Automaticity: Everything You Need to Know

Refers to the ability to read a word within a second of looking at it. It is also an important trait for eloquence and full understanding. The student, in whom the basic reading skills haven’t yet become automatic, will read haltingly and with difficulty. The reader is compelled to apply all their concentration to word recognition and, as a result, won’t be able to read with comprehension. Students cannot develop a love of learning if any aspect of learning – thinking, reading, writing, attending, and listening – is arduous. The development of a love of learning requires automaticity in crucial learning and cognitive skills.

Automaticity in reading and learning requires strong phonological awareness, which in turn requires sound language processing skills. If a student can read without having to concentrate or listen without having to strain, they have achieved automaticity. For most kids, listening to teachers and participating in conversations are sufficient to obtain a level of language processing skill that’s automatic. However, for many kids, these opportunities to develop language processing skills, required for automaticity in learning and reading, aren’t enough. For these students, language is anything but automatic. These difficulties often don’t show up in speech but only in learning and/or reading, where the students need a higher level of processing efficiency.

In most cases, by the time a child is an adult, they will get sufficient practice to develop some measures of automaticity. However, this delayed development usually comes too late to alter attitudes to learning and eventual academic outcomes. Therefore, the sooner a kid can develop automaticity, the better. Usually, automaticity is accomplished from learning, repetition, and practice. People develop automaticity through the main process called overlearning. According to this pedagogical concept, newly acquired skills need to be practiced well beyond the stage of initial mastery, which leads to automaticity.

Providing explicit, systematic instruction is an effective way to help students develop automaticity. Teachers also need to encourage students to develop accuracy in all major components of decoding. These components include letter-sound correspondence, blending skills, irregular word recognition, and application of these skills when reading decodable texts. Students shouldn’t be considered proficient readers until they’re able to read accurately and with comprehension. A novice reader might be able to decode a passage, but if their working memory is completely devoted to decoding, they won’t be able to extract meaning from it. Therefore, teachers must give students multiple opportunities to apply their decoding skills to reading decodable text and exhibit comprehension.

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