What is Structured Literacy?
Structured Literacy is an updated term used by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) for Orton-Gillingham based reading instruction. This is an umbrella term that takes into account the most recent research in dyslexia and reading. It is not a specific curriculum but an approach. IDA identifies structured literacy curriculums that meet the standard they set out including Lexercise™, Wilson Reading Systems™, and others. Structured Literacy is systematic and cumulative, meaning it follows the order of language development by teaching the most basic concepts first and systematically building up on each concept with increased complexity. Within this approach, the teacher uses explicit learning, meaning they will explain all concepts in a clear manner and model what is required as opposed to expecting students to infer their own learning.
Structured Literacy lessons incorporate six key areas of instruction including phonology, sound-symbol associations, syllables, morphology, syntax, and semantics. These 6 areas are the core components needed for successful reading and comprehension.
What students are taught in a structured literacy approach:
Phonology: Students study the SOUND structure of spoken language. By studying the sound structure of spoken language students will begin to develop their phonemic awareness skills (identification, segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds in words).
Sound-Symbol Association: Students learn to attach the phonemes (speech-sounds) to the grapheme (written representation of letter or letters). For example in the word Box the grapheme X represents the phoneme KS. Try saying the word Box out loud and see if you can hear the KS sound.
Syllables: Students learn the 6 syllable structures in English. This is key to helping the student learn vowel spelling rules and to attach them to the vowel sounds. They also learn to divide syllables which supports the decoding of words.
Morphology: Students are explicitly taught morphemes which are units of meaning. For example the morpheme -ed added to a verb (action word) means the action has already happened (I walked to the beach this morning). Another example is that when the prefix re- is added to a verb, this indicates that someone repeated the action. When students are taught to break apart words into their morphemes (re+boot+ed= rebooted), their ability to decode and understand words is improved.
Syntax: Students learn grammar, sentence organization, and mechanics (punctuation, spelling) of sentence formulation.
Semantics: Students are taught the meaning of words, phrases, sentences, or text, which improves reading comprehension.