Reading Instruction and assessment

The ability to read is a vital part of every student’s literacy journey.

On this page we'll explore reading instruction as well as how to assess students' progress in oral reading fluency. You'll find:

The five pillars of reading

Reading instructional strategies

Reading assessment

Reading intervention

What are the Five Pillars of reading?

There are five key components which are key to developing reading skills right from an early age.

1. Phonemic Awareness

The understanding that spoken language words can be broken into individual phonemes. Being able to identify, manipulate and substitute the smallest units of sound - the building blocks of speech and the foundation of learning to read.

2. Phonics

Turning those sounds into speech and being able to decode the written word - linking sounds and matching them to letters to formulate a word. Phonics instruction teaches students how to use these relationships to read and spell words.

3. Fluency

The ability to read accurately, quickly and with expression - to make sense of the text without having to stop and decode each word. Reading Fluency and the ability to read orally with speed, accuracy, and proper expression is one of several critical factors necessary for reading comprehension.

4. Vocabulary

Knowing what the words mean - helping kids to think more and understand. The larger the reader’s vocabulary (either oral or print), the easier it is to make sense of the text. Better understanding of the meaning of words leads to greater comprehension.

5. Comprehension

The complex cognitive process readers use to understand what they have read and the holy grail of reading! Critical thinking - being able to extract meaning, evaluate information and process ideas.

Understanding the five pillars of reading

Our infographic sums up what five pillars are and as a bonus, we give you access to free resources outlining teaching techniques that can be applied to help students with reading instruction.

Building a strong foundation for literacy success

In this recorded webinar, originally hosted by edWeb, we explore how technology provides much needed one-on-one support to further develop the five pillars and, in turn, prevent students from losing reading achievement in times of change and in remote learning environments.

Strategies and tools to help your students become better readers

This practical guide will help you you to understand the importance of reading aloud, as well as giving you take-away strategies to help implement plans for students to become better readers and progress their reading fluency.

Reading instructional strategies

Imagine being able to give every single child in your class – regardless of age or ability – the proper reading instruction and one-on-one support they need while they practice their reading. Imagine helping them understand the meaning of unfamiliar words, and giving them a full appreciation of the cadence and content of any reading passage.

The open classroom can be far from an ideal environment for kids to practice their reading skills. Especially for shy, less confident students who may be self-conscious about reading in front of their peers. On top of that, recent world events have meant an increased need to track and assess oral reading progress. Identify gaps, fluency development delays or learning loss that may be caused by reduced access to school

We've invited some of the leading reading experts to help you explore the techniques teachers can apply to help struggling students with instruction - either in-class or online.

Differentiated reading instruction with David Paige, Professor of Education

In this webinar, Dr. Paige delves into the best way to organize classrooms to meet the needs of all readers. He talks through the benefits of whole class instruction and implementation of alternative grouping practice, small group instruction, peer pairing & tutoring, and 1-2-1 instruction. More specifically, Dr. Paige discusses how teachers can help students who have difficulty with reading written material, expressing themselves, or learning by listening.

The essentials of developing fluency with Timothy Rasinski, Professor of Reading Education

Hear from literacy expert, Dr. Rasinski, on the importance of reading fluency. He identifies it as the bridge between word learning and comprehension. Discover the two key stages involved - automaticity in word recognition and prosody (expression) - and hear some tips and activities to help develop fluency with children.

How do you assess reading levels?

A popular method used by schools to measure reading achievement or a student reader’s ability is Lexile reading level or a Lexile Measure. A Lexile measure is a valuable tool for teachers, parents, and students. It serves two unique functions: it is the measure of how difficult a text is OR a student’s reading ability level. The Lexile Framework was developed by MetaMetrics©, an educational assessment and research team.

You might be wondering how your student’s Lexile measure compares to their peers. Lexile Grade Level Charts can help you explore the ranges of students’ Lexile measures for each grade.

Assessment is essential for reading because all students are at different levels and abilities. 

A large part of being a reading teacher involves assessing your students' reading levels. There are numerous standardized tests in each state that evaluate student reading comprehension. These determine if a student can move onto the next grade or even graduate.

But, these tests mostly occur towards the end of the school year. How does that help you assess your students right now? You need to be able to evaluate your students and determine where they stand.  Only then can you design instruction that will optimize learning. 

The Zone of Proximal Development

Psychologist Lev Vygotsky first wrote about the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in the 1920’s. Widely known today as the ZPD, it’s become a foundational principle for performance in any area, from academics to arts, athletics and beyond. If you’re an educator, perhaps you’ve already heard of it in relation to evidence-based reading practices or seen it reported on assessments.

ZPD is when the difficulty of a task is beyond what the student can do by themselves, but within range of what they can do with help. Think of ZPD as the ‘sweet spot’ where learning occurs most effectively.

Since the ZPD is based on a student’s skill level, it’s specific to each individual. Finding, leveling and organizing passages for a class full of unique ZPDs could be challenging for a busy teacher. 

Reading intervention

Struggling readers have some big challenges to cope with at every stage in their lives. Few of us relish being labeled as an underachiever, or even just ‘different’. So it’s no surprise that the embarrassment of being forced to read aloud in front of teachers and classmates can have a lifelong impact on a child’s self-esteem, as well as their academic achievement.

  • The following elements should all form part of an effective reading instruction program.

    • An emphasis on oral language, to include vocabulary development
    • Phonemic awareness and the teaching of phonics, decoding and word studies
    • Learning of a sight vocabulary
    • The explicit teaching of comprehension strategies
    • Meaningful writing experiences
    • The development of fluent reading with opportunities for both guided and independent
    • reading, including informal reading activities
    • Reading at the appropriate level
    • Access to a wide-range of reading materials

    • For those who struggle to read, there is a risk that the main purpose of being able to read becomes lost. The desired outcome is that children not only can read, but want to read. For this reason, reading needs to be motivating and meaningful.

      Metacognition is also an important aspect of the learning experience. The goal of intervention is that the child becomes a constructive learner, learns how to learn and becomes a self-regulated, autonomous learner.

    Access to a wide-range of reading material

    We understand that you have limited time when it comes to finding free, high-quality reading resources for your students. We’ve put together a top 10 list for you. One that will help keep your kids reading all year round, whether they are in the classroom or at home.

    Fluency and reading achievement

    The research on reading fluency and reading achievement is just too great to ignore. Studies have found strong associations between reading fluency and overall reading achievement at grades levels ranging from the primary grades to college readers. The research also suggests that a large percentage of students have not achieved satisfactory levels of fluency that are associated with good proficiency.