1. What is the research basis for the strategies used in Word Warm-ups?

Word Warm-ups applies research in phonics and decoding instruction, the power of goals and motivation, and the instructional components of effective interventions.
pointer  Learn more about the research basis for Word Warm-ups

2. What kind of field test data did you collect?

Throughout development, continuous beta testing was done with students at a local elementary school—resulting in numerous revisions and modifications.

Case studies were conducted in a regular fourth grade classroom and in a fourth grade reading lab over the 2007-2008 school year.  Results showed that students using Word Warm-ups combined with Read Naturally’s fluency program or vocabulary program showed observable gains in word recognition and fluency. 

For more information:

pointer Study 1: Word Warm-ups and Read Naturally
pointer Study 2: Word Warm-ups and Read Naturally

3. What is the rationale for the narrator on the audio tracks pronouncing some of the words phonetically—which does not match the accurate pronunciation of the word?

The word disloyal is divided “dis loy al” on the student exercises. If a student is approaching this word as an unknown word and relying totally on phonics skills to decode it, he would say the parts /dis/ and /loy/ accurately, because those sound out phonetically just as they are in the word. However, when the student comes to the “al,” he may or may not recognize it as the last syllable of a word that he knows at that point. 

If the student immediately recognizes that the word is “disloyal,” he will pronounce the “al” with the schwa sound on the first attempt. However, if the student approaches the “al” not yet realizing what the word is, he is taught to sound out the word phonetically. If the student then pronounces each syllable, /dis/ /loy/ /ăl/ (as in pal), he is very close to the correct pronunciation. If he indeed has the word “disloyal” in his vocabulary, he will probably automatically self-correct the mispronounced short ă sound and convert to the schwa sound. If he does not yet have the word “disloyal” in his vocabulary, he may not. 

On the audio, the narrator models each part of the word phonetically /dis/ /loy/ /ăl/, and then she self-corrects by pronouncing the word the way we really say it. So the student gets support in the syllable-by-syllable part of the audio for sounding it out phonetically, and when the word is repeated, the student hears it pronounced correctly. This approach models for a student how to get to a close approximation of the word and then self-correct as the word is recognized.

In the Teacher’s Manual, it describes the approach this way:

The audio … pronounces each syllable—and then the whole word—for each column of words while the student reads along. This audio gives the phonetic pronunciation of the individual parts of the word and then says the word the way it is really pronounced.

4. I have a student who does the Read Along step and practices the word list until he can complete it in one minute. But when I do the pass timing, it is obvious the student has been pronouncing some words incorrectly as he practiced. Do you have any suggestions?

Here are several suggestions that may help a student who practices words incorrectly:

  • Make sure the student is reading each part of the word and then the whole word quietly aloud with the narrator on the audio track. 
  • You can require the student to read along with the audio support several times during the Read Along step rather than just once.
  • After the student completes the Read Along step (reading along with the narrator just once or more than once), have that student signal that he is finished. Have the student read aloud down each column of words to you one time (without timing him) so you can confirm he is pronouncing the words correctly. Provide additional instruction for any words the student is pronouncing incorrectly, and then direct him to begin practicing the word list.

5. What should I do if a student cannot pass an exercise after more than ten practices?

If, even after ten practices, a student is unable to reach the goal rate with three or fewer errors on lesson, review, and challenge exercises, consider making one or more of the following adjustments:

  • Require the student to read along with the audio of the word list two or three times to see if this added practice with the modeling can help the student increase his/her reading rate.
  • Lower the goal rate for the student, choosing a rate that is challenging yet within reach. The student should reach the goal within ten practices.
  • Review the results of the student's assessment and consider placing the student in an easier section.
  • Reassess the student to help you make a more appropriate placement.

6. How can I keep students motivated who must practice close to ten times to reach the goal?

You may want to use the recently updated progress graphs which may be even more motivational for your students. Why the update? Students are highly motivated by the idea of moving up a level. To boost motivation and thus increase students’ overall progress, we decided to add “levels” to all Word Warm-Ups graphs. For instance, students who read their word lists at a rate of 35 – 45 WCPM (words correct per minute) will see that they’ve reached the Rookie level. As students increase their WCPM scores with practice and time, they advance to Captain, Pro, All-Star, Hall-of-Famer, and Legend. Few things are more exciting for students than the idea of reaching the highest level—especially if it earns them a title like Legend!

The RN Bookmark article, "Free Resource!  New and Improved Word Warm-Ups Graphs," provides a link for downloading the graphs.

7. I used the assessment to place a student part way into a Word Warm-ups level, but the student’s cold-timing score is close to the goal, and he only needs to practice once to pass an exercise. Should I move him up to the next level?

It is possible that you assessed the student right at the beginning of the new school year, and now several weeks have passed and the student has regained some skills that had slipped over the summer and were not evident when the assessment was given—or perhaps more learning has taken place and the student can now perform those skills easily.

If the student's cold timing rate for exercises in a section is at or near the goal rate and/or the student needs only one or two practices to pass lesson, review, and challenge exercises, consider making one or more of the following adjustments:

  • If, after listening to the audio, the student needs only one or two practices to pass an exercise, the student may do future exercises without listening to the audio. The student will go straight from cold timing to practice. 
  • Move the student to the next section of exercises in the same level, if appropriate.
  • Review the results of the student's assessment, and consider whether the results support placing the student in a more difficult section.
  • Reassess the student to help you make a more appropriate placement.

8. I used the assessment as a post-test after my students finished a level in Word Warm-ups. Some students still had difficulty with some of the patterns they studied in the level they just completed. Should these students go on to the next level or do this level again?

Use the results of the post-test assessment to identify the specific sections in which a student continues to have difficulty. Analyze the errors in a section to determine which sections or specific exercises the student should do again.

You may want to require a student to add the following steps as the student repeats the exercises not yet mastered:

  • Have the student read along with the audio of the word list two or three times before practicing it.
  • If you have not been doing the spelling activity during the Hot Timing step, dictate five to ten words containing the featured pattern(s), and have the student write them on the back of the exercise sheet.
  • On all subsequent exercises, require the student to add the steps listed above to the regular Word Warm-ups steps.

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