Implementing Just Words®
Give individuals with word-level deficits the chance to become fluent, independent readers.
Appropriate Student Population
Students who fit the Just Words profile are in grades 4 and higher and do not yet have an internalized and efficient system of word knowledge. Ideal students for Just Words have below-average reading scores due to word-level difficulties, but don’t have a significant language learning disability such as dyslexia.
Student identification and proper group placement are critical to the success of a Just Words class. Just Words is designed for students with below-average decoding and spelling scores. This includes English language learners (ELLs), who are twice as likely as their peers to score below basic levels in reading and writing skills and benefit from direct, explicit teaching of how to decode and spell English words and methods to assist with vocabulary acquisition.
Students identified for a Just Words class often are not able to engage with grade-level complex reading and writing tasks because they are not yet fluent readers or writers. However, the targeted, high-quality foundational literacy instruction provided in the Just Words classroom can help these students build the skills they need to achieve at higher academic levels across the curriculum. The program should be paired with a core reading program to address the comprehension strategy instruction that many students with a word-level deficit also require.
Just Words is effective for students who require the following skill sets that are addressed in the program:
- Phonemic Awareness: Just Words students master the critical skill of orally segmenting phonemes in a syllable. They learn to segment with a “tapping” system that provides a kinesthetic-tactile guide and reinforcement.
- In-Depth Word Study for Decoding and Spelling: Students learn that the English language generally follows a logical system. They study sound-symbol correspondence as related to syllable patterns, spelling rules, and the morphological patterns of prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
- Phonetically Regular Words: This study introduces students to a morphological understanding of English word structure. Students study word structure based on the six syllable types of the English language. Sounds and spelling rules are taught only as they relate to the syllable type being studied.
- High Frequency Words: Using kinesthetic-tactile memory techniques, students learn to automatically read and spell the most frequently used English words.
- Fluency: Students apply decoding skills to read with prosody, learning how to read sentences in meaningful phrases. This practice emphasizes fluent reading for meaning rather than speed.
Student Identification and Placement
Students must be pretested and grouped according to similar scores on word identification and spelling measures. To achieve the strongest outcomes, follow the guidance below.
Screening should be conducted with all at-risk students who have district reading scores or standardized reading scores below the 50th percentile. Also, consider students’ class performance and other underlying factors as appropriate.
The following screening measures are examples of assessments which can be administered to large groups of students to provide information about word reading fluency and spelling.
- Test of Silent Word Reading Fluency-2 (TOSWRF-2, published by ProEd, distributed by WLT)
- Spelling subtests from the Word Identification and Spelling Test (WIST, published by ProEd, distributed by WLT)
Students scoring between the 16th and 50th percentiles* in either the TOSWRF-2 or WIST Spelling subtest should be considered for further assessment to determine the appropriateness of placement in a Just Words class.
*Please note: Students scoring at or below the 15th percentile during the screening process should be further evaluated for placement in an intensive reading intervention, such as the Wilson Reading System® (WRS).
Based on results of the quick screening measures, some students will be identified as needing a more detailed diagnostic assessment to confirm areas of deficit and obtain percentile scores so that teachers can create appropriate groupings. The WIST Word Identification and Sound-Symbol Knowledge subtests can be administered to determine a student’s Fundamental Literacy Ability Index.
Students with a Fundamental Literacy Ability Index score between the 16th and 50th percentiles are likely to be selected as Just Words® students. However, some students who fall into this range, particularly those students who have scores between the 16th and 30th percentiles, may be candidates for a more intensive reading intervention if testing indicates dyslexia or other deficits requiring individual or small-group instruction with a program such as the Wilson Reading System® (WRS). Click on the following links for more information about WRS Student Profile and Student Identification.
- Students scoring at or below the 15th percentile should be further assessed for placement in the WRS (See the WRS Student Profile and WRS Student Identification information on the Implementation page).
Groups should be:
- Homogeneous based on similar scores on word identification and spelling measures (total reading scores and comprehension scores alone are not used for Just Words class placement);
- Of similar (but not necessarily exact) age, grade, and cognitive ability; and
- No larger than fifteen students.
To ensure a successful response to instruction, assign students to groups/classes using the WIST Fundamental Literacy Ability Index Percentile rank:
- Group A: 16-30%
- Group B: 31-50%
For students scoring between the 25th and 35th percentiles, use the Sound-Symbol Knowledge subtest and other information to help group them appropriately.
Lastly, assign students to a class using the fillable Just Words Class Roster in the Getting Started section of the Just Words Learning Community Resource Library. The roster can be used to track standard and percentile scores for TOSWRF-2 and WIST pretests and posttests.
Note: Although we provide guidelines on student placement in each Wilson program, the guidelines are not absolute and should be informed by the knowledge held by the Student Support/RtI team and other school personnel as they make a recommendation for a particular student.
It is recommended that teachers pretest students in the spring semester prior to the start of instruction, when possible. This allows time to properly set up Just Words classes while reducing the risk of inappropriate grouping due to scheduling issues.
Setting and Schedule Options
Students can succeed in a variety of settings provided that teachers follow the recommendations below.
Just Words® can be implemented in a variety of settings, provided that students fit the placement profile. A magnetic board or interactive whiteboard with internet connection in the classroom is necessary. Potential settings include:
- General education, Tier 2 intervention classes of up to 15 students
- General education, small-group intervention
- After-school programs/reading centers
- Alternative education and vocational schools
- Adult education programs
- Correctional education programs
- Community college or LD college pre-credit courses
- ELL classrooms
Up to 15 students can be grouped together in a Just Words® class. Proper student placement and grouping is critical to the success of every Just Words class. See Class Placement/Grouping Students above for more information.
Just Words® is designed to be implemented as a 5-day-per-week class in a year-long curriculum.
In this case, classes would be scheduled as follows:
- 5 classes per week
- 45 minutes per class
- 14 Units (each will take an average of two weeks) plus two review weeks = 30 weeks
The Just Words® curriculum may be presented as a 3-day-per-week class, but it will take 1½ years to complete. In most settings, 1 year of instruction will result in completion of approximately 8 out of the 14 Units.
In this case, classes would be scheduled as follows:
- 3 classes per week
- 45 minutes per class
- 14 Units (each will take an average of three weeks) plus two review weeks = 44 weeks
Monitoring Student Progress
Just Words® monitors student progress through each of its 14 units of the curriculum via formative assessments/progress monitoring (e.g., Progress Checks and Unit Tests) and summative assessments (e.g., Midterm Reviews and Final Exams).
Progress Checks are conducted at the beginning of each Unit (starting at Unit 2). Teachers administer an assessment that provides an ongoing measurement system that objectively demonstrates each student’s progress with the word structure taught in the Just Words curriculum.
At the end of each Unit, students are given a Unit Test to determine the application and mastery of concepts for that Unit. The test includes a dictation measure to evaluate mastery of spelling skills and charting of phrases to evaluate automaticity of decoding skills. Teachers meet with students individually to discuss their understanding of the concepts and chart their scores. In addition to assessments, students also chart their own progress. If the majority of the class does not progress, additional instruction will need to be provided. If an individual does not progress, the teacher will provide additional individual instruction (intervention lessons) and upon further evaluation a student may be placed in a more intensive (Tier 3) program, such as the Wilson Reading System®.
The Midterm Review includes everything that students have learned thus far including concepts from Units 1 through 7 and the Bonus Unit. There are two parts to the midterm.
- Midterm Part I: The first part of the midterm is a dictation test. The instructor dictates the sound words, phrases, and sentences. Students repeat and then write independently.
- Midterm Part II: The midterm exam tests nonsense word marking, multisyllabic word marking, spelling, adding suffixes, and matching prefixes and roots.
The final exam covers everything that has been taught from Units 1 through 14. There are two parts to the final exam.
- Final Exam Part I: The first part of the final exam is the dictation test. The instructor dictates the sounds, words, phrases, and sentences. Students repeat and then write independently.
- Final Exam Part II: The final exam tests adding suffixes, making words plural, multisyllabic word marking, identifying prefixes and matching roots.
Brush up on Just Words®— who it’s for, what it’s about, and how to implement it.
Familiarize yourself with the skills and concepts taught in Just Words®.
Comprehensive materials allow teachers to confidently present a carefully structured word-study program using engaging, multisensory techniques.
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