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AIM Institute for Learning & Research

Science of Reading Blog

At AIM, we are committed to helping educators and leaders unlock the power of the Science of Reading in their schools, districts and states with evidence-based structured literacy training and content.

In order to share useful information to support our universal goal of helping all struggling readers, we launched our Science of Reading Blog featuring a monthly “Tuesday Teaching Tips” post dedicated to translating the latest in the Science of Reading research into practical classroom application.

We hope that you enjoy, comment and share with others.

To be notified when new blogs are posted, be sure to click on the orange bell icon and sign up for alerts.


ELs are increasing, teacher preparedness must too!
Megan Gierka and Nicole Kingsland

If you’ve taught an English learner in your class, you’re not alone. English learners (ELs) are a rapidly growing demographic in United States schools and teachers should expect to have ELs in their classrooms. In the last 20 years, 1.5 million English learners have been added to classrooms around the country, yet only 3% of teachers have the necessary qualification to teach these students (Rahman et al., 2017).

The map below illustrates the percentage of ELs state by state in the United States public school system. If you’re a seasoned teacher, you may notice these numbers have increased exponentially over time. In 2000, 8.1% of the school population was classified as ELs. Currently, ELs comprise 10.4% of the population, representing over 5 million students in today’s classrooms (National Center for Education Statistics, 2022).

Check out the map below to see the percentage of public school students who are English learners in your particular state:

English Learner US Map

This map represents over 400 different languages that are spoken by students in United States public schools. More than 77% of our English learners speak Spanish in their home. The second most common home language is Arabic, which comprises 2.6% of English learners, followed by Chinese, Vietnamese, and Portuguese with less than 2% (NCES, 2022). Some ELs possess only oral language skills in the native language, while others may possess literacy in that language. In addition, some ELs may come to school with basic literacy skills in English, while others are new to the journey (Cardenas-Hagan, 2020).

While the prevalence of ELs in classrooms continues to increase, most teachers are not equipped with the knowledge and practices to meet the needs of these learners and accelerate their acquisition of English proficiency. The consequences are detrimental. “Students who speak English as a second language face a 13% chance of not graduating from high school” and “are twice as likely to drop out of high-school in comparison to their non-Hispanic White peers” (Cardenas-Hagan, 2020; National Assessment of Educational Progress, 2019).

AIM is preparing to release a new online course to support teachers in their literacy work for all students. The Specialized Reading Knowledge Bundle: English Learners course is filled with practical teaching tips for unlocking reading proficiency among English learners. Learn more and pre-register today.

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Discover AIM Pathways

AIM Pathways professional learning opportunities provide comprehensive courses grounded in evidence-based practice in the science of reading. IDA-accredited courses and courses to support education leaders and administrators feature coaching sessions with expert AIM facilitators to support classroom implementation.

Learn More

Past Tuesday Teaching Tips

Read Aloud Photo

You’ve heard the term before: Summer Learning Loss. In a recent study published in the American Education Research Journal, Atteberry and McEachin (2021) reported that over half of students in grades one through six of students lost an average of 39% of their total school year reading gains during the summer months. While summer is a time of significant variation for students and families, further research is needed to determine the direct effects on educational disparities. Nevertheless, these consecutive setbacks accumulate to a substantial decline in academic achievement, emphasizing the importance of ensuring summer learning beyond the school walls. Read some of AIM's recommendations to support student reading.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Staying Sharp This Summer
Animated Alphabet Card Tracing

On June 6th, AIM hosted a webinar with two remarkable researchers, Dr. Linnea Ehri and Dr. Katie Pace Miles. In addition to the literacy development questions that were answered live, these two questions stood out to the AIM Institute team.

  1. How can teachers support upper elementary or middle school students who are in the early phases of reading development and still struggle with foundational reading skills?

  2. How can teachers develop culturally and linguistically diverse learners in each pillar of literacy?

Read the answers in today's Tuesday Teaching Tips blog.

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Read More about Your Literacy Development Questions Answered: Recap and Call to Action!
Sample Morpheme Poster Image

What comes to mind when you think about your vocabulary instruction for adolescents? Perhaps you provide a “student-friendly definition” or 4-square semantic map, like a Frayer Model, to help your students acquire an important word or concept.

While these components of explicit word learning experiences are helpful, building depth of word knowledge is much more complex. Deep word knowledge includes understanding a word’s nuanced use in a sentence follow these three tips to support adolescent word knowledge: morphological variations, semantic variations, and grammatical construction.

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Read More about Word Study in the Adolescent Classroom: Beyond the Frayer Model
Poetry Tree Image

Today, many students experience reading difficulties, which can take the joy out of literacy. As we quickly approach National Poetry Month in April, let’s see how poetry can be used to develop foundational skills, comprehension, and background knowledge! 

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Read More about Using Poetry to Develop Foundational Skills, Comprehension & Background Knowledge
Bidialecticalism Chart Image

We conclude our Black History Month blog series by highlighting effective classroom practices that validate speakers of African American English (AAE). We want to emphasize that no matter the students’ SES, race, learning difference or language ability, all children can learn to read through systematic and explicit instruction (Foorman et al., 2016). In addition, the evidence is clear that utilizing culturally appropriate teaching strategies can improve outcomes for dialectal speakers. Learn recommendations in full post.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Culturally Appropriate Tips for Effective Classroom Practice
AAE No Child Speaks Wrong Graphic Image

Assessment is a necessary part of daily classroom practice because it helps educators to better understand the needs of their students. When administering reading probes, we often use accuracy as a strong metric to guide further diagnostics and skill groupings. However, students who speak African American English require careful analysis to yield accurate conclusions.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: African American English and Assessment
Black History Month

As we continue to honor Black History Month, this week’s Tuesday Teaching Tip examines the relationship between dialect and learning to read. Key take away for teachers: there is no ‘right’ way to speak. 

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: The Relationship Between Dialect and Learning to Read
Black History Month Banner Image

To honor and celebrate Black History Month, our February Tuesday Teaching Tips posts will be dedicated to deepening our understanding African American English (AAE). African American English is a dialect with a rich history and deliberate origin. Like all dialects, AAE is a valid language system that is rule-governed with many linguistic properties functioning together. All students should be taught the legitimacy and history of their language. Do you know the history of AAE?

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: History of African American English
Decoding Prompts Image

It might be overwhelming to consider overhauling everything to create a good structured literacy classroom at once. Instead consider these two tenants

  1. You can’t change EVERYTHING, but you also can’t make excuses to change NOTHING.
  2. Act small, plan big!

Take some time to prioritize what you can change within the next few days, next unit, and next year using a few examples found here.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Next Day, Next Unit, Next Year: A Timeline to Align Your Classroom to the Evidence
Dictation Example Image

Data should always be the starting point for diagnostic, prescriptive instruction. Opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning appear daily. Learn about three formative assessment opportunities that can be incorporated into your classroom right away!

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Daily Assessment Opportunities for Student Learning
Decodable Text Samples

Dr. Hollis Scarborough's Reading Rope clearly shows that skilled reading requires reading with increasing automaticity. But throwing students into texts that they’re not equipped to decode accurately does more harm than good. This blog explains the difference between decodable and leveled readers so that teachers make informed decisions that are best for their students.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: What is the Difference Between Decodable and Leveled Readers?
Anecdotal Records Example

To meet your goal of being more data-driven and responsive to students’ needs in 2023, consider a simple solution to remaining organized, a data binder, to guide your small group instruction. 

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Data Binders Can Simplify Your Implementation Process
Word Matrices to Teach Students to Infer Word Meaning Image

Ring in the New Year with Literacy Best Practices!

The beginning of a new year is always exciting and refreshing. It is truly the perfect time to self-reflect on best practices for a healthier you and making 2023 the best it can be! As an educator, self-reflecting on your classroom practices is worthy of your time, and re-establishing effective practices can be a powerful tool to revive your passion for teaching and maximize your students’ success. Learn three best practices to maximize students' literacy skills.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Sprinkle Best Practices Throughout Literacy Lessons
Tuesday Teaching Tips: Embedding Principles of Structured Literacy Within a Sound Wall

Have a sound wall, but not sure where to go from there? This week's Tuesday Teaching Tips post focus on ways to support learner with three principles to embed in your sound wall work. Embed these three structured literacy principles into your work to get the most out of your time!

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Embedding Principles of Structured Literacy Within a Sound Wall
Phoneme Pronunciation Examples from Rollins Center for Language and Literacy

We're sure you’ve heard of the importance of early literacy skills, like developing students’ phonological sensitivity and phonemic awareness abilities. But, accurate production of speech sounds is another indispensable foundational skill that is often overlooked. Today’s focus is on sound production and ways to teach our students this formidable underpinning. Engage in these three tips to start the literacy journey on the right track: Check Your Pronunciations, Clip Those Sounds and Build on What Students Know.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Sound Production - Begin With the Basics
Team Takeaways: Effective Teacher Training Techniques

The Research Partnership for Professional Learning recently published a paper that found the most effective teacher training focuses on improving instructional practices in day-to-day practice. At AIM, we echo these sentiments and have developed courses that promote evidence-based best practices in comprehensive literacy instruction. If we strive to empower lives through literacy, we must carefully curate professional learning experiences with five key principles, shared in a recent Education Week article by Madeline Will, in mind. Read more about what works in professional teacher learning.

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Read More about Team Takeaways: Effective Teacher Training Techniques
Segmented and Connected Phonation

We’ve all been there before. A student can segment words with ease, but when it comes time to blend all letter-sounds to produce the whole word, students often guess or make a mistake. Today’s blog post will focus on continuous blending as a promising technique to support early decoding efforts.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Try this connected technique to teach your students to blend!
Mnemonic Card Example Exercise

Efficient decoding is dependent upon accuracy and automaticity in pairing letters to the sounds they represent. Take a moment to read about an effective approach that accelerates the acquisition of this foundational knowledge.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: An Animated Approach for Acquiring Letter-Sound Knowledge!
Phonemic Awareness Skill Progression Chart

Early instruction activities to develop phonemic awareness can begin in preschool with formal instruction that typically spans through early first grade.

Emergent readers don’t need to sit down for long stretches of time to practice these skills, but rather, a few minutes of daily instruction is sufficient. Of the skills in the continuum, research directly supports three essential PA skills: Sounds isolation, Blending and Segmentation.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: The 3 Most Essential Phonemic Awareness Skills that Directly Support Early Reading and Spelling
4 Steps to Developing Print Awareness Thumbnail

Young children, also known as pre-alphabetic readers according to Ehri’s Phases, are typically introduced to the world of literacy when stories are read at home or in their first school environment. To get the most out of these interactive reading experiences with young children, follow these four essential steps before, during, and after reading to develop early print awareness and some essential habits of good readers.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: 4 Easy Steps to Developing Print Awareness and a Love of Reading
Dyslexia Books Collage

Achieving literacy for all students IS an attainable goal, and knowledge is the starting point! So, whether you are a parent, teacher, interventionist, or student with dyslexia, it is our job to seek out information to advocate for our students, children, or ourselves. Please don't delay, and jump in with us as we learn all about dyslexia through some of our top favorite books.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Top Favorite Books About Dyslexia
Special Education Cycle Image

Early identification of dyslexia and intervention are critical. AIM's Characteristics of Dyslexia Checklist was created to support educators as they identify characteristics of dyslexia. Although this checklist is not intended to make a diagnosis, it is a great tool to use for those concerned about a student's performance. Teachers and parents may use this checklist to consolidate multiple sources of information.  

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: Characteristics of Dyslexia
Wear Red Day 2022

October, a month dedicated to dyslexia and learning disabilities awareness, is the perfect time to launch AIM’s Science of Reading blog. Dyslexia Awareness Month was officially recognized by the US Congress in 2015 and is an important time focused on deepening the understanding of dyslexia, dispelling misconceptions, and advocating for improved teacher training opportunities for all educators.

Learn how everyone in your community can play a part in raising awareness of dyslexia.

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Read More about Tuesday Teaching Tips: October is Dyslexia Awareness Month!