SharpReading BLOG

Thoughts About Teaching Reading


What is Explicit Instruction?

One of the big rallying calls of Structured Literacy is the need to embrace Explicit Instruction. For many of us, we have some familiarity with this concept as an obvious tool for effective teaching and learning. 

But for many, with more than a decade of inquiry learning in our teacher toolkit, the terminology provides some roadblocks. So here is a little SharpReading perspective.

One of the prevailing issues is that people see Explicit Instruction vs Discovery Learning as a dichotomy when it should be viewed as a continuum.

CLICK HERE for a quick 5-minute video explanation about this from Anita Archer one of the foremost experts on Explicit Instruction.

If you want to dig deeper, Guilford Press have released a free-to-view first chapter of her excellent book “Explicit Instruction: Effective and Efficient Teaching”  Anita L Archer & Charles A Hughes. 

If you have concerns about the pedagogy, then towards the end of the chapter (page 17) there is a great section titled "Response to Possible Concerns About Explicit Instruction".

To summarise, Explicit Instruction and Discovery learning are not mutually exclusive. But for effective Discovery learning to occur (which is undeniably very motivating for the learner) the learner needs to have some knowledge, information or skill to fall back on and build on. 

 Our own experience of this was the traction we got in International Schools in Hong Kong and China 10 years ago. These schools, with a heavily weighted inquiry-based curriculum, discovered that their students lacked the necessary literacy skill-set and they turned to us to provide some Explicit Instruction.

SharpReading is built around these notions of Structured Literacy or Explicit Instruction: the carefully measured release of teaching based on an understanding of the student's developmental readiness, a scope and sequence that develops phonics knowledge word-reading fluency (decoding fluency), and then a step-by-step acquisition of increasingly complex comprehension skills and strategies. 

That means lessons with just one well-articulated Learning Outcome so that students are very clear about the learning step they are embarking on, gradual release from Explain, Model, Guided Practice into Independent Practice on the way to Fluency, with routines that ensure they do the work supported by lots of feedback on the way...the hallmarks of effective Explicit Instruction.  


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