Teaching Early Literacy Skills to Students with Intensive Needs: Implementing Friends on the Block

the words "friends on the block" and a illustrated boy leaning against the letters with a small yellow dog jumping through one of the lettersThis four-session live, virtual workshop will provide teachers with practical, research-validated methods for teaching foundational literacy skills to students with intensive needs, including students with developmental and intellectual disabilities, dyslexia, or other disabilities. Though the target of the workshop is students with intensive needs, the materials follow the Science of Reading and Structured Literacy and are completely appropriate for beginning readers (K-1) who are typically developing and for struggling readers who have not mastered foundational skills, as the program is highly flexible so teachers can easily provide customized lessons to meet the needs of varying learner types.

Friends on the Block is a unique curriculum which includes carefully designed books with scaffolds that allow students to begin reading books very quickly while enhancing comprehension through teacher-read "helper" text. Explicit, systematic lessons accompany each book and facilitate transfer of skills immediately to the books. The program was designed by researchers and research is ongoing. Support for carrying out this research was provided by grant R324A130102 and R324A200151 from the Institute of Education Sciences.

Date:    June 14 - 16, 2021 & October 9, 2021

Time:    9:30 - 11:30 a.m.  CDT

Location:    Virtual (Zoom)

Participants will receive:

  • Premium Digital Membership for One Year ($125 value)
    • All 60 eReaders (epub files that may be viewed on devices)
    • Accompanying Teacher Guides, Warm-Up Charts and Learning Games that may be printed or used to create virtual lessons
    • Assessment Resources
    • How-to Videos
    • Permission to use with anyone you directly teach
  • Sampler Training Kit ($125 value)
    • 4 Student Readers
    • 4 Teacher Guides
    • 4 Warm-Up Charts
    • 10 Learning Games with game pieces
    • Training Manual
    • Session 1 - June 14, 2021

      Getting Started and Emergent Literacy: Focus on FOTB Levels 1-3 

      Session 2 - June 15, 2021

      The Alphabetic Principle and Progress Monitoring: Focus on FOTB Levels 4-5

      Session 3 - June 16, 2021

      Developing Automaticity: Focus on FOTB Levels 6-8

      Session 4 - October 9, 2021

      Advanced Word Recognition, Fluency, and Problem Solving: Focus on FOTB Levels 9-14

Individuals who register after June 1 should be aware that their training kit may not arrive in time for the workshop and should be prepared to access and organize digital materials.
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Dr. Jill Allor Dr. Jill Allor received her doctorate in special education from Vanderbilt University in 1996 and is a University Distinguished Professor in Teaching and Learning at Southern Methodist University. A former special education teacher, her research is school-based and focuses on literacy acquisition for students with and without disabilities. As principal/co-principal investigator, she has received over $11 million of research funds, led the grant that supported the development of Friends on the Block (FOTB), and is currently leading a $3.3 million grant to conduct a large-scale randomized control trial of the efficacy of FOTB.  In addition to publishing several early literacy programs for typical and struggling readers, as well as students with disabilities, she has also published over 40 peer-reviewed research articles and book chapters. She has presented widely at professional meetings and has led numerous professional development workshops on a wide variety of early literacy topics.


Dr. Miriam OrtizDr. Miriam Ortiz received her Ph.D. in Education from Southern Methodist University in 2017 with a focus on Special Education and Response to Intervention. Prior to completing her Ph.D. she worked in Tallahassee, Florida as a K-12 teacher for students with behavior and emotional disabilities. She is a Research Project Manager at SMU and has taught courses in early literacy, special education, and doctoral level methodology. She has co-authored several peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on the topic of reading instruction for students with varying disabilities. In addition to her work at SMU, she is also the Executive Director for the Division for Learning Disabilities (TeachingLD.org) of the Council for Exceptional Children and she also consults with educational entities (K12Matters.com).  She is passionate about improving academic outcomes for children with or at-risk for disabilities, teacher training and professional development, as well as assisting struggling readers of all ages. When she's not working she enjoys singing, watching Disney movies and exploring Dallas, Texas with her husband Fabian, and two boys, Gabriel and Daniel.


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