Direct Instruction: Reading

What are the DI Reading Programs?

There are three major DI reading programs. These include:

  • Reading Mastery
  • Horizons
  • Corrective Reading

Other DI reading programs include Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, Journeys, and Funnix. Each of these programs is described.

Reading Mastery was originally called DISTAR (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading). This program includes Levels I, II, and a Fast Cycle I/II program as well as Levels 3-6 (referred to as Reading Mastery Classic). This program teaches students "learning to read" (phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency) and "reading to learn" (vocabulary and comprehension) skills. Reading Mastery Plus provides a broader language-arts focus (with emphasis on reading, writing, spelling, and language) and includes seven levels (K-6). The K (kindergarten) feature is unique to the Reading Mastery Plus program. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is a modified version ofReading Mastery that can be purchased at most bookstores. It is designed for parents to teach their young children to read at approximately the 2.0 grade level.

Horizons was designed to address various criticisms of Reading Mastery-Horizons uses regular type as compared to altered orthography (print) as well as an earlier introduction of spelling and capital letters. It includes Levels A, B, Fast Track A-B, and Fast Track C-D. Horizons also teaches important "learning to read" and "reading to learn" skills. Journeys is comparable to the expanded Reading Mastery Plus program in that it is an integrated language arts program using Horizons as its base reading program as compared toReading Mastery in the Reading Mastery Plus program. Journeys includes Levels K-3. Funnix is a CD-ROM program that includes two levels ideal for beginning readers. Funnixwas adapted from the Horizons reading program.

If students struggle in "learning to read" or "reading to learn" skills, then Corrective Reading is recommended. Corrective Reading includes two strands-Decoding andComprehension-and four levels per strand (A, B1, B2, and C). The Reach System is an integrated, comprehensive language arts program that includes Corrective Reading as well as other DI programs including Spelling Through Morphographs and Reasoning and Writing.

For Whom are DI Reading Programs Appropriate?

Reading Mastery, Reading Mastery Plus, Horizons, and Journeys are typically seen in elementary school classrooms. These basal reading programs are ideal for use in schools that adopt research-validated core reading programs spanning the grades (allowing a seamless "pipeline" of instruction to occur from one grade to the next). However, more often than not, these programs have been dubbed "special education programs" and are seen in resource and self-contained room settings. These DI reading programs are appropriate for elementary-age children with and without disabilities who are above, at, or below grade level in their reading performance. Programs typically span one academic year.

Funnix and Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons are often seen in home or tutorial situations. They are geared for parents to use with their young children in teaching them to read for the first time (as compared to reading remediation). However, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons has been used with struggling readers in tutorial situations.

Finally, when students in Grades 4-12 struggle with reading, Corrective Reading is the program of choice. If students experience difficulties in learning to read (word attack/decoding), they would most likely receive instruction in the Corrective Reading Decoding program; likewise, if students experience difficulties in reading to learn (comprehension), they would most likely receive instruction in the Corrective Reading Comprehension program. Levels of these programs typically span 1/2 of an academic year (with the exception of Level C that is done over one academic year). If deficits are seen "across the board" in language arts (reading, spelling, and writing), the Reach Systemwould be utilized; this system includes the integration of Corrective Reading, Reasoning and Writing, and Spelling Through Morphographs (note: the latter two programs are described under DI Writing and Spelling Programs). Thus, one typically sees Corrective Reading/Reach System in special education situations where intensive reading/language arts instruction is needed.

What are the Key Elements of Reading Instruction in DI Reading Programs?

(Note: Given their wide-spread use in general and special education classrooms, Reading Mastery and Corrective Reading will be highlighted.)

Reading is, without a doubt, the most important skill to learn in school. Reading opens the doors to so many options in our lives; without it, we are rendered almost powerless. The National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) noted five elements of effective reading instruction. These include phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency (referred to as "learning to read" skills) and vocabulary building and comprehension (referred to as "reading to learn" skills). DI reading programs include the key elements of reading instruction.

Phonemic awareness. DI reading programs involve phonemic awareness activities. Phonemic awareness is defined as the ability to identify and manipulate the individual sounds in spoken words (remember, "if you can do it in the dark, its phonemic awareness"). This is not to be confused with phonics instruction that involves manipulating sounds in written words (thus, you cannot do phonics instruction "in the dark" because you have to see what is written). An example of phonemic awareness instruction in Reading Mastery Plus, Level K, Lesson 105 is shown.

Phonics instruction. DI reading programs include an emphasis on explicit and systematic phonics instruction. Explicit instruction means that clear information is provided for teachers to show students how to perform a task, to have students practice this task with feedback, and then to have students practice the task on their own over time. Systematic instruction means that clear sequencing is provided to ensure that students are successful. DI reading programs make use of synthetic phonics (teaching phonics explicitly in isolation and then practicing skills in connected text), blending (saying each sound without stopping between the sounds), and saying words the fast way. These elements are illustrated in the following examples taken from Reading Mastery Classic Level I, Lesson 34.

Fluency. DI reading programs include opportunities for oral reading with teacher feedback. Additionally, these programs involve timed oral reading fluency assessments (called Rate and Accuracy Checks in Reading Mastery and Reading Checkouts in Corrective Reading Decoding). Corrective Reading Decoding also includes opportunities for students to graph their performance for a visual representation of words read per minute and errors (see sample Corrective Reading lesson in the next section). Reading Mastery Plus includes a thermometer that students color in as they pass reading checkouts of increasingly more words. A thermometer taken from Reading Mastery Plus, Level 3 is shown.

    Vocabulary. DI reading programs include direct teaching of vocabulary words. We often gain vocabulary knowledge from listening to others or reading on our own; however, sometimes students need explicit teaching of key vocabulary words in isolation that will appear in connected text to understand what they are going to read. Direct teaching of vocabulary is illustrated in the following examples from Reading Mastery Plus Level 6. Teachers provide direct instruction in Box B (Vocabulary Definitions); then students practice their skills in Box D (Vocabulary Review); finally, students use context clues to determine correct use of vocabulary words (Box B: Vocabulary found in student's workbook).

    Comprehension. DI reading programs include comprehension activities. Students are asked literal and inferential questions (they are scripted in the teacher presentation books) at specified times in the connected text activities (see sample lessons in Reading Mastery Plus and Corrective Reading Decoding in the next section). Also, students learn key comprehension strategies to help them understand what they read. For example, students learn how to use reference books to gather information in Reading Mastery Plus, Level 6.