Wilson reading system

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The Wilson Reading System is a reading program designed for students in grades 2 through adulthood who have difficulty with decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling).


The Wilson Reading System® (WRS) is a research-based reading and writing program. It is the flagship program of Wilson Language Training. Based on Orton-Gillingham principles, WRS is a highly structured remedial program that directly teaches the structure of the language to even the most challenged readers: students (grade 2 and beyond) and adults who have been unable to learn with other teaching strategies or who may require multisensory language instruction. Barbara Wilson developed the Wilson Reading System while working with adults at Massachusetts General Hospital's Language Disorders Unit, and with students in her private tutoring practice. After several years as a special educator in public schools in Massachusetts, Barbara completed training in the Orton-Gillingham approach at the MGH Language Disorders Unit. She remained at the hospital for five years working with adults with dyslexia. In 1985 she and her husband, Edward, founded the Wilson Learning Center and three years later published the Wilson Reading System to teach students the structure of words in a systematic and cumulative manner. Wilson Language Training Corporation was incorporated in Massachusetts in 1988 by co-founders Barbara and Ed Wilson. WRS can be part of a multi-tiered literacy solution that includes: Fundations®, a phonics and spelling program for grades K-3 (a component of a literature-based language arts program); Just Words®, for students in grades 4 to adult who do not have a language based learning disability but do show gaps in decoding and spelling proficiency, WRS, an intensive intervention program for grades 2-12 and adults, and Wilson Fluency® / Basic to help students become fluent and expressive readers.

Program Components[edit]

Wilson Reading System can be used for one-to-one tutoring, and in small groups.

The program incorporates five elements:

  • phonemic awareness
  • direct instruction of word analysis, prosody and comprehension
  • coordination of reading and spelling instruction
  • intensive, cumulative instruction
  • teaching for mastery

Lesson Structure[edit]

Every Wilson Reading System lesson has the same 10 parts and is created by the instructor based on previous difficulties exhibited by the student or students. In a one-to-one setting, steps 1 through 8 should take 45–50 minutes.[1]

The first five parts of the plan make up the decoding section of the lesson.

1. A quick sound drill using color-coded sound cards
2. Teaching and reviewing decoding concepts using sound cards
3. Practice with whole word reading on flash cards
4. Reading words from specific word lists and charting accuracy
5. Reading sentences in controlled text

The next three parts make up the encoding section of the lesson.

6. A quick sound drill in reverse using color-coded cards or tiles.
7. Teach and review concepts for spelling
8. Dictation work, including sounds, words, non-sense words, high frequency words, and full sentences.

The last two parts of the lesson make up the fluency and reading comprehension section of the lesson.

9. Reading passages from controlled text
10 Listening comprehension activities


The Institute of Education Sciences examined data and concluded that the Wilson Reading Program was found to have positive effects on alphabetics but "no discernable effects on fluency or comprehension." Moreover, no studies that met their standards with or without standards met general reading achievement.[2]

The program is noted for serving only a small subset of a student population and ineffective in a resource room setting.[3]

A Johns Hopkins study determined the evidence supporting the program was "insufficient."[4]

The program has been noted as a "brilliantly marketed program with many promises and scant research to show it works."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wilson Reading System Instructor Manual. Barbara Wilson.1996
  2. ^ "What Works Clearinghouse".Wilson Reading Effectiveness
  3. ^ The Teacher's Problems in a Differentiated Reading Program .MC Wilson - Elementary English, 1997
  4. ^ Slavin, R. E., Lake, C., Davis, S., & Madden, N. A. (2009). Effective Programs for Struggling Readers: A Best-Evidence Synthesis. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University School of Education’s Center for Data-Driven Reform in Education (CDDRE). Retrieved 1/12/10, from http://www.bestevidence.org
  5. ^ Margolis, H., & Brannigan, G. G. (2009). Reading Disabilities: Beating the Odds. Voorhees, NJ: Reading 2008 & Beyond

Further reading[edit]

  • Nancy, Phd Mather; Mather, Nancy; Goldstein, Sam (2001). Learning disabilities and challenging behaviors: a guide to intervention and classroom management. Baltimore, MD: P.H. Brookes Pub. Co. ISBN 1-55766-500-1. OCLC 45276647. 
  • Moats, Louisa C. (1998). "Reading, spelling, and writing disabilities in the middle grades". In Bernice Y L Wong. Learning about learning disabilities. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-762532-4. OCLC 39184135. 
  • O'Connor, J.; Wilson, B (1995). "Effectiveness of the Wilson Reading System used in Public School Training.". In Curtis W McIntyre and Joyce S Pickering. Clinical studies of multisensory structured language education for students with dyslexia and related disorders. Salem, OR: International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council. OCLC 36453050. 
  • Shaywitz, Sally E. (2004). Overcoming dyslexia: a new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-375-40012-5. OCLC 50802698. 
  • Wilson, Barbara A. (1998). "Matching student needs to instruction : teaching reading and spelling using the Wilson Reading System". In Susan Ann Vogel and Stephen M Reder. Learning disabilities, literacy, and adult education. Baltimore: P.H. Brookes Pub. Co. ISBN 978-1-55766-347-4. OCLC 39069274. 
  • Helaine, Schupack; Wilson, Barbara A (1997). Reading, writing and spelling : the multisensory structured language approach. Baltimore, Md: International Dyslexia Association,. ISBN 978-0-89214-013-8. OCLC 40476264. 

External links[edit]