Group members: Kathryn Morrison, Ashley Whitney, and Amanda Vargas.

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Wilson Reading System

Barbara A. Wilson is the author of Wilson Reading System
©2008 by Wilson Language Training Corporation
Wilson Reading System Website

The Wilson Reading System (WRS) Starter Kit costs $149.00, the WRS Standard Set AB costs $279.00, and the WRS Deluxe Set costs $459.00.

Description of Program:
Wilson Reading System is designed for people who have difficulty with written language in the areas of decoding and spelling. The program teaches phonemic awareness, alphabetic principles (sound-symbol relationship), word study, spelling, sight word instruction, fluency, vocabulary, oral expressive language development, and comprehension. The program is best used in small groups in a classroom setting, but also can be used in one-on-one tutoring sessions. Since this program is comprehensive it is designed to follow students from one year to the next, as it is needed. Thus, students with mild/moderate disabilities can receive consistent instruction grade to grade that will reinforce the concepts and strategies learned in previous years. In addition, the Wilson Reading System is broken down into 12 steps. Each step builds upon the previous skill learned. This systematic instruction can help students with disabilities learn basic skills before attempting more complex tasks in later steps. In addition, Wilson Reading System is a multi-sensory program so students can benefit from learning in a variety of ways.

This program is designed for grades 2-12 and adults who fall under one of the following categories:

  • Students with a language-based learning disability (such as dyslexia)
  • Students unable to decode accurately
  • Slow, labored readers who lack fluency
  • Students who may know words by sight, but have difficulty reading new words and “nonsense” syllables
  • Students able to speak and understand English, but not read or write it (such as ELL students)
  • Poor spellers

The Wilson Philosophy:

The makers of the Wilson Reading System, "believe that the ability to read opens up a world of possibilities to the individual. Reading is a door to personal, spiritual and intellectual growth as well as a necessity for a secure future in today's job market. We also believe that literacy is a cornerstone of freedom and democracy. We at Wilson recognize that teachers are desperate for a solution to the current reading crisis. We understand their frustration. Our goal is to provide teachers with the skills and materials they need to help their students become fluent, independent readers, ready to explore the endless possibilities the world of reading has to offer," (as seen on the Wilson website).

Visuals:This is a picture of a whiteboard that is magnetic where students can spell out words using these magnetic letters.

The pictures below are of posters that can be purchased through the Wilson Reading System.
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The pictures below are of flash cards that are provided with the Wilson Reading System. The student has to say the letter or blend out loud and say the sound that the letter or blend makes.
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The pictures below are of a book that the student would receive based on their level. The book is made up of lists of words, sentences, and short stories that the student would practice or be assessed with.
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Video and Audio Examples:
This audio link is from NPR radio which describes a school in New York that is using the Wilson Reading System to help students in upper grade levels who are struggling with reading.
NPR Audio Story

This video is of kindergartners that are practicing the sound drill using the flash cards.
Fundations Kindergarten

This video is of second graders that are spelling out multisyllabic words using the magnetic letters.
Fundations Grade Two

Helpful Websites:
The link provided is the official website for the Wilson Reading System.
Wilson Reading System Website

The link provided is the official website for Fundations which is part of the Wilson Reading System. It describes the program and shows how it is implemented in the classroom by providing videos.

Wilson Reading System Analysis:
The Wilson Reading Program is a researched-based reading and writing program. The program is based on over ten years of data collected and analyzed from school districts who have implemented the program. The program focuses on target literacy areas, taught in isolation from other disciplinary skills, such as: phonemic segmentation, alphabetic principle (sound/symbol relationships), decoding, encoding (spelling), advanced word analysis, vocabulary development, sight word instruction, fluency, comprehension with visualization, and metacognition.

The Wilson Reading System is a structured twelve step program, in which the material is cumulative, building upon itself. Students “work from sounds to syllables, words to sentences, and paragraphs to stories, learning the structure of English through constant repetition and review” (Wilson Reading System Website). Likewise, instruction is teacher-directed and interactive, as students are often working in small groups, if not one-on-one. Since instruction is often one-on-one or small group, all types of learners and senses are accommodated in this approach, whether visual, auditory, kinesthetic or tactile. This is a form of multi-sensory instruction, as students are given the opportunity to learn through the use of syllable and word cards, hearing sounds, finger tapping exercises in which they “tap it out,” reading aloud, repetition, and manipulation color-coded sound. Through repetition and practice, students are given as many opportunities and accommodations as necessary to understand and achieve mastery over the material. Students develop sound notebooks and use daily drills to gain mastery. For example, students are provided with card rings, in which they write sight words on a flashcard and add it to their ring each time they learn a new word, so they can continually reference and practice words on their own. Likewise, students can be given “phones” in their desks so that they can hear themselves read words, sentences, or simply sounds out loud.

This method also provides many opportunities for students to develop strategies, as well as self-regulative/metacognitive skills. A resource room teacher who uses the Wilson Reading System in her classroom states that, “Wilson does have a comprehension piece in parts nine and ten of the lessons.” She describes the lesson by stating that “in part nine, the student reads stories at their level and are asked to retell the story. If they have trouble with retelling, they are taught visualization strategies.” The teacher also describes part ten by saying that, “part ten is the same except one uses a non controlled text that contains the phonemic elements that the student is using.” For self-regulative skills, students are encouraged continuously to “tap it out” when they are confused by a word and are unsure of its spelling or pronunciation. This method, asks students to tap their fingers on their thumb, identifying the syllables in a word. Similar to clapping or other methods for identifying a syllable count, finger tapping provides students with a means for decoding, and also gives students a process of self-regulation. Rather than raising their hand or asking the teacher for help, students can “tap out” a word they are unsure of, or even look in the card ring that they always have available of sight words. Similarly, Wilson Reading seeks to give students clues and strategies for remembering crucial sight words, such as pictures. Questioning is also used in order to promote self-regulation, as questioning allows for a constant dialogue in the classroom, and gives students opportunities to self-correct. Ideally, students can apply this knowledge as they progress through skill levels and when learning new material.

The skills taught in the Wilson Reading System can easily be incorporated in any general education classroom, as they are simple approaches which would aid any student in developing fluency. Although the program is generally used in Resource Rooms or for those students who are struggling, the clues and methods could be adapted to fit the general education classroom, and likewise, a student using the Wilson Reading System can easily coordinate those skills learned through the program into his or her daily curriculum. A resource room teacher who uses and is familiar with the Wilson Reading System states that, “the specific program known as Fundations, can be included into a kindergarten and first grade classroom.” Since the program does not revolve around a discipline, but rather reading and writing fluency, it is applicable in all areas of a student’s life. Similarly, the program could be used in an inclusive classroom, as the accommodations being taught would provide the necessary support for the student for whom they were designed, and would in no way deter other students in the class.

The Wilson Reading System directly addresses a student’s area of weakness or difficulty through daily lessons and “charting.” In this charting process, teachers learn how to determine a student’s area of difficulty, and students are shown where they are having trouble and given the opportunity to chart from day to day, noting their progression. It is important in this process, that both the student and the teacher determine “trouble spots” and chart them, so that the process is collaborative and gives the student control in his or her growth.

In order to be a qualified to teach the Wilson Reading System, teachers must participate in an online and Wilson Training seminar instruction and at least, a 60-lesson practicum with a student who meets the needs of the program. Likewise, the training costs $18,000 for up to 10 people and $1800 per person after 10 people for a school district. A resource room teacher who has gone through the training and uses the Wilson Reading System in her classroom states that the training is “very intensive.” She also described the training which consists of “a two day over view workshop which in total makes up ten hours.”

A resource room teacher who uses the Wilson Reading System in her classroom was interviewed and asked about the strengths of this particular system. She states that the “multi-sensory approach is great and effective.” She also liked how the “reading and spelling instruction is systematic and that you don’t move on till you’ve mastered where you are.” When asked about any weaknesses she has noticed in the system, she stated that she “doesn’t care for the sight word instruction, instead I use
something else for the sight word instruction.”

Final Reflection on the Wilson Reading System:
We would use the Wilson Reading System as a first year special education teacher because its multi-sensory. The students can benefit from the variety of instructional approaches. The cost is reasonable especially in regards to the amount of materials and resources that are provided. The system is also very structured but also leaves room for creativity. It is also an effective tool for helping students who have dyslexia especially because this can be a hard target group to accommodate in the classroom. The general education teacher can also use this system so that the students receive supplemental instruction outside of the special education services.

Wilson Language Training. “Wilson Language Basics for K-3.” Fundations. 2005. Wilson Language Training Corporation. 21 Nov. 2009. <>
O’Connor, J. and Wilson, B. “Effectiveness of the Wilson Reading System used in Public School Training.” Clinical Studies of Multisensory Structured Language Educatio. (1995): 246-254.
Wilson, Barbara. Wilson Language Training. 2007. Wilson Language Training Corporation. 21 Nov. 2009. <>