image of two boys reading and the caption, an overview of whole word reading methods and curriculum, learn with emily dot com

An Overview of Whole Word Reading Methods and Curriculum

This post may contain affiliate links. Affiliate links use cookies to track clicks and qualifying purchases for earnings. Please read my Disclosure Policy, Terms of Service, and Privacy policy for specific details.

Two techniques to teach reading include 1) using phonics to decode words and 2) recognizing whole words by sight. Whole word reading programs have fewer prerequisite skills in comparison to decoding reading programs. CLICK HERE to read an overview of the prerequisite skills for learning to read. This article is a round-up of whole word reading methods and curriculum posts.

First assess a child’s readiness for whole word reading methods.

The prerequisite skills for learning to read using whole word programs include being able to discriminate the differences between the groups of letters that form words.

How to assess reading prerequisite visual discrimination skills, click here for instructions and free printable, learn with emily dot com

CLICK HERE to for instructions on evaluating prerequisite visual discrimination skills.

Next select a curriculum or instructional method.

Published Curriculum


Edmark is a complete whole word reading program. Word recognition, sentence fluency, and comprehension are all covered in this curriculum.

An Edmark Reading Program Review

CLICK HERE to read my complete review of the Edmark Reading Curriculum.

Instructional Methods

Fernald Method

an overview of the fernald method for teaching reading to individuals with severe learning disabilities, learn with emily dot com

CLICK HERE to read about how to implement this approach. This approach is appropriate for individuals with severe reading disabilities.

Time Delay

Time delay is an instructional procedure that can be used to teach high frequency sight words or other selected whole words. This approach to teaching whole words has been demonstrated as effective in research (Knight, Ross, & Taylor, 2003; Ledford, Gast, Luscre, & Ayres, 2008; Redhair, McCoy, Zucker, Mathur, & Caterina, 2013).

A stop watch with the caption, instructional strategies: constant time delay and progression time delay, learn with emily dot com

CLICK HERE to read an overview of how to implement time delay. One of the included time delay examples is for math facts. The exact same procedure can be applied to teaching whole words.

Stimulus Fading

images of a banana fading out with the word banana and the caption, a stimulus fading whole word reading method, learn with emily dot com

CLICK HERE to read about how to use the stimulus fading approach.

Time Delay vs. Stimulus Fading

Both time delay and stimulus fading are research based methods for teaching children to read whole words. The materials for time delay procedures are easy to create. Stimulus fading materials require more sophisticated computer skills, namely knowing how to use a paint app or editing program to 1) superimpose words over an image and 2) fade out the image. Both time delay and stimulus fading are easy to implement once you have your materials ready. The main advantage of a time delay procedure is ease of implementation. One advantage of a stimulus fading procedure is that a child may incidentally learn new words. Redhair, McCoy, Zucker, Mathur, & Caterino (2013) found that children may learn knew words from exposure to the word superimposed over a cooresponding image prior to actually teaching the new word.


Whole word methods are commonly used to teach children to read high frequency sight words. They may also be used to improve overall reading ability and fluency alone, or in combination with a phonics based reading program.


Knight, M. G., Ross, D. E., & Taylor, R. L. (2003). Constant time delay and interspersed of known items to teach sight words to students with mental retardation and learning disabilities. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 38, 179-191.

Ledford, J. R., Gast, D. L., Luscre, D., & Ayres, K. M. (2008). Observational and incidental learning by children with autism during small group instruction. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 86–103.

Redhair, E. I., McCoy, K. M., Zucker, S. H., Mathur, S. R., & Caterino, L. (2013). Identification of printed nonsense words for an individual with autism: A comparison of constant time delay and stimulus fading. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 48, 351-362.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *