Ensure Your Science of Reading Instruction Is Engaging

Part 4 of the Science of Reading Instruction Series

We can help you determine that. In this blog series, Savvas author and literacy expert Dr. Lee Wright breaks down the four main components of Science of Reading-aligned instruction, providing teachers actionable insights into what explicit, systematic, integrated, and engaging instruction look like in the classroom. In this post, we focus on engaging instruction.

Savvas Insights Team

Is Your Instruction Aligned to the Science of Reading?

When students are engaged and actively participating in classroom lessons, it helps make what they’re learning more memorable. In fact, Science of Reading research identifies student engagement as one of the critical components to effective reading instruction right along with explicit, systematic, and integrated instruction.

But it’s not always easy to know what will capture students’ interests and inspire that love of learning that is the ultimate goal for all educators.

Savvas author and literacy expert Dr. Lee Wright understands the challenge of keeping students engaged. He offers three strategies that, when combined with other proven-effective teaching methods, will help make learning more engaging, and therefore, more meaningful and memorable for students.

“If our reading instruction, for the most part, is explicit, systematic, integrated, and includes high degrees of student engagement, we are right on par with what the Science of Reading says must be occurring in our classrooms,” said Lee.

Make Lessons Multisensory

When instruction is multisensory, it means that teachers are designing their lessons to incorporate speaking, listening, moving, touching, reading, and writing activities — anything that will cause students to move their bodies.

For example, students may be asked to use their fingers to point to and tap on the word parts that make a syllable. Or a teacher might assign a hand gesture to indicate that the /th/ sound in the word the comes from the throat (point to throat) or it could come from the tongue and teeth (point to mouth) as in the word bath.

“Ask yourself … ‘Am I deliberately causing my children to use as many senses as possible during my reading instruction?’” suggested Lee. “If you are, you are engaging students and thus much more likely to be in line with what the Science of Reading recommends.”

Multisensory instruction is particularly effective for teaching foundational reading skills, such as phonemic awareness and phonics to young readers as well as struggling readers, because these highly engaging activities that stimulate different areas of the brain will make learning more memorable for them. Once a student masters a reading skill, the multisensory component can be removed and the student can rely on the visual aspect of reading.

To hear directly from Lee about explicit instruction, watch the video below.


Allow Room for Students to Express Their Thinking

In order to successfully engage students, they must be given time and space to express their thinking. Not only can the teacher accomplish this by asking students questions directly but by also having students ask each other questions. By hearing what a student is thinking, teachers can gain valuable insights into what they know and where they might need more help.

“When we give children time to talk and think about what they're learning about, we can go in and we can listen,” said Lee. “To hear them talk is critical for us to be able to provide feedback and or reteach on the spot when needed.”

If teachers provide opportunities for students to frequently communicate with their peers and with the teacher during reading lessons, students will become more engaged and instruction will be more in line with the Science of Reading.

Help Students Think Deeper and More Critically

When thinking about what an engaged student looks like in the classroom, we picture a student who is happy, talking, and actively participating in their learning. But an engaged student is also one who thinks deeply and critically about what they read and is able to thoughtfully answer questions about what they’ve just read.

Tips to Ensure Your  Instruction Is Systematic

Tips to Ensure Your Instruction Is Systematic

Lee suggests that teachers ask themselves: “Are you engaging your students cognitively? Are you doing things like asking deep and rich questions that cause children to infer, to draw conclusions. And are you using and helping your students use academic vocabulary?”

Teachers can help students practice this deeper thinking by asking them meaningful questions and then practice “wait time” to allow them time to formulate a well-thought-out response.

“When you're in the world of these elements, if these things are present in your instruction,,” Lee said, referring to using multisensory activities in lessons, giving students opportunities to express their thinking, and encouraging them to think deeply about what they read, “then you know you are much more in line to the Science of Reading.”


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About The Author

Lee Wright, Ph.D.

Dr. Wright began his career as a kindergarten teacher in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. For over two decades, he spent time as a literacy coach, Texas statewide staff developer, and professor of education. Today, he trains educators on topics that focus on the importance of effective classroom management, small-group instruction, and early literacy. He is a coauthor of Three Cheers for Pre-K and myView Literacy from Savvas Learning Company.