When you were learning to read, did the Science of Reading play a role? Do you remember what the process was like when you were learning those foundational skills?
Was it joyful? Do your memories of your early learning years make you smile as you think about practicing letter flashcards, sounding out words, and perhaps earning special stickers for jumping to the next reading level?
Or are the emotions associated with your memories of learning to read a little more complex? Learning to read is a process, after all, and that process is not the same for all learners. For some students, solving words and making meaning from texts is a very frustrating task.
However you learned to read, education scientists and thought leaders in literacy instruction agree that there is a science to the process. In other words, there is standardized, validated research behind how students learn to read, though students move forward in their reading journeys at different rates and may need differing levels of support.
Below, we present an overview of the Science of Reading research, as well as a detailed breakdown of how TeachTown’s K-12 adapted core curriculum, enCORE, incorporates the key components of the Science of Reading in its English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum.
There is a movement in literacy instruction towards embracing the Science of Reading, which is a broad term that embodies the reading research that has been conducted over the past 5 decades.
Part of the Science of Reading research includes the Simple View of Reading, which is an evidence-based theory that states that reading comprehension (or, skilled reading) is the product of decoding skills (or, word recognition skills) and language comprehension. In other words, students need both word recognition skills and language comprehension to make meaning of texts. The two skills work together and not in isolation to develop skilled readers. Likewise, deficits in either decoding or language comprehension abilities can result in reading comprehension deficits.
Another aspect of the Science of Reading research comes from the National Reading Panel, composed of 14 experts in the field of literacy instruction.
The National Reading Panel conducted a meta-analysis to review all the available research on different literacy practices. Their 2000 report listed 5 skills that significantly contribute to reading ability:
Similar to the idea of the Simple View of Reading, the National Reading Panel describes the importance of the 5 skills listed above working together to develop skilled readers.
Hollis Scarborough, literacy researcher and lead scientist at Haskins Laboratories, further contributed to the Science of Reading body of research with her famous reading rope, shown above, which summarizes how the different skills that contribute to language comprehension and word recognition work together to lead to skilled reading.
Recent research continues to affirm the National Reading Panel’s findings and the importance of making educational decisions based on the Science of Reading.
enCORE is a K-12 standards-based, adapted core curriculum that provides students with moderate to severe disabilities access to the general education curriculum. enCORE offers a blended approach of hands-on learning, technology-facilitated lessons, and individualized, technology-delivered instruction. The ELA domain of enCORE was systematically designed based on the Science of Reading.
Every unit of enCORE K-12 focuses on vocabulary that is embedded within that unit’s literature. The vocabulary targets were chosen to be useful for students in daily situations and to help with comprehension of the text. The vocabulary words are embedded in the text multiple times so that students have multiple opportunities to engage with the words and develop deeper semantic knowledge.
Vocabulary instruction is incorporated into the teacher lesson plans, as well as within the technology lessons in order for the students to have repeated exposures with multiple exemplars. At the middle and high school level, enCORE incorporates vocabulary graphic organizers to develop deeper semantic knowledge of vocabulary targets.
Phonemic awareness is built into every grade band of enCORE:
Each unit of enCORE K-12 contains phonics instruction.
enCORE (K-2) phonics instruction begins with single sound-letter correspondences and short vowels and progresses through digraphs, initial and final blends, common inflections, and silent “e” (see Table 1 for examples). Decoding is also addressed at the word level. Words selected for decoding practice contain the target for the specific book/unit and only letters that have been previously taught.
enCORE (3-5) addresses phonics instruction the same way as enCORE (K-2) but at an accelerated pace. enCORE (3-5) addresses the full scope of phonics instruction including vowel teams, vowel digraphs, r-controlled vowels, word patterns, and the most common prefixes and suffixes. Decoding again only contains words where every letter-sound correspondence has been previously taught.
enCORE Middle School contains a phonics review within every unit that focuses on sound-letter correspondences, decoding, and spelling.
enCORE High School contains instruction with every unit on rimes (e.g., “op” as in “stop,” “hop,” and “drop). Students are taught to decode and spell one of the most commonly occurring rimes in each unit.
Repeated readings are embedded in the enCORE implementation guide within every unit. For example, students have the opportunity to read from the literature (with and without icons), read from the e-Reader, or have the e-Reader read to them.
Every unit of enCORE K-12 focuses on text comprehension in several different ways. Every segment begins with anchored instruction which is used to connect the information that students will or have read in the text to their daily lives or to build background knowledge prior to reading.
enCORE Elementary contains leveled comprehension questions for every book, as well as a recall or sequencing activity.
enCORE Middle School contains leveled comprehension questions for every chapter in the adapted chapter books and for every companion text, as well as a review/recall technology lesson and graphic organizers that focus on story grammar elements, character maps, poetry elements, main ideas, etc.
enCORE High School contains everything that enCORE Middle School contains as well as additional comprehension application activities that focus on making text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-to-world connections.
Although the Simple View of Reading (SVR) is nearly 4 decades old, the evidence-based theory is being cited more often now than ever before. The key idea — skilled reading equals the product of decoding skills and language comprehension (R = D x C) — is at the heart of the renewed focus on research-based literacy instruction and professional development for educators. Part of its success is owed to its simplicity, as the name indicates.
Educators can readily digest and apply the two essential components of reading instruction in classroom instruction. Professional development around the application of the SVR has historically focused on first teaching letter-sound correspondence rules to learn to read isolated words quickly and accurately, and then worked towards comprehension. The skills were thought to occur sequentially – first word recognition and then comprehension.
Yet, even with the resurgence of the Science of Reading across the nation, new research continues to shed light on the nuanced, complex process of how children learn to read. Researchers Nell Duke of the University of Michigan and Kelly Cartwright of Christopher Newport University have proposed a progression of the Science of Reading to include the Active View of Reading in their 2021 article on the topic.
The Active View of Reading builds upon the foundation of the Simple View by identifying 3 key advances in reading research that will shape literacy instruction moving forward:
These 3 key advances are important for special educators, in particular, because they validate the individualized nature of students learning to read. For example, not all reading disabilities can be traced to difficulties with decoding (dyslexia), difficulties with listening comprehension (hyperlexia), or a combination of the two (garden-variety reading disability). The researchers point out that multiple studies have identified students who are able to decode and comprehend language at grade-appropriate levels but who still have reading difficulties. Other contributing factors may include core phonological processing issues, limited orthographic knowledge, or a lack of cultural and content knowledge, for example. The Active View of Reading also recognizes the crucial role of vocabulary, fluency, and morphological awareness in becoming skilled readers.
enCORE’s literacy domain not only adheres to the key tenets of the Science of Reading, as described above, but also incorporates the Active View of Reading.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that schools provide students with disabilities with programs, curricula, and teaching practices that are based on scientifically-based research “to the extent practical” – or whenever possible and feasible.
In other words, federal law requires students with disabilities have access to reading instruction that is evidence-based. This means it has been proven to be effective under strict research requirements.
The 5 tenets of the science of reading – phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension – are all necessary components of becoming a skilled reader. These 5 tenets have been systematically embedded into the ELA domain of enCORE, from Kindergarten through the transition years.
To learn more about how enCORE K-12 can meet the needs of your students with disabilities, contact us here.
Jessica Godsey, Ph.D., currently serves as TeachTown’s Senior Editorial Director of Curriculum Development. She received her master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology from The University of Memphis and her Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining TeachTown, Jessica served students with language and literacy disorders in a variety of clinical and school settings. She also taught courses in language development and disorders and supervised students at Western Michigan University. Additionally, Jessica has co-authored a reading program for students with dyslexia and speaks frequently about the Science of Reading.