Frequently Asked Questions
A. It sounds simple but the answer is to read the whole book! We have learned over the years that many folks simply jump to the One Minute Activities and either do not read (or just skim), the rest of the book. There is much more to Equipped for Reading Success (EFRS) than the One Minute Activities. The One Minute Activities are only part of the program, the part intended to reinforce phonemic skills and build automaticity with those skills. That is, they are the training/reinforcement aspect of the program, not the teaching aspect. There is much more in the manual about teaching phonemic awareness and integrating phonemic skills into reading that folks miss when they do not read the whole book.
A. The PAST is technically not a placement test for EFRS even though it should give you a good estimate of where to focus instruction. However, when doing formal teaching (see Chapter 8) and training in EFRS (see Chapters 9, 10), it is important not to miss important training activities within Levels E, F, and G. If a student does well at those levels on the PAST, one may overlook Level E4, and the Multisyllabic/Applied activities at Levels F and G. These are very important activities because they help students notice isolated phonemes in the middle of multisyllabic words. Also, starting at Level F, there are “Mixed Levels” which are intended to develop phonemic skills. With this in mind, here are some suggestions.
First, if a student was automatic on the PAST at Levels D through G (or higher), you can simply make it a point to go back and provide them with instruction and One Minute Activities from Level E4 and from the Multisyllabic/Applied activities in Levels F and G (and even the Mixed Levels at F and G).
Another idea we recommend is, regardless of PAST performance, to start all instruction/training with Level D, but only do a single One Minute Activity at each level until you get to a level for which the student displays a struggle. If you are doing 3 to 8 One Minute activities a day (see below), a child will get up to their training and instructional levels within a day or two. This instructional routing procedure will help acclimate students to the One Minute Activities and to be sure not to skip E4 and the Multisyllabic/Applied activities at F and G.
If you are working with a student remedially for 20 minutes or more, you can easily work in three One Minute Activities, one at the beginning, one at the end, and one sometime in the middle. If you are a classroom teacher, you can work in 3 to 8 One Minute Activities at various points throughout the day, typically at transition points. See more at Chapters 9 and 10.
A. There are multiple problems with copying One Minute Activities, but we have designed a possible work around.
The first problem is that copying the One Minute Activities is a violation of copyright. A second problem is that parents rarely have the background and understanding to use such activities properly. Doing One Minute Activities incorrectly minimizes their effectiveness and can create bad mental habits in students.
To address the copyright issue, we have reorganized 32 pages of Jerome Rosner’s Auditory-Motor Program to align with the EFRS program. The Rosner program is in the public domain and therefore anyone is free to copy it (for more on the relationship between the Rosner program and EFRS, see the preface to EFRS and Appendix B in EFRS).
To address the “correct-use” issue, teachers should not simply send home the Rosner pages. If they want parents to use those activities, they should figure out a way to directly teach parents how to use those materials. Three important issues are that parents must (1) understand that the activities refer to sounds, not letters; (2) know how to pronounce letter sounds in isolation (e.g., t says /t/ not /tuh/), and (3) not indicate positions of sounds when doing these activities (e.g., “delete the /k/ at the beginning of cat”). These are three of the many things that are discussed in the manual that guide the use of the One Minute Activities. When not done properly, a parent’s good faith efforts may be very limited.
The best overall solution is for teachers to accelerate their use of EFRS in their classrooms, sidestepping the need to expect parents to do follow up at home. Studies show that these skills can be developed rather quickly with proper instruction and consistent opportunities (see the FAQ about how often to do EFRS instruction/training). We commonly hear about teachers moving through the program very slowly. However, if done at a faster pace and in a more intensive manner, teachers would see day-to-day progress and not feel the need to send home activities for parents—even with struggling readers.
A. Phonemes are the smallest sound units in spoken language that allow us to distinguish one syllable (or word) from another. For example, we can distinguish the spoken words sat from sad because they differ by a single phoneme, even though two of their phonemes (/s/ and /a/) are the same. The words had and see are easy to tell apart because they share no phonemes. In alphabetic writing, like English, Spanish, French, etc., letters are designed to represent individual phonemes, although some phonemes are represented by more than one letter (th in these and oa in boat).
Because alphabetic writing involves writing phonemes, awareness of phonemes is an important skill in reading and spelling.
A. Phonological awareness refers to the ability to recognize (i.e., have an awareness of) the sound properties of spoken words. These “sound properties” can include syllables, first sounds, rhyming parts, and phonemes (see the FAQ “What is a Phoneme”). Phoneme awareness is one of the skills under the broader umbrella of phonological awareness. For reading, phoneme awareness is very important because our writing system uses letters to represent phonemes.
Many studies have shown that phonemic awareness is an important component in learning to read. For most children, phonemic awareness develops naturally, simply as a result of learning an alphabet-based writing system like English. However, a substantial portion of students do not naturally develop phoneme awareness skills as a result of routine reading instruction. Lacking this critical skill of phonemic awareness makes learning to read very difficult. Studies show that training such students in phoneme awareness skills can help improve reading. Because it is often difficult to tell which students will struggle with phonemic awareness and which students will not, the general recommendation has been for all students to receive direct instruction in phonemic awareness in kindergarten and first grade. For students struggling in reading at the end of first grade and beyond, and who display weak phonemic awareness (on a test such as the PAST), continued instruction in phonemic awareness is recommended, regardless of age (i.e., if they lack phonemic awareness skills at any age, such skills should be remediated).
A. There are two types of phonemic skills that have come under the term “phonemic awareness.”
The first type is called phonemic synthesis or blending. This allows children to identify a spoken word when they hear the individual phonemes. For example, a teacher may say, “What word am I trying to say, /s/ /a/ /n/ /d/?” (note that letters in between slash marks refer to sounds, not written letters). If the child says “sand,” he or she has successfully blended the phonemes. When combined with letter-sound knowledge, phonemic blending helps children sound out new words by identifying the sounds that go with the letters and blending those sounds together to determine the word.
The second type of phonemic awareness is called phonemic analysis. This allows children to pull apart spoken pronunciations into its individual phonemes. Phoneme-level analysis is necessary to help anchor written words to their pronunciations in long-term memory so that they are immediately recognized in the future as familiar written words. Chapter 4 of the Equipped for Reading Success manual explains this memory process in detail.
Phonics can refer to a reading instruction technique but it can also refer to a set of skills a person possesses. The goal of this approach is to teach students to sound out unfamiliar written words via phonetic decoding. Phonetic decoding occurs when a student applies letter-sound knowledge and phonemic blending to determine unfamiliar written words. (See FAQ “Why is phonemic awareness important for reading?”)
Phoneme awareness has to do with noticing sounds in spoken words. While phonics instruction and skills have been around for centuries, phonemic awareness was discovered in the fields of linguistics and speech pathology in the 1950s. The fact that it is important for reading was not discovered until the 1960s. It is a linguistic skill. Chapter 4 of Equipped for Reading Success explains why phoneme awareness is important for reading.
While having both similarities and differences, phonics and phonemic awareness are both essential for becoming a skilled reader.
A. Equipped for Reading Success functions as a curriculum for phonemic awareness development. It is NOT a reading program. Rather, it is used to supplement an existing reading program.
A. Absolutely! Phonics is central to learning to read any alphabet-based writing system, including English. The last 40+ years of research has been clear: phonics should be taught and reinforced in a systematic and explicit way in the early grades.
A. If students with poor reading skills have poor phonemic skills, then it will be important to help develop those phonemic skills. A good way to tell is to see how automatic their phonemic skills are by giving the Phonological Awareness Screening Test (PAST, free at www.thepasttest.com. If they do very well on that (i.e., mostly all automatic responses throughout the test), then it is unlikely that they need Equipped for Reading Success (EFRS), or any other phonemic awareness training for that matter. However, if they do not do well on the PAST, then those phonemic skills should be remediated, regardless of age. Phonemic proficiency (i.e., automatic phonemic awareness) is central to efficiently storing words in long-term memory. If these skills are lacking, they should be addressed. EFRS was designed to help with this.
A. You can download the PAST from: http://www.thepasttest.com or learn more by visiting http://www.thereadingleague.org. Becoming a member is free! They have hundreds of professional development podcasts with researchers, and have a paid version of the membership that includes The Reading League Journal. Another great resource is the International Dyslexia Association. Also, there are great summaries of reading research found at the U.S. Department of Education’s website at: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/practiceguides
Consider reading these: For early reading instruction for all students: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide/21
For struggling readers: https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/PracticeGuide/3