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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Total Words App?


The Total Words App is an online application aimed at increasing children's reading skills. Our system is designed for schools; classroom teachers, TA's and school managers, parents and caregivers to use as a flexible, digital literacy resource for students who are learning to read and for students who are reading to learn.  

I'm a teacher, how do I create an account and log in?

Once you've received an email invitation from us asking you to "complete registration" for your Total Words account, you will need to create a password to go with your registered email address (follow the link provided inside the email). The email invite from us will also contain your assigned teacher code/s which you will need for logging in. We recommend saving this email and/or the codes. To log in, you will need the registered email address for your teacher account and password that you've set up, and your teacher code (*this code will give you access to your class/es only), *You will need to have an internet connection and can access the log-in link here

*You can always access the log-in link from our website or you can save this link to your bookmarks folder

I'm a teacher, where are the student codes?

Student codes are automatically assigned to students once you enter their names into your class.

Once you have logged into your account as "a teacher", you will firstly need to "create your class". You can do this simply by clicking on the "My School" heading (top right) and then "create class" (light blue button lower left side). Once you have created your class, double-click on the class to access it and to find the 'add student' button. Inside your class, you can enter up to 30 x students' names. Each student you enter will automatically be assigned a student code next to their name. They will need this code to log in as a 'student'. Their student codes will always be stored in their class for you to access.

I'm a parent, how do I create an account and log in?

Once you've received an email invitation from us asking you to "complete registration" for your Total Words account, you simply need to create a password to go with your registered email address (there are no codes needed). Use these log-in details each time you want to use the platform. (*You will need to have an internet connection and can access the log-in link here

*You can always access the log-in link from our website or you can save this link to your bookmarks folder

Where do I find the suitable age level for Total Words books?

The simple answer is that you won’t find us talking about age levels in our books.


There are strong reasons for that.

1) We want to know what a child can learn not what they have learnt so far. Age levels just tell us that the way they have tried to learn to read has not produced a great outcome. Our own data from day 1 is more useful to our purpose.

2) It doesn’t make sense to be saying: "Ok, we want you to make fast reading progress but we’re only going to let you start with books that you can already read".

3) In order to be making it possible for fast progress, each book needs to offer scope for progress (for example: the book must have a number of words that a child can’t read on the first time they read it - words that they can learn with repeated practices.)

How do we know what books to start on and what are the levels?

Aspiring Readers: 100-250 words per book: for students who are beginning their reading career, building their sight-reading vocabulary and for students who need a new approach to kick-start their reading skills.


Challenge Readers: 300-600 words per book: for students who are learning to confidently use their reading skills and need to extend the amount of reading that they do each day;


Curriculum Readers: 800-1300 words per book: for students who are learning to read text for meaningful research.

You (adult and child) can decide. The books are arranged in 'levels' based on the number of words in them and after the first reading of any book, data will show what is working to make progress, how successive practices increase accuracy and reading speed.

Are Total Words books based on the UK Curriculum?

All the books include factual information about topics and our selection of topics is definitely influenced by the UK curriculum but not all of our books are directly related to UK curriculum content.


We decide topics and content of books with three guiding principles:

1) To let children see and read key topic words that are useful in classroom learning e.g. in our 'Aspiring Space' books, we include words like ‘telescope’, ‘gravity’, ‘comet’ so that children are confident in using these words in their writing or just talking about the topic;

2) Write about topics with a variety of angles so that children can get interested in something specific about a topic.

3) To increase general knowledge about topics so that children have more details, more ideas about a topic so that they can talk like knowledgeable people. Our goal is to make sure that with any topic, children have a level of basic knowledge that at least allows them to say something meaningful, to think about it and make their own connection to topic content.

How many reading sessions per week does a student need to make rapid progress?

Short answer - there isn’t one answer to this question but there is an answer for each child. The data will show what works or allow teachers and students to experiment and see what works best.

(We expect five sessions a week to be delivered.)

The amount of progress that can be made means that children may make their rapid progress in periods of 6-10 weeks. The data will show when the Total Words system is being effective and when it is no longer needed as children can move on to completely independent reading.

What is "a prompt"?

A prompt is just another way of describing words that are not known or said correctly by a learner.

We call them a prompt because we will tell students what the word is. We (adults, teachers, reading partners, the app) will always help a child to know what a word is. It’s always the word that’s tricky, never the student not remembering it.


Prompts are not a sign of a reading problem, lack of ability or a signal that a book is too difficult. They are a measure of the learning potential in each book. If 50 words are prompted on the first reading of a book, then that book offers a child a lot of scope for learning new words, adding to their reading vocabulary. They don’t have to learn them all or learn them all at once, but any reduction in the number of prompts from one day to the next is positive progress.

What do we mean by "learning partnership"?

Total Words data speaks to both learners and teachers. Both can see which factors impact on the rate of progress e.g. how many words are read each day, how many reading sessions are completed each week, how many practices of a book result in 100% accuracy.

As a child learns to read and learns that they can read, a teacher learns what it takes for this child to learn and to learn quickly and efficiently.

How do we know if a book is too difficult?

Data will show that very few words have been learnt. But it’s useful to keep in mind that we need books that have scope for learning and that children are not expected to read books to 100% accuracy to start off with. We’re interested only in progress. If 50 words were not known yesterday and 45 are still unknown today, take that 5-word-win as 'progress', look at the data, and decide what could be done to increase the rate of progress.

The Total Words digital books are not going to go away, the words are not going to change and so, for some practice sessions, it might be decided to read other books and come back to a particular book that was challenging - (in 3 weeks it might be a whole lot easier to read.)

The core focus is that the system provides evidence that makes decisions robust and justifiable. Data tells pupils and teachers how to manage their rate of progress.

How can my school use the data effectively?

Data will highlight classes or year groups that need to do more reading and the data will show the impact that additional resources can have e.g. if 10 children in a Year 3 class read with Total Words for 6 weeks, what has been the impact?

I'm a caregiver, how should my child use the reading progress app and how is this data useful for me and my child?

The Total Words App can be used to read at home with the same Total Words digital books that are used in school.  This means that the child can practise as much as they like (read and re-read a book) and can immediately see which new words they have learnt and can go to school knowing that they can show the progress they have made in school. The data will show how their accuracy has increased, how their reading speed has increased and, by practising at home, they can be adding words to the total number of words they have read in a week. This is both motivating because it can become a challenge and it gives parents and caregivers a clear idea of the amount of reading that their child can do and the sort of books that they will be able to read at home. The App can also let parents see which particular words their child finds tricky so that they can practise those at home.

Why is 'sharing' progress important?

Sharing progress, talking about they have learnt, is all about letting a child see that adults are really interested in their learning achievements, letting children claim the achievement as theirs and it raises the game by providing children with precise information that they can share. Instead of simply saying ‘well done’, ‘that was good reading’, we have an opportunity to get more meaningful when the conversation starts with ‘Guess how many words I read today?’ or ‘Did you know that I have learnt 25 new words this week?’ . Gaining skills is an important part of the reading process, but being recognised as a competent learner, being confident that you are able to learn is critically important for a child because that can convince them that they are able to generate their own achievements.

How do I use the activities? Are they part of a set reading programme?

The activities are designed to do two things:

1) To increase reading skills themselves – learning more words, re-reading text, looking at word details to extend vocabulary that will increase accuracy.

2) To increase thinking skills – to understand the content of a book, to identify and recall the most relevant details, to get inspired, to ask questions, to find out more, to form an opinion.



The activities are not part of a set reading programme, but we strongly believe that 21st century children need to be able to read content and think carefully about it to know how or why it is important to them.

Is Total Words a suitable reading programme for EAL children?

Yes, definitely. The key features that make this a good programme for EAL pupils are:

1) The learning experience can suit their style: children can learn in the way that suits them best; they can practise as much as they like; they will immediately hear the correct ways to say any words that they do not know; they will not be making and repeating errors.

2) The books are short and concise. (see why 'length of books matters' below)

3) The books contain factual information which is easier to understand and talk about in an additional language than abstract ideas or fiction inferences.

What are some of the key learning features you mention in the Total Words books?

We’ve included a lot of learning features in our books:

1) Word counts are the most obvious. Just knowing how many words are in a book adds other functions to it. Children can be motivated to increase the number of words they read each day or each week which is what we want, and word counts turns each book into a potential progress assessment tool, giving us precise measures of increases in accuracy and reading speed.

2) Length of books matters in three ways:

  • We are building readers’ confidence and so we want them to know the feeling of being able to sit and read a book cover-to-cover in one sitting;

  • We want children to be reading a high number of words each day and reading 500 words twice in a day, two complete books, is easier and more motivating than chugging away at 5 pages of a novel and feeling that there are an awful lot of pages to go;

  • We expect books to be read several times in order to increase the speed and accuracy, and so we need books that are long enough to prevent children from learning them by rote – the process of learning needs brains that are engaged and thinking.

3) Highlighted key-words and word lists adds another opportunity for learning the words that are in the text. We put these features in when we were producing the books as hardcopy books, and when we produced the App, we added the double-click feature so that child can hear any word that they don’t know.

4) The double-click "prompt" function (in the App) tells a student any word that they don’t know. We love this feature because a key element of the Total Words approach to learning to read is to keep the student in touch with the text, with the meaning, to read fluently, and not to stumble along through sentences. The practical reality is that if a child can immediately check what a word is by double-clicking, then they can say that word in context straight away. For the length of time that they would have taken to sound it out, or try to figure out what it was, they can read the word correctly five times and be moving along still in connection with the meaning in text.

5) Deliberate page-formatting and specially designed font keep the books looking like serious reading books, with sufficient text on each page to keep pages turning and no page to look so full of text that it is too daunting to go near.

How do I use Total Words digital books and App for a whole class?

Four key ways that we anticipate, but since we've designed our system to be flexible, there may be more.


1) Reading speed checks: A quick review of the reading speed of all the pupils in class will highlight the ones who need to increase their reading speed, particularly in the run up to Year 6 SATS when they need to read around 1200 words in 10 minutes.

2) Topic content: Each topic has five tiles and so a whole class can gain a range of topic content and key words very effectively, just by a teacher allocating children to read particular book titles.

3) Writing resources: The books are an easily accessible topic resource for specific curriculum genre-writing lessons e.g. newspaper articles, script writing, interviews or reports. All children in class can read the same book, have access to topic vocabulary, spelling, and details to add into writing.

4) Reducing the attainment gap reading – teachers can compare reading data of high achieving students with struggling students. When struggling students are reading a similar number of words in a reading session with similar accuracy, then schools know that they are closing the attainment gap class by class.

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