Teaching Foundational Reading and Writing Skills: 2-Step Strategy

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If you’re unsure if your students need support with foundational reading and writing skills then…


You are surrounded by your learners, ready to explain the next writing activity. 

“Today you are going to keep working on your informational writing piece. You are going to add supporting details to the main idea you came up with, like you did in your persuasive writing piece last month.” 

You look out into the sea of faces, expecting many head nods since this should be old hat by now.

Instead, staring back are unblinking eyes, heads tilted to a 75 degree angle, and mouths gaped open silently shouting “supporting what?!?!?!”

If this is a remotely familiar scenario, it is time to get back to basics. 


One reason we find ourselves repeating the same information is that students may not have a complete understanding of foundational reading and writing skills

We assume that they do, either because we have touched on them before, or because it was a standard from a previous grade. 

This problem can be solved, but it will take time and brain power. 

However, the time used will lead to less repetition and more retention


Follow this 2-step strategy to teach foundational reading and writing skills once and for all!


Every unit you work on has foundational concepts that students MUST understand to be successful.

The good news is that many of the same concepts show up across units in reading and writing.  

Developing a strong understanding of a single foundational concept will help students successfully complete a slew of activities throughout the year.  

For example, students who understand supporting details will not only include them across different writing pieces, but will also be able to identify them during reading tasks. 


The concepts will be different depending on the grade, subject, and service you are providing. 

BEGIN by looking at the reading and writing units your students will be doing during the year. Ask yourself these questions: 

[Be sure to write down your answers!]

📣 “What terms do/will I use over and over when teaching each unit?” 

📣 “What are the most important concepts on the grading rubrics for each unit?”  

📣 “What terms are on the charts and tools for each unit?”

If you’ve taught these units before

📣 “What specific challenges did my students have with each unit last year?”  

THEN, compare the lists and find terms and concepts that keep popping up! These are the most important foundational concepts to teach, since they show up across so many lessons.

So we have a list of foundational reading and writing concepts.



It’s time to focus on teaching the concepts on your list… one by one. 

Think of this step as previewing before your actual lessons. We know this takes time, something we don’t have much of. 

But remember that teaching the foundations early, means MORE SUCCESS for your students later and LESS REPEATING for you.

✅ TIP- You don’t need to do this step all on your own! 

Anyone working with your students can target these concepts too! Collaborate with others in your school:

  • Classroom Teachers
  • Speech and Language Therapists
  • Special Education Teachers
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Intervention Specialists 

Need more support? 

▶️ Hop over to our YouTube channel for free teaching videos you can use immediately!

Foundational Reading and Writing Teaching Videos

Each video focuses on a foundational reading or writing concept and follows the GRASPhopper method: Learn, Model, Practice!  


  • START by helping your students LEARN the basic meaning of each concept from your list by teaching the terms using student friendly definitions. 
  • THEN show MODELS of each term in books, videos, and hands-on activities. Use a visual or gestural support that connects with the concept.
    • Why? Because then you can display this support during your lessons, to remind your learners’ brains about the concept, without having to repeat the teaching.
  • FINALLY, it’s the students’ turn to show their understanding by completing PRACTICE activities where they will think critically about each concept.
    • Finding the right activities can be difficult. Our foundational resources contain multiple activities where students can show their understanding!  Here are a few you can begin using now

We recognize this strategy may seem like a lot-especially with all of the other things you have to work on. 

But this strategy doesn’t need to take weeks, or be done all at the same time. 

You are the expert… pick the concepts you know students will need in their immediate future and teach those first. Add in the other terms throughout the year. 

We are also here to help- be on the lookout for our next blog post, where we show this strategy in action! 

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What reading or writing concepts do you find your students struggling to understand? 

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