13 April 2024

Understanding Structured Literacy

Structured Literacy™ instruction is the umbrella term used by the International Dyslexia Association (IDA) to describe evidence-based programmes and approaches that are effective for students with dyslexia.

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Components of structured literacy

Components of structured literacy

Structured Literacy approach explicitly teaches systematic word identification and decoding strategies, which benefit most students but are essential for those with dyslexia.

Key features of structured literacy

Key features of structured literacy

A structured literacy approach is recommended for students with dyslexia and those who are having difficulty with decoding because it directly addresses phonological skills, decoding, and spelling.

A structured literacy approach provides:

  • explicit, systematic, and sequential teaching of literacy at multiple levels – phonemes, letter–sound relationships, syllable patterns, morphemes, vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and text structure
  • cumulative practice and ongoing review
  • a high level of student–teacher interaction
  • the use of carefully chosen examples and non-examples
  • decodable texts
  • prompt, corrective feedback.

Source: Structured literacy and typical literacy practices: Understanding differences to create instructional opportunities (opens in a new tab/window)

Plan a systematic approach

Plan a systematic approach

The goal of systematic teaching is the automatic and fluent application of language knowledge to read for meaning.

  • Plan systematic and cumulative sequences of instruction, which progress from prerequisite skills onto more advanced skills.
  • Give learners ample opportunities to apply their skills in reading texts they are capable of decoding and comprehending.
  • Use student responses to adjust pacing, presentation, and amount of practice.
  • Monitor progress closely through informal (observation) and formal (standardised) measures.

Source: Structured literacy: An introductory guide (opens in a new tab/window)

Provide explicit instruction

Provide explicit instruction

Explain each concept clearly. Provide guided practice. Students are not expected to discover or intuit language concepts simply from exposure to language or reading.

Hands-on, engaging, and multi-modal

Hands-on, engaging, and multi-modal

Pair listening, speaking, reading, and writing with one another to foster multi-modal language learning.

Include hands-on learning such as:

  • moving tiles into sound boxes as words are analysed
  • using hand gestures to support memory for associations
  • building words with letter tiles
  • assembling sentences with words on cards
  • colour coding sentences in paragraphs.

Source: Structured literacy: Effective instruction for students with dyslexia and reading related difficulties (opens in a new tab/window)

Useful resources

Useful resources

Structured literacy. An introductory guide

Structured literacy: An introductory guide

Read time: 5 min

A comprehensive and easy-to-read explanation of this research-based instructional approach.

Publisher: International Dyslexia Association

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Explicit instruction: What you need to know

Read time: 10 min

An explanation of how explicit instruction teaches skills or concepts using direct, structured instruction, modelling how to start and succeed on a task and giving ample time to practise – includes practical advice.

Publisher: Understood

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Understanding dyslexia and literacy acquisition”:

Return to the guide “Dyslexia and learning”

Guide to Index of the guide: Dyslexia and learning


Strategies for action: