SIPPS Gets Colorado Students Reading

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Through systematic instruction in phonological awareness, phonics, and sight words, Colorado K-12 students attain reading fluency and comprehension.

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When I do SIPPS, I feel like I am really smart because I know the words. And when I read my book, I can remember the words.

Recently approved as a reading intervention program by the Colorado Department of Education READ Act, Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words (SIPPS) offers struggling K-12 readers an effective learning program. To help students attain reading fluency and comprehension, the instructional materials provided by SIPPS offers a systemic approach to decoding that is gaining momentum in Colorado.

Colorado READ Act-approved SIPPS is based on scientific research conducted both by the authors of the program, John Shefelbine and Katherine K. Newman, as well as by other experts in the field. Moreover, reports from the National Reading Panel have also been integrated into the program’s development. Through this research, Shefelbine and Newman recognize that beginning readers need the following to master fluency: “explicit instruction … familiarity with spelling-sound correspondences … recognition of frequent words; and independent reading” (1).

As such, SIPPS ensures that specific areas of development are put to use in the program. Students increase phonemic awareness through a systemic phonics approach, backed by findings are making a huge contribution to student reading growth. The program also focuses on polysyllabic decoding and teaching to gain fluency, something many other programs fail to address. Furthermore, SIPPS is based on consistent assessment of student progress which then helps instructors direct learning to fit student needs.

Illustrating the program’s effectiveness, a comparative study was conducted in California. The study included two matched comparison schools that use an alternative program and two SIPPS schools, one of which contained a high ELL, low SES population. The results were extraordinary, clearly showing that ELL students improved their reading more quickly than English speakers and that low SES students did much better with the SIPPS program. Furthermore, SIPPS did equally well with high school students who showed an average decoding gain of 12.5 standard score units in decoding and sight-word efficiency, a vast improvement over the previous year when a different program was used. (2)

To achieve these high scores and accomplish the task of helping students improve their reading skills, SIPPS implements a specific learning strategy. To develop fluency, and build spelling skills and word recognition, teachers work with students in small groups. Direct instruction and modeling are used to introduce, guide and apply lessons to both reading and writing.

Before students can move on to the next lesson, they must achieve 80 percent mastery which is gauged by an informal assessment. Lesson sight words and repeated sentence patterns are included in the first stories students read with a combination of decodable and sight words being introduced as more phonics are learned. Finally, instruction on commonly used prefixes, suffixes, and roots, as well as both regular and irregular sight syllables is given. Moreover, strategies for decoding longer words and how to apply them to reading are provided. (3)

SIPPS offers Colorado teachers and students the ability to achieve their reading level goals from this innovative and effective program.

For more information, visit the Developmental Studies Center website.



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Richard Callender
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