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Science of Reading in the Classroom: What Teachers Need to Know in 2023

Are you hearing the buzz about the Science of Reading? As we learn more about developing brains, we must shift our teaching practices to match that of science! Learn all about how to implement the Science of Reading in the classroom below.

What is the Science of Reading?

The science of reading is an extensive collection of research supporting the development of literacy, intertwining cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology. These studies are completed across various languages, experimental methods, and research design. This empirical body of work has shown the information needed to identify what to teach, when to teach it, and how to deliver it best. Based on scientifically-based research, clear patterns emerged to promote best practice teaching. This concept is now known as Structured Literacy.

What are the Five Components of the Science of Reading?

The five major components of Structured Literacy include phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Learn about them below!

1. Phonological Awareness

Phonological awareness is the ability to work with spoken sounds, ultimately the foundation for reading.

2. Phonics

Phonics, or decoding, is the method of teaching to read, following the relationship of sound patterns (phonemes) and written letters (graphemes) of the English language.

3. Fluency

Fluency refers to the ability of reading text quickly, accurately, and with expression.

4. Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the foundation of reading comprehension, having students understand the meaning of words. 

5. Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension can be boiled down to the reason for reading. Here, students analyze, infer, predict, and make meaning from texts.

When Did the Science of Reading Begin?

Science of Reading, or SoR, has been in the works for multiple decades. Although the concept of reading can go back 200 years, SoR studies were conducted primarily over the past two decades with the help of current cognitive science research. 

Who is Behind the Science of Reading?

Cognitive neuroscientists and researchers alike all support the Science of Reading. The National Reading Panel (NRP) identified that systematic methodology to phonics exhibited significant benefits for those experiencing trouble with reading. Additional researchers and authors that headline the Science of Reading include David Kilpatrick, Linnea Ehri, and Stanislas Dehaene. 

Is Science of Reading Evidence Based?

Yes! The Science of Reading is evidence-based. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of studies supported by cognitive neuroscience that supports the Science of Reading.

Does the Science of Reading Work?

Yes! Data shows that Structured Reading is the key to literacy. From brain imagining to qualitative studies, data shows that the Science of Reading works! That’s why it’s so important to implement the science of reading in our classroom!

Why is the Science of Reading Important?

Science of Reading in the classroom is critical because it is the evidence and research-based methodology for success in literacy. 

Is the Science of Reading a Fad?

The Science of Reading will not be going away anytime soon. In fact, the pure concept of it being the Science of Reading means that it is bound by facts and evidence. 

Science of Reading vs Structured Literacy

Structured Literacy is supported by the Science of Reading. Structured Literacy is to be explicit, cumulative, systematic, and diagnostic/responsive. All of these values act as pillars across the five domains of Structured Literacy. 

Comparing Different Approaches to the Science of Reading

As we learn more about the Science of Reading, we can easily become confused with other approaches. How does it relate to Balanced Literacy? Is Guided Reading no longer? Let’s take a deeper look into the various approaches in comparison to the Science of Reading.

Science of Reading vs Balanced Literacy

Although Balanced Literacy claims to target the five domains of reading, the overall approach differs. 

While Balanced Literacy implores students to always be accessing books, the Science of Reading shows that students need to be systematic in their acquisition of skills. 

Science of Reading vs Guided Reading

Guided Reading is typically synonymous with small group instruction. Now, while this is more of an umbrella term, typical guided reading sessions involve Leveled Readers. These readers are not backed by science, meaning that the texts are not necessarily explicit or cumulative. These readers can be a great resource, but should not be the primary tool for instruction. 

Science of Reading vs Whole Language

Often referred to as the “Reading Wars”, the debate between Whole Language and Science of Reading caused quite a stir in the past. Whole Language was previously taught by educators cueing children to guess at words based on sentence structures and pictures. Now, science supports a phonics-based approach. 

What Teachers Need to Know about the Science of Literacy

Below are three things teachers need to know about science of reading in the classroom.

1. The Science of Reading is best practice and research-based.

Training for Science of Reading is hitting educators by storm as we all try to implement. Pay close attention to the data, studies, and brain scans that support the Science of Reading. 

2. Structured Literacy includes phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. 

These five domains of Structured Literacy are intertwined, and when taught in a systematic and explicit way, are the key efforts to reading comprehension. 

3. Structured Literacy is not going away. 

Cognitive neuroscience and other forms of research support the Science of Reading as it relates to Structured Literacy. It is imperative that we all get on board, get educated, and get teaching using this methodology!

3 Problems with the Science of Reading (and Solutions for Them)

Below are 3 challenges with implementing science of reading in the classroom, along with solutions for them.

1. You Are Not Alone!

Is this all feeling new and overwhelming? You are not alone! Many teacher educator programs did not include the Science of Reading. Feel empowered to take additional courses and read research to understand all the new evidence coming out about the Science of Reading. 

2. Good-bye Leveled Readers, Hello Decodables! 

As we all make the switch to decodables, we can keep our leveled readers close by and use them as supplemental material. To prevent reinventing the wheel, these readers can be integrated into small group skills to help readers get the big picture of literacy. Be sure to preview words that are related to the story, but are irregular to students.

3. It Is Hard To Find The Time!

Yes, school days are limited! It is always a challenge to pack everything necessary into a day. As educators, we can use our instinct to sneak reading skills into daily activities. For example, you can do sound-symbol correspondence drills during morning meetings, group students by sight words, or write monthly decodable class songs. 

In closing, we hope you found this post about science of reading in the classroom helpful! If you did, then you may also be interested in these other posts:

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