Why Explicit Teaching is Student Centred

Book on Kid's Lap

Ever hear someone say that they prefer a ‘student centred’ approach over explicit instruction? I have and I have to say that it left me shaking my head.  You see, I think that structured, explicit reading instruction IS student centred. Here’s why. 

1. Structured literacy involves carefully monitoring student progress and responding to struggles immediately. I think of non-structured reading instruction as a ‘cast a net’ style of teaching. Teachers do some things hoping that their net catches the students. The opposite of this is fishing with a line loaded with the perfect lure and bait for the students (structured literacy).  You know what students need and know how they learn best. You meet them where they are up to. 


2. Structured literacy responds to the evidence of how children read and learn.  Teaching isn’t based on ideology or the mistaken belief that learning to read is as natural as learning to speak. It isn’t designed to meet the needs of some students and leave others floundering.  Structured literacy works because teachers recognise that reading and writing are biologically secondary and must be taught intentionally and explicitly.


3. When we teach using explicit instruction, we walk side by side with our students, guiding them every step of the way.  No student is left to figure things out for themselves or discover how to read through immersive experiences.  Teachers carefully break learning down into small parts, supporting students to develop mastery in each part before moving on to more complex skills and knowledge. 


4. Structured literacy is an undertaking of high expectations.  When we teach reading explicitly, we do not pass the buck for student growth to others. We don’t blame a lack of results on parents not reading to their children enough or a student’s own lack of motivation. We stand with our students and say, “Student learning is my responsibility. Every student will learn on my watch.” 


5. Structured literacy involves engaging students with a range of books including decodables, high interest non-fiction and beautiful fiction text. As we do this, we are careful never to put a child in the position where they are asked to read something they do not yet have the skills to read. We never set children up for failure. Structured literacy protects students’ confidence and self-esteem as they grow to be able to read and love any book they want to. 


Next time you hear someone saying that phonics and explicit teaching isn’t child centred, I hope you’ll share this post with them.  In my opinion, structured literacy is the ultimate in child centred instruction. 

Looking for ready-made resources to help you implement structured literacy in your classroom?  Read more about the Resource Room here. 

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