What Are the Different Types of Literacy Instruction?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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Literacy instruction occurs at all levels of a child's education. Though the most basic form of literacy focuses on learning to sound out and read words, literacy also involves the ability to understand and recall what was read. In terms of teaching reading, instruction usually focuses on phonics or whole-word reading. For literary comprehension, instructors often teach strategies that students can use while reading to better understand a text.

One type of literacy instruction that is often used with students who cannot read is phonics. This system teaches students which sounds are associated with which letters. Practice can involve matching letters to objects that start with the same sound or kinesthetic activities that have students move the an appropriate letter when its corresponding sound is heard. The benefit of this type of literacy instruction is that students are given the skills to effectively read words they have never encountered before.

Beginning readers may also be asked to memorize words that are frequently encountered. These words go into a student's vocabulary of sight words that do not need to be sounded out as they are encountered. Though teaching whole-word memorization is effective literacy instruction for some students, many, especially those with dyslexia or other learning difficulties, may not be able to learn to read in this manner.


When students are learning to read, one of the most important parts of literacy instruction is providing ample time for practice. Literacy takes many years to fully develop. Students should also be exposed to a variety of different texts at levels that they can read alone, levels that they can read with assistance, and levels that they can understand when read aloud to. Providing a variety of literary experiences allows students to find topics they enjoy, increasing a student's chances of selecting reading as a leisure activity later on. Leveled reading also encourages students to continue to improve their reading skills.

Once students have basic reading skills, literacy instruction focuses more on on reading comprehension. Students may still be coached when sounding out difficult words, but literacy involves more than just the ability to read the words printed on a page. Instructors may give students a variety of different strategies for decoding a text and drawing conclusions about it. Instructors may model the strategies of effective readers, teach students how to understand what they have read, and give students lots of time to practice as part of their literacy instruction.


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Post 3

@Fa5t3r - One thing that might help in a situation like that, where you don't have many literacy teaching skills to call on, is to just read to them. Read to them from a wide variety of texts, keeping your finger on each word and try to get them to learn what individual words look like as much as possible.

It's not ideal, but it's better than nothing, and it will give them a bit of a boost in skill at least.

Post 2

@clintflint - I spent some time in a country where I wasn't quite fluent in the main language and I decided I would help the kids in my host family with their reading. It didn't work out all that well, since I didn't have a clue where to start. I'm not sure now that I would have had the skill in teaching literacy that was necessary even if I was fluent in the language.

It was actually really frustrating, because they were being taught by rote learning, which is the absolute worst way to teach someone how to read. They could all "read" the books they were assigned verbatim but couldn't identify any of the words in isolation.

Post 1

It's actually surprisingly difficult to learn how to teach children how to read. I always assumed that it was fairly straightforward, but I recently took a course in literacy instruction and there was a huge amount to learn.

It's not just a matter of teaching them the alphabet song and then hoping for the best. You have to understand how to figure out where they are in terms of progress and what they need to focus on to get to the next level. You need to know when to point out something they should work on and when to let them keep going. You have to know what kinds of literature to give them that will keep them interested but

be just difficult enough to help them improve.

On top of this, you're also expected to have an understanding of how the language works in general and how to explain that to a five-year-old. The difference between a comma and a full stop, for example, is tough to pin down on their level.

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