3 instructional strategies that support the science of reading

One way to prioritize the science of reading is through systematic, explicit literacy instruction
By: | December 20, 2021
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Liana Roth

Liana Roth

Educators have long understood the importance of reading as a primary literacy skill. Setting students up to become proficient, critical readers is at the core of early literacy, and essential for introducing other subjects and skills.

Recognizing the need for high-quality early literacy programs, states are passing legislation that requires reading instruction to be based on evidence, and in some cases, the “science of reading“—a comprehensive body of research that provides an evidence-based approach for foundational literacy skills.

One way to prioritize the science of reading is through systematic, explicit literacy instruction. Here are a few instructional strategies that can be used to guide student readers to proficiency.

1. Start with the foundation

Words are all composed of consonants and vowels. Before students can use their decoding skills to read words, they must be able to identify all the letters of the alphabet.

Practice letter identification with your students by preparing alphabet cards with one letter of the alphabet on each card. Provide student pairs with pennies and dimes. Have students place the alphabet cards facedown.

Instruct one student in the pair to flip one card over, look at the letter, and place a penny on the card if the letter is a consonant or a dime on the card if the letter is a vowel. Have partners check for accuracy. Continue until all cards have been played. Adapt this activity by having students say aloud the sounds of the letters as each card is flipped.

2. Use repetition

Research shows that students become fluent in reading through multiple exposures to words. It is not enough to see and read words a single time. Therefore, it is imperative to provide phonics instruction that incorporates repetition of previously taught skills while introducing new decoding skills.

3. Incorporate sight words

While 80% to 95% of English words can be decoded using rules and patterns, there are many words that are phonetically irregular. But these words also must be mapped into the brains of beginning readers, especially since they can sometimes account for most words in a text.

So, while you are teaching your students to decode a word, such as P-E-T, incorporate sight words too. You might incorporate T-H-E, in this case, to have students read THE PET. After the appropriate number of exposures to a sight word, the sight word will be committed to memory.

While learning to read is complex, science-supported strategies help build and strengthen students’ skills. Implementing strategies that apply systematic, explicit phonics instruction will provide students with the foundation they need for success both today and tomorrow.

Nurturing all students into proficient, critical readers

Learning to read is a significant milestone, and necessary for introducing students to other essential skills—such as critical thinking and comprehension. By applying research-based instructional strategies, educators can ensure every reader is set up for success from the start.


Related article: What reading skills should be taught and the best way to teach them


Liana Roth is the ELA senior writer at Mentoring Minds.