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The “Science of Reading” and What It Means for Your Classroom

Oct 24, 2023
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For years now, the early literacy education community has pushed for education reform to align to the practice of the science of reading, the science-backed approach to early literacy instruction. More recently, growing legislation enacted by states around the country has generated more buzz around the topic. The discussion centers around well-documented research (born from a 2000 report by the National Reading Panel) supporting the positive outcomes of teaching methods including phonics-based foundational instruction and what we now know to be the five pillars of reading.

So, what exactly is the science of reading, and what aligned resources can you and your young readers expect from Edmentum programs? Let’s dive into the highlights.

Research-Based Instruction

The science of reading is a body of decades-long research that studies how we learn to read, as well as the instructional practices that best facilitate that process. The science is clear: the five pillars of reading—phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension—are effective, evidence-based approaches to teaching reading. From this information, we know that a healthy dose of systematic, explicit phonics instruction helps to build the foundation for successful reading and, improved and more equitable outcomes across all subject areas.

The earliest reading-skills instruction focuses on the smallest units of spoken and written words, known as phonemes. In phonics-based instruction, an educator teaches phonemic awareness, helping learners hear the smallest units of sounds in spoken words, along with letter-sound correspondence (phonics refers to how phonemes are blended together to form words). Learners can then apply phonological awareness (how the letters and letter combinations sound out loud) to decode, or read and pronounce, printed words.

Pedagogies that follow this approach are aligned to scientifically based reading research (SBRR), and studies have shown that phonics instruction leads to more successful readers. John Hattie and Shirley Clarke found that, among all the elements of reading, teaching phonics has the greatest impact on student achievement.

Edmentum’s Ongoing Investments

Researchers share a strong consensus about the importance of systematic phonics instruction during the initial stages of learning to read. Edmentum programs, especially Exact Path, support this approach to early literacy teaching through engaging instruction using SBRR methods aligned to the five pillars of reading. Exact Path, our K–12 assessment-driven, individualized learning program, has SBRR incorporated throughout these programs. You’ll find SBRR everywhere from the instructional framework, lesson structure, and types of activities, to the motivational elements and reward structure.

As Richard Allington described in his 2013 study, the key to an effective reading program is scientifically based reading activities combined with highly motivational elements. These have been shown to enable students to make ongoing, long-term gains in reading, fluency, and comprehension. Exact Path integrates motivational elements seamlessly using built-in reward and engagement features. Check them out for yourself below!

Before diving into the program highlights, it’s important to acknowledge the current challenges in our state of education. The pandemic disruptions affected reading proficiency growth for many learners with undeniable magnitude. To combat these setback, programs such as Exact Path are needed to target learning loss by delivering high-quality, research-backed curriculum paired with individualized instruction suited to meet each learner where they are in their unique literacy journey. In addition, each program’s seamless implementation further supports continuous learning—something many educators can be thankful for after years of disruption.

Now without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the unique, research-backed offerings of this program!

Exact Path

Exact Path’s diagnostic assessment paired with the individualized learning paths scaffold instruction, creating the ideal framework to help students acquire foundational skills in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and reading comprehension. In addition, a robust data dashboard and series of exportable reports break down in detail the key literacy skills and associated progress and mastery of each (which—you guessed it—are rooted in the five pillars of reading!). Not to mention, every time a reading diagnostic is completed, students’ achievement is linked to a calibrated Lexile measure, a dependable metric for matching students to appropriately leveled texts.

Reading modules in the program give early learners the space to set their own pace. They work from initial phonemic subskills to more difficult phonics concepts to build automaticity and then ultimately apply these newfound skills to make meaning and develop comprehension.

Systematic phonics lessons have an explicit focus on mapping an individual letter or letter combination with its appropriate sound, and the lessons follow the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS©), a set of procedures and measures for assessing the acquisition of literacy skills. Vocabulary-building opportunities are presented in context as the modules progress. For fluent readers, modules and check-ins focus more closely on student comprehension.

The best practices thoroughly ingrained in Exact Path are sure to set up your early readers for success. Interested in learning more about how best to incorporate research-backed literacy instruction into your classroom? Check out our white paper, Exact Path: Designed with the Science of Reading.

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