Explicit reading instruction

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Teaching children to read is one of the most valuable abilities an educator can endow. For younger grades, where emphasis is on alphabetic principles and phonics, emergent literacy becomes the focus of instruction. However, in upper elementary grades, "No longer is instruction focused on learning to read; emphasis is now placed on reading to learn" (Allington & Johnson, 2002). Many students learn to read, but lack the ability to comprehend and apply what is read in a meaningful way- a talent of particular importance to students in upper elementary grades and beyond. Students at all grade levels need explicit explanations of reading strategies, a model to follow, and guidance in applying new skills to be successful. Similarly, teachers can better serve students if assessment is used to inform instruction.

Reading achievement is accomplished through explicit teacher explanation of strategies and methods needed to comprehend text. The Institute for Research on Teaching (1984) found, "teachers…who explicitly present the information needed to learn skills will be more effective in producing student outcomes than teachers who do not" (p. 5). Student awareness of learning objectives empowers students with the information necessary to succeed. Delivery of reading strategies helps students uncover meaning from what is read. As a result, metacognitive abilities are employed and further developed.

Metacognitive abilities do not come naturally to all students. Therefore, teacher modeling and guided practice are essential elements for reading success. Teachers must model mental processes, provide reasons as to why the mental process is useful, and illustrate clear examples of the skill being performed. Just as we must walk before we run, proficiency in reading must be modeled and guided.

Assessment plays a central role in developing a student's reading talents by informing instruction, thereby enhancing learning. Use of data from formative assessment, oral assessment, benchmark testing, and DIBELS, improves the ability of teachers to reach all students. According to the Institute for Research on Teaching (1984), assessment allows teachers to be strategic and metacognitive about their instruction in the same way students are asked to be strategic and metacognitive about using skills to obtain meaning from text.

Explicit skill instruction is crucially important to reading achievement as student awareness of reading techniques improves comprehension. Explicit instruction improves reading proficiency from students beginning in Kindergarten and continuing throughout a student's academic career. Strategy based reading programs promote higher level thinking, "teaches students how to monitor their comprehension levels, and instills a love of reading by using real books" (Gibson, 2009, p. 7). Scaffolding and modeling new skills will solidify student learning. In addition, assessment, as a powerful learning tool, will assist a teacher by recognizing a student's strengths and weaknesses.


  • Allington, R. L., & Johnston, P. H. (2002). Reading to learn: Lessons from exemplary fourth- grade classrooms. New York: Guilfo
  • Gibson, K. (2009, June 1). Teachers' Perceptions of Strategy Based Reading Instruction for Reading Comprehension. Online Submission, Retrieved from ERIC database.
  • Institute for Research on Teaching (Rep. No. Final). (1984). Retrieved February 18, 2010, from http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/2f /95/69.pdf (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED277708)