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Foundations & Frameworks / Overview

Foundations & Frameworks is a uniquely designed research-based and research-supported instructional reading program developed at Briarwood Christian School. Since its introduction in 2001, an increasing number of schools across the US have adopted and implemented the program and are witnessing student achievement gains in vocabulary, reading comprehension, total reading, critical thinking, problem solving, and written expression. The program has expanded into Canada, Kazakhstan, Lebanon and Uganda.

The links below provide additional information on this dynamic program.

General Information
Training Information for Interested Schools and Educators
Student Testimonials
Teacher Testimonials
Contact Information 
Best  Practices                                                                                                                                   

Click here for cost information.


Foundations & Frameworks is a uniquely designed, research-based instructional reading program.

Recognizing the need for equipping all students to fully understand ideas conveyed in text, instructional designers studied the latest findings in reading, critical thinking, and neuroscience research. The study of latest findings in reading research revealed the need to address five quintessential elements: phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and reading comprehension. Remarkably, in 2000, the National Reading Panel produced an extensive report based upon its exhaustive research that identified the same five crucial areas of reading instruction. This report's publication coincided with the research and development of Foundations & Frameworks, confirming its instructional designers' findings to that point.

The study of critical thinking resulted from emerging support for their initial premise: reading comprehension is the result of effective thinking about written text. If students can learn thought processes that enable them to consider an author's intended message at the deepest levels, they will be equipped to understand ideas not only within text addressed in reading but in other content areas as well. Therefore students exposed to deep learning in a Foundations & Frameworks instructional reading program would be equipped to transfer their understanding to mathematics, science, and social studies classes, among others.

Finally, the latest findings in neuroscience revealed the need to tailor instruction to the way learning occurs. Understanding learning would result in more effective teaching. Therefore, Foundations & Frameworks would incorporate brain-friendly methods of instruction to maximize learning.

The unique design of the Foundations & Frameworks program and its implementation stems directly from the substantial and focused research that went into its development. The depth of intentional, meaningful thinking that results from Foundations & Frameworks' implementation is unrivaled by other reading programs because every aspect of Foundations & Frameworks is designed to reflect the latest research, ensuring teacher practices result in student learning.

Foundations & Frameworks is an instructional reading program that uses a collection of best instructional practices for equipping students to fully understand ideas conveyed in text.

Thinking skills are explicitly taught and modeled. Because comprehension results from the thoughtful interaction between reader and text, improving student thinking positively impacts student comprehension. When a student fails to think while he is reading, he is not truly reading. By breaking thinking down into its component steps, teaching these steps explicitly, and extensively modeling the use of these steps, teachers can equip students with the cognitive abilities needed to fully understand a text.

Time is dedicated to skill mastery. Learning to use a skill requires extensive guided and independent practice. Insufficient time devoted to learning results in insufficient learning; students must understand the structures of text and the accompanying thinking skills so that independent application and transfer of thinking skills to other areas of learning can occur. Developing such understanding, such automaticity, requires time. Foundations & Frameworks units devote adequate time and provide adequate practice for students to truly master each comprehension skill.

High quality literature is used as a natural conduit for skill instruction. Great literature captures a reader's imagination and motivates further reading. Foundations & Frameworks uses real, complete works of children's literature to engage students and provide adequate material for in-depth comprehension. The literature is clustered according to readability and is used for comprehension skill instruction. For example, a book with cliff-hanging events may be used to teach and practice understanding plot, whereas a book with great character development may be used to study and practice character or comparison/contrast. Fifteen years of researching quality literature preceded the selection of Foundations & Frameworks titles.

Small group interaction is a daily practice. Small groups enable teachers to know their students and adjust instruction to meet the needs of individuals. Small groups also provide an opportunity for students to further develop their understanding of text through thoughtful discussion with the teacher and with others reading the same text. The small groups structure also gives teachers the flexibility to group students for re-teaching, reviewing, or for providing additional, individualized guided practice. While small group sessions take place, other students in the classroom prepare for their small group session by reading, adding entries to SPECS Logs, and completing practice with vocabulary words. SPECS Logs (SPace for Extending Comprehension Skills) are specially designed notebooks that foster student comprehension of text by providing space for the development of visual tools.

Visual tools are used to organize and represent patterns of thinking. Visual tools are graphic tools used to organize and connect information from a text. Because they represent the thinking process that has been explicitly taught and modeled, visual tools foster the thinking necessary to comprehend a text. With an associated visual tool for each skill, Foundations & Frameworks equips students to think effectively in reading and in every other area of learning. For example, a flow chart used in the study of sequence of events provides an image of the process-sequence looks like a chain of boxes arranged in order. This understanding helps students understand the sequence of history, the sequence of the scientific process, the sequence of steps involved in long division, the sequence of throwing a ball correctly, and much more content in every area.

Vocabulary instruction emphasizes complete word understanding. Vocabulary instruction must emphasize complete word understanding to be effective. Definitional, contextual and conceptual word understanding leads to ownership, allowing the student to not only comprehend new words, but to use them effectively in speaking and writing. Foundations & Frameworks emphasizes all three areas of word understanding through individual, small group, and whole class instruction and activities. Frequent feedback from teachers enables students to refine their understanding of words and promotes intentional and accurate word usage.

Phonemic awareness and phonics instruction is explicit and systematic. Comprehension begins with accuracy and fluency in word identification. Phonemic awareness, the foundational understanding that words are formed from blended sounds, is an essential precursor to phonics instruction. Phonics is best taught through multi-modal methods that incorporate listening, reading, spelling, and handwriting in explicit and systematic instruction of sound-spelling relationships. This is immediately followed by opportunities to practice decoding words in isolation and connected text. Foundations & Frameworks emphasizes both of these areas of word knowledge, getting students off to a successful start in both word recognition and comprehension.

Information Document


Foundations & Frameworks is an investment in education's most valuable asset-its teachers.

Research has repeatedly confirmed that the most significant factor in a student's academic achievement is the classroom teacher. To improve reading achievement, improve reading instruction. A sound professional development investment in teachers results in greater intentionality with teachers knowing why they do what they do. Foundations & Frameworks is such an investment. Teachers who have completed Foundations & Frameworks training are better equipped to teach reading because they understand the basic elements that make up the process and they understand the process itself. This enables them to make instructional decisions that positively impact student achievement. They know the students, and they know reading so they can design instruction intentionally, matching student need with instruction.

For a school to implement Foundations & Frameworks, teachers are required to attend a ten-day training in major elements of reading instruction, including: instructional design, reading comprehension, visual tools, small groups, vocabulary, assessment, and content area reading.                                                                          

Materials Brochure

Research of Foundations & Frameworks validates its effectiveness.

Endeavoring to evaluate the validity of Foundations & Frameworks and its effectiveness within the school setting, Robertson (2002) studied the program's impact on third and fourth grade student grades in reading. One hundred percent of the study's participants improved in vocabulary and reading comprehension, and more than half increased their percentile ranking by 10 points or more.

On a larger scale, Albee (2004) researched the program's impact on nearly 1500 students in grades three through six at six different schools with diverse student populations in different regions of the country. After only seven months, the average vocabulary gain represented 1.7 years' worth of development. Similarly, comprehension growth averaged 1.3 years' worth of development. Since only seven months passed between the pre-test and post-test in this study, the results represented remarkable gains. Additionally, the results did not include the top 25 percent of fifth grade students and the top 30 percent of sixth grade students because their post-test scores were higher than the testing instrument's ability could adequately measure.

Research conducted by Washburn (2005) reveals the program's impact on reading and crititcal thinking skills. The twofold research project, which focused on middle school reading instruction, examined the quantitative effects of two reading programs on the achievement of fifth grade students in reading comprehension and critical thinking. In both reading comprehension and critical thinking, the mean gain of students in the Foundations & Frameworks group was significantly greater than that of the students in the basal series program group. Foundations & Frameworks was assessed as having "consistent alignment with research findings in neurocognitive elements, instructional processes, instructional materials, and professional development components. In contrast, the basal series program was assessed as having limited alignment with research findings in the same areas.

A three-part study to investigate the effectiveness of Foundations & Frameworks in urban schools was conducted by Blackmon (2008). Standardized test scores were examined following seven months of implementation in fourth and fifth grades. Significant differences were observed in the pretest and posttest scores for vocabulary and reading comprehension at both grade levels.  A highly significant difference was observed in vocabulary and reading comprehension for fifth grade students and acheivement in vocabulary for fourth grade students exceeded expectations. A significant difference was not conclusive between schools implementing Foundations & Frameworks compared to schools that had not; however, the comparison of schools was encouraging because students in the Foundations & Frameworks schools exhibited comparable growth during the initial implementation of a program that required a major paradigm shift for teachers and students.

Research Summary


It helps me look at reading in a new way.-fifth grade student

I think the reading program this year is great.It has helped me by giving me good visual tools and it has helped me become a better reader. The books are the best part because they're action-packed and some are cliffhangers, leaving you in suspense. Others are sweet. I am really happy with this reading program.-fourth grade student

I 've learned that sometimes you have stuff in common with the main character .-second grade student

It makes me feel better to read. Now, when I have extra time, I will sit and read. I didn't do that before.-fifth grade student

I think the reading program helps to expand our creativity.It also helps us get along and understand each other.-third grade student

I like this reading program because I love to read new books. My friends are reading the same book so we can talk and ask each other questions about it. I think the reading log activities help me with my vocabulary and spelling too.-sixth grade student

I have learned new vocabulary that I can use in real life. -fourth grade student

I like the way we do reading because of the individual groups reading different books. The books are very challenging but fun at the same time. The way the program works helps us learn the whole meaning of the book. This program helps me to look at reading in a different perspective.-fifth grade student

I get to read more than we did in the past.-second grade student

With Foundations & Frameworks, the students become part of the story.-Scott Etchison, Principal Aurora Christian School, Aurora, IL

I like the Foundations &Frameworks reading program because it helps expand my reading. This program lets us read a whole book and discuss the book. It has helped me with my vocabulary.-fifth grade student

This program has made me a better reader and I love reading now. It's my favorite subject!-third grade student

This reading helps you understand the story better. It helps you break things apart step by step so you understand.-fifth grade student

The visual tools we have learned to use enhance my understanding of the story.-fifth grade student

I really like how we do posters with a reading group. Instead of just taking a test it helps me understand what we are doing better.-fourth grade student

I like the reading program because the books are longer so I can remember the stories better. Reading is my favorite since we got our new program.-fifth grade student

Now when I read I am finding literary elements and am summarizing every chapter easily.-sixth grade student

Spending time with people in groups is great. And getting their opinion is cool. This was the best year of reading yet!!-fourth grade student

My favorite thing about reading is the choice of books and all the categories. There are so many good books in the program it is so hard to choose.-sixth grade student


For additional details on Foundations & Frameworks, or its instructional design, email Joanne Sellers at

Downloadable Files
best practices.pdf
research summary.pdf
f&f materials brochure 2013.pdf
cost information 2013-2014.pdf
information document 2011-2012.pdf

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