Frequently Asked Questions
What is FreeReading?
FreeReading is a high-quality, open-source, free reading intervention program addressing literacy development for grades K-3. Schools and teachers everywhere can use the complete, research-based 40-week program for K-1 students, or use the library of lessons to supplement existing curricula in phonological awareness, phonics, vocabulary, comprehension, and writing. The site is also filled with free, downloadable supplemental materials including flashcards, graphical organizers, illustrated readers, decodable texts, audio files, videos and more.
Launched in 2007, FreeReading is the first free, open source curriculum product approved for use through a state-wide adoption. Commencing in the 2008-2009 school year, teachers and districts within Florida are using FreeReading’s Intervention A program as an approved intervention tool – and redirecting their valuable curriculum dollars to other areas. In addition to participants in Florida, users of FreeReading will join the ranks of hundreds of thousands of teachers in more than 180 countries who are leveraging the power of FreeReading.
With shrinking federal, state and local funding, providing the tools and materials that teachers need is an increasingly challenging task for administrators. FreeReading provides an alternative so that schools and districts can redirect textbook funds to other valuable, highly-impactful components of education. Whether those options include professional development, technology, formative assessment or something else, FreeReading provides an opportunity for districts to rethink the return on their education investment dollars.
What does “open source” mean?
“Open source” refers to an application whose source code is provided for modification by its users and developers for free. Popular open-source projects include Linux, a computer operating system that was developed by a community of thousands of programmers around the world and is freely available, and Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that is written and edited by tens of thousands of volunteers.
The core content in FreeReading is “locked,” meaning that it can only be changed by those authorized to do so, not by the general public. This ensures that those activities are of high quality and research-based. Other activities can be added and edited by any registered user.
Like both Linux and Wikipedia, all activities on FreeReading are freely available (see note below). We hope it will become a large, collaborative community for instructors around the globe, a space to find and exchange lesson plans, ideas, and other forms of dialog about early literacy.
Note: FreeReading is available for your use under the Creative Commons license Attribution-Share Alike 3.0, sometimes referred to as "the wiki license," which in essence allows you to use the content in a variety of ways so long as you attribute the original content and allow others to use the content in the same manner.
Why would I use FreeReading in my classroom?
It’s a high-quality, research-based program drawing on decades of reading research to help every child become a reader. More importantly, it is continually being field-tested in classrooms like yours, so it evolves according to what works and what doesn’t. While the major print programs take five or seven years between revision cycles, FreeReading is constantly updated according to what works best. Finally, because it’s open-source, it’s significantly less expensive to use than proprietary, published intervention programs.
What type of early literacy activities does FreeReading offer?
FreeReading provides a 40-week scope and sequence of activities in the following categories:
- Phonological Awareness: Students learn to blend and segment the sounds in spoken words.
- Letter Sounds: Students learn to say the most common sounds for printed letters.
- Letter Writing: Students learn the correct way to write letters.
- Sounding Out: Students learn to produce and blend the letter-sound patterns in written words. For the first time, they read.
- Word-Form Recognition: Students learn to read written words without sounding them out. (Some educators refer to these words as “sight words.”)
- Irregular Words: Students learn to read high-frequency irregular words such as the and was by sight.
- Reading Connected Text: Students learn to read their first stories.
- Letter Combinations: Students learn to say the most common sounds for letter combinations such as sh and oa.
- Irregular Words II: Students learn more high-frequency irregular words to read by sight.
- Advanced Phonics: Students learn to read words with features such as inflected endings, silent letters, and multiple syllables.
How is the content of FreeReading organized?
Educators can find early literacy activities three different ways:
- Find Literacy Activities: From the FreeReading home page, select this option to find links to activity category pages, where you can then search for specific activities. For example, if you click on the link Phonological Awareness Activities, you will be taken to a Web page that defines phonological awareness and provides tips and tricks for teaching this skill. The page also contains links to a sequence of activities that address key concepts of phonological awareness and to supplemental activities that allow teachers to provide additional practice.
- Teach the Program: From the FreeReading home page, select this option to find Intervention A, an integrated reading intervention for struggling kindergarten and first-grade readers. It contains a complete set of activities mapped to a 40-week scope and sequence based on the recommendations of the National Reading Panel and other key reading researchers.
- Search: The FreeReading home page features a search function. By typing in a key search term, such as “blending” or “segmenting,” and then hitting the search button, you will be directed to a page that contains links to activities that address blending and segmenting.
Is there a user guide and/or video tutorials for FreeReading?
While a comprehensive user guide for FreeReading is not yet available, you can watch FreeReading video tutorials here.
Other than activities, does FreeReading provide ancillary materials?
FreeReading contains a number of materials that can be downloaded and printed for free including letter cards, picture cards, a letter formation guide, irregular word cards and advanced phonics word cards. Graphic organizers associated with certain activities are also available. A sister website, www.wordlistgenerator.net, provides a searchable database of over 2000 specially selected words that can be used to create word lists and flash cards for students to practice with.
Is FreeReading research-based?
Intervention A was created based on the recommendations of the National Reading Panel and other key reading researchers. (For a list of the FreeReading research base, click here.) Not all content has been through a formal peer review process, though; in general, user contributions have not.
Who is responsible for the creation of FreeReading?
FreeReading was originally created by a team of reading product developers at Wireless Generation with the help of teachers throughout the United States. A leader in educational assessment, reporting, and professional development, Wireless Generation offers commonly used early reading and math assessments on our mCLASS® platform, including TPRI®, DIBELS®, IDEL™, Reading 3D™, CIRCLE™, Math, the School Enhancement Engine™ (SEE), and Tejas LEE®.
Does FreeReading have an advisory board?
Yes. Because FreeReading is an open-source, peer-authored text with no single author or editor in the traditional sense, FreeReading is always in a state of refinement, expansion, and improvement fostered by experts and community members. The Advisory Board refines the ongoing research and development agenda of FreeReading. Since its inception, the FreeReading Advisory Board has included the members listed below. Those noted with an " * " are continuing members of the Advisory Board.
- Catherine Snow*
- Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Education
- Harvard Graduate School of Education
- Michael Kamil*
- Consulting Professor of Education; Psychological Studies in Education; Learning, Design, and Technology
- Stanford University School of Education
- Barbara Taylor
- Guy Bond Chair in Reading
- University of Minnesota
- Director of the Minnesota Center for Reading Research
- Barbara Kapinus
- Senior Policy Analyst
- National Education Association
- Fred Carrigg
- Director of Humanities K-12, Middletown Public Schools
- Former Special Assistant to the Commissioner for Literacy, NJDOE (2002-2007)
Can I contribute content to FreeReading?
Yes. From the FreeReading homepage, select Share Lessons & Ideas. Educators are welcome and encouraged to add an early literacy activity, rate an existing activity, add vocabulary for a book, write a short story, or start a discussion about early literacy. Please remember to consult the Copyright Guidelines for Contributors to FreeReading when contributing to the site.
How do I learn to edit the existing pages of FreeReading?
To edit an existing activity, click on the "edit" tab at the top of the activity screen. For further help on how to edit FreeReading activities, please consult:
Given that anyone can contribute to FreeReading, how do I know whether an activity is research-based?
All activities within Intervention A and the activity category sequences (featured under “Find Specific Activities” on the FreeReading homepage) are research-based. Furthermore, these particular activities are “locked,” which means they cannot be edited by the general public.
Supplemental activities and games (featured under sequenced activity category materials), on the other hand, are created by FreeReading users (primarily K-1 teachers). Therefore, they may or may not be based on research. That said, supplemental activities represent the collective wisdom and talent of a wide community of teachers, researchers, and instructional leaders.
How does FreeReading work with my reading assessments?
It is strongly recommended that you assess and monitor the progress of at-risk students with whom you are using Intervention A. This will enable you to:
- Place students at the right starting point in the program
- Accelerate or decelerate the program according to your results
- Determine whether the program is effective for that student or group
Choose an assessment that (a) can be quickly administered and scored, (b) gives reliable and valid guidance on whether a student is at risk, (c) allows progress to be monitored, and (d) provides sufficient diagnostic information to place a student in the program. There are many available assessments. One that meets the above criteria, and is widely used, is DIBELS®. A page describing how to use DIBELS to place a student in Intervention A is available here.