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 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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What is the 3-Cueing Approach, and Why Is It Getting Banned?

reading Feb 24, 2023

Significant educational shifts are happening as states move toward aligning instruction to the science of reading. Many are implementing laws and policies related to evidence-based reading instruction to bring change to classrooms. Since 2013, 29 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws or implemented new policies related to reading instruction. Recently in Texas, legislation put forth House Bill 2162, which proposed banning the use of 3-cueing in reading instruction. While Texas is not the first state to do so, it most likely won't be the last. What does this mean for teaching reading, and does it matter?

Why the Shift?

The current state of reading scores nationwide has raised questions about reading instruction and set a wave of change in motion. Emily Hanford's article Hard Words and others, podcasts, and those in the education field that have for decades called for change are starting to see more educators and parents reach out in hopes of understanding better the...

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Shifting our approach to reading instruction from reactive to proactive

reading Sep 08, 2022

What would happen if we shifted our approach to reading instruction from reactive to proactive?

We need to stop and think about why our students struggle with reading at a national level. According to the last National Report Card, 35% of all 4th-graders and 34% of all 8th graders performed at or above proficiency. That leaves 65-66% of our students reading at the basic level or below. 

The number of students behind in reading requires shifting our approach at the core. All students are at risk of not having until they can read. 

I have always felt that this reactive approach is like a sinking ship where we are working so hard to scoop the water from the boat that we don't analyze why the ship is sinking in the first place. We will never be able to keep the ship afloat this way, and our national reading scores prove this.

So what can we do as educators in the system? Providing core instruction within the general classroom that follows the principles of structured...

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Code and Read - How using diacritical marks aids students with dyslexia

dyslexia reading Aug 26, 2022

At a recent training, one of the participants asked me about our students using coding (the diacritical marks used when analyzing words) and was unsure of the benefits. I love that she asked me this because it is also something many parents may find unfamiliar.

Coding words allow students who are learning to read, who have dyslexia, or who may struggle to have a clear strategy for decoding unknown words. The use of set markings is a scaffold within our instruction that helps students focus on key components of a word. Coding removes the guessing of words because students have an explicit and systematic approach to accessing unknown words. Coding is taught systematically and explicitly through multi-sensory learning within a structured literacy approach. 

The goal of coding is to gain reading with accuracy. Accuracy is the ability to decode single words correctly with freedom from mistakes or errors. This scaffold supports students as they learn and practice a new skill -...

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Why Repetition is Important in Reading Instruction

dyslexia reading Jul 22, 2022

The number of repetitions matter when planning reading instruction for the dyslexic learner, While some may believe that our lessons are filled with constant drilling of skills, this is not the case. Structured literacy is designed to weave in multiple practices within a lesson and review previously learned skills. 

I like to think of it this way: when athletes learn a new skill, they practice the movement repeatedly with the goal of perfection in mind. I was a competitive gymnast, and we would practice our routines to the point of automaticity so that when it was time to perform, it was automatic. It had been practiced over and over again. This repetition made the skills stick. A key thing to remember about repetition is that perfect practice is what makes perfect — not just practice. Performing tasks repetitively and correctly is what helps the skills learned from those tasks set in ("The Power of Repetition," 2016).

Learning happens in a very similar way. With...

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Why Use Audiobooks with Dyslexic Learners?

books reading resources Jul 08, 2022

The topic of audiobooks comes up often and is an accommodation that I recommend for all of my students. Audiobooks have gained popularity among the general population, with 1.3 billion dollars in 2020. While audiobooks are an excellent tool for anyone, they provide additional benefits for those with dyslexia or other learning differences. We know the importance of becoming literate in our society, but how do audiobooks weigh into our children's reading goals? Let's dig into some of the benefits and possible obstacles.

Benefits of Audiobooks

Audiobooks provide access to grade-level and higher-level text

Why is this important? We need to provide students with the tools to access the curriculum. Audiobooks provide this bridge. Students are given audiobook access for curriculum reading for multiple reasons. 

Audiobooks level the playing field

Audiobooks are an accommodation that helps ensure our dyslexic learners can access the curriculum. It levels the playing field as students...

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Why You Should Analyze Your ABC Chart

When we think of classrooms, we almost always envision an alphabet with pictures posted somewhere in the room. We may not realize that the keywords or images used in alphabet posters and books matter - a lot more than you may think! Many cute and colorful alphabet posters are available, and we may gravitate toward what is aesthetically pleasing, but these are not the best choices for our students and classrooms. 

Analyzing Our ABC Charts - Why It Matters

Reading is the ability to connect spoken sounds to their letter representations. We want students to elicit the smallest unit of spoken sound, or phoneme, in its purest form. For this reason, being mindful of keywords is essential. 

What does this mean? The ability to segment phonemes (sounds) into their smallest units and then blend those sounds into words is what is needed to read and spell. Keywords or pictures we choose to link to graphemes (letter/s) need to connect directly to the individual phoneme (sound). 


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Learning Through Sand Play


This is part 2 of the Learning At The Beach series. Click HERE to read part 1. 

We made it back home from our fun-filled week at the beach with buckets of shells and happy hearts. While it was a week full of fun, we also snuck in some learning. Last week, I shared how we played activities like "Beat the Wave" and "Sandy Sound Dictation." This week, I'm sharing some more activities that we played in the sand as part 2 of the mini-series, Learning at the beach. 

One of the powerful reminders for us as parents and educators is that it is possible to play with a purpose. Playful learning can set the stage for enjoyable interactions, reduce the stress sometimes associated with reading, and engage students in reading tasks while still focusing on a learning objective. Here are some additional games/activities that we played at the beach. Whether you are headed to the beach this summer or spending it at home or elsewhere, you can certainly bring these activities into your...

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