How to Choose a Phonics Intervention Program for Older Students

By: | 05/18/2021
Category: Instruction

Older students who can’t decode yet simply haven’t gotten the reading instruction and practice they need. To help these students build the confidence and decoding skills they need to access grade-level texts, educators turn to phonics intervention programs.

For most students, learning to read does not happen effortlessly. For some students, it is particularly hard. Even these students will make great strides if they’re engaged in consistent, structured, evidence-based phonics instruction.

Which elements and qualities should educators seek out when selecting a phonics program for older readers? Below, we provide insight into what to look for and which questions to ask when it comes to choosing an intervention program.

Data Driven

Does the program connect to an assessment program that will identify which students need support and how much they need? Does it provide regular opportunities for corrective feedback and progress monitoring?

Systematic and Explicit Instruction

Any phonics program should be designed around a systematic sequence of instruction so students are progressing from easier to harder skills. This is particularly important for older striving readers. Consistent routines that support students in building accuracy and automaticity are also important. Using a consistent instruction structure helps students quickly progress through lessons, keeping them motivated and increasing their confidence.

Evidence Based

Is the phonics intervention program backed by research? Does it align with the latest research from trusted literacy authorities such as the National Reading Panel? Another important consideration: Has the program received strong independent reviews? Look for recommendations from state education organizations, reading research groups, and other organizations that have no connection to the intervention program.

Independent Practice

Students need opportunities to practice the skills they’re learning on their own. A strong phonics intervention program will give teachers practice activities with each lesson that students can complete independently.

Phonics intervention programs for older readers should be flexible and research based and offer educators and students real results.

Flexibility and Efficiency

With older striving readers, you will see the best results if you dedicate time each day to intensive phonics instruction. Depending on the length of your English language arts (ELA) block, you may have concerns about fitting this into your day without sacrificing on-grade level instruction.

Consider different ways phonics instruction could fit into your ELA instruction time. Look for phonics programs that are flexible and can be adapted to various schedules, time blocks, and learning formats.

Educator Resources

Phonics instruction can feel intimidating, especially to teachers who work with older students.

Review intervention programs to see if they offer the amount of guidance your educators need. Some programs assume educators have formal training in phonics instruction and don’t offer much in the way of educator supports. Other programs are designed to be accessible to educators at numerous levels of experience. For example, Phonics for Reading by Dr. Anita Archer includes clear and consistent routines and scripting that allow lessons to be taught by a range of professionals, including classroom teachers, interventionists, and even paraprofessionals.

Grade-Level Content and Transferring Skills

Ultimately, your phonics program needs to help older students move from decoding to reading with fluency for comprehension.

Does the program support students in transferring skills to grade-level texts? Review the texts within each program. Are they decodable? Do they include both single-syllable and multisyllabic words? Be sure they are longer and developmentally appropriate for your older students.

Authored by reading expert Dr. Anita Archer, Phonics for Reading is a systematic, research-based intervention program that accelerates instruction for struggling readers in Grades 3–12 by equipping them with the tools necessary to decode with confidence.

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