7 Elements of Effective Reading Instruction

Effective classroom reading instruction for all students at all ability levels should include the following seven elements:

1. Authentic reading and writing experiences.  This means reading real books that students have selected (as opposed to controlled text or basal stories), and allowing students to use writing to describe, communicate, and share their ideas.

2. Lots of daily reading practice using books that students have selected.  Wide reading is one of the best methods to enhance students’ comprehension, word identification, and fluency skills as well as vocabulary and conceptual knowledge (Allington, 2012; Krashen, 2004).  Reading practice enables students to practice newly learned skills in authentic reading contexts.  Nancy Atwell (1998) recommends that 70% to 80% of reading class be used for self-selected reading practice and 20% to 30% be used for skills work. 

3. Social interaction and conversation around good books.  This could involve a variety of activities including book talks, literature circles, book clubs, book evaluations and critiques, top-ten lists, journal entries and responses, and planned discussions.  These experiences most be planned and purposeful.  Social interaction enhances high level thinking and literacy learning.

4. Activities to develop all three cueing systems.  This includes (a) word work to develop the phonological cueing system; (b) cloze and maze activities to develop the semantic cueing system; and (c) writing, grammar, and word order activities to develop the syntactic cueing system.

5.  Strategy instruction for word identification.  As described above, there are four basic strategies used to identify unknown words in print (a) morphemic analysis, (b) context clues, (c) analogy, and (d) phonics.  Instruction in the use of all four strategies should be included as part of students’ reading instruction. 

6.  Opportunities to learn and practice study skill strategies and high-level cognitive operations related to comprehension.  All students need to learn and practice study skill strategies used to create meaning with expository text.  As well, all students need opportunities to develop higher order cognitive operations or thinking skills related to reading both narrative and expository texts.  Keep in mind that a learning disability or a reading disability does not mean there is a thinking disability.

7. Activities to develop word knowledge (vocabulary).  Wide reading is the most efficient and effective way to develop students’ vocabulary.  However, there are a variety of pedagogical strategies that should also be used to expand the depth and breadth of students’ word knowledge (Johnson, 2016).

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