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10 Early Literacy Instructional Best Practices for Michigan Educators

10 Early Literacy Instructional Best Practices for Michigan Educators

Establishing a strong foundation in literacy is absolutely essential to future academic success, including attainment of the new college- and career-ready standards that are being put in place under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Initiatives related to reading by the 3rd grade are becoming increasingly common across the country, and Michigan is no exception.

Michigan’s Early Literacy Initiative was first developed in 2015. Now, with full implementation of ESSA on the horizon, it’s receiving renewed attention. Recently, the MAISA GELN Early Literacy Task Force Early Literacy Task Force released research-supported guidelines on Essential Instructional Practices in Early Literacy. This framework not only provides great tips that educators can put to use right away in a variety of classroom settings, but it also offers insight into what kinds of tools, instructional resources, and online programs that Michigan educators should look for to support literacy learning.

Here, we’ve summarized all 10 instructional practices recommended by MAISA GELN and taken a look at the online program features that can help educators implement them.

  1. “Deliberate, research-informed efforts to foster literacy motivation and engagement within and across lessons”

Encourage learners to see reading and writing as enjoyable activities rather than purely as assignments by providing practical applications for literacy that encourage agency, curiosity, and excitement. Foster young students’ confidence in their reading and writing abilities, and be cautious with the use of non-reading-related incentives.

Look for online programs that:

  • Provide scaffolded lessons that are personalized for each student and include real-world examples
  • Offer extensive, appropriate, leveled digital libraries that allow students to select reading and activities based on their interests
  • Incorporate reading-skills-based gamification to reward student progress and increase motivation
  1. “Read alouds of age-appropriate books and other materials, print or digital”

Make regular time spent reading aloud to your students a priority in order to model fluency and comprehension strategies, facilitate reading experiences (and the associated learning) that students aren’t yet ready for independently, and encourage meaningful discussion.

Look for online programs that:

  • Include lesson plans and other teacher support materials to provide a framework for read-aloud activities
  • Feature consistent characters and stories that serve as a bridge between lessons
  1. “Small group and individual instruction, using a variety of grouping strategies, most often with flexible groups formed and instruction targeted to children’s observed and assessed needs in specific aspects of literacy development”

Balance time spent on small-group and individual instruction to make sure that each student has opportunities to develop fluency (e.g., through partner reading) and receive the unique coaching required, especially in regard to word recognition, comprehension, text structure, and writing strategies.

Look for online programs that:

  • Provide instructors with assessment data that can be leveraged to group students according to skills and needs
  • Feature personalized lessons and printable options that students can work on independently to reinforce the skills they need to build
  1. “Activities that build phonological awareness”

Make development of critical phonemic awareness skills a priority, especially in grades K and 1, by engaging in regular explanations, demonstrations, and games related to individual words and specific sounds within words.

Look for online programs that:

  • Build upon foundational skills and require active engagement from students to progress
  • Provide instruction in multiple learning modalities, including written passages, audio, and video
  1. “Explicit instruction in letter-sound relationships”

Don’t overlook foundational instruction focused on letters, including their names, the sounds associated with them, and later, more complex letter-sound relationships like digraphs, blends, diphthongs, common spelling patterns, construction of multisyllabic words, and unique characteristics of high-frequency words. Incorporate instruction in multiple modalities, and be sure to reinforce recognition of letter-sound relationships when children are reading. 

Look for online programs that:

  • Incorporate regular formative assessment to ensure that students are gradually mastering skills
  • Provide instruction with careful scaffolding via various activities and approaches and intentional repetition to build automaticity
  1. “Research- and standards-aligned writing instruction”

Reading may get more attention, but writing is an equally important component of literacy. Provide students with daily opportunities to practice writing, expose them to different types of texts, and offer formal instruction on the writing process (e.g., research, planning, revising, and editing).

Look for online programs that:

  • Include teacher-graded writing items that encourage students to write for a variety of purposes and audiences, including opinion-based, explanatory, and narrative formats
  • Incorporate explicit grammar instruction, including letter formation, spelling strategies, capitalization, punctuation, and sentence construction 
  1. “Intentional and ambitious efforts to build vocabulary and content knowledge” 

Push your students’ boundaries when it comes to vocabulary. Regularly introduce new words and meanings during reading and instruction, help students make connections with existing vocabulary, and provide plenty of opportunities for them to make use of new words in class discussions and other meaningful contexts. 

Look for online programs that:

  • Include instruction on common word roots, inflections, prefixes, and suffixes to help students identify unknown words
  • Scaffold vocabulary instruction with lessons that build on previous vocabulary with new word meanings and nuances
  • Feature dictionary tools to help students decipher new vocabulary
  1. “Abundant reading material and reading opportunities in the classroom” 

Every classroom should be a literacy-rich environment. Make sure that books and other reading materials that appeal to students’ wide-ranging interests are easily accessible and available for children outside of the classroom. Additionally, ensure that there are comfortable, welcoming spaces throughout the classroom for students to read independently and with one another.

Look for online programs that:

  • Feature extensive digital libraries organized by subject and reading level
  • Include reading selections that are available as audio recordings and printable packages
  • Provide teacher guides, connected lessons, and other support materials to go along with reading selections 
  1. “Ongoing observation and assessment of children’s language and literacy development that informs their education”

Regular observation by instructors is key to understanding what each student needs to support the development of literacy. Formative and diagnostic assessments guided by understanding of literacy development and state standards should be implemented to monitor progress and identify students who may need additional interventions.

Look for online programs that:

  • Offer curriculum aligned to the Michigan K–12 Standards for English Language Arts Feature diagnostic assessments to determine students’ baseline knowledge as well as growth
  • Include short, regular measures of mastery to formatively assess progress
  • Present assessment data in a clear, easy-to-understand manner to help teachers inform instruction and target specific needs
  1. “Collaboration with families in promoting literacy”

Literacy development shouldn’t stop when students leave the classroom. Engage with students’ families to help them understand the importance of literacy, and provide resources and strategies to encourage reading at home (including books, magazines, and information about local literacy-focused library and museum events).

Look for online programs that:

  • Allow students to access their individualized lessons, activities, and reading materials at home
  • Provide immediate feedback to support students and their parents working on assignments at home

Edmentum is proud to offer research-based online programs to support effective instructional practices for literacy. Exact Path provides adaptive diagnostic assessments and individualized learning paths aligned to the Michigan K–12 Standards to meet all students exactly where they are in their literacy journey. Our dynamic two-in-one literacy solution, Reading Eggs and Reading Eggspress, is designed to build and reinforce foundational literacy skills through rich, interactive lessons and activities. Ready to learn more? Get a quote today!