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3 Ways to Ensure Foundational Skills Stick for Students

3 Ways to Ensure Foundational Skills Stick for Students

As educators, a primary goal is to equip students with the foundational skills they need to succeed in their academic journey and beyond. Foundational literacy skills are the building blocks of a student's journey towards becoming proficient readers and writers. A young reader must have instruction in phonemic awareness, letter recognition, letter-sound relationships, decoding, blending, segmenting, fluency, and comprehension. These essential skills lay the groundwork for reading and writing success. However, it's not enough to simply teach these skills; we must also ensure that the learning “sticks” for students.

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Pair Shared Reading with your explicit phonics instruction for additional foundational skills practice.


Here are 3 effective strategies to help ensure that foundational skills become ingrained in students' learning experiences: 

1. Active, Inquiry-Based Learning and Instructional Routines 

Inquiry-based learning is a powerful technique that encourages students to participate actively in the learning process rather than passively absorbing information. Inviting students to think deeply, discuss ideas with their peers, and come to conclusions on their own allows for powerful, impactful, memorable learning. 

When teaching foundational skills, lean on inquiry-based learning by posing prompts to students about the principle being taught, allowing them to make connections and develop the answer independently. Some instructional routines that are effective with this method are: sorting, tapping or clapping, sound and letter boxes, and using manipulatives like magnetic letters, word cards, and letter cards.

By involving students in the learning process, we stimulate their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, making the foundational skills more likely to “stick.”

2. Engaging, Enlarged Texts for In-Text Teaching

Make sure the texts you are selecting are of high interest and resonate with the students in your classroom. Are the texts about topics your students are interested in? Are you utilizing text sets for deep thinking and comparing and contrasting? Are you choosing a variety of genres? Are the texts grade-level appropriate? For practicing phonics and foundational skills, it’s important the text is enlarged for all students to be able to see the written text to make connections about letters, sounds, and words. 

Once you’ve ensured the enlarged texts you are selecting are suitable for the students in your classroom, you can utilize them to reinforce phonics and foundational skills. Select a text that features a skill learned in a recent phonics lesson and pause intentionally while reading for students to notice the sound or letter pattern.

After reading, make learning “stick” with a phonics activity where students apply their learning, such as with a pocket chart sorting activity.

More Ways to Engage Your Students During  Whole-Group Literacy Instruction

3. Regular Reinforcement and Practice

Repetition and practice are fundamental to solidify foundational skills. Regular reinforcement of learned concepts helps students move knowledge from short-term memory to long-term memory, ensuring that the skills become second nature to them.

This is why it’s important to incorporate more phonics and foundational skills practice opportunities throughout the school day. Utilizing shared reading texts is the perfect opportunity to reinforce phonics skills. 

Educators can also lean on digital learning platforms and educational apps that provide hands-on practice opportunities for students. Consistent reinforcement and practice not only improve retention but also boost students' confidence in their abilities to apply these skills independently.

Download a Free Shared Reading Lesson

Add additional phonics and foundational skills practice to your literacy block with shared reading.

Building strong foundational skills is an essential step in a student's educational journey. To ensure that these skills stick and become a solid base for future learning, educators must embrace active learning techniques, utilize engaging, enlarged texts for in-text practice, and provide regular opportunities for reinforcement and practice.

By fostering an engaging and relevant learning environment, students are more likely to develop a deep understanding of the foundational skills and carry them throughout their academic and professional pursuits. As educators, we have the power to empower our students with the tools they need to succeed, and by implementing these three strategies, we can set them on a path of lifelong learning and growth.

Topics: Engagement, Literacy Instruction, Reading, Reading Instruction, Books, Close Reading, Comprehension, Fluency, Foundations, Inquiry, Instructional routines, Literacy, Phonics, Primary Grades, Reading Strategies, Shared Reading, Student Texts, Interactive Read-Aloud, vocabulary development, Reading fluency, Comprehension strategies, Whole-group literacy, Intermediate readers, Selecting books, Inquiry-based learning, NCTE23

Date Published: 08/17/23

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