Dimensions of Instruction


The purpose of this online resource is to describe the multiple dimensions of instruction and how to identify and use these dimensions to better understand how to provide individualized instruction.

A2i relies on these dimensions when making recommendations for amounts and types of instruction. While there are many dimensions of instruction, research suggests that at least three may be used to define language arts and reading instruction. They are teacher versus child-managed, code-versus meaning focused, and change over time.

These dimensions operate simultaneously so, for example, instruction may be teacher-managed and code-focused or teacher-managed and meaning-focused.


cfvmf_001Code- versus Meaning-Focused

The dimension code- versus meaning-focused captures the content of the lesson. Code-focused instruction is designed to help students crack the code of reading and may include very basic skills such as letter sound knowledge, or more advanced skills such as phonological awareness, phonics, or morpho-syntactic awareness (ability to consciously manipulate prefixes and suffixes as well as grammar in text).

Meaning-focused instruction is designed to help children understand what they are reading and includes vocabulary, comprehension strategies, and content knowledge. Fluency instruction, such as wide-range reading or repeated reading, is meaning focused. However, letter-sound fluency and word reading fluency is code-focused.

Not surprisingly, research shows that both code- and meaning-focused instruction are critically important for children as they learn to read and become proficient readers.


doi code and meaning

Teacher- versus Child-Managed

Teacher-managed versus child-managed captures who is focusing the child’s attention on the learning task at hand. Teachers that are actively involved with their students’ learning, is known as Teacher-managed instruction. Teacher-managed instruction should be highly interactive and may be conducted with the whole class, in small groups, or with individual children. Research shows however, that small group and individual instruction is about ten times more effective than whole class instruction – especially for code-focused instruction.

grouping dimensions


Child-managed instruction is when children are working independently, in pairs, or in small groups. The key is students, rather than adults, are responsible for focusing their own attention on the learning task. Child-managed instruction can be highly effective when used appropriately. Tasks should be meaningful and should reinforce teacher-managed instruction learning goals. Generally, children with more limited skills should be introduced to child-managed instruction more slowly (following A2i recommendations).



Change Over Time

As children gain new skills and learn classroom routines, we want to change the amount of time they spend in particular types of instruction. A2i recommendations change every month. Generally, the amount of teacher-managed instruction will decrease and the amount of child-managed instruction recommended will increase. This is called release of responsibility.

A2i recommendations will also change when new assessment data is entered. If children are making excellent progress, their amounts and types of instruction will reflect that. However, if children are not making enough progress, A2i recommendations will change — for example, the amount of time in teacher-managed code-focused instruction will be increased.



Putting It All Together

By thinking about literacy instruction multidimensionally, A2i can be used with any research-based core curriculum or instructional strategy. If you look at the table below, you can see how it works. In fact, many teachers first introduce activities (teacher-managed) before students work in groups or pairs independently on the same activity (child-managed).

A2i uses these dimensions when it makes recommendations. The software will show each student’s recommended amounts and types of instruction in the Classroom View for teacher-managed meaning-focused (TMMF), teacher-managed code-focused (TMCF), child-managed meaning-focused (CMMF) and child-managed code-focused (CMCF). Your core curriculum has been indexed according to these dimensions and is available in the group activity planner.