Enhancing Literacy: Tips from TEACHING Exceptional Children

One of our goals in launching a blog is to bring you up-to-date news, advocacy efforts, and research developments that impact the special education community. This space is all about offering the resources you need, so please let us know if there’s a specific topic you think we should cover!

Today on the blog, we wanted to draw your attention to a helpful article on enhancing literacy in the special education classroom. You'll find the full article in the current issue of TEACHING Exceptional Children, on pages eighteen to thirty: "10 Research-Based Tips for Enhancing Literacy Instruction for Students with Intellectual Disability" by Christopher J. Lemons, Jill H. Allor, Stephanie Al Otauiba, and Lauren M. LeJeune.
The article emphasizes what so many special education teachers know from experience, that with the right materials and practices, “children and adolescents with ID can obtain higher levels of reading achievement than previously anticipated” (p. 19). 

The tips highlighted below are quoted directly from the article, and we hope you find them as helpful and motivating as we do! If you can access the full article (requires subscription or short-term membership: download here), definitely give it a read.  Some of the tips include:

Tip 2: Set Meaningful, Measurable Goals
…it is essential that literacy instruction for students with ID focus on increasing students’ independence as readers (p. 22). 
Tip 3: Provide Explicit Systematic Reading Instruction

We believe that using one reading program as a base will help teachers deliver instruction in a more systematic way.

We strongly recommend that teachers select an evidence-based program that provides explicit models, corrective feedback, scaffolding, reinforcement and cumulative review as well as a focus on systematic instruction in phonological awareness and phonics skills. **

Another element of systematic teaching is providing instruction that enables students to apply skills across contexts and make connections among related skills (all Tip 3 quotes from p. 23).

Tip 4: Provide Instruction with Sufficient Intensity to Accomplish Goals

Instruction should be engaging, and a plan should be in place to closely monitor the student’s response to instruction (p. 24).

Tip 7: Scaffold Working Memory
...such as integrating letters into phonological awareness activities to provide additional support (phonological awareness is often taught without letters for typically developing young students)(p. 26). 
Tip 8: Use Data to Guide Instruction and Adaptation
One of the most important things teachers can do to increase the likelihood that students with ID obtain reading goals is to use data to monitor progress and guide ongoing adaptations (p. 26).
All of the tips and quotes listed above are core to the instructional strategies for Early Literacy Skills Builder (ELSB), Early Reading Skills Builder (ERSB), Teaching to Standards: English Language Arts, and the app and software, Access: Language Arts. We are proud to offer so many research-based curricula focusing on reading and literacy! Be sure to let us know in the comments if you have any questions about implementing these to enhance literacy in your classroom.

** One of the four “promising intervention programs” listed in reference to Tip #3 is Early Literacy Skills Builder (ELSB).

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