Research-Based Reading Instruction

What is multisensory reading instruction?

Multisensory instruction is a way of teaching reading that integrates reading, spelling, and handwriting into unified lessons. Unlike conventional programs in which these three subjects are taught separately, multisensory programs use a combined approach in which children simultaneously see the letters (visual input), say the letter sounds (auditory input), and write the letters (kinesthetic input). Children read and spell the same material within the same lesson. By strengthening associations and automatic recall, multisensory instruction helps improve word recognition, reading fluency, and comprehension.

Multisensory instruction is based on the work of the physician Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton in the first half of the twentieth century. Dr. Orton was a pioneer in the field of dyslexia, a learning disability that results in reading difficulties. He was among the first to recognize the importance of proper instruction in treating the disorder. The original Orton-Gillingham reading program, developed by Dr. Orton, Anna Gillingham, and Bessie Stillman, was remedial and designed to be used one-on-one with individuals with dyslexia. PAF incorporates the theory and techniques of Orton-Gillingham instruction into a beginning reading program.

What are some of the research-based practices in PAF?

The PAF Reading Program incorporates all the instructional practices supported by the latest research. Some of the research-based practices that form the foundation of PAF are:

  • Phonemic awareness is explicitly taught, modeled, and practiced under a teacher’s supervision in every lesson as children blend sounds (phonemes) to read word, phrase and sentence lists and segment words into sounds to spell dictated words and sentences.
  • Explicit phonics lessons in which children are taught to decode and blend sounds into words in order to develop their word recognition skills.
  • A sequence of concepts that progresses from the simplest unit of language (letters) to the most complex (text), with skills practiced and reinforced at each level until they are automatic.
  • The integration of reading, spelling, and handwriting, which helps develop the decoding and word recognition skills needed for comprehension.
  • Oral reading under the supervision of the teacher that allows children’s errors to be monitored and corrected to develop accurate reading. Only when children read accurately and automatically can they access the meaning of text.
  • Repeated readings that provide the practice needed to develop word recognition and fluency.
  • Decodable text that contains only the sounds and words that have been taught, and enables children to apply their word analysis skills in a meaningful context.
  • Modeling comprehension strategies, including visualizing, rereading, predicting, paraphrasing, and summarizing, taught under teacher direction.

Most importantly, all of these research-based practices are integrated in every PAF lesson.

Who will benefit from PAF?

All beginning readers can benefit from PAF instruction, but for struggling readers, it is critical. Many children start school without an understanding that words can be broken down into sounds (phonemic awareness). Therefore, they cannot learn the first important concept in beginning reading, that each sound in English is represented by a letter or letters (the alphabetic principle). Consequently, decoding and word recognition skills develop slowly, if at all. Without strong word recognition, comprehension suffers. PAF teaches the alphabetic principle, higher-level word analysis skills, and comprehension strategies directly, with sufficient practice and reinforcement to ensure that all children learn to read.  

In addition, since PAF teaches foundational skills and the structure of language, it is a highly effective reading program for English Learners. The foundation for learning to read is the same whether you’re learning to read in a language you are learning or one you already know. But they are not identical; language learners require additional supports. Claude Goldenberg

PAF’s step-by-step progression leads to an increased sense of mastery and self esteem. It results in minimum frustration and maximum success for teachers and students.