Teaching Models: Direct or Explicit Instruction

Direct Instruction Lesson

Grade 1

  • Reading Skill: How to read unknown words by analogy to sight words at the full-alphabetic phase.
  • Textbook: Grade 1 Reading: Letter Sounds, Sight Words, Vowel Sounds, Plurals, Reading Comprehension Activities, p. 8 (Whitlock, 2017).

Step 1: Providing a Purpose to the Student

Teacher: “Hello, today you will learn how to read new or unfamiliar words correctly, using the examples of known words. Now you know how to recognize and read some important words like “she,” “were,” “here,” “little,” and others, and during this lesson, you will learn how to read even more words easily.”

Rationale: The statement of the purpose of the lesson is important to help students to focus on their further learning. This stage is also critical for motivating students to learn something new, they become interested and engaged in lesson activities. According to Ehri and McCormick (1998), when elementary students with reading disabilities have some sight words stored in memory, it is easier for them to learn how to read unknown words applying the method of analogy in comparison to learning grapheme-phoneme rules. This strategy is appropriate to be applied at the full-alphabetic phase of developing the reading skills.

Step 2: Modelling the Skill for the Student

Teacher: “Please, read all the words from these columns aloud (the teacher points at some columns on page 8 of the textbook).

You already know how to recognize and read the following words from your list:

  • Had
  • No
  • Make
  • Not
  • Down

Let’s learn how to read other words that seem to look like these known ones. Look at the blackboard, listen and follow how I will read the following groups of words:

  • Had – dad – bad – sad

I am pronouncing “dad,” “bad,” “sad” with the sound [æ] as it is in the word “had.”

  • No – go – so

I am pronouncing “go” and “so” with the sound [əʊ] as it is in the word “no.”

  • Make – take – lake

I am pronouncing “take” and “lake” with the sound [eɪ] as it is in the word “make.”

  • Not – lot – spot

I am pronouncing “lot” and “spot” with the sound [ɒ] as it is in the word “not.”

  • Down – town – brown

I am pronouncing “town” and “brown” with the sound [aʊ] as it is in the word “down.”

Look, I am pronouncing all the words in a line similar to the first word in each row, and you know how to read these first familiar words. Now you know how to read all the words in each line.”

Rationale: Modeling is important to help students to understand what they are expected to do and learn during the lesson and how to develop and demonstrate a certain reading skill (Swanson et al., 2014). Reading by analogy to sight words is a useful practice to teach students with reading disabilities how to read a specific grapheme without applying rules (Ehri & McCormick, 1998). If there is no modeling, students do not receive information about the content they need to learn and how to do this effectively.

Step 3: Scaffolding the Student’s Learning

Teacher: “Look at the blackboard and try to read words in each row, paying attention to the first words that are known to you and how they sound. Let’s do this aloud together. Read:

  • Had – dad – bad – sad

Let’s repeat slowly, word-by-word. Follow the pointer. What is meant by “dad”? Do you know the word “sad”?

  • No – go – so

Let’s repeat them slowly, word-by-word. Do you know the word “go”? What does it mean?

  • Make – take – lake

Follow the pointer. Read the words once again. What word among these means a large body of standing water, like a pond?

  • Not – lot – spot

Follow the pointer. Read the words once again. Do you know the meaning of the word “lot”?

  • Down – town – brown

Let’s repeat slowly, word-by-word. Follow the pointer. What word means a small city?”

Rationale: Scaffolding is required to help students to practice knowledge and new skills receiving necessary guidance, support, and the correction of mistakes (Swanson et al., 2014). To train students’ reading words by analogy, the teacher reads the words along with the student and checks the understanding of words to ensure the decoding of certain words by their form and sound. Students with reading disabilities require much support when they read, and they usually need more time to understand the rule or the principle of analogy (Ehri & McCormick, 1998).

Step 4: Allowing the Student to Practice the Skill Independently

Teacher: “Now, read the words in lines by yourself.

  • Had – dad – bad – sad
  • No – go – so
  • Make – take – lake
  • Not – lot – spot
  • Down – town – brown

Thank you. Correct. Now read only those words at which I will point. Please read:

  • Bad
  • Go
  • Take
  • Spot
  • Brown

Thank you. Correct.”

Rationale: Students need to have an opportunity to practice the acquired skills independently to be able to use the knowledge and skills actively in the future. If there is no independent practice in the lesson plan, and only guided practice is presented, a student is limited in opportunities to train the skill and apply it freely in other situations (Swanson et al., 2014). In the context of learning how to read words by analogy to well-known sight words, students should be asked to read these words aloud by themselves.

Step 5: Assessing Whether the Student Has Learned the Skill

Teacher: “Now you know how to recognize and read many words. Let’s check your ability to read new words and pronounce them correctly. Look at the blackboard and read aloud the following sentences (Note: all the sentences are composed of sight words and new words that were learned during the lesson):

  • I can see you at the lake.
  • I want to go to her town.
  • I do not like brown.
  • Her dad is sad.

Great! You have successfully read all the provided sentences. Was it difficult for you? Why? Can you easily read such words as “bad,” “sad,” “dad,” “lake,” “take,” “go,” “so,” “lot,” “spot,” “town,” “brown”?

You have successfully coped with all the tasks, and now you can read many words easily.”

Rationale: When students have practiced a new skill, it is important to check whether they can apply it in different situations. The task for checking the understanding should differ slightly from the exercises used for guided and independent practice (Swanson et al., 2014). Therefore, for checking the understanding and skill development, new sentences were used. On the one hand, they allow for training reading skills using the analogy method. On the other hand, the teacher receives an opportunity to check the level of skill acquisition.

Benefits of Direct Instruction for Struggling Readers

Struggling readers gain many benefits when Direct Instruction approaches are applied because they receive an opportunity to gradually move from guided practice to independent practice. At the stage of shifting to reading or performing some tasks independently, struggling readers have some experience and some level of skill development because of modeling and scaffolding activities. Direct Instruction is optimal for students with reading disabilities because of the focus on a strictly structured pattern of planning a lesson (Swanson et al., 2014). As a result, students develop the required skills gradually, receiving enough support and guidance. The teacher-student interaction in this case is beneficial for a struggling reader because of the level of skill development.

Adhering to the Principles of Direct Instruction

Adherence to the approaches and techniques associated with Direct Instruction can cause some difficulties in cases when a teacher has experience in using mainly Explicit Instruction. Furthermore, difficulties can be related to the necessity of structuring a lesson effectively and balancing activities to address students’ needs and the pace of learning (Swanson et al., 2014). It was not difficult to adhere to the principles of Direct Instruction because of understanding the necessity of planning lessons effectively concerning the teacher’s guidance. In Direct Instruction, the focus is still on students and their needs, but these needs are addressed through providing more guidance and support to ensure they can effectively develop certain skills following the demonstrated models.

How a Direct Instruction Approach Is Motivating for Students

For most struggling readers, the Direct Instruction approach can be discussed as motivating because they follow a clear structure of the lesson, can easily clarify all confusing aspects, and demonstrate the skill acquisition when they are ready. As a result, these students are motivated to do their best because, in many cases, they can successfully cope with the proposed assignments and exercises. It is motivating for students to see their progress and feel the support of the teacher. In cases when Direct Instruction is used, it is possible to achieve such success and make students believe that they can learn effectively (Swanson et al., 2014). When students need more time to work on the topic of exercise in comparison to their peers, they need an opportunity to learn according to their pace and specific learning style. In this context, Direct Instruction approaches can be motivating for them.

Components to Retain Student Motivation

The most important components to retain student motivation to learn to include the provision of clear guidance and instruction, the use of attention-grabbing tasks, support throughout learning, the complexity of tasks about the study level, and the variety of tasks depending on students’ learnings styles. Clear guidance and instruction are important because unclear aspects in tasks decrease students’ motivation to complete assignments. The use of attention-grabbing tasks and exercises allows for attracting students’ attention to the topic of the lesson and motivates them to achieve success in learning. Support provided throughout learning is required for students if they have low motivation because their interest can decrease if exercises seem to be difficult. The complexity of tasks should always be related to the study level of students to promote their motivation because numerous mistakes have a distracting effect on students (Swanson et al., 2014). Furthermore, students are motivated to learn when the material is presented in the form correlated with their learnings styles.


Ehri, L. C., & McCormick, S. (1998). Phases of word learning: Implications for instruction with delayed and disabled readers. Reading & Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 14(2), 135-163.

Swanson, H. L., Harris, K. R., & Graham, S. (Eds.). (2014). Handbook of learning disabilities (2nd ed.). Guilford Publications.

Whitlock, D. J. (2017). Grade 1 reading: Letter sounds, sight words, vowel sounds, plurals, reading comprehension activities. Canadian Curriculum Press.

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1. ChalkyPapers. "Teaching Models: Direct or Explicit Instruction." February 12, 2022. https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-models-direct-or-explicit-instruction/.


ChalkyPapers. "Teaching Models: Direct or Explicit Instruction." February 12, 2022. https://chalkypapers.com/teaching-models-direct-or-explicit-instruction/.