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Structured Literacy- What’s the Big Deal

Structured Literacy is very effective, but you may be wondering what all the hype is about.

First of all, The science of Reading needs to be taught in every classroom! That’s right, if you have been around (me)  for a while you know that I am very passionate about this! I believe the most effective way to do this is using a structured literacy approach. There may be a lot of confusion around this so I will explain. 

What is Structured Literacy? 

Structured Literacy is an application or specific way to teach using the Science of Reading (research and evidence) . It is not the only way, but it is an effective way.

The 6 elements of Structured Literacy

Phonology– The ability to hear the difference between sounds in spoken words. We teach phonology so that students gain phonological awareness. We help them understand that spoken words are made of sounds. Without this understanding, students have not gained phonological awareness.

Sound-symbol association– Taking the knowledge of sounds and pairing it with a symbol and a name. We teach: what we knew as only a sound (phoneme) now has a symbol (grapheme) and a name. The understanding of sound-symbol relationship helps develop written language.

Syllable types- There are 6 syllable types that help to break words into syllables, understand what sound the vowels make and how to write and spell the words. The syllable types are: Closed, Open, Vowel-consonant-E, Vowel team, R-controlled, Consonant- L-E. More details on this in another post!  

Word Parts- Many words are made of word parts that we call prefixes, roots, and suffixes. They all have meanings and when we add them together we create bigger words. Knowing the word parts and their meanings can help us understand the meaning of the bigger words.  

Grammar/ Syntax-  Grammar is the rules of the language, but the syntax is the way you use the grammar rules to form the structure of your sentences. 

Word Meaning– The meaning of words (vocabulary) but also how those meanings may change based on context. Words can have more than one meaning and interpretation based on the context used. 

The 3  principles of structured Literacy

Systematic/Cumulative–  Use a specific preplanned scope and sequence. Typically, this is based on the student, but it can be based on a specific program or suggested guide for sequence.

I say suggested because even if you follow a scope and sequence from a program, you need to be able to tailor it to your students’ needs. This sequence should follow a logical progression of language. Structured literacy is very strict on teaching the easiest skills earlier and moving into more complex skills later.

Explicit- The teaching should be direct, but includes interaction. Interaction should take place between the student. Also, engage multiple senses at once (multisensory learning). This is very helpful when teaching concepts explicitly. It’s the best method for making sure information taught is also retained. I personally try to integrate multisensory learning into the lessons as much as possible. There is growing research of the effectiveness of multisensory learning and teaching. 

Diagnostic – Diagnostic teaching is individualized instruction for students. This is possible even in small groups. Use your knowledge of what you know about students and how they perform on previous lessons and skills to guide your future instruction. Be intentional about this and use formal and informal assessments to see what the student is capable of. Make changes and always teach what they do not know without making the assumption that they will eventually just get it. 

Why Structured Literacy? 

Well… the time to reshape literacy is now. Research shows that the current methods taught in classrooms are failing our students ( disproportionately black and brown students).  They are proven effective for only a small percentage of students, but we still use these methods in classrooms.

Research has provided evidence and reasoning on why we should adapt the Science of Reading in classrooms today. In order to make classrooms and reading instruction equitable, provide instruction that has been proven effective for all students. That includes students with language processing difficulties, students learning English as a second language and students with specific disabilities.  

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