access to that knowledge base. But we know a great deal about what the knowledge is. There are two major teaching challenges, however, that are likely to require more than understanding the knowledge base: integrating the components of early reading instruction into an effective reading program and differentiating instruction for children with different competences.
Integrating Instruction Knowing the components of effective reading instruction does not ensure that a teacher will be able to integrate these in practice. With the multiple demands of managing a classroom, teachers often look to curriculum materials to simplify their complex task. For the majority of teachers in the United States, these are basal readers (National Research Council, 1998). The content of the basals influence’s how teachers allocate instructional time. The research base on phonics instruction is stronger than that on vocabulary instruction, oral language instruction, writing, and comprehension. Perhaps because dimensions of effective phonics instruction are better defined, basal reading programs place more emphasis on phonics. In many places, considerably more time is now invested in phonological awareness teaching and practice than would be recommended based on the research, which suggests that 18-20 hours is sufficient (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000).
With little attention paid to vocabulary and writing instruction in the basals, Foorman and Schatschneider (in press) observed little attention to these critical activities (i.e., less than 10 percent of instruction) in observations of 114 first and second grade teachers in 17 high-poverty schools. The National Reading Panel concluded that “teachers must understand that…. systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction in phonemic awareness, fluency, and comprehension strategies to create a complete reading program” (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000:11). But this is not now standard practice.
Differentiating Instruction Children who have mastered the alphabetic principle simply do not need phonics instruction that is as intense as that needed by their peers who have not achieved such mastery. Furthermore, as Box 2.2 suggests, a critical aspect of an effective instructional program is daily practice reading