Like everyone else, we are concerned about the impact that the current crisis is having on our country’s educational process. We appreciate all the dedicated teachers who want to keep their students progressing during this time via distance learning. We also appreciate the many teachers who respect copyright and contacted us about permission to make copies of activities for parents. We have found a solution that allows phonemic awareness activities to be sent home without need to deal with copyright issues.
We have put together a packet for teachers to send home to parents to reinforce the Equipped for Reading Success (EFRS) levels that teachers are doing with students. This packet, as you will see on the first page, is from an earlier, now public domain “version” of the EFRS program. This way, there is no need to copy from the EFRS program to achieve the goal of providing resources at home (i.e., no such permission to copy is granted or needed). However, there are some concerns sending home phonemic awareness activities to parents that must be carefully considered. A challenge we all face with this type of phonemic manipulation skill development program is twofold. First, it requires two-way interaction with immediate feedback. This is why we’ve never figured out a way to come up with an app or computer version of the program. Second, there are two levels that have to be implemented, neither of which can stand alone. The first level is teaching “the next level up” in the program. The material in EFRS Chapters 2, 3, and 8 (especially Chapter 8) is used for this. But once a level has been learned, it must be reinforced. This is done via One Minute Activities. The One Minute Activities should not be considered an isolated aspect of the EFRS program.
Due to these two issues, 1) the need for two-way interaction and 2) the two levels of skill development (teaching/learning vs. training/reinforcing), phonological awareness skill development with the EFRS program will be a challenge during this time children are not in school. This is because unless students with phonological issues are “taught” the next level up in the program, they are not likely to progress. Simply providing activities for their current level will not allow them to progress, only reinforce what they can already do. But here are two bits of good news as we approach our current situation. First, based on our extensive experience with the program (18 years), as well as others who have decades of experience with phonological manipulation training, struggling readers rarely regress on the phonemic awareness levels that they have acquired. So, fear of regression on these skills should not drive our decisions. Rest assured that students will not backslide on the levels that they have attained in the program.
Second, we have found over the last 18 years that most teachers move through the program much too slowly, particularly with students from 2nd grade on up. With rigorous attention to the suggested lesson planning in Chapter 6, the instructional techniques in Chapter 8 (all of which were pulled from studies showing the technique worked), and the reinforcement from the One Minute Activities (again, of limited value without the teaching part), children can make much quicker progress than most teachers realize. Interestingly, the studies in the research literature with the strongest reading gains all used phonemic manipulation training, and in nearly all of the studies, they got their strong results in just a few months, not years. So, when children return to school, conscientious implementation of EFRS would allow them to develop the phonemic skills they need rather quickly.Below are some guidelines/stipulations for using the EFRS in this “distance learning” situation. 1) For those who can, we strongly encourage live, one-on-one or small group use of the EFRS program via Zoom/Skype/FaceTime etc. Such use of the program is like a face-to-face class. 2) We get requests to video record examples to show parents how to do the activites. It is okay to do one or two simple video demos of One Minute Activities for parents taken from the EFRS manual. But there is no need to copy activities from the manual to send to parents. The public domain packet serves that purpose, so permission to copy EFRS is neither granted nor necessary. 3) Any video demo must be restricted to your own students and not accessible to those outside your school district.