Really Great Reading for English Language Learners



Three programs for ELL Success in Phonics, Phonemic Awareness and Word Recognition

Really Great Reading’s Phonics Suite contains three research-based programs for teaching ELL (English Language Learner) students phonics. Countdown (Kindergarten) has ELL instructional strategies to benefit pre-reading and emergent readers. Blast Foundations (Grade 1), and HD Word (Grades 2-12).

The Phonics Suite also contains a program specifically designed for older readers: Phonics Boost (Grades 3-12) for students that require a slower teaching pace and more targeted practice with both phonemic awareness and phonics concept tasks. HD Word is also appropriate for older students who need to quickly fill in gaps in their decoding skills. These programs for older students can also help ELL students with reading comprehension through building foundational skills.

Countdown for K  

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Countdown to reading success!

Playful and powerful scientifically-aligned foundational reading skill instruction for kindergarten.

Blast for 1st Grade

Explore Blast & Download a Sample Lesson

Blast off to reading success!

Exciting and engaging scientifically-aligned foundational reading skill instruction for 1st-grade students.

HD Word for 2nd-12th

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Bring words into high definition!

Powerful and mature scientifically-aligned reading skill instruction for the 2nd & 3rd-grade classroom.

At Really Great Reading, we wholeheartedly believe that strong foundational reading skills instruction can help all students become strong, fluent readers. Phonics instruction for ELL students helps with foundational skills such as fluency and comprehension. These skills can only come after students are able to decode words with ease. Tutor, Aceves, and Reese (2016) summarize a body of research that has demonstrated that “interventions should include foundational skills (e.g., phonological awareness, decoding) along with other literacy and language skills” (p. 18).

“for students to develop efficient word recognition skills, for example, they must first have good decoding and orthographic, or spelling, skills. Without fast and accurate word recognition skills, they cannot achieve satisfactory levels of reading comprehension.” August and Shanahan (2006)

Teaching phonics for ELL students

Our explicit, systematic, engaging, multisensory, and developmentally appropriate programs teach English Language Learners the key skills they need to become efficient and accurate decoders. These skills lead to their success not only in word identification, but also in comprehending what they read.

“instruction that provides substantial coverage in the key components of reading—identified by the National Reading Panel (NRP) (NICHD, 2000) as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension—has clear benefits for language-minority students. Focusing on these key components of reading has a positive influence on the literacy development of language-minority students, just as it does for native English speakers” (August & Shanahan, 2006).

Phonics Instruction That Compliments Reading Strategies for ELL Students

Really Great Reading lessons focus heavily on phonemic awareness and phonics; however, fluency, vocabulary, and text comprehension are also addressed in most of the programs. Although they quickly progress to include phrase, sentence, and passage reading.

Research Based Reading Strategies for ELL Students

All Really Great Reading programs begin with phonemic awareness; students learn to segment, blend, and manipulate the individual sounds in words. Students are then taught letter-sound fluency before moving on to encoding and decoding. This approach aligns beautifully with research into phoneme awareness.

“early phoneme awareness and phonics training efficiently accelerates the word recognition and spelling skills of first and second language learners alike.” (Stuart 2004)

In another study, Brice and Brice (2009) concluded that early reading intervention for bilingual kindergarteners must focus on “phoneme and grapheme identification” to reduce or eradicate the learning achievement gap between this group and their monolingual peers.

Multisensory Learning Strategies for ELL Students

In all Really Great Reading programs, instruction is presented to address and stimulate multiple senses: aural, visual, and kinesthetic. According to Robertson (n.d.), the use of manipulatives and pictures is particularly helpful for English Language Learners.

In our programs, students use manipulatives when segmenting and blending both sounds and whole words. They use hand movements to help them remember syllable types and vowel phonemes. They also see animations that reinforce the phonics concepts and visual representations of those concepts on the screen.

For example, in Countdown, students are given informal vocabulary lessons as almost all of the words used in each activity are matched with images on the screen. In all other programs, many of the example words are delivered with contextual sentences. Research supports this approach; Nelson, Vadasy, and Sanders (2011) found that combining decoding and vocabulary instruction was “effective for increasing word knowledge of vocabulary words and decoding words.”

Differentiated Instruction for ELL Students

In addition to containing the key components of reading, as established by the NRP, Really Great Reading lessons often include options for differentiation for English Language Learners. One of those suggestions is to spend additional time instructing students and allowing ample time for the practice of English-specific phonemes. Robertson (n.d.) offers that this strategy is helpful for the phonemes in the English language that do not exist in some other languages at all.

We have been refining our approach for the last 18 years, and even teachers with a great deal of experience with other programs are often quick to recognize that our approach is more succinct, efficient, and digestible than many other approaches. We know it works well with all students, including ELL students.

Countdown, Blast Foundations, HD Word, Phonics Boost, and Phonics Blitz lessons explicitly teach students to play with the sounds in spoken words and then to analyze and attack those words on paper in developmentally appropriate ways. Our programs set students on the path to becoming successful decoders of English and, ultimately, successful and fluent readers.


August, D., & Shanahan, T. (Eds.). (2006). Executive summary: Developing literacy in second-language learners: Report of the National Literacy Panel on Language-Minority Children and Youth.
Brice, R. G., & Brice, A. E. (2009). Investigation of phonemic awareness and phonic skills in Spanish-English bilingual and English-speaking kindergarten students. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 30(4), 208-225.
Nelson, J., Vadasy, P., & Sanders, E. (2011). Efficacy of a Tier 2 supplemental root word vocabulary and decoding intervention with kindergarten Spanish-speaking English learners. Journal of Literacy Research, 43(2), 184-211.
Robertson, K. (n.d.) Reading 101 for English language learners.Retrieved from http:/ /
Stuart, M. (2004). Getting ready for reading: A follow-up study of inner city second language learners at the end of Key Stage 1. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 74, 15-36.
Tutor, C.R., Aceves, T., & Reese, L. (2016). Evidence-based practice for English language learners. Retrieved from /EBP-for-english-learners.pdf
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