Skip To Main Content

Reading Instruction Philosophy: A Research-Based Literacy Instruction Approach

How Does MPCSD Approach Reading Instruction?
Reading is important because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything. —Tomie dePaola

Developing a strong reading foundation greatly impacts a student’s future success. In the Menlo Park City School District, we believe that strong literacy skills develop as a direct result of strategic reading instruction in the classroom. To provide this instruction, MPCSD subscribes to a "Researched-Based" literacy instruction (RBLI) approach that provides a combination of reading and writing, teacher-directed and student-centered learning, whole and small group instruction, and independent learning as well as decoding and meaning-focused skills development.   Most important in our Whole Child Learning and Development approach is that each child receives the instruction necessary to achieve reading success.

While not all students follow the same timeline or path to reading, reading instruction in the primary grades, K-2, is focused on learning to read--learning and mastering the alphabetic system in order to read automatically,  fluently, and comprehend increasingly complex text.   In third grade, there is a shift from learning to read to reading to learn--using increasingly complex texts to make sense of unknown concepts.   What is the significance of this shift in third grade? Research has identified 3rd grade as a critical inflection point in a learner’s reading journey. If students have not developed and put into practice strong learning to read skills by this time, they are not yet able to independently comprehend and learn from these sophisticated texts.

What are the reading components of a Research-Based Literacy Instruction Program?
Included in MPCSD’s literacy approach are beginning, foundational reading skills--phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and comprehension. Below is an explanation of the reading skills as described in California’s English Language Arts/English Language Development Framework.

What progress monitoring tools do we use?
An important function of any Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) model is progress monitoring. We believe it is essential for teachers to monitor student progress while they are on the reading journey. This helps teachers determine whether or not mastery of reading skills is happening. If our teachers find that the student is not making any academic gains, adjustments will be made to our instruction to meet the student’s individual needs. MPCSD uses a variety of tools for ongoing progress monitoring of reading two to three times per year.

What do we do for interventions?
At MPCSD, we believe that ALL students can learn and that each student has a jagged learning profile. We understand that learning timelines may vary when learning how to read and comprehend. What happens when students are not making the necessary gains in developing reading skills and comprehension? Our teachers rely on a tiered system of interventions to strategically address reading needs. 
Interventions in MPCSD are categorized into three tiers within our Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) model. 

Intervention Tiers

Types of Interventions

Tier 1 interventions address all students during core programming.

  • If a teacher notices that the student is not learning in the initial lesson of any content, they will adjust the lesson immediately to ensure that the student is understanding the material. 
  • A teacher might present the information in a different way or pull the students into a small group immediately after the lesson to address any confusion. 
  • Online foundational skills and comprehension instruction and practice with Lexia.

Tier 2 interventions increase in intensity. Teachers will regularly pull students into a small group setting to target reading skills that the student did not master during the initial lessons. 

  • Teachers regularly meet with students in a small group setting to target not yet mastered reading skills. 
  • If a K-5 student needs longer, more intensive comprehension instruction and practice, the student may receive reading comprehension support from the Reading Specialist using Leveled Literacy Intervention materials.
  • Online foundational skills and comprehension instruction and practice with Lexia.

Tier 3 interventions are the most restrictive in the delivery of instruction and are provided in a one-on-one setting or small group. 

  • The teacher (whom we refer to as the reading specialist or special educator) will use an alternative set of materials to address learning gaps. 
  • Students in first grade in need of intensive, foundational reading skill intervention receive “Reading Recovery" in a one-on-one setting from the Reading Specialist.  Students are identified for Reading Recovery through teacher recommendations and the Observation Survey. 
  • Students in grades 2-5 receive one-on-one or small group instruction based on targeted reading needs identified through the results from both the SRI and Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System.
  • If students are still struggling with reading when they’ve entered middle school, they are placed in an intensive reading intervention program called Read 180

At MPCSD, our General Education and Special Education staff have received intensive training on how to identify students with reading disorders. Reading disorders may include dyslexia, phonological processing disorders, memory/recall deficits, processing speed weaknesses, and poor fluency.  Attention deficits can also impact reading ability. If your child is struggling with reading, please make sure to communicate your concerns with your child’s teacher.  If your child struggles after several weeks of classroom interventions and other support strategies, your teacher may want to meet with you to discuss other, more targeted interventions. In addition, school staff or parents may request a Student Study Team meeting to discuss additional strategies and support. At MPCSD, we believe that ALL students can learn. It is our responsibility to find the right way to reach your child. 

How can parents support at home?
There are many strategies parents can use when helping their children at home. Since performance anxiety is often tied to a students’ confidence and ability to read, parents will want to celebrate their child’s strength and progress made towards reading. If the child seems to be struggling with certain reading skills, taking the time to have a conversation about the challenges helps convey the message that all good readers struggle. Parents can let their children know that wrestling with words and comprehension is a natural part of reading. The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity has a list of recommendations such as games, read-aloud, etc. 
One of the best things that all parents can do is read aloud to their children daily. When a child is read to regularly, they have a model of what good reading sounds like, it builds excitement, and it gives the child an opportunity to gain background knowledge that encourages their imagination. The benefits of reading to a student regularly are exponential. If you feel that your child is not progressing in their ability to read, please reach out to your child’s teacher immediately. The earlier we can intervene, the sooner we can help your child to get back on the path to reading.