Comprehensive Literacy Instruction
The Four Blocks Program
- The most popular method currently practiced is a comprehensive literacy approach. Many educators use a Four Blocks framework developed by Patricia Cunningham. The Four Blocks program includes:
- Guided Reading – to enhance comprehension
- Self-Selected Reading – to build fluency
- Word Block – to develop spelling and word decoding
- Writing – to reinforce and apply reading skills
- This method includes a phonics dimension, but does not focus on phonics. Exploring more on this topic may be useful. Many books and courses are available that teach the dynamics of the Four Blocks framework
- Pat Oelwein, a special education teacher, has authored, “Teaching Reading to Children with Down Syndrome: A Guide for Parents and Teachers”. She outlines a program that has helped children with Down syndrome learn to read. Her approach centers on visual learning and it is an appropriate program for children with autism. The author first introduces semantically potent, meaningful words using flashcards, games, charts, and books. After the child has learned words, then individual letters and sounds are taught.
- Dr. Cafiero uses the Four Blocks framework along with language experience stories. During the language experience, photographs are taken of student activities and later constructed into a book. The books are duplicated so that all students have their own copy during a guided reading activity. The target words in the language experience story are used in word games for additional practice. The book is duplicated; some copies are adapted, and made available to the students for self-selected reading. The target words are also used for writing journals and daily news. Preliminary results from research indicate that more literacy behaviors are exhibited when the student uses language experience books that are adapted with Picture Communication Symbols (PCS). When reading adapted books, the students also demonstrated a decrease in aberrant behaviors.