Teach underlying skills Since sounds (not syllables, blends, full words or rhyming combinations) are the key that unlocks our English writing system, successful readers must be taught to segment (pull apart), blend (put together), and analyze words at the sound (phonemic) level.

Use a sound to code basis  Good reading programs teach the sound code for the 43 phonemes (individual sounds) of the English language as well as the alternative spellings for those sounds. By learning that letters or letter combinations stand for specific sounds of speech, reading and spelling are taught concurrently.

Handle the alternative spellings of sounds and code overlap  After the student has learned the most probable spelling for each sound, the less probable (alternative) spelling should be introduced. Overlaps of the code, in which a letter or letter combinations represent more than one sound, must also be taught.

Reading Programs That Get Results  The most successful reading programs (those that get the biggest, quickest reading and spelling improvement with the highest percentage of students) are those that incorporate the above three components.

Although the results vary by study and can depend upon the ages or types of students involved, these programs generally achieve two to three times the improvement as other reading programs.

“Master the Code” is one of these reading and spelling programs. It is based upon the most recent scientific research and incorporates all of the components of a good reading program.

Master the Code has Unique and Important Differences

Master the Code develops underlying skills

Master the Code recognizes that some students do not bring sufficient cognitive skills to the task of learning the reading code quickly and efficiently. Even if reading is taught completely and sequentially, a student who has an auditory processing problem, is not concentrating adequately, works too slowly, has poor memory skills, or cannot create good mental images, will complete lessons very slowly or show poor retention. When these skills are in place, however, students learn rapidly. Master the Code has been designed to remedy these significant problem areas.

Embedded within Master the Code are procedures that evaluate, pinpoint, and develop to advanced levels the underlying mental skills required to assure fast and efficient learning-to-read skills. Some of these skills include:

Memory (the ability to remember the sound-symbol relationship)

Segmenting (the ability to separate or unglue sounds)

Blending (the ability to put together sounds to form words)

Auditory analysis (the ability to manipulate or analyze small changes in groups of sounds)

Processing Speed and Working Memory (the ability to retain incoming information and properly process it quickly)

Attention (the ability to stay on the given task)

Visualization (the ability to create and use mental images)


Master the Code is properly sequenced to handle the complex logic of our alphabet code, a reader must have mastered each level of complexity in carefully sequenced steps.

Master the Code starts with blending, segmenting, and sound analysis. To teach these skills, nonsense words are used so students do not rely on their memory of known words. Practice is provided in both segmentation and blending exercises. Encoding (spelling), decoding (reading), and writing exercises are used so that the reversibility of the code is made clear.

Some students struggle to correctly pronounce and differentiate between all of the sounds of the English language. These individuals get more direct instruction at a sensory level about how parts of the mouth (jaw, teeth, tongue, lips, vocal chords) interact to form the individual sounds. Initially the twelve consonant sounds with only one main spelling – or one spelling by position in a word – are taught. Then, the remaining twelve consonants and their most likely spelling are taught. The 18 vowel sounds are also taught from simple to complex. First, sounds spelled with the five vowel letters are taught /a/ /e/ /i/ /u/ /o/. Then, the e-controlled sounds, followed by the ‘o’ vowels sounds: /oo/ /oo/ /ou/ /oi/. Finally the vowel + r sounds are taught.  After the student has learned the most probable spelling for each sound, the less probable, alternative spellings are introduced. These alternative spellings are taught from most likely to least likely. Through use and drill, the letter patterns and the probability of their appearance are stored in long-term memory. This enables an individual to choose the most likely spelling for a word, instead of randomly guessing.

Overlaps of the code, in which a letter or letter combinations represent more than one sound, are also taught. For example, the letter u can be involved in a number of different sounds: cut, full, cute, and ruin. Such overlaps often create problems when reading. Various exercises are utilized to quickly teach how letters overlap to various sounds as new vowel spellings are introduced. The Master the Code method of handling alternative spellings and code overlap without memorizing rules reduces “sight words” by about 75%.

Master the Code uses a unique methodology  Master the Code embeds the English reading code to an automatic level instead of passively teaching lessons that are easily forgotten in a short period of time. It is especially beneficial for older readers who have developed many bad reading habits and will fall back into old, ineffective reading patterns if the skills are not taught appropriately and brought to an automatic level.

Master the Code uses the following training techniques to get its tremendous results:

Immediate feedback (one-on-one training allows for immediate correction of errors and encouragement of correct responses)

Concentration (the training drills require full attention which brings faster results because of less time off task)

Sequencing (an introduction of tasks and information from simple to complex in small enough steps so that new material can be mastered quickly and easily)

Stretching (constantly pushing activities to more demanding levels that challenge or stretch the student skills to improve)

Loading (adding a task upon a task concurrently thus forcing automation and mastery of skills to a subconscious level) .


Using these techniques and making the sequence of the reading and spelling instruction align with the logic of our alphabetic system results in the most rapid mastery and automation of reading and spelling. To find out more about our programs or to schedule a free processing screening, call the Kurtz Center at 407.629.9003. You may also request information by filling out our Contact the Kurtz Center form.

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