What is Structured Literacy?
Okay, so this new term "Structured Literacy" is being thrown around. You may be wondering what this is and what it means. Basically, it's a term that indicates that instruction is:
This means that it's put together very strategically with specific concepts scheduled for introduction and specific time frames within the program and within each lesson. This allows certain skills to be targeted at just the right time and it ensures that everything is hit.
This means that students are utilizing more than one sense at a time. For example, when learning a new letter pattern such as "dge" they would write the letters "dge" to feel the hand movement while saying the sound /j/ so that they are also feeling their mouth while hearing the sound, all while visually looking at the letters. The magic here is that these are all happening simultaneously.
Bonus points if you want to throw in some textured paper to get another tactile aspect in the instruction.
This means the instruction builds on itself in a meaningful and progressive way and that all the topics are building on each other and consistently reviewed so nothing is lost.
So how do you build a structured literacy program?
A structured literacy program is grounded in providing systematic, multi-sensory, cumulative instruction in each of the five core components of literacy:
Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Vocabulary, Fluency, and Comprehension
In order to create a structured literacy program you must be progressively building out skills in each of these areas in a way that moves from simple to complex. Instead of completing lessons, games, or worksheets randomly to hit on each of these components you must layout the progression with true intention and thought behind how each skill builds on the next.
For example, if you want to build a hierarchy of phonological awareness skills you would need to start with sentence segmenting before moving onto syllable segmenting before moving onto word segmenting. You can't throw all of these activities together in one activity and assume that because they were each targeted the lesson works. In phonics instruction, for example, you might choose to organize your instruction on syllable type.
You also want to make sure that each lesson itself is well structured to hit each of the target areas. You want to be sure that you aren't missing components because certain pieces of the lesson always come at the end and it always seems like we are running out of time! There is also a specific progression of skills that makes the most sense - moving from practicing skills in isolation, to practicing skills at the phrase or sentence level, to practicing skills in connected text.
On top of that, you want to make sure you are pulling in multiple senses whenever possible. This is easier for phonological awareness or phonics instruction. In vocabulary and comprehension instruction, you could include graphic organizers to bring a visual connection to your concept. For fluency, you can use manipulatives and opportunities to act things out to bring in a tactile or kinesthetic approach.
We've laid out our progression of skills for our Decoding & Encoding and Applied Skills programs here. This can help give you an idea of what this might look like so you can get started!