This reading intervention was developed and tested by Dr. Jessica Toste and colleagues at The University of Texas at Austin. The program materials were redesigned for open access by the Toste Team in October 2022. We are excited for you to use the Word Connections program! We look forward to continued feedback from teachers and students.
Thank you for your interest in Word Connections: A Multisyllabic Word Reading Program©
While decoding instruction tends to be reduced in the upper elementary grades, text is becoming more complex and the number of multisyllabic words that students encounter increase dramatically in third grade and beyond. Students who experience reading challenges often lack a systematic approach for decoding these words.
Word Connections is a supplemental reading intervention program. It includes 40 lessons (40 min each), divided into four units of instruction. Word Connections was developed for students in third grade and above who continue to experience challenges with word reading even though they have developed foundational decoding skills. The lessons focus on promoting automaticity with reading “big words.” This approach to multisyllabic word reading integrates multiple opportunities for students to manipulate and read words, rather than focusing on rule-based instruction.
Download the Instructional Scope & Sequence for a listing of components and activity details across the 40 lessons.
The Word Connections program includes seven instructional activities:
Warm-Up: Students practice prerequisite skills. Each lesson, the teacher introduces cards with different target vowel patterns. Students read these vowel patterns in isolation and then within nonsense words.
Affix Bank: Students are explicitly taught high frequency prefixes and suffixes. Each lesson, the teacher introduces new affixes. They read affix, provide a sample word, define, and then support students as the write on their Affix Bank chart.
Word Play: Games focused on assembling or blending word parts. The teacher introduces the lesson’s five Spotlight Words, which are used to combine with affix cards. To increase engagement, five different word-building games are used across the program.
Beat the Clock: Students read words by breaking apart or segmenting into parts. Students are given a new list with 40 multisyllabic words each lesson and the teacher supports them as they circle and read affixes, choral read affixes, and choral read words. Each student completes two timed readings, trying to “beat the clock” the second time.
Write Word: Students engage in spelling practice using learned affixes. The teacher provides an affix to the group and students write words with 2-3 syllables (including nonsense words). Students share words and teacher provides corrective feedback, as needed.
Speedy Read: Students are given a new word list each lesson. They complete a group reading of the word list and then each student reads for 30 sec. They log the number of words read in 30 sec on their Speedy Read chart.
Text Reading: Fluency practice is transitioned from word-level to text-level. We begin with sentence reading, maze sentences that require students to select the correct affix for the base word, and cloze sentences that require students to insert missing affix to complete the word. Unit 3 and 4 focus on reading passages (expository text) with multisyllabic words added.
Evidence of Effectiveness
There is evidence that the 40-lesson Word Connections program improves reading outcomes for upper elementary students. Specifically, we have tested the program with third to fifth grade students identified as with or at-risk for reading disability. To date, our team has conducted three empirical studies reporting positive effects from this program. Students who participated in the intervention showed greater gains in word reading and decoding, reading comprehension, spelling, and accurate reading of both isolated affixes and multisyllabic words.
Note: Two of our studies explored Word Connections with an integrated motivational beliefs training component. While we demonstrated promise in using this approach to enhance students’ response to intervention, these materials require further development before sharing widely.
View & Download Materials
The Word Connections program is freely available for download and use. You can access all of the materials from the Word Connections collection on figshare, an online open access repository. The program manual is organized into two parts and each can be downloaded as a separate PDF: Teacher Manual and Student Materials.
SECOND EDITION OF WORD CONNECTIONS IS NOW AVAILABLE. This latest edition include new passages written by the Toste Team. Passages are written in Q&A style, using questions from real students and teachers.
If you share materials with colleagues, we simply ask that you direct them to figshare where they can also download for free. This helps our team track metrics related to access and use of the program overtime. If you use the program, we ask that you cite as follows:
Toste, J. R., Capin, P., Williams, K. J., Kearns, D. M., & Vaughn, S. (2023). Word Connections: A Multisyllabic Word Reading Program (2nd ed.). figshare. https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.6259368
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