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Implementing Just Words®


Use in an intervention classroom within a year-long schedule.

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 Profile

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, 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.

Setting and Schedule Options

Students can succeed in a variety of settings provided that they follow the recommendations below.

Monitoring Student Progress

 Just Words® monitors student progress through each of the 14 units of the curriculum through formative assessments/progress monitoring (e.g., progress checks and unit tests) and summative assessments (e.g., midterm reviews and final exams).

Progress Checks

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.

Unit Tests

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®.

Midterm Review

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.

Final Exam

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.

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