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The Wilson reading system is designed for students who have decoding and spelling problems. It is a research-based program which has 12 steps. Its main goal is to teach students language and word structure through a carefully planned program. The program was developed at a student center in Massachusetts in 1980’s. The Wilson Reading System is now commonly used in different regions throughout the country.
The system was at first designed for older individuals with dyslexia but nowadays it is used for many different problems and individuals. Students who failed other reading programs or those who still have problems with decoding and spelling is the new target of the WRS system. The program is also useful for students who can’t read or write English but are able to speak and understand. It is extensively used with older individuals and middle school students. One of the unique characteristics of the Wilson Reading System is that it was designed for students past grade 3.
The students who are enrolled in the program experience a planned, integrated procedure and learn methodically. The teaching plan is based on nonstop evaluation of the students’ needs. WRS instruction is multisensory, organized and cumulative. The WRS uses an exceptional sound tapping system at the beginning of the program in order to help students learn to distinguish the speech sounds in a word. The students of the WRS are not overwhelmed with the burden of learning the rules of the language but rather focused on the application of the rules. Comprehension and fluency are two important components of the program.
WRS addresses the areas of
- phonemic segmentation
- alphabetic principle – sound/symbol relationships
- encoding (spelling)
- advanced word analysis
- vocabulary development
- sight word instruction
- Comprehension with visualization and metacognition.
The system is also useful for one-to-one tutoring or in small groups. There are two different vocabulary levels: The first one is the “Level A” which is appropriate for elementary, English-as-a-Second-Language and older students with inadequate vocabularies; and the second one is the “Level B” is appropriate for students who are beyond elementary grades with more complex vocabularies.
The program incorporates five elements for teaching at-risk populations:
- direct teaching of alphabetic code
- direct instruction in language analysis
- coordination of reading and spelling instruction
- intensive instruction
- teaching for mastery
- Banks, S.R., Guyer, B.P. and Guyer, K.E. 1993. Spelling Improvement by College Students Who are Dyslexic, Annals of Dyslexia. 43: 186-93. A study at Marshall University determined Wilson spelling most effective program with college students with a learning disability.
- Savage, J. August, 2000. Sound It Out: A Book About Phonics and How to Teach It: McGraw-Hill. A book about the teaching of decoding will include information about the Wilson Reading System as a structured language program.
- Wong, B. (ed.) 1998. Learning About Learning Disabilities. Orlando, FL: Academic Press. A chapter by Dr. Louisa Moats highlights the Wilson Reading System as one of 3 exemplary programs for students with language learning disabilities.
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