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Program Expectations

The Once Curriculum consists of 200 cycles, or spiraling lessons, each of which is made up of fewer than ten tasks. You can preview the Once cycles by clicking “Instruction” at the top of the Once website (
All students start the Once curriculum at the beginning, or Cycle 0, regardless of their grade or prior knowledge. The program is designed to proceed at each student’s pace. Students with a strong foundation in early literacy skills will accelerate through the content quickly until they reach consistently new and more challenging content.
For reference:
  • Students who reach Cycle 84 will be reading on a first-grade level.
  • Students who reach Cycle 166 will be reading on a second-grade level.
Students will progress through the curriculum at different paces and will therefore end the year at different cycles. There are 180 days in most school calendars. A committed, consistent implementation of Once will be able to deliver sessions to students on about 80% of those days due to student and instructor absences and planned deviations from the normal schedule (like field trips and assemblies). Districts should therefore reasonably aim for students to get at least 140, 15-minute Once sessions per school year.
When a district implements Once with the aforementioned level of consistency, the district should expect students’ average endpoint to be Cycle 140, which is well beyond grade level for kindergarten. The district should *not* expect that all students will reach Cycle 140 in one year, which would ignore the fact that one of the benefits of one-on-one instruction is differentiation. For many students, Cycle 140 would be an inappropriate goal for them; if they reached it, it would mean that their instructors had pushed them faster than their mastery had dictated. When Once is implemented consistently, the goal should be that as many students finish the year above Cycle 140 as students who finish the year below Cycle 140.
Because Once coaches ensure that instructors only move students forward in the curriculum when students have mastered the skill they are working on, Once is confident that students working on a given cycle have mastered material up through that cycle rather than simply being exposed to it.

Comparing Once's Cycle 140 to End-of-First-Grade Assessments

Once Cycle 140
DIBELS EOY 1st Grade
Reading Mastery EOY 1st Grade
Sample reading passage:
Alice swam near another big rock. Then, when she was convinced that the star did not expect her, she pounced. "I got you!" she shouted, but she had to shade her face, because this was the brightest star yet.
  • Avg. words per sentence: 9.75
  • VCe: shade
  • Non-phonetic words: another, she, was, the, I, you, to
  • Vocabulary: convinced, pounced
  • Longest Word: 9 letters; 3 syllables
  • Syntax: simple, complex, compound-complex
Sample reading passage:
The sun is rising, telling the bees it’s time to get busy. The worker bees leave the hive. They are looking for nectar, a sweet liquid, and pollen, a yellow dust. The bees use these things to make food and honey.
  • Avg. words per sentence: 10.25
  • VCe: time, hive, use, these, make
  • Non-phonetic words: the, is, to, they, are, honey
  • Vocabulary: liquid, pollen
  • Longest Word: 7 letters; 2 syllables
  • Syntax: simple, complex
Sample reading passage:
Jean had found out fifteen rules. The last rule she found out told about making the wizard disappear. She needed only one more rule. So she sat down and began to think. Suddenly she jumped up.
  • Avg. words per sentence: 7.2
  • VCe: rule, more
  • Non-phonetic words: the, she, only, one, so, to
  • Vocabulary: disappear, suddenly
  • Longest Word: 9 letters; 3 syllables
  • Syntax: simple