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Structured Literacy

What is structured literacy?

     Structured literacy is explicit and systematic instruction in the elements of literacy. For a structured literacy approach to be the most effective, it should also be diagnostic, prescriptive, and cumulative. This means that the teacher or tutor uses valid and reliable assessments to determine what the child's specific needs are, begins the intervention at the lowest missing or weak skill, and then continues to practice the skills taught as new ones are added on. A comprehensive structured literacy approach will address both decoding (reading) and orthography (spelling). What are the foundational elements of structured literacy? A structured literacy program includes these elements:

  • Phonemic awareness

    • The ability to hear, identify and manipulate the sounds of ​the language 

  • Phonics

    • The relationship between phonemes (sounds) and their corresponding letters 

  • Syllabication

    • The rules about how words are broken into syllables​

  • Morphology

    • The study of word parts, including root words, affixes, base words, and Greek combining forms​

  • Syntax

    • The order words appear in a sentence​

  • Semantics

    • The meaning of words​

  • Fluency

    • Reading with appropriate pacing, intonation, and prosody​

  • Comprehension

    • Understanding the intent and meaning of the text, the ability to identify main ideas and supporting details, and being able to make inferences and draw conclusions from text​

How does Structured Literacy Differ

from Other Literacy Approaches? 

In most educational settings, the way phonemic awareness and phonics are taught is dictated by textbook publishers and adopted programs. It is not personalized based on a child's individual academic needs or neurological profile. Many reading difficulties can be addressed very effectively when an appropriate, diagnostic and prescriptive approach is taken with students. The correct assessment data can be used to create a personalized instructional program that meets your child's specific needs. 

The most popular methodology used in a structured literacy approach is Orton-Gillingham. This is the only methodology approved by the International Dyslexia Association. There are also scripted programs based on the OG methodology, included Wilson, Language!, and Barton. Orton-Gillingham is very effective to address the phonological processing deficits that many struggling readers have, but many students need additional supports depending on their individual neurological profiles. This may include practice in rapid, automatized naming; oral language development; pre-work using a linguistic approach; and focused instruction to improve visual memory and orthographic mapping (the way we categorize words for retrieval).

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