Reading Lessons for All Learner – About This Unit

Helping Students Read has provided a starting point for learning about the reading process, how students learn to read, and what you can do to help. The goal of this unit is to give you further support for that final part: how to put your knowledge into practice by designing and using reading lessons.

In US schools and districts, the touchstone for lessons in reading (and other subjects) is the set of academic content standards adopted by each state. This unit begins with a brief explanation of learning progressions and the standards they support. These standards guide decisions about what (and sometimes, how) to teach.

The discussion then returns to the idea of teaching to the edges. It describes how principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be used to help all students meet high-level standards in reading. Combining standards with UDL allows educators to develop and deliver reading lessons that engage all learners and help them succeed. The unit concludes with some practical examples.

Core Concepts

To design effective lessons that work well for all learners, parapros need to understand three main ideas. First, they need to understand learning progressions. Each learning progression is a list of the steps required for learning an important skill. Second, they need to have some familiarity with state-adopted academic standards. Third, they need to know how to apply the principles of Universal Design for Learning. These principles help educators translate learning progressions and standards into meaningful lessons that meet the needs of diverse learners. With these consideration in mind, it’s finally time to start designing your own lessons!


Key Vocabulary

AJAX progress indicator
  • Academic (or Educational or Content) Standards
    The goals set for readers at various educational levels that describe what skills they should possess; standards are set to guide educators' instructional design.
  • Assets-Based Pedagogy
    A type of teaching that views and affirms students' differences as strengths rather than as obstacles to their learning achievement.
  • Culturally Responsive Pedagogy
    The use of instructional content and methods that draw on and honor students' differences, especially in terms of their race, ethnicity, and culture.
  • Engagement
    A technical term for the amount of time and attention a reader devotes to a text. Strong engagement by a reader tends to produce better reading comprehension.
  • Enthusiasm
    A reader's motivation to finish and understand a text. Fun can be part of enthusiasm, but not all of it–it's possible to be enthusiastic about texts that aren't necessarily fun!
  • Flexible Grouping
    Teaching students in small groups organized on the basis of the commonality of their skills and needs.
  • Interest
    Interest describes what's at stake for a reader in a text. Texts that have some importance to a reader carry more interest for him or her, and that interest stimulates enthusiasm and engagement.
  • Interventions
    Specially designed lessons for individual learners or small groups that need extra help.
  • Learning Progression
    The steps involved in learning a complex skill.
  • Scope (of Instruction)
    The different types of skills or concepts in a curriculum.
  • Sequence (of Instruction)
    The specific order of lessons in a curriculum.
  • Teaching (Designing) to the Edges
    Fitting instruction to the real skills and needs of students instead of to an imaginary average student who does not actually exist.
  • Universal Design for Learning
    A way of teaching aimed at reaching all students by using flexible and adaptable methods that engage many different parts of the brain.