of Wilson's® Multi-tiered System of Support
Prevention and Early Intervention:
Wilson Fundations®
Just Words®
Wilson Reading System®
WRS Description
WRS Target Population
Principles of Instruction
Distinguishing Characteristics
WRS Lesson Plan
WRS Alignment to Common Core State Standards
Supplemental Support:
Wilson Fluency/Basic®

Principles of Instruction

The principles of instruction are key to the success of the Wilson reading System.

Direct and Explicit

Instruction is visible and explicit and there is a high level of teacher-student interaction. Students learn through straightforward, interactive learning, addressing the concepts that govern the structure of written English. Students understand what they are to do and learn.

Structured and Cumulative

The 12 Steps of the Wilson Reading System guide the student through the pitfalls of decoding and encoding, teaching them to trust the English language as a reliable system from the start.

Each step builds on the one before it. Students work from sounds to syllables, words to sentences, and paragraphs to stories, learning the structure of English through constant repetition and review.


Lessons are interactive in nature and are designed to fully engage students in the task at hand. Students learn by hearing sounds; manipulating color-coded sound, syllable, and word cards; performing finger tapping exercises; writing down spoken words; reading aloud and repeating what they have read in their own words; and hearing others read as well.
All skills and knowledge are reinforced through visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile senses.

Opportunity for Practice and Feedback

Students have multiple opportunities to practice and reinforce all skills. The same information is presented in many different ways.  What is taught for reading is reinforced for spelling. Students’ errors are corrected on the spot in a supportive way and by scaffolding instruction.


Wilson Reading System presents all skills in a systematic and sequential manner in 12 Steps. The Wilson Reading System teaches word construction  according to six types of syllable. The syllable types are gradually taught to the students. Sounds are introduced only as they relate to the syllable.

  • Closed Syllable (Steps 1-3)
  • Vowel-Consonant-e Syllable (Step 4)
  • Open Syllable (Step 5)
  • Consonant-le Syllable (Step 6)
  • R-Controlled Syllable (Step 8)
  • Vowel Digraph/Diphthong “D” Syllable (Step 9)

Lessons cover only those concepts being taught, with prior lessons being reinforced. Similarly, all Wilson materials and texts are phonetically controlled containing word lists, sentences, and paragraphs that incorporate only the elements of word structure taught in or up to the corresponding lesson.

Built on Sound Principles

The Wilson Reading System is based upon 10 principles of instruction. Research within the field of reading has validated the “critical points” of the Wilson program and helps to explain the reasons for its effectiveness.

  • Teach sounds to automaticity
  • Teach total word structure – not just sounds
  • Present concepts within context of controlled, written text
  • Present the structure of language in a systematic, cumulative manner
  • Teach all principles of English language structure directly and thoroughly
  • Teach/re-enforce concepts with visual-auditory-kinesthetic tactile methods
  • Teach phonemic and syllabic segmentation
  • Include constant review and repetition
  • Use questioning techniques for re-enforcement, student error correction and metacognitive thinking
  • Use diagnostic teaching within the scope and sequence of program

In addition to establishing a solid foundation and comprehensive understanding of the structure of the English language, sight word and vocabulary instruction as well as skills for fluency and comprehension are directly and systematically taught.

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