Date of Award


Document Type

Non Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Education




Differentiated Instruction

Capstone Instructor

Professor Theresa Starkman

Second Reader

Professor Michael Foster


phonemic awareness, phonics instruction, primary grades, reading achievement gap


Reading fluently and for meaning is an essential skill that has allowed students to function effectively in society. Throughout the years, the reading achievement gap has continued to widen and linger across the United States. The low rates of literacy represent a national crisis, especially for low-income Americans. Research shows that strong phonemic awareness instruction and early intervention in the primary grades are key to closing the reading achievement gap. This paper explores the reasons behind the reading achievement gap and what differentiated instructional strategies early educators can employ to support students in the acquisition of skills such as phonemic awareness, alphabet recognition, and vocabulary development. A diverse selection of literature, as well as quantitative and qualitative research studies, were reviewed to determine how solid, proactive differentiated phonics instruction with reading will help educators effectively enhance the student’s ability to learn and have access to content through their ability to read fluently. This paper seeks to answer the research question: In light of what is known about differentiated instruction, how do phonics instruction and intervention impact reading achievement and close the reading achievement gap with students who are performing below grade level in the primary grades?

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