Based on the effective Wilson Reading System® (WRS) program, Just Words® is the word-study component of the WRS curriculum at an accelerated pace, allowing teachers to confidently present a carefully structured reading and spelling curriculum using engaging, multisensory techniques.

Just Words’ research-based approach presents all skills in an explicit, systematic and sequential manner in a year-long curriculum. Within the standardized lesson plans, all concepts taught are practiced continually for reading, writing accuracy, and automaticity.

As a word-level intervention program for students who need additional support in learning to read and spell at grade level, the program provides instruction in the following:

Phonemic Awareness 

Students master the key phonemic awareness skill of oral segmentation of phonemes in a syllable, a critical skill for reading and spelling success. Students learn to segment using a “tapping” system that provides a kinesthetic-tactile guide and reinforcement. They learn to blend and segment three sounds, then four, five, and six sounds, the greatest number of sounds in a syllable.

In-Depth Word Study

Word study is presented in two categories: high frequency words, which include many phonetically irregular words, and phonetically regular words.

  • Phonetically Regular Words: The majority of words in English are phonetically regular, following rules of the basic sound system.  
    • Sound-Symbol Correspondence: Students learn how to blend sounds for reading and segment sounds for spelling. They work with words in both directions, further reinforcing the structures to be learned.
    • Syllable Structure: Word structure is taught according to the six syllable types in the English language. Sounds are taught only as they relate to the syllable type being studied. The type of syllable tells you how to read the vowel sound.
    • Orthography and Morphology: Orthographic rules of spelling involving basewords and suffixes are directly taught. Common Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes are also directly taught. These are introduced in correspondence to the syllable patterns.
    • High Frequency Words: Some high frequency words are phonetically regular, but many are irregular, non-phonetic words that do not follow the “system” of the language but need to be recognized and spelled quickly and easily. Thus, these words are presented to be memorized.
    • Further Study: The Just Words curriculum provides a strong foundation for further word study. After going through the Just Words program, students will: 
      • Have mastery of letter-sound relationships, syllable structures, and basic spelling patterns. 
      • Understand the possibilities of word building with prefixes, roots, and suffixes and with the relationships between words. 


In each unit, students apply decoding skills to read words in isolation as well as words in phrases, sentences, and in a short passage. Students learn a strategy to read passages with prosody; that is, phrasing with proper intonation. This guided practice emphasizes fluent reading for meaning, rather than speed.

Please note that the Wilson Fluency®/Basic Kit (offered separately as an optional supplement to Just Words) is designed to provide explicit fluency instruction and reading practice to develop the application of skills with connected text.


Students apply their decoding and spelling skills to various kinds of vocabulary words, including general academic vocabulary words and content-specific vocabulary words. If some students have a strong oral language base, they will also understand the words that they can now easily decode. Other students may not have a well-developed oral English base, making it essential that they increase vocabulary knowledge as they develop their decoding proficiency.

Vocabulary is enhanced primarily through reading so that as students become more proficient with decoding, they are exposed to many more words. Although the Just Words program is not considered a vocabulary curriculum, it directly teaches students a process for learning the meanings of words. In each unit, there are Demonstration Words, which are presented to reinforce the mastery of the word structure introduced in that unit.


Comprehension, or reading with understanding, is the purpose of reading and thus the goal of reading instruction. Just Words emphasizes word recognition, but comprehension is always the ultimate goal.

Students learn a strategy for reading passages with prosody (see Fluency), which emphasizes the reading of sentences in meaningful phrases. Students learn how to focus on the meaning of the sentences in order to successfully phrase them. As students engage in reading activities, they are also asked to visualize and replay the story in their heads. This leads them to retelling the passage aloud, using visualization as a guide.

The 45-minute Just Words lesson is designed to supplement a comprehensive English Language Arts curriculum with comprehension strategies being a major part of the core curriculum.