Aligning Foundational Reading Skills to IEP Goals for Older Students

Aligning Foundational Reading Skills to IEP Goals for Older Students

Posted by Brainspring on 20th Mar 2024

For many students, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) drives their instruction. IEP goals are typically linked to grade level standards in reading, writing, math, and/or various other educational, social, and/or emotional skills. During the early elementary school years, these goals may include reading readiness skills such as phonological awareness and alphabet knowledge, decoding or phonics skills, fluency, vocabulary, and/or reading comprehension skills. As students progress through upper elementary into middle and high school grades, the standards change. This forces a shift in IEP goals away from foundational skills to instead focus on reading comprehension and vocabulary skills. The shift is made whether or not students have mastered the foundational skills related to reading.

Much like a building with multiple levels and a roof, higher level reading skills need a solid foundation to provide stable support. Phonological awareness skills directly support decoding and encoding processes. As students develop sound/symbol connections with automaticity, decoding proficiency increases, improving fluency. As students spend less cognitive effort on decoding, they free up cognitive energy for comprehension. 

How do we continue to serve these students as their age, grade level, and state standards shift from foundational reading skills to reading comprehension?

When older, struggling readers grapple to decode grade level text, they are at a massive disadvantage to their peers. The additional effort required to decode a passage reduces their ability to connect to the text through background knowledge, vocabulary, and context clues. Students cannot use the context clues around unknown words if they struggle to decode many of the words within a sentence or paragraph.

Teaching Greek and Latin roots, as well as Anglo-Saxon affixes, improves decoding, encoding, background knowledge, vocabulary, and comprehension. Seventy-five percent of middle and high school grade level texts contain Greek and Latin roots. The root tele, which means far, is in over 500 words. Over 5,000 English words begin with the prefix con, meaning with or together.

Interventionists and special educators can pre-teach content vocabulary through multisensory morpheme instruction. Introducing roots and affixes can help students gain access to the meaning of words as well as improving reading and writing fluency as students learn to identify morphemes as a unit. For example, prior to introducing the Triangular Trade between England, Africa, and the English colonies, teachers can introduce the morpheme port, as well as prefixes de-, im-, and ex-. This helps to builds background knowledge and provides additional opportunities to engage in course content and class discussions.

Orthographic mapping is the process of teaching the sounds of a morpheme and its correlation to the letters that spell each sound. The orthographic mapping process is an internal process involved in remembering words for instant, effortless retrieval. Working through the orthographic mapping process can help students with recall of morphemes that are not spelled the way they sound. For example, the morpheme “tele” will always be read as /t/ /ĕ/ /l/ /ŭ/ and spelled t-e-l-e.

While teaching Greek and Latin roots, instructors may find it beneficial to discuss the role syllable types play on the pronunciation of the vowel. Additionally, teachers may include mini skill lessons to remediate phonics skills. These lessons provide teachers an opportunity to work on foundational skills as they also practice higher level skills like vocabulary through direct morphology instruction.