Monday, April 11, 2016

How We Use Victory Drill to Build Reading Speed

Have you ever heard of the Victory Drill Book? I heard about it from another home school mom while we were both stuck waiting in a doctor's office waiting room. It's a basic, no-fluff book you can use in a variety of ways, over and over again for multiple children to strengthen their reading skills. The bulk of the book amounts to a series of word lists, generally grouped by a common phonics or spelling rules, and the lists progress from simple (including at, sat, mat & rat) to advanced (awkwardly, Americanism, extraordinary & Mississippi). Victory Drill may be used to build reading speed and fluency for students in any grade. It can also be used when teaching reading, spelling, or phonics rules. 

Since I taught my son to read without using a traditional phonics program (here's how), we used Victory Drill to reinforce spelling and phonics rules while building his reading speed. After using it for over a year, we've settled into a routine with it. 

Here's how we use it...

Day 1:
  1. I introduce the new page and teach the phonics or spelling rule used, which is written at the bottom of the page. We read the words together and if any are new to him I tell him what they mean. 
  2. I have him read the page aloud to me. 
  3. Focusing on one column, I say the words in random order and have him find them. 

Day 2 and following:

He reads the page of words to himself. Then we repeat steps two and three together. We progress through the page at his pace, spending fifteen minutes (or less) on it per day. After five days if he's made it through all five columns of words and he knows them pretty well, then it's time to test out. If he's not ready to test out yet then we stay on the same page, reviewing it as many days as we need to for him to learn them. 

IF we're using it for spelling then I add a 4th and 5th step. Step 4: Focusing on the same column, I quiz his spelling. Step 5: I note any words he mis-spells and he writes them down correctly. 

How we review words... 

Several ideas are given in the introduction, including: 
  • Me saying a word and him finding it on the page (This is my preferred method of review, and it gets him reading the same words faster and faster. It turns what used to be sound-out words into quickly-read sight words.)
  • I describe a word and have him find it. For example, if I want him to find the word "jam" I'd say "This is another word for jelly. I like to eat it on toast."
  • He can find how many times a word is repeated on a page. (We don't do this one much.)
  • We practice using the words in sentences. (I really just do this when there's a need to. Like I said, I generally stick to the first idea.)
  • I also bought the Victory Drill Book worksheets. There is one sheet for each page of the VDB. It's a fun & easy way for him to practice using the words. 
I don't worry about how many steps are completed in one day, we just pick up where we left off the previous day. It's all about the repetition. He sees the same words many times over several days until he knows them. For those who want to try some simple games with the words, check out Ruth Beechick's Three R's

How we test out... 

When he's doing well with the words and I think he's ready, he tests out. I time him for one minute and see how many words he can read correctly in that time. There are suggested scores per grade level but you'll quickly find your own child's level. If he reads the required number of words per minute then the page is passed and he begins learning the next page. (If we are using it for spelling as well, then I'd quiz his spelling too.)

The good and bad...

Doing this program is definitely SIMPLE. It's just a matter of sitting down every day and working on it for 10-15 minutes at his pace. It relies entirely on repetition... the fact that he's seeing the same words over and over again puts those words, correctly spelled, into his brain. We're re-inforcing phonetic and spelling rules, which will help him decode new words he encounters. At the same time, he's building speed on the common words and no longer has to sound them out. To me this is a win-win and a good combination of phonics and sight-reading techniques. 

I will admit that it gets a little old since it's so repetitive. That's why we started breaking it up a little... After he tests out of a page then we take a break from Victory Drill for a week or more and he spends the time reading aloud to me from a book instead. Then we go back to Victory Drill again until he tests out of another page. 

The beauty of the program is that it can be used for ANY age. Older students and better readers use the very same book, but their reading speed is higher so their test-out speed is higher too. The mom who recommended this book said she used it off and on with her children through the years. They didn't do it every year, but would focus on it for an entire school year and then put it aside for a few years before doing it again. She said that did wonders for her children's reading speed. I think she said they used it around 4th and 8th grade. 

We've used it in first and second grade, and it's been beneficial for my son. So far every page he's passed he tested out at a faster reading speed than he did on the previous page. So he's steadily been improving his reading speed, and he no longer sounds out words that he used to. He just sees them and knows them. He's also picked up some phonics and spelling rules that have been helpful. We plan to continue at his pace the rest of this school year, then take a break from it after that. 

Who It's For...

I'd recommend Victory Drill Book to any one looking for a simple program to improve reading speed. Just realize that you'll either have to be ok with the repetitiveness of it, or be ok with taking little breaks from it. 


  1. I like this posting... it is very interesting..... Sounds like an effective learning tool!


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