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Implementing Structured Literacy

Jeanine Cyrwus, M.Ed., CAGS
Academic Coordinator, Reading/Language Arts

Structured Literacy is a term adopted by the International Dyslexia Association, and refers to reading programs that are rooted in evidence and research. Examples you may be familiar with are curriculums that follow Orton-Gillingham (OG) methodologies. Programs that follow Structured Literacy are known to be beneficial for all learners and are not only effective, but essential for students with language-based learning disabilities. Oakwood’s approach to teaching reading, in part by using an OG-based curriculum, follows the content and methods in Structured Literacy. As such, it is based on the principles that lessons are explicitly taught in a sequential, systematic, and cumulative way, and are diagnostic and responsive.

What do these critical literacy skills entail? First, the skills are taught explicitly and teachers do not assume students will learn the concepts on their own. When a method of teaching is sequential and systematic, it is organized in a manner that begins with basic concepts and progresses to cover more difficult concepts and elements. By being cumulative, the skills build upon previously learned lessons. Lastly, the teachers must be diagnostic and responsive in their lessons. As such, student growth is assessed both formally and informally to determine future lessons and identify when a student can apply skills with automaticity. The multisensory instruction that follows is individualized to meet the student’s needs.

Many teacher-training programs across the country lack instruction in current literacy research. As a result, teachers are ill-equipped to follow the principles of Structured Literacy once they are in the classroom. In a research study conducted by Education Week, only 22% of college reading professors even centered their instruction on explicit, systematic phonics. Oakwood School recognizes the need for professional development to provide our teachers with tools to deliver research-based reading instruction. Beyond having licensed teachers, most with a Master’s Degree or working towards obtaining one, all Oakwood teachers have been trained in the Orton-Gillingham method, and receive ongoing professional development.

Oakwood has implemented these research-based teaching methods before Structured Literacy was coined. The school remains committed to providing our bright students who learn differently the best multisensory and effective instruction.


Christina, Riley, and Miller, Beth. “What Is Balanced Literacy and How Is It Different From the Approach to Teaching Reading in EL Education’s Curriculum?” EL Education, EL Education, 30 Oct. 2020, ons-curriculum#.

Morphology 101. International Dyslexia Association, 12 Oct. 2017,

Ordetx, Kirstina. Structured Literacy vs. Balanced Literacy: Where Orton-Gillingham Fits. Institute of Multisensory Education, 8 Nov. 2020,

Structured Literacy™: An introductory guide. International Dyslexia Association. (2019). Baltimore, MD: Author

Structured Literacy: Effective Instruction for Students with Dyslexia and Related Reading Difficulties. International Dyslexia Association, 15 July 2020,

Will, Madeline. “Will the Science of Reading Catch On in Teacher Prep?” Education Week, Education Week, 3 Dec. 2019,

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