Teachers Can Affect Reading Brain Patterns

Posted by Brainspring on 3rd Jun 2015

brainHi everyone,

 “Beginning readers who focus on letter-sound relationships, or phonics, instead of trying to learn whole words, increase activity in the area of their brains best wired for reading, according to new Stanford research investigating how the brain responds to different types of reading instruction.”

You can affect the development of the brain patterns your students use for reading.

Your instructional approach makes a difference.

Many of you are already aware that skilled readers use specific portions of the left side of their brains for reading.  Struggling readers, including those with dyslexia, do not develop these brain patterns automatically.  Since they are not utilizing the most efficient pathways, reading takes much more effort and is often slow and laborious.  The Stanford study shows that how teachers teach new words affects students’ brain patterns for reading development.


Left Side or Right Side?

Instruction in letter-sound relationships (phonics) elicits activity on the left side of the brain.

 thumb up Skilled Reading

Instruction in phonics allows readers to decipher words they haven’t seen before.

thumb upSkilled Reading

Whole-word instruction elicits activity on the right side of the brain.

thumb downUnskilled Reading


Some phonics instruction is more effective than others.

thumb upInstruction should focus on the individual pieces of language– letters and their sounds.  After learning the pieces, students can bring them together to read words.  For example, first the student learns the letters associated with the sounds /c/, /a/, /t/ and then reads the word “cat”.

thumb downTeaching phonics skills within larger pieces is not as effective.  For example, teaching the word “cat” and then asking students to notice the letter c is making the sound /c/.


Isn’t it nice to know that the choices we make in our instruction really can make a difference?


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