HMH Into Reading: Research Evidence Base
At a glance
  • Demonstrates a Rationale
  • Program: HMH Into Reading®
  • Subject: Literacy Curriculum
  • Report Type: Research Evidence Base
  • Grade Level: Elementary
Literacy Today

Learning to read is one of the most important steps in a child’s educational development. Today, students learn to read across a variety of genres and formats, from environmental texts, to the classics, to graphic novels. With new formats come new opportunities and challenges, as students encounter and interact with traditional print and digital content in all aspects of their daily lives.

For far too long, the percentage of students performing at or above proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading assessment has remained appallingly low, with only 35% of Grade 4 students scoring proficient or higher in 2019. Even more concerning is the immense variation in the opportunity gap by student group. For example, race and ethnicity proficiency gaps in 2019 ranged from 18% to 57% (See Figure 1). Similarly, only 21% of Grade 4 students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch scored proficient or higher, compared to 51% of students who were not eligible (See Figure 2). Now, more than ever, it is imperative that schools prioritize equity in learning opportunities by delivering high-quality instruction and materials for all students, with the goal of closing these long-standing gaps.

Wf1404620 Figure2
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), various years, 1992–2019 Reading Assessments.
Wf1404620 Figure2

There are many costs to the lack of reading proficiency. Research has shown that the inability to read proficiently in third grade is linked to difficulties learning in other subject areas, difficulties reading in later grades, and decreased likelihood of attending college (Tennessee Department of Education, 2016). Recent studies of college enrollment statistics have found that up to 60 percent of students in the United States are unprepared for college-level work in reading, math, or both. College-bound students and families across the country spend an estimated $1.3 billion on remedial coursework every year (Jimenez et al., 2016). An estimated 93 million adults in the United States read at or below basic levels and face challenges finding living wage jobs as a result (Tennessee Department of Education, 2016).

In addition, the results from the 2016 administration of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) assessment, which provides a comparison of reading achievement of U.S. fourth-grade students and students from 57 countries around the world, showed similarly disappointing results (Warner-Griffin et al., 2017). The most recent NAEP and PIRLS data highlight the great need to improve the reading skills of students from diverse backgrounds, especially racially and ethnically diverse students and students with disabilities. Persistent dismal performance by U.S. students on the NAEP and PIRLS illustrates the need for a strong foundational literacy skills base to be developed in the earliest grades through effective reading programs containing systematic, explicit instruction in foundational literacy skills. The results also emphasize the urgency for effective literacy interventions to differentiate instruction based on students’ needs, ultimately developing all students into the confident and capable readers they deserve to become (Murphy, 2010).

Now, more than ever, it is imperative that schools implement high-quality literacy programs designed to support the academic and social growth of all learners. For over 180 years, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has been deeply committed to literature, learning, and improving lives through literacy. HMH Into Reading continues that tradition. Specifically, this HMH Into Reading Research Foundation Paper explains how HMH Into Reading draws on the Science of Reading, a scientific, evidence-base of research, to give students in Grades K–6 the foundation they need to be successful readers and writers. In this report, the research base is presented, followed by how HMH Into Reading aligns to the research.

The Science of Learning to Read

The Simple View of Reading

The Simple View of Reading, a prominent theory of reading development, contends that students become readers when they can marshal the skills to decode words while simultaneously drawing on their knowledge of language for reading comprehension (Baker et al., 2017; Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990).

Knowledge of language includes more than vocabulary and simple sentence construction; it also includes students’ knowledge of language structures, print concepts, and verbal reasoning skills (Scarborough, 2001). Reading with comprehension occurs when children can convert the meaning represented by words in print to a meaning that they can readily understand. Thus, children successfully learning foundational literacy skills discover how print maps onto their existing spoken language; gradually, they master these foundational skills to move beyond this simple transaction and bring higher levels of language as well as thinking skills, such as inferring and critiquing, to their reading.

Essential Elements of Literacy

The interest in the challenge of teaching children to read is long-standing. In 1997, the United States Congress convened the National Reading Panel to review the scientific research evidence on reading and the resulting implications for reading instruction. In 2000, the experts on the panel produced a report based on decades of research evidence that highlighted five key pillars of early literacy and reading instruction: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, 2000). Numerous independent studies and expert panels have concluded that phonemic awareness and phonics have a direct and positive impact on reading acquisition, and research has also shown that a foundation in phonemic awareness and phonics can positively affect other key elements of literacy, such as fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension (Ehri et al., 2001). The 5 Pillars of Literacy–also known as the Big 5–remain widely accepted by researchers and educators as core elements of effective reading instruction.

In the decades since the National Reading Panel’s report was published, reading researchers have continued to emphasize the importance of using rigorous gold-standard research methodologies to study essential elements of reading acquisition and to identify effective practices for reading instruction. Modern reading research includes empirical evidence from diverse disciplines such as cognitive psychology, educational psychology, neuroscience, and linguistics in order to better understand how humans learn to read. At HMH, we have added several essential elements to the Foundational Pillars of Literacy, including, writing, knowledge development, language development, and social and emotional learning.

The research evidence has demonstrated that learning to read is not like learning to speak–unlike speaking, which many (though not all) children are able to pick up naturally and without formal instruction simply by being immersed in a speech-rich environment, reading is unnatural and effortful to learn (Seidenberg, 2013). Evolutionary psychology shows that written language is a relatively new ability acquired only 5,000 years ago. Neuroscience researchers have identified specific brain regions that are active while reading and demonstrated that learning to read changes the structure of the brain (Dehaene et al., 2010). Cognitive psychologists have provided evidence that learning to read proficiently requires explicit, systematic, and cumulative instruction in the elements of written language (Seidenberg, 2017).

Program Overview


Foundational Literacy Skills Grounded in science-based reading methods that have proven how students acquire reading skills, HMH Into Reading provides comprehensive, explicit, and systematic instruction in foundational literacy skills, aligned with a research-based scope and sequence that provides students with a foundation to become confident, independent readers and writers. HMH Into Reading supports Grades K–6 teachers as they nurture students on their paths as emerging readers and writers with the flexibility to adapt Foundational Skills instruction to meet all students’ needs, while immersing students in successful reading and writing experiences.

For example, HMH Into Reading’s Foundational Skills whole-group lessons provide daily, explicit, systematic instruction across a full range of foundational literacy skills, including: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Spelling, Word Study, and Fluency. To further develop strong fluency skills, HMH Into Reading’s high-quality decodable texts help children apply knowledge of phonics and high-frequency words in context, feature a connected storyline or topic across the week’s texts, and provide an engaging story to build reading fluency, and help students experience reading success.

Spelling is integrated into the literacy instruction of HMH Into Reading with connections to foundational reading skills and word work strategies. The HMH Into Reading Spelling scope and sequence and word lists were developed with Dr. Shane Templeton and focus on phonemic awareness and phonics in Kindergarten; weekly spelling pattern-based lists in Grades 1–2; and word work with anchor charts and word work strategy lessons and cards in Grades 3–6.

Handwriting is integrated into the foundational skills scope and sequence of HMH Into Reading with connections to the foundational reading skills, including literacy centers and small-group differentiation practice opportunities, and online printables with extensive ready-made resources for instruction and practice.

See the complete HMH Into Reading Scope and Sequence of Foundational Skills Grades K–6 resource for additional details.

Topic Knowledge and Vocabulary

HMH Into Reading’s intentional design, systematically builds students’ understanding of meaningful topics and academic vocabulary. Topics and text sets are thoughtfully sequenced to build knowledge—like pieces of a puzzle—within a module, within a grade, and across the program.

Reading Comprehension

HMH Into Reading provides the tools students need to develop critical and strategic thinking skills for the 21st century. With mastery of foundational literacy skills, including strong decoding skills, students will have the building blocks they need to comprehend what they read. HMH Into Reading students develop a lifelong love of reading through the extensive library of engaging, award winning, culturally relevant texts that span a wide variety of genres. HMH Into Reading instruction teaches students how to recognize genre characteristics, cite text evidence, and draw from their growing bank of skills and strategies helping them make meaning from complex grade-level texts.

Writing and Communication

To support effective writing and communication, HMH Into Reading provides daily opportunities for students to express their understanding and thinking, helping them succeed in today’s world. The program supports the full range of writing modes and forms, scaffolding the steps of the writing process, while also developing students’ ability to have productive, collaborative conversations.

Learning Across Content Areas

HMH Into Reading supports content area connections that are critical to learning. Literacy instruction provides the “how” for what students learn in science, social studies, mathematics and the arts. For example, as students read and talk about text, they will naturally build background and knowledge and grade-level cross-curricular topics and content standards.

Student Choice and Independent Practice

The power of choice can be motivating, and what is interesting to one student may not appeal to another student. Therefore, HMH Into Reading provides access to a wide variety of relevant, rich, authentic texts for independent reading and meaningful opportunities for independent work, allowing students appropriate ownership of the learning.

Teaching Reading with Spiraling Approach to Instruction

The ultimate goal of reading is to comprehend and build knowledge. Therefore, HMH Into Reading’s approach is to focus on skills and strategies that best support the specific text that students are reading. Skills don’t exist in a vacuum. They must be applied to a meaningful activity, in this case, the reading of connected, grade-level appropriate text. Brady (2012), while endorsing the importance of research-based methods of code instruction, advocates connecting that instruction to the reading of connected text. Furthermore, Brady (2012) concludes that engagement with “texts with a high proportion of decodable, familiar words (complemented by high-frequency words) enhance beginners’ reading acquisition” (Brady, p. 21).

By continually spiraling through skills that are in service of texts, rather than texts being in service of a weekly skill, students gradually learn to draw from many skills and strategies to comprehend what they read. Throughout the year, texts increase in complexity, so students are applying the same grade-level appropriate skill to increasingly more complex text.

Social and Emotional Learning

HMH Into Reading instructional design and materials for students and teachers understands that students are multidimensional, and that their social and emotional behaviors have an impact on the academic success. HMH Into Reading supports students’ social and emotional learning (including: social awareness, self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills), throughout the program. Support for positive social and emotional competencies is infused throughout the literacy instruction, including specific guidance in the teacher’s guides, through classroom resources and student activities, and through strategic use of books.

Connected Teaching For Accelerated Growth

HMH Into Reading provides students, teachers, and schools with access to rich content and standards-based instruction, assessments, and actionable data insights, professional learning, and supplemental practice and instruction—all connected on Ed, HMH’s digital learning platform.

RICH CONTENT AND STANDARDS BASED INSTRUCTION. HMH Into Reading features research-based, explicit systematic instruction with resources to support whole class, small group, and independent student work. Program materials are available to support striving readers and writers, multilingual learners, and advanced learners. In addition, an equitable Spanish Language Arts program, HMH ¡Arriba la Lectura! is available.

DATA DRIVEN INSTRUCTION. Data driven instruction drives student growth in HMH Into Reading. Specifically, the program supports teachers to connect assessment insights with relevant instructional content, tools, and resources to accelerate student growth and narrow the achievement gap. Assessment and actional data insights include: embedded formative assessment; the Reading Growth Measure; Reading Growth Measure reports that inform instructional decisions, planning, and grouping; and Oral reading fluency assessments and dyslexia screening with HMH content recommendations, through Amira Learning, a supplemental, connected offering

DIFFERENTIATED SUPPORT FOR ALL LEARNERS. HMH Into Reading includes a variety of program resources to meet the needs of all learners. Teachers can continually return to the data and adjust dynamically, allowing them to reinforce, extend, and intervene, in response to students who make learning gains at a different pace. HMH also offers supplemental practice and instructional opportunities, connected to HMH Into Reading on the Ed learning platform. For example, personalized, adaptive fluency and comprehension skills practice and assessment through Amira Learning; comprehensive English language arts adaptive instruction and practice, aligned to HMH Into Reading, through Waggle; and writing practice and feedback with customizable assignments that support HMH Into Reading through Writable,

PROFESSIONAL LEARNING. HMH Into Reading provides continuous, connect learning for teachers and administrators. With embedded professional learning and online and on-demand implementation support from HMH’s Professional Services, educators are empowered to maximize instructional time, build upon their experience, and access virtual and on-demand resources. Professional supports includes the HMH Into Reading Getting Started course for every teacher and administrator; Teacher’s Corner, with curated, on-demand curriculum and aligned content and teaching support, and Leader’s Corner, designed specifically for administrators and school leaders; and online and in-person team coaching tailored to specifically to need.

Essential Literacy Skills

Decades of cognitive science research has demonstrated that “reading is a complex developmental challenge that [is] intertwined with many other developmental accomplishments: attention, memory, language, and motivation” (Snow et al., 1998, p. 2). In addition to these intertwined factors, at its essence, learning to read involves knowing the alphabet, being able to decode, recognizing words accurately and fluently, comprehending the ideas represented in text, and more. For many students, learning to read can be tough work.

Research has demonstrated that the core of a strong early literacy block is instruction on the foundational skills upon which students’ development as readers and writers is built (Foorman et al., 2016; Gersten et al., 2007; National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000; Snow et al., 1998). Depending on the grade level and students’ needs, these skills include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

It is essential that literacy materials, supplemental practice opportunities, and assessment be coordinated. Twenty years ago, the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000) warned that as teachers gather materials for their literacy block, they might succumb to the temptation of adding one new program after another without thinking about the effectiveness of the additions for their students or the ways in which the additions align to instructional goals. This warning may be even more important as educators have access to interactive, computer-or tablet-delivered programs that can make the planning and management of extended literacy blocks more successful for all students. Therefore, it is crucial that core and supplemental literacy resources, whether print- or web-based, not only be vetted, but also coordinated so that components are integrated and support student learning.

HMH Into Reading, features systematic, explicit phonics instruction; rich, authentic texts; small-group instruction; and ample independent opportunities for practice and application. When implemented with the recommended research-based instruction, resources, and routines grounded in the Science of Reading, HMH Into Reading is designed to ensure successful literacy skill development.

In this chapter we describe the research on the essential elements of literacy and how HMH Into Reading aligns to the research.

Essential Literacy Skills Subsections

  • Phonemic & Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics & Word Analysis
  • Fluency
  • Language Comprehension
  • Background Knowledge
  • Vocabulary
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Writing
Phonemic & Phonological Awareness

Alphabet knowledge is an important first step in reading success. Research shows that the “best predictor” of reading success at the end of first grade was the ability to recognize and name upper- and lowercase letters at the start of the year (Adams, 1990, p. 43). That knowledge is both a precursor to as well as facilitator of phonemic awareness (Rosenberg, 2006). Indeed, mastering the alphabetic principle “depends equally on knowledge of letters and on explicit awareness of phonemes because it depends integrally on the association between them” (Adams, 1990, p. 304). Recognizing letters automatically makes it easier for children to recognize the patterns of letters, and the ability to do this is a key to reading words (Nevills & Wolfe, 2009).

Phonemic awareness, according to National Research Council (1998) reading experts, refers to the fact “that every spoken word can be conceived as a sequence of phonemes. Because phonemes are the units of sound that are represented by the letters of an alphabet, an awareness of phonemes is key to understanding the logic of the alphabetic principle and thus to learning of phonics and spelling" (p. 52). Phonemic awareness “is not spontaneously acquired, [but] can be successfully taught” through explicit training (NRC, 1998, p. 329).

High-quality instruction in the early grades focuses on helping students understand the role that phonemic awareness plays in learning to read and write. Phonemic awareness refers to the connections between spoken language and literacy, that is, that learning to read and write involves attending to and analyzing the structure of what is said and heard so that utterances can be broken into language, then into sequences of syllables, and then into phonemes within the syllables (NICHD, 2000; Snow et al., 1998).

Phonological awareness is "a more inclusive term than phonemic awareness and refers to the general ability to attend to the sounds of language as distinct from its meaning” (NRC, 1998, p. 52). Brady (2012) provides a helpful distinction in noting that phonological awareness can be seen as having two levels: phonological sensitivity, which is denoted by a “conscious awareness of larger, more salient sound structures within words, including syllables and sub-syllabic elements (onsets and rimes)”, and phoneme awareness, which refers to explicit awareness of the individual phonemes that comprise spoken words in English (p. 20).

Research consistently demonstrates that “learning to read can be facilitated by providing explicit instruction that directs children’s attention to the phonological structure of words, indicating that phonological awareness plays a causal role in learning to read . . .” (NRC, 1998, p. 56). Furthermore, explicit instruction in phonological awareness shows stronger effects than indirect instructional approaches (NRP, 2000, p. 2–33).

Its importance is underscored by the finding that, among kindergartners, phonemic awareness “is one of the strongest predictors of subsequent reading achievement” (Brady, 2012, p. 19). When early reading instruction is methodically and systematically combined with phonemic instruction, “the success rates are dramatic” (Adams, 1990, p. 329). The effect on reading success is even stronger when phonological and phonemic awareness instruction is combined with activities that promote knowledge of letter names and letter sounds (Brady 2012; NELP, 2008). As Cunningham (1990) explains, “explicit instruction in how segmentation and blending are involved in the reading process helps children to transfer and apply component skills such as phonemic awareness to the activity of reading” (p. 441).

Research further suggests that reciprocal causation exists between learning to read and phonological awareness. In other words, there is evidence that growth in both areas proceeds in parallel (Adams, 1990; NRC, 1998). Reading researchers have suggested that certain levels of phonological awareness, as measured by different tasks or by different levels of linguistic complexity, come before learning to read. Alternatively, more advanced levels of phonological awareness result from learning to read (Stahl & Murray, 2006).


Alphabet Knowledge Lessons

HMH Into Reading teaches the components of letter knowledge using developmentally appropriate strategies and activities. There are many opportunities to develop knowledge and encourage curiosity about letters through explicit and systematic instruction in the Teacher’s Guide, along with meaningful play experiences and exploration of print. After learning all of the letter names and forms, HMH Into Reading builds student’s knowledge of letter sounds while building their phonics skills. Students gain meaning of the letters and sounds through activities that involve exploring environmental text. Alphabet knowledge is practiced and reinforced through games, instruction, and Literacy Centers.

Phonological & Phonemic Awareness Lessons

The HMH Into Reading Teacher’s Guide lessons for Phonological Awareness, which include the subskill of Phonemic Awareness, follow a scope and sequence based on evidence from research. Lessons include phoneme identity, blending, segmenting, deletion, and manipulation, as well as attention to onset-rime, alliteration, and rhyme. The explicit instruction includes teacher explanation and modeling before children give it a try and draws on the reciprocal relationship between phonics and phonemic awareness. Program lessons have an emphasis on word play and exploration (game formats like Simon Says and use of photo Picture Cards).

Daily Show and Teach Slides (Grades K–2) support teachers as they explain and model these skills in a whole group setting. These Daily Show and Teach Slides follow the lesson instruction in the Teacher’s Guide, and they provide students a multisensory opportunity to practice these skills.

Because evidence shows that oral skills develop over time and not in a strict linear sequence, HMH Into Reading employs a spiral approach to skill instruction that introduces and then returns to each skill several times across the year. This benefits students who may not master a skill initially but have greater success with repeated exposure. Finally, weekly lessons feature a few well-chosen phonological skills across the week (not just one focus), which benefits students who may have difficulty with one skill that week but have success with another.

If intensive instruction and practice is needed for phonological awareness, HMH Into Reading offers the Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio, which provides teachers with a bank of targeted lessons for phonemic awareness, as well as phonological awareness in appropriate progression.



According to National Research Council reading experts, “Phonics refers to instructional practices that emphasize how spellings are related to speech sounds in systematic ways” (NRC, 1998, p. 52). More than 20 years of research provide overwhelming evidence of the value of phonics in early reading instruction (Adams, 1990; NELP, 2008; NRC, 1998; NRP, 2000). Further, systematic and explicit instructional approaches to phonics—that is, those that “use a planned, sequential introduction of a set of phonic elements along with teaching and practice of those elements” and feature “the identification of a full array of letter-sound correspondences” have been shown to be more effective in promoting early literacy than non-systematic approaches (NRP, p. 2–89). These findings provide clear evidence that “systematic phonics instruction makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction” (NRP, p. 2–92).

Foundational skills are critical to early literacy development, but as a means, not an end. The purpose of phonics instruction is to promote the ability to read with ease, accuracy, and meaning. Extensive research findings strongly support the effectiveness of phonics instruction, while also emphasizing its larger goal of reading fluency and comprehension. As the National Reading Panel (2000) states, “systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction” (p. 2-97). In other words, students must come to understand the larger purpose behind learning letter-sound relationships. Furthermore, their emerging skills must be continuously applied to meaningful reading and writing activities (NRP, 2000, p. 2–96).

As students learn phonics (letter sound correspondences), they develop decoding skills and gradually, with explicit instruction, they can apply what they know about letter-sound correspondences to decode words as they read and to encode words as they write (see Foorman et al., 2016, for a review of research not covered in the NRP report). Thus, in addition to learning letter-sound patterns, beginning readers must become fluent in decoding—the process of segmenting letter-sound patterns within words and blending them back together to access that word in their lexicon. Strong teachers teach these skills explicitly with detailed explanations, modeling, and practice (Strickland, 2011).


Syllabication, the ability to identify and divide syllables in written words equips students with strategies for identifying unfamiliar multisyllabic words. Research shows that reading success is linked to the ability of young learners “to detect syllables in speech or to segment syllables from speech” (Adams, 1990, p. 300). Syllables are larger units of spoken language than phonemes and are thus easier for beginners to hear and manipulate (NRP, 2000). Therefore, syllabic awareness constitutes an essential link between [the] seemingly easy-to-acquire ability underlying our sensitivity to sound similarity and rhyme and that hard-to-acquire capacity to recognize individual phonemes (Adams, 1990, pp. 302–303). Adams (1990) further observes, “. . . skillful readers’ ability to read long words depends on their ability to break the words into syllables” (p. 25).

From a reading fluency perspective, as students progress in their reading from the partial-alphabetic phase of development through to the consolidated phase, they use their knowledge of recurring letter patterns to consolidate letters into larger units, which, in turn, facilitates their learning of words as sight words beyond the basic, high-frequency, non-decodable set (Ehri, 1995). Thus, this ability—to break words into syllables—is critical to skillful reading of long words, and to the acquisition of increasingly complex words as sight words (Adams, 1990; Ehri, 1995; NRP, 2000).

Spelling & Orthography

Once students know a few consonant and vowel sounds and their corresponding letters, they can start to sound out and blend them into words in isolation and in context. In this process, they must use their recognition of letter shapes, understand the order of letters in words, access the sounds of these letters, and put together the meanings of the words (and often illustrations) to create a basic understanding of the words on the page or screen (Adams, 1990; Cunningham & Allington, 2011).

Developing an awareness of spelling patterns (orthography) is important to early reading success. Phonics instructional approaches in which word families are carefully grouped to highlight letter-sound contrasts have been shown to be effective in helping students grasp orthographic patterns (Adams, 1990; Henry, 2010). Instruction that systematically organizes and exploits minimal contrasts helps focus children’s attention and hastens development of their orthographical/phonological abilities (Adams, 1990).

The evidence for focused and explicit spelling instruction as a major component of the reading program is strong. Adams (1990) concludes that “learning about spelling . . . enhances reading proficiency” because it reinforces knowledge of common letter sequences, spelling-sound relationships, and (possibly) word parts (p. 404).

Finally, it is worth noting that while an understanding of spelling patterns aids reading success, children’s awareness of phonics also promotes their spelling skills. The National Reading Panel concludes “that systematic phonics instruction produces gains in . . . spelling not only in the early grades (Kindergarten and 1st grade) but also in the later grades (2nd through 6th grades) and among children having difficulty learning to read” (NRP, 2000, p. 2–122).

Teaching orthography also includes teaching students to recognize different types of syllables, such as those controlled by an r or the VCVe type as in cake. As beginning readers come to recognize written syllable patterns, they are better able to decode single-syllable words (dog vs. dodge) and to break words into readable chunks.

Developing an awareness of spelling patterns (a component of orthography) is important to early reading success. Phonics instructional approaches in which word families are carefully grouped to highlight letter-sound contrasts have been shown to be effective in helping students grasp orthographic patterns (Adams, 1990; Henry, 2010). Instruction that systematically organizes and exploits minimal contrasts helps focus children’s attention and hastens development of their orthographical/phonological abilities (Adams, 1990).

The evidence for focused and explicit spelling instruction as a major component of the reading program is strong. Adams (1990) concludes that “learning about spelling . . . enhances reading proficiency” because it reinforces knowledge of common letter sequences, spelling-sound relationships, and (possibly) word parts (p. 404). Finally, it is worth noting that while an understanding of spelling patterns aids reading success, children’s awareness of phonics also promotes their spelling skills. The National Reading Panel concludes “that systematic phonics instruction produces gains in . . . spelling not only in the early grades (Kindergarten and 1st grade) but also in the later grades (2nd through 6th grades) and among children having difficulty learning to read” (NRP, 2000, p. 2–122).

Within HMH Into Reading, teachers are provided an option to utilize differentiated spelling instruction. Since spelling instruction is most effective when matched to students’ developmental levels, it is important to assess what they know about word structure and what they need to learn next. A Qualitative Spelling Inventory (QSI), QSI Checklist, QSI Feature Analysis, and Differentiated Spelling Lists support teachers as they assess students, group them, and provide differentiated support.

Morphology & Syntax

Morphology refers to the underlying meaning structure of words (Bowers & Cooke, 2012). In the context of foundational literacy instruction, morphological awareness refers to the ability to understand the function and meaning of word bases and affixes (e.g., inflectional endings, prefixes, suffixes), and how they can be combined to form words. Because English words are represented both as units of sound (phonemes) and as units of meaning (morphemes), it is logical to conclude that literacy instruction needs to address both (Reed, 2008). Learning about morphology helps children understand words regardless of their first language or level of reading preparedness. Morphological awareness has been shown to contribute to vocabulary growth, and enables readers to understand as many as three words for every known base word (Nagy, Berninger, & Abbott, 2006).

As students learn morphology, they learn to use morphemes, or the smallest units of meaning, to help them figure out how to read and spell unfamiliar words. Because the English orthography is a morphophonemic system, students benefit from learning the meanings of these segments within words. Prefixes, roots, base words, and suffixes are all examples of morphemes; their spelling and meaning are usually consistent, but they may be pronounced differently depending on the words in which they are used (e.g., photo vs. photography vs. photogenic).

Reed (2008) summarizes the multiple benefits of morphological awareness, noting that it has been shown to “have a positive impact on students’ word identification, spelling, vocabulary, and reading comprehension” (p. 46). Furthermore, at-risk students and other struggling readers have been shown to benefit from direct instruction in morphemic analysis (Reed, 2008). Traditionally, morphology has been considered an advanced topic, but increasingly research and expert opinion recommend that it be addressed early in literacy instruction (Adams, 1990; Bowers & Cooke, 2012; Carlisle, 2004; Reed, 2008). The importance of early exposure to morphology is underscored by research showing that morphological awareness accounts for “around 4% or 5% of the variance in decoding” (Reed, 2008, p. 37).

High-Frequency Words

The term “sight words,” in the context of early reading development, refers to the “high-frequency, irregularly spelled words students are taught to read as unanalyzed wholes” (NRP, 2000, p. 2–102). The ability to fluently comprehend text—the goal of all reading instruction—depends on reading high-frequency words with automaticity (Adams, 1990). The importance of mastering high-frequency words is made clear by the fact that only 14 of the 150 most frequently used words in English follow sound-symbol generalizations that early readers are likely to have encountered (Adams, 1990). Indeed, some of the most common words in English, such as does, to, were, there, one, are irregular by any standard. The 25 most common words in English represent about a third of all printed material, forming the glue that holds text together (Fry & Kress, 2006). Because of their frequency, students must master high-frequency words before they can fluently read connected redundant text or decodable text. Adams (1990; 2001; 2009) advises that to avoid confusion in early learners, early sight word instruction should be discrete from regular phonics instruction. Approaches that enable children to manipulate words through categorization, word association, or semantic analysis have been shown to be effective with both native speakers and English Learners (Carlo et al., 2004; Marzano & Pickering, 2005; Nagy, 1997).



HMH Into Reading’s Teacher’s Guide phonics lessons follow a scope and sequence based on evidence from research. The general sequence in HMH Into Reading is from easier to harder and most useful to less useful. It begins with consonants whose names give clues to sounds, sounds that can be elongated and sounds that are used in the most frequent phonograms. Lessons at Grade 2 focus on multisyllabic words, and at K–6, instruction includes Blend and Read Lines with prompts for making word comparisons. Grades K–3 Show and Teach Slides focus on foundational skills and support teachers as they explain and model these skills in a whole group setting. These Daily Show and Teach Slides follow the lesson instruction in the Teacher’s Guide, and they provide students a multisensory opportunity to practice phonics.

Students apply their phonics knowledge immediately in the context of engaging decodable texts, called Start Right Readers. These texts are carefully crafted to offer practice with reading words containing only known phonic elements and high-frequency words, which supports feelings of efficacy (I can read!). The texts gradually increase in complexity and text density within and across grades. The Kindergarten Alphafriends Cards and Videos offer appealing instructional tools for beginning learners. They are used to introduce each letter-sound and reinforce letter shapes in a memorable way. The animated videos feature songs in a broad range of musical genres and incorporate movement—a powerful way to enhance students’ learning of the critical foundational skills. Sound-Spelling cards are also available to support teachers as they introduce common spellings for the sounds in words and help students learn letter-sound relationships.

HMH Into Reading provides fun, online activities for practicing phonics skills. In Grades K–2, students have the opportunity to practice reading words with various decoding skills they are learning in the program, both in isolation and in context, while receiving immediate feedback.

If intensive instruction and practice is needed for phonics and word study and analysis, HMH Into Reading includes the Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio that provides teachers with a bank of targeted lessons for phonics and word study in appropriate progression. Lessons feature explicit, direct instruction, reproducible pages, and word games and activities for hands-on practice.

Syllabication Lessons

The HMH Into Reading Teacher’s Guide Phonics/Decoding lessons have a heightened focus on syllables and syllable patterns in Grades 2 and up. Students receive direct instruction for all six syllable types, while research-based routines give students reliable tools for dividing words into syllables. Blend and Read Line activities have students read multisyllabic words in isolation and within sentences, and they are paired with prompts for word comparison discussion.

Spelling & Orthography

HMH Into Reading Teacher’s Guide Spelling lessons feature a developmentally appropriate connection between phonics and spelling as the difficult task of spelling draws from the week’s phonics skills. In Spelling lessons for Grades 1–2, teachers will also find decodable, high-frequency, high-utility words to support writing. In all grades, following explicit instruction about the spelling generalization focus of the lesson, students participate in hands-on word sort activities to help them compare words and make their own word discoveries. Printable word cards for sorting activities are also provided.

Across the grades there is a developmental progression in the number of words each week. At Grades 1–6, spelling words each week are grouped for different purposes: (1) Basic words: main list, for the spelling principle; (2) Review words: to practice a principle from the previous week; (3) Challenge words: featuring the principle in longer words or words with less-familiar phonic elements, for students who are ready.

Morphology & Syntax Lessons

HMH Into Reading Teacher’s Guide lessons focus on how sounds are put together to form word parts and how word parts are put together to form words. Through direct instruction, students are guided to identify which word parts carry meaning and how adding these word parts determines the meaning of words. Students learn how to add prefixes and suffixes to base words and roots, how to read the words, and how to determine the meanings of the words. The Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio is a teacher resource for explicit, sequential lessons if further word study intervention is needed.

Vocabulary Interactive Practice provides online, independent activities that allow students to practice the vocabulary words, skills, and strategies they encounter in Into Reading. In each activity, students explore, practice, and receive feedback. At Grades 1–2, Vocabulary Interactive Practice reinforces Power Words, Generative Vocabulary, and Vocabulary Strategies. At Grades 3–5, Vocabulary Interactive Practice reinforces Critical Vocabulary and Generative Vocabulary.

High-Frequency Word Lessons

High-frequency word lessons include both non-decodable and decodable words. HMH Into Reading helps students at the primary grades learn to recognize a robust number of high-frequency sight words that are not decodable at point of introduction, drawing from these well-respected, research-based word lists: Zeno, Fry, Dolch, Eeds. On the back of each word card, we provide teacher instruction and prompts that help review sound-spellings children already know and introduce any new sounds they may not know.

A unique strength of HMH Into Reading, though, is that it goes beyond, providing practice with sight words that are decodable according to the phonics instruction. Children blend and read the phonetically regular words in Phonics, and the words are included in the daily High-Frequency Words practice activities so that children learn to recognize them at sight, too—a powerful support for fluency that also leaves more working memory available to attend to comprehension rather than repeated decoding. In the Teacher’s Guide, the high-frequency words are introduced weekly using a consistent routine that taps all parts of the brain to help students retain the words. The teacher returns to the words through game-like activities that focus on different forms of practice across the week, such as reading the words, spelling them, or exploring word meanings and usage. Game-like practice routines and activity pages in the Start Right Readers engage students in practice to boost fluency. The weekly Literacy Centers and Know It, Show it pages also provide practice with the weekly words.


An important ability underlying surface literacy learning and contributing to deeper literacy learning is fluency (Denton et al., 2013). Fluency refers to the ability to read letters, sounds, words, sentences, and passages, both orally and silently, with speed and accuracy (NELP, 2008; Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004). Fluency is intricately linked to reading comprehension because strong readers demonstrate silent reading fluency as they recognize words and their meaning automatically and can attend primarily to making sense out of what they read (NRP, 2000).

Fluency rests on foundational skills that are built and reinforced through effective phonics instruction. Adams (1990) notes, “Research indicates that the most critical factor beneath fluent word reading is the ability to recognize letters, spelling patterns, and whole words effortlessly, automatically, and visually. The central goal of all reading instruction—comprehension—depends critically on this ability” (p. 54).

A learner’s ability to retrieve relevant knowledge and information can vary from being “effortful” to “relatively effortless” to “automatic” (Cohen et al., 1990). Research shows that the mastery of a knowledge domain, such as reading, depends on the ability to perform sub-processes unconsciously with speed and accuracy while consciously carrying out other higher-level cognitive tasks (Bloom, 1986; Hasselbring, et al., 1988; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974). However, before gaining automaticity, beginning learners must exert substantial effort to retrieve the necessary information about a new skill from their short-term memory. This retrieval process creates a cognitive load that can inhibit their ability to engage in other learning processes at the same time (Adams, 1990).

Accordingly, beginning readers often struggle with the cognitive challenge of decoding text accurately and with fluency, while simultaneously attempting to comprehend what they are reading. This is why automaticity is so critical in reading, for only when students can decode words without having to devote much conscious effort to the task (automaticity) and apply the proper rhythm, intonation, and phrasing (fluency), can they sufficiently free up the cognitive powers necessary for comprehension (Freedman & Calfee, 1984; LaBerge & Samuels, 1974).

Teachers model fluent reading when they read out loud to students, especially as they pause for punctuation or change their voice to show expressiveness. Teachers also model prosody, a component of fluency that is most prominent in reading poetry with inflection and rhythm. Prosody also refers to the ways in which tone of voice and inflection convey meaning in oral language—for example, the way one expresses sarcasm or irony. Teachers demonstrate prosody in their oral reading and can explicitly explain what they are doing as they read by asking how the change in inflection changes the meaning implied by the words on the page.

As teachers help students to become fluent readers, they need to reassure them that fluency means reading with comprehension, not merely saying the words as quickly as possible. Teachers model this distinction in their oral reading by pausing to question the meaning of words, the implications of word choice, or other aspects of the texts they are reading.

Beyond developing decoding skills to automaticity, fluency is best developed, the research shows, by providing students with ample practice opportunities for oral reading, supported by explicit instruction from teachers, as well as other forms of feedback from fellow students and families (Adams, 1990; NRP, 2000; Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004). Explicit and systematic fluency instruction that includes monitoring of student progress has shown stronger effects than more implicit approaches (NRP, 2000; Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004). Vaughn & Linan-Thompson’s (2004), review of the research, supports the following explicit means of teaching fluency: Model Reading; Choral Reading; Recorded Reading; Readers’ Theater; and Partner Reading.


HMH Into Reading’s scope and sequence is taught through explicit and systematic instruction ensuring that children will not miss any critical sound-spellings when learning to decode and read connected text fluently—that is, with accuracy, automaticity, and appropriate prosody or expression. Using a gradual release model, lessons in the Teacher’s Guide including teacher modeling and support for guided and independent practice activities.

To support fluency, the Teacher’s Guide Fluency lessons feature a spiraling approach that introduces and then returns to each skill several times over the course of the year. In the primary grades, whole-group instruction includes teacher modeling of each week’s focus skill with the Big Book or Read Aloud Book, as well as daily modeling and practice with a decodable text to focus on intonation, phrasing, and expression, as well as accuracy and rate. Fluency lessons rely on a consistent use of engagement routines: choral reading, echo reading, partner reading. Finally, students have ample opportunities to practice independently with a Start Right Reader (decodable text), myBook text, passages on a Printable, Rigby Readers, or Trade Books.

In Kindergarten, the Teacher’s Guide includes daily support for Phonics. After explicit, systematic instruction with a new target phonic element, students (1) apply their new phonics skills in the context of engaging decodable texts, called Start Right Readers, which are carefully crafted to offer practice with reading words containing only known phonic elements and high-frequency words; (2) practice spelling words with target sound-spellings, using a consistent routine; and (3) discuss a fluency focus, such as accuracy and self-correction, reading rate, or expression

In Grades 1–2, the Teacher’s Guide includes daily support for Phonics. Immediately following explicit, instruction in whole group, children apply their new phonics skills in the context of engaging decodable texts, called Start Right Readers, in small groups. These texts are carefully crafted to offer practice with reading words containing only known phonic elements and high-frequency words. Weekly Fluency lessons feature a spiraling approach that introduces and then returns to each of these skills many times over the course of the year: accuracy and self-correction; reading rate; expression; phrasing; intonation.

In Grades 3–6, the Teacher’s Guide provides support to build and reinforce students’ decoding and fluency skills through two Decoding lessons each week. In the first lesson, students apply the target decoding element to shorter words and immediately apply it to a Fluency passage. In the second lesson, students apply the target decoding element to multisyllabic words.

Optional Connected Resource: Amira Learning

In Grades K–3, Amira Learning, an optional connected offering can be implemented to provide students with individual real-time oral reading fluency assessment and practice. Powered by AI technology, Amira Learning assesses children’s reading fluency and automatically generates a running record for teacher review. In addition, Amira Learning provides students with 1:1 tutoring during Oral Reading Fluency practice sessions, employing real-time feedback to build students word reading, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills. Amira Learning also provides teachers with HMH Into Reading content recommendations, based on student’s performance on their Amira Learning ‘s oral reading fluency assessment.

Language Comprehension

Oral Language Development

Learning to hear phonemes in words should provide a bridge from children’s speech to literacy; indeed, oral language is the foundation for learning to read and write. Children need to be able to express their ideas clearly and confidently in order to have productive conversations in school and beyond. Part of this important instruction should include guidance about knowing when and how to listen, knowing when and how to speak, knowing whether to use formal or informal language, and being aware of nonverbal communication skills.

Communication skills should be taught intentionally with many opportunities to practice and receive feedback. By teaching children effective speaking and listening behaviors and by modeling them regularly, you can guide them to have successful academic conversations and social relationships. Teachers can encourage students to engage in conversations, storytelling, and other activities that encourage students to express themselves orally and to talk to others. Encouraging students to tell stories gives teachers the opportunity to engage students in conversation, use student-directed speech, and enhance their oral language skills.

The Value of Instruction in Speaking and Listening

Almost every teacher of young students tries to teach the difference between “indoor” and “outdoor” voices. In many ways, this is a good metaphor for thinking about teaching speaking and listening throughout the elementary grades—so long as the terms become “academic” and “conversational” or “formal” and “informal.”

It is essential to stress that the goal of instruction in speaking is to expand students’ range of speech patterns so that the conventions of effective speaking in different contexts become almost second nature to them. They learn to talk in class discussions and research presentations, just as they learn to ask for explanations about topics and skills they don’t understand. When individual students speak more effectively, their fellow students are much more likely to be engaged and interested in what the speaker has to say (Palmer, 2014).

Kinsella (2015) advises teachers to talk to their students about different “registers,” although teachers may not use this term that is common in texts on rhetoric. This means that they will be teaching their students to speak and listen with comprehension to academic or formal language, without giving up on their vernacular conversational modes of speaking. She reminds teachers that students do know about this—they most likely speak to their grandparents or the principal in ways that are highly different from how they talk to peers, and they probably listen to these grownups more carefully than to friends on the playground. Spoken and written language in an academic register is marked by more technical and precise word choices, sentence styles, and grammar and is produced for various formal situations.

Students also benefit from guidance on how to interact productively in pairs or small groups. Efforts to have students collaborate—perhaps on a research project or in conducting science experiments—easily derail if students do not understand the give-and-take of speaking and listening or the subtle cues of body language in group situations where they work toward a common goal (Frey, Fisher, & Nelson, 2013; Hattie & Yates, 2014; Palmer, 2011).

Teachers can help their students understand the important differences between academic and conversational language by modeling academic language themselves—and stopping as necessary to paraphrase, restate, and explain so that students begin to sense an “inside-the-classroom” way of speaking. In this way, they are teaching students about speaking and listening within the authentic context of routine instructional interactions. They can also give students supporting checklists or rubrics, similar to those that students can use to evaluate their writing efforts. Such supporting devices help students develop a common set of expectations for speaking and listening, as well as a common way of thinking and talking about these skills in an academic setting.

Teachers have a responsibility to help their students learn how to listen, as well as speak, in school and other formal settings. Students need to learn to listen in different contexts as their teachers, peers, and others speak. “Learning to listen” may seem like an unimportant educational goal, but there are specific strategies that students need to learn. Teachers model some of these as they read to their students, especially if they read a wide range of books. Students listen for main ideas, as well as themes, inferences, nuances, and unfamiliar vocabulary whose meaning can be determined through context clues.

Although most students seem to know intuitively how to listen while their teacher reads an engaging story to them, they may not know how to listen attentively in other formal settings. Teachers can provide them with guidelines about being polite and quiet. However, embedding direct instruction on speaking and instruction seems to be less important than teaching academic language or reading and writing conventions such as using context clues to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar terms or attending to logical connectors (such as “because of this . . .”), claims and counter-claims (such as “on the other hand . . .”), or the general logical flow of what a speaker is saying.

Grammar and Linguistic Components of Language

One of the important aspects of early literacy instruction can be thought of as instruction on how language works, that is, instruction that gives students the tools to analyze and produce language. Knowledge of language includes more than vocabulary and simple sentence construction; it also includes students’ knowledge of language structures, print concepts, and verbal reasoning skills (Scarborough, 2001). If we accept that successful reading depends on students’ ability to decode and access their knowledge about language, then it makes sense to provide them with insight into the various linguistic components that give language order as well as richness, depth, and complexity.

Orthography refers to the patterns and conventions of a language, including capitalization, spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation. Orthographic knowledge is developed as students learn these conventions, such as letters that cannot be used at the end of words or cannot be doubled or the fact that most syllables in English have at least one vowel (Cunningham, 2006).

Syntax refers to how words are usually ordered in sentences or clauses to communicate meaning (e.g., nouns or pronouns followed by verbs, with modifiers as needed). Parts of speech, the usual conventions of language, and the structures of different sentence types are included in the study of syntax. Adams (1990) recommends that instruction should build awareness of syntax because readers must understand how syntactical units within sentences are organized, in order to comprehend text of increasing complexity. Students who are learning to read and write in a second language benefit from additional support and explanations in mastering English syntax (Cummins, 2016).

Semantics refers to the meanings of single words, phrases, and sentences. Semantics relates to vocabulary instruction but extends to the directly stated or implied meaning of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. The term also refers to the understanding of text organization (e.g., a poem vs. a story vs. an informational piece all on the same topic). Deepening students’ understanding of semantics enhances their ability to draw on their knowledge of language as they work to comprehend what they read.


Oral Language

An important aspect of oral language development is speaking and listening skills for effective communication and collaboration In the Teacher’s Guide. Oral language lessons explicitly teach collaborative discussion skills and other related skills, such as listening actively, initiating conversations, and giving and following directions. Routines highlighted throughout the Teacher’s Guide make these cooperative learning structures a regular part of classroom practice:

  • Collaborative Discussion Routine
  • Turn And Talk Routine
  • Think-Pair-Share Routine

Speaking And Listening

The HMH Into Reading Teacher’s Guide Speaking and Listening pages have a focus on classroom discussion, especially around module topics and the Get Curious Videos. The Reading strand has a “wrap up and share” component at the end of each lesson where students have an opportunity to reflect and orally express their thinking with other students. The myBook includes “turn and talk” prompts, whereby students can apply their listening skills as they learn how to take turns speaking and listening. In addition, teachers facilitate students’ exploration and discussion of an “essential question” during each module. Students engage in lively discussion about literature, drawing upon their own experiences, making connections to their lives as well as to the various texts they are reading in order to form opinions and insights related to the essential question.

Numerous occasions for partner work are found especially in the lower elementary grades. The materials in these grades offer dialogic reading prompts via BookStix. In Grades 3 and higher, students have a communication strand, and sentence frames support discussion.


In HMH Into Reading, grammar and conventions are taught explicitly, with opportunities for immediate practice in children’s own writing. Across the grade levels, the teacher’s guide integrates grammar instruction within the revising and edits steps of the writing process. Lessons focus on a wide range of topics, such as these:

  • Parts of Speech
  • Sentence Types and Variety
  • Sentence Structure and Combining
  • Spelling and Mechanics
  • Punctuation and Capitalization

In Grades 1–6, if the integrated lessons do not meet children’s needs, select from the Grammar Minilessons in the back of your Writing Teacher’s Guide to provide a quick lesson that will help them.

Background Knowledge

The Simple View of Reading emphasizes that comprehension depends on readers’ ability to decode and their knowledge of language—their vocabulary and their understanding of the different aspects of language like orthography and syntax. Of course, understanding anything more than the simplest texts (e.g., a STOP sign) requires mastery of numerous comprehension strategies as well. However, research has shown that there is an even stronger influence on readers’ comprehension: their background or “domain” knowledge (Adams, 2010/2011; Neuman, 2019; Wexler, 2019). Simply put, the more readers know about a topic, the easier it will be for them to comprehend a text written about this topic. Reading with comprehension in turn expands readers’ background knowledge further and adds to their vocabularies (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1991).

Wide and deep knowledge of a range of meaningful topics is central to reading success and enables students to become effective members of their communities. When literacy instruction is structured to build knowledge systematically over time, students will be more likely to comprehend what they are reading, and continually build on what they already know to become better readers and communicators. As students learn new concepts, they can use knowledge networks (sets or interconnected ideas) to build schema, connecting new ideas to existing ones, and to map ideas onto a web of knowledge to make sense of them and hold them in their memory.

What teachers read to students and what students read themselves during the literacy block should also expand students’ knowledge. Adams (2010/2011) suggests that in assembling a classroom library, teachers should ensure that “in every subject and in every class . . . each text bootstraps the language and knowledge that will be needed for the next [book]” (p. 10). As students read a variety of genres and read voluminously, their vocabularies expand, and their cognitive skills deepen.

The best classroom and school libraries give students access to a wide variety of print and digital texts that include a full range of genres: narratives, including poetry and plays, as well as informational texts that both inform and entertain their readers. Teachers’ choice of books to read aloud is the start of acclimating students to the characteristics and structure of different genres and to the kinds of listening and reading skills needed to fully comprehend and appreciate them. Making many genres available for listening and reading not only helps shape students’ choices but also prepares them for the wide reading they must do to be successful in elementary school and beyond.

Not only do students need to be exposed to the key foundational elements of reading through effective explicit instructional strategies, the amount of text students are exposed to has profound positive effects on cognition (Cunningham & Stanovich, 2003). Students do not need to wait to attain levels of proficiency to read extensively; no matter the reading ability, students who read widely and voluminously show gains in vocabulary and cognitive skills.

However, research shows the vast gap in skilled readers and reluctant readers in the number of books read outside of school (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998; Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988). These widening numbers in terms of exposure to print contribute to the trajectory of the “Matthew Effect” on students’ reading ability throughout their school years. As Cunningham and Zibulsky (2014) note, “one of the richest and most robust ways to gain knowledge is by reading. Indeed . . . research has unequivocally shown that children who read more have greater vocabularies and stores of knowledge, which makes reading easier and more pleasurable, which in turn, makes children more prolific readers” (p. 322). Therefore, it is critical to provide students of all abilities access to books from multiple genres and interest areas, furthering their knowledge development. Being surrounded with a plentiful supply of good reading materials at students’ reading levels that match their interests as well as exercising reading stamina to increase the number of books read can help transform students’ literacy experiences to one that brings joy and genuine satisfaction.


In Kindergarten through Grade 6, each module is focused on a central topic, which students explore through carefully curated texts, media, and projects. Topics are developed and expanded within and across grades. Teachers can use the Introduce the Topics lessons in the Teacher’s Guide to launch each module. Teachers continually return to a Knowledge Maps throughout the module as students encounter new texts and media about the topic. At the end of the module, guide students to make connections, synthesize what they learned, and reflect on the topic. In Grades 1–6, students conclude the module through a culminating task, further reinforcing knowledge development.

Cross-Curricular Knowledge With Multi-Genre Text Sets

Culturally and ethnically diverse text sets of the highest quality have been curated around essential standards-based topics to foster cross-disciplinary content knowledge. Students can build topic-knowledge expertise and reading comprehension skills through high-interest and award-winning texts. In addition, the essential question provides a frame for the text sets students will read. These relevant essential questions are designed to help the students explore the text and make connections to themselves.

Engaging Text

High quality, engaging text sets reflect culturally and ethnically diverse content and form the foundation for the delivery of key vocabulary, essential skills, and topic knowledge. Carefully selected award-winning texts and texts by notable authors build general content knowledge, genre knowledge, and complexity across the school year. In addition, text sets are anchored by essential questions designed to engage students in discussion and relevant writing assignments.

Vocabulary Development

From the very beginning, high-quality literacy instruction must also include instruction and practice on vocabulary (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2013; Cunningham & Stanovich, 1997; Foorman et al., 2016). Not every word in the English language can be taught to children directly. A small group of words makes up most of the words we encounter in texts; these words also represent important understandings across content areas. If we can teach children to “generate” the meanings of words on their own, they will have a significant advantage in accessing new meanings in texts. This generative vocabulary instruction focuses on morphology—that is, learning how prefixes, suffixes, roots, and base words combine to make most of the words in English. With each new word part that children learn, they suddenly have access to many more words containing the same word part.

As students move through elementary school, they must enrich their oral speaking, listening, reading, and writing vocabularies. Students’ vocabularies expand from repeated encounters with new words, both in the literacy block and in content-area instruction (Connor & Morrison, 2012); vocabularies also grow from listening, reading, and talking to others. As Biemiller (2012) points out, “From Grade 3 on, the main limiting factor [to academic achievement] for the majority of children is vocabulary, not reading mechanics (decoding print into words)” (p. 34). Teachers play two roles in this: providing direct instruction (NRP, 2000) and ensuring that the classroom environment is full of language, rich with words, and inclusive of opportunities to learn and use new vocabulary.

Oral language is indeed an essential element for reading and writing success, but students also need to learn what is often called academic language (Baker et al., 2014; Foorman et al., 2015; Foorman et al., 2016; Nagy & Townsend, 2012; Shanahan et al., 2010). Common ways to define academic language are to say that it’s “the language of school” or “talking like a book.” Closely related to academic language is academic vocabulary, which is the general academic and discipline-specific vocabulary that is used by sophisticated readers and writers.

Academic Vocabulary

Cumulatively, some vocabulary instruction prepares students for what has been called “surface literacy learning,” but students also need instruction to move beyond this level (Fisher et al., 2016; Hattie, 2012). Here’s where academic vocabulary can play a part. As teachers provide instruction in reading and in content areas, they model academic language skills and directly teach the academic vocabulary that is common across all subject areas and related to each content area (Foorman et al., 2016). These skills help all students, regardless of background and language status, acquire the “language of instruction” and the grammatical and textual structures and words that are common in books and in school discourse. Inferential language skills allow students to discuss topics beyond their immediate context, for example, events or processes in an informational book. Narrative language skills are those needed to talk about the events, themes, and ideas found in narratives. Teachers can embed vocabulary and language instruction into all their practices, from the daily message time to read alouds to content area instruction (Apthorp, Randel, Cherasaro, Clark, McKeown, & Beck, 2012; Baker et al., 2013; Fisher et al., 2016; Justice et al., 2005).

Academic Language

Effective direct instruction in vocabulary should include explicitly teaching some vocabulary (for example, as a pre-reading activity) and teaching specific vocabulary-learning strategies, including use of print and digital dictionaries and online thesauri (Graves, 2000). Strategies include learning words for comparing and contrasting, classifying, and creating metaphors and analogies—and so much more. To complement direct instruction, teachers also need to fill their classrooms with activities that develop “word consciousness” and the sorts of language play that encourages students to challenge themselves and others to learn new words and to think deeply about language (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2014; Graves, 2000; McKeown et al., 2012).  


Vocabulary Lessons

Daily vocabulary lessons touch on all aspects of vocabulary acquisition, in and out of the context of reading. Students also learn Power Words (Grades K–2) and Critical Vocabulary (Grades 3–6) which are drawn from the literature, through a consistent, routine approach for acquiring new words. In addition to receiving direct instruction about specific words, students also learn to uncover the meanings of words on their own. Through generative vocabulary lessons, one or more of the week’s vocabulary words serves as a springboard to learning other words with a morphological or semantic relationship. A focus Vocabulary Strategy in each module gives students a growing list of tools to unlock meaning when they encounter unknown words in their reading.

In Kindergarten, the Teacher’s Guide, Determine Word Meaning and Explore Word Relationships lessons occur weekly, to help children determine the meanings of words they have not explicitly been taught. focusing on strategies that support children in making connections between words and expanding word knowledge. In the Teacher’s Guide (Grades 1—6), Generative Vocabulary lessons occur weekly, after students learn a text’s Power Words or Critical Vocabulary Words. This supports them in utilizing known words to learn new concepts and to access an expanding vocabulary network. A Vocabulary Strategy lesson appears in the first week of each module in the Teacher’s Guide and is applied to a text. Students are consistently guided to apply the Vocabulary Strategy during the first read of a text (in the Teaching Pal). Vocabulary Interactive Practice provides online, independent activities that allow students to practice the vocabulary words, skills, and strategies they encounter in Into Reading. In each activity, students explore, practice, and receive feedback. At Grades 1–2, Vocabulary Interactive Practice reinforces Power Words, Generative Vocabulary, and Vocabulary Strategies. At Grades 3–5, Vocabulary Interactive Practice reinforces Critical Vocabulary and Generative Vocabulary.

Academic Vocabulary And Academic Language

Learning flows through language. As students engage in academic discussion, construct meaning from texts, and put their own ideas into writing, they embrace the power of using language to communicate effectively. In Kindergarten Oral Language lessons in the Teacher’s Guide use a routine approach to introduce each week’s Power Words and provide meaningful practice in oral and written contexts. In Grades 1–6, Vocabulary lessons in the Teacher’s Guide use a routine approach to introduce each week’s Power Words and provide meaningful practice in oral and written contexts. Across all grade levels, review lessons appear each week after reading, and cumulative, spiral vocabulary review lessons return to words from previous weeks to cement learning over time.

Reading Comprehension

According to the Simple View of Reading, a prominent and widely accepted theory of reading development, reading comprehension is the product of word recognition and language comprehension (Gough & Tunmer, 1986). To read with comprehension, readers must simultaneously decode the words on a page while simultaneously drawing on their knowledge of language to access the meaning of the text (Baker et al., 2017; Gough & Tunmer, 1986; Hoover & Gough, 1990). Decoding involves connecting the spellings in words to their sounds and putting them together in order to read.

Reading with comprehension occurs when children can convert the meaning represented by words in print to a meaning that they can readily understand. Thus, children successfully learning foundational literacy skills discover how print maps onto their existing spoken language; gradually, they master these foundational skills to move beyond this simple transaction and bring higher levels of language as well as thinking skills, such as inferring and critiquing, to their reading. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of learning to read, and even beginning readers benefit from instruction that introduces them to a variety of strategies to help them understand different kinds of texts and their text structures (Duke, 2000; Shanahan et al., 2010).

Part of beginning comprehension instruction is teacher “externalizing” or modeling the comprehension strategies mature readers use automatically. The daily read-aloud period is an ideal means for this instruction—so long as teachers remember that merely reading aloud isn’t enough. Students need to be actively involved in asking and answering questions, making predictions, or explaining characters’ motivations or other actions in what they are hearing (Duke & Pearson, 2002; Reutzel et al., 2008; Shanahan et al., 2010). Researchers have found positive relationships between students’ reading growth and the extent to which they have engaged in “analytic talk” during the back-and-forth with teachers during read alouds (McGee & Schickendanz, 2007). This makes sense because the listening comprehension of young learners far surpasses their emerging reading comprehension skills.

Students move beyond “surface” to “deep” literacy learning when teachers encourage them to plan, investigate, and elaborate as they read for comprehension (Fisher et al., 2016). One prerequisite for this move to deeper comprehension should start early, with even young students reading connected text at the right level of challenge every day (Foorman et al., 2016; Shanahan et al., 2010). Teachers encourage this move as they model increasingly sophisticated comprehension and metacognitive strategies and provide students with tools like concept or word maps or self-questioning. By engaging students in deep reading (Fisher & Frey, 2012) and in lively discussions and questioning, teachers can meet their goal of helping students learn to assimilate new knowledge from what they’ve read and even expand and modify what they already know. This process may result in some “Aha!” moments as students experience themselves grow as readers and thinkers because of what they have read (Fisher et al., 2016).

Beers and Probst (2013) developed the close reading strategy, Notice & Note, that fosters deep learning and cultivates students’ critical reading habits that make students more engaged, analytical, and independent readers. This strategy introduces readers to six signposts that alert readers to significant moments in a work of literature and encourage students to examine the text more closely. These signposts guide students in their thinking to inquire about the text, find evidence to support their interpretations, and reflect on the text’s significance in one’s own life to ultimately become independent readers and writers.

Students should have access to both informational and literary books for independent reading. Although it is important that these books be authentic and be truly engaging, students who are just learning to read benefit most from books that reinforce their emerging decoding abilities, that is, books that they can decode independently (Compton et al., 2005). As they comprehend what they read, students are looking for right answers to questions, for specific information, facts, and dates; but they also should be looking for evidence to support their ideas, argue their points of view, and learn new perspectives and opinions. Building on this deeper reading can lead to “transfer” literacy learning, as students apply what they know to new and novel situations and often reorganize their conceptual knowledge (Fisher et al., 2016).


In Kindergarten Daily Reading and Vocabulary lessons in the Teacher’s Guide explicitly teach a particular skill or strategy before reading, which children immediately apply to help them comprehend a Read Aloud Book or Big Book. The skills repeat often throughout the school year, as children apply them to different genres and texts with different topics. In Grades 1–6 Daily Reading lessons in the Teacher’s Guide explicitly teach a particular skill or strategy before reading, which students immediately apply to help them comprehend a read aloud or grade-level text. The skills repeat often throughout the school year, as students apply them to increasingly complex texts.

Spiraling Approach to Instruction

The ultimate goal of reading is to comprehend and build knowledge. Therefore, HMH Into Reading’s approach is to focus on skills and strategies that best support the specific text that students are reading. By continually spiraling through skills that are in service of texts, rather than texts being in service of a weekly skill, students gradually learn to draw from many skills and strategies to comprehend what they read. Throughout the year, texts increase in complexity, so students are applying the same grade-level appropriate skill to increasingly more complex text.

Notice & Note

Using the powerful work of Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst (2013), Notice & Note introduces signposts and anchor questions that help readers understand and respond to critical aspects of both fiction and nonfiction texts. These signposts are used to encourage students to read closer and with more rigor. Students are asked to stop, notice, and reflect on significant moments in the text.

Building Knowledge Networks

As students read, view, and interact with the texts and media in each module, they build deep topic knowledge about traditional and modern storytellers, the stories they have told, and the lessons that can be learned from those stories.

Foster Critical Thinking & Deep Analysis of Text

The Teaching Pal offers point-of-use instructional teaching notes for critical thinking and deep analysis of the myBook student texts. The myBook is a student component that provides write-in text interactions such as note-taking, annotating, and responding. Teaching Pal notes encourage students to stop and notice critical elements as they read, helping them gain a deeper understanding of texts.


As with reading, explicit writing instruction that both draws on and builds students’ understanding of language will be most effective. Students benefit from instruction on handwriting, spelling, sentence structure, grammar, and other skills, but teachers also need to model writing for their students and point out the features of good writing during instructional interactions (Graham et al., 2012).

Grammar is most effectively taught in the context of writing instruction. The revising and editing stages of the writing process present the best opportunities for students to master the grammar skills needed to write strong, clear sentences.


Handwriting skills from the early years are considered to be a critical factor of academic success, and difficulty with handwriting can interfere with academic achievement (Feder & Majnemer, 2007). Handwriting studies of typically developing elementary children have found that the quality of handwriting develops rapidly during Grade 1 and reaches a plateau by Grade 2. By Grade 3, students’ handwriting skills become more automatic, organized, and a means through which to develop ideas (Blote & Hamstra-Bletz, 1991).

The youngest learners may have very poor handwriting, use invented spelling, and ignore grammar rules. However, across the grades, students in classrooms where writing is a daily practice will learn these essentials through a combination of systematic and direct instruction, practice in applying them, and corrective feedback (Graham et al., 2012).

As students’ handwriting skills increase and their foundational literacy skills are established, students’ writing can become more expressive; and students’ written work provides teachers insight into their mastery of spelling and language structures.

Spelling & Early Literacy

Some students in the early stages of literacy development will begin to experiment with so-called invented spelling to begin to express themselves in writing. These early efforts may include primarily consonants, but gradually, students’ spelling moves toward more traditional formats. These early efforts at writing provide teachers a clear picture of how students are putting the letters and sounds together; savvy teachers can use students’ work diagnostically to determine if more direct instruction is needed (Cunningham & Allington, 2011; Ehri, 2014).

Understanding how words are spelled allows for more efficient and proficient writing and reading. To read and write words appropriately and fluently and to appreciate fully how words work in context, instruction must balance authentic reading and writing with purposeful word study. In word study and spelling instruction, students examine the sounds of letters, word structure, and meaning. Students are taught the processes and strategies to understand the words they read and write. This knowledge, in turn, is applied to new words students encounter in reading (Templeton, 1998).

Reading-Writing Connection

The relationship between reading and writing is powerful, from the early stages of literacy learning (Ehri, 2014; Ehri & Roberts, 2006; Gehsmann & Templeton, 2011/2012) and throughout the elementary grades, when students should be writing in all their content areas (Donovan & Smolkin, 2011). As students read, their vocabularies expand so that their writing can become more expressive; and students’ written work provides teachers insight into their mastery of spelling and language structures. Writing in response to reading supports the development of comprehension skills (Graham & Hebert, 2010) because the writing experience encourages students to think more deeply about what they have read. Writing in response to reading should become a standard practice in all genres and content areas, not just in language arts, so long as students are given adequate time to engage in the writing process. Such writing can easily be seen as writing in support of learning, especially if students are given some choice in how they will express themselves. Indeed, the first recommendation from the What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) practice guide on effective writing instruction is to “provide daily time for students to write” (Graham et al., 2012).

Purpose & Process of Writing

Writing in response to reading must be accompanied by different kinds of writing, as students learn to write for multiple purposes (Graham et al., 2012) and write about familiar topics and ones they care about. Writing well about what is “familiar” does not happen automatically; several meta-analyses have documented the evidence that direct instruction of the writing process as used for a variety of different purposes and in a variety of genres is a highly effective approach to helping students become strong writers (Graham et al., 2012; Graham & Sandmel, 2011). Through this instruction, students learn to plan and then draft their writing, share their ideas with others, and evaluate what they write. These steps lead students to revise, edit, and finally produce a final product to publish within or beyond their classroom community. Sharing one’s writing in draft and final form is an important part of the writing process, in part because sharing helps develop collaboration and community through giving and receiving feedback and ideas (Graham et al., 2012).

Students need to write each day and to write for various purposes, for different audiences, and in many different genres (Berninger et al., 2006; Graham et al., 2012). Most writing skills learned for one type of writing readily transfer to writing for other types. This is especially true if teachers emphasize the transfer process as they introduce new writing modes to students, as they make assignments, and as they provide students with feedback on their efforts (Carroll & Wilson, 2007; Hattie, 2012).


Collaboration on writing has been found to be motivating and is especially effective when teachers have helped students develop a clear set of guidelines for evaluating their own and others’ writing and when they have also established expectations for substantive and polite give-and-take among students (Graham et al., 2012). Students need to have opportunities to collaborate, to share, to participate in writing discussions with teachers; they need to learn to give and take feedback on ideas, techniques, drafts, and final products and to act on the feedback to improve their work (Graham et al., 2012). Several classroom situations encourage collaboration and community development, including teachers writing with their students, teachers conducting writing conferences for individualized instruction, paired writing, and a formal program to publish students’ writing (Graham et al., 2012; Tracy, Reid, & Graham, 2009; Yarrow & Topping, 2001).

Mentor Texts

Teachers can use what are often called “mentor texts” to make instruction of the various writing skills and strategies more concrete; these are examples of high-quality writing from all genres that can be studied and discussed for style, word choice, author’s craft, and overall effectiveness (Gil, 2017). Some valuable mentor texts may be examples of student writing; others may be from the routine materials students encounter in their daily reading activities or from other sources. Discussion of these “neutral” texts also models ways to give constructive feedback on distinct aspects of written products.

Additionally, savvy teachers know to ask students to pause a few seconds as they read to study the “craft” with which authors have produced what they write—the choices authors make to create a mood in a poem, the sense of anticipation in a story, or the clear sequence of events laid out in the description of an experiment or a historical event. Studying mentor texts and deciding what “good” writing looks like establishes a common “vision” toward which students can work as teachers release responsibility for writing to their students (Graham et al., 2012). Mentor texts reinforce the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing (Carroll & Wilson, 2007).

Rubrics and Peer Feedback

Teachers need to track students’ writing development with the same care they routinely afford to students’ reading and to give students tools to monitor their own growth (Gehsmann & Templeton, 2011/2012). Checklists can be invaluable as students engage in various stages of the writing process, and clearly stated rubrics help students evaluate their drafts and finished products. For example, a checklist can remind students to check technical issues like verb tenses, pronoun references, or punctuation or more sophisticated elements of writing such as logic, sequence of ideas, or inclusion of details to support a perspective (Hotchkiss & Hougen, 2012). Rubrics provide detailed descriptors of the characteristics of pieces of writing at various levels of proficiency; they can help students evaluate their own and others’ writing, as well as how their teachers will grade their written work (Brookhart & Nitko, 2008).


A comprehensive and integrated approach to literacy ensures that students find their voice and can communicate through effective expression. To effectively communicate across written genres, students must be able to write clearly and efficiently, and they must be able to spell, and understand conventions of print, grammar, and syntax.


Handwriting practice is provided throughout the program. In the beginning with the first few weeks of school, Kindergarten students are instructed on and practice handwriting (upper and lowercase letters) within the context of Alphabet Knowledge lessons, which include the review of the letter names, sounds, and forms. Handwriting instruction and practice is purposefully incorporated throughout the grade levels (e.g., in Phonics lessons, Spelling lessons, Writing lessons, and in the Writing Center). Opportunities for practice are provided in the Know It, Show It practice pages and in the Handwriting Printable.

Practice materials for Handwriting are available for three penmanship styles (manuscript printing, continuous stroke, and for Grade 2 and up, cursive).

Writing Process

HMH Into Reading provides ample opportunity for students to hone their writing craft by developing a deep understanding of the stages in the writing process and expressing their ideas and thoughts. In the Writing Strand, students learn the writing process across all modes and forms through an explicit, step-by-step approach to writing. Writing instruction includes minilessons that teach the writing process–prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.

The writing instructional model draws upon authentic trade books as the focal text for student writing. Typically, students take a piece of writing through the entire writing process over the course of the module (four weeks in Kindergarten; three weeks in Grades 1–6).

  • Each writing module features a mentor text connected to the module theme.
  • Students are given a writing prompt that further supports building topic knowledge and exposes students to a writing mode through an explicit stepped out process.
  • In Kindergarten, students focus on the writing process through one writing mode and form of writing, per 4-week module, which may include a few writing pieces across the module.
  • In Grades 1–6, students work through the complete writing process on one piece of writing over the course of the 3-week module.

Source Based Writing Instruction

  • Students apply writing process skills learned in the Writing Workshop lessons to end of module Performance Tasks.
  • The Teacher’s Guide features robust, supportive instruction for teachers to guide students in crafting strong source-based essays.
  • Each lesson steps teachers and students through expectations of the task, analysis of the prompt, and the steps of the writing process.
  • Teachers model how to find and incorporate specific text evidence into writing, ensuring students are supported as they learn these critical skills.
  • At point of use in the Performance Task instructional pages, teachers can find specific Writing Workshop minilessons for deeper instruction and practice with the writing process and text features related to the writing mode.


The myBook is a student resource, aligned to the HMH Into Reading modules. The write-in myBook provides numerous writing opportunities connected to each module in the program, allowing students to take notes, annotate, respond, and ultimately take ownership of their learning. Students use the myBook to take notes, annotate, and respond to the text. In addition, myBook wrap-up activities at the end of the module provide the opportunity for students to synthesize what they’ve learned through writing and discussions and to express their new insight through writing. Writing opportunities are further enhanced in the HMH Into Reading digital offering, via the interactive myBook for annotating text and writing about reading.

Writer’s Notebook

The Writer’s Notebook directly supports the act of writing by allowing students to set and evaluate personal goals, interact with writing models, use a variety of prewriting strategies, and discuss their writing with peers. Further, an interactive Writer’s Notebook supports students in writing across the modules by guiding them through the writing process with interactive planning/graphic organizers, checklists, and more.

Inquiry & Research

In HMH Into Reading, lessons extend beyond just writing. The Teacher’s Guide and the Writing Teacher’s Guide also include lessons to support inquiry and research, which are designed to engage students in projects that provide opportunities to extend topic knowledge while building research, writing, listening, speaking, and collaboration skills across the grade levels.

In Kindergarten, students are encouraged to be active investigators by providing time and support for research projects. In each module, children research, collaborate, and complete an inquiry-based project about the topic of the module. A weekly focus and instruction in the Teacher’s Guide provide structure and pacing for the project.

In Grades 1–6, students complete a focused, inquiry-based project paced over three-week module. Students conduct research, collaborate, and complete a project about the topic of the module. Printables support each project to guide students’ independent and collaborative work. In addition, research skills are taught explicitly through formal lessons, which are featured occasionally in the Teacher’s Guide and in the Writing Teacher’s Guide, including (in Grades 1–2) how to select a topic, formulate research question, follow a research plan, choose and use sources, and evaluation and organize information. Similarly, in Grades 3–6, students learn how to generate a research plan, gather information, take notes, evaluate, and organize information, and cite sources.

Writing Assessment

HMH Into Reading features Integrated into daily instruction, various types of assessment enable teachers to target individual needs, helping writers grow into their own voices.

Writing Conferences. As students work on their writing, teachers offer targeted assistance on the day’s lesson, another writing topic, or an area of grammar that needs work. These regular, informal conferences provide students with actionable feedback to help them on their path to becoming great writers.

Writing Rubrics. Multi-trait rubrics, provided at point of use, offer focused guidance to score and guide student writing. One rubric for every module is provided, as well as an Inquiry and Research Project Rubric

Weekly and Module Assessments. Weekly assessments include editing tasks that assess application of key grammar skills. Module assessments include editing tasks and writing prompts that assess each Module’s key grammar and writing skills.

Optional Connected Resource: Writable

Writable, an optional HMH connected resource for student’s Grades 3–6, provides writing practice and feedback with customizable assignments that support HMH Into Reading. Writable equips students with point-of-use tools that help them plan, organize, and focus their writing. With an intuitive interface of side-by-side reading and writing assignments, annotation tools, prompts, rubrics, and comment stems, Writable guides students through the writing process in every lesson. Writable’s student-friendly tools encourage students to revise their writing to create the best possible version. Reviewer feedback and Revision Aid artificial intelligence feedback are readily available at point of use to help students improve their revisions.

Writable features more than 600 customizable assignments that support HMH Into Reading English language arts instruction while preparing students for state and district assessments—and lifelong literacy. Writable’s instructional approach, developed according to rigorous foundational research, improves student writing with state-of-the-art tools that: (1) Engage students in digital writing practice and feedback tied to HMH Into Reading; (2) Prepare students for assessment success and provide flexible growth reporting for students, classes, schools, and districts; and (3) Provide customizable scaffolding for all students, including Tier II students and English learners.

Instructional Strategies

The instructional strategies used in HMH Into Reading are grounded in the Science of Reading and follow a Structured Literacy approach. Specifically, HMH Into Reading features is a systematic, explicit, incremental, and cumulative approach to reading and writing instruction that is based on evidence from research studies.

The goal of reading and writing instruction in the early grades is to enable students to read different kinds of texts fluently and easily and to express themselves clearly in writing. Teachers’ instruction should be aligned to a scope and sequence that reflects how students acquire new skills. Lesson plans should reflect the diversity of students in the class and include what research has documented as the best practices.

HMH Into Reading incorporates the most recent reading research for systematic and explicit foundational skills instruction. The foundational skills lessons follow a scope and sequence based on evidence from research, providing a systematic approach. The explicit instruction includes teacher explanation and modeling, including the Gradual Release Model: I Do It, We Do It, You Do It. The instruction is delivered with small-group support for differentiation targeted to each students’ learning needs.

Reading and writing instruction should be delivered explicitly, with language and examples that are appropriate for students’ ages, vocabularies, attention spans, and needs, and instruction must be accompanied by meaningful opportunities for practicing new skills. This combination of explicit instruction and appropriate practice activities will have significant, positive effects for beginning readers and writers, even those considered at risk for later struggles (Fien et al., 2015). Extended blocks of time with differentiated instruction have been found to yield strong literacy achievement for most students (Al Otaiba et al., 2009)

Students will differ in what they have experienced prior to school entry and what they experience outside school, and these factors contribute to their learning, no matter how positive their classroom environment may be (Sheppard, 2017). Even in the most welcoming and supportive classrooms, students will likely differ widely, and teachers need to be prepared to differentiate to meet their needs (Opitz & Ford, 2008). Today’s classrooms are diverse, with some students reading above grade level, others at grade level, multilingual learners, students with disabilities (SWDs), and students who have been diagnosed with dyslexia.

Explicit, high-quality Tier 1 instruction provides differentiated, culturally responsive core academic instruction and also helps students learn the culture, norms, and “languages” of school. When well implemented, Tier 1 instruction should ensure positive outcomes for a minimum of 80 percent of all students (for an overview, see

Instructional Strategies Subsections

  • Structured Literacy – Systematic, Coherent, Explicit, Incremental, & Cumulative
  • Differentiated Instruction
  • Effective Classroom Learning Environments
Structured Literacy


Systematic means that the organization of material follows the logical order of the language. The sequence must begin with the easiest and most basic concepts and elements and progress methodically to more difficult concepts and elements. Explicit means that instruction includes the deliberate teaching of all concepts with continuous student-teacher interaction. It is not assumed that students will naturally deduce these concepts on their own. Incremental means that small amounts of information are presented each time. Cumulative means each step must be based on concepts previously learned.


Extensive research findings strongly support the effectiveness of phonics instruction, while also emphasizing its larger goal of reading fluency and comprehension. As the National Reading Panel (2000) states, “systematic phonics instruction should be integrated with other reading instruction” (p. 2–97). In other words, students must come to understand the larger purpose behind learning letter-sound relationships. Furthermore, their emerging skills must be continuously applied to meaningful reading and writing activities (NRP, 2000, p. 2–96).

First, the research literature suggests that the design of effective phonological/phonics instruction should be carefully scaffolded, with each element mapped to a scientifically based understanding of how reading skills progress. Further, those elements must be thoughtfully intertwined to provide the appropriate levels of support and challenge to young learners. As Adams (1990) observes, “[T]he parts of the reading system must grow together. They must grow to one another and from one another” (p. 6).

Teachers following the Science of Reading work to align instruction to a scope and sequence that reflects how students acquire new skills. Their lesson plans reflect the diversity of students in the class and include what research has documented as the best practices. Teachers incorporate language and examples that are appropriate for students’ ages, vocabularies, attention spans, and needs, and provide students with meaningful opportunities for practicing new skills.


Coherence in reading instruction rests not on an either/or argument, but an integrative one. Coherency means that teaching children to read and write words in isolation serves to promote their spelling and word recognition skills. And, it means teaching children to read words in meaningful contexts so that they can develop understanding of words’ usage and meaning. Throughout, as children see and say words, it is essential that they be guided to think about the words’ meaning. Adams (2011) grounds the case for coherence, in neuroscience, noting, “The brain does not grow block by block from bottom up. It grows through its own efforts to communicate and find coherence within itself” (p. 19).


Research has shown that using a comprehensive literacy approach that combines explicit literacy instruction with appropriate practice activities has significant, positive effects for beginning readers and writers, even those considered at risk for later struggles (Fien et al., 2015). Additionally, research has also demonstrated the value of differentiated instruction in improving literacy achievement for most students (Al Otaiba et al., 2009).


Literature suggests there is value in a teaching method that uses small, easily digestible chunks of information (Brophy & Everston, 1976). Studies by Rosenshine and Stevens (1986) and Brophy and Everston (1976) demonstrate the importance of using incremental steps when teaching new information. Hirsch (1996) points out that the human mind can handle only a small amount of new information at one time: A child’s mind needs time to digest the new information, fostering memory and meaning, before it can move on to a set of new information.


Cognitive science research has shown that learning is cumulative. Complex cognitive skills can be broken into simpler skills, which can in turn be broken into even simpler skills, and lower-level skills must be mastered before higher-level skills can be mastered (Gagne & Briggs, 1974).

Reading research has demonstrated the effectiveness of teaching lower-level reading skills in a cumulative manner. The National Reading Panel reviewed 38 research studies and concluded that explicit and systematic phonics instruction—that is, instruction that was based on a clearly defined plan and sequence and that was directly taught to students—was more effective at helping children learn to read than responsive phonics instruction—individualized phonics mini-lessons provided if and when children need them—or no phonics instruction at all (NICHD, 2000). Based on their review of the research, the experts on the National Reading Panel reported that an estimated 60% of early readers need systematic, explicit, and cumulative phonics instruction in order to learn to read (NICHD, 2000).


HMH Into Reading guides beginning readers to master the essential literacy skills (described in the previous chapter) in a systematic and coherent plan of instruction that is explicit, systematic, coherent, explicit, incremental, cumulative, and includes ample opportunities to engage with highly decodable text, so that students can integrate these skills seamlessly and automatically to achieve fluent comprehension.

The research-based approach to foundational skills in HMH Into Reading provides explicit, direct teaching; skills that are linguistically and logically sequenced from basic to more difficult; and systematic lesson routines. The underpinning of all the instruction is a scope and sequence that is informed by the science of reading and best practices supported by years of literacy research. The instruction is delivered through a gradual release model (I Do It, We Do It, You Do It) during whole-group lessons with small-group support for differentiation. In small-group instruction, students experience explicit teaching and practice that is targeted to their specific learning needs.

Below are several examples of how HMH Into Reading instruction aligns to the five pillars of reading and incorporates an explicit, systematic, coherent, explicit, incremental, and cumulative approach:

Phonological and Phoneme Awareness. Through explicit, systematic instruction and word play, students learn to recognize and manipulate the parts of spoken language. The explicit instruction includes teacher explanation and modeling before children give it a try and draws on the reciprocal relationship between phonics and phonemic awareness.

Phonics and Word Study. The Teacher’s Guide includes daily support for phonics. Immediately following explicit, systematic instruction in whole group, children apply their new phonics skills in the context of engaging decodable texts, called Start Right Readers, in small groups. These texts are carefully crafted to offer practice with reading words containing only known phonic elements and high-frequency words.

Fluency. By helping children crack the code of the English language, teachers give them the tools they need to read connected text fluently. Weekly fluency lessons feature a spiraling approach that introduces and then returns to fluency skills including accuracy and self-correction, reading rate, expression, phrasing, and intonation.

Vocabulary. Vocabulary instruction in HMH Into Reading builds and expands students’ word knowledge within, across, and beyond texts. Academic vocabulary development draws important words from the literature to teach through direct instruction and provides cumulative review to help students retain vocabulary knowledge and build conceptual knowledge. Through generative vocabulary lessons, one or more of the week’s Power Words serves as a springboard to learning other words with a morphological or semantic relationship. A focus Vocabulary Strategy in each module gives students a growing list of tools to unlock meaning when they encounter unknown words in their reading.

Comprehension. Daily Reading lessons in the Teacher’s Guide explicitly teach a particular skill or strategy before reading, which children immediately apply to help them comprehend a read-aloud or grade-level text. The skills repeat often throughout the school year, as children apply them to increasingly complex texts. By continually spiraling through skills that are in service of texts, rather than texts being in service of a weekly skill, children will gradually learn to draw from many skills and strategies to comprehend what they read.

Differentiated Instruction


In most districts, the student population is diverse: many students may be just learning English, some may have learning disabilities, and some may have been diagnosed as dyslexic. Sometimes, students are clearly struggling to make sense of beginning reading instruction, but there may even be students who read above the expectations for their grade level. Teachers have the responsibility of teaching all these students, that is, to meet the students “where they are” and provide them with appropriate instruction and practice activities. Teaching in diverse classes is not easy, and teachers often need support to meet the goals they set for themselves and their students. Yet diversity reflects the reality of many schools nationwide, and it adds to the richness of the learning experience (Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013).

One of the key words in the definition of Tier 1 instruction is differentiated, reflecting the fact that in every class, students present a virtual mosaic of levels, accomplishments, and needs. Although it is important that teachers convene their entire class and build a sense of community, it is equally important that they tailor instruction and practice activities to meet individual students’ needs. Data help teachers customize their instruction, and ample resources are needed to support this differentiation.

There are many ways teachers can differentiate their reading instruction to meet the needs of all their students and to keep them all engaged. The process begins with making the classroom welcoming for all—with print and digital reading materials appropriate for a full range of abilities, not just books “at grade level” or within an expected Lexile® range. Resources should be in multiple genres; present cross-disciplinary, culturally diverse perspectives; and be written at different reading levels.

Supporting Multilingual Learners

There are several models for teaching students for whom English is not their first language, some of which immerse them in instruction in their home language before transferring them to a class where most students speak English. When a school’s model is to include multilingual learners in classes with native speakers, teachers have many ways to differentiate their instruction, most of which are strong, evidence-based strategies for reading and language arts instruction. Building background knowledge is essential, especially since doing so honors and respects the knowledge base that multilingual learners bring with them (Gutiérrez, Morales, & Martinez, 2009; Pashler et al., 2007; Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013). Recent research by Julie Washington indicates that speakers of non-standard English can also benefit academically from bilingual education programs that explicitly teach grammar (Brennan, 2018). Providing deliberate vocabulary instruction to build students’ knowledge of key discipline-specific words like “theme,” “character,” “sentence,” or “parts of speech” is essential; students who have been in school previously may be very familiar with these common words in their own language and with their meaning. For multilingual learners, having the English term for familiar concepts builds their confidence and sense of themselves as real classroom participants. Whatever the approach, it is important to recognize the value of students’ first language and the benefits of being bilingual or multilingual speakers.

Regardless of the range of languages in a classroom, it is up to teachers to provide an environment that allows all young learners to build on the knowledge of language they bring with them to school and to increase that knowledge in a way that builds literacy skills. Screening data can help teachers plan appropriate instruction. It is especially important that they have a sense of students’ understanding of fundamental skills such as phonological processing, letter names and sounds, and concepts of print. It is also helpful for teachers to know if students have begun to read in their native language and to know the extent to which that language differs from English.

If screening or other assessment shows that multilingual learners may be at risk for reading failure, intensive interventions should be provided quickly by trained intervention teachers. These interventions should focus on skills like phonemic awareness and phonics that are the foundation of learning to read (Vaughn et al., 2006). Research has shown that providing intensive interventions has lasting, positive effects, essentially narrowing the possibility that students will fail (Gersten et al., 2007; Vaughn et al., 2006). However, interventions alone will not provide the foundation for multilingual learners’ reading success. High-quality Tier 1 instruction that seeks to build all students’ background knowledge, increase their vocabulary, and build academic vocabulary or the so-called “language of school” are also highly beneficial (Dutro & Kinsella, 2010; Gersten et al., 2007).

Supporting Students With Disabilities & Students With Dyslexia

Early and frequent screening of students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 provides the first means of identifying students with disabilities and students with dyslexia (Gersten et al., 2008). Results from screening tests may suggest that more focused diagnostic testing is advisable to pinpoint the causes of students’ potential struggles. Data from such testing that indicates students are at risk for reading failure should set into motion development of a Response to Intervention (RTI) plan and, if needed, further evaluation and the development of an individualized education program (IEP). To maximize success for these students, classroom teachers and specialists need to work together to ensure that the plan is followed and the interventions are successful. Classroom teachers and the specialist work together to ensure that the plan is followed and that students are making progress. These students may also receive extra, specialized help, either as a “push in” to the classroom or as a “pull out” program.

For their time in the regular classroom, the IEP may suggest more small-group work, which should be easy to accomplish during the literacy block. A structured literacy block offers many opportunities for students to experience read alouds, share literacy experiences with peers, and independently practice the skills they learned. Teachers, however, need to be alert to signs that students are experiencing difficulty, for example, difficulty decoding, poor spelling and handwriting, and difficulty with memorization tasks (Wolf, 2007). Students with reading difficulties need extra practice, extra time, and books aligned with their proficiency that engage their interests. Time in the Tier 1 literacy block reinforces students’ sense of belonging in school, even if they spend some of their time with an interventionist.

Accelerated Learners

Students whose reading skills are above grade level have not necessarily been identified as “gifted” but certainly are ready for accelerated reading experiences such as more challenging reading materials, opportunities to read to students in lower grades, and other activities that will keep them engaged. But teachers need to remember several things about accelerated readers. First, their advanced abilities may not cut across all content areas; for example, they may need the same sort of scaffolded instruction in math as the least well-performing of their classmates or may be very reluctant writers (Hougen & Smartt, 2012). Second, teachers need to be sure that students’ “advanced” beginning reading skills continue to progress in all areas, especially comprehension.

An important study of fourth-grade students who had fallen just “below the bar” for passing their state’s Grade 4 reading tests provides a cautionary tale (Buly & Valencia, 2002; Valencia & Buly, 2004). The researchers found distinct patterns among the fourth graders they studied. For example, some comprehended extremely well, answered advanced questions, and discussed articulately what they read, but they read so slowly that they didn’t finish the timed test. Equally, some seemingly advanced readers had strong decoding skills but needed direct instruction and opportunities to move from surface to deep understanding and to transfer (Fisher, Frey, & Hattie, 2016). In a nutshell, teachers need to differentiate instruction for advanced readers in a careful and sensitive way so they can keep growing as readers.


Differentiated Support for All Learners

HMH Into Reading is differentiated by design, meeting the needs of all learners. Data insights, reporting, and customizable lesson plans ensure support for each student’s individual learning path. As students build a strong foundation in reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills, they develop a confidence in themselves that ensures lifelong learners emerge.

Grounded in the latest research, HMH Into Reading delivers meaningful scaffolds in whole-class instruction, teacher-led small group lessons, and a variety of independent practice activities to meet a wide range of learners. The Teachers Guide includes scaffolded supports for every lesson, both in whole-group and small-group instruction, with easy access to options to differentiate are available through the digital Teachers Guide on HMH Ed. With multiple teacher-led, small-group instructional options, HMH Into Reading supports tailoring instruction to various student needs, including foundational skills, reading skills, comprehension skills, or intervention.

Small-group instruction and differentiation are at the heart of the HMH Into Reading instructional approach. During HMH Into Reading small-group instruction, the built-in daily Options for Differentiation allow teachers to naturally differentiate with focused instruction on skills introduced during whole- group instruction, saving time in planning additional lessons and gathering different resources.

Foundational skills lessons provide explicit, systematic lessons allow teachers to provide research-based instruction in all areas of foundational skills. Students practice and apply these skills in context by reading decodable texts in the Start Right Reader. Make Minutes Count activities provide additional practice with phonics, spelling, and high-frequency words that can occur at the beginning or end of a small-group lesson, depending on students’ needs.

According to student needs, from significantly below level to above level, teachers can use the online Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio, an intervention resource which provides additional explicit, sequential, and systematic instruction and practice in the critical areas of print concepts, letter knowledge, phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, word recognition, and fluency.

Read and Respond Journals include decodables and passages that allow students to build their confidence as readers. Students practice skills in the context of reading with passages written below grade level. This additional practice provides supports comprehension and opportunities to reinforce, and refine, students’ skills.

English Language development lessons facilitate students’ effective expression at each level of English language proficiency through teacher-led small groups. Students practice and apply language functions across the four language domains and through collaborative problem solving. Each day of instruction focuses on a domain—listening, speaking, reading, writing—and collaborative problem solving. Delivered through a Tabletop Minilesson, instruction can be delivered daily or used flexibly and less frequently depending on the needs of the students.

HMH Into Reading offers a Library approach for Tier I support, allowing teachers to match students to the just-right text, supporting each and every learner. Skill and strategy lessons support students at their independent reading level to reinforce targeted reading skills and strategies. These lessons meet the needs of all learners, including striving readers and those who may need a challenge.


Careful planning for the literacy block is essential because it is up to teachers to provide the environment, tools, motivation, and opportunities to help children do this cognitive “mapping.” There is a finite amount of time for the daily literacy block, and although that may seem boundless, teachers recognize the challenges of allocating the time carefully so that the instruction they offer and the activities they provide meet the needs of all their students. Teachers can expect students in their classrooms to differ along many dimensions (see Afflerbach, 2016), but they ought to expect that virtually all students will respond to research-based instruction and learn to read (McFarland et al., 2019).

The most productive literacy blocks give students opportunities to work with their teacher in both large and small groups, to work with small groups of peers, and to work independently. Research findings on early literacy development strongly recommend an extended period for instruction—at least 90 minutes. There should be limited interruptions, and all students should have opportunities to engage in different kinds of reading and writing activities (NICHD, 2000; Shaywitz et al., 1999). It is crucial that students receive focused, explicit instruction on foundational skills (Shaywitz et al., 1999). The actual number of minutes in a school’s literacy block and the needs of students will determine how teachers divide up the time devoted to reading and writing, yet it is essential that the following activities be included:

  1. Explicit instruction and practice on foundational reading skills such as recognizing and manipulating word parts presented orally (phonemic awareness), understanding letter-sound relationships (phonics), blending letter-sound patterns to produce words (decoding), or understanding common spelling patterns (encoding)
  2. Targeted, whole-class reading or writing instruction in a teacher-led lesson as a precursor to the longer period of independent or small-group work; during the minilesson, the teacher (1) ties new content or skills to what has been learned previously; (2) states the teaching point that will be presented (e.g., use of dialogue in narrative writing); (3) models or explains the teaching point, usually with some textual support; (4) asks students to practice the teaching point with partners; and (5) restates the focus of the minilesson; the teacher then sends students to their independent and small-group work.
  3. Small-group instruction, during which teachers meet with small groups and other students work independently, work with partners, work in centers, or otherwise practice their developing skills
    1. Print or digital practice activities are available.
    2. Center work reinforces what students have been learning.
    3. Teachers check in with and debrief to ensure that students are maximizing their time.
  4. A variety of interactive and independent reading and writing activities, for example:
    1. Read alouds, during which teachers model reading and engage students actively in asking and answering questions
    2. Instruction to build vocabulary and background knowledge
    3. Writing independently or with a partner
    4. Engaging in shared reading with a partner
    5. Reading independently in trade books (~15–20 minutes) with teachers monitoring the reading

The literacy block can flow most smoothly when teachers help students understand their responsibilities in moving from whole-class instruction to small groups to independent work. The advantages of such a dynamic instructional structure include building community through whole-class work, offering instruction in focused small-group interactions, prioritizing students’ time practicing skills alone and with peers, and alternating times when students sit and listen with times when they are more active.  


Matching Students to Instruction, Pacing, and Grouping

HMH Into Reading is designed to provide daily individual, needs-based instruction, with lessons aligned to the challenges and opportunities of the curriculum. Teachers form student groups, which are flexible and dynamic, reflecting the changing needs of the groups based on individual needs and interests. Instruction is flexibly paced to optimize individual growth, with an emphasis on using assessment and observation to inform each student’s path (move back, stay on course, accelerate). In addition, instruction is designed to support students across the curriculum. For example, the program connects the day’s foundational skill focus and applies it to a decodable text, and teachers can use comprehension skills from whole-group instruction in small groups with leveled texts.

Teacher-Led Daily Options for Small-Group Differentiation

Small-group instruction allows teachers to tailor instruction to individual students’ needs, giving them support with the skills or practice required to move forward and become skilled readers. Instruction in this context also helps teachers identify gaps in students’ learning, break down concepts, and provide immediate feedback. By having a place to closely evaluate what each student can do, teachers can react and support their students immediately.

HMH Into Reading teacher-led small-group instruction advances students’ abilities with texts that engage and challenge readers at their independent level. It meets the needs of all learners, including multilingual learners, students who struggle, or students who need a challenge. The focus of HMH Into Reading small-group instruction is to target students and their unique needs in small groups to maximize student growth and improve learning outcomes for all students. Resources for differentiation include Start Right Readers, Tabletop Minilessons: Reading, Rigby® Readers, Take and Teach Lessons (accompanying each leveled reader), and Foundational Skills and Word Study Studio.

While teachers provide small group instruction, the other students in the classroom can work in Literacy Centers and engage in daily independent work options, such as independent reading, writing, or digital practice activities, including Waggle, Writable, or Amira Learning (optional HMH Into Reading connected programs).

Lesson Planning to Meet Student’s Needs

An intuitive HMH Into Reading digital lesson-planning tool supports teachers in adapting and customizing specific lessons and daily routines and in finding activities and resources for differentiation to meet the particular needs of an individual, small group, or class. Further, a digital Teacher’s Guide makes it easy for teachers to find targeted support and differentiation, as well as modify instruction/questions and add their own resources. Robust note-taking capability supports teachers in personalizing their Teacher’s Guide and recording reflections about what worked and what to modify for next year.

The HMH Into Reading differentiated- by-design lesson plan provides an authentic approach for reinforcing whole-group instruction. Daily small-group options provide students with targeted extra help for reading skills and strategies. The teacher-led focused instruction provides a natural environment for Tier 1 support by enabling teachers to differentiate instruction for a wide range of students.

Differentiate With Tabletop Minilessons

Tabletop Minilessons provide thought provoking visuals and allow you to target grade-level skills and strategies with students in small groups, addressing their learning needs. The teacher-facing side guides you through a brief lesson, including guidance on how to scaffold and extend learning, while the student-facing side sparks curiosity and increases engagement.

Context Of Learning

Many students learn to read without significant effort; experiences at home and preschool contribute to their learning to love books, and they enter Kindergarten ready for the challenge of becoming fully literate themselves. They know they can do this! For other students, mastering reading skills and strategies poses many challenges. Researchers have shown that the absence of books and rich language in children’s preschool lives can be detrimental because they lack the vocabulary and the “word knowledge” they need to thrive in Kindergarten (Hart & Risley, 1995; Wolf, 2007). As instruction becomes more and more advanced and assigned texts more difficult, they may decide that the cognitive energy needed to learn to read well and the embarrassment of mistakes are not worth their effort.

Teachers also need to attend to students’ social and emotional needs, including feelings students have about themselves as learners (Farrington et al., 2012). They also need to attend to the climate in the classrooms that teachers and students share (Kraft et al., 2016; Quay, 2017; Quay & Romero, 2015; Steele & Cohn-Vargas, 2013).

Increasingly, educators are becoming aware of the neuroscience factors that influence students’ learning trajectories and are emphasizing the importance of classroom environments that acknowledge these differences and allow students to help shape their own learning. Approaches that allow for students’ individual biology, experiences, background knowledge, and relationships to converge in dynamic ways optimize the likelihood that all students will learn. For this convergence to be effective, students must be supported as they actively engage with new concepts, build new knowledge, and augment their existing knowledge. This process will take different amounts of time for each student, but the social nature of elementary classrooms—the collaborative interaction of students—supports all learners (Melnick et al.,, 2017). Through these experiences, students will understand the relevance of what they are learning, specifically how reading can be a valuable part of their lives.

There is clear evidence that internal factors—like sense of belonging in school or resilience—will be strongest when students perceive themselves to be respected and valued (Bornstein & Leventhal, 2015). Strong teacher-student and student-student relationships support this kind of learning (Cantor et al., 2018). Teachers need to promote supportive, responsive relationships with and among students by modeling and insisting upon appropriate social behaviors. Effective teachers do more than teach knowledge and skills: they are mentors and guides, ensuring that students receive feedback that encourages them to persevere in their learning (Melnick et al., 2017).

Blended learning, through technology has the potential to bring accessibility, affordability, and customization that might have previously been complicated, expensive, and standardized to educational places. In this way, it can transform learning experiences for students (Staker et al., 2011; Staker & Horne, 2012).

For a child to be successful in school, there are numerous critical roles that families and communities play: supporters of learning, encouragers of perseverance and determination, models of educational practices, and advocates of appropriate school environments for their child (Grade Level Reading Campaign, 2017). In a blended learning environment, the support of family and caregivers to reinforce students’ learning at home becomes even more paramount.

Context of Learning Subsections

  • Social & Emotional Learning
  • Creating a Culturally Responsive Environment
  • Learning with Technology
  • Family Engagement
Social & Emotional Learning

Learning goes beyond students’ ability to acquire facts and expand their knowledge. It is an intellectual, social, and emotional process that focuses on the whole child. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which students understand and manage their emotions, set positive goals, feel and show empathy, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. Research has supported the notion that SEL instruction is crucial not only to enhance students’ well-being but also to increase students’ academic achievement (Durlak et al., 2011).

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides an SEL framework that takes an ecological approach to students’ social and emotional development (CASEL, 2020). The framework recognizes that multiple environments, including the classroom, the school, and the student’s home, interact to support or inhibit social and emotional development. The framework also incorporates a focus on SEL curriculum and instruction, school-wide practices and policies, and family and community partnerships. The CASEL framework consists of the five social and emotional competencies listed below:

  1. Self-awareness: The individual’s ability to recognize and label their emotions, to recognize their strengths, and to build skills related to confidence and self-efficacy.
  2. Self-management: The ability to regulate one’s actions, thoughts, and emotions in any situation or environment. This competency includes skills such as impulse control, stress management, self-motivation, perseverance, goal setting, and organizational skills.
  3. Social awareness: This competency is related to understanding that other people have different perspectives and are worthy of respect. It includes having empathy for others and appreciating diversity. These skills center around listening and working to understand other people.
  4. Relationship skills: These skills involve the ability to create and maintain healthy relationships with people regardless of their abilities or backgrounds. This competency focuses on social engagement, communicating clearly, working cooperatively, negotiating conflict, as well as seeking and offering help.
  5. Responsible decision-making: This includes making personal and social choices that are related to ethics, safety, and social norms, as well as considering the consequences of those choices. Skills related to this competency involve analyzing situations, recognizing and solving problems, and evaluating ethical responsibility.

School leaders, educators, and families can support a systemic and connected approach to learning by nurturing the whole child and infusing social and emotional learning into every part of students’ daily lives—across their classrooms, during all times of the school day, and when they are in their homes and communities.

Learning The Vocabulary of Self-Regulation

Social emotional learning can help all students develop problem solving, goal setting, and attention skills, but perhaps students experiencing challenges will benefit the most. Creating a welcoming classroom is a core principle of sound instruction. Clearly stated expectations for behavior, constant verbal reminders of these expectations, and posted “classroom rules” all have value in encouraging students to exercise self-regulation and their levels of executive function. What many teachers may not realize is that from the earliest grades, as teachers help students develop these skills, they also have opportunities for systematic vocabulary and strategy instruction (Kieffer & Stahl, 2016). Initial explanations of expectations and subsequent reminders about and corrections for desired behaviors should include clearly understood and actionable behavioral terms that can become part of students’ own vernacular to use as they moderate their behavior. 


HMH Into Reading focuses on the five core competencies of social and emotional learning developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. HMH Into Reading integrates SEL into the daily curriculum and the classroom culture. As students consistently practice these skills throughout the year, students further develop their SEL competencies and apply them in various situations. HMH Into Reading focuses on the core SEL competencies through the following program features:

  • SEL Anchor Charts and Lessons: Engaging Anchor Charts explicitly introduce a core competency and is incorporated in related activities. Anchor Charts can be displayed and made visible to the students throughout the day and year so that teachers can refer to an SEL strategy when needed. Show and Teach Lessons: Social and Emotional Learning are interactive PowerPoint lessons to accompany the HMH Into Reading SEL Anchor Charts. Each lesson facilitates instruction, practice, and application related to a CASEL competency.
  • Connect to Literature: In the Teaching Pal, there are connections and prompts to discuss the module focus competency through a text.
  • Inquiry and Research Project: As students work together on a module Inquiry and Research Project, teachers can highlight the connections to the Relationship Skills competency.
  • Engagement Routines: Routines such as Think-Pair-Share and Turn and Talk embedded throughout the program promote the Relationship Skills competency.

Support Social & Emotional Learning With Texts

Books are powerful tools for teaching social and emotional competencies because they serve as examples and nonexamples of important behaviors, actions, and emotions. Discussion prompts in the Teaching Pal and Teacher’s Guide for the following SEL competencies and texts can help teachers weave SEL instruction into the daily routine naturally and seamlessly. In addition, essential questions embedded throughout HMH Into Reading are designed to engage students by providing relevant topics and thought-provoking themes that help students explore the text sets and make connections to themselves.

Creating A Culturally Responsive Environment

Culturally responsive teaching refers to practices and approaches that support culturally and linguistically diverse students who are often marginalized in schools build their confidence and competency to achieve academic success (Darling-Hammond & Cook-Harvey, 2018). The practice of creating a culturally responsive environment begins with noticing one’s own biases and building relational trust with students by honoring their stories and listening to their emotions (National Equity Project, 2020). Educators should strive to create a classroom environment that fosters appreciation and respect for all people and cultures.

Embrace Differences

In our diverse society, schools should be a place where all children feel welcomed, appreciated, and encouraged. In turn, promoting understanding across cultures and portraying the contributions of different groups to the world today should be a priority.

The following are some of the recommended practices for promoting a culturally responsive, anti-bias environment for the classroom.

  • Teach the ways in which we are the same.
  • Point out, judiciously and respectfully, how each student is unique. Emphasize that differences are to be celebrated, not glossed over.
  • Stay mindful of the fact that certain ways of behaving may have different meanings in different cultures.
  • Discuss examples of what it means for children to be responsible, respectful, and tolerant citizens of their community.
  • Be mindful of gender considerations, reinforcing gender-neutral versions of common words such as businessperson or firefighter.
  • Expose children to books and other learning resources that reflect their ethnicity, culture, family structure, or socioeconomic status.
  • Educate children about the history, traditions, and contributions of various groups so that children gain an understanding of topics such as: African and African American history; Hispanic contributions to the United States; History of the Holocaust, explained through themes such as belonging, stereotyping, compassion, and courage; and Women’s contributions to the United States.

Honor Home Languages

In today’s multilingual society, it’s increasingly common for children to speak a language other than English at home. Creating links between children’s home languages and the English-learning environment at school is key to fostering a sense of belonging. For children who speak only English, the exposure to other languages can enhance their listening skills and their ability to think about others’ perspectives or points of view.

  • Promote inclusive activities, such as asking children to share a few words or phrases in their home languages for the entire class to learn.
  • Show respect and appreciation of children’s home languages by learning a few words yourself.

Establish A Sense of Belonging

Young students’ first classroom experiences are often ones of building relationships—with their teacher and peers—and classroom interactions continue to shape students’ attitudes toward themselves and their ability to learn (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004). Wolf (2007) cites work by Biemiller (1970), who studied students’ process of learning to read. Biemiller found that students who ultimately become the most successful readers “never get arrested in any of the early steps, but move quickly through them” (Wolf, 2007, p.119).

As schoolwork becomes more challenging, teachers’ support, modeling, encouragement, and feedback build and reinforce students’ growth mindset. These teacher behaviors also establish a classroom tone that sets clear expectations that all students are learners, mistakes are a part of the learning process, and students’ efforts and hard work are valued above all other behaviors. Teachers show they respect and care equally about the students who struggle to learn and the best readers in the class, and teachers model and require only positive, accepting, interactive tone for all classroom communications. As Mindset Network Scholars’ summary of recent experimental research stresses, students need to know that their teachers’ expectation and goals are for them to succeed (Mindset Scholars Network, 2015).

In such classrooms, all students sense that they belong, that their ability and competence can grow, and that they can be successful. In essence, teachers can create a “learning mindset culture,” one that not only provides instruction on skills and content knowledge but also builds strategies for perseverance, resilience, and effort. Steele and Cohn-Vargas (2013) remind teachers that as they seek to promote a sense of belonging for all students, they need to be aware of group dynamics and the formation of cliques, especially those that may be forming between students who are beginning to perceive themselves as struggling learners or “at risk” for failure.

Even if students never hear these actual labels, they may begin to identify themselves as somehow different from peers for whom academics come easily (Learned, 2016), and research has shown that this identification can change the dynamics in a classroom. Some students who mastered the so-called reading “fundamentals” of letter-sound correspondence may begin to falter as their reading tasks become increasingly difficult and they need to read more deeply and critically (McNamara et al.,, 2016). For many of these students, initial challenges in school expand as low reading skills lead to difficulty in other content areas (Master et al., 2017).


Culturally Relevant Curriculum and Instruction

HMH Into Reading was designed to ensure all students see themselves in the literature they are reading. HMH Into Reading contains carefully curated, high-quality texts throughout the program that reflect the rich diversity in school communities and promotes natural ways to cultivate a culturally responsive classroom. HMH Into Reading features:

  • Diverse authors and literature selections that represent people from various ethnic backgrounds and environments.
  • Ethnically diverse literature that rejects stereotypes and reflects the limitless possibilities for all children’s future success.
  • A classroom community that values all students’ voices.
  • Opportunities to share cultural perspectives and language connections (e.g., Text X-Ray feature).
  • Child-centered Inquiry and Research Projects related to real-world experiences.
  • Connections to home and family through Family Letters in multiple languages.
  • Relevant, respectful, and meaningful content that reflects our diverse world.
Learning With Technology

In recent years the ubiquitous nature of technology has transformed the way students learn, educators teach, and administrators manage resources and interpret data. For some, introducing blended learning may seem “disruptive” of the traditional intensely interpersonal environment of elementary schools (Horn & Staker, 2014). However, in practice this is far from the case, especially when teachers fully understand the possibilities blended learning creates for their teaching practice (Anderson & Skrzypchak, 2011).

Increasingly, schools are being asked to embrace technology and, in some instances, have a complete reliance on digital platforms and high-speed internet access for student learning. Schools can integrate technology in an in-person setting, a hybrid setting that balances both in-person and remote learning, and a solely remote learning environment.

In a blended teaching and learning model, educators combine online delivery of educational content with the best features of classroom interaction and live instruction to personalize learning, allow thoughtful reflection, and differentiate instruction from student to student across a diverse group of learners (Watson, 2008). A blended teaching and learning model can be implemented within an in-person school setting, hybrid setting, and can be leveraged for remote learning.

The online learning environment consists of the effective use of both synchronous and asynchronous activities, which requires alignment with the goal of the learning activity (Boettcher, 2011). Synchronous learning occurs when students and teachers are participating in a discussion or activity at the same time, either in person or remotely. Asynchronous learning occurs when students work alone, or with the help of a family member, on learning resources curated by a teacher or a program – and can happen on the learner’s own schedule.

Integrating online instruction with face-to-face instruction has the potential to bring accessibility, affordability, and customization that might have previously been complicated, expensive, and standardized to K¬6 education, thus revolutionizing the educational landscape (Staker et al., 2011; Staker & Horne, 2012). Well-designed online learning solutions offer many positive benefits for all students, including for those with disabilities and multilingual learners. Several aspects of technology that can be game changers for students are listed below (Hasselbring, 2012).

Providing a fundamental redesign of instructional models, blended learning seeks to accelerate learning by allowing students to access high-quality resources and instructional materials beyond the physical boundaries and time constraints of the traditional classroom. The goal is to develop schools that are more productive for both students and teachers by personalizing instruction and then extending the learning environment beyond the school. In this way, blended learning can ensure that the most appropriate resources and interventions are available for students at the time and place they need them (Bailey et al., 2015).

Digital Tools to Support Reading & Writing

Digital tools can be used beyond simply reinforcing discrete skill instruction. Digital instruction can enhance comprehension practice by allowing students to highlight text, make marginal notes, and gain the pronunciation and meaning of unfamiliar words, thereby providing in-the-moment support when students need it and reinforcing the usefulness of such strategies.

The integration of technology into our daily lives, and into today’s classrooms, has also influenced the way writing is taught and practiced. Features like spelling and grammar checks, thesauri, ways to emphasize text, and graphic organizers for structuring different pieces of writing can support all students, both confident writers and those who struggle to master these essentials (Graham et al., 2012; Kervin & Mantei, 2016). Being able to take advantage of these reading and writing tools gives students a sense of ownership over the process, increases engagement, and supports reading and writing strategy use. 



HMH’s learning platform, HMH Ed offers a myriad of digital student and teacher support and instructional resources. Educators can access core content, assessments, supplemental programs, and curated professional learning all in one place with a single username and password. To inform instruction, learning, and growth, reports in HMH Ed allow teachers to view progress by class, students, assignments, standards, and skill level. This information, available right when needed, allows teachers to adjust Instruction to meet the needs of all learners.


HMH Go is a free learning app that connects students and teachers to Ed: Your Friend in Learning’s content and instructional resources online, offline, or on the go. Students (and teachers) can download HMH Into Reading content to work on in class or at home regardless of their connectivity limitations.


Available in English and Spanish, Family Room, available via their child's HMH Into Reading login, supports the new blended and remote learning environments and makes at-home learning more manageable for families and caregivers by providing easily accessible and equitable, on-demand resources. To help support their children, parents and caregivers can find their child's HMH Into Reading assignments, online learning sessions, and resources to support them in one place.

Digital Student Resources

myBook, Start Right Readers, and Rigby Library titles are available as eBooks on HMH Ed. Digital tools promote student ownership of their reading and writing.

  • Read-along highlighting supports students in understanding text and hearing what fluent reading sounds like.
  • Highlighting, notetaking, and interactive graphic organizers work alongside instructional prompts to promote close reading, vocabulary acquisition, and best practices in writing.
  • eBook annotation tools provide instructional support to improve student learning


Students learn about each module topic and Essential Question by viewing a high-interest Get Curious video. In K–1, Alphafriends® videos playfully bring letters to life by teaching letter names and sounds, phonemic awareness, and syllabic blending with unforgettable alphabet characters.

Family Engagement

Research shows that students are eager for their families to be knowledgeable and active supporters of their education and are more likely to be successful in school if they see their parents playing this vital role (Epstein, 2010). In addition, research shows that early elementary students are more successful in school when they and their families experience supportive relationships with teachers, a correlation that has been found for achievement in general as well as specifically for reading achievement (Hughes & Kwok, 2007). Developing productive relationships between teachers and families seems of particular importance for students who are at risk of academic failure (Hughes & Kwok, 2007; Hunter, 2012).

Literacy-Rich Home Environment

Having books in the home helps establish a reading culture that continues from generation to generation within families and is independent of education and class. This creates an interest in and desire for books that will promote the skills and knowledge needed to foster both literacy and numeracy, thus leading to lifelong academic advantages (Evans, Kelly, Sikora, & Treiman, 2010). Unfortunately, many students growing up in high-poverty neighborhoods live in “Book Deserts” with extremely limited access to books and appropriate student text (Neuman & Moland, 2016). While not a sufficient solution, schools can help counter text scarcity, and support children and families, by providing as many print-rich resources as possible, across genres, reading levels, and interest areas, even if the resources are lent out temporarily.

When children not only have access to books but can share them with reading mentors who love books and reading, they are much more likely to thrive as readers (Bridges, 2014; Heath, 1983). As noted by Adams (1990), family reading in which family members and caregivers interactively read with children is the most important activity families can do with their children to build the knowledge and skills required for skillful reading. Further, “continuing shared reading, even after your child learns to read independently, ensures that she is consistently exposed to rich and unfamiliar vocabulary and can help sustain an interest in the magical world of books, and provides continued motivation for children to master the art of reading” (Cunningham & Zibulsky, 2014, p. 306).

Reading At Home

Children spend up to 75% of their waking hours at home. Even with all the hours in the school day, additional reading time is needed at home to build fluent comprehension skills. Therefore, it is imperative for schools to work with families to capitalize on the educational value of this time throughout the school year and summer.

Voluminous reading can have a statistically significant impact on students’ vocabulary development, general knowledge, spelling, verbal fluency, and reading comprehension (Cunningham & Stanovich, 1998). Yet, voluminous reading is possible only if students have access to abundant texts and sufficient opportunities to read outside of school hours.

Reading at home is also important over the summer as students spend a large chunk of time at home during these months. When children do not have the opportunity to experience books over the summer months, something called “the summer slide” occurs in which children start school reading several levels behind where they were at the end of the previous year. Reading at home over the summer months is an important way families can support students to become successful readers (Gac-Artigas, 2016). 


Home Family Connection

Family letters are available on Ed: Your Friend in Learning. Teachers can customize the Family Letters and then send them home to include parents and caregivers in the learning goals of each module.

Consumable myBooks can be sent home once they have been completed in school. Further, students can share their work digitally at home, including their myBook notes and responses as well as the digital Rigby Library texts appropriate to their specific reading level. Students can do shared and independent reading at home to further build their skills and to engage their parents and caregivers in the topics they are discussing and writing about in school.

Students in the lower grades (K–2) have decodable readers called Start Right Readers that have printable versions that can be sent home.


Available through their child’s HMH Into Reading login, parents and caregivers can access Family Room resources in English or Spanish, including on-demand, bite-size articles, videos, and tips for caregivers, such as:

  • Getting Started – tips for parents on how to navigate the HMH Ed learning platform and questions to ask their children.
  • Program Support – learn about their child’s instructional programs and how they can help.
  • Shareables – quick and friendly tips to manage your child’s engagement, instruction, and development, including resources such as “Getting to Know Your HMH Into Reading Resources” and “The Power of Talk in HMH Into Reading”.
  • Student Curriculum – access to their child's HMH Into Reading assignments and online learning sessions.

Share Student Progress

Educators can use the HMH Reading Growth Measure reports during parent-teacher conferences to share children’s progress and discuss strategies for working together.

  • Focus on the child’s particular strengths and progress since the last meeting.
  • Share the child’s reading, writing, and other learning goals.
  • Review the child’s portfolio to look at samples of his or her classwork that show growth.
  • Share assessment scores and individual reports.
Assessment For Data Driven Instruction

HMH Into Reading provides ongoing balanced assessment and integrated, actionable reporting and harnesses digital technologies to empower teachers with data-driven decision making and tools for effective instructional planning. Teachers know that their students differ in many ways—interests, personalities, and levels of accomplishment. They also know that they can be most effective if they are able to provide instruction that recognizes and accommodates these differences. A comprehensive assessment system of and for instruction helps teachers achieve this goal; such a system consists of three main types of assessments, which serve different purposes throughout the year (Black & William, 1998; Black et al., 2004).

Further, in addition to planning instruction and independent practice activities, teachers must help students understand that they themselves have the capacity to become successful readers and writers (Sisk et al., 2018), that is, to draw on their knowledge of language and the world around them to bring meaning to print.

Assessment For Data Driven Instruction Subsections

  • Assessment
  • Data Driven Instruction

Experienced teachers are always assessing their students’ progress, often without realizing that their observations of students working in groups or on their own and their analysis and use of what they see constitutes a valid form of assessment. However, this is only one form of assessment, and teachers who want to maximize their students’ learning need additional sources of data about how their students are doing (Al Otaiba et al., 2011, 2014; Shepard et al., 2005). The right kinds of data inform teachers about the instruction that will most benefit their students; identify students who may need additional, out-of classroom help; and give thoughtful teachers feedback on how they are doing in meeting students’ needs.

There is wide consensus about the importance of screening tests as students enter school and at the beginning and middle of Kindergarten to Grade 2 (Gersten et al., 2008). Early and frequent screening, using instruments that are efficient, reliable, and valid can provide early warnings of students who might be at risk for reading failure, learning disabilities, or dyslexia (Washington et al., 2010). Although schools should use the highest-quality screening tools available, screening tools can be imperfect; anyone interpreting the results needs to be sensitive to cultural and language differences or situational apprehension that may be reflected in students’ scores (Gersten et al., 2008). Administration of the screening test again, at least at mid-year, helps schools track students’ progress, adjust instruction as needed, and provide additional services to prevent later problems.

Data that teachers can use will most likely come from two main kinds of assessments:

Formative assessments measure the process of learning and what students have learned so far. These are given frequently—as often as monthly—throughout the school year.

Summative assessments are used at the end point in a learning continuum, such as the end of a lesson, unit, or school year; these measure what students have learned overall. These are used less frequently at points in the school year indicated by the scope and sequence and at the end of the school year.

Teachers seeking to provide data-informed instruction rely specifically on two types of formative assessment: (1) Formative benchmark assessments compare students’ progress so far against a determined set of standards (e.g., a scope and sequence) to help teachers track students’ trajectory toward established long-term goals. (2) Formative diagnostic assessments provide data on students’ learning accomplishments (e.g., can answer literal questions about what has been read) and areas that are not as well developed (e.g., has difficulties drawing simple inferences from text).

Although there is value in all forms of data, it can be argued that formative diagnostic assessments provide teachers the most actionable information about their students’ learning by offering insight into students’ understandings and misunderstandings and into gaps in their skills. As such, formative diagnostic assessment should become part of the teaching process.

Data are essential for planning instructional groups for the literacy block: Who should be included in the groups and what should the groups be taught and asked to do? Are students ready for new concepts and skills or should teachers reteach students to ensure learning? Data help teachers differentiate instruction according to their students’ learning. According to the National Reading Panel (NICHD, 2000, p. 2), students learn best in carefully constituted small groups, even more so than if taught one-on-one. Grouping should be a dynamic, flexible practice, with instruction determined by student need and students’ entry into and exit from specific groups determined by their progress. Thus, teachers can provide immediate focused instruction for students who seem to be struggling or becoming at risk for failure as part of their regular Tier 1 literacy block, perhaps thereby forestalling assignment to Tier 2 or 3 intervention. Needless to say, formative diagnostic assessment data can also identify those students who would most benefit from specialized Tier 2 or 3 interventions (Al Otaiba et al., 2014; Fien et al., 2015: Gersten et al., 2008).


HMH assessment solutions provide time-saving tools to help teachers observe, measure, and understand where their students are at different points throughout the school year. HMH reporting tools on Ed connect benchmark assessment data with HMH Into Reading program assessment data to form a complete picture of students’ proficiency. Assessment data and reporting on Ed provide actionable insights to target instruction and boost students’ growth.

Assessment & Progress Monitoring

HMH Into Reading features numerous assessments including weekly assessments, module assessments, Leveled Reader quizzes, performance tasks, running records, and teacher observation tools, as well as the HMM Reading Growth Measure, an adaptive growth measure, administered three times a year (beginning, middle, and end). Ongoing formative assessment guides daily instruction while performance-based assessments demonstrate student progress toward mastery of module skills and standards.

HMH Into Reading Assessments

  • HMH Reading Growth Measure: The HMH Reading Growth Measure is a computer-adaptive test (CAT) that adjusts item difficulty to student’s responses. The HMH Reading Growth Measure, accessible on HMH Ed, is a valid and reliable assessment that connects data insights with HMH Into Reading.
  • Selections Quizzes: Assess comprehension of the myBook text selections (Grades 1–6).
  • Weekly & Module Assessments: Weekly assessment can be used to measure students’ understanding of the key Reading, Writing, and Foundational Skills covered during each week of instruction. Module assessments measure students’ proficiency in the critical skills covered in this module (foundational skills, generative vocabulary, vocabulary strategies, comprehension/literary analysis, grammar, writing).
  • Performance-Based Assessment: Students synthesize what they have learned from the module’s text set and demonstrate their topic knowledge by completing one of the module’s culminating activities. An optional written Performance Task is also provided at the end of each module in the Teacher’s Guide.
  • Writing Assessment: Throughout the course of the module, students work through the stages of the writing process in Writing Workshop. Students’ writing can be evaluated according to the rubric provided for the module’s writing form in the Teacher Resource Book.
  • Screening, Diagnostic, & Progress Monitoring Assessments: As needed, teachers can administer screening, diagnostic, and progress monitoring assessment to identify students at risk, and to obtain detailed information to inform skills-based flexible groups and targeted instruction. Assessments include:
    • Print Concepts Inventory/Letter Identification assessment, to determine students who struggle with letter identification.
    • Phonological Awareness Inventory, a series of oral tests designed to assess students level of phonological and phonemic awareness.
    • Letter-Sound Correspondence assessments to determine students’ ability to associate letters with sounds.
    • Phoneme Segmentation oral assessment to assess a student’s ability to identify the individual sounds in a spoken word.
    • Nonsense-Word Reading assessment to assess a student’s ability to read nonsense words using letter-sound associations.
    • Word Identification assessments to assess a student’s ability to read high-frequency and multisyllabic words
    • Oral Reading Fluency Assessment: Use at the beginning of the school year to obtain, preliminary information about students’ performance’ screen all students for intervention; determine flexible groups for foundational skills instruction. Oral Reading Fluency assessment are available to assess students’ oral reading skills. These test focus on fluency, accuracy, and rate, as well as important information about the student’s decoding strategies by using specific grade-level targeted vocabulary. Used in combination with other observations, teachers can determine whether students would benefit for supplemental instruction, intervention instruction, or if additional diagnostic testing is needed.
    • Oral Reading Progress Monitoring Assessments: Three to five-minute oral reading assessments can be administered to students approximately every two weeks to: measure growth in reading skills; identify challenging areas for reteaching, review, and extra practice; provide checks on students beginning reading skills; monitor progress of students who are receiving intervention; and to help determine when students are ready to exit intervention.
  • Other Ongoing Formative Assessment Tools: Comprehension Quizzes, Running Records, 1:1 Observation Record, Daily Lesson Checks, and Correct & Redirect Opportunities in the Teacher’s Guide.
Data Driven Instruction

Assessment and data are essential components of effective instruction. Diagnostic teaching entails continuously assessing students’ progress, both informally (for example, through observation of students working alone and also in groups) and formally (for example, with standardized measures) and adjusting their instruction to meet the needs of the students. Teachers who want to maximize their students’ learning need additional sources of data about how their students are doing (Al Otaiba et al., 2011). The right kinds of data inform teachers about the instruction that will most benefit their students, identify students who may need additional out-of-classroom help, and give thoughtful teachers feedback on how they are doing in meeting students’ needs.

By measuring the key essential skills, assessment data can help teachers improve student achievement by providing a detailed description of each student’s progress, as well as an aggregate portrait of how a class or grade has progressed. Thoughtful use of formative, interim, and summative data ensures that all students receive instruction that meets these criteria (Pane et al., 2015):

  • Instruction is appropriate for students’ levels of development and needs.
  • Instruction is efficient and seamless.
  • Instruction provides students the time they need to master the skills and strategies that are taught.
  • Instruction is sequenced flexibly, accommodates individual progress, and answers the critical question of “what next?”

Carlson and colleagues (2011) found evidence that, when implemented validly and reliably at scale, data-driven reform efforts can result in substantively and statistically significant improvements in achievement outcomes. For students with disabilities, it is particularly important to use student performance assessment data to monitor progress to determine ongoing instructional and interventional needs (National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities, 2008).

Not only do assessment data inform teachers the knowledge and skills that students have acquired and their level of mastery, but the practice of consistently taking low-stakes performance assessments, coupled with high expectations, and meaningful feedback help all students become assessment-capable learners (Frey, Hattie, & Fisher, 2018).


HMH Into Reading is built on the promise of student outcomes. It includes meaningful data insights to help teachers determine daily skills focus for lessons and small-group needs. Actionable reports drive grouping, reading, and instructional recommendations appropriate for each learner.

HMH Into Reading Growth Measure Reports

The HMH Reading Growth Measure is adaptive and research-based benchmark assessment for Reading (Grades 2–12). The assessment provides data insights to make data driven instructional decisions for HMH Into Reading for individual, small group, and whole class environments.

Reports display student proficiency and growth, allowing teachers to see the gaps and gains of his or her class—and each individual learner—at any moment throughout the school year, based on activities associated with lessons (or modules) and interim assessments.

  • The Growth Report-Student Level includes: HMH Scaled Score; Student Growth Index; Grade Level Equivalency; Performance Levels; Lexile, and Domain-Level Reporting, allowing teachers and administrators to examine student progress and growth within and across school years.
  • The Growth Report-Administrator/District Leader Level provides overall HMH Reading Growth Measure results for each grade level, broken down by performance level and at a glance comparison for each test administration window. This view allows leaders to use the data to provide support to schools and grade levels; clearly identify changes from prior test window: and analyze domain, school, class, and student details.
  • The Standards Report for teachers displays the standards performance for the class across the three performance levels; individual student standards performance; and performance on HMH Into Reading program assessment and on the HMH Reading Growth Measure
  • The Assessment Report for teachers provides the overall class performance on all HMH Into Reading program assessments, as well as individual student performance. The report can be filtered by data and assessment type.


Grouping recommendations based on data allow teachers to quickly group students for differentiated and target instruction to meet their needs and maximize learning outcomes. HMH Ed allows teachers to manage flexible groups for small group instruction, skills reinforcement, and language development.

Resource Recommendations

HMH Into Reading program assessments provide ongoing insights into a student’s current proficiency level in Foundational Skills, Reading, Language, Writing and Research, and Speaking, Listening, and Viewing. HMH Ed delivers just-in-time instructional supports and just-the-right-level texts to build better readers and writers based on data. Results from program assessments provide teachers with specific skills-based recommendations to target students’ individual learning needs.

Blended Professional Learning & Services

To support the delivery of effective instruction HMH Into Reading features research-based approaches to professional learning that support teachers in becoming developers of high-impact learning experiences for their students. Comprehensive professional learning solutions are data and evidence driven, mapped to instructional goals, and centered on students—and they build educators’ collective capacity. HMH allows teachers to achieve agency in their professional growth through effective instructional strategies, embedded teacher support, and ongoing professional learning relevant to everyday teaching.

Blended Professional Learning & Services Subsections:

  • Continuum of Connected Professional Learning
  • Job-Embedded Coaching to Strengthen Teaching and Learning
  • Personalized & Actionable Professional Learning
Continuum of Connected Professional Learning

Effective professional learning, whether in-person, online, or blended, takes place as a “series of connected, coordinated components on a continuum” (Rock, 2019). This continuum includes alignment between the study of theory and practice, observation of theory and practice, individual coaching, and further practice and refinement through collaboration. Each of these components is essential to support and build on the content and pedagogy that is learned, observed, and practiced in each of the other components.

Long-term connected professional learning includes cohesive features—online coaching, remote peer observations, online collaboration, and facilitated online communities—all with a focus on how to ensure social and emotional well-being and meaningful student learning in digital environments. Connecting workshops to follow up learning and support among peers and with coaches can help teachers retain new knowledge, practice new skills, and share innovative effective approaches. A connection between workshops, coaching, and collaboration is essential for professional learning to make a difference in student achievement (Aguilar, 2019).

Research increasingly finds that teachers’ professional learning is essential to school reform and a vital link between standards movements and student achievement (Borman & Feger, 2006; Garet et al., 2001; Gulamhussein 2013; Sweeney 2011; Wei, 2009; Yoon et al., 2007). According to Wei et al. (2009):

As students are expected to learn more complex and analytical skills in preparation for further education and work in the 21st century, teachers must learn to teach in ways that develop higher order thinking and performance. . . . Efforts to improve student achievement can succeed only by building the capacity of teachers to improve their instructional practice and the capacity of school systems to advance teacher learning. (p. 1)

Enabling educational systems to achieve on a wide scale the kind of teaching that has a substantial impact on student learning requires much more intensive and effective professional learning than has traditionally been available. If we want all young people to possess the higher-order thinking skills they need to succeed in the 21st century, we need educators who possess higher-order teaching skills and deep content knowledge. (Gov. James B. Hunt, Jr. in Wei et al.’s Professional Learning in the Learning Profession: Status Report, 2009, p. 2)

Current reform efforts across disciplines require significant shifts in teachers’ roles from traditional, rote, fact-based approaches to fostering students’ deeper engagement, critical thinking, and problem solving. For schools to support these standards and instructional practices, effective professional learning during the implementation stage, when teachers are learning and committing to an instructional approach, is critical (Gulamhussein, 2013). While technology transforms the teacher’s role, this does not mean that evidence-based teaching practices should be discarded. In fact, effective instruction results when teachers purposefully combine these tools with proven instructional approaches (Kieschnick, 2017).

Teachers’ initial exposure to a concept should engage them through varied approaches and active learning strategies to make sense of the new practice (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014; Garet et al., 2001; Gulamhussein, 2013). An effective professional learning program should focus on the targeted content, strategies, and practices (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; 2014; Saxe et al., 2001; Wei, 2009) and be grounded in the teacher’s grade level or discipline (Gulamhussein, 2013).

Research has documented that educational reforms are not self-implementing or predictable in terms of how they may (or may not) take hold at the classroom level; the vital link necessary for targeted change is local professional learning by teachers (Borman & Feger, 2006).

Effective professional learning is embedded and ongoing as part of a wider reform effort, rather than an isolated activity or initiative (Garet et al., 2001; Wei, 2009). “The duration of professional development must be significant and ongoing to allow time for teachers to learn a new strategy and grapple with the implementation problem” (Gulamhussein, 2013, p. 3). 


HMH provides a continuum of connected professional learning through synchronous and asynchronous support. The program’s embedded and on-demand support coupled with live online professional learning fosters teachers’ agency, promotes collaboration, and builds collective efficacy to support the teachers’ role as designers of quality instruction.

The program’s comprehensive professional learning solutions are research based, mapped to a teacher’s goals, centered on his/her students, and designed to build the collective capacity and efficacy of leaders and teachers. Collective efficacy within a system has the power to change lives.

The Getting Started with HMH Into Reading live online session is an important part of teachers’ learning journey. We know teachers can’t take in every detail before they start teaching, so the Getting Started live online session is streamlined to focus on preparing teachers for the first three weeks of implementation. The online experience provides an overview of the program resources and opportunities for teachers to explore, collaborate, and ask questions to build understanding and confidence to ensure a strong start. As to be expected, questions will arise as teachers begin teaching with HMH Into Reading. This is why we also provide Follow-Up support tailored to teachers’ needs. These personalized and focused Follow-Up live online sessions will help teachers stay engaged and build their expertise in a manageable way. Schools and districts can choose from a variety of follow-up topics. Some examples are:

  • Maximize Learning with Online Resources
  • Plan Instruction to Meet Students’ Needs
  • Make Literacy Accessible for All with Differentiation

For some things, just-in-time help can be more effective than scheduled professional learning. Teacher’s Corner on the Ed platform supports the whole teacher, providing a nurture path to grow teachers’ social, emotional, and professional learning on their time. It is where teachers can get on-demand support exactly when they need it. They can watch classroom videos to see master teachers in action, read articles and get tips from fellow HMH Into Reading teachers, and sign up for a variety of live events to nurture their heart and mind and strengthen their teaching and learning.

Job-Embedded Coaching to Strengthen Teaching and Learning

Research has demonstrated that sustained, job-embedded coaching is the most effective form of professional learning, whether it is delivered in person or in a virtual setting. Coaching delivered in person has been most effective when coaches are highly experienced and focus their work with teachers on a clearly specified instructional model or program. Other opportunities for teachers to develop their content knowledge of the targeted instructional model (e.g., in courses, workshops, or coach-led learning groups) are also an important component of successful coaching programs. Online coaching shows promise for being at least as effective as in-person coaching for improving outcomes, though the research base comparing delivery systems is thin. The balance of evidence to date, however, suggests that the medium through which coaching is delivered is less important than the quality and substance of the learning opportunities provided to teachers (Matsumara et al., 2019).

A recent meta-analysis of coaching programs found effect sizes of 0.49 SD on instructional practices and 0.18 SD on student achievement (Kraft et al., 2018). Encouragingly, teachers who received virtual coaching performed similarly to teachers who received in-person coaching for improving both instructional practices and student achievement. The authors identified several aspects of coaching in a virtual setting as potential strengths: increasing the number of teachers with whom a high-quality coach can work, reducing educators’ concern about being evaluated by their coach, and lowering costs while increasing scalability (Kraft et al., 2018).

The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) embraces a professional development model that includes effective coaching, collaborative communities, and a technology-rich environment. Effective coaching is contextual, relevant, and ongoing. Collaborative communities can be school-based or online professional learning communities that allow teachers to learn from each other through observation, imitation, and modeling. ISTE recommends that school districts chose a coaching model that best fits the needs of their teachers, whether it is cognitive coaching, instructional coaching, or peer coaching (Beglau et al., 2011).

Effective professional learning programs provide continued follow-up and support from coaches (Sweeney, 2011). Knight (2011) stresses that once training initiatives are kick-started to raise awareness of targeted teaching practices, follow-up and coaching are essential: “[l]asting change does not occur without focus, support, and systemwide accountability. . . Support is necessary for transferring talk into action” (p. 10).

Instructional coaching entailing the modeling of specific sought-after practices has been shown to help teachers embrace and implement best practices and educational policy (Coburn & Woulfin, 2012; Gulamhussein, 2013; Heineke & Polnick, 2013; Knight, 2011; Taylor & Chanter, 2016; Wei et al., 2009).

Effective modeling of targeted instructional practices is purposeful and deliberate, incorporates academic language, and is based on research (Taylor & Chanter, 2016). Gulamhussein (2013) reports that:

While many forms of active learning help teachers decipher concepts, theories, and research-based practices in teaching, modeling—when an expert demonstrates the new practice—has been shown to be particularly successful in helping teachers understand and apply a concept and remain open to adopting it. (p. 17)

“Like athletes, teachers will put newly learned skills to use—if they are coached” (Joyce & Showers, 1982, p. 5). According to a large-scale survey commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (2014), teachers seek more opportunities to be coached in learning effective new instructional strategies and practices, believing these professional learning efforts are more valuable.


HMH blended coaching not only focuses on HMH Into Reading but provides personalized support focused on instructional practices, content, and data to ensure continuous improvement over time. HMH coaches build strong relationships with teachers by engaging them in the coaching process; they analyze student data, set student learning targets, learn and apply new skills and then review and reflect. By incorporating action steps, gathering data, and analyzing evidence and reflecting, coaching can facilitate measurable results (Taylor & Chanter, 2016).

To make it easy for teachers to stay connected to their HMH coach, share resources, upload and reflect on classroom videos, and make continuing progress on learning goals, they will have access to the HMH Coaching Studio platform.

Through the HMH Coaching Studio, teachers have access to:

  • Goal Tracker—Allows teachers to create and track goals
  • Collaboration Hub—Discussion forums, resource sharing, and video-based reflection to drive collaboration with coach and peer
  • Video-Powered Coaching—Allows teachers to upload their own videos for reflection and input
  • Model Lesson Library—Access to HMH classroom and expert videos of best practices

HMH Into Reading Blended Coaching Services provide support for implementing effective teaching practices. This support includes model lessons to illustrate instructional techniques, differentiation strategies to meet the needs of all students, and analysis of student work samples to assess learning and determine instructional next steps. Blended Coaching Services focuses on developing and deepening content knowledge to build collective efficacy within teachers. HMH Professional Services also assists with facilitation of professional learning communities, cadres, and collaborative learning.

Personalized & Actionable Professional Learning

Personalized professional development allows teachers to pursue learning to support their instructional needs in their own place and at their own pace. Teachers can take courses via online professional learning portals, opportunities offered by the school, or off-campus settings. In this process, teachers learn new competencies, demonstrate what they have learned in their classrooms, and submit evidence of mastery. As teachers build their knowledge and skills, they earn badges to demonstrate their expertise (Clayton et al., 2014).

Many school districts and providers of teachers’ professional development are moving toward a more personalized model of professional development, taking a cue from the movement toward personalized learning for students. This approach often focuses on short modules, which teachers can choose and then complete on their own time. The modules can incorporate aspects of gamification, micro-credentialing, and online professional development communities. By allowing teachers to choose their own professional development courses and activities, the professional development will be better matched to their needs. Teachers will be able to set goals, find resources to help them meet those goals, track their progress, and get feedback from supervisors and colleagues (Gamrat et al., 2014; Meeuwse & Mason, 2018).

Effective training efforts should be developed according to evidence-based strategies for adult learning and communication, including engaging teachers in varied approaches that allow for their active participation (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2014; Garet et al., 2001; Gulamhussein, 2013; Guskey, 2002; Taylor & Chanter, 2016). As intellectuals, they are empowered to reflect on theory, research, and their practice to innovate and implement new teaching strategies and approaches. This process of reflection can lead to teachers’ turning to their colleagues for advice and clarification—a process sometimes called “collective sensemaking,” which research has shown that in the form of professional learning communities can be a powerful motivator for school improvement (Coburn, 2005).

As Bryk and colleagues (2015) noted in a study of improvement efforts that included professional learning, positive changes happen in the presence of teachers’ “good will and engagement,” which is often rooted in teachers having choice and autonomy in their own learning. These qualities are essential whether teachers meet for large-group professional learning, attend professional learning communities within their schools, or work on their own to search out experts to guide them through self-study with print or online resources.

Teachers who seek to improve their practice and their students’ achievement can also turn to resources to help them continue successfully on their path toward professional mastery and control the place, pace, and path of their professional learning. Individually and collaboratively, they engage in a process sometimes called “self-coaching” (Wood et al., 2014). There are five steps to self-coaching that align with high-quality teaching:

  1. Collecting data to help answer questions about instructional improvement. Formative and benchmark data are important, but so is information about students’ interests, styles of learning, and work habits.
  2. Reflecting on the data as a whole and on the data that results from looking back on each day’s instruction and each week’s instruction.
  3. Acting on the reflections, trying things out, and sharing the results of teachers’ actions in a collaborative and mutually supportive group.
  4. Evaluating one’s practice, especially through video self-reflection, asking questions about effectiveness of instruction and students’ receptivity to the instruction.
  5. Extending one’s actions, for example, taking a successful approach to teaching students to understand complex narrative texts to instruction on reading, social studies, science, or other informational texts.


HMH Into Reading builds a culture of professional growth through a continuum of connected professional learning that is actionable, flexible, personalized, and collaborative to foster high-impact instruction and collective efficacy.

  • Teacher’s Corner on HMH Ed. Provides an ever-growing library of professional learning resources from authentic classroom videos to tips from other teachers and our team of experienced coaches.
  • A Community of Live Support. Whether teachers have a question or want implementation advice, our Live Events offer teachers opportunities to connect with HMH coaches and each other. Teachers can register for these online sessions that feature everything from groundbreaking new author research to group discussions facilitated by other teachers.
  • Curated, Trusted Content. There’s no shortage of free resources online, but with Teacher’s Corner, professional learning and instructional recommendations align to research-based practices. Teachers have access to prominent thought leaders, experienced coaches, former teachers, and practicing teachers.
  • On-Demand, But Not One-Size-Fits-All. Teachers have the choice of bite-size professional learning resources that were designed to be easily applicable to tomorrow’s instruction. Teachers are empowered with the information they need to choose what’s right for them and offer a variety of media types, duration time, and authors.
  • Relevant & Ready for Tomorrow’s Instruction. Teacher’s Corner includes authentic classroom videos and articles from teachers who are currently teaching with HMH programs. The number one teacher-requested resource, these videos will build teacher confidence and share how the programs can be tailored to each classroom’s unique needs.
  • Implementation Success. Professional Learning sessions and resources are tailored to meet districts’ needs.
  • Getting Started. Getting Started with HMH Into Reading live online session provides an overview of the program from both a teacher and student perspective to build understanding and confidence to ensure a strong implementation.
  • Program Guide. Provides helpful information and strategies for planning instruction and implementing the program.
  • Follow-Up. Districts choose from classroom-focused topics for a deeper dive into digital tools and resources, collaborative instruction, close reading and writing strategies, and analysis of data and reports.
  • Coaching. Personalized in-person and online support to deepen mastery and ensure continuous improvement. Student centered and grounded in data, coaching focuses on specific HMH Into Reading Instructional practices and components.
HMH Into Reading – Into A World Of Learning

Reading has been described as the gateway to all learning. Children need to read and write with confidence and competency to learn about themselves and the world. Literacy impacts learning in all content areas, preparing children to do well in school and in life. The Science of Reading, a scientific, evidence base of effective instructional approaches, provides guidance to educators in implementing strategies and literacy programs that help students become skilled readers. With the partnership of families to further support student learning, we can ensure students will not only find out about the world but will also make the world better.

HMH Into Reading addresses the whole child academically, physically, and socially so that all students have the opportunity to truly read and write with understanding. HMH Into Reading clearly puts students at the center of an ecosystem designed to support their literacy and language growth. In addition to the unique and critical role of teachers, HMH Into Reading supports the important contributions of families and school leaders. Indeed, it will take all of us to ensure that all students learn to read effectively and fluently and, just as important, that all students love to read enthusiastically and joyfully.


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Yoon, K., Duncan, T., Lee, T., Scarloss, B., & Shapley, K. (2007). Reviewing the evidence on how teacher professional development affects student achievement (Issues & Answers Report, REL 2007-No. 033). San Antonio, TX: Regional Educational Laboratory Southwest.


Terry Salinger, PhD, Institute Fellow at American Institutes for Research

Renee Behring, EdM, Education Research Director of K–12 Core Reading, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Francie Alexander, MA, Chief Research Officer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Amy Endo, PhD, Education Research Director of Supplemental and Intervention Services, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Grant Atkins, PhD, Education Research Director of Professional Services, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Jessica Barber, MA, Associate Product Manager of K–6 Literacy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt