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Structured literacy is an approach that is often recommended for students with dyslexia and specific learning disabilities because it is well supported by research and is an evidence-based method. On today’s post, I am going to explain to you what structured literacy is and how to teach it.

How do you Teach Structured Literacy?

Structured Literacy is taught using explicit and direct instruction in a systematic, sequential and cumulative step-by-step process.   

Explicit and Direct Instruction

In structured literacy, students are taught with explicit and direct instruction. This means that skills and concepts are taught clearly and directly by a teacher. 

Explicit instruction includes modeling, guided practice, and independent practice of the skill being taught.  

Example: The teacher will first present a lesson demonstrating vowel consonant e syllable and model the lesson for the student. The teacher will then do the lesson together with the student, then finally ask the student to do it without guidance. The teacher provides immediate feedback and corrections when needed.

I do, we do, you do.

Systematic, Sequential and Cumulative Instruction

The explicit instruction in structured literacy is carefully built around a scope and sequence. This scope and sequence dictates the order in which each concept or skill is taught.

Each lesson builds upon itself and the student never has to read or spell anything they haven’t been introduced to yet, which is why the stories and text in structured literacy are always decodable. The students only read and spell what they have been explicitly taught.  

Each individual skill is taught in isolation beginning with the most basic levels of phonics and developing into the most advanced spelling rules and morphological concepts.

The student does not move on to a new concept until the student is ready. Once that student moves forward with a new concept, he or she keeps reviewing already learned skills.  

Example: Here is a scope and sequence of a structured literacy curriculum. Although the scope and sequence will vary from program to program, this will give you a nice example.      

Click >>>HERE<<<


What is Taught in Structured Literacy?


Structured Literacy focuses on the teaching of phonology, orthography, systematic phonics, and comprehension. What does this mean? Here is a breakdown of each component taught in structured literacy:


Phonology is the study of the sound structure of spoken language. Students are taught blending skills, segmenting skills and manipulation of speech sounds within words that lead to phonics skills.


“Say rib. Say rib again but this time, instead of /r/, say /b/.” (bib)


Orthography is the conventional spelling system of a language. Students are taught to use orthographic knowledge (letters-symbols) to read and spell words. Students learn to associate the sounds (phonemes) with the letters (graphemes) that represent them, and then form the letters that spell the sound.  


“Say wax. Spell the word wax by writing the letters on your palm. Now, pick up your pen and write the word wax on your paper.”

Systematic Phonics

Systematic phonics is the method of teaching students how to connect the graphemes (letters) with phonemes (sounds) using a clear and well thought out scope and sequence. This includes:

  • Consonant and short vowel sounds
  • Digraphs and blends
  • Long vowels and other vowel patterns
  • Six Syllable patterns (closed, open, vowel-consonant-e, r-controlled, vowel pair/diphthong, consonant-le)
  • Affixes


In structured literacy, students are taught the relationship between word meanings and the meaning of groups of words. Relationships between words, phrases, clauses, and sentences are explicitly taught and lead to reading and comprehending paragraphs, text and stories.


What are Structured Literacy Programs?


There are many published programs on the market that make using a structured literacy program in your classroom or homeschool easy by providing scripted lesson plans, a well planned out scope and sequence, and detailed explanations of the spelling rules that will need to be explicitly taught step-by-step to each student. Here is a list of some of the most popular and easy to use programs:

Structured Literacy Programs for Schools and Districts:

Orton-Gillingham Curriculum

Slingerland Curriculum

Lindamood Bell

Sonday System

Structured Literacy Programs for Parents and Tutors:

PRIDE Reading Program

All About Learning Press

Barton Reading System

Wilson Fundations

Where can I learn more about Structured Literacy?

Barshay, Jill. (2020). Four things you need to know about the new reading wars. The Hechinger Report.

Early Reading Instruction: What Science Really Tells Us about How to Teach Reading (The MIT Press, 2004)

Hanford, Emily. (2018). At a loss for words: How a flawed idea is teaching millions of kids to be poor readers. APM Reports.

Here’s Why Schools Should Use Structured Literacy by Dr. Louise Spear-Swerling.  2019.

Seidenberg, M. (2017).  Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It.  New York, N.Y: Basic Books.

Structured Literacy Curriculum: 5 Ways it Will Empower Your School by Karina Richland.  2020.

​Also, check out these Websites for additional information:

International Dyslexia Association

Iowa Reading Research

Reading Rockets

Thank you so much for reading my post today!


Thank you so much for reading my post and learning more about the structured literacy approach! 

Karina Richland, M.A., is the author of the PRIDE Reading Program, a multisensory Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and comprehension curriculum that is available worldwide for parents, tutors, teachers and homeschoolers of struggling readers. Karina has an extensive background in working with students of all ages and various learning modalities. She has spent many years researching learning differences and differentiated teaching practices. You can reach her by email at or visit the website at

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