CommonLit Elementary Classrooms CommonLit’s library supports elementary teachers as they implement Science of Reading aligned instruction

The Science of Reading 

The Science of Reading is a body of research incorporating psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience to explain how students learn to read.

The Simple View of Reading presents the idea that reading comprehension is the product of just two things: language comprehension and word recognition (Gough & Turner, 1986). 

Simple View of Reading: 

Language Comprehension  x  Word Recognition = Reading Proficiency 

  • Language comprehension: knowledge, vocabulary, sentences, connections, gist

  • Word recognition: sounds, letters, words 

Additionally, the Simple View of Reading can be understood through the lens of Scarborough’s Reading Rope, an infographic showing the variety of strands woven into skilled reading. The top strands are linked to Language Comprehension, and the bottom strands are connected to Word Recognition. As stated in the Simple View of Reading, skilled or proficient reading is a product of these two strands (Scarborough, 2001).

Scarborough's Reading Rope imagery

Graphic modeled after the illustration from the Handbook of Early Literacy Research, by Susan B. Neuman and David K. Dickinson (2001) who re-envisioned researcher and author Hollis Scarborough’s visual metaphor of the Reading Rope. Ⓒ 2020 Brainspring Publications.

CommonLit’s lesson library supports elementary teachers as they focus on the Language Comprehension strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope. These strands include background knowledge, vocabulary, language structure, verbal reasoning, and literacy knowledge.

Read on to see how selections from CommonLit’s lesson library align with the Language Comprehension strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope associated with the Science of Reading.

Knowledge Building is Key

As teachers seek to incorporate Science of Reading best practices in their classes, CommonLit provides a wide selection of non-fiction text options to assist in knowledge building and acquiring background knowledge. Many of these lesson options are compiled in Text Sets, carefully curated lesson selections that align to a particular topic. These are a great vehicle for knowledge building as they allow for a deep dive into a given topic, and some particularly beneficial Text Sets for elementary students include Westward Expansion, Science of the Body, and The American Revolution. In addition, CommonLit has Supplementary Units like Protecting Animals and Cultures Around the World that offer teachers complete lesson plans for brief instructional units of 2-3 weeks in duration.

If teachers are looking to build their own text set on a bespoke topic, CommonLit has plenty of choices in an easily searchable database of lessons. Teachers can search the library on any number of topics, standards, or by particular skill. CommonLit’s large library of informational text options will help teachers address the background knowledge strand of the Reading Rope. 

In addition, all lessons include Related Media Exploration opportunities which are multimedia lessons designed to bolster student understanding of these unit-specific topics. For example, in the 4th grade article entitled “Why Do We Sleep?” there are two supplemental videos that explore the topic in greater depth and build students’ reservoir of knowledge in a multimodal way.

Two graphics about the science of sleep for children

Vocabulary Instruction Options

Within each CommonLit lesson, students are provided with beneficial footnotes and spotlighted vocabulary words that will broaden their word knowledge and build their library of known words. These are spotlighted vocabulary words that teachers can include in their instruction. In addition, the vast library of  Target Lessons that CommonLit offers includes strategies for determining the meaning of unknown words as well as reinforcing key skills such as identifying main ideas and author’s point of view.

Three sections with one picture of a teddy bear, one of an army nurse, one of an archaeological dig

Implementing Verbal Reasoning into Lessons

Verbal reasoning is the ability to comprehend concepts expressed through language, use logic to solve problems, and to think constructively. Readers should be able to think about a text and infer meaning from what is both implicitly and explicitly written. To build verbal reasoning skills, students must engage in metacognitive practices, like inferencing, engaging in cross-textual analysis, and interpreting abstract language.

Within the CommonLit library lessons, teachers can utilize assessment and discussion questions to build students’ ability to think constructively, infer and analyze text. Another beneficial tool to assist students with this knowledge acquisition is Guided Reading Mode which often requires students to infer correctly prior to advancing in the text.

In addition, each lesson has accompanying Paired Texts that provide additional opportunities to engage in cross-textual reading.  The Paired Text features gives teachers multiple text ideas to extend students’ learning into a particular topic. Going back to the earlier text example of “Why Do We Sleep,” there are multiple additional articles that are aligned in topic to this one that serve to broaden students’ knowledge base. 

Three sections with one image of a sleeping teen, one of a cartoon boy outdoors, and one of hands behind a glass door

In order to effectively encourage students to develop verbal reasoning skills, the CommonLit library of lessons provides rich and complex texts that are engaging for students. This increased engagement level is part of what sets CommonLit apart. Each lesson has both discussion and assessment questions to help gauge students’ comprehension and provide for lively conversations revolving around each text. 

Additionally, CommonLit Assessment Questions are standards-aligned and help students practice inferencing skills. Students are often asked to back up claims with evidence, and the literary questions ask students to interpret figurative language like metaphors, similes, and more.

The inherent collaboration that exists throughout CommonLit lessons also allows students to build on one another’s ideas and deepen their understanding of complex texts through class discussions. This challenges them to continue improving their verbal reasoning skills, a key element of Scarborough's Reading Rope.

Building on Literacy Knowledge

The final Language Comprehension strand on Scarborough’s Reading Rope is building on literacy knowledge. Students need to understand the purpose, features, and conventions of texts across genres from poetry to non-fiction in order to bolster reading skills.

Again, the CommonLit Text Sets are instrumental in helping teachers find lessons that can effectively build this strand. The CommonLit Supplemental Units are also geared towards providing students with various genres of writing that are focused on one topic. This explicit instruction regarding text structure can also be supported with Target Lessons.

The offerings in the CommonLit library expose students to a variety of genres, from short stories to informational texts to poetry and more. It’s this selection  of  horizontally and vertically aligned texts that are instrumental in assisting students in becoming more fluent and proficient readers by exposing them to multiple Language Comprehension strands of Scarborough’s Reading Rope.

To find out more about how CommonLit can support your school in building more proficient readers, reach out to our team.