Researchers have long examined how the brain learns to read and what this means for reading instruction. However, most administrators and elementary reading teachers are unaware of this research and its implications for the classroom.
To improve students’ reading outcomes, teachers should understand the science of how the brain learns to read and the instructional practices that support that learning. In addition to providing teachers with this research, it’s important that district and school leadership help them translate this knowledge into classroom practice in an easy-to-implement way.
This toolkit offers templates and resources to support districts as they implement science-based reading reform.
3 ways to use this toolkit
- Develop and sustain expertise in science-based reading instruction
- Garner support for reading reform at the school level
- Create implementation support structures for practitioners
Use the following suggested syllabus and corresponding resources to guide school-based book clubs, grade-level teams, professional learning communities (PLCs) and other professional development opportunities to develop reading expertise throughout the district.
Use this principal playbook to formalize critical processes and procedures that ensure effective reading instruction reform by cultivating both urgency and the necessary conditions for change.
To prepare principals to effectively lead instructional reform and embrace the science of reading throughout their schools, consider creating an ongoing list of research-based responses to common points of contention. District leaders should collaborate with principals to develop a collective set of talking points, such as the examples listed below, to address potential opposition from change-averse teachers.
Though many teachers claim to teach foundational skills, most teachers spend insufficient time on these skills. Districts should provide teachers with explicit guidance as to how to allocate their reading block time and promote increased emphasis on foundational reading skills.
In addition to providing teachers knowledge of scientifically-based research, it is important that district and school leadership assist them in translating this knowledge into classroom practice in a pragmatic and easy to implement way. The following foundational skills instructional guide provides information on fundamental reading concepts as well as sample ideas for integrating their practice into the classroom.
Most early grade reading teachers decorate their classrooms with alphabet signs and guides, which are helpful to students as they increase their mastery of print concepts and letter recognition. However, to support students in their development of phonemic awareness and sound-symbol correspondence, teachers should also use a sound wall to guide students through the process of producing sounds and mapping each sound to its corresponding letter or group of letters.
It is important that district and school leaders ensure that reading teachers in the early grades have the necessary support to focus enough time on foundational skills and know the right approach to teaching them. The following “look-for” document is adapted from Cedar Rapids Community School District in Iowa and serves as a lesson planning guide and informal observation tool. It provides descriptions of what an observer should ideally see and hear and also what should not be happening in the lesson.
Use recording capabilities to maximize coaching capacity and increase opportunities for ongoing observation and feedback. Video-based observations allow teachers to record, observe, and reflect upon reading lessons in the classroom. This tool is a step-by-step process guide for implementing video-based observations in your district.
The following video-based observation checklist is adapted from Cedar Rapids Community School District and serves as a guide for non-punitive self- and peer-observations of recorded reading lessons.