Ensure Your Science of Reading Instruction Is Systematic

Part 2 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 systematic instruction.

Savvas Insights Team

Is Your Instruction Aligned to the Science of Reading? 

Teaching reading skills, such as phonics, takes time and careful lesson planning. That's why findings from a wide-ranging body of science of reading research have concluded that when you teach those skills systemically, it greatly increases the likelihood of young students becoming proficient readers.

Savvas - Is Your Instruction Aligned to the Science of Reading?“In order for instruction to be aligned with the science of reading, not only does it need to be explicit, but it also needs to be systematic,” said Savvas author and literacy expert Dr. Lee Wright.

In this blog, he helps unpack that term by sharing how teachers can identify whether or not their reading instruction is systematic and, if not, show them how they can start incorporating systematic instruction into their classroom practices.

Sequenced Reading Lessons

“Systematic means that the instruction is sequenced,” Lee said. “Meaning that we understand that when we select a skill, it's based on children's need to know it. I would make those decisions as a teacher to say, ‘What do they need next?’ That ensures that my instruction is sequenced and thus systematic.”

That means when instruction is systematic, reading lessons are carefully planned out and delivered in an order — or sequence — that builds upon the students’ prior knowledge and moves from simple to more complex skills or concepts. And while systematic instruction is important for all aspects of reading instruction, it is especially critical for teaching phonics.

Some other methods of teaching reading incorporate lessons on key skills, such as phonics lessons, more sporadically — often during a read-aloud or guided reading lesson when the class comes across a word that is tricky to read. The teacher will then stop reading to briefly teach a lesson about phonics before returning to reading the book. Science of reading research, on the other hand, shows us that teaching phonics through planned, sequenced, explicit lessons ensures students understand the concepts and develop the long-lasting skills needed to become proficient readers.

It is helpful to have access to a curriculum that has a scope and sequence to its lessons so that teachers can be confident that students learn all the necessary concepts and skills they need to become better readers, and that no skills are overlooked.

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


Step-by-Step Explanations and Demonstrations

Once lessons are sequenced in a way that builds upon the skills students already know and then what they need to know next, the lessons themselves should be delivered using step-by-step explanations and demonstrations.

Tips to Ensure Your  Instruction Is Systematic

Tips to Ensure Your Instruction Is Systematic

For example, lessons should be broken up into smaller, more manageable pieces so that students can learn the skill more easily. Clearly explain to them what skill they are going to learn and then break it up into the steps they are going to take to master that skill. Next, teachers will want to teach or prompt students through the process to eventually get to the instructional goal, which will help them complete the skill on their own.

“It's very logical for children,” Lee said, referring to the step-by-step process. “First we do this, then we do (that) ... It increases children's ability to comprehend. It's systematic and thus it also becomes more aligned with what the science of reading says that our lessons should look like.”

When teachers use systematic instruction, they’re using a method of teaching that has been proven effective to help young readers possess the appropriate knowledge they need to navigate more advanced reading concepts, giving them the tools and skills to be successful.


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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.