What is structured literacy?

By Kim Greene, MA

At a glance

  • Structured literacy is based on the science of how kids learn to read.

  • Skills are taught in a direct way and a logical order.

  • It’s especially helpful for kids with reading challenges like dyslexia.

Structured literacy is an approach to teaching oral and written language. It’s based on the science of how kids learn to read. The International Dyslexia Association coined the term.

Structured literacy is especially helpful for kids who struggle with reading. But research shows that it can help all students improve their reading skills.

With structured literacy, teachers introduce new concepts and skills in a logical order. They teach in an explicit way that fully explains concepts and skills. Teachers also continually check in on students’ understanding.

Structured literacy covers the following concepts:

  • Phonology: the study of sounds in spoken words
  • Sound-symbol (orthography): how to map sounds (phonemes) to letters (graphemes)
  • Syllables: knowing the types of syllables and how to divide words into syllables
  • Morphology: the study of base words and affixes (prefixes and suffixes)
  • Syntax: understanding the grammatical order of words (like sentence structure)
  • Semantics: understanding the meaning of words and sentences

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    About the author

    About the author

    Kim Greene, MA is the managing editor at Understood. A former elementary teacher and a certified reading specialist, she has a passion for developing resources for educators.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Margie B. Gillis, EdD is the founder and president of Literacy How, which provides professional development for teachers on research-based reading practices in the classroom.