Edmark Reading Program

This is a program that was recommended while I was completing my Grad Dip in SEN. I had a few children on my caseload who had struggled with any reading scheme or approach I had tried, and I had tried a lot! I have seen Edmark work for various different children, some children who had tried numerous other programs and had no success until Edmark. I have seen Edmark work for children who began with phonics and then ‘hit a wall’ with their reading. It is lovely watching a child begin to succeed with a program when they had been really struggling.

What is it?

Edmark is an American research based reading program. It is a carefully sequenced, highly repetitive sight word approach. It is recommended for children as an alternative to phonics. Before trying Edmark I had tried some other programs which were also recommended as an alternative to phonics but they just didn’t work for the children on my caseload. What I like about Edmark is it is easy to administer, everything is ready to go and of course that there is a lot of research to back up the methods!

Who Should Use Edmark?

If like me, you have any children on your caseload who are struggling with phonics-based reading approaches, then Edmark might work for them. Students who are able to discriminate letters and symbols/icons but are not yet able to decode words are best suited to this program in my experience.

Included in the pack is a ‘Discrimination Test’ and a ‘Pre-Reading Test’ (photos below) to check if your student is suited to the program and where in the program they should start. A ‘Mastery Test’ is also included for children who may already know some sight words. The Mastery Test contains 3 parts: discrimination of words, picture/phrase match and word recognition.

How does it work?

Everything is explained clearly when you purchase the pack but here is a quick overview for anyone interested.

Start with the assessments: ‘Discrimination Test’ and the ‘Pre Reading Test’, move onto the ‘Mastery Test’ where appropriate. The program is then broken up into lessons. Lesson 1 is pictured below. To compliment each lesson are picture cards and flashcards of the new word being taught.

The children I worked with enjoyed creating a word wall of the words as they were being taught. I also found it beneficial to randomly display new words along with their image around the classroom for the children (e.g. ‘horse’ with a picture of a horse).

For some children I moved onto a new lesson daily and for some it was closer to weekly. For the children that were moving at a slower rate, I spent about 10 minutes every day using the program on a 1:1 basis with the child to ensure they were getting the most out of the program and also that they weren’t overly exposed to it where they might become bored of it or grow to dislike it. This is what seemed to work best in my setting. Once the children get to lesson 10, the next few lessons are complimented by very short stories created from the words the children have learned (pictured below). I personally loved this point in the program as the words are put into context for the children and I could really see how proud the children were of themselves at this point. The program continues on in a similar fashion the whole way through after this.

What if the program doesn’t work for the child in my setting?

When first using this program, I used it with 4 children. After a few weeks, three of those four children started to excel and gain confidence in reading the new sight words and sentences. Depending on the individual child, some children pointed to the word, some circled the word, some placed a counter onto it and some placed a piece of blu tac on it. Different approaches worked with different children.

There was one child who the program just wasn’t working for. After a lot of consideration and throwing ideas around we adapted the program slightly and after another few weeks the child started reading some of the words and making their way through the lessons. I will explain what worked in our setting for this particular child: We laminated the discrimination test and the lessons. Instead of asking the child to circle or point to the correct word as described above, we got the child to match an identical laminated print out of the target word to the word and stick it on with Velcro. This worked well for this child as they needed to be exposed to the word more often. They also needed something to help ground them and help them to focus while completing the lesson. Pointing to the word or circling the word was too abstract and didn’t have meaning for this particular child. We made sure there were no other distractions in the class and the lesson took place in the morning time while the child was ready to learn.

You know the child in your care the best and what works best for them. This is just one example of how we adapted a program. I hope this doesn’t turn anyone off the program as this was just one example, I have seen this program work for so many other children without any adaptions what-so-ever! I wanted to share our true experience in the hope that it might help someone in similar circumstances.

What if the child in my setting is non verbal?

I haven’t experience of using this program with non-verbal children yet but there is a DVD included with signs for each lesson and I have seen some teachers getting children to use their ACC devices when using the program. Another example is showing the children an array of words and asking them to choose the word that was spoken by the teacher. e.g. an array of 3 words to begin and then increasing the amount as appropriate.

Here is a link to a pdf of the Program Overview on p52 are ‘Options for students who have difficulty with verbal expression’:

What is included in the Pack?

There are 2 packs, Level 1 and Level 2. I purchased Level 1 for the children I was working with over 2 years ago and haven’t needed Level 2 yet. I bought mine on the ‘Outside the Box’ website and it cost €850. Linked here:

Included in Level 1 is: a Mastery Test booklet, Lesson Plan/Record Book, Program Overview Book, Word Recognition books 1 – 3 with the Lessons, Picture Match Cards, Phrase Match Cards, Story Books 1 – 3 (there is a story on each page or 2 pages), Display mask (blue cover pictured below so the child only sees the part of the story or lesson they are currently on), Reading and Social Skills Games, Word Signs DVD, ‘The Rides’ story and Cerificates of Completion.

There are other elements that can be purchased separately: Homework activities, Comprehension worksheets, Take Away Readers, Spelling activities, Bingo, Social Skills/Reading Games, A Resources Flash-drive.

Here is a link to a pdf of the program overview, including a list of what is included and the research behind the program:

I hope you enjoyed reading and the quick snapshot of my experience of using the program was helpful to you.

If anyone has any questions please contact me and I will try my best to help you. I would love to hear any feedback.


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