What is the Science of Reading (SoR)?
A Body of Research
Throughout the last 40 years or so, there have been tens of thousands of studies into teaching and learning reading in multiple languages and countries. The science of reading compiles evidence from those studies to help us truly understand the best ways to teach and learn reading. The NWEA website describes it this way:
"The science of reading is the converging evidence of what matters and what works in literacy instruction, organized around models that describe how and why."
Rather than guessing and experimenting with what might work, teachers use a structured learning approach that has been proven to be successful. Students get research-backed methods of helping them master this vital skill. Most importantly, the methods work well with all types of students, including (perhaps even especially) those who struggle.
So, what is structured literacy in a nutshell? For starters, it’s not that new, but as the Science of Reading makes waves on social media and Emily Hanford’s eye-opening 6-episode podcast “Sold a Story” (see below) rises in popularity, it is being reinforced and more highly acknowledged that a structured approach is the most effective way for learners to acquire and retain information.
It has FOUR important components:
Explicit instruction is teaching our students directly what we want them to learn. Superficially exposing students to information that we expect they will just pick up on can result in misinterpretation, confusion, and knowledge gaps.
Systematic instruction means there is a system in place. We aren’t throwing darts to decide on which skill to focus and how. We assess, observe, evaluate, and make informed decisions about how our students’ instructional needs will be met, and have a system for delivering instruction to them.
Having a system in place goes hand in hand with a sequence to implement sequential instruction. A sequence allows students to learn information in a progression that supports their learning and ability to build new knowledge based on previously taught knowledge. Students will have trouble acquiring and retaining new information if the proper building blocks are out of place.
Instruction doesn’t just end when the information and knowledge is delivered. Cumulative instruction reinforces that repeated practice needs to be incorporated through committed review.