What is Friends on the Block (FOTB)?
Friends on the Block (FOTB) is an intensive early literacy program that can be used as initial instruction or as an intervention. It was developed and piloted by researchers and teachers. It includes 60 student reading books with carefully controlled, highly decodable text that are organized into 14 levels. Each of these books has a corresponding teacher guide and materials, and there are over 100 learning games that provide specific cumulative practice of key skills. The books and games may be purchased separately to be used as practice to supplement other programs.
The program is comprehensive and intensive. It focuses on early literacy, the skills that usually develop beginning some time in pre-kindergarten, but mostly in kindergarten and first grade. These are also the skills that older struggling readers usually have not fully learned. It’s designed to be highly customizable because it provides lots of supports and practice, and the teacher can easily select the supports and the practice that are needed for particular students.
The idea is that this program provides what is needed for all students to attain basic early literacy skills, particularly those who have intensive needs, such as students with disabilities like dyslexia, learning disabilities, or intellectual and developmental disabilities. Our vision was to create a program that includes the supports necessary for all students to succeed, even those with very intensive needs. You can think of it as a building with many features that make it accessible for all students. For example, there's a wheelchair ramp for those who need to roll into the building. This ramp makes it possible for students in a wheelchair to access the building but all students can use the ramp and the ramp benefits many students. In fact, we know from research that many teaching techniques that are beneficial for students with disabilities are also beneficial for other students. Our program is organized to provide various supports that students need to become successful readers.
Who would benefit from Friends on the Block (FOTB)?
The short answer to this question is:
(1) any student who cannot already read our books, and
(2) teachers and family members of any student who cannot already read our books.
Friends on the Block (FOTB) is an intensive literacy intervention, yet it is flexible so teachers and families can easily customize the program for varying learner types.
Because FOTB is highly customizable, our materials will benefit students who are not reading yet, just beginning to learn to read, struggling a little, or struggling a lot. We aim to prevent reading problems before they start as well as provide intensive support to students who struggle, particularly those with disabilities.
It is appropriate for any learner who has not yet developed strong foundational literacy skills. We first developed the program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and we have conducted research with those students (see https://www.friendsontheblock.com/case-studies) We've also used it successfully with kindergarten, first, and second grade struggling readers, older struggling readers, and students with dyslexia and learning disabilities. Students who are English language learners have also been successful in our program, usually making very quick progress while also improving spoken language.
What is the pricing structure? What materials are available for FREE?
FREE Members have access to 17 ebooks (this includes at least one book per level) and pdfs of games that may be printed, as well as monthly specials. These materials are ideal for extra reading practice and are a great way for families to be sure their readers have learned foundational skills and build fluency (i.e., effortless accurate reading with expression).
Premium Members ($125 per year) have digital access to the entire program and how-to videos that guide you step-by-step through the entire program.
Paperback student books (8 1/2 x 11, full color) may be purchased by the level or in complete sets of all 60 books.
Game kits may be purchased for all levels or in the following groups: Levels 1-3, Levels 4-5, Levels 6-8, or Levels 9-14. All games in these kits are ready to play (no printing or cutting) and include all game pieces needed. Extra copies of the games may also be printed, if needed.
"Turn the page" curriculum kits are available and include everything: books, teacher guides, and games. They may be purchased for all levels or in the following groups: Levels 1-3, Levels 4-5, Levels 6-8, and Levels 9-14. The Premium Plan (digital) is included with these kits. If you are interested in purchasing a kit and have already purchased the Premium Plan, please contact us for a discount.
The physical materials are organized to make them easy to share with another teacher. We recommend that you contact us if you have questions about exactly what you may need for your specific situation.
What training do I need to teach using Friends on the Block (FOTB)?
Ideally, teachers would participate in the training we provide before implementing the program, particularly teachers with less experience and those who teach students with intensive needs. However, we have designed the program to be as easy to implement as possible and detailed how-to videos are included with the Premium digital plan and with the purchase of any of our curriculum kits. The Teacher Guides include detailed, easy-to-follow scripts with specific wording to guide instruction. The lessons follow a simple plan of short warm-up exercises, book reading, and learning games. The how-to videos help the teacher learn as you go and are designed for a novice teacher, so a lot of training upfront is not required. Experienced teachers, particularly those with a background in teaching the early grades or dyslexia, will find the program easy to follow.