Structured Literacy

Building a Foundation for Developing Readers

structured literacy

Structured literacy models are composed of explicit, systematic, sequential lessons for state literacy skills. Learning A-Z offers solutions that provide a wealth of Pre K–6 resources that can be used in a structured literacy setting—from whole-class and small-group instruction to individual practice.

Learning A-Z solutions, such as Foundations A-Z and Raz-Plus, provide a vast collection of resources and a variety of ways to match resources to student development and instructional needs.

Phonological Awareness 

Phonological Awareness is the ability to perceive sounds in spoken words and at the phoneme level.

Word Awareness

  • Word awareness is understanding that sentences are made up of individual words and the ability to identify each word in a sentence.
  • When demonstrating word awareness, students are able to segment sentences, including counting the number of words in a sentence.

Syllable Awareness

  • Words are made up of one or more parts called syllables.
  • During instruction, teachers may have students count, blend, segment, add, and delete syllables.

Onset and Rime

  • Words have a beginning part, or onset, and an ending part, or rime. (e.g., In the word bat, /b/ b/is the onset and /at/ is the rime.)
  • During instruction, students may practice blending and segmenting the onset and rime of words, which helps them decode and encode words.

Phonemic Awareness

  • Phonemic Awareness refers to the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken words and the understanding that spoken words and syllables are made up of sequences of speech sounds.
  • Foundational instruction should begin with phonemic awareness warm-ups that connect to the phonics skills that will be taught followed by a review of the skills previously learned.
  • Phoneme isolation, phoneme blending, phoneme segmentation, phoneme manipulation, and onset and rime are all phonemic awareness tasks that prepare students for the phonics lesson.

Phoneme Isolation

  • Phoneme isolation involves identifying and isolating the individual sounds (phonemes) in words.
  • During instruction, teachers ask students to identify the sound at the beginning or end of a word. (e.g., What sound do you hear at the beginning of fun?)

Phoneme Blending

  • Phoneme blending is the ability to produce individual sounds and put them together to create a word.
  • In a blending lesson, the instructor gives students the sounds in a word (/c/ /a/ /t/) and asks them to blend the sounds together to make the whole word (cat).

Phoneme Segmentation

  • Phoneme segmentation is the ability to separate a word into its individual sounds.
  • During instruction, students may be asked to indicate where a sound is heard in a word (e.g., at the beginning, in the middle, at the end).
  • The student hears the whole word (pig) and gives the individual phonemes heard in the word (/p/ /i/ /g/).

Phoneme Manipulation

  • Phoneme manipulation involves adding, omitting, and changing sounds in words.
  • A teacher can provide a word (stop), then ask the student to repeat the word, and say the word again without one of the sounds. (e.g., Students will say the word top without /s/.)


Phonics teaches the relationship between sounds and letters, which helps students decode and encode words, including multisyllabic words.

Sound-Spelling Relationships

  • Students begin to map spelling patterns when they are specifically taught the connections between sounds and how they’re spelled (graphemes).

Decoding Practice

  • Students begin to read words that contain new sounds and their related spelling.
  • Decoding new sounds with previously learned sounds, students are able to decode an increasing number of words.

Decodable Text

  • In a structured literacy program, students read carefully selected texts that contain previously taught phonics skills, including learned phonics patterns.
  • Reading decodable texts leads to orthographic mapping—which happens when the brain connects letters and sounds, spelling, pronunciation, and the meaning of words—and automaticity, or when the reader encounters the same word or combination of phonemes in another setting.

Encoding (Spelling) Practice

  • Students in a structured literacy program can use their knowledge of phonics to spell words phonetically.
  • Teachers ask students to utilize known sound-spelling relationships to spell and write words.
  • Teachers dictate the sounds in words as students spell the words.
  • Teachers analyze spelling errors and use the information to guide spelling instruction.

High-Frequency Words

  • In a structured literacy framework, high-frequency words (HFWs) are often taught according to phonics patterns.
  • High-frequency words that do not follow a phonics pattern should be taught explicitly.
  • Orthographic mapping, or the ability to quickly recognize words “by sight” upon looking at their spelling pattern, is critical for students to learn HFW.


  • In a structured literacy framework, students are taught the six syllable types that help them associate vowel spellings with vowel sounds.
  • Syllable division rules help students decode unfamiliar words.

Word Study/Morphology

Word Study/Morphology is all about morphemes or the smallest unit of meaning to help students decode and know the meaning of longer, more complex words.

Word Study

  • Explicit instruction in word study using categories of words, such as contractions, compound words, abbreviations, acronyms, homophones, homographs, and homonyms, and certain categories of nouns and verbs.


  • Explicit instruction in morphology following a scope and sequence with specific base words, Greek and Latin roots, and affixes are taught.


Syntax focuses on learning the structures of sentences—the sequence and function of words in a sentence.


  • Grammar is the system of language, which includes sentence structure and mechanics of language.
  • Explicit grammar instruction should be integrated into all components of literacy, including reading, writing, speaking, and listening.


Semantics focuses on the meaning of words, phrases, and sentences.


  • Explicit instruction for specific words in texts including the pre-teaching of them.
  • Implicit instruction as students do a lot of reading by skill, genre, and/or topic.
  • Multisensory approaches using charts, graphs, and images.

Read Alouds

  • Through read-alouds, teachers can help students make connections to previously learned phonics skills by pointing out specific words and sounds.
  • Books and stories read aloud to an individual student or whole group of students helps to develop comprehension and vocabulary.

As you consider utilizing the structured literacy model in your classroom, it is important that you have the right tools by your side.

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