Comprehensive Instruction vs. Functional Literacy Instruction: Which is Best?

by The Boardmaker Team December 03, 2019

Comprehensive Instruction vs. Functional Literacy Instruction: Which is Best?

When you think of literacy instruction for students with significant learning needs, do any of these activities come to mind?

  • Memorizing words on flashcards
  • Identifying street signs
  • Following recipes
  • Matching food items with their pictures

Generally, these are the kinds of activities that fall under the heading of functional literacy. While they can be motivating, it's a stretch to call them instruction. Why? Because literacy instruction, in its true nature, will support students in generalizing their knowledge across all reading and writing contexts. Ultimately, the only symbol set that allows you to say what you want to say when you want to say it is the alphabet. So let's agree to teach it!

What can you do for your beginners?

Look for materials that:

  • Provide comprehensive instruction that supports students in learning letters, sounds, and words, in addition to introducing new vocabulary, providing shared reading opportunities, as well as independent time for looking at books and early writing attempts.
  • Don't forget to make your student's AAC solution available! Literacy learning is an active process. All students need the means to communicate during instruction what they know, but also what they think, feel, and believe.
  • Read and reread favorite books for different purposes to model how we make meaning of texts.
  • Provide an alternative pencil that gives each child a means to select all 26 letters of the alphabet.
  • Connect books to each child's experiences and knowledge, rather than quiz them or constantly evaluate what they know.
  • Organize your literacy instructional time around student interest. Or at least start there!
  • Make literacy instruction meaningful. Remind students why it's worth the effort to engage in reading and writing activities and celebrate all attempts and responses.

Does this list sound like a tall order? If it does, that's okay. Pick one of these things and implement it this week. Then add another next week, and so on. Or, for a good model in providing accessible, comprehensive literacy instruction, sign up for a free trial of Boardmaker Online. Take a look at Reading Avenue under the curriculum tab. It includes Daily Quick Lesson Guides that you can use directly or as a model for creating your own instructional activities.

Ultimately, can you think of anything more functional than learning to read and write? In the words of Senior Associate Director Emeritus David Yoder (of the Center for Literacy and Disability Instruction UNC-Chapel Hill), "No child is too anything to learn to read and write."

Let's all get started today!

The Boardmaker Team
The Boardmaker Team

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