Before You Jump In

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Step One

Assess the Students' Reading Levels

Before you begin jumping into the curriculum with a student or student group, you need to have a general understanding of overall reading levels. You can do this with assessments you have access to such as:

  • Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy (DIBELS)
  • Developmental Reading Assessment (DRA)
  • Word Identification and Spelling Test (WIST)
  • Phonological Awareness Test (PAT-2)

If you don't have access to a pre or post assessment measure you can use this measure that we have created as a general starting point: Smarter Intervention Baseline

This measure is not norm-referenced but can help you determine from a curriculum perspective where your student is functioning at baseline and at a post-testing point. This is helpful to make sure your intervention is working. Ideally, you would use a standardized norm-referenced assessment because you want to see Standard Score point gains to know that you are truly closing the gap. However, having aligned data to show that students are making progress is paramount and our pre/post tests can be a great place to begin!

Check out this video to see how to use the pre-test to establish goals for your student.


Determine Placement in the intervention program

Based on results of this initial assessment you will want to set specific learning goals or objectives for your students.

Systematic, sequential, and cumulative programs build on themselves from the most basic to the most complex skills and you need the foundation set to build.

We have three different levels of intervention. See below for suggested starting points.

Suggested Starting Points

While all students differ in age and ability these are typically the only starting points we recommend as the curriculum is sequential and build on itself.

Beginner Lesson 1 - For students that have very limited letter-sound knowledge and are not performing well on basic consonants and short vowels or for students in Kindergarten or 1st grade that need remedial instruction. We also use Beginner Lesson 1 as a starting point for pre-Kindergarten students who are on or above grade level to get a head-start on Kindergarten.

Beginner Lesson 14 - For students that have basic consonant and short vowel sounds but no knowledge of digraphs, blends, or welded sounds. We often start with Beginner Lesson 14 for 1st and 2nd grade students.

Intermediate Lesson 1 - For students in 3rd grade and up that are needing remediation but have basic sound symbol knowledge of consonants and short vowel sounds.

We never begin with the advanced curriculum. We always begin with the Intermediate curriculum, even for our older students, we may be able to move through the material quickly but the Intermediate curriculum is necessary for all ages in order to set the foundation.

Most of our students begin with Intermediate Lesson 1, however the beginner curriculum must be viewed as a prerequisite before beginning Intermediate. If students are not yet confident in consonant sounds, short vowels, digraphs, blends or welded sounds, start at the appropriate lesson (listed above).


Step Two

Prepare the Student Materials

Set up your students' binders. We like to set these up in a very specific way for each of our students. It helps keep our students and us, as interventionists, organized. Check out our blog post here on exactly how we organize our student binders.

Student Workbook.PNG

Step Three


We find that it can be incredibly helpful and empowering to families if you provide them with documentation about what you are aiming to do during your intervention time. We know that some families may be more interested than others but we have prepared this brief handout that you can give to parents or attach via email to help keep them in the loop. It's also a great reference sheet for your students. We find that anchoring your discussion around the Literacy Processing Triangle can help others gain a grasp of the complex process of reading and what this particular intervention is targeting for your students.


Step Four

Begin your intervention by working through each lesson. Typically we spend one week per concept, but this depends entirely on your student or group. Certain lessons (especially the first lesson of the Intermediate curriculum) can take several sessions to get through.

Lesson Components

  1. Sound Drill - Click Here to Watch a Video on the Importance of the Sound Drill
  2. Review Rule Decoding or Game - Click Here to Watch How We Gamify Review Word Lists & Click Here to Watch a Video on a Game we use for Review
  3. New Rule Introduction - Click Here to Watch a Video on teaching the two sounds of Y
  4. Red Word Instruction - Click Here to Watch a Video on how to teach Red Words
  5. Phonological Awareness - Click Here to Watch a Video on a Phonological Awareness
  6. Reverse Drill or Auditory Drill - Click Here to Watch a Video on the Reverse Drill
  7. Spelling - Click Here to Watch a Video on How to Use the Spelling Lists
  8. Additional Skills - Click Here To Watch a Video on Additional Skills that help tie more advanced skills that will support higher-level reading into your lessons

Keep in mind that many of the "Additional or Extra Activities" that are built into the Student Workbook are designed for you to pick and choose. You may not always complete all of these activities. Some you may send home or some you may realize are not necessary for your student.

For example, if you have a student that is a rhyming wizard, you can skip tasks that ask them to find the word that rhymes. In a group setting you want to try to match each of the tasks to student areas of difficulty. For example, if I have a student that is struggling with higher level language, I may ask that student to discuss multiple meanings and ask another student in the group who is struggling with rapid visual recognition of letters to underline words with blends.

The non-negotiable tasks in each session are the sound drill, the decoding drill, explicit rule introduction/review, the reverse drill and spelling. You may not get to each of these in every lesson but there needs to be a concerted effort to fit these pieces into your lesson every time you see your student(s).

Set up your home practice component

We know that distributed practice is the best way to get results, however, we often don't have the luxury of seeing our students every single day or for the 45-60 minutes 5x/week that is often prescribed by traditional OG programs. Sending home additional activities your student can use with the Extra Activities provided in each lesson can be a great way to get in some extra miles with each lesson. You also may have the opportunity to see students more often and use these extra activities - if so, fantastic!


Step Five


Breathe. You're not going to be perfect at this at first. In fact, you may never be perfect at this all the time. We aren't. We all have sessions that go exceedingly well where we feel like we are on the top of the world and then sessions where we feel like the worst reading interventionist ever. Just know that you are not alone and you are doing great because you are doing the best you can. As Maya Angelou taught us - When you know better, you will do better. In the meantime, keep showing up and doing the best you can. Remember that just being a support for these struggling readers, someone who believes in them and will cheer them on is a huge part of what they need.

If you need extra help - join our Private Facebook Group and check out our Blog which has tons of additional tips you might find helpful like:

Sometimes Things Don't Stick - Then What?

One Major Reason Your Intervention May Not Be Working

Six Tips to Teaching Comprehension

We also have a video library to help you out if you are needing a little extra support!


Step Six

Monitor your students' growth and progress through the program. We suggest beginning with the Baseline assessment. Once you have determine a starting point in the program you will want to assess progress. How often you monitor progress will depend on how often you are seeing your students. Typically we like to assess progress about every six weeks with criterion-based assessments and every 4-months with a standardized measure. We have provided a number of criterion-based pre and post assessments to track progress throughout the curriculum.

For Beginner:

Utilize the Beginner Pre & Post Test approximately every 6-weeks.

Beginner Pre & Post Test

Monitor Phonological Awareness Skills as often as needed, we typically monitor at least one skill each session.

Phonological Awareness Skills Progress Monitoring


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