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Direct Instruction (DI) Programs

Direct Instruction is an evidence-based teaching approach that falls under the umbrella of ABA. We use at least one (or a combination of a few) DI programs with many of our students. We even have some students who have loved the books so much that Language for Learning became a leisure activity!

Direct Instruction operates on the following principles:

  • All children can be taught.
  • All children can improve academically and in terms of self image.
  • All teachers can succeed if provided with adequate training and materials.
  • Low performers and disadvantaged learners must be taught at a faster rate than typically occurs if they are to catch up to their higher-performing peers.
  • All details of instruction must be controlled to minimize the chance of students’ misinterpreting the information being taught and to maximize the reinforcing effect of instruction.

According to the National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI), “Direct Instruction (DI) is a model for teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks. It is based on the theory that clear instruction eliminating misinterpretations can greatly improve and accelerate learning.”

What we love about DI is that it presents the materials in a way that makes the child feel successful. When the student doesn’t feel like the task presented is too difficult, it decreases the likelihood of negative behaviour and increases learning. For students who might struggle with language, the structure and repetition of the programs is often comforting and reassuring.


For a beginner, we love starting with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. Here is a great write-up on how to use it. It is an affordable version of the more comprehensive program, Reading Mastery. Reading Mastery teaches at a slower pace (for those students who need that). It also does a better job at connecting the stories to the text to promote comprehension.

Reading Mastery placement test and sample lesson.

Language and Comprehension

Language for Learning is a great place to start consolidating some of a learner’s acquired language. When a student is able to answer basic ‘what’ questions, has some intraverbals, and can repeat 3-4 word phrases, he or she might be ready for Language for Learning (LFL). LFL does a great job of filling in a lot of the language gaps but the repetition makes it feel easier for our learners. We love how the workbook incorporates an auditory comprehension component.

Language for Learning placement test

After Language for Learning (A-D), there are further ways to build skills with programs like Language for Thinking, Comprehension, and Reasoning and Writing.


Connecting Math Concepts is one of the DI program for teaching math skills.

Connecting Math Concept Placement Test

Fluency with math really helps a child be able to build on previous skills. When I was in school, we had to memorize the multiplication tables, whether we understood why 5×5=25 or not. I still have those math facts memorized and the fluency helps build more math skills without having to stop and think about it. We really like this curriculum that blends direct instruction and precision teaching: The Maloney Method – Teach Your Children Well.

Data for Direct Instruction

The DI lessons are broken down by exercises on different topics and skills. We use a simple rating scale data sheet to record data on each exercise within the lesson. If there is an exercise that the student is struggling with, we would repeat it until it is mastered or possibly pull it out and teach it separately. If necessary, you can put the separate skill on a yes/no data sheet so that the student can continue with the lessons and not be held back.


3 thoughts on “Direct Instruction (DI) Programs”

  1. Do you have to use a program for DI? Can you work on a skill you know the student has difficulty with using your own curriculum with DI?
    An example would be reading and the student has difficulty with phonological awareness. You want to work with them on skills like digraphs, diphthongs, and blending. There is the program Project Read but do you have to use a program for it to be DI?
    Thank you for any information regarding this.

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