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Reading Interventions

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Phonological & Phonemic Awareness
Least Intensive Interventions
Moderate/Intensive Interventions

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Phonological & Phonemic Awareness

Phonological Awareness is the precursor to phonics, which is frequently the method used to teach children to read. If a child can not “sound out a word” or does not have good “word attack skills,” it is possible that he may not have the underlying phonological awareness skills necessary to understand and use phonics skills.

Phonemic Awareness involves analyzing the sounds of language and how these sounds make up words and sentences.

Reading Rockets General Recommendations for Group Development:

  • If your child is past the ages at which phonemic awareness and phonological skills are taught class-wide (usually kindergarten to first or second grade), make sure he or she is receiving one-on-one or small group instruction in these skills.
  • Do activities to help your child build sound skills (make sure they are short and fun; avoid allowing your child to get frustrated).

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Phonological & Phonemic Awareness
Least Intensive Interventions

Phoneme Activities

Phoneme isolation
Children recognize individual sounds in a word.

  • Teacher: What is the first sound in van?
  • Children: The first sound in van is /v/.

Phoneme identity

Children recognize the same sounds in different words.

  • Teacher: What sound is the same in fix, fall, and fun?
  • Children: The first sound, /f/, is the same.

Phoneme categorization
Children recognize the word in a set of three or four words that has the "odd" sound.

  • Teacher: Which word doesn’t belong? bus, bun, rug.
  • Children: Rug does not belong. It doesn’t begin with /b/.

Phoneme segmentation
Children break a word into its separate sounds, saying each sound as they tap out or count it. Then they write and read the word.

  • Teacher: How many sounds are in grab?
  • Children: /g/ /r/ /a/ /b/. Four sounds.
  • Teacher: Now let’s write the sounds in grab: /g/, write g; /r/, write r; /a/, write a; /b/, write b.
  • Teacher: (Writes grab on the board.) Now we’re going to read the word grab.

Phoneme deletion

Children recognize the word that remains when a phoneme is removed from another word.

  • Teacher: What is smile without the /s/?
  • Children: Smile without the /s/ is mile.

Phoneme addition

Children make a new word by adding a phoneme to an existing word.

  • Teacher: What word do you have if you add /s/ to the beginning of park?
  • Children: Spark.

Phoneme substitution
Children substitute one phoneme for another to make a new word.

  • Teacher: The word is bug. Change /g/ to /n/. What’s the new word?
  • Children: Bun.

Phoneme blending
Children listen to a sequence of separately spoken phonemes, and then combine the phonemes to form a word. Then they write and read the word.

  • Teacher: What word is /b/ /i/ /g/?
  • Children: /b/ /i/ /g/ is big.
  • Teacher: Now let’s write the sounds in big: /b/, write b; /i/, write i; /g/, write g.
  • Teacher: (Writes big on the board.) Now we’re going to read the word big.

Courtesy of:
National Institute for Literacy: Reading First

Games for Phonics and Blending

Word Bingo: Make bingo word cards with identified words. The teacher says the sounds of the letters. For example, teacher would read /c/ /a/ /t/. The student is to find the word “cat” on the Bingo card. Continue playing the game like Bingo.

Go Fish for Words: Make set of four word cards (i.e., big big big big), and play like the game Go Fish. Add your own Jokers.

Fish For Words: Put a paper clip at the end of a word card. Make a fishing pole with a magnet. Use the magnet to pull out a card with a paper clip. The card should have either a word or the sounds of a word, and have the child read.

Concentration: Make pairs of words on cards (i.e., hat hat). Turn cards over to make matches. (This is good for visual memory.)

Board Games: Use a standard board game. The player rolls a dice (spins a spinner) and reads a word on the card. If correct, the player moves the number he rolled.

Tic Tac Toe: Use this familiar game by putting words in the square. The player must say the word before earning the square.

Magic Square: Make squares and fill in letters - with the magic letter in the middle. Rule: All words must have a short “a” – cat, bag, rag…Children make as many words as they can find.

Example: b c t
d a g
r p m

Courtesy of:

Phonemic Awareness Games to Play

Silly Mistakes: Can your child listen attentively? Can she close her eyes and identify sounds around the house – a door shutting, footsteps, water running, silverware being put away?

Example: Read a familiar poem or story . . . but make any kind of silly mistake that will be obvious to your child.

You might replace a word with nonsense:
Jack and Jill went up the pickle
or say the words in the wrong order:
The first little pig built a straw of house
or even swap sounds:
The clock struck one, The mouse ran down,
Dickory, Hickory, Hock

Ask your child to catch your error! (Silly mom or dad.)

◊ Alternative Silly Mistakes:
Your child tries to ‘trick’ you by making a Silly Mistake.

What’s New: First or Last, Make a Rhyme
: Can your child fill-in rhyming words: ‘There was an old woman who lived in a shoe; She had so many children she didn’t know what to d__’?

Help your child fill-in some new rhymes:
A tree with a --bee. (or a C, key, knee . . .)
A boy holding a --toy.
A stick in a --zick.
A cat with a --bat.
A man on a --can
A bug and a --hug.
A picture of a --kicture.

(Since we are focusing on sound, and not meaning, nonsense is fine.)

◊ Alternative Make a Rhyme:

Sing to the tune of Farmer In The Dell:
A tree with a bee, A tree with a bee,
Hi Ho the Derry-O, A tree with a bee.

Sing ‘Down By the Bay’:
Down by the bay, And to and fro,
That’s where I know, I dare not go.
For if I do, My mother will say,
[first player]: Did you ever see a boy--
[second player]: Chasing a loy
[together] Down by the bay!’

Easier version: The adult is the ‘second player.’
Play The Name Game
Just play with line one at first. You can begin with any name or word--but run it through your mind first, to eliminate words that result in unwanted rhymes.
Honey, honey, Bo-bunny

Clap Syllable ‘Beats’: Can your child move to the beat? Can he dance to music; march or clap to ‘One, Two, Three, Four. One, Two, Three, Four’?


1. Find something in the room, or out the window. (Or think of something we see in the kitchen; at the park, etc.)

2. Say its name, and help the child to clap out the syllables:
“The word is . . .airplane…Say and clap . . . air—plane”

◊ Alternative Clap Syllable ‘Beats’:

Which Word is Longer? Clap and see!
(This can be a tricky question for young children!)
Sev-en-up or truck?
Train or cat-er-pil-lar?

Say a Word Without a Syllable:
Ask the child to say ‘Sev-en-Up’ without the ‘up’: “Seven.”
“Say . . . Seven-Up…Without the Up” (Child claps and says “Seven” with two claps)

Courtesy of:
The Reading Treehouse

Reading Rockets Potential Activities:

  • Help your child think of a number of words that start with the /m/ or /ch/ sound, or other beginning sounds.
  • Make up silly sentences with words that begin with the same sound, such as "Nobody was nice to Nancy’s neighbor."
  • Play simple rhyming or blending games with your child, such as taking turns coming up with words that rhyme (go – no) or blending simple words (/d/, /o/, /g/ = dog).
  • Read books with rhymes. Teach your child rhymes, short poems and songs.
  • Practice the alphabet by pointing out letters wherever you see them and by reading alphabet books.
  • Consider using computer software that focuses on developing phonological and phonemic awareness skills. Many of these programs use colorful graphics and animation that keep young children engaged and motivated.

Courtesy of:

Phonological Awareness: Humpty Dumpty

The following phonological awareness activities are part of a larger, more comprehensive unit based on the theme of nursery rhymes. This larger unit is taught as part of the Discovery Team time. Each student experiences a number of phonological awareness activities based on a variety of nursery rhymes. The students are heterogeneously grouped and are able to participate in the activities of all of the nursery rhymes. The following is an example of how a number of activities could be derived from one rhyme, Humpty Dumpty. As an added point of interest, and as a way to integrate these activities with other areas of study, the children would be told the history of the rhyme.

Review of History: Anyone who has spent time with young children knows how much they love to learn about why things are the way they are. They love to hear the "real" story. All English nursery rhymes have stories behind them. Many rhymes started as chronicles of events for people who could not read. Often they were about rather gruesome events veiled in the rhymed vernacular of the day. Thus the citizenry were able to comment about the happenings without facing the often serious consequences of such freedom of speech.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.”

Humpty Dumpty was not an egg at all; nor was he an English king as people frequently believe. Humpty Dumpty was the nickname for a huge wooden battering ram built for the army of King Charles I in the mid-1600s to roll down a slope, across the River Severn, and up against the walls of Gloucester. During England’s Civil War, Gloucester was held by Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads. While Charles’ army was busy building the "Humpty Dumpty," the Roundheads were secretly widening the river. Thus Humpty Dumpty was wrecked in midstream, "had a great fall," and toppled into the water, drowning hundreds of soldiers — and there was nothing all the king’s men could do about it.

In addition to learning some history and working on phonological awareness, young children can also be exposed to map reading skills with an activity such as this one. A very short summary of what happened at the Severn River and a look at the globe to see where England is located are good extensions for this activity. It all makes the old story of Humpty Dumpty more meaningful and interesting.

Activities for Humpty Dumpty’s Wall:

Activity #1

Phonological Level: Word (phrases to words)
Materials: supply of tiles, all the same color
Grouping Type: heterogeneous or homogeneous, small group or individual
Before beginning this activity, check to see if the children know the rhyme. If they do not know it, teach them the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty. Using one-to-one correspondence, one tile for each word said, for several phrases, model several examples. (Students’ full names could be modeled as examples.) Make sure that each child knows how to name the tiles. Set up a pool of tiles in the middle of the table and then have the children name each tile as she/he lines them up. Be sure to use a left-to-right orientation. The children will be building Humpty Dumpty’s wall. When Humpty Dumpty’s wall has been built, give each child a picture of a"Humpty Dumpty" to place on top of her/his wall.

Activity #2

    Phonological Level: Syllable (words to syllables)
Materials: same as above
Grouping Type: same as above
If the children are able to easily do the activity above, move on to this activity. Again using the same technique, have children name each syllable as they line up tiles to build a wall for Humpty Dumpty.

Activity #3

Phonological Level: Phoneme (discrimination of vowel sounds, substitution)
Materials: set of sound cards with pictures of words beginning with vowels
Grouping Type: heterogeneous or homogeneous, small group or individual

Explain to the children that Humpty Dumpty wasn’t the only one who "had a great fall." Hold up a picture of an /a/ sound such as a card with a picture of an apple. Tell the students to listen for this sound in the poem. Then recite poem changing the short /u/ sound to an /a/ sound.

“Hampty Dampty sat on the wall,
Hampty Dampty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Hampty Dampty together again.”

Now hold up a picture of an /o/ sound word. Work with the children to help them change the rhyme to the following:

“Hompty Dompty sat on the wall,
Hompty Dompty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Hompty Dompty together again.”

Continue in this manner next using the /i/ sound and finally the /e/ sound.

Activity #4

Phonological Level: phoneme (substitution)
Materials: None
Grouping Type: heterogeneous or homogeneous, small group or individual

If the children have difficulty with the vowel game, initial sounds may be used changing the name of Humpty Dumpty to a targeted sound such as Bumpty Dumpty. Children’s name sounds can be used to personalize it, increase interest and draw attention to matching sounds. For example:

“Bumpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Bumpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Bumpty Dumpty together again.”

Activity #5

Phonological Level: rhyming (substitution)
Materials: None
Grouping Type: heterogeneous or homogeneous, small group or individual

To further emphasize the rhyming nature of these activities, children can brainstorm words that rhyme with wall/fall, men/again. These new words can then be substituted in the rhyme. For example:

“Humpty Dumpty sat in the mall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great ball,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again.
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s ten,
Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty into the pen.”

  Alternative to Humpty Dumpty:
Finally, to take these activities a step further, they could be used, with slight adjustments, at a later date as reading, phonics and/or spelling activities. For example, the rhyme could be written out on large, heavy paper, the words cut apart and mixed up. The children could then be asked to reconstruct the poem.
As a phonics/reading activity, children could be given the poem in a written format with the vowels deleted and then asked to substitute vowels and read the poem. A cloze activity could lead students into writing their own poems. Similar activities could be done with other rhymes.


Some examples of rhyming books available in bookstores or local libraries:

Shaw, Nancy Sheep in a Jeep, Houghton Mifflin Company Publishers
Gregorich, Barbara The Fox On The Box, School Zone Publishing Co.
Samton, Sheila My Haunted Ship, Puffin Books
Lewison, Wendy Hello, Snow!, Grosset & Dunlap Publishers
Armstrong, Jennifer The Snowball, Random House
Hayes, Sarah This Is The Bear And The Scary Night, Candlewick Press
Alborough, Jez Where’s My Teddy? Candlewick Press

Courtesy of:
Phonological Awareness Resources and links

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Phonological & Phonemic Awareness
Moderate/Intensive Interventions

Blending At The Beginning

Teaches the early reader the vowel sounds and how to successfully blend those sounds with consonant sounds to decode words. The blending process begins at the beginning of the word. Early readers learn to look at the entire word for phonetic clues before they begin the blending process.

Courtesy of:

Group Assisted Reading

Example: Everyday in second grade, the students break up into four groups of about six students according to reading ability. Each group is facilitated by either an Educational Assistant or the classroom teacher. GAR time is usually 20 minutes long. Variations of Assisted Group Reading are likely.

Courtesy of:

Reading Mastery Classic

Reading Mastery Classic Grade Levels Pre-K – 2
Long recognized for its phonemically explicit, intensive approach for teaching beginning reading
Reading Mastery Plus Grade Levels Pre–K - 6
New concepts and skills are taught by the teacher in small steps to ensure success the first time, avoiding time-consuming and repetitious re-teaching. Students have ample opportunity to practice all concepts and skills so they achieve mastery and develop efficient strategies for learning. Entry-level assessment and continuous monitoring of progress make it easy to quickly identify students needing specialized instruction.
Horizons: Grade Levels K – 4
A unique instructional sequence incorporates word attack, story reading, comprehension exercises, spelling and independent work on a daily basis to ensure success. Levels A, B and Fast Track A-B build a solid foundation for fluency and comprehension by systematically teaching phonemic awareness and phonics. Fast Track C-D expands key decoding and vocabulary skills while developing higher order thinking and comprehension strategies.
Reading Mastery Rainbow Edition: Grade Levels K - 6
Reading Mastery Rainbow involves a three-step process that ensures that students make smooth transitions from decoding to comprehension. The first step, decoding, is later combined with comprehension strategies, and in the final step students acquire an appreciation and understanding of literature. Ongoing assessment is built in, enabling teachers to adjust pacing, provide immediate feedback and give meaningful reinforcement. Reading Mastery Rainbow enhances students’ problem-solving strategies, critical-thinking skills, phonics and vocabulary and is designed to generate excitement and enthusiasm for reading and learning.
Corrective Reading: Grade Levels 3 – Adult
Corrective Reading provides intensive intervention for students in Grades 3-Adult who are reading below grade level. This program delivers tightly sequenced, carefully planned lessons that give struggling students the structure and practice necessary to become skilled, fluent readers and better learners. Four levels for decoding plus four for comprehension address the varied reading deficits and skill levels found among older students.

Courtesy of:

Reading Recovery

Reading Recovery is an early literacy intervention program for children who have literacy difficulties at the end of their first year at primary school. It involves reading and writing in a daily one-to-one lesson with a highly trained teacher for a period of between 15 and 20 weeks.

At the end of that time, most children have caught up with their classmates and can read and write at a level appropriate for their age.

Courtesy of:

Ladders to Literacy

The Ladders to Literacy Outreach Project assists early childhood and early childhood special education staff, related services personnel and families in supporting the early literacy development of young children with disabilities, preparing them for later formal literacy instruction. The project offers training on:

  • Classroom activities designed to facilitate early literacy and language skills.
  • Strategies for individualizing instruction to meet the needs of teaching all children, including those with disabilities, in inclusive settings.
  • Home-based literacy activities for families.
  • Guidelines for early literacy and language assessment.
  • Development of IEP/IFSPs in the area of early literacy.
  • An overview of state-of-the-art theory and research on early literacy and language development and intervention.

The Ladders to Literacy Outreach Project offers the following services to assist the implementation of the Ladders to Literacy model in outreach sites:

  • 10 - 15 hours of direct on-site training. Training modalities are individualized according to participant preferences and needs.
  • Technical support for on-site implementation of the Ladders to Literacy model.
  • Curriculum and other materials to support model implementation.
  • Project staff time and travel at no cost for training and model replication and evaluation activities.
  • Optional trainers training for interested staff and parents.

Outreach sites are requested to replicate the Ladders to Literacy model through the following activities:

  • Ensure at least 15 participants in the training, including early childhood, and early childhood special education staff, related service personnel and parents.
  • Identify one staff member and one parent to serve as on-site coordinators to maintain contacts with project staff.
  • Trainee participation in the evaluation of the Ladders to Literacy model through the completion of questionnaires and interviews and the gathering of documentation for trainee portfolio assessment task and other project related activities.

The Ladders to Literacy Outreach Project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services: CFDA 84.324R, H324R000008.

The Ladders to Literacy: A Preschool Activity Book and Ladders to Literacy: A Kindergarten Activity Book are based on a model development project funded by Grant #H024B20031 from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, Early Education Program for Children with Disabilities.

Courtesy of:

Scott Foresman Early Reading Intervention
(a.k.a. OPTIMIZE)

The intervention is designed for children who need early, intensive intervention in phonological awareness, letter names, letter sounds, word reading, spelling and simple-sentence reading. The target grade is kindergarten. The activities are designed to increase children’s skills and knowledge in phonological awareness and alphabetic understanding. The intervention emphasizes the strategic and systematic instruction of phonemic awareness and alphabetic understanding and consists of two 15-minute components delivered consecutively in daily 30-minute lessons. The curriculum consists of 126 lessons.

Program: Scott Foresman Early Reading Intervention
Publisher/Source: Scott Foresman
Educational Level: Kindergarten
Author: Debra C. Simmons

Corrective Reading (Direct Instruction)

Corrective Reading Decoding is a tightly leveled intervention program which progresses form teaching letter sounds and blending skills to reading expository passages typical of text book material. Corrective Reading Comprehension is for students who read without understanding. The program develops vocabulary information and comprehension strategies needed for academic success. It also focuses on developing higher order thinking and reasoning tactics used by successful reader; applying prior knowledge, making inferences and analyzing evidence.

Program: Corrective Reading
Publisher/Source: Science Research Associates
Educational level: Grades 3-12
Author: Sigfried Engelmann

PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies)

Peer Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) is a class-wide peer-tutoring program providing supplemental practice and instruction on key reading skills. K-PALS focuses on phonemic awareness, alphabetic principle and sight word reading. First Grade PALS focuses on alphabetic principle, fluency and sight word reading. Second-Eighth Grade PALS focuses on fluency and accuracy in connected text and reading comprehension strategies of summarization, main idea and predication. High School PALS focuses on Fluency and comprehension skills within the context of a career, job oriented structure. Lessons are provided to train students to be “readers and coaches”. Students are taught correction procedures and instructional cues. K-8 PALS can be used in general or special educational classrooms. High School PALS has only been validated in special education and remedial settings.

Program: PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Strategies)
Publisher/Source: Vanderbilt University
Educational level: K, 1, 2-6, 7-12
Author: Lynn and Doug Fuchs


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Questions? Comments? Please email Scott or Tracey.