Home Education Choosing a Skill for Explicit Instruction in Reading

Choosing a Skill for Explicit Instruction in Reading



You may be asking, what is explicit instruction? Explicit instruction is a method of teaching in which the teacher breaks a specific skill down into manageable steps, clearly models those steps, and then engages the learner in guided practice, followed by independent practice. Explicit instruction is most often used for math and reading skills, but in this article, we will focus on how it can be applied to reading skills.

Explicit instruction is a gradual release method of teaching that follows three critical steps. It begins with clear modeling, also known as the “I do” stage. Once the teacher has modeled the new skill, they move onto guided practice, working alongside the students. This second step is often referred to as the “We do” stage. Once students are performing the skill well with teacher guidance, they are ready for the third step which is some form of independent practice, also known as the “You do” stage. To learn more about explicit instruction, visit some of the websites listed in our Resources section.

Once you understand the benefits and see the value of explicit instruction, the challenge becomes deciding which skills on which to plan your explicit instruction lessons around. Here is a four step process you can use to determine those skills.

STEP ONE: Determine the reading level of each student, and set an instructional goal for where they should be.

Reading levels can be determined by any number of assessments. Some of the most commonly known assessments include the Benchmark Assessment System (also known as BAS) developed by Fountas and Pinnell, the Developmental Reading Assessment (also known as DRA), and Lexile Levels. See our list of helpful resources for websites with information about each of these assessments. Which one you choose will most likely be dictated by your school or district. As long as you use a consistent test, and implement it with fidelity for all students, you will have accurate data from which to plan your instruction.

Most schools and/or districts will have a standardized list of expected reading levels per grade level. These are often broken down even further into beginning of the year, middle of the year, and end of year expectations. Once you know your students’ current reading levels, you can set goals for each of them based on those expectations. However, make sure your goals are realistic. For example, if you have a student at a BAS level of K and they should be reading at a level P, your first manageable goal would most likely be to have them reading at an L or M level. Goals can always be updated as they make progress!

STEP TWO:  Determine the main area of frustration for each student that keeps them from reading at the next level. The typical areas of frustration to consider are accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.

  • Accuracy is the skill of decoding words correctly, and recognizing sight words. Accuracy begins with basic phonetic skills in kindergarten and as students progress in grade levels and reading levels, they will be able to decode more challenging words. Accuracy is usually stated as a percentage of words read correctly. To determine a reader’s accuracy rate, you need to take a running record while they read aloud. Mark each word incorrectly called, and then total up the number of errors. Subtract the number of errors from total words in the passage to determine the number of words they read accurately. Divide the number of words read correctly by the total number of words in the passage, and you will have their accuracy rate. For example, in a passage of 252 words, a student with 7 errors would have an accuracy rate of 97% (245 / 252 = .9722222).
  • Fluency is the ability to read a text accurately, quickly, and with expression. Fluency is usually measured in a words per minute rate, and the expected fluency rates increase at each grade level. The chart below is based on research from Rasinski, T. & Padak, N. (2005). 3-Minute Reading Assessments. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc and gives you an idea of what you should expect in fluency rates at each elementary grade level.


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