An intensive intervention program, by Angela Weeks

printed in the SPELD SA March 2012 Newsletter

Child readingChild developing automatic spelling.

People with dyslexia can become skilled readers if they are provided with appropriate instruction. While there is little empirical or quantitative research to support the use of any particular program for teaching dyslexics to read, programs that include systematic and explicit instruction in phonics are far more successful than programs that do not. Given an hour a day, a program covering the basic phonic patterns of English would take about two terms.

Below is an example of a Wave 2 or Wave 3 intervention program. The activities can be used with groups or individuals with reading and spelling difficulties.

Used in a mainstream class, these activities provide a solid grounding in basic reading and spelling skills for ALL students.

Why teach phonics?

Phonics refers to the relationship between sounds and the letters used to represent them in print.

English is an alphabetic code. To master it, students need to learn the 46 sounds and the alternative ways of spelling those sounds.

Start with the Basic Code

The basic code includes one way to write the main 42 main sounds of English
s a t i p n
c k e h r m d
g o u l f b
ai j oa ie ee or
z w ng v oo oo
y x ch sh th th
qu ou oi ue er ar

The Extended Code includes the more common alternative spellings for the main 42 sounds of English

The Advanced Code includes 4 additional sounds and their alternative spellings as well as less common ways of spelling the 42 main sounds

Below: A lettersound chart (used for speed sounds practice)
A letter sound chart (used for speed sounds practice)


Reading starts with written symbols (graphemes) on the page. These letters/letter groups represent the sounds of speech (phonemes) contained in every word we say. The reader says the sound for each symbol (eg c-a-t) and blends the sounds into a spoken word. The main skill for reading regularly spelt words is the ability to blend sounds to decode words.

Spelling starts with a spoken word. The writer segments the word into speech sounds and writes the matching letter/letter groups (graphemes) for each sound. The main skill for writing is being able to ‘hear’ the sounds in regular words and know how to write the appropriate letter(s) for those sounds.

Irregular (sometimes called Tricky) Words
Tricky words are words that cannot be fully decoded using letter-sound matching. However, students are better able to read and write irregular words when they can relate letter sounds (phonemes) to symbols (graphemes) because some part of a tricky word will be regular. For example, in the word ‘said’, the ‘s’ and ‘d’ are regular. It is important to teach students to examine words and identify the regular parts and any ‘tricky’ parts. Paying attention to these details helps students remember them. Focus on the ‘tricky’ words that are used most frequently first.

For successful intervention
• Identify problems using diagnostic tests eg Waddington Diagnostic Reading and Spelling Tests 1 and 2.
• Teach from what the students know
• Don’t delay intervention
• Use evidence-based interventions
• Set clear goals
• Provide time, every day, for revision of previously learnt skills and practice of new skill
• Make it fun!

Below is a suggested daily teaching plan. Blocks 1 and 2 provide sample activities that focus on techniques for providing day-by-day revision. The Block 3 new teaching point allows for the teaching of the next skill presented in the program you are following.

Block 1. Revise to the level of automaticity

Activity 1: Drill previously taught letter-sounds (reading and writing) (3 minutes)
Activity 2: Blend previously taught letter-sounds and alternative spellings to decode words (5 minutes)
Activity 3: Read previously taught regular words and tricky words (3 minutes)
Activity 4: Write previously taught regular words and tricky words through dictation (5 minutes)
Activity 5: Text reading, vocabulary and comprehension (5 minutes)

Block 2. New teaching point

• Explain and demonstrate new teaching point from the program you are following (10 minutes)
• Provide activities for the students that are related to the new teaching point (10 minutes)

Block 3. Homework

Research has shown that teaching students, and their parents, phonic skills, as well as games and activities that provide practice, makes a significant difference to student achievement.

Sample Activities focussing on techniques for providing day-by-day revision

As some students have a very short attention span, the activities need to provide the necessary repetition in very short bites.

The aim is for students to achieve success.

All activities are led by the teacher.

Block 1

Activity 1: Revise previously taught letter-sounds

Speed Sounds

Letter-sound practice for reading
Using a letter sound chart or ppt slide, the teacher points to the basic or alternative spelling of a sound eg points to ’s’ or ‘ss’ and says ‘s’. Students say the sounds. Prompt if necessary. Mix well known letter sounds with new or difficult ones and increase speed over time

Letter-sound dictation for writing
• Check pencil grip before you start
• Teacher says a letter-sound that has been taught eg /s/
• Students air-write the letter(s), eyes open and then eyes closed. The teacher watches for students having difficulty
• Students write the letter(s) correctly on paper or mini-whiteboard
• Teacher says the sound and writes the grapheme on the board, describing correct letter formation
• Students work in pairs and check each other’s letter formation

Activity 2: Blend previous taught letter-sounds and alternative spellings to read regular words
Say the sounds, say the word

A powerpoint slide with the sounds of the words a student has been taught next to the words they have been taught.

Using a ppt slide listing words with sounds the students have learnt
• Teacher models how to sound out and blend each word eg c-a-t > cat. Students repeat.

Activity 3: Reading previously taught regular words and tricky words
Speed reading

A Powerpoint slide set up with a students words they have learnt to assess fluency.

Using a ppt slide with previously taught regular words and tricky words
• Students practise reading words as quickly as possible
• Teacher points to each word as students read across the rows and down the columns, then in and out of order

Resources for word lists include: Jolly Phonics Word Book, Reading Freedom Workbooks

Activity 4: Revising the spelling of previously taught tricky words and regular words through dictation

Student writing a dictated sentence.

• Goal: To remember a sentence that includes words with spellings and tricky words taught to date and spell the words correctly. Remembering sentences has been shown to help students ‘hold’ sentences in their head during independent writing activities so they can write them down.

• Sample dictation focusing on ‘silent b’
The plumber is climbing onto the roof.

Presentation instructions
• Say one sentence
• Ask students to repeat it
• Say each word of the sentence and write the word on the board
• For challenging words,
• identify individual sounds, raise the appropriate number of fingers and squeeze the tips of each finger as you say the sound, then write the word on the board
• for tricky words: say the word, write it on the board and discuss the tricky bits
• Re-read the completed sentence
• Ask students to repeat it
• Rub out the sentence
• Remind students to
• hold their pencil correctly
• use a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and a full stop/question mark at the end
• Say the sentence again
• Students must be able to memorise the whole sentence before starting to write
• Say “Write it”

Activity 5: Text reading, vocabulary and comprehension

Watch the video for a demonstration of how to use a SPELD SA Online Phonic Book for decoding practice, vocabulary development and comprehension

SPELD(SA) Phonic Books are available free to read with adobe flash, as a printable pdf, or as a iPad or tablet PDF, find them here!

SPELD(SA) Phonic Books are grouped into 7 sets that follow the sequence of sounds presented in the Basic Code above and 3 sets that include extended phonic code sounds.

Block 2
New teaching point
Introduce the next skill in the phonic program you are following (10 minutes)
Provide activities to reinforce the new teaching point (10 minutes)

Block 3
Teach students, and their parents, games and activities, such as those on the SPELD SA website, and encourage them to use them for practice at home (10 minutes). Activities designed for one-to-one support may be found at

Tricky word dominos. Instructions can be seen on the SPELD SA 6 minute activities page.

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