Early Words

"Since Early Words has been designed to provide lots of success for young learners it can't help but be effective. Children don't have a chance to get into that "switch-off" mode that develops when they fail. They are taught explicitly the skill of 'how to learn' and it sets them up for success in literacy."

Pam Jacomb, teacher,
Lyttleton West School

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How it works


What is Early Words?

Early Words is a programme of one-on-one systematic five minute word-focused lessons. During the five minute lesson, the child is taught, or retaught, a high frequency word at both word and sentence level. The emphasis is on accuracy and fluency.


Who is Early Words for?

Early Words is ideal for parents, New Entrant teachers or anyone working with learners who are at the very beginning stages of reading. It is also well suited for pupils with English as a second language who are at the early stages of English and literacy acquisition.


What does the lesson look like?

The best way to see what the lesson looks like is to watch the five minute Early Words lesson video.


Watch a lesson

Watch the five minute Early Words lesson taken by Yolanda Soryl.


How is the lesson structured?

The lesson has four parts:

  1. The probe - where the word taught in the previous lesson is tested to see if the child has learnt it with accuracy and fluency
  2. Word cards - two short word card activities to teach or reteach todays word using flash cards
  3. Worksheet - the child then reads and either identiifies or writes todays word to complete the sentences. Easily recognisable pictures are provided for any words not previoulsy taught so reading the page of sentences is successful.
  4. The probe - the lesson ends with a final probe


How many words are taught?

The programme teaches 48 words. Some words are taught both as lower case and also as capitalised. For eg. 'here' and 'Here'. Also covered are words ending with 's'. For eg. 'likes' or 'looks'. The sequel to the programme is Early Words 2 where another 63 words are taught.


What is the role of assessment in Early Words?

Assessment is daily so that every lesson taught is in response to a learning need. Lessons start and end with the probe which is an assessment tool and is also fun for the children. Results are shared with the learner so that each child knows how they are doing and what their goal is.


Advantages of Early Words

Teachers report that children who have undertaken the Early Words programme are more likely to be focused on and understand many conventions of print and work with more fluency when compared with children who have not had the programme. Teachers also have observed more self monitoring behaviour in later reading.