The Wilson Reading System® Curriculum


The 4th edition of WRS builds on over 30 years of proven success teaching the structure of the English language,decoding, and spelling in explicit, systematic, and sequential manner.

Teaching the Structure of the English Language

The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) teaches the structure of the English language directly, using an integrated and sequential system in 12 Steps (not corresponding to a student’s grade level). 

The enhanced and extensively updated fourth edition provides teachers with even more precise guidance and extensive resources in word structure, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. It also offers a greater emphasis on morphological aspects of the English language with our systematic approach toward teaching morphology, phonology, and orthography. This new edition continues to incorporate all the research-based best practices that have been a part of our teacher professional learning courses for many years.

Highlights include:

  • Expanded and revised Instructor Manual
  • Added focus on core/academic vocabulary
  • Integrated and systematic instruction of phonology, orthography, and morphology, including direct teaching of prefixes and Latin and Greek word elements
  • New fluency and comprehension guide for Block 3
  • Enhanced student progress monitoring
  • Direct teaching of high frequency words, including irregular works in a predetermined sequence
  • New high frequency word cards and phrases for practice and dictation
  • New sentences and expanded stories in the Student Readers, with focus on high frequency, core, and academic vocabulary that represents 90% of the words used most frequently in written text
  • Minor scope and sequence changes, specifically related to morphology

Key Topics

From the beginning, instruction addresses high frequency words, fluency, vocabulary, oral expressive language development, and comprehension with progressively more challenging text. Teachers follow a ten-part lesson plan to implement WRS. This lesson structure utilizes extensive teacher-student interaction and multisensory learning methods.

Key components directly addressed in WRS include:

  • Word structure (in-depth) for automatic decoding and spelling, internalizing the rules that govern English
  • Word recognition and spelling of high frequency words, including irregular words
  • Vocabulary, word understanding, and word-learning skills
  • Sentence-level text reading with ease, expression, and understanding
  • Listening comprehension with age-appropriate narrative and informational text
  • Reading comprehension with narrative and expository text of increasing levels of difficulty
  • Narrative and informational text structures
  • Organization of information for oral or written expression
  • Proofreading skills
  • Self-monitoring for word recognition accuracy and comprehension

Key Components

Teachers pace students through the curriculum based on mastery of skills, understanding of language concepts, and the ability to apply skills and concepts to connected text with accuracy, fluency, and understanding. Along the way, students learn how to monitor their own decoding accuracy and comprehension using a gradual release of responsibility model.

Alignment to Standards

The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) supports students’ ability to meet states’ rigorous college- and career-ready Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy, including Common Core State Standards, by providing an intensive intervention program (Tier 3) that addresses the foundational skills required to read and write.

For students in a Tier 3 intervention, it is critical that they receive a program of instruction that ensures the mastery of foundational language skills that are typically taught in grades K–3. Without this mastery, students will not successfully achieve grade-level standards beyond Grade 3.

As a targeted intensive intervention for this population of students, the WRS program is not grade specific. As a result, a one-to-one correlation with the states’ standards by grade level is not straightforward since many of the skills presented in the program fall outside of the grade-level standards outlined for these particular students.

Reading Standards: Foundational Skills

WRS is designed for students who have a language-based learning disability with a primary word-level deficit and require an intensive reading intervention. Students who are identified to receive WRS instruction are not able to engage with grade-level complex reading and writing tasks because they are not yet fluent readers or writers. WRS provides these students with the foundational and language skills that are absolutely necessary to be able access grade-level text. In this regard, WRS aligns with the following key foundational and writing standards:

  • Know and apply phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
  • Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
  • Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

Reading Standards: Literature and Informational Text

The Wilson Reading System strongly supports the Anchor Standards in Reading:

  • Key Ideas and Details
  • Craft and Structure
  • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
  • Reading and Level of Text Complexity

WRS develops comprehension explicitly throughout Parts 9 and 10 of the daily lesson plan. In Part 9 of the lesson plan, students focus on short, controlled passages that allow students with emerging decoding skills the opportunity to develop fluency and reading comprehension strategies. Part 10 provides teachers the opportunity to deeply engage students in high-quality texts.

When engaging in reading and discussing text, WRS teachers use a process called Wilson Comprehension S.O.S.TM (Stop – Orient – Scaffold/Support). As the student or teacher reads, they intermittently stop and interact to support the student’s understanding of the text. It is intended to guide students’ comprehension and teach students through modeling and discussion. This approach establishes a deep understanding, rather than a surface understanding, of content. The Comprehension S.O.S. process engages students in rich, rigorous conversations about a text; close reading skills are outlined in states’ standards, including the Common Core State Standards.

Language and Speaking Standards

The Comprehension S.O.S. process and Part 10 of the lesson plan (Listening Comprehension) also support the Language and Speaking Standards. Students engage in a range of collaborative discussion on topics and texts. Students determine main ideas and supporting details of a text read aloud, report on a topic or text with appropriate facts and relevant descriptive details, and speak clearly at an understandable pace. Students develop vocabulary from listening to informational and narrative text.

Meeting Social Content Standards

WRS is approved by the California State Board of Education as meeting the state’s social content standards.