Wilson Reading System®

Commercial Program
Comprehension, Oral Reading Fluency, Phonemic Awareness, Phonics & Decoding, Vocabulary
Tier III

60-90 minute blocks 2-5 times per week (1:1); 45-90 minute blocks 5 times per week (small group up to six students).

Target Student

Students in need of intensive structured literacy instruction.  Candidates for this program share the following characteristics.  They:

Are unable to decode accurately (in lowest 30th percentile)
Have slow, labored reading with lack of fluency
May know many words by sight, but have difficulty reading unfamiliar words and pseudo words
Often guess at words
Have poor spelling (in lowest 30th percentile)
Are able to speak and understand English, but not read or write it
Have a language-based learning disability
Are in grade 2 or higher


The Wilson Reading System® (WRS®) is the flagship program of Wilson Language Training® and the foundation of all other Wilson programs.  The WRS® is an intensive Tier 3 program.  It is designed for students with word-level deficits not making sufficient progress through their current intervention, have been unable to learn with other teaching strategies and require multisensory language instruction, or who require more intensive structured literacy instruction due to a language-based learning disability, such as dyslexia.


The Wilson Reading System® (WRS®) is an explicit, direct, comprehensive and structured literacy program that directly and systematically teaches the structure of the English language.  The program can follow students from grade to grade, as needed.  Through the program, students learn fluent decoding and encoding skills to the level of mastery. From the beginning steps of the program, students receive instruction in phonemic awareness, decoding and word study, sight word recognition, spelling, fluency, vocabulary, oral expressive language development, and comprehension.


The WRS® utilizes a systematic and cumulative approach to teach total word structure for decoding and encoding, emphasizing the six syllable types.  It makes all instruction multisensory and interactive, requiring students to use visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile senses to reinforce skills learned and engage motor memory.


The WRS® uses a “sound tapping” system to help students segment and blend sounds.  The program provides a penciling technique for tracking syllable division and prosody. It also teaches concepts through the manipulation of sound, syllable, and suffix cards.  This program reinforces the application of skills and contains an extensive collection of controlled and decodable text (wordlists, sentences, stories) for students beyond the primary grades.


There are two levels of vocabulary: one appropriate for elementary school students, English language learners (ELL), and those with limited vocabularies, and the other for older students with advanced vocabularies.


The program presents the material in 12 Steps (not corresponding to school grade levels), that are further divided into 52 incremental substeps, each building upon the previous one.  Mastery of each substep is required before progressing to the next.  The WRS® follows a 10-part lesson plan that addresses phonemic awareness, phonics and word study, encoding, high frequency/sight word instruction, fluency, vocabulary, and listening and reading comprehension in a sequential and integrated fashion.


The program also incorporates criterion-based assessments to measure student progress and success.

How To

Lessons can be delivered in 60-90 minute blocks 2-5 times per week in a 1:1 setting.  They can also be delivered in a small group setting of no more than six students in 45-90 minute blocks 5 times per week.


When working one-on-one, enough time should be allocated so that at least two full lessons lasting 90 minutes are completed each week. Depending on the frequency and intensity of delivery, it can take up to 2-3 years to complete the entire 12 Step curriculum.  Using this model, there should be 2-5 sessions per week with each session lasting 60-90 minutes.


For small-group instruction, students should be pre-tested and grouped homogeneously based on similar word attack and spelling measures. The recommended group size is 3‐6 students.  Using a 3 class per week model, 90 minutes should be spent on the program each class.  If there is a 5 class per week model, 45-90 minutes should be spent per week.


The Wilson Language Training® recommends that instruction occurs five days a week with a certified Wilson instructor. If classes are scheduled for 45-60 minutes, two sessions will be required in order to complete a full three-block lesson. 


Torgesen, J., Myers, D., Schirm, A., Stuart, E., Vartivarian, S., Mansfield, W., et al. (2006). National assessment of Title I interim report—Volume II: Closing the reading gap: First year findings from a randomized trial of four reading interventions for striving readers. Retrieved from Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education Web site: http://www. ed.gov/rschstat/eval/disadv/title1interimreport/index.html

Moats, L. C. (1998). Reading, spelling, and writing disabilities in the middle grades. In B. Wong (Ed.), Learning about learning disabilities (2nd edition) (pp. 1–19). Orlando, FL: Academic Press.

Wilson, B. A. (1998). Matching student needs to instruction: Teaching reading and spelling using the Wilson Reading System. In S. A. Vogel & S. Reder (Eds.), Learning disabilities, literacy, and adult education (pp. 213–234). Baltimore, MD: Brookes Publishing.

Research Summary
Available Training

The program developers of the WRS recommend instructors complete Wilson Level I and II certification.  Training includes Level I and II Certification with practicum observations and implementation seminars


Other training includes the Wilson Academy/Intensive Online Learning Community, WRS Basic Word Study and Advanced Word Study Online Courses, program workshops, and sustainability plans.

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