The Sequential Teaching of Explicit Phonics and Spelling includes 25 STEPS to follow in order to prepare your students to spell, and thus, read the English language. STEPS gives teachers the knowledge and information to teach explicit phonics to any age or ability level student in a short period of time. The goal is to work through these 25 STEPS as quickly as your students can master the skills and then continue with the school’s own literature-rich language arts program.

STEP 1 Preparation
STEPSPRODUCTS014WEBSTEPS gives teachers the knowledge and information to teach explicit phonics to any age or ability level student in a short period of time. The goal is to work through these 25 STEPS as quickly as your students can master the skills and then continue with the school’s own literature-rich language arts program. The spelling portion of STEPS continues throughout the year as students master increasingly difficult words. In STEP 1, the teachers are given practical guidelines for preparing to teach this knowledge based explicit phonics program. Suggestions for setting up your class room arrangement, how to teach attending strategies, and how to use the online support are included. The STEPS Teacher’s Manual includes a CD to help you learn the phonogram sounds and serve as a model for quick review as you teach the program.

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STEP 2 Diagnostic Tests

STEPS includes a system of checks and balances to keep students working at their instructional level – always challenged and always learning!

Studentpencils take a Monthly Spelling Test to monitor their grade status as you teach through the STEPS. A reading comprehension tool is recommended to record reading comprehension progress. Directions are included for measuring students’ reading fluency levels as compared to national norms. A baseline writing prompt finishes out this portfolio of measures to give a teacher a complete snapshot of a student’s language arts ability. Tools are included to ease record keeping and to encourage a teacher to maintain these simple, yet valuable measures of student learning. Using these tools school wide will give principals an organized system for managing both student and teacher progress.

Each STEP begins with the Objective of the STEP, notes on Preparation needed by teachers, and a section entitled, “Stay a STEP AHEAD of Your Students.” This section prepares a teacher for the next STEP giving even beginning teachers the knowledge to keep their pacing at the challenging level for all students. Some STEPS require students to have fully mastered previous STEPS. Others are meant to provide practice of concepts still in the instructional stage. This valuable knowledge helps teachers make informed pacing decisions to meet yearlong academic goals.  Back to Top

STEP 3 Handwriting Strokes

stepbystep_step3The Handwriting STEP includes teacher directed lessons to introduce the six basic strokes of manuscript or cursive handwriting. Students learn proper posture, the language of instruction, paper placement, and reference points to master these vital prerequisites of learning to write. The STEPS Student Log provides practice pages to help even the youngest writers master the language of instruction. The student Logs are specially made for manuscript writers or cursive writers. These materials provide a vital link for parent involvement. Instead of telling children to write neatly, STEPS teachers can give specific strategies and guidelines for parents to reinforce classroom instruction. STEPS Online Teacher Resources includes presentations to help students write each letter with the correct formation. Optional use of interactive whiteboards will make your instruction come alive!

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STEP 4 Phonograms 1-26

As teachers dictate the handwriting of the first 26 phonograms of the English language, students begin to unlock the secrets of both spelling and reading. These sounds arstepbystep_step4e the basic building blocks of our language. This multi-sensory approach introduces children to the idea that they can spell any sound they can say. Building on STEP 3, this STEP gives students the kinesthetic reinforcement they need to learn these explicit sounds to the point of automaticity. The STEPS Teacher’s Manual includes 2 teacher sets of cards (one for manuscript and one for cursive) to give you STEP by STEP dialogue to simultaneously teach the phonogram sound(s) and its handwritten symbol. STEPS Online Teacher Resources include presentations to review the sounds cards and games for practice.

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STEP 5 Phonemic Awareness

stepbystep_step5Phonemic Awareness is vital to learning to read and spell. In this STEP, teachers teach the phonemic awareness skills of blending and segmenting as students learn to build and decode nonsense words made from the phonogram sounds they know. This hands-on manipulation of sound and symbol lays the foundation for students of any age to learn and understand the alphabetic principle. STEPS Support gives online bending practice from the simplest onset and rimes to consonant/vowel/ consonant nonsense words. Use STEPS Support to target student practice for differentiated instruction to ensure mastery of these basic skills.

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STEP 6 ConsonantsEach STEP begins with a section of teacher notes called STEP Aside to Learn. In this section, teachers will find the scientifically based research behind each STEP. stepbystep_step6  The National Reading Panel findings on the 5 components of effective reading instruction are the foundational knowledge behind STEPS. In the STEP Aside, teachers learn how to take these research findings and put them in practice in their classroom. Warnings of common student problems gained from years of classroom experience help the new STEPS teacher to know which are signs of real trouble and which are merely expected struggles as children master new material. In STEP 6, children make tangible their growing phonetic knowledge by sorting the letters of the alphabet into the basic building blocks of English, consonants and vowels. They also begin to log in the consonant spelling rules, starting with, “C says /s/ before E, I or Y ,” and “G may say /j/ before E, I, or Y.”

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STEP 7 Vowels

Each of the STEPS on this journey contains both an Activity and a Lesson. Although some older students or adults may take only a day to finish a STEP, many younger students may work for a week or more on an Activity. All STEP activities are appropriate for regular public school classes of mixed ability levels. All of them are teacher tested and have withstood the tests of time and effectiveness. Many STEPS contain multiple activities appropriate for different age levels. The Vowel STEP uses a recommended literature link to help students role-play the functions of vowels and consonants in English words. Children learn how and why vowels are necessary elements of any English word.

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STEP 8 Begin WISE Guide Daily Spelling

STEPSPRODUCTS005WEBBegin daily spelling with the “WISE Guide”. In this STEP, the voyage broadens to include the work of Wanda Sanseri, lifelong teacher and author of Teaching Reading at Home. Mrs. Sanseri has taken the noted Ayres list (2000 most commonly written words in English) and perfected its organization and usefulness. Packed with ideas for practice and arranged in order of difficulty, this list becomes a teacher’s complete spelling program. STEP 8 contains detailed instructions and examples on the STEPS CD to help a teacher learn. You will teach students the “spelling process” through dictating daily spelling words. Students learn to segment and spell words sound by sound as they step toward becoming independent spellers. Independent reading follows, as teachers model and teach the vital blending skill that is the direct opposite of spelling. Spelling is the taking of sounds “from your head” and putting them on paper. Conversely, reading is the taking of letters and putting them in your head as sounds to make words. Teach a child to spell, sound by sound, and he will be able to read, sound by sound.

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STEP 9 Phonograms 27– 50

Building reading fluency is the focus of STEP 9. Reading with ease and speed doesn’t just happen. Students begin by building sound fluency.LR_decoding In this STEP, you teach the green cards, phonograms 27-50. STEPS Support provides games and ideas for helping students learn these sounds to automaticity. That is, they’ll waste no brain power trying to remember the sounds. It’s automatic! Then in STEP 9’s Activity, you’ll learn how to start building word fluency using the WISE Guide words as a grade appropriate word sight word list. The Lesson guides students to record the new phonograms in the Log to use as a reference source. As each STEP fills the Log, students use this reference to edit their written work in other subject areas and as a practice tool to enhance their growing reading skill.

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STEP 10 SH Spells /sh/

stepbystep_step10STEP 10 is the first STEP in learning all the conventions of spelling the /sh/ sound. In English, this sound is spelled with SH, TI, CI, SI and sometimes CH. In this beginning STEP, students learn to apply the phonogram sound they earlier memorized, “SH is used at the beginning of a word, at the end of a syllable, but not at the beginning of any syllable after the first one, except for the ending -ship.” The Activity, SH Spells /sh/, gives students the opportunity to have hands-on experiences to learn this rule. The Lesson sets the page in the STEPS Log to make a visual map of its use. Space and labels are prepared for later learning of the TI, CI, and SI phonograms in STEP 16. p>

STEP 11 Phonograms 51-55

What do you notice about these words?- bird, fur, her, earlier, and word All these words have the same sound, but we spell that sound differently in each word. STEP 11 introduces a mnemonic sentence to aid in this purely memory task. Since almost all words in English are spelled by a logical predictable method, the /er/ words present a problem. There is no way to tell which /er/ spelling to use. STEPS eases this problem by introducing the possible spellings in the order they are most commonly found. Since ER is used 90% of the time in English, it comes first (winter). Next in frequency of use comes UR, IR, WOR, and then EAR.

Finally students learn the sentence – Winter hurts birds’ worm search.icon_er_birdThus students have a logical prediction of the /er/ spelling. This page is one of several in the program that are experiential in nature. Students add words to the Log page as they encounter them in other subjects or even in “real life”.

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STEP 12 Silent Final E

stepbystep_step12STEPS’ students learn that there are 5 kinds of silent final E and each is for a very specific reason. The STEP 12 Activity introduces hand signs for the Silent E’s. These quick and easy to remember signals help students go through the rules one at a time from the most common reason for the E to the least common. The Lesson has the students make a reference page in their Log for the 5 silent final E categories. Each time a student uses the page for reference or analyzes their grade appropriate spelling words to add them to the correct category, the learning continues, and their new knowledge is strengthened for long term retention.

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STEP 13 Long Vowel Rules

The STEP 13 Activity introduces students to the advanced vocabulary development fostered throughout the rest of the STEPS by introducing multiple meaning words. Students begin to create the Vocabulary Section of their Log. This section is a springboard for a teacher’s creativity. Finally, there is a place to put definitions, lists, subject specific facts – all those tidbits that you want your students to know and have close at hand. The STEPS Manual gives you loads of suggestions (states and capitals, days of week, friendly letter sample…) . Once you start using this vital tool, you’ll find it the most used textbook in your room.

As students took their first STEPS in this program, they learned that the most common vowel sound is the short sound. Now in STEP 13 they learn that vowels say their names (their long sounds) because of their position in a word or its interaction with other letters in the word. As they continue with their daily spelling lessons from the WISE Guide, students continue to apply these spelling rules. STEPS’ students never have to memorize rules because they become concepts they know as they apply their principles in their daily work.

STEP 14 Phonograms 56-70
STEP 14 teaches the students the last of the basic phonograms they will need in almost all their spelling and reading. Later (STEP 25) the set will finish with the Advanced Phonograms, remnants of our multi-culturally influenced language. The color coded phonogram cards enable teachers to easily choose only these yellow cards (56-70) for specific review or mix them with the earlier sets of blue, green, and pink for cumulative review. The Activity encourages students to think analytically about the phonograms as they narrow their guesses while trying to discover the Mystery Phonogram.

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STEP 15 Consonant Rules

This STEP is the extension of STEP 6. Students know the consonants, their sounds, how they differ from vowels and the rules that govern C and G. In STEP 15 their knowledge is broadened to include spelling rules that govern ck, tch, dge, kn, gn, and x. Included is a classroom set of “I have____. Who has____?” game cards to play a round robin phonogram review game.

stepbystep_step15.jpgSTEP 16 TI, CI, SI RuleStudents expand on their knowledge of the /sh/ sound. They learned in STEP 10 that the most common way to spell the /sh/ sound was with SH….BUT NOT… “at the beginning of any syllable after the first one”. What happens then? That’s where STEP 16’s Activity and Lesson step up. This spelling rule teaches the use of TI, CI and SI for the /sh/ sound in that position. The STEPS Manual includes word lists, sample games and activities to “touch on” this concept in the primary grades. For upper grades it instructs on the influences of the medial vowel or Greek base words for mastery of the concept.

STEP 17 IE or EI Rule

The Lesson in STEP 17 contains the last of the purely explicit phonics lessons. Students who learn to apply all this rule – IE or EI Suffix Rule: Use I before E except after C, if we say /A/ and in some exceptions – will forever have grasp on this often confusing spelling concept.

STEP 18 Dismiss L Rule

stepbystep_step18.jpgThe Activity in STEP 18 Dismiss L includes a class set of game cards to introduce the concept of a prefix and the definitions of some the most common prefixes. The Lesson teaches students the distinctions in several commonly misspelled words by addressing the addition of the suffix or prefix “all” and “full.”

STEP 19 Suffixes

stepbystep_step19.jpgStudents now have a practical working knowledge of the sounds of English, how to spell those sounds and what rules govern their use in base words. We all know, though, that base words are only a fraction of the written vocabulary. Just because you can spell “hope”, there is no guarantee you can spell or even read “hoping”, “hopeful”, “hopelessly” or “unhopeful”. The next several STEPS address the adding of suffixes to base words and a class set of suffix cards is ready to use for this Activity. The suffix cards will be used as students learn to build words and work on vocabulary development throughout the rest of the STEPS.

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STEP 20 Silent E Rule

12-silentE-150x106This STEP addresses the Silent E Rule. Silent E words may lose their need for the E when adding a vowel suffix. The students work through a classroom Activity designed to allow students to experience this rule’s function. The Lesson walks students through adding sample words to their STEPS Log page by using the “NO CHANGE Check Log Flip” question and answer format.


STEP 21 Y Suffix Rule STEP 21 is an in-depth explanation of Y Suffix Rule. The single vowel y changes to I when adding any suffix, other than an I suffix. Mastery of this rule through the Activity and Lesson provides students with a key tool for decoding and spelling words that end in Y.

STEP 22 Plural Suffix Rule

At last, making all nouns plural can follow one rule. To make a word plural just add an -s UNLESS the word hisses (ch, s, sh, x, z), changes (wife, wives) or just stops with an O (tomato, tomatoes). In these cases, add es. Occasional words have no change (sheep, sheep), an internal change (man, men) or a foreign spelling (alumnus, alumni; piano, pianos). The Lesson sets up a Log page that grows as a student’s knowledge grows or can be loaded in its entirety from the provided word lists.

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STEP 23 1-1-1 Suffix Rule

The Antique Spelling Bee Activity takes several steps back in time when auditory discrimination, oral enunciation, and orthography were mainstays of an elementary education. Suffixes are their most troublesome when deciding when to double the final consonant of the base word before adding suffixes. This STEP walks students through a series of NO CHANGE Check questions designed to give them a process to determine whether to double the final consonant according to the 1-1-1 Rule.

STEP 24 2-1-1 Suffix Rule

STEP 24 expands on STEP 23 by providing a similar set of questions to use in the 2-1-1 Rule. With a 2 or more syllable word ending in one vowel then one consonant, double the last consonant before adding a vowel suffix IF the accent is on the last syllable. The Accent Action Activity gives students ample opportunity to learn and practice the identification of accents in words. This more complex skill is recommended for older or more experienced spellers, but is useful as an early introduction for even very young students.

STEP 25 Advanced Phonograms 71-78

STEPSPRODUCTS012WEBThis last set of eight advanced phonograms completes the introduction of the 78 sound elements. These infrequently used spellings identify words of Greek origin (psychologist), give another sound for earlier phonogram (mosquito), or simply introduce a sound not introduced earlier (caught, laugh). As students take their last STEP, they possess the needed skills to analyze the spellings of words and make spelling and decoding decisions based on knowledge of the workings of English rather than memorizing words or being dependent on spell checkers or classroom aides. Since STEPS is adaptable to any age level, students who have the opportunity to participate for more than one year will strengthen the depth of their understanding as they apply the knowledge gleaned through the STEPS in its application to new words.

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