Principles of Reading Instruction

Published April 1, 1998

According to the University of Oregon’s Bonnie Grossen, seven teaching principles summarize the findings from $200 million of research conducted over 30 years by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

1. Teach Sounds Directly

Since phonemic awareness does not develop naturally, kindergarten students must be taught that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of elementary speech sounds, or phonemes.

2. Teach Sound-Letter Correspondence

Students should be explicitly taught the single sound of each letter or letter combination, with practice in recognizing letter-sound relationships in simple decodable text (words).

3. Teach Sound-Spelling Relationships

Before asking students to read them, systematically teach the 70 most common sound-spelling relationships, progressing from easier to more difficult.

4. Teach Sounding Out Words

When students have learned a few sound-spelling relationships, teach them how to blend these sound/spellings into words, moving sequentially from left to right as the individual spellings are sounded out.

5. Teach Reading Words (Decodable Text)

Give students extensive practice in applying their knowledge of sound-spelling relationships by having them work on decodable text–words that use the sound-spelling correspondences that they have been systematically taught.

6. Teach Reading Comprehension

Teach comprehension by having the teacher read interesting stories that contain words the students use in their spoken vocabulary but have not yet learned to read.

7. Teach Decoding and Comprehension Separately

To become fluent readers, students must spend their time reading for meaning rather than spending time on decoding. Thus, decoding and comprehension should be taught separately so that students can properly focus on speeding up their decoding skills.