Teaching Sight Words by Mapping Speech to Print

In the education field, the term sight word is used to represent many different things based on who is talking and their training and pedagogy. For some, sight words are synonyms for high-frequency words. For others, it refers to words that they consider irregular or rule breakers and are considered words to memorize. Then there are those who refer to sight words as any word that is read automatically. I fall into the latter category and refer to sight words as instant words or words that we know by sight. 

I first began my teaching journey well over two decades ago. At that time, my college peers and I were taught to teach our students to memorize sight words. We also explained to our students that English spellings were unpredictable. 

I then transferred to a school that used Siegfried Engelmann's Direct Instruction which directed that all words, regardless of irregular spelling and pronunciation, were sounded out. This was my first introduction to helping students...

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The Rhythm of English and Its Impact on Instruction

reading Mar 31, 2021

Hi friends,

Have you thought about stressed and unstressed syllables in the English language?

Does it really matter if we teach this concept to struggling readers? 

The English language is a stress-timed language. When we speak or read fluently, there is a natural rhythm that occurs. This aids in comprehension, pronunciation, syntax, and expression. The stressed and unstressed syllables and words in English give it its rhythm. This musicality of English, the ups and downs, the connected speech, and the linking of words, which changes when placed in running speech, aids in our understanding and being understood. 

The Impact

Before my therapist training, I had never thought about the impact that stressed and unstressed syllables have on spelling, pronunciation, syntax, and meaning. I honestly didn't know that the English language is a stressed-time language or what that meant for instruction. Now, I clearly see that by explicitly teaching the concept of stressed and...

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Join Us for a Literacy Event!

events Mar 24, 2021

This Saturday, the Climbing the Ladder of Reading Conference will be held virtually. This event will showcase professionals who will share their expertise on meeting the needs of 2e students, dyslexia awareness, science of reading in the general classroom, online instruction, meeting social-emotional needs, movement strategies, bridging word study and OG, and interactive and engaging therapy and lesson ideas. I've had quite a few people ask me if this conference is for them. This week on the blog, I am providing an overview of the conference and its presenters to help those who are wavering on whether to attend the live event.

First, I want to briefly touch on who this conference is for. The information that will be presented will be helpful for general classroom teachers, special education teachers, Gifted and Talented teachers, reading and literacy specialists, CALT/CALPs, administrators, and parents. The trainings will be useful and relevant for those just starting to...

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A Few of My Favorite Things

resources Mar 17, 2021

Hi friends. Working with so many students that are in different places in their journey with reading and dyslexia means that I need to be diagnostic and prescriptive in my approach, but there are some key components and materials that seem to work themselves into most of my lessons. This week, I am sharing a few of my favorites! Comment and let me know if any of these are on your list.

Plastic Letters

I use my plastic alphabet letters for so many different activities. They are a great way to incorporate multi-sensory learning and practice into our sessions. The letters can be used to build skills from letter naming, to letter sequencing, to teaching accent and phrasing, to alphabetizing – the possibilities are endless! I like the letters from abcedarian.com because the plastic letters are consistent in their shape, are available in both English and Spanish, and the price it hard to beat. You can purchase the entire alphabet, certain letters, and upper-and-lower...

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Dyslexia: The Journey

resources Mar 10, 2021

Educators and professionals should look for indicators of dyslexia in children starting at a young age. Our system often relies on the “wait to fail” model before testing or providing interventions which can have lasting impacts on a student’s educational success. By looking for clues, educators can provide appropriate instruction and early intervention. Research has found that children at risk for dyslexia or who demonstrate reading difficulties benefit most from early intervention in kindergarten and first grade.

Parents should pay attention when their child speaks to listen for clues in how they pronounce words and sounds of the letters of the alphabet. Delays in speaking can also be an indicator of potential reading problems. It should be noted that not all delays or mispronunciations indicate a learning disorder. Parents can speak with their child's pediatrician and discuss any concerns they may have about their child's language struggles. Once in school, both...

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Segmenting: A critical skill for phonemic awareness

Children participate in the process of segmenting when they are actively engaging in separating words or parts of a word into syllables or individual phonemes. This is one of the most critical skills that children need to develop for phonemic awareness. It is important for building reading and spelling skills.

For students with dyslexia or other language-based learning differences, a deficit in the phonological component of language is often at the root of difficulties in reading and spelling. Students need foundational skills explicitly taught and practiced moving systematically through the hierarchy.

  • identifying the number of words within a sentence
  • identify the number of syllables within a word
  • segment or break apart the onset and rime pattern
  • segment the individual phonemes (sounds) within a words

Segmenting is taught through explicit instruction, but learning can be extended and practiced through games and activities. There are many engaging, hands-on ways to practice...

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Using Sand Trays for Multisensory Handwriting Practice

Summer is a wonderful time to relax and play in the sand. Using sand trays is a fantastic way to sneak in some multisensory pre-writing strokes and handwriting practice!

I have found that students of all ages love to use the sand tray in our therapy sessions. The use of sand trays provide kinesthetic practice for pre-writing letter formation and letter practice. The drag, or pull, in the sand helps build connections for the learner through what we refer to as multisensory practice, or when we are engaging at least three of the senses at the same time. When we use multiple senses at the same time, we have a higher chance of retaining the information.

Setting up a Sand Tray

  • Sand trays can be made with any kind of flat tray with sides (to keep the sand inside). I like cookie trays as they are magnetic, stackable, and reasonably priced. I painted my trays with black chalkboard paint prior to provide contrast in color - bonus is that they can be used as chalkboards too!  (I LOVE...

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Navigating the Emotional Response to School Closings - My Guest Blog Post on The Literacy Nest

Summer is usually one of my favorite seasons filled with daytime adventures, the delight of a more laid back schedule and late nights relishing in the laughter of my children and friends around the pool. This summer is unlike any other, and the amount of stress and trying to plan for the unknown has weighed heavy on me. 

I was looking through my blog posts and I came across the one that I wrote as a guest blogger for the amazing Emily Gibbons, owner of The Literacy Nest. I originally wrote the post for the immediate emotional response to schools closing in the spring, however, I feel that so much of it remains true even today as we begin to try and plan for what fall schooling will look like. If you haven't had a chance to read it, or even if you did and need a little boost in strategies to help navigate our children's anxieties about school and these unusual times, check out my post that gives 9 tips to help you navigate the emotional response to school closings. 

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What is a CALT?

The title of CALT, or Certified Academic Language Therapist, was one that was new to me in the year 2008 even though I was eleven years into my career as an educator. I had worked as a classroom teacher, lead teacher and literacy coach, reading interventionist, district literacy facilitator, and curriculum writer. Even with all of this experience and trainings, I had never heard of the CALT certification.  I had been trained in many different approaches and programs, and yet I knew that there were students that were falling through the cracks. 

This sent me on a personal mission to learn more about dyslexia, and to seek out training to better help all students and educators. Twelve years later, I know that seeking highly focused training in the science of reading was the best decision that I made, as it set me on a new path in my educational career and provided me with the necessary skills and knowledge to best help students with dyslexia. 

A Certified Academic...

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