Direct Instruction in Your Classroom: 3 Reasons to #TeachWhatWorks

Special Education and intervention teachers are some of the most passionate, dedicated, and emotionally committed professionals in the world. Their work — and the results they achieve — are inseparable from the heartfelt connections they make with their students. Laborers of love and advocates of the heart, they truly exemplify all that goes into the Art of Teaching. But alongside that art, complementary to their patience and empathy, must exist a method of instruction that’s rooted in science. DI (or Direct Instruction) is backed by research and is proven to transform all students into confident learners, including at-risk, EL, special education, and at-level students. In DI, skills are introduced gradually, reinforced, and continually assessed, so no student can fall behind. Content is delivered via scripted and quickly paced lessons, while teachers correct errors immediately and motivate students with positive reinforcement. Here are 3 reasons Special Education teachers and intervention specialists should embrace DI and #teachwhatworks:

  1. DI emphasizes teacher-student communication

When using Direct Instruction, you’ll follow a presentation script. The National Institute for Direct Instruction, the world’s foremost DI support provider, describes the teacher scripts as a collection of four components: instructions (when/how teachers should prompt student responses via signals), “teacher talk” (what teachers should say), expected student responses, and corrective wording in case of student error. While it might seem restrictive to some at first glance, DI’s structure is actually the opposite: by focusing your teaching objective and streamlining the student response process, DI opens new, expressway channels for teacher-student communication. Scripts, and the designated time for active student responding that they provide, allow teachers to focus more of their energy into collecting, analyzing, and reacting to student engagement. With DI, you’ll be able to peer into an entirely new window of your students’ individual and collective knowledge of the critical content in every lesson.

2. It maximizes effectiveness of the limited time you have with your students

The purpose of DI isn’t to limit the amount of time you spend improvising in lessons or taking advantage of unforeseen learning opportunities; DI is about maximizing the usage and effectiveness of every minute you have with your students. We all know how precious every moment a child has in the classroom can be: and some teachers, like intervention specialists, don’t even have an entire school day to work with. In order to ensure progress and get the most out of every learning opportunity, each lesson has to be delivered via a reliable, research-based methodology. For special education teachers and intervention specialists, this message should ring especially true. Children with learning disabilities are under a tremendous amount of pressure to catch up to their classmates, reach for grade-level achievement, and perform well on assessments. Empower them to succeed and even flourish with instruction that fully utilizes every minute of their time in the classroom, and is proven to improve learning outcomes.

3. In research and philosophy, DI is fundamentally inclusive and optimistic

Direct Instruction is based on the philosophy that all students, if properly taught, can learn (from nifdi.org). Kids with a variety of abilities need all of the professionals who support them, both in and out of the classroom, to have that mentality. DI, much like special education teachers, is fundamentally inseparable from its belief that every student can succeed. The creators and users of direct instruction trust wholeheartedly in the potential of the students they serve — but still, they don’t leave it up to the students to find that pathway to success all on their own. DI is carefully constructed in such a way that not only aims for mastery of academic content, but has the responsiveness to identify when a student needs a change in pace. DI programs like SRA Early Interventions in Reading identify low-level readers early on in their academic careers, and deliver powerful instruction to bring them up to where they need to be to succeed. Comprehensive programs like SRA Reading Mastery Signature Edition have used DI to help severely at-risk readers become more fluent — and confident — for more than 35 years. The research is there, the programs are accessible, and the methodology can meet the needs of any teacher and any classroom. Try Direct Instruction: you’ll be thankful you did when you see the results in your students’ work, confidence, and overall academic progress.


For more information about the philosophy behind DI or to see supporting research, visit: