Principles of Effective Reading Instruction

The following principles have been shown to be effective for developing readers.

Use explicit and systematic reading instruction to develop the major components of reading—decoding, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension—according to the assessed needs of individual learners. Although each dimension is necessary for proficient reading, adolescents and adults vary in the reading instruction they need. For example, some learners will require comprehensive instruction in decoding, while others may need less or none. Instruction that helps learners develop component skills in the context of performing practical literacy tasks also increases the likelihood that literacy skills will be used outside the classroom.

Combine explicit and systematic instruction with extended reading practice to help learners acquire and transfer component reading skills. Learning to read involves both explicit teaching and implicit learning. It is vitally important that learners have extensive practice using their new skills, including both formal practice (structured assignments to develop decoding or comprehension) and informal practice (engaging with reading materials outside the classroom that are personally interesting).

Motivate learning through learners’ engagement with the literacy tasks used for instruction and extensive reading practice. Learners are more engaged when literacy instruction and practice opportunities are embedded in meaningful learning activities that are useful to and valued by the learner.

Develop reading fluency to facilitate efficient reading of words and longer text. Some methods of fluency improvement—for example, guided repeated reading—have been effective with children and are likely to be effective with adolescents and adults.

Explicitly teach the structure of written language to facilitate decoding and comprehension. Develop learners’ awareness of the features of written language at multiple levels (word, sentence, passage). Teach regularity and irregularity of spelling-to-sound mappings, the patterns of English morphology (the units of meaning in the English language, which can be words or parts of words, such as prefixes and suffixes), the rules of grammar and syntax, and the structures of various text genres.

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