Incremental Rehearsal

Study: Matchett & Burns (2009)

Matchett, D. L., & Burns, M. K. (2009). Increasing Word Recognition Fluency with an English Language Learner. Journal of Evidence Based Practices in Schools, 10, 194-209.

Descriptive Information


Acquisition and Cost

Program Specifications and Requirements


A student is presented with flashcards containing unknown items added in to a group of known items. Presenting known information along with unknown can increase retention of the newly learned items, behavioral momentum and resulting time on task. Research shows that this technique can be used with sight/vocabulary words, simple math facts, letter names, and survival words/signs.

Incremental Rehearsal is intended for use in Kindergarten through eighth grade. The program is intended for use with students with disabilities (including learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities), and any student at risk of academic failure. The academic area of focus is early literacy (alphabet knowledge), reading (fluency), and mathematics (computation).

Where to Obtain: 
The intervention is an instructional technique that is available to anyone.

The intervention is listed on several websites including: and

Cost: Incremental Rehearsal is a non-commercial intervention and, therefore, does not have a formal pricing plan.

It is recommended that Incremental Rehearsal is used with individual students 10-15 minutes per session, three to four days a week, for 10-15 weeks.

The program does not include a highly specified teacher’s manual.

Incremental Rehearsal does not require technology.

Training is not required for the instructor.

The minimum qualifications of instructors are that they must be paraprofessionals. The program does not assume that the instructor has expertise in a given area. 

Training manuals and materials are available. The technique is described in two places. There is an unpublished document (Tucker, 1988) that is available for free from the author and is included in this application. It is also described in Tucker & Burns (2016), which is available for free to members of the National Association of School Psychologists and is included in this application. The technique has also been described in the dozens of articles that have been published about it.


Participants: Convincing Evidence

Sample size: The participant was selected because she was an English language learner who was also experiencing reading difficulties.

Risk Status: The participants scored below the 15th percentile on the Measures of Academic Progress, which was a group-administered screener for reading. She also read 38 words per minute on a grade-level curriculum-based measure of reading, which was below the 25th percentile on a national norm.

  Age/Grade Gender Race-ethnicity Socioeconomic Status Disability Status ELL Status Other Relevant Descriptive Characteristics
Case 1: Elena Third Female Hispanic Not Reported None ELL Elena was a 10-year old Hispanic third-grade student whose family spoke Spanish in her home. She received ELL services for 30 minutes each day.

Training of Instructors: The interventionist was a female graduate student in school psychology. She was trained in incremental rehearsal as part of a school psychology graduate intervention course taught by the second author. The training included demonstration of the intervention, rehearsal, observation of a video on the implementation, and practice with peers during class until reaching mastery.

Design: Convincing Evidence

Does the study include three data points or sufficient number to document a stable performance within that phase?: Yes

Is there opportunity for at least three demonstrations of experimental control?: Yes

If the study is an alternating treatment design, are there five repetitions of the alternating sequence?: N/A

If the study is a multiple baseline, is it concurrent?: Yes

Fidelity of Implementation: Partially Convincing Evidence

Describe when and how fidelity of treatment information was obtained: On two occasions (20%), spaced across the intervention sessions, the second author observed the session to assess treatment integrity of the incremental rehearsal protocol. An implementation checklist was used that contained 15 implementation steps.

Provide documentation (i.e., in terms of numbers) of fidelity of treatment implementation: The results of the fidelity observation found that the researcher implemented the intervention properly 100% of the time on those two sessions.

Measures Targeted: Convincing Evidence

Measures Broader: N/A

Targeted Measure Reliability Statistics Relevance to Program Instructional Content Exposure to Related Content Among Control Group
Number of words from a high frequency word list read correctly in 60 seconds. Authors reported inter-observer agreement of 100%. The intervention taught words from the high frequency word lists. Frequent words were taught as part of the third-grade curriculum.


Number of Outcome Measures: 1 Reading

Mean ES - Targeted: N/A

Mean ES - Broader: N/A

Effect Size:

Visual Analysis (Single Subject Design): Convincing Evidence

Description of the method of analyses used to determine whether the intervention condition improved relative to baseline phase (e.g. visual analysis, computation of change score, mean difference): Data were visually analyzed and with percentage of non-overlapping data.

Results in terms of within and between phase patterns: Elena increased her word recognition fluency across the three sets of stimuli. There was an immediate change in level to two of the word sets, with a more gradual but continual improvement for the first 100 words. Her baseline data for all three sets were stable with a level or slightly negative trend. Once the reading intervention was implemented the number of sight words increased. The median baseline scores were 47, 41.5, and 22 on word list 1, 2, and 3. Median intervention scores were 59, 53, and 44 respectively on each word list. The scores increased by 21, 18.5, and 35 words per minute on the three word lists between the median baseline point and the final intervention point. Data were also analyzed using percentage of non-overlapping data, by computing the percentage of data points that did not overlap between the baseline and treatment phases. Elena’s data points did not overlap 83% in word list 1 and 100% in word lists 2 and 3. There was an upward trend after the intervention started for two of the word sets, with a level trend for the third data set. All three sets of data show a positive effect for the intervention.

Disaggregated Data for Demographic Subgroups: No

Disaggregated Data for <20th Percentile: No

Administration Group Size: Individual

Duration of Intervention: 10-15 minutes, 3-4 times a week, 10-15 weeks

Minimum Interventionist Requirements: Paraprofessional , Training not required

Reviewed by WWC or E-ESSA: No

What Works Clearinghouse Review

This program was not reviewed by What Works Clearinghouse.


Evidence for ESSA

This program was not reviewed by Evidence for ESSA.

Other Research: Potentially Eligible for NCII Review: 9 studies

Bunn, R., Burns, M. K., Hoffman, H. H., & Newman, C. L. (2005). Using incremental rehearsal to teach letter identification with a preschool-aged child. Journal of Evidence Based Practice for Schools, 6, 124-134.

Burns, M. K. (2007). Comparison of opportunities to respond within a drill model when rehearsing sight words with a child with mental retardation. School Psychology Quarterly, 22, 250-263.

Burns, M. K., Dean, V. J., & Foley, S. (2004). Preteaching unknown key words with incremental rehearsal to improve reading fluency and comprehension with children identified as reading disabled. Journal of School Psychology, 42, 303-314.

DuBois, M. R., Volpe, R. J., & Hemphill, E. M. (2014). A randomized trial of a computer-assisted tutoring program targeting letter-sound expression. School Psychology Review, 43, 210-221.

DuBois, M. R., Volpe, R. J., Burns, M. K., & Hoffman, J. A. (2016). Parent-administered computer-assisted tutoring targeting letter-sound knowledge: Evaluation via multiple-baseline across three preschool students. Journal of School Psychology, 59, 39-53.

Klingbeil, D. A., Moeyaert, M., Archer, C. T., Chimboza, T. M., & Zwolski Jr, S. A. (2017). Efficacy of peer-mediated incremental rehearsal for English language learners. School Psychology Review, 46, 122-140.

Kwong, E., & Burns, M. K. (in press). Preliminary study of the effect of incremental rehearsal with a morphological component for teaching Chinese character recognition. School Psychology International.

Malloy, K. J., Gilbertson, D., & Maxfiled, J. (2007). Using brief experimental analysis for selecting reading interventions for English language learners. School Psychology Review, 36, 291 – 310.

Rahn, N. L., Wilson, J., Egan, A., Brandes, D., Kunkel, A., Peterson, M., & McComas, J. (2015). Using incremental rehearsal to teach letter sounds to English language learners. Education and Treatment of Children, 38, 71-91.