraged to look at all the letters in a word and decode it. It is essential to note that reading is not natural. Therefore, the increasing use of context cues inform the deteriorating state of language arts.
Moreover, the use of phonics without phonological awareness contributes to the deteriorating state of language arts. Phonics involves learning to read by sounding out words. Teachers apply this method based on the idea that the knowledge of the relationships between sounds and letters critical to reading. Interestingly, the use of phonics remains essential but insufficient. In this regard, phonics must be incorporated with phonological awareness whereby children become aware of and develop the ability to manipulate the oral language’s sound structures. By so doing, children can segment sounds in a word orally and map them onto their orthographic counterparts. However, teachers fail to incorporate phonics with phonological awareness, leading to poor language mastery.
Despite the deteriorating nature of language arts accruing from ineffective practices, communicating by speaking and listening remains fundamental in improving student performance in English language (Deane et al., 2015). This practice involves fluent control of English language skills essential for participating in literate communities. It is imperative to acknowledge that children require critical skills to participate in conversations around language and print. In this sense, oral language would set precedence for improving these skills and subsequently performance in language arts.
Additionally, implementing model-building practices would be fundamental in improving student performances in English (Deane et al., 2015). Model-building entails building text and context mental models. Besides, this practice presupposes fundamental literacy while focusing primarily on form and content relationship. Children develop the ability to use and create extended texts containing multiple information that cannot be easily organized and explained without supporting tools and strategies. Undoubtedly, integrating model-building practices in learning improves students’ performance in language arts.
The deteriorating state of language arts is informed by increasing use of context cues and phonics. These methods assume that learning is natural, which is not the case. However, oral communication and model-building are essential in improving student performance in English language. Although English remains the most affected of all disciplines, effective methods would ensure it regains its lost glory among subject disciplines.
Campbell, E., & Cuba, M. (2015). Analyzing the Role of Visual Cues in Developing Prediction-Making Skills of Third-and Ninth-Grade English Language Learners. Catesol Journal, 27(1), 53-93. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1111749.pdf
Deane, P., Sabatini, J., Feng, G., Sparks, J., Song, Y., Fowles, M., … & Foley, C. (2015). Key practices in the English language arts (ELA): Linking learning theory, assessment, and instruction. ETS Research Report Series, 2015(2), 1-29. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/ets2.12063
Schmoker, M. (2011). Focus: Elevating the essentials to radically improve student learning. Ascd. https://www.esc17.net/upload/page/0225/docs/127159-FocusStudyGuide-Schmoker-ASCD.pdf