"Good reading instruction is explicit, intensive, and systematic." (Musti-Rao & Carledge, 2007)
What is Direct Instruction?
The term Direct Instruction (DI) refers to a rigorously developed, highly scripted method for teaching reading in grades K-3, that is fast-paced and provides constant interaction between students and the teacher. Direct Instruction is a model for teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is research based and has been in effect for over 30 years. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning. The goal of DI is to accelerate learning by maximizing efficiency in the design and delivery of instruction.
The creators, Siegfried Engelmann and Dr. Wesley Becker and their colleagues believe and have proved that correctly applied, DI can improve academic performance as well as certain affective behaviors. It is currently in use in thousands of schools across the nation as well as in Canada, the UK and Australia. Schools using DI accept a vision that actually delivers many outcomes.
The goal of the program was to include every piece that was necessary to make the lessons successful. A crucial element in the implementation of DI in most cases is change. Teachers will generally be required to behave differently. Teachers must make many decisions in response to the children's performance. Some of the most important decisions involve placing each child appropriately and moving the children through the lessons at a pace that maximizes their learning potential. Each child is given a placement test when they enter Belle Chasse Academy. During the course of weeks and months, children will be retested and placed again to ensure appropriate placement and academic growth. The Principal and Instructional Consultant for Direct Instruction monitor the placement of every student in grades K-3.
Students are placed in a program according to their placement test and are monitored throughout the year. The flexibility of this program allows students to be instructed on their reading level. This could include a level that is below, on, or above their current grade level. Students are graded according to performance on their reading level. The Progress Report and Report Card will notate if a student is reading below level as well as conferences with the teacher. Students performing below level are never denied earning Honor Roll due to a deficiency as long as their performance is acceptable according to the standards on the program.
The scripted presentations do not comprise the whole lesson, and the lessons do not comprise the whole school day. There are opportunities for group and independent work. A good DI teacher also creates additional activities that allow students to make use of their learning in various situations.
During the first two weeks of the school year, all teachers and assistants attend an intensive training by the DI Consultant. The DI Consultant is in the building 5 days a month. The monitoring of the DI implementation is a critical component to its success and the achievement of the students. Every teacher provides a Lesson Progress Report to the DI consultants and to the Principal on a weekly basis, documenting lesson gains and mastery test results for all children. These Progress Reports are the basis for a weekly conference call whereby our DI consultant reviews all reports and provide detailed feedback. The DI Consultant and the Principal visit the teachers and teacher assistants on a regular basis. In addition, teacher assistants work under the close supervision and direction of their classroom certified teacher, who rotates the groups and works with all children on a weekly basis.
Overview of the Programs:
Grades K and 1
Designed to teach students skills needed to become accurate and fluent readers:
• Decoding is taught explicitly and systematically
• There are numerous opportunities for building fluency, allowing students to focus on the meaning of the text
• Comprehension instruction begins early to teach students how to infer, predict, and conclude
Grades 2 and 3
Continue to emphasize accurate and fluent decoding. The primary focus of these levels is to teach students how to “read to learn.”
Students are taught:
• The skills necessary to read, comprehend, and learn from informational text
• Background information needed for content area reading through information passages
• The background information that becomes the basis from which students make inferences as they read
Even though the programs are carefully tested and scripted, successful use of them requires on-going training throughout the year in the special techniques of delivery. The popular valuing of teacher creativity and autonomy as high priorities must give way to a willingness to follow certain carefully prescribed instructional practices. (Remaining the same, however, are the importance of hard work, dedication and commitment to students.) And it is crucial that all concerned adopt and internalize the Direct Instruction belief that all students, if properly taught, can learn.