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5 Myths About the Science of Reading

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We are seeing a big shift, a wave of change that is coming into our classrooms and our schools around the Science of Reading. As we move forward with the Science of Reading, it is important to remember that teacher knowledge is the most essential piece. 

For more on teacher knowledge, check out The Peter Effect and Building Teacher Knowledge.

The Science of Reading is so big and complex, and it covers so many different pieces. It’s important for us to be aware of that as we move into the research. This is why we want to be mindful of where and from whom we’re getting information online. There is some great information out there, but there is also a lot of information that is perpetuating misconceptions.

Today, we will debunk a few of those misconceptions for you and clear up some misunderstandings. But, first…

What is the Science of Reading?

The Science of Reading is a term that is used to refer to the body of scientifically-based research about reading and issues related to reading and writing. 

Dr. Louisa Moats puts it best when she says, “The body of work referred to as the ‘science of reading’ is not an ideology, a philosophy, a political agenda, a one-size-fits-all approach, a program of instruction, nor a specific component of instruction.

It is the emerging consensus from many related disciplines, based on literally thousands of studies, supported by hundreds of millions of research dollars, conducted across the world in many languages. These studies have revealed a great deal about how we learn to read, what goes wrong when students don’t learn, and what kind of instruction is most likely to work the best for the most students.”

The Science of Reading is not just the latest buzzword in literacy. It is knowledge-based and refers to the how, the why, and the what we teach. 

Here are 5 myths about the Science of Reading, debunked!

Myth #1: The Science of Reading is all about phonics.

As we study the brain and we see what is going on in the brain as people learn to read, it is heavy on that word recognition piece. Because of this, phonics is a big part but it is not the only part.  

The Science of Reading and Structured Literacy encompass all of the components of literacy in its instruction, not just phonics. 

Many people think the Orton-Gillingham approach is simply adding in more phonics. In reality, Orton-Gillingham is about constantly infusing all areas of language development into a lesson plan. 

That is what’s at the heart of structured literacy and all that we do as dyslexia interventionists. It’s definitely not just phonics.

Myth #2: A Structured Literacy approach is really just for people with dyslexia. 

We know that a structured literacy approach works very well for people with dyslexia. Now, the research is showing that it will also benefit the majority of the students in your classroom, too! 

Knowing that it will benefit the majority of the students in your classroom, why wouldn’t you want to learn more and make that shift? Putting an emphasis on Structured Literacy in your classroom in the early grades shifts from being reactive to proactive. 

We need to begin to think about and question the strategies that we are using in our classrooms. 

Myth #3: Structured Literacy and the Science of Reading are just about phonological awareness or phonemic awareness. 

The manipulation of individual phonemes is a key component in learning to read, it is necessary and we do need to spend time on it.  

However, that is not the only thing that we do. It is important to understand all of the components that play a role in structured literacy. It’s bigger than simply PA.  

Myth #4: This is just a pendulum swing.

We hear this one a lot. Especially from older teachers who can remember when (or even before) Whole Language was the newest idea. 

This is not the case. This is not simply a pendulum swing in the opposite direction of Whole language that will eventually swing back in that direction.  

The reason is that the Science of Reading is really marked by an openness to sharing research in a way that has never been shared or made public before. The research is out there and in the hands of teachers, and there is so much power in putting the research in the hands of the teachers! There are bridges being built where there was once a chasm between academia and classroom application.

Myth #5: Structured Literacy is just direct instruction and that’s boring.

We know that explicit, direct instruction is really what works best for kids. They need that important direct instruction before they can attempt practice on their own. They need that from us, they need that expert modeling and guidance. 

When we frame our instruction in really thoughtful ways where the kids are engaged with the content and we’re providing thought-provoking questioning, that is not going to be boring. In actuality, it’s going to be exciting and confidence-building for kids. 

If you want to make sure your Structured Literacy lessons aren't boring, learn more about incorporating games into your lessons!

For even more on the Science of Reading, check out our latest episode of the Together in Literacy podcast. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate, leave a positive review, and subscribe!

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