What is direct, explicit, and systematic instruction, and why is it important? 

When it comes to the Science of Reading and Structured Literacy principles, you’ll notice there’s a lot of emphasis on the importance of direct, explicit, and systematic instruction to help young students reach literacy and fluency. But what does this concept mean and what exactly does it entail? How can you apply these principles in the classroom and what are the benefits of doing so? 

What exactly does direct, systematic, and explicit instruction entail?

Direct, systematic, and explicit instruction is an approach that places focus on clear, structured, gradual teaching methods to promote effective learning. Whenever you teach students new skills, new concepts, or new information, this approach is useful, especially for those students in your classroom struggling with learning difficulties like ADHD, dyslexia, dysgraphia, and other challenges. 

According to the Florida Center for Reading Research, these three concepts can be defined as follows:

Direct instruction – this approach involves the teacher presenting information directly to the students, through clear, concise explanations and examples that help students process what they’re being taught. It’s a way of eliminating confusion and guesswork and guiding students through concepts and applications, going into detail where needed to make sure all students have processed and understood the lesson. 

Systematic instruction – this approach basically involves segmenting, organizing, or separating lessons into sequences to help students better process new information step by step. Lessons should follow a logical, gradual progression, where each new piece of information builds upon the previous one, making things easier to understand by all students. This concept focuses on building knowledge gradually, going from simple ideas to more complex concepts, laying the groundwork for students to build knowledge and mastery. 

Explicit instruction – every new concept or lesson taught in the classroom has to be logical, gradual, and easy to process for all students, regardless of their learning difficulties. Explicit instruction means that the teacher should use concise, specific, and clear language, without any ambiguity or vagueness, leaving out any guesswork or interpretation from the students. This approach also involves a high level of direct interaction between student and teacher, where concepts are broken down into manageable steps, while the teacher provides guidance and further explanations where needed. 

Why is it important?

Incorporating the principles of direct, explicit, and systematic instruction into the curriculum can lay the foundation for students to be able to process and understand information and reach fluency and literacy effectively. These principles are also incredibly useful when it comes to teaching students struggling with learning challenges or disabilities, or who simply require additional support to move on from one lesson to the next. 

Direct, systematic, and explicit instruction can be useful to teachers in various ways. 

  • It promotes clarity and understanding: teachers provide clear, focused explanations, examples, and demonstrations, eliminating vagueness and avoiding misunderstandings on behalf of the students. 
  • It promotes efficiency: through direct and focused teaching methods, students receive direct, targeted information without any distractions or confusion, making it easy for them to follow lessons and build knowledge gradually. 
  • It caters to diverse learners: this type of instruction is not only beneficial to struggling students, but to general education students, as well. Each student has a different learning style, different needs, and moves at a different pace, and these approaches can easily be tailored to fit different learning preferences. 
  • It promotes retention of information: through direct, systematic, and explicit instruction, students learn to master concepts and ideas, building gradually from simple to more complex lessons. This helps them better process and retain information, building a solid foundation for future learning and progress. 
  • It helps Build confidence: struggling learners often have a hard time being confident in their skills or speaking out in the classroom, because they might not have grasped the information as well as other students or they feel left behind. Through direct, systematic, and explicit instruction, they receive clear guidance and they know exactly what’s expected of them and what comes next, thus eliminating anxiety and uncertainty. This type of instruction also allows them to interact more directly with their teacher, get focused, targeted feedback, and to see progress as they move on to increasingly more complex ideas. 

If you want to learn more about teaching strategies that empower students and lead to literacy and fluency, or you’re interested in our trainings and course offerings, reach out to Da Vinci Collaborative and let’s see how we can help!

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