Structured Literacy is a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction that research has shown is effective for all students and essential for students with dyslexia (Figure 1).
Structured Literacy instruction addresses all of the foundational elements that are critical for reading comprehension, as outlined in the Simple View of Reading & and the Scarborough Reading Rope model, including both word recognition/decoding and oral language skills.
Structured Literacy is characterized by the provision of systematic, explicit instruction that integrates listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Structured Literacy teaches the structure of language across the speech sound system (phonology), the writing system (orthography), the structure of sentences (syntax), the meaningful parts of words (morphology), the relationships among words (semantics), and the organization of spoken and written discourse.
The International Dyslexia Association has published Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading which provides the knowledge and skills required for teachers to provide Structured Literacy instruction for all students in the classroom or for struggling readers in a small group or one-on-one intervention program.
What is taught in Structured Literacy?
Research has shown that 'phonological awareness' is a key foundational skill for learning to read well. Phonological awareness is the ability to separate and manipulate the sounds in spoken language, including words in a sentence as well as syllables and individual sounds in a word.
Phonics & Word Recognition
Decoding and spelling skills are taught explicitly, including letter-sound associations (alphabetic principle), morphology, and strategies for reading phonetically irregular and multi-syllable words. Instruction is supported by the use of decodable texts. Spelling instruction also includes explicit instruction of spelling rules and guidelines.
Reading fluency is the ability to read words quickly enough and with accurate phrasing to retain the meaning. Techniques such as repeated readings and fluency drills can help improve reading rate and prosody, and subsequently comprehension.
Vocabulary knowledge is critical in reading comprehension. All instruction should be in a language rich environment. Specific vocabulary instruction activities include teaching morphology, classroom conversation, reading aloud, wide independent reading, word-learning strategies and word play.
Listening & Reading Comprehension
Instruction addresses many contributors to language comprehension including background knowledge, vocabulary, syntax, semantics, verbal reasoning, sentence processing, knowledge of literacy structures and conventions, and skills and strategies for close reading of text.
Written expression instruction includes the mechanics and conventions of writing, composition (handwriting, spelling, punctuation, syntax), semantics, as well as the phases of the writing process (composition, revision, and editing).