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Explicit Instruction Case Study Part One

Case Study Part One Title Image

What is a case study?  Heale and Twycross (2018) defined a case study as “research methodology, typically seen in social and life sciences. There is no one definition of case study research.  However, very simply… ‘a case study can be defined as an intensive study about a person, a group of people or a unit, which is aimed to generalize over several units’.”  The case study we are about to explore for explicit teaching follows a teacher as she is restructuring her lesson plan for a phonics lesson.  We will explore who this teacher is, who her students are, how she adjusts her lesson plans and how she demonstrates this during her instruction.  So…let’s meet the teacher.


(Please note that this case study is not a real life example and the occurrence of names to real people is a coincidence. All materials you will see in this case study are original.)


Mrs. Adams is a resource special education teacher at a mid-sized elementary school.  The school is a Title 1 school and serves a large population of English as a Second Language Learners.  Mrs. Adam’s class is made up of three 1st grade students.  Joey whose diagnosis is AHDH, Jordyn whose diagnosis is specific learning disability (SLD) and Oscar whose diagnosis is specific learning disability and he is an English Language Learner.  Her students meet with her daily for 45 minutes for resource reading.

After attending a professional development at her school last week, Mrs. Adams wants to use the principles of explicit instruction in her lessons.  She starts by choosing a lesson on the digraph -sh.  This is the first time this skill will be introduced to students.  The lesson will examine the digraph -sh both at the beginning and the end of words.


If you would like a copy of the 16 Elements of Explicit Instruction, please click on the link below.  

Explicit Instruction – Chapter One (Archer and Hughes, 2011)


Lesson Introduction Title Image


Mrs. Adams identifies the prerequisite skills that her students will need to help them with the digraph        -sh.  She decides to review letter sounds since digraphs are different from individual letter sounds.  Mrs. Adams has already established the term “everyone” for the signal word for verbal responses.  This is how she introduces the lesson:


Mrs. Adams Lesson Introduction:

“Today we are going to be learning about digraphs.  Digraphs are two letters put together to make one sound.  These sounds are different from our other letter sounds because those sounds only make one sound.  Let’s look at the letters “s” and “h.  Digraphs are an important part of being able to decode and read words.”

“We are going to be practicing with the digraph “sh.”  By the end of the lesson, you will be able to find the sound “sh” at the beginning of words.  Let’s start our lesson.”

“What sound does “s” make?  (Presents students with S letter card)


Letter card with S on it


“Everyone – “ssss.”  Very good, “s” says “sss.”


“What sound does “h” make?  (Presents students with H letter card) Everyone – “huh.”  Good job, “h” says “huh.”


Letter card with H on it


“Now let’s look at the letters “s” and “h” put together (presents students with SH letter card).


Letter card with SH on it


When these letters are put together, they no longer make the sounds “sss” and “huh.”  When together, “s” and “h” make the sound “sshh.  Watch me, I’m going to say the sound for “sh”…”ssshh.”

“Now it’s your turn.  What sound does “sh” make?  Everyone – “sshhh.”  That’s exactly right.  When “s” and “h” are together, they make the sound “sshh.”

“Let’s do some more practice.”


Break It Down Title Image
Let’s break down Mrs. Adam’s lesson introduction and identify which of the elements of explicit instruction that she used.

In the lesson, she focused her instruction on the critical content (Element #1).  She decided that the digraph “sh” was going to be the focus of the instruction.  Digraphs are a central part to decoding words.

After identifying her critical content, she identified the prerequisite skills that her students would need to learn the digraph “sh” (Element #6).  Students needed to be able to identify the letters “s” and “h” and to know their sounds.

To start her lesson, Mrs. Adams began her lesson with a clear statement of purpose (Element #5).  Her students know exactly the skill they will be learning and what he expectations are for the end of the lesson.

During her introduction, she used clear and concise language.  She referred to “sh” a digraph.  This is the terminology used to describe the sounds sh, ch, th, wh, etc.  She also refers the letters as having sounds.  (Element #8)

Mrs. Adams provided opportunities for her students to respond to the letter sounds (Element #11).


Let’s visit Case Study Part 2 to see how Mrs. Adams continues using the elements of explicit instruction in her lesson.  


Click on the image below to see Case Study Part 2.  

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Archer, A. L., & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. New York: Guilford Press.

Heale, R., & Twycross, A. (2018). What is a case study? Evidence – Based Nursing, 21(1), 7.