Long-time teacher Sharon Zinke talks about her Rime Magic Program: An Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito


Long-time teacher Sharon Zinke talks about her Rime Magic Program:  An Interview by Dr. Sam Bommarito

I’m always happy to spread the good news about what effective practicing teachers are up to, and this week, there is even more news. As I talked to folks about the Pioneer Valley Webinar last week (the one featuring Dr. Tim Rasinski’s ideas to teach decoding), I learned about Sharon Zinke and her Rime Magic Program. Like Tim’s Fast Start program and HFL’s adaptation of Tim’s work, Sharon’s program gets big results relatively quickly. It is a program that works for both younger and older students. The program requires as little as 5 minutes a day and can be used to supplement any phonics program you are using. Let’s learn more about Sharon and the program she created.

BIOGRAPHY (Taken from her website)

Sharon Zinke is a specialist in the area of literacy development and reading intervention.  She has worked extensively with struggling readers at elementary, middle, and high schools in her years as a Classroom teacher, Reading specialist, Resource Specialist, and Reading Intervention Specialist. Most recently, she has worked with elementary, middle and high schools to quickly raise the decoding and word recognition levels of students reading significantly below grade level, collaborating with classroom teachers, reading intervention teachers, reading specialists and coaches, special education teachers and administrators to plan effective intervention for struggling readers. Her unique, easy-to-implement techniques, based on onset-rime research and decades of classroom experience, help students experience instant success, immediately boosting their self-confidence as readers—critical for overcoming their reading challenges. She is the author and creator of the phonics and fluency accelerator Rime Magic: Phonics-Powered Prevention and Intervention for All Students (Scholastic, Inc., 2017)

Here are the timed stamped talking points from the interview (so, you can go to the sections that interest you the most first)

Here is a link to the interview on YouTube:

Resources from Sharon

Sharon’s book (note: The Teachers Guide to her resource kit contains an updated version of all the information in this book, so if you get her kit, you won’t need this book)  LINK

Sharon’s Rime Magic Resource Kit LINK

The Rime Magic System

Rime Magic is a completely different, highly engaging approach to phonics instruction. It is not about memorizing letters and sounds in a sequence for mastery. Rather it is daily immersion in an array of phonic elements each day, starting with regular two-letter, short vowel rimes and moving on to less regular patterns. Students naturally focus on what they are ready to grasp and experience each success as they are ready for it. They experience power over their own learning and confidence blooms. Learning happens very quickly because students are swept up in the rhythm and are given only positive responses by the teacher. Slipped in for five minutes next to any phonics or reading program, Rime Magic is a phonics and fluency accelerator.

Although there are seven steps in Rime Magic, only Steps 4 and 5 are done each day; Steps 1-3 are done only on the first day to introduce Rime Magic to the students. Step 6 follows when students have mastered Steps 4 and 5. Step 7 is for students (grade 3 and above) who have difficulty blending and/or have letter confusion.

Steps 4 and 5 are done each day (whole class or small group) for a total of less than 10 minutes, followed by lots of repeated reading material that is of interest to students.

Click here to see video showing a seven-minute Rime Magic lesson (Steps 2-5) with two third-grade students with low word recognition.

Note: You might notice that one of the students begins each rime with /h/. I ignore it because he will be immersed in Rime Magic each day and will discover it on his own, when he is ready.



A link to a Google Documents folder

The folder contains additional information, including a blog post about Rime Magic authored by K. James for Tim Rasinski and the Rime Magic Pilot Report, which provides data demonstrating the effectiveness of the project. Sharon’s website also includes other reports about the effectiveness of the project.


Final Thoughts

As a centrist, LINK, I reject one-size-fits-all solutions. Instead, I advocate for using good research-based ideas from folks of many points of view. Let’s talk about points of view about how to teach. Some of those points of view are over 2000 years old. What am I talking about? Please have a look:

As my slide indicates, we need both Inquiry (Discovery Learning) and Direct Instruction. Inquiry learning has its foundations in constructivism. Direct Instruction has its foundations in behaviorism. Keep in mind that both these forms of teaching have been around for over 2000 years, and in all that time, neither has replaced the other. I believe we can use Rasinski’s ideas about Artfully Teaching the Science of Reading to guide us in using each approach. It is important to use both some of the time.

Consider this quote from the eminent futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler.

 “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

Applying that idea to the reading world, doesn’t that sound suspiciously like creating a set for variability?

As you think about Sharon’s program, think about how she masterfully allows students to engage in activities that teach them how to use their wordwork skills. Her methods are based on constructivist ideas and use an inquiry approach. She is helping students develop that set for variability they need to be effective decoders. They are learning about sound-symbol relations and using that knowledge to help them problem-solve their words. She doesn’t call for replacing the direct instruction phonics programs. Instead, she calls for using this in addition to the direct instruction. She has documented that as little as 5 minutes a day of this approach can significantly positively affect children’s ability to decode. This is true for children of all ages. That is something to consider as you prepare for next Monday’s lessons. I don’t know about you, but I am definitely going to start using some of her materials. I want to thank Sharon for sharing her materials and ideas.

Next week, I’m taking a Thanksgiving break. The week after, I’ll be writing about The Pioneer Valley Webinar and the use of Tim Rasinski’s ideas on how to teach decoding (prosody!). I’ve put a link to that webinar at the end of the blog post. Until then,

Happy Reading and Writing!

Dr. Sam Bommarito (aka, the guy in the center taking flak from all sides)

Copyright 2023 by Dr. Sam Bommarito. Views/interpretations expressed here are solely this author’s views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other person or organization.

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Link to the Pioneer Valley Books webinar, which features Tim Rasinski LINK

NOTE- You need to be in Vimeo to view this webinar. If you do not already have a Vimeo account. Here is the link to set one up for free LINK. When you get to the site, click the Join for Free tab.

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