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Using a Single Instructional Program

To get the most out of the Direct Instruction (DI) programs, schools should avoid using any other instructional or supplemental program in the same subject area as the DI programs in use in the school. The amount of time for instruction in each subject is limited, especially when second reading periods are included in the schedule. (See Scheduling Sufficient Instructional Time.)  Any programs that inhibit the scheduling of sufficient time for DI programs should be removed.

Schools should also avoid using other instructional or supplemental programs in the same subject area as the DI programs because they may be confusing to students. The DI programs teach explicit strategies. In the first level of the reading program, for instance, some of these strategies include the use of the "sounds" that letters make instead of letter names, "sounding out" words and then "saying them fast". A program that refers to letter names and prompts students to use context clues (such as looking at pictures) would have the potential to confuse children who were receiving DI reading. Young students and students from highly at-risk backgrounds in particular can get confused by multiple instructional approaches. These students need instruction using consistent, effective strategies.

If another program is used for extra practice, it may be ok to use. If another program is used for instruction, it will probably not be ok to use. Other programs or materials may be used for practice as long as:

1) use of the materials doesn't take time away from DI,

2) the materials aren't used to teach concepts or skills, and

3) students can perform at 100% mastery on the materials independently.

If the students cannot perform perfectly on the materials independently, then they will need instruction in the materials, which will detract from their progress in DI. If students are given books that are too difficult for them to understand, reading them may become punishing to students, which can undermine their motivation to learn. Students should be given books they can decode with minimal help so they feel good about themselves and are eager to read more.

An exception to the above guidelines is test preparation for high stakes tests. NIFDI supplies schools with materials that familiarize students with the format of standardized tests that they will encounter. This type of test preparation should be restricted to only a few hours per week for a month and a half at most before the administration of the tests.

IMPORTANT: The practice of using two or more instructional programs with children is widespread, but it can have negative implications for student progress and teacher performance. Not only can a second (or third) instructional program confuse children because of the different instructional approaches, it can also confuse teachers. A second program requires teachers to learn two different programs, two different instructional approaches and two different assessments. Teachers must receive training in two different programs, and supervisors must monitor and provide support for the two programs. It may be difficult for teachers and supervisors to determine when and how a second program should be used, especially when the two programs are not designed to be taught together. DI programs contain all of the components that teachers and students need to be successful, and the DI programs have provisions for working with students representing the full range of learners. Any diversion from the DI programs will lead to less spectacular results than a full, undiluted, comprehensive DI implementation.


For more on using DI as a single instructional program, see:

  pdf Using DI as a Core Program

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