First Words Fast
2017 – 2018 pilot in four Montego Bay, Jamaica schools
The Jamaica Ministry of Education, in its never-ending quest to continuously improve literacy education for its students, partook in the first trial in the world of First Words Fast, in the hopes of further advancing the gains they were realizing with their incumbent system. Their innovative and cutting-edge vision paid off:
Pilot research analysis provided by Benjamin Williams, MS, Department of Statistical Science
Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas.
The First Words Fast simple and direct method aligns with the research of Dr. Jonathan Solity and Dr. Laura Shapiro. Their research shows that
“Less intensive phonics programmes that teach only the most useful phonics skills plus some words by sight are more effective than intensive phonics programmes for children with phonological difficulties…Either type of phonics was equally effective for children with good phonological skills…”
First Words Fast meets the needs of struggling and non-struggling students alike. One method fits all levels!
- Students participating in the First Words Fast program were introduced more sight words, and learned significantly more sight words.
- All students participating in the pilot are effectively English Language Learners, with the native language of Jamaica being Jamaican Patois.
- All students participating in the pilot received instruction as an intervention in small groups for 30 minutes daily.
- Based on the following circumstances, even greater results could be expected in future implementations:
- First Words Fast has been updated and improved since the initial implementation in the pilot study.
- Optimally, students will begin First Words Fast in the PreK and/or Kindergarten year; the students in the pilot study entered the program in the program’s target year of 1st grade.
- First Words Fast is designed for a 30-week instructional plan for 1st Grade; however, unforeseen circumstances led to fewer weeks of instruction.
- Other than the First Words Fast students learning more words, the teachers participating in the pilot were most impressed with program’s ability to effectively teach and enhance blending skills, using the picture cues of the innovative and unique phonics system.
- Bottom Line: First Words Fast participants outperformed students using the current curriculum at every level.
- The results from this study are useful and should be taken into consideration when making curriculum decisions.
It is our greatest hope to enhance literacy for children around the globe.
Professor Anne Castles extolls the importance of Sight Word instruction that will “expose children to the same words again and again until they are reliably recognised and pronounced”. She further states that
“…numerous experimental studies have reported substantial and sustained improvements in children’s word reading following targeted teaching of [Sight Words]…it should be used judiciously for selected words in parallel with an explicit, systematic phonics program.”
Solity and colleagues have shown that knowledge of the most common English sound spellings, together with knowledge of the most common words, enable children to
“independently read 90% of words in texts they typically encounter – putting them very efficiently on the path to reading.”