How do you teach students with dyslexia? With explicit instruction. But what IS explicit instruction anyway?
In their book, Anita Archer and Charles A. Hughes tell us that explicit instruction is systematic, direct, engaging, and success oriented.
If you have a few minutes, check out this helpful video from Anita Archer.
It feels a little weird to use the word explicit when talking about teaching because of the word’s negative connotation. But rest assured, in this context explicit simply means that our teaching is direct and clear.
Researchers have identified the characteristics of explicit instruction. Archer and Hughes list them in their book.
You might notice that the above list doesn’t tell you what to teach, but how to teach.
Explicit instruction is about the art of teaching.
This may frustrate you if you came to this post to learn the specifics of what to teach children with dyslexia, but we can trust Archer and Hughes on this.
Effective and efficient instruction requires that we attend to the details of instruction because the details do make a significant difference in providing quality instruction that promotes growth and success.Anita Archer & Charles Hughes in Explicit Instruction
Let’s take a look at some practical ways to bring those sixteen elements to life.
Have your lesson materials organized and ready to go.
Admittedly, this was not my forte as a classroom teacher. In fact we often had games such as “let’s find the teacher’s stapler.” I tended to leave things in piles and forget where I’d placed them.
Our time is precious – and we can maximize it by having organized systems for where we keep our materials. (As my dad would say, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”)
Use a timer to keep yourself on track.
This is an excellent strategy when teaching small group phonics lessons. Set a timer for each portion of your lesson so you save time for reading connected text and doing guided writing.
As a parent of six kids, routines have saved my sanity. My kids appreciate knowing what to expect, and best of all – I don’t have to tell them what comes next because they know.
If I find myself answering the same questions a million times a day, that should clue me in: I need a routine for this.
Use routines in how you line up, hand in papers, start a lesson, get letter tiles, do word sorts … you name it.
Use the I do, We do, You do model in your lessons.
a. I DO – Demonstrate the skill and describe what is being done. Unless the skill is very simple, you will need to model it multiple times. Even though you are modeling, keep your students involved. One way to do this is by having them chorally repeat words and phrases.
Anita Archer is brilliant at active participation. Watch this quick video … you’ll love it!
b. WE DO – As the authors of Explicit Instruction write, “the purpose of initial practice activities in an explicit lesson is to provide students with opportunities to become successful and confident users of the skill.” Guided practice is provided through the use of prompts.
c. YOU DO – Finally, it’s time to determine whether students can perform the task without your prompting. Provide students with several problems similar to the ones you’ve already presented in the lesson, and ask them to do them on their own.
To conclude the lesson, review what was learned and (if appropriate) assign independent work.
Be creative in how you elicit responses.
It’s so easy to just do as we’ve always done … ask a question, wait for hands to go up, and call on someone.
But there are better ways to engage our students.
a. Have students give choral responses. Ask a question, pause, and then say, “Everyone?” Teach your students that this is their cue to answer in unison.
b. Have students give partner responses.
Assign partners and pause after questions for students to discuss the answer with their partner. If the question is more open-ended, call on students to share what their partner stated.
c. Have students work in small groups.
Place students on teams and give each person a number. Their job is to work together to answer the question, making sure they all agree on the answer. Then call out a number; the student with that number must answer for the group.
d. Bring distracted students back to the lesson.
Instead of calling on someone who’s daydreaming, try one of these suggestions from Explicit Instruction:
- Move closer to the disctracted student.
- Give a directive to the whole group. (“I need everyone’s eyes up here.”)
- Give the students something physical to do. (“Circle the number 1 on your paper.”)
As you can see, there’s a lot to say about explicit instruction. We’ve barely scratched the surface today, but this is enough to get you started.
Remember, explicit instruction is important for everyone, and especially our students with dyslexia.