How to make your own Edmark style learning activities

How to Create Edmark Style Learning Activities

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Edmark is a reading program that teaches children to read whole words. CLICK HERE to read my review of the Edmark reading program. Although I highly recommend Edmark and have used the program to teach children to read for more than 20 years. the cost can be prohibitive to homeschoolers or parents trying to supplement their children’s reading education. For parents who cannot justify the expense or who are unable to otherwise buy the Edmark reading program, you can create your own Edmark style learning activities.

Reasons to Create Your Own Edmark Style Learning Activities


When I recommend the Edmark reading program, I frequently hear that the program costs too much. In a school setting administrators may pick the reading curriculum and teachers may just have to go with it. A self-contained special education teacher may have a little more freedom to try curriculum and select reading programs based on student learning needs. Funding may be limited in this setting and the request for Edmark may need to come at the end of the previous school year. In a home setting, paying $600 for a whole word reading program (or less if you are lucky enough to find a used version) that may or may not be a good fit for your child can be difficult to justify or even impossible to afford. In any of these situations, it may be worth your time to create your own Edmark-style reading activities to jump start a child’s reading progress.

If you are creating your own program, you can pick high-frequency sight words and other words based on simple books or reader sets. CLICK HERE to read about free leveled readers that could be used as a basis for word selection.

Pick your own words to increase motivation

Just about all children and adults learn more quickly if the content is tied into personal interests. I had one student who could read and remember Godzilla character names but progressed pretty slowly with learning to read words that were not relevant to his interests. Picking target words that are relevant to a child’s individual interests can make learning to read the words and practice for mastery a lot more motivating.

Teach other learning objectives as Edmark style is effective with the child

If a child is learning well using Edmark, then it may be worth the teacher’s time to create other Edmark style learning activities. I once had a student who was making excellent progress learning to read using Edmark, but was not making progress on his other IEP objectives including learning the names of numbers and letters. I created Edmark-style learning activities to teach him these skills. He started making excellent progress and at the end of the term, his mother told me I had taught him more in a few months than he had learned his entire Kindergarten year. I did not always have that level of success with my students, but with this particular child Edmark-style learning activities were highly effective.

Additionally, when you create your own activities, you pick the font size and style. This option may be particularly beneficial when teaching children who have visual impairments.

Some ideas for DIY Edmark-style learning activities:

  • Teaching letter names
  • Teaching letter sounds
  • Teaching a child chunks of words (word families) for decoding with different beginning sounds
  • Teaching high frequency site words
  • Teaching words that are motivating for the child
  • Teaching math facts
  • Teach visual discrimination of pictures, letters, letter pairs, etc.

Components of Edmark Style Learning

The Edmark learning system includes:

  1. Pages to teach and review target words
  2. Activities to teach comprehension: (A) Matching a picture card to a word or phrase and (B) Matching a word or phrase card to a drawing
  3. Generalization in reading a story book

Materials for Edmark Style Learning

Display Masks

In Edmark, the pages that teach and review target words are bound in a set of books. As you go through the page, you isolate each line with a blue plastic sheet that has a viewing window. These are called “display masks.” You will need a display mask to visually isolate each line of the learning activity. I can think of two ways to create your own display mask. Take a clear sheet protector and insert sturdy paper to create a viewing window that matches your line/font size. The Edmark display mask has a 1/2″ viewing window. Similarly, you can laminate two papers together with a space as your viewing window using a thermal or other laminator and laminating pouches.

Edmark Style Learning Teaching/Review Pages

Visual Discrimination

Book 1 of Edmark starts with teaching visual discrimination skills. This skill gradually increases in difficulty starting with this progressing: line drawings, shapes, lines, letters, letter pairs, 3 letter combinations, and then words. The left side of the line has the target item, then there are 3 choices to the right. The child is taught to point to the one that matches the item on the left side.

The sample above was created using a paint app. In this sample, I just played around with my drawing options in the app. The shapes on the bottom line will be easier to match than the previous 3 lines, so should actually be in a previous lesson. If you make your learning activity pages like the above sample, you will need to make a display mask that is oriented horizontally as well and make your viewing window large enough to see one line at a time.

Teaching Letters, Words, or Other Targets

In Edmark, beginning word lessons start by teaching a new word. Then the child is asked to find the word from a field of 3 choices. The child is also asked to read the word (or otherwise expressively identify such as sign or use their communication system). Starting in lesson 2, the child reads a 2 word phrase. Each successive lesson introduces a new word, asks the child to find the word from a field of 3 (and find previously learned words for review), and expressively read the word in isolation and in phrases progressing to sentences.

Sample Letter Activity Page


As you go through the learning page, visually isolate each line with the display mask. The first line is where you introduce the new target. Point to the target and say, “A.”

The next 2 lines are visual discrimination tasks. Isolate the line with the display mask and say, “Find A” or “Touch A.” If the child does not respond or responds incorrectly, you touch the correct response and say, “This is A.” Then repeat. Move on to the next line.

The 4th line, A is by itself. This is an expressive task. Point to the A and say, “What is it?” Give the correct answer if the child does not answer or answers incorrectly.

Continue through the activity, isolating each line. When the child can respond correctly on each line, they are ready to move on to the next learning page.

The first 2 lines on this page review the previous lesson. As you go through the page, visually isolate each line with the display mask. Ask the child to find A on the first line. On the second line, have the child expressively tell you what the letter is. The third line teaches the new letter, “B.” Point to the B and tell the child, “B.” Have the child “Find B” on the next 2 lines. On the 6th line, have the child tell you what the letter is. The 7th and 8th lines review A and B. Have the child find B, and then A on each line. The last 2 lines are expressive. Have the child tell you what the letters are. Prompt and give correct answer as needed as described for the first sample page. The child is ready to move on to the next letter when this second page is completed accurately.

Continue to make learning pages in the same pattern. Review previously learned letters systematically. The new target line has dashes on the 1st and 3rd column. Finding the target lines have all 3 columns filled. Expressive identification lines have one target in the center column. As you create more lesson pages, you will need to drop out previously learned targets (or letters in this sample) so the lesson activity doesn’t go beyond 2 pages. Systematically add in review for the dropped letters in other lessons to maintain mastered content.

Edmark Style Learning Word Activity Pages

The sample above can be created using the same pattern with words instead. I would start with a high interest word and then add in high frequency words (such as Dolch high frequency sight words) and more high interest words in subsequent lessons. For example, if you started with the word Mario, the second word could be ran. Then you could create a phrase for the end of lesson 2 that says, “Mario ran.” The 3rd word could be “Luigi” and then another phrase could be included at the end of lesson 3 that says, “Luigi ran.” If the child loves dolls, the first word could be doll and the second word could be “a” to form the phrase “a doll.”

Matching Activities for Comprehension

Worksheet Format

You can create worksheets to review and practice the words previously learned on the word activity pages. Some children love cut and paste types of activities. Others may prefer matching where you draw lines across the page to match corresponding targets. For reading activities, it could be a word, sentence, or phrase to a drawing or photo. For visual discrimination, it could be matching identical items. CLICK here to read about how to avoid the picture blocking effect, a potential pitiful of reading practice activities.

Folder Game Format

The folder game format is similar to a cut and paste activity, but is reusable. You create the items using cardstock or other quality materials. If you want to imitate the Edmark format, you will create two types of practice games. In the first type, a child will have a set of cards to match to words, phrases, or sentences on a folder. In the second type of activity, the child will be given word, phrase, or sentence strips to match to drawings on a folder.

Additional Formats for Supplementary Review and Practice

I found several additional ideas for practice activities on Pinterest and pinned them. There are additional ideas for matching including a TEACCH based generalization activity. I also pinned a post describing the newer version of Edmark level 1. That post has a lot of photos and will give you a good idea of what the new version of Edmark looks like. CLICK HERE to go to my Edmark Pinterest board.

Short Books or Stories for Generalization

When teaching reading skills, you will want to work on generalizing the mastered words in real contexts. Although there are probably many ways to approach generalization I have listed to possible approaches below:

  1. Write your own short stories using only words the child has learned to read.
  2. Buy or borrow readers and other high interest books for the child and have the child read the words that have been previously mastered and you read the other words.

Procedures on Edmark Style Learning

Prerequisite skills

Before you spend hours and hours creating your own Edmark Style Learning Activities, make sure that your child has the prerequisite skills for the target activity. In addition to having the prerequisite skills for the target skill, for an Edmark Style Learning Activity a child will also need to be able to 1) point to or touch the target items and 2) have someway to expressively indicate the correct response (e.g. verbal, sign language, etc.). CLICK HERE to read about the pre-requisite skills for learning to read.

Sequence and Pace of Lessons

Start with a teaching page. Use the display mask with the teaching page to visually isolate one line at a time. Introduce the new word. In all of the tasks, if the child does not answer or respond correctly, model the correct response and move on. Repeat the lesson on a subsequent day until the child can complete the lesson accurately. Then move on to the next lesson or activity in your series.

Edmark Style Learning Freebies

Years ago I created some Edmark style learning pages for math facts. The set is incomplete as it was not as effective as I had hoped for the child I created it for. I am making them available here for free for you to use as an example on setting up your own learning pages or to try out for learning math facts. CLICK HERE to read my review of math fact curricula.





This next one is in a word processing document so you can edit it to fit your own learning objectives.


Conclusion on Edmark Style Learning Activities

Edmark is a whole word reading program that has been used for decades to teach children to read who were not making progress with phonics based programs. Although Edmark is a quality program that I highly recommend, you may find it beneficial or necessary to create your own Edmark style learning activities. If you get stuck or have questions as you make your own learning activities, I will be happy to answer and will update this post to make clarifications as needed. I would also love to hear about your success and see examples of what you come up with. Please feel free to share in our Facebook Group.


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