WordMaker uses a variety of activities to build targeted phonics skills. WordMaker is Systematic Sequential Phonics Instruction, which is, according to the National Reading Panel, the most effective approach for teaching Phonics. Students build on the words they know how to read and spell to create new words that are longer and more difficult. The 140 progressive lessons focus students on specific letter combinations, thus teaching the early reader to look for patterns and apply what they know about them when encountering known and unknown words. Wordmaker was developed in collaboration with Dr. Patricia Cunningham, creator of the Four-blocks Literacy Model.
Dr. Cunningham conducted both formal and action-research in her many classrooms and resource rooms. Her dissertation topic, "How do we decode an unknown word, and particularly an unknown big word?" (Cunningham, 1975-76) yielded the information that decoding takes place in a compare/contrast way—later to be called "Decoding by Analogy."
She found that when readers come to unfamiliar words:
- They do a fast search through their cognitive word stores for similar words with the same letters in the same places
- They use these analogs to come up with a possible pronunciation
- They cross check for meaning—context
- The brain is better at detecting patterns than applying rules
- Students must be taught patterns exist everywhere
- Students must be taught to look for patterns
WordMaker applies all of Pat’s research, as well as later findings by other literacy experts!