STOP - or at least pause! Books have a place in dyslexia therapy.

books dyslexia Jul 04, 2024

Books have a place in dyslexia therapy. Don’t throw them out, but ask where and when?

Lately I have seen the wave of advice from people to throw out their traditional books and it causes me great pause. I have always been one to pull books out of the giveaway piles and dumpsters - although I will agree that some do in fact need to be let go, I don’t want educators to over-correct in the name of “science”.

There certainly is a place, and necessity, for traditional or authentic books within reading instruction. It is imperative that as educators we understand the purpose of the lessons and materials we use with students. While decodable text lays the critical foundation for our students with dyslexia or those first learning to read, we must understand the role it plays and for how long. We don’t want students remaining in decodable text forever. Decodable text is vital to our instruction - a necessary step on the path to learning to read, but exactly that...

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Understanding When and Why We Use Nonsense Words

reading Mar 28, 2024

After one of my recent podcasts, I received a question about using nonsense words. I love using the Nonsense Word Fluency assessment to gain insight into a student's alphabetic principle and primary phonics. Students need to apply their knowledge of phoneme-grapheme correspondences to decode accurately. However, I caution teachers when using nonsense words within their lessons; why?

This is an important topic to consider as more curriculums implement nonsense words in their lessons, plus many nonsense word lists are for sale that are teacher-made on many platforms, blogs, etc. As we reflect on this practice, we want to consider the purpose of nonsense words, the orthographic patterns used, and the alphabetic principle.

Purpose of Nonsense Words

The original purpose for nonsense words was to be used within an assessment to determine if the student had grasped the alphabetic principle and primary phonics. Research has shown that using nonsense words as an assessment can provide unique...

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Quick Tip for Helping Student Comprehension Through Language Structure

reading Mar 07, 2024

Do you ever find your students reading sentences well, and yet they have confusions when you discuss the text? Students need to understand that there are two ways in which to think about a text when reading.

First, they need to understand the words as written on the page and literally be able to read them. This is often referred to as the surface code. When speaking with my students, I refer to this as the “reading voice”. At the basic form, this is the ability to read the words on the page. In addition, there is a second part to reading, in which the reader must pull out the meaning of the text, infer the lesson or message that the author wants the reader to take away.

This deeper level of connecting with the text can certainly become a hurdle if there is a lack of access to vocabulary, background knowledge, language structure, and more. There is a great level of depth we can cover with surface code and text base - but today I want to share a quick tip on helping...

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What Does Spelling Tell Us?

spelling Feb 15, 2024

A student came to my center with her spelling test in hand. While the errors were marked on the page by her classroom teacher, if we look beyond the idea of a spelling test, we can see what her spelling indicates as far as her learning and instructional needs. Why?

We can think of reading and spelling as being different sides of the same coin. Reading, or decoding, is applying the sound-symbol relationships and successfully blending them to read a word. Spelling, or encoding, is the ability to segment words by individual sounds and use the correct sound-symbol correspondences in written form. When students write, their spelling gives us great insight into their understanding of sound production and how they represent those in written form. Read more about the connection between reading and spelling in this past blog post.

This young student showed consistent miscues in the use of digraphs ch and sh. Upon first glance, one may think that she simply didn’t know the...

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The Role of Morphology in Syllable Division and Multisyllabic Word Reading

morphology syllables Nov 30, 2023

This is part 4 of the syllable types blog series. Read part 1 , part 2 , and part 3 and 3* bonus. 

Morphology is a crucial part of structured literacy lessons that teachers should introduce early within reading instruction. In fact, I teach morphemes to my kindergarten students. Why? From the beginning, we want students to understand that words carry meaning, and morphology is a great way to help students deepen their understanding of language. We don't have to wait for this instruction to take place. Instead, we can embed morphology instruction into our lessons and help students with this right from the start.

Morphology instruction, the study of words and how they are formed and used, is one of the elements of structured literacy. When we look at language through the lens of units of meaning within words, that is part of morphology. Dr. Louisa Moats notes, "Knowing morphemes enhances reading, vocabulary, and spelling." (Moats, 2000). As students increase their understanding...

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Helping Older Students With Decoding and Syllable Types

syllables Oct 07, 2023

This is a quick addition to part 3 of the syllable types blog series. Read part 1 and part 2.

I recently saw a question posed about how to help a middle school student who continually made errors in vowel sound production when reading, even after interventions, and while I responded on the social media page, I also thought of this quick strategy that I have used for years with my older students and that it was was worth sharing.

So, in addition to solidifying sound-symbol correspondence knowledge with the student and applying this to their decoding strategies, how can we help our older students make the quickest gains in the area of accurate decoding, honor their age, and, most importantly, help them understand how to use strategies in real life (their classrooms!)?

When older students come to work with me, they often have multiple areas where they rely on compensation skills. One of these is looking at a word’s first letter or part and then guessing or saying a word that may...

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Syllable Division

dyslexia syllables May 04, 2023

This is part 3 of the syllable types blog series. Read part 1 and part 2.

Our students encounter multisyllabic words daily in the spoken and written word. One of the hallmarks of dyslexia is "...difficulty with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities..." (International Dyslexia Association, Dyslexia Definition). Just as students need explicit instruction in early decoding skills, they need reliable decoding strategies as they move into reading multisyllabic words. These word-attack strategies are necessary for students, especially those struggling with reading, so they can avoid falling into the bad habit of guessing. Strong readers subconsciously break words into syllables and meaningful parts (think affixes and roots) when reading new unknown words. Explicitly teaching students HOW to approach a larger multisyllabic word sets them up for success and is especially important for our dyslexic and struggling readers. 

What is Syllable...

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Teaching the Six Syllable Types

syllables Mar 23, 2023

*This is part 2 of the series about syllables and syllable types in reading instruction. Read part 1 here.

In part 1 of the What are syllable types and why do they matter? blog series, I shared some information on why we should teach syllables, plus some tips for teaching students, and provided some scaffolds. This part of the series continues with syllable knowledge and connects to syllable types.

Why Teach the Six Syllables?

As teachers, we cannot assume that children automatically know the sounds linked to letters. Therefore, we must explicitly teach sound-symbol correspondences, which provide a foundation for students to read one-syllable words successfully. But what must we teach to allow students to move beyond this? Teaching the Six Syllable Types provides a robust foundation for students and provides students with word attack strategies and tools to approach unknown words.

In addition to sound-symbol relationships, explicitly teaching syllable types, syllable division (think...

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Tips and Scaffolds to Aid Handwriting Skills

Do you remember when you first learned to drive a car? There is a lot of thinking going on! The number of things you had to think about - how to start the vehicle, checking the mirrors, making sure the seat was in the correct position, looking carefully at the dashboard, making sure you used your blinker, the list goes on and on.

Learning to write legibly is similar to learning how to drive a car. At first, it takes a lot of practice and cognitive energy, but once automatic driving and handwriting are done easily, it frees up mental energy for other things. A lot is going on. 

Handwriting instruction is essential for all students, especially those with dyslexia and dysgraphia. Until students can form letters with reasonable legibility and speed, their concentration and focus are often spent on letter production. When students have not reached automaticity of letter formation, it taxes the working memory and places higher demands on cognitive resources.


Why Teach...

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What are syllable types and why do they matter - Part 1


*This is part 1 of the series about syllables and syllable types in reading instruction.  

The ultimate goal of reading is for our children to achieve high levels of comprehension. We want this for ALL children. Reading comprehension is a product of printed word recognition and language comprehension (Gough & Tunmer, 1986). This means that weakness in either (or both) domains leads to weak reading comprehension. 

The Simple View of Reading

The Simple View of Reading, by Gough & Tunmer, breaks apart the very complex elements needed for reading into two broad categories: word recognition and language comprehension. Reading comprehension is a product of these two categories. 

Word recognition, or the accurate and fast retrieval of decoded word forms, is essential for developing reading comprehension. Students who can not accurately read the words on the page will not fully comprehend what is being read. This automated word reading frees up mental resources...

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