Throwback (2017): A 2-in-1 intervention for reading and vocabulary

So many words in English are spelled irregularly and don’t follow the rules for how they should be sounded out. These are usually taught as “sight words,” but that’s A LOT of memorizing for our clients to do. To give us a hand in teaching irregular words, Dyson et al. tested a treatment based on a theory of reading that says children trying to recall a word’s pronunciation (phonology) can get help from knowing how it is spelled (orthography) or what it means (semantics).  


The researchers recruited 5–to 7-year-olds whose teachers reported that they struggled with reading. During 20-minute, twice weekly, small-group sessions, children listened to a puppet say an irregular word (e.g., mystery, referee, piano) incorrectly and tried to figure out what it should have said. Then, they listened to definitions of the words and completed a writing worksheet so they could get more practice with spelling them (examples in Appendix B).

After just 8 weeks of treatment, children improved significantly over the control group on: (1) accuracy reading the taught words, (2) accuracy reading a list of similar, untaught words, (3) vocabulary knowledge for taught words, AND (4) vocabulary knowledge for untaught words. If your students struggle with reading irregular words, this treatment might be a great way to target multiple skills at once.


Dyson, H., Best, W., Solity, J., & Hulme, C. (2017). Training mispronunciation correction and word meanings improves children’s ability to learn to read words. Scientific Studies of Reading, 21(5), 392-407. doi:10.1080/10888438.2017.1315424