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Word Callers

Small-Group and One-to-One Interventions for Children Who "Read" but Don't Comprehend

Word Callers is an assessment and intervention developed by Kelly Cartwright that uses word and picture cards to measure and support readers’ sound-meaning flexibility—an ideal resource for tier 2 and tier 3 RTI instruction.

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This product is part of the series:  The Research-Informed Classroom Series

Full Description

Fast, effective, research-based interventions for struggling readers

Have you ever zoned out during reading—pronounced the words, without processing their meaning? This is how “word callers” experience all reading, In fact, strong decoders with limited comprehension account for nearly a third of all struggling readers. Now there’s powerful new hope for them in Word Callers.

 “Word callers are so focused on letters and decoding that their minds don’t knit together the meaning of the words they are reading. The diverse interventions in this book all address this inflexibility, helping these children become better able to process meaning alongside letter-sound information.”

—Kelly Cartwright

A centerpiece of Word Callers is an assessment and intervention developed by Kelly Cartwright that uses word and picture cards to measure and support readers’ sound-meaning flexibility—an ideal resource for Tier 2 and Tier 3 RTI instruction. Kelly’s research shows that your word callers can “unglue” from print and improve their comprehension in as few as 5 lessons.

With Word Callers you’ll help students in individual or small-group settings begin to make meaning and then build on their newfound skill:

  • Assessments based on included word cards help identify inflexible readers.
  • A straightforward, needs-driven research-tested intervention using the cards turns readers around fast.
  • Engaging lessons with wordplay, word and picture cards, comprehension strategies, and more support the transition from word callers into full-time meaning makers.

It’s not often we have such a storybook scenario for our at-risk learners, but when you try Kelly Cartwright’s suggestions with your students, when you see children transform from “just reading words” to understanding text and enjoying reading, you’ll see how much hope there is for your Word Callers.

 To purchase replacement word & picture cards, click here.

Get a special discount on replacement cards when you buy 5 sets at a time! Click here to save.

(click any section below to continue reading)


1. Word Callers: What to Watch For

2. The High-Low Paradox: New Cognitive Science Research on Why These Children Struggle

3. Who Are Your Infl exible Thinkers? A Quick Classroom Assessment

4. Easy Intervention Lessons: Word and Picture Sorts

5. Flexing Thinking with Laughter: Jokes, Riddles, and Other Wordplay Activities

6. A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words: Pictorial and Verbal Activities

7. Connecting the Dots: Lessons That Help Word Callers Infer

8. Transactional Strategies Instruction: Because Reading Is a Juggling Act

Word and Picture Cards + 2x2 Matrix



“Anyone who teaches in the intermediate grades is familiar with word callers. They are those kids that can't seem to use strategies to improve their comprehension. They get little or nothing out of print, even when they have background knowledge to support them. They flit from book to book and say they "hate reading". 

I have read many books in my ten years as an educator about trying to reach these students, but NOTHING I have ever read was as well-written and simple to follow as this book. It should be required reading for every intermediate teacher. It begins with a solid research base as to why these, often bright, students are floundering. Come to find out, it is often a lack of executive skills. Or, put simply, they do not have the mental flexibility to handle decoding and making meaning simultaneously. Can we measure this flexible thinking? Yes! This book has a simple, quick assessment to do just that. Can we improve this flexible thinking? Absolutely...although the methods are not at all traditional. Several ways to reach these students are described in detail in this book. Does it take a big investment in time or materials? No! Everything you need for the assessment and most of what you need for teaching is included. Other materials you might need are easy to obtain. And the best part? You can make a huge difference in your word caller's comprehension in just a matter of weeks, using Kelly's methods.”

C Jones, c4jones, South Berwick, Maine, 3/15/2011

"I teach kindergarten and had 4 children come in reading very high this year. Two had excellent comprehension and two had little to no comprehension despite "reading" over 75 wcpm. The typical things I do to improve comprehension worked well with one student but the other barely made progress. Someone in one of my reading specialist graduate courses mentioned this book when I spoke of my concerns for this child. I bought the book, did what it said and her comprehension soared! I have shared the book with fellow staff and they are very excited. We have ordered 5 more books for staff to use.

I am using it in tutoring a second grade boy and am loving the results. He is so much happier now because he is understanding what he is reading.

I have been using it with all of my students in a small group setting. I have seen it transfer to math comprehension also."

Paula (Minnesota)

"Word Callers is research based, teacher friendly, and the strategy lessons provided work!  Everything you need is included—assessments, intervention materials, and engaging lessons—to unlock reading for your word callers in as few as five lessons. As a reading specialist, I have added flexible-thinking lessons as an effective tier 2 intervention to improve comprehension for my upper-grade students. If you have ever struggled teaching students who can “read,” but do not comprehend, you have got to buy this book!"

Kathy Bohince, Reading Specialist

"I have devoured Word Callers, and I just love it. I consider it a much needed breakthrough in literacy pertaining to our collective need for a way to tap into reading comprehension via assessment and instruction. I am just so excited about your material."

Sarah Sullivan, Reading Specialist
Gilberts, Illinois

“I am so grateful to Kelly for bringing together so much important research and communicating it so effectively. Kelly puts readers of this book on the cutting edge of reading comprehension instruction for a significant and underserved population of students. Thank you, Kelly, and thank you to everyone who reads this book and works to bring all readers to deep comprehension.”

Nell K. Duke
Michigan State University