Enhancing Instruction with the Use of Authentic Literature

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Effective literacy instruction includes five critical components: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. Instruction and practice within each of these areas is necessary for a student to become a proficient reader. If you are interested in learning more about each of these teaching strategies check out our evergreen online courses.

At Smart ALEC, we believe the first step to building a strong reading foundation is to provide students with explicit, systematic instruction to develop phonemic awareness and phonics skills. During this time, it is important to expose children to other skills such as fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. If you are familiar with our curriculum, you will notice that practice with each of these components is woven into every single lesson.

We advocate for exposure and experience with authentic literature in conjunction with the use of our curriculum and materials. This may look different for each teacher, depending on the needs of your classroom.

As you work with your small groups, specifically your at-risk or struggling readers, you will want to focus most of that time on the Smart ALEC lessons to develop your students’ phonetic skill set and ability to decode. As this group gains momentum with phonograms and decoding strategies, you can begin to layer in texts. The texts should be at their level and should reinforce what you are teaching. If you are meeting with small groups daily, you can balance Smart ALEC instruction with text application each time you meet.

The ratio of time you spend on decoding work using the Smart ALEC curriculum and text application will depend on each group and their specific needs. Some groups will not need as much intensive work in the Smart ALEC curriculum as others, and these are readers who are more prepared to dig into texts and reading strategies such as visualizing, predicting, inferring, etc. While all students should be exposed to text daily, some students will need to spend most their small group time receiving intensive intervention from you that focuses on the Smart ALEC curriculum and decoding strategies.

If you do not have access to a classroom library or a literacy resource room, you must get creative about how you will find books to stock your classroom library and student book boxes.

Some suggestions: write a grant to your school’s parent organization for books, use printable books that are leveled from sites such as Reading A-Z, printable articles from Readworks.org, use classroom or fundraising money to purchase multiple copies of titles from sites such as Scholastic.

Many of these sites that provide printable texts allow you to search and select texts by a phonetic rule or pattern. This is an easy way to align your weekly concept to a text to provide application practice.

The use of authentic literature is paramount to a child’s growth as a reader. In order to provide students with the necessary instruction to nurture these developing skills, you will want to make sure that you are including the opportunity for children to read real books every single day, as well as hear books read to them every single day.

Building a silent reading station or time into your literacy block is so important to get books in the hands of our emerging readers. When a child can sit with a text and have the opportunity for their reading practice to be driven by interest (versus teacher selection) they view themselves as readers. This is a critical step to a student’s growth as a proficient reader.

Students also need to hear books read aloud to them for a variety of reasons. This exposes students to literature that they might not be able to access otherwise, it promotes a love of literature and stories, this models fluent reading and vocabulary use, and this is an excellent platform to model comprehension strategies.

Corey Pollard