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Direct and Explicit Instruction Demystified

Direct and Explicit Instruction

Orton-Gillingham is the name of the approach used by teachers and tutors of students with dyslexia. Structured Literacy or Science of Reading are other names which have recently been applied to this same approach to teaching those with dyslexia. One of the principles of the approach is an emphasis on direct and explicit instruction.

Direct and explicit instruction means we teach the students step by step, exactly what we intend for them to learn. This approach to teaching is precisely what dyslexic students need to help clarify language information they have stored incorrectly or incompletely. Confusion about language is at the very heart of dyslexia.

Give Me an Example

For example, it is not uncommon for dyslexic students to be confused about the names or the sounds of the letters g and j. At first, we may wonder how something so foundational could be confusing, until we stop and consider that the two letters look similar, the names start with the same sound, and that sometimes g makes the same sound as a j. Instruction pointing out the differences, some tactile tracing of the letter forms, and practice categorizing words by j and g spelling help to quickly dispel the confusion. Learning when g makes the /j/ sound usually is the final piece to solving the puzzle.

The same type of clear, pointed teaching, applied to each area of language, is what changes the student from one who was confused about language to one who is now clear about language! This happy outcome is not easily accomplished, but is worth every bit of effort required, since it can change the student’s life.

Expand Direct and Explicit Instruction

In the classroom, students use language to understand all their other subjects. Realizing this to be true opens our thinking about how all subjects are taught, realizing the same approach which is used with astounding success when remediating language deficits among students with dyslexia can also be successfully applied to all content areas.

Give Me an Example of How to Expand

When introducing a new chapter in history or science, introducing vocabulary words unique to the subject or chapter by dividing long ones into syllables, discussing prefixes or suffixes, and walking through the book’s definition will give all students, but particularly students with dyslexia a better understanding of what sentences containing those unique vocabulary words mean are each ways to apply direct and explicit instruction to subjects not specifically categorized as language subjects. Whether done in the classroom or at home with a parent, keeping in mind the power of direct and explicit instruction can greatly impact understanding of the subject.

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