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The Structured Literacy Approach

Structured literacy (SL) approaches emphasise highly explicit and systematic teaching of all important components of literacy. These components include both foundational skills (e.g., decoding, spelling) and higher-level literacy skills (e.g., reading comprehension, written expression). Structured Literacy also emphasises oral language abilities essential to literacy development, including phonemic awareness, sensitivity to speech sounds in oral language, and the ability to manipulate those sounds.


Explicit teaching means that teachers clearly explain and model key skills; they do not expect children to infer these skills only from exposure. Systematic means that there is a well-organised sequence of instruction, with important prerequisite skills taught before more advanced skills. For instance, children master decoding and spelling simpler consonant-vowel-consonant words (e.g., tap) with short vowel sounds before learning more complex short-vowel words (e.g., stamp or tapped) with consonant blends or affixes.

Structured literacy approaches use books and other instructional materials that lend themselves to this kind of teaching. Educators teach from a sequence of phonics materials proceeding from use of simpler to more complex patterns. Children read books containing the phonics word patterns they have been taught. Reading of texts and phonics instruction are coordinated so that as children’s decoding skills develop, they are able to read increasingly complex texts. Similarly, spelling is coordinated with decoding, so that each reinforces the other.

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