The Slingerland® Approach

At Assumption-St. Bridget School, we believe in fostering success for all of our students. Our teachers utilize curriculum and instructional approaches that maximize student potential for all learners and are considered best practice in education. This is especially true in the areas of reading and writing, which are considered to be core life skills, facilitating deep and genuine learning, engagement and connection with others, creativity and curiosity, civic participation, and achievement of all future goals.

To cultivate a love of reading and writing from a young age, we want all of our students to experience the best in curriculum and instructional approaches in the area of literacy, and to feel and experience success in their early attempts at reading and writing. To accomplish these goals and best serve all our students, our staff have collaborated to provide a progression of instruction using the Slingerland® Approach in grades kindergarten through fourth grades. The Slingerland® Approach is a structured, sequential, and multisensory teaching approach that addresses foundational skills and knowledge in speaking, reading, writing, and spelling. The approach is described as

“… a supportive instructional program that encourages academic competence, effective work habits, and self-discipline. Students gain self-confidence and enthusiasm for learning as they experience success in school.” 1

Although the Slingerland® Approach is often used in providing intervention and support for students who struggle with reading and writing, using Slingerland® in the general education classroom provides an elevated educational experience for all of our students, in addition to providing the very best in instruction for students with language-based disabilities.

The Slingerland® Approach at Assumption-St. Bridget School begins in kindergarten.  Here the students experience the foundational skills necessary for reading and writing: oral language,  phonemic awareness, phonemic segmentation, sound/ symbol relations of the alphabetic principles. This explicit instruction guides the students towards handwriting and reading as their kindergarten year unfolds.

Students in first through third grades engage heavily in Slingerland®-based activities in the areas of handwriting, encoding/spelling, decoding, preparation for reading, and structured reading across content areas. In third grade, students are also instructed in both print and cursive handwriting, which continues to be an enriching and exciting experience for all our students.

The use of the Slingerland® Approach continues in fourth grade as reading comprehension strategies are incorporated into diverse subject areas, including Science and Social Studies. Using students’ foundation in Slingerland® skills and knowledge in writing, fourth grade students continue to develop their capacity as independent writers, honing their writing skills through the review of past concepts and the learning of new, advanced language skills.

Our students utilize this quality foundation of knowledge and skills in language to continue to grow their oral and written communication skills and reading comprehension in fifth through eighth grades, and graduate exceptionally prepared for the reading and writing demands of high school and beyond.

In addition, Slingerland® is used as a Tier 2, small-group intervention with students who demonstrate a need for additional support in the areas of literacy in grades K-5th. This intervention is provided by the Assumption-St. Bridget School Learning Specialist, who is available to pull students out of their general education classes to receive additional instruction, feedback, and skill practice in a small-group setting. Students who receive these services are progress monitored, using an assessment and reporting tool known as DIBELS. When students demonstrate grade-level knowledge, skills, and abilities, they graduate from this support resource. Have additional questions? See below. 


What is the DIBELS Assessment/Acadience Reading Assessment?

The DIBELS/Acadience Reading assessment is used to determine student progress toward six literacy skills students need to master in order to become a proficient reader. Students in Kindergarten through 6th grade are assessed three times a year and student performance is tracked over time.  These scores help drive our responsive education to ensure students receive high-quality instruction that meets their individual needs. For more information, please visit Acadience Reading.

How are students selected to work with the Learning Specialist?

Every child is unique, but typically a student’s classroom teacher and the Learning Specialist will collectively decide to include a student in additional support programming based on the following factors:
  1. The student scores below benchmark on the DIBELS/Acadience Reading assessment;
  2. The student’s classroom performance is reflective of those scores; and
  3. The classroom teacher and Learning Specialist believe the student will benefit from additional reading intervention.
After the completion of the DIBELS/Acadience Reading assessment, parents are notified of their child’s performance, and their scores in relation to what is expected at their child’s age and grade level. If there are any concerns about the assessment performance for a specific child, classroom teachers are proactive in communicating these concerns to parents. Although the classroom teacher and Learning Specialist may recommend that a student receives additional support through working with the Learning Specialist, this additional service is only provided after parents have agreed that the support should be provided.

What will my child work on with the Learning Specialist?

The Learning Specialist uses the Slingerland® Method of instruction to reinforce the learning currently taking place in your child’s classroom.  The Learning Specialist will meet weekly with your child’s classroom teacher in order to ensure instruction and practice are consistent. As occurs in the classroom, your child may spend time working on reading, spelling, and writing. The support that your child receives with the Learning Specialist is in addition to the support that your child receives in the general education classroom with their teacher, so these children essentially benefit from “double doses” of instruction and practice in reading, spelling, and writing. The support from the Learning Specialist is also provided in a small-group format, with anywhere from 2-8 students receiving practice and support at a time.

How long will my child receive support from the Learning Specialist?

Although every child progress and develops at their own pace, typically a student will continue to receive support from the Learning Specialist until the following criteria have been met:
  1. Your child meets or exceeds the DIBELS/Acadience Reading assessment benchmarks for three progress monitoring assessments in a row;
  2. Your child’s classroom performance consistently reflects those improved scores; and
  3. Your child’s team believes he or she will continue to make progress when the support has been removed.
The decision to graduate a student from this support is made with collaboration between the Learning Specialist, classroom teacher, and parents.

How will I know my child is progressing in his or her work with the Learning Specialist?

When your child works with the Learning Specialist, he or she will be monitored for improvement in scores at least once every two weeks of time. In addition, the Learning Specialist and classroom teacher will be closely monitoring evidence of improvement within the classroom work samples that your child produces as part of his or her education. To learn more about your child’s progress, you can contact your child’s homeroom teacher or the Learning Specialist at any time. In addition, you are encouraged to sign up for a conference with the Learning Specialist during October and March conference times.  If you have a question for or would like to meet with the Learning Specialist at any point, please email her at

What if my child is working with his or her homeroom teacher and the Learning Specialist, and still isn't catching up to their classmates?

Students do often present with challenges and needs that cause them to perform significantly behind their peers in the areas of reading, writing, and spelling. Although Assumption-St. Bridget School can provide much support in the area of literacy, this may not be enough support for all learners. Many of our families secure additional support in the form of tutors or summer programming to facilitate continued growth and development in their struggling reader or writer. For students who would benefit from additional Slingerland® Approach work outside of school, Assumption-St. Bridget School maintains a list of tutors, learning specialists, and programs, including summer programs, to support parents in connecting with these resources.


For more information on the Slingerland® Approach, please check out the The Slingerland® Institute for Literacy, which provides more detailed descriptions of Slingerland®, its use in the classroom, and its effectiveness as supported by research.

If you feel that you need more information regarding our use of the Slingerland®  Approach or would like additional Slingerland® resources for your child, please contact the Assumption-St. Bridget School Learning Specialist, Christina Dougherty, at, or the Assumption-St. Bridget School Principal, Kathleen Conklin, at

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