Science of Reading dos and don’ts

What does the Science of Reading look like, and how do you know which instructional practices to adopt? Learn more in this post.

By Amplify Staff | October 24, 2022

For classrooms and districts making the shift, understanding what a true Science of Reading curriculum looks like can be challenging. How do you know which instructional practices to adopt, which to avoid, and which ones are the real deal?

We’ve outlined five practices to start implementing today.

1. Use decodable readers.

Early readers need regular practice with grade-level text . Learning to read is not innate and must be taught through explicit, systemic instruction. Early readers need regular practice with grade-level text, especially text that’s connected to each day’s phonics instruction to helps students apply what they’ve learned.

Move away from level readers and curricula that have:

  • A focus on predictable text or below-grade-level text.
  • Decodable readers that don’t follow a clear phonics scope and sequence aligned to instruction.

2. Provide all students with dedicated phonics instruction.

Learning to read is not an innate skill. It must be taught through explicit, systematic instruction. An effective approach to phonics instruction provides enough time for teaching, application, and practice.

Shift from mini-lessons and curricula that have: 

  • Phonics instruction given only on an as-needed basis. When phonics is on an as-needed basis, students don’t get what they need to prevent reading difficulty.
  • Students alternating between limited phonics, guided reading, writing, and vocabulary practice in a mini-lesson.

3. Help students with phonics-based scaffolds.

Learning to decode builds neural pathways that are critical to automatic reading. Students need practice sounding out words, not doing guesswork.

Transition away from three-cueing or word guessing and curricula that have:

  • Prompts that encourage students to guess through three-cueing (e.g., “What word would make sense,” “what’s in this picture”).
  • Predictable books that enable pattern memorization.

4. Teach content.

Language comprehension is as important as decoding. The more background knowledge students receive, the more prior knowledge and vocabulary they can bring to texts.

Limit use of isolated comprehension strategies and curricula that have:

  • Limited time spent on each topic, or isolated topics introduced without connection to each other.
  • Comprehension skill practice without a strong content foundation (e.g., asking students to “find the main idea” or “determine the author’s purpose” in disconnected texts).

5. Follow a clear instructional path.

Clear instructional paths offer explicit guidance and cohesive structure, the most beneficial—yet overlooked—elements of teaching reading effectively. A definitive instructional path (rather than a patchwork) enables components to build upon each other. This gets students the support they need right away, so they don’t have to wait for intervention.

Withdraw from “choose your own adventure” models and curricula that have:

  • A model that provides multiple instructional pathways, which often lead to inconsistencies.
  • So many pieces to their programs that it’s unclear how to implement each effectively.


Literacy instruction Phonics Reading curriculum

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