Fast ForWord Literacy: Elements

Preview video clips from the first evidence-based reading intervention fully tailored to the needs of adolescent learners.

Elements is the newest addition to the Fast ForWord Literacy program for secondary readers. The four exercises in Elements I and the five exercises in Elements II are designed to deliver the rewards, instant feedback, and socially safe learning environment that adolescent learners need to stay motivated and become college- and career-ready learners and readers.

This new release also represents a further advancement in our delivery of Mastery-Based Learning, enabling adolescent learners to achieve mastery of new skills on their own individual learning path, using a combination of instruction, persistent practice, and continuous assessment.

Explore the exercise samples below to see how we’ve designed Elements to promote key aspects of mastery-based learning:

M -- Motivating learners to stay engagedA -- Adaptive learning focused on what the learner needsS -- Socially safe environment for struggling adolescentsT -- Training reading and cognitive skills simultaneouslyE -- Effortful practice to build core skillsR -- Rigorous, high frequency trials
Y -- Yielding word recognition and comprehension


Elements is designed to maximize motivation for adolescent learners by increasing the variety in exercise screens and rewards. Students receive motivational rewards at small increments of completion to keep them engaged. And exercises are designed to deliver an 80:20 success-to-challenge ratio.

How it Works:

  • The heads-up display tracks the learner’s current streak of correct answers and highest streak, motivating a focus on accuracy 
  • Every response includes confirmation of correctness
  • Rewards at 10% completion; at 20%, students “level up” and the screen changes slightly.


The adaptive system effectively co-creates the learning experience with the student by continuously optimizing to provide additional practice with what they need to know, rewarding progress on concepts that are mastered, and scaffolding their ability to apply these new skills.

How It Works:

  • The learner is asked to identify rapidly changing sounds to improve listening accuracy
  • When the student struggles, the system delivers a targeted intervention; it detects that the learner needs additional help, and provides it in-line in a variety of ways

Socially safe

Struggling adolescent readers especially need socially safe environments in which to build and practice reading skills. Elements empowers students to influence their own path to mastery, and promotes self-management and they monitor their own growth.

How it Works:

  • The “?” Help menu gives the learner control over and visibility into their progress:
    • How to replays initial instructions and provides a model trial
    • Practice allows students to take practice attempts without affecting their progress
    • Progress displays progress for each level and the entire exercise

Trains simultaneously

Adolescent learners who struggle with reading often don't have the foundational cognitive capacities and reading skills to access complex texts - Elements I works on both simultaneously!

How It Works:

  • The learner practices the relationship between words, grammar, and meaning, while increasing their processing ability to identify and understand rapid, successive changes in sound
  • At the same time, the learner improves working memory by retrieving picture-sound associations and improves sequencing by focusing on word order in sentences.

Effortful practice

All learners need intentional effort to build the underlying cognitive skills to become effective readers. Elements focuses on intentional practice in the areas of phonological or sound awareness, visual awareness, fluency, and language comprehension.

How it Works:

  • This exercise gives adolescent readers the practice they need in differentiating similar but distinct sounds 
  • By helping the brain to accurately store and quickly discriminate and recall different but similar-sounding syllables/words, this effortful practice improves the speed of word recognition

Rigorous, high frequency

Adolescent learners have less runway to achieve grade level proficiency. Fast ForWord provides more than 25,000 trials in language exercises, whereas other reading interventions provide just over 5,000. With 5 times the number of trials, practice pays off quickly.

Yields rapid word recognition

Elements is designed to improve the learner’s ability to quickly recognize and understand words and language structures. Automaticity is especially important to keep adolescents from falling behind in all subjects that require reading, because it allows them to focus on comprehension.

How it Works:

  • This exercise provides practice in a variety of grammatical structures
  • In this example, the learner receives instructions on verb tenses, followed by rigorous practice on those tenses while forming word-picture associations
  • This helps the learner to develop the coherent and integrated mental representation of text needed for reading.
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