By Brad Williams
Curriculum Development, CCI
Structured Literacy instruction is a multi-faceted approach to dramatically enhance and improve reading skills.
Based on the structured and sequential way that the English language should be taught with its inherent patterns, this approach serves as a much-needed foundation for all students learning how to read. Additionally, the various methodologies infused into this program set up the learner for success regardless of age or ability level. How is this done?
Imagine that you have a big bowl full of sugar. You reach your hands into the bowl, cup them together, and pick up as much as you can. If you repeat this process, how can you absolutely guarantee that you will pick up more sugar on your second attempt? The answer is that you dip your hands in a bowl full of water first.
Now, when you repeat your actions, your cupped hands will pick up about the same amount as before, but the sugar will stick to every other part of your hands including the bottom of them. In a sense, this is exactly what happens when students are taught language instruction in the way the brain and body is designed to learn best. The learning will “stick” with them.
One of the key components of our program is the intentional blending of all learning modalities into our instruction. The word multisensory is often referenced but not truly taught with fidelity in many educational programs.
We understand that the effectiveness of a good reading program thoroughly incorporates visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile components in all its instruction.
But what do these all mean?
Hundreds of brightly colored concept cards with large print help students to visualize their learning with each lesson. Since most struggling learners need to see an example of a concept before they can begin to process its meaning, our materials serve that purpose to set these images in their minds as they begin the discovery of new sounds and meanings.
One of the most misunderstood learning modalities is the auditory component. For years, teachers have believed if they teach with clarity so all students can hear the instruction, this will translate to greater learning.
However, the effectiveness of auditory teaching does not simply lie within being able to hear the teacher give instructions out loud. Rather, it refers to the students being able to hear themselves say each concept, sound, and meaning out loud.
For many struggling readers, they lack the internal dialogue necessary to help them figure out new words and meanings when they encounter them in text. Consequently, they often make what appears to be random guesses based on the initial letters of a word.
Many of these students have been written off as lazy, but the truth is that they have not developed the internal dialogue which fluent readers naturally have at their disposal. Effective auditory integration of student self-talk with each concept is absolutely essential in causing learning to stick in their long-term memory.
The kinesthetic modality is essential for a few reasons.
We know the value of getting our students moving around to be actively engaged in the learning process. However, the main feature of this modality is to increase right-left crossover as students cross the midline with their hands and arms in various activities.
Research has shown that this helps to create neuropathways linking the right hemisphere of the brain to the left hemisphere where the natural language areas are located.
The use of tactile methods is also ingrained into an effective instruction model. Muscle memory is the ability of the body to remember information that is programmed into its memory by involving strategic places of touch on the arm and large muscles when learning is taking place.
When all these modalities are intentionally woven together into instruction that is taught in a structured and sequential way, students achieve fantastic breakthroughs in areas where only frustration had existed before. The strength of a good Structured Literacy program puts all these best practices together to engage all learners in a revolutionary way!