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Skaneateles Central School District's literacy instruction is aligned with the NYS Next Generation ELA Standards and the comprehensive approach to literacy instruction referred to as Structured Literacy. 

Decades of research provide us with an understanding of how children learn to read. Structured Literacy is a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction grounded in the science of reading that research has shown is effective for all students and essential for students with dyslexia. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) coined the term Structured Literacy to unify and encompass the evidence-based programs and approaches aligned with the science of reading. 

Research findings show that Structured Literacy instruction is beneficial to all students and critical for some—particularly those with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. Instructional content integrates the domains of language as they pertain to reading (word recognition and comprehension) and written expression (handwriting, spelling, and composition). Essential principles of instruction guide how content is taught for both reading and written expression. These principles are beneficial for all students and necessary for struggling students.

Skilled reading and writing require fluent and coordinated execution of word recognition and language comprehension. Research tells us that students develop these abilities most effectively within the context of coherent, rigorous, and content-rich texts. To align with research on effective

practices, literacy instruction in Skaneateles Central School District is implemented to explicitly teach students how to read and spell words and make meaning of them. Emerging readers also need enriching reading experiences that provide ample practice in weaving these skills together coherently.

The following provides a more detailed description of the high-quality instructional materials utilized in Skaneateles Central School District:

Small Bites
Watch Small Bites: Structured Literacy & The Science of Reading
Watch Small Bites Literacy 2: Simple View of Reading
Watch Small Bites Literacy 3: Phonics & Word Recognition
Watch Small Bites Literacy 4: Text Types Part 1 
Watch Small Bites Literacy 5: Text Types Part 2
Watch Small Bites Literacy 6: Morphology
Watch Small Bites Literacy 7: Fluency
Watch Small Bites Literacy 8: Background Knowledge & Vocabulary
Watch Small Bites Literacy 9: High Frequency Word Study
Watch Small Bites Literacy 10: Writing
Watch Small Bites Literacy 11: Language Comprehension

Word Recognition for Reading & Spelling

Heggerty Phonemic Awareness Curriculum is utilized in Universal Pre-Kindergarten through grade 2 to provide explicit, systematic phonemic awareness instruction. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that spoken words are made up of individual sounds called phonemes. Phonemic awareness is an auditory training process. A phonemically aware child can isolate sounds, manipulate the sounds, and blend and segment the sounds into spoken and written words.

Fundations, a foundational skill program, is used in concert with Heggerty and Wit & Wisdom to provide a comprehensive literacy curriculum for Universal Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 3 students. Fundations is based on extensive reading research on how students acquire literacy skills. Scientific evidence reveals that reading is the intersection of five critical components: phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Specifically, all children should receive direct, systematic instruction in these five areas during grades K–3. Together, they form the foundation upon which higher-level reading skills are built, critical to success in college and the workforce. Without the ability to fluently pull print from the page and comprehend it, students will be unable to understand complex text, one of the best predictors of college success.

Geodes Classroom Libraries, accessible knowledge-building books for developing readers, are also utilized for Levels K, 1, and 2. The Geodes are readable texts; the text is at least 80% decodable and is aligned to the scope and sequence of the Fundations curriculum. Geodes are a unique type of text in which specific decoding strategies are coupled with content and vocabulary. Geodes texts enable students to apply newly learned sound-spelling patterns and practice phonemic awareness and phonics in readable texts. These accessible, knowledge-building books for emerging and developing readers are aligned to topics students study during Wit & Wisdom instruction, allow students to build background knowledge, learn academic vocabulary most efficiently, and provide motivating texts for applying and practicing skills that have been taught. Each book in the collection is designed to cultivate a profound reading experience, enabling students to use decoding skills while building knowledge in history, science, and the arts. Geodes texts are rich with facts and ideas that spark students' curiosity about the world around them. 

Language Comprehension and Writing 

Wit & Wisdom is a comprehensive, research-based K-8 English curriculum developed by and for teachers. Each Wit & Wisdom module centers on studying rich and engaging texts curated to build student knowledge of essential ideas in the liberal arts and the sciences. The approach is integrated and text-based: daily reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, and vocabulary study is based on—and draws on evidence from—exceptional texts.

Wit & Wisdom helps teachers celebrate the joy of reading and writing with students while supporting all learners in tackling the rigor that the standards demand. By reading books they love and engaging meaningfully in their learning, students develop the knowledge and skills they need to be successful readers, critical thinkers, and effective communicators who love to learn and can succeed in college and careers.

In addition to thorough coverage of Reading, Writing, and Language standards, hallmarks of Wit & Wisdom include: 

  1. Books, Not Basals - Every Wit & Wisdom text students encounter is authentic and of the highest quality. Instead of basals, students read books they love to build knowledge of important topics and master literacy skills. The texts are wide-ranging and varied, including a careful balance of literary, informational, and fine-art texts.

  2. Knowledge Building - Every module in each grade focuses on a topic essential for building background knowledge, vocabulary, and writing skills. For example, students learn about the seasons, the American Revolution, civil rights, and space exploration. Essential topics strategically reoccur, empowering students to deepen their understanding of core knowledge across Grades K–8.

  3. Integrated, Not Isolated - Students practice reading, writing, speaking, listening, and interacting with language in an integrated way, with every strand of the standards woven throughout each module. This integrated approach enables students to be more successful as they activate and build upon their developing background and vocabulary knowledge of the module topic while learning skills in other areas.

A graphical representation of how the programs work together to provide comprehensive Structured Literacy instruction.

Our sincere thank you to the Skaneateles Education Foundation for supporting the SAIL Summit Keynote Session: Leveraging Literacy Learning with Emily Hanford. To access the recording, please use the following link:

Reinvigorating Literacy Instruction and Student Engagement
This resource documents year one of the district’s implementation journey, excerpting extensively from the journal entries that educators started keeping in January 2021, from their monthly video conferences with the Great Minds® team, and from their end-of-year reflections.

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Eric Knuth
45 East Elizabeth Street
Skaneateles, NY 13152