Setting Your Child Up For Success With Structured Literacy
What is Structured Literacy?
- Samuel Orton: An American neurologist who identified the relationship between language-based reading difficulties and brain function.
- Anna Gillingham: An American educator, who developed a multisensory approach to teaching reading and writing based on Orton’s findings.
- Louisa Moats: a leading voice in the field of reading and language education for several decades.
- The International Dyslexia Association: Promotes effective education and treatment for individuals with dyslexia and related reading difficulties.
Structured Literacy continues to evolve and change as new research and insights emerge. it is widely used in schools, particularly in special education and early intervention programs.
Why is it somewhat controversial?
- Limited evidence. Some argue that more research is needed to establish its efficacy.
- Rigid approach. It is a highly structured and prescriptive approach. Critics argue that it fails to take into account individual differences in learning styles and preferences.
- Challenging to teach. Multisensory teaching methods are hard to implement consistently.
- Reliance on phonics. Structured Literacy is a response to the Whole Language approach, which emphasizes meaning-focused reading and writing instruction. Critics of Structured Literacy argue that it overemphasizes phonics at the expense of meaning and comprehension.
And so despite strong anecdotal evidence, these ongoing debates raise questions about the role it should play in education.
How does Structured Literacy work in the classroom?
- Phonemic awareness. Students are taught to recognize and manipulate individual sounds.
- Phonics. Students are taught to associate individual sounds with letters or groups of letters, and to use this knowledge to decode words in written text.
- Multisensory instruction. Students are taught through a combination of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities. This helps to solidify their understanding and makes the learning experience more engaging.
- Structured sequence. Instruction is sequential, with new skills and concepts being introduced and reinforced in a step-by-step process.
- Decoding and encoding. Students are taught both how to decode words in written text (i.e., to read) and how to encode spoken words in written form (i.e., to write).
- Fluency. Students are encouraged to read text with increasing fluency and speed, which helps to build comprehension and overall reading proficiency.
In a Structured Literacy classroom, teachers use a variety of techniques, materials, and activities to support students in developing these skills and concepts. The goal is to help students become confident, independent readers and writers who have a strong foundation in the structure of language.