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Lower Elementary Literacy Core Components of Instruction

Reading and writing can change our lives. They are critical gateways to academic and professional success and they also shape the
way we view and interact with the world around us. Reading opens up our lives to new places, perspectives, and knowledge while
writing empowers and equips us to share our thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, far too many students leave lower elementary
without these experiences or skills.
The impact of leaving lower elementary school without reading and writing proficiently is devastating. Nearly 90 percent of students
who struggle to read at the end of the primary school will remain poor readers. Known as the Matthews Effect, students who do
not learn to read during the primary grades tend to become discouraged and read far less than their peers. As a result, the gap
between these students continues to grow each year.
It doesnt have to be this way. Researchers have found that young children who struggle with literacy typically have skills gaps, not
cognitive deficiencies that prevent them from being successful. Through providing exemplary instruction, working in partnership
with families, and deeply believing in students, teachers can set their students up not only to read and write proficiently, but to also
experience the joy of reading and writing.

Our Approach to Lower Elementary Literacy: Principles of Exemplary Literacy Instruction

Rich & High Quality Complex Texts. All students, regardless of reading level are exposed to complex &
rich grade level text. These types of texts encourage students and teachers to dig more deeply into their
meanings and require students to grapple with more complex academic vocabulary. Texts selected should
be well written and, as appropriate, richly illustrated. This principle holds true when selecting texts for
both reading aloud and texts for students to read independently. The most effective teachers also place a
special emphasis on certain types of texts:
Nonfiction. Students should split their time roughly 50-50 between fiction and nonfiction texts,
allowing them to gain useful background and content knowledge while honing their literacy skills.
Reflects and affirms students backgrounds. Specifically, students read fiction or literary
nonfiction texts that feature authors, characters or communities that share their background.

Scaffolding and Differentiation: Students consistently work in their zone of proximal development and
receive coaching that pushes them beyond their current abilities. Teachers diagnose students reading
and writing abilities, determine their most pressing gaps, and intentionally coach students to close these
gaps. Researchers have found that this process of continually monitoring students progress and giving
students just enough support to push them forward (without doing the work for them) is one the
hallmarks of the most transformational literacy teachers.

Strong Family & Student Investment: Students, their families, and the teacher are all deeply invested in
the importance of reading and writing. Students truly enjoy reading and writing and their teacher and
their families work in partnership to ensure that their students are growing academically, developing a
love of reading and writing, and are supported both at home and at school. Since nearly 80% of the
literacy gap between low and high-income students is linked to summer slide, families, students, and
teachers must work together to ensure students will continue to read and write beyond the school year.

Miles on the Page: Students in the highest performing classrooms spend significantly more time reading
and writing than students in other classrooms. Experts suggest a minimum of 90 minutes of reading and
30 minutes of writing spread across the day. At least 30 minutes of the reading time should be spent
reading just right books independently or with a partner.
Writing time should be split between
narrative, opinion, and expository.

Balanced Literacy: Students spend their time balanced between learning the skills and strategies of strong
readers and writers (phonics, fluency, word work, reading and writing strategies, etc.) and spending their
time practicing these skills while reading authentic texts and writing meaningful pieces.

1. "Learning to Read and Write: A Longitudinal Study of 54 Children From First Through Fourth Grades." Reading Rockets. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan.
Shaywitz, S. E., J. M. Fletcher, J. M. Holahan, A. E. Shneider, K. E. Marchione, K. K. Stuebing, D. J. Francis, K. R. Pugh, and B. A. Shaywitz. "Persistence
of Dyslexia: The Connecticut Longitudinal Study at Adolescence." Pediatrics 104.6 (1999): 1351-359. Print.
2. Stanovich, Keith E. "Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy." Reading Research
Quarterly 21.4 (1986): 360-407. Print.
3. "Waiting Rarely Works: Late Bloomers Usually Just Wilt." Reading Rockets. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.
4. Richard L. Allington, Anne McGill-Franzen, Gregory Camilli, Lunetta Williams, Jennifer Graff, Jacqueline Zeig, Courtney Zmach & Rhonda Nowak
Addressing Summer Reading Setback Among Economically Disadvantaged Elementary Students Reading Psychology. Volume 31, Issue
5, October 2010, pages 411-427
5. Allington, Richard L. What Really Matters for Struggling Readers: Designing Research-based Programs. New York: Longman, 2001. Print.

About the Core Components of Instruction

The Core Components of Instruction were created to provide a north star for CMs and staff that outlines our organizations best
thinking about what constitutes the most transformational lower elementary literacy classrooms. Specifically, the CCI were
developed through:
Common Core research including the standards, publishing criteria, released test questions, & exemplar unit & lesson plans
Case studies of exemplary lower elementary literacy teachers (Knapp, 1995; Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston,
1998; Pressley, Allington, Wharton-McDonald, Block, & Morrow, 2001; Allington & Johnson, 2002; Taylor Pearson, Clark, &
Walpole, 2000)
Observations and interviews with outstanding teachers
Interviews with CMs and staff

Further Reading & Resources:

Common Core ELA Standards

K-2 Common Core Publishers Criteria: Criteria designed to guide curriculum developers as they work to ensure alignment
with the standards in English language arts

Common Core Appendix A: Learn about the research behind the importance of text complexity as well as how to determine
the complexity of a text.

Common Core Appendix B: Text Exemplars for Grades K-12

Common Core Appendix C: Student Writing Exemplars for Grades K-12

Million Words Campaign: TFAs national campaign for increasing students volume and love of reading. Includes day-by-day
guide for implementing independent reading, suggestions for acquiring books, motivating students, and tracking progress.

Learning to Read: Lessons from Exemplary First Grade Classrooms: Extensive case studies of the most exemplary first grade
teachers. Great for building background knowledge and vision setting for lower elementary teachers.

Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children: research behind how children learn to read & difficulties that can be
prevented with strong instruction

Reading Instruction that Works: The Case for Balanced Literacy: balancing skills with authentic reading & writing