HELPS – Reading Fluency

More information about this intervention can be found at:

HELPS, which stands for Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies, is a free, one-on-one intervention that is quick to implement (10-15 minutes a day, 2-3 times a week) and has a significant amount of evidence basis. A variety of information about HELPS can be found at their website,, including training materials and the HELPS One-on-One Program Teacher’s Manual. The aforementioned teacher’s manual goes into great detail about how this intervention can be used in an RTI system at all three tiers of intervention, and also discusses the types of readers who may benefit from this intervention (including ELLs). HELPS has not been studied by the What Works Clearinghouse or the Best Evidence Encyclopedia, at least not that I could find. However, I was able to access Begeny et al. (2010), which was the initial evaluation of the HELPS curriculum. This study found that HELPS had a medium-to-large effect size on several measures of reading fluency (the TOWRE, R-CBM, GORT, WJ-III Ach, and MAZE). The intervention involves timed readings, recall checks, feedback and goal-setting/achievement, practice with incorrect words, repeated reading, modeling, and a reward procedure – essentially, many of the elements of best practice in reading instruction all in one efficient intervention.

I truly believe that every school with available intervention specialists, especially if they have Title teachers, would benefit from implementing HELPS, as the fact that it is quick, free, and research-based is essentially my personal trifecta of a solid intervention. This intervention is designed to help with reading fluency, which tends to have a subsequent impact on reading comprehension as fluency improves.

Begeny, J. C., Laugle, K. M., Krouse, H. E., Lynn, A. E., Tayrose, M. P., & Stage, S. A. (2010). A Control-Group Comparison of Two Reading Fluency Programs: The Helping Early Literacy with Practice Strategies (HELPS) Program and the Great Leaps K-2 Reading Program. School Psychology Review, 39(1), 137-155.



More information about Folding-In can be found at a variety of websites, including:

Folding in is a very simple intervention that can be used with many different types of students, including students who are struggling with sight words/letters (depending on grade), vocabulary, or general reading fluency in need of additional support, or even in different categories (see the separate post “Folding In – Math” for an example in mathematics). This additional intervention is easily adaptable and can be used at all intervention tiers depending on resources. The intervention could also include direct instruction on errors and use a variety of error correction procedures. 

This intervention involves creation of a master deck of flash cards in the area of need (e.g. sight words, vocabulary, letter names) and a baseline assessment of known vs. unknown cards, with known indicating that the student can correctly respond in less than 3 seconds (automatic). The cards are sorted following this baseline, and in future sessions, the tutor creates a deck of 10 cards, 7 known and 3 unknown. The card is shown, and if the student gets the card right, the tutor repeats the correct answer back, while if they get it wrong, the tutor corrects the student and asks them to repeat the correct answer. This process is repeated until the student can get the daily deck correct 3 times in a row, and then can be repeated again by removing 3 cards from the daily deck and adding 3 new unknowns.

This intervention is valuable because it is quick, extremely flexible to student need, and can be implemented for as much or as little time is available with the tutor. Folding in is considered an “incremental rehearsal” intervention, and appears to result from Shapiro’s (2004) Academic Skills Problems Workbook. In the Best Practices for Reading Problems chapter of the Best Practices book, Joseph (2008) states that this technique “has been supported in several investigations for teaching reading words as a whole and teaching vocabulary” (p. 1171), helping students acquire fluency and also maintain these words over time. 

Joseph, L. M. (2008). Best practices on interventions for students with reading problems. Best practices in school psychology, 4, 1163-1180.

Shapiro, E. S. (2004). Academic skills problems: Direct assessment and intervention (3rd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.

Leveled Literacy Intervention

Information about LLI can be found at: (Heinemann/Fountas & Pinnell/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) is designed as a small group daily intervention for students who are having difficulties with phonics, fluency, or vocabulary. The curriculum, outlined in a highly specific manual (often overly specific, according to the instructor), includes specific enjoyable activities (e.g. acting in a play or debate), a significant amount of modeling and direct instruction in phonics rules, group discussions as reinforcement and further learning, and “word work” in a writing journal. According to the National Center on Intensive Intervention (n.d.), this intervention was developed by Fountas & Pinnell and is designed for groups of 3 students in 30 minute sessions, 4-5 times a week for 14-18 weeks. 

The What Works Clearinghouse has not published a review of LLI at this time that I was able to find. However, as mentioned previously, the National Center of Intensive Intervention outlined one study on LLI that indicates some moderate student gains (Ransford-Kaldon et al., 2010). The effect sizes they found, based on the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment Systems for grades K-2, were .76 (Kindergarten), .81 (1st grade), and .39 (2nd grade), and also found some effects based on DIBELS assessments, ranging from small to large depending on measure. Heinemann, owner of the assessment, further outlines this and another independent study on  their website (, which indicate significant success in helping students catch up to grade level in both rural and suburban settings (Ransford-Kaldon et al., 2010) and urban settings (Ransford-Kaldon et al., 2013). Overall, this evidence seems to indicate that LLI is successful in enhancing student outcomes of reaching grade level in reading, though more research would be helpful. The somewhat rigid curriculum may be an area of concern for implementers, but these lessons can be supplemented with other materials if students have specific needs. 

National Center on Intensive Intervention (n.d.). Leveled Literacy Intervention System. American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

Ransford-Kaldon, C. R., Flynt, E. S., Ross, C. L., Franceschini, L., Zoblotsky, T., Huang, Y., & Gallagher, B. (2010). Implementation of Effective Intervention: An Empirical Study to Evaluate the Efficacy of Fountas & Pinnell’s Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI). Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP). Retrieved from

Ransford-Kaldon, C.R., Ross, C.L., Lee, C.C., Flynt, E.S., Franceschini, L.A., & Zoblotsky, T.A. (2013). Efficacy of the Leveled Literacy Intervention System for K–2 Urban Students: An Empirical Evaluation of LLI in Denver Public Schools. Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP). Retrieved from


Fast ForWord

More information on Fast ForWord can be found at: (The Scientific Learning Corporation)

Fast ForWord is a computer-based reading program that is intended to help students strengthen their cognitive skills necessary for later success in reading and math (U.S. Dept. of Education (DOE), 2013). This intervention is intended to be part of a daily routine for students, for at least 30 minutes over 4-16 weeks. At my site in Milford, only a few students receive this intervention, as part of Tier 3 services, and they go to a separate classroom during their “differentiation” time block in order to do so.  I was able to observe two students independently working on the Fast ForWord to Reading program under supervision of an intervention specialist, which is one of the series available under the Fast ForWord name, in one of the first days at my practicum site. This specific series focuses on “reading skills such as sound-letter associations, phonological awareness, word recognition, knowledge of English-language conventions, vocabulary, and comprehension” and is highly adaptable based on student responses (U.S. DOE, 2013, p.1). 

In terms of evidence base, the What Works Clearinghouse’s assessment of Fast ForWord is that it has positive (medium-to-large) effects on alphabetics, minimal positive impact on reading fluency (small), and mixed effects on comprehension (medium-to-large). One major potential flaw of this intervention is its cost for these somewhat mixed effects. Each license for the reading program costs upwards of $500, meaning that this is a significant investment in the program for the school. This cost is a significant assessment for mixed results and should be used with caution, especially if the product is being shopped by a publisher who may over-emphasize its effects on working memory. 

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2013, Mar.). Intervention Report: Fast ForWord. Retrieved from


Reading Mastery

Information about Reading Mastery can be found at: (McGraw-Hill Education)

According to the What Works Clearinghouse Intervention Report (2006), RM has potentially positive effects for both English Language Learners and English speaking students, though only one study met their standards, with a 28 point percentile gain for an average student in the study they include. RM is a direct instruction method that uses a special type of font in its book to help students identify the sound a letter makes in that particular word. These lessons are scripted for the instructor, including modeling, scaffolded practice (individual and guided), and direct instruction in many of the rules of reading and pronunciation. The lesson began with a review of some specific sounds (e.g. /x/, or ȳ) and letter combinations (e.g. vowel combinations, “the first one does the talking”, or the two possible “oo” sounds), and eventually sounding out full words until mastery (the “fast way”). Lessons also involve choral reads of text together with the instructor, practice reading individual sentences and challenge words, and repeated readings.

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, What Works Clearinghouse. (2006, Sept.). Intervention Report: Reading Mastery/SRA/McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from