Why was Lexonik Leap developed and what does it involve?
The first intervention developed by Sound Training for Reading, which has proved to be highly successful, not just in the UK, but across the world, is Lexonik Advance. The average reading gain made by students on our Advance programme is 27 months in only 6 one-hour intensive teaching sessions. This programme is ideal for any student who finds the reading and understanding of polysyllabic words challenging. Sadly, however, many students begin to struggle before this level and that is why Lexonik Leap was developed.
Leap is hugely beneficial for any age of learner who has yet to acquire basic literacy skills. This includes young students who are just starting to fall behind their peers, older students who have, for whatever reason, failed to grasp reading instruction; students who are working with English as a second language and adult learners who may have gaps in their education.
How do we learn to read?
Despite the amount of scientific-based research available to us there is, unfortunately, still a ‘reading war’ going on. Some professionals favour and advocate balanced literacy or a whole language approach whereas others favour a systematic, synthetic phonics approach.
Balanced Literacy or Whole Language Approach
Balanced Literacy focuses more on a meaning-based approach. This approach includes some teaching of sound-letter relationships, but that is not its focus. Its focus encourages the struggling reader to use the context and picture cues to work out what the unfamiliar word might be. The belief is that with lots of exposure to print, along with some incidental guidance and some phonic support, struggling readers will acquire the alphabetic code. Students are encouraged to look at the picture for clues or ask questions such as:
What word would make sense here?
What do you think the word might be?
Students are encouraged to focus on the whole word but not the detail of the word. This method can be very frustrating for the student who simply cannot remember these whole words. If you then take away the picture, they end up having no other method at their disposal to help them read that word. Remembering whole words will work for those students with good visual memories, but only initially. They will soon become at risk because, as they are required to learn more and more words, they will inevitably run out of visual memory and reach cognitive overload.
This can result in the student simply guessing the unfamiliar word. Guessing words is not reading!
An interesting BBC documentary, accessible via YouTube, is ‘B is for book’. This documentary highlights multiple approaches to phonic instruction, demonstrating both success and failure for the students.
The Phonics Approach
Phonics teaching is a more explicit method of instruction, often now referred to as ‘systematic, synthetic phonics’ and there is a great deal of scientific evidence supporting this methodology. Phonics, if taught well, will help weak and able readers identify unfamiliar words. It provides the student with a methodology to enable them to work out the unfamiliar word for themselves. We need to understand the alphabetic code in order to read it. Yes, you can argue that the code doesn’t always work because the English language is so complex but, taught well, phonics will work for most words most of the time and the exceptions just have to be learned.
Department of Education, Science and Training stated:
‘The evidence is clear…. direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read.’
(Rowe, K., & National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (Australia). (2005). p. 11).
However, for students to access phonics teaching they need to have good phonological awareness skills.
Phonological awareness is the ability to listen, hear, isolate and manipulate sounds within spoken language. Without this skill, readers will find both reading and spelling to be challenging. Effective instruction teaches students to notice, think about and work with or manipulate sounds in spoken language (Armbruster, 2006; Torgesen, 2002).
Students need to practise blending letters together. For example, listening to the sounds /m/a/t/ to form the word mat. Also needed is practise with breaking words down into their individual sounds. For example, can you hear the first sound in the word mat? Students need to be proficient in this, before going on to sound manipulation. For example, adding and taking away sounds to create new words; take away the /m/ in ‘mat’ you are left with ‘at’ or isolating the middle sound within a word.
Orthographic mapping is another crucial element (Ehri, 2013; Kilpatrick, 2015).
Orthographic mapping is the mental process we use to store letters or words for immediate effortless retrieval when reading. In other words, it allows the individual words to be stored as sight words. Those that are instantly recognised and no longer needed to be sounded out. This takes multiple exposures to these words, so we need lots of practise to be able to do this effectively. Without this mapping, reading individual words is very challenging, slow and laboured for the student.
Lexonik Leap is a phonics-based intervention
It is very much a systematic, synthetic phonics approach that includes phonological awareness training, phonics and orthographic mapping.
To be successful, all activities are highly focused, fast-paced and repetitive. This ensures students develop strong phonological skills, become proficient in their phonic knowledge and can master and retain the new information, allowing them to increase their sight vocabulary and improve their basic reading skill.
Our explicit instruction shows students what to do and how to do it; all our lessons have a very clear focus.
The intervention consists of a diagnostic assessment and activities which cover six areas of study:
- Phoneme to grapheme correspondence
- Word building
- High Frequency Words
- Vowel digraphs
- Split digraphs
- Prefix knowledge
Our diagnostic assessment is quick and easy to administer and allows the administrator to find the weakness or gaps in the student’s knowledge. Knowing what to focus on and what we expect our students to do, saves valuable teaching and learning time. We provide ample opportunity to practise, allowing the students to become proficient and master the skill.
That is why all our activities are fast-paced, repetitive and fun!
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References and further reading
Armbruster, B. B. (2006). Put Reading First: Kindergarten Through Grade 3 (The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read). National Institute for Literacy.
Ehri, L. C. (2013). Orthographic Mapping in the Acquisition of Sight Word Reading, Spelling Memory, and Vocabulary Learning. Scientific Studies of Reading, 18(1), 5–21.
Kilpatrick, D. A. (2015). Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties (Essentials of Psychological Assessment) (1st ed.). John Wiley & Sons.
Rowe, K., National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy (Australia). (2005). Teaching Reading: Report and Recommendations. Department of Education Science and Training.
Torgesen, J. (2002) ‘The Prevention of reading difficulties’, Journal of School Psychology, vol. 40, no. 1, pp. 7-26.