A trio of one-page memos from the Lead for Literacy series examines the importance of using curriculum that is rigorous, cohesive, engaging and builds knowledge as well as decoding skills. The series was produced by HGSE’s Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
As the first memo — The Importance of Using a Literacy Curriculum – notes, “It’s a big job to design cohesive, rigorous literacy instruction, especially instruction that promotes language and knowledge building. Yet many teachers are expected to both design and deliver literacy instruction day‐after‐day, and month after month, throughout the school year.” It offers a rationale for using a comprehensive literacy curriculum:
- “A curriculum provides content and pedagogical strategies educators need to help children meet standards.”
- “A high-quality curriculum is a resource that creates a platform for supporting good teaching.”
- “A curriculum is a tool for institutionalizing professional knowledge and effective practices across classrooms.”
- “A curriculum is a tool for building the kind of instructional cohesion children need to accumulate skills and knowledge over time.”
The second memo — Selecting a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum – recommends selecting a curriculum through a “team‐based process that is informed by … the needs of the setting’s children and adults, and a pilot phase that enables thorough review.” The memo notes the importance of choosing a literacy curriculum with:
- “Language-rich and content-rich units of study.”
- A long-term plan with daily lesson models and supporting materials to “support instructional coherence and consistency within and across classrooms and grade levels.”
- Engaging approaches to instruction with “literacy enriched learning centers featuring a wide variety of books and visuals” and lessons “that promote interactive play and inquiry.”
The final memo — Implementing a Comprehensive Literacy Curriculum – offers suggestions for putting a literacy curriculum in place. It calls for ongoing professional development, “regular formal and informal observations of educators using the curriculum,” and “conversations about instructional practice and improvement.”
“Curricula are not intuitive and therefore require ongoing training. Continuous training improves implementation quality, builds collective commitment to the curriculum and gets new staff up to speed,” the memo states. “A curriculum [also] provides a shared professional language that enables educators to discuss and refine their instructional practices during meetings and planning time.”
The Lead for Literacy memos are an initiative of the Language Diversity and Literacy Development Research Group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The research group is headed by Professor Nonie Lesaux, author of “Turning the Page: Refocusing Massachusetts for Reading Success,” which we commissioned in 2010 and which informs the memos.