Reading is a fundamental skill that is essential for success in school and in life.
Unfortunately, not all students learn to read with the same ease or at the same rate. Some students struggle with reading and may require extra support and instruction to become proficient readers.
One approach to reading instruction that has been shown to be effective for students who struggle with reading, as well as for all students, is structured literacy. In this article, we will explore what structured literacy is, how it differs from other approaches to reading instruction, and why it is beneficial for both teachers and students.
What is Structured Literacy?
Structured literacy is a research-based approach to teaching reading and spelling that focuses on the structure of language and the systematic, explicit teaching of the skills and knowledge needed for reading and spelling. It is based on the understanding that reading and spelling are complex skills that are built upon a foundation of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Structured literacy emphasizes explicit, systematic instruction in these skills, rather than relying on students’ “natural” ability to learn to read. It is often referred to as a “phonics-based” approach to reading instruction, as it places a strong emphasis on phonics instruction (i.e., teaching students how to connect the sounds of spoken language with the letters of written language). However, it also includes instruction in other important reading skills such as phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
How Does Structured Literacy Differ from Other Approaches to Reading Instruction?
There are several other approaches to reading instruction that are commonly used in schools, including the whole language approach and the balanced literacy approach. These approaches differ from structured literacy in several key ways.
The whole language approach is based on the idea that reading and writing should be taught together, with an emphasis on “authentic” texts and a focus on students’ own interests and experiences. While this approach may work well for some students, it can be difficult for students who struggle with reading to learn the necessary skills and knowledge without explicit, systematic instruction.
The balanced literacy approach is similar to the whole language approach, but it also includes some explicit instruction in phonics and other reading skills. While the balanced literacy approach may be more effective than the whole language approach for struggling readers, it is still not as structured and explicit as the structured literacy approach.
Why Do Teachers Benefit from the Structured Literacy Approach?
There are several reasons why teachers may find the structured literacy approach to be beneficial in their classrooms.
First, the structured literacy approach provides teachers with a clear and systematic way to teach reading and spelling. It gives teachers a set of principles and strategies to follow rather than leaving them to figure out the best way to teach these skills on their own. This can be especially helpful for teachers who are new to reading instruction or who are working with students who are struggling with reading.
Second, the structured literacy approach is supported by research. It has been shown to be effective for students who struggle with reading, as well as for all students. This can give teachers confidence in the approach and help them to feel more effective in their teaching.
Third, the structured literacy approach allows teachers to easily assess their students’ progress in reading and spelling. By teaching the skills and knowledge needed for reading and spelling in a systematic and explicit way, teachers can easily determine which skills their students have mastered and which skills they may need more support with. This can help teachers to differentiate their instruction and provide the support that each student needs to succeed.
Why Do Students Benefit from the Structured Literacy Approach?
There are several reasons why students benefit from the structured literacy approach to reading instruction.
First, the structured literacy approach provides students with a clear and systematic way to learn the skills needed for reading and spelling. This can be especially helpful for students who struggle with reading, as it gives them a roadmap for how to improve. By explicitly teaching the skills and knowledge needed for reading and spelling, students can build a solid foundation for lifelong literacy.
Second, the structured literacy approach allows students to progress at their own pace. By breaking down reading and spelling into smaller, more manageable skills and systematically teaching each one, students can learn at a pace that is appropriate for them. This can help to prevent frustration and increase motivation.
Third, the structured literacy approach allows students to receive the support they need to succeed. By assessing students’ progress in reading and spelling and differentiating instruction based on their individual needs, teachers can provide the support that each student needs to reach their full potential.
Fourth, the structured literacy approach helps students to become more confident and competent readers. By mastering the skills and knowledge needed for reading and spelling, students can fully engage with and comprehend written texts, which can lead to increased self-esteem and a greater love of reading.
In conclusion, the structured literacy approach is a research-based method of teaching reading and spelling that is effective for all students, including those who struggle with reading. It provides teachers with a clear and systematic way to teach these skills and allows students to learn at their own pace and receive the support they need to succeed. By using the structured literacy approach, teachers can help their students to build a solid foundation for lifelong literacy and achieve their full potential as readers.