Saturday, 29 October 2016

Hard and Soft C for Reading and Spelling

Students who struggle with reading and spelling are helped when we give them rules to follow. When students realize that reading and spelling has an order and logic to it they become more competent in their literacy skills. One of my favorite rules to teach students is the hard and soft c rule.  The reason I like it is because it is completely consistent. When C is followed by e, i, or y the “c” always says /s/like in “city”, “cent” and “ice”. My Students with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia are often helped by visual reminders when reading and spelling.

To download these posters, just click the following link or the picture below
Soft C is often a tricky concept for Students with Dyslexia and for beginning readers. They need a lot of practice. My favorite way to practice spelling and reading rules is with games. Students will play games much longer than they will stay engaged with a worksheet. I created a Reading a Writing Activity Pack to give Students a fun and engaging way to practice. Many of the activities are multi-sensory to help dyslexic students, but all children benefit from multi-sensory learning. Included in the pack are

10 Build a sentence puzzles both color and black and white use them as fluency strips without cutting
Build a word -20 cards multisensory literacy center with kid friendly directions
1. Read the word. 
2. Trace the word saying the letters as you trace them. 
3. Write the word. 
4. Close your eyes see the word in your mind and air write the word.
5. Say the word. 
6. Is the c hard or soft? Why?
Soft C Word Sort with Recording Sheet
72 word cards and 6 character cards for 4 reading games
Crazy C’s
Soft C’s Memory
Soft C Go Fish
Soft C Go Fish Rhyme Edition Instructions included
 You may use this as a Companion to my Smart Board Soft C Activities with decodable story and comprehension questions. 
If you would like to use these helpful resources please  visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store

Hope you find the freebies helpful.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Children Who Struggle to Spell Need Multi-Sensory Teaching

Reading and Spelling Are Linked

Help my child can't spell!  Even in the age of technology where spell checkers abound. Spelling has an important role in literacy development.* Research studies have shown a moderate to high correlation between spelling skills, phonological skills, and reading skills.  Studies have also shown that if children can spell better their reading fluency speed increases.

What Skills Does A Student Need to Spell Well?

In order to be able to spell well student must have two capabilities. The first skill that they must have is phonological awareness. This is the ability to hear sounds that make up words in spoken language. For accurate spelling, students must be able to hear the sounds in words and then write them down in the correct order in which they heard them. Another skill that students must have in order to be able to spell well is the ability to visualize words in their mind. They need to be able to picture the words that they spell in their mind as if they were looking at them on a movie screen. Dyslexic students often have trouble with these skills.

courtesy of Vecreezy

 Multi-Sensory Teaching

There is a six-step multi-sensory strategy which is I use to help students to strengthen both phonological awareness and visualization. Multi-sensory teaching involves the use of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic tactile pathways simultaneously. The first thing that the teacher will do is carefully dictate the word to the student assuring that the student can see the formation of the word on the teacher's lips. After the teacher dictates the word the student uses the following 6 steps to gain spelling and reading mastery of the word.

Six-Step Strategy

1. Say it out -repeat back the word to the teacher so that the teacher can determine if the student heard the word correctly.

2. Tap it out- the student says each of the sounds in the word the student puts a finger down for each sound. I often will use boxes for this part and have the student put a finger down in each box for each sound. Remember it is a finger for each sound not each letter. So in a word like peach they would put 3 fingers down for the 3 sounds.
When tapping out 2 and 3 syllable words have the student tap out each syllable separately. 

3. Count it Out- This step just reinforces the last step. Starting with the thumb the student says the word again and counts how many sounds are in the word. 

4. Write it out and Read- The student will write the word and name the letters as they write them. This way they see, and hear the word as they write. Then they read the word they wrote. This is an important step to multi-sensory teaching.  

5. Visualize and Draw- For this step I have the student make a mental picture of the word. If any sounds are difficult we draw them in a different color to create a stronger mental image. Sometimes we will add a sentence to go with the word and then draw pictures directly on letters that are difficult because they don't say their usual sound.  This is especially helpful for "sight words." This student was having trouble withthe word ground so he added rocks in the o and dirt and flowers in the u this helps create a strong mental image for the student.

6. Visualize and Air Write- After visualizing and drawing to get a good mental picture then the teacher should ask the student to close their eyes and "see" the word in their " mind like looking at it on a movie screen. They should write the word in the air with their index finger saying the letters as they write and then say the whole word.

Using this method consistently will help your students retain their spelling words if you allow for enough practice. 

I have made a poster and chart for student’s desks or notebooks that will remind them of these steps. There is also a recording sheet with visual reminders where the student can write their spelling words and check off each step in the process. You can have them free this week Here. If you find it helpful please leave feedback in my store. Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope this article was helpful. If you have any questions please contact me.


Monday, 24 October 2016

4 Essential Aspects to any Homeschool Curriculum for Dyslexia

Reading is Complex

Dyslexic students have difficulty connecting the sounds that make up words with the letters that represent those sounds. The process of reading is very complex and uses different parts of the brain to decode and read words. Dyslexic students often struggle to keep those word pictures in their minds.

Big Picture Thinkers

Interestingly, even though dyslexic students struggle with reading and writing many dyslexic people are more often right brain thinkers who are very talented in seeing the ”big picture.”  Many dyslexic people are wonderful problem solvers and very creative. But their way of thinking, even though it is necessary and a fabulous blessing for the world, makes learning to reading and write more difficult. So how can we as classroom teachers and home educators best meet the literacy needs of these exceptional students?

 Dyslexia Curriculum Essentials

1. Individualized Teaching:  When parents come to me for help with their dyslexic child they often ask which program they should use with their child. That is a difficult question because each child is different with different strengths and weaknesses. We can’t use a one size fits all program. That being said there are wonderful programs out there that parents and teachers can use and we will discuss them later. However  keep in mind that any program that you use will have to be modified based on the specific needs of the student. This is one of the advantages of 1:1 instruction which is the ability to customize instruction for students.

2. Multi-sensory Teaching:  Research has shown that Children with Learning disabilities learn best when the teaching is done through Multisensory instruction. Judith R. Birsh has written an extremely helpful book Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills. .Birsh details how important it is to teach literacy lessons using 2 or 3 senses. For example, many children are helped by tapping out the sounds in a word on their arm for the kinesthetic feedback. I often have active children jump out syllables in a word which gets their entire body involved in the learning process. The use of multiple senses when learning a difficult concept can make a significant difference in learning for children with dyslexia.

courtesy of Vecteezy

3. Explicit teaching: Dyslexic children don’t “pick up” reading. In fact, most children don’t learn to read well without careful explicit instruction. The Annie E Casey Foundation report states that the data shows that 80 percent of lower-income fourth graders and 66 percent of all kids are not reading at grade level at the start of fourth grade. Dyslexic students need to be taught the rules that they can apply to reading and then be given the opportunity to practice the rules systematically until mastery is achieved.

4. Sequential and Cumulative Teaching: Students often come to me with huge gaps in their knowledge. They often have learned how to sight read words like children or people, but then can’t read basic CVC words like van, or pet. Children with dyslexia need to be taught with materials that present each concept carefully and that build on that knowledge in such a way that the student can master the information and become successful readers.
All these aspects of good teaching are part of the Orton-Gillingham Approach to reading. This approach is not a curriculum but a way of teaching that is effective for dyslexic learners and for other students as well.

Best Curriculums for Teaching Literacy to the Dyslexic Student

I always recommend that homeschool parents wanting to teach their dyslexic child at home get some support from a trained Orton-Gillingham tutor or teacher who can guide them through the best way to teach their child.  But there are well constructed curriculums out there that I can recommend:

S.P.I.R.E. One curriculum I often recommend for elementary age students is S.P.I.R.E. I like it because each 10 step lesson is scripted so you will be sure to have a well-rounded multi-sensory systematic lesson. However it is a bit expensive, so if you are a homeschool parent I suggest buying the materials used.

All AboutReading This is a good choice for the homeschool family. Lessons are also scripted which helps keep the teacher on the right track.

Barton Reading This is a one-on-one reading tutoring system, completely scripted for easy parent use and Orton-Gillingham based.
Logic of English  This is comprehensive, completely scripted reading, spelling and grammar program based on the Orton-Gillingham approach.

The Wilson Reading Program This program is not scripted, so if you don’t have Orton-Gillingham training, I do not recommend it even though it is an evidence-based program that works well.
More Practice Needed
Even with a well-crafted curriculum, for most dyslexic students more practice is needed than the curriculum materials provide. If you have young students in need of more practice you will find these games helpful. Games area fantastic way to practice skills for mastery. I created them so my students could get more practice in a fun and exciting way. You can find them here and here

Thursday, 20 October 2016

3 Strategies to Encourage A Dyslexic Child

1.Help Children Understand Dyslexia

When children have a learning disability it is easy for them to think that they are not bright or that something is wrong with them. However, the truth is that people with dyslexia think differently than other people, but those differences can be a blessing. Dyslexic people are often very creative people who can “think outside of the box.  Many are also great problem solvers and can see patterns that other people miss.

2. Build Success into the Lesson

When students are slowly struggling to read or write it can be so discouraging and frustrating. When working with students it is important to “sprinkle” success throughout the lesson. After doing something new or difficult, make sure to do something the student is good at. This keeps up the student’s morale and the teacher’s morale as well.

3. Help Children to Shine

If children are struggling with dyslexia, it is important to find what they love doing and promote that. Are they good at math, art, or baseball? Whatever children love and brings them joy should be a high priority to encourage their spirits. As educators it is our responsibility to encourage children on their learning journey.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Helping Struggling Writers Write Better Paragraphs

Stretching Sentences
In my last article I talked about how using Sentence Stretchers can help struggling writers expand their sentences from very simple sentences to more complex thoughts. This particular material has been extremely helpful to my students with dysgraphia.

Stretching Sentences to Paragraphs

Once my students have gotten a better grasp of how to write a better sentence, then we move on from there helping them to expand their sentences into paragraphs. The way we do this is by taking the student’s expanded sentence and place it in the middle and then we build a story around it. This way we end up with a story that has a clear beginning middle and end. This is a helpful model for students to see how to organize their writing.

Take the fear out of writing

The pictures of this process are from a tutoring session I recently did with the freebie Halloween Sentence Stretchers. I took the activity and transferred it to a Google Document to work on this process with an online student in Europe. Then we used Sentence to Paragraphs Stretchers Halloween Edition to transform his expanded sentence into a short paragraph story. This student used to have an extreme fear of writing but now is making good progress. If you would like to try this process with your students you might try: this or this

These artists shared their materials


Helping Struggling Writers Write Better Sentences

Physical Dysgraphia

Many people are aware that dysgraphia is a condition in which a child has trouble with the physical act of writing. These students have trouble just holding a pencil and organizing letters on a line. This makes their writing messy and often illegible. These children often need the help of an occupational therapist to correct these problems.

Language based Dysgraphia

Another aspect of dysgraphia for some children is when students struggle with putting their thoughts on paper. These children tend write as little as possible I call these students “the shorter, the better” type. These students write things such as “The girl ran home.” or “I hate writing.” The other type of student I call the “brain dump” type.  These children put every thought down they have in their heads with little to no organization. Both situations can be difficult for a parent or teacher to remediate.

Careful Explicit Teaching

Dysgraphic students need to be taught specific strategies and methods to be able to write more effectively. Some helpful curriculums I use are: Institute for Excellence in Writing, Step Up to Writing, and Teaching Basic Writing Skills.

Overcoming Fear of Writing

However, even with a good writing curriculum many students with dysgraphia have a deep fear writing and it’s hard to get them started. For this reason, I am developing some fun low stress writing prompts called Sentence Stretchers based off of the ideas of Dr. Judith C Hochman of Teaching Basic Writing Skills.

Setting Kids Up For Success

I  have used these Sentence Stretchers with dyslexic and dysgraphic students with great success. They can do Sentence Stretchers easily and this builds confidence. Once students are more confident with sentences we can then stretch the sentences into paragraphs. I will share how to do this in my next post.
Here are two examples of what a sentence stretchers looks like. Click here to see Sentence Stretchers For Fall Constructing Better Sentences

If you want to try them with your students try this Freebie or Sentence Stretchers for Fall

Helping Children with B and D Letter Reversal

Struggling with Letter Reversals?

Many children struggle with letter reversals in a child’s mind they flip the b and it becomes a d. Beginning readers or dyslexic students may not realize that the direction of the letter matters, or he may not be able to remember which letter is which.
Certain letters that are mirror images of each other are often confused, including letters b and dp and dp and q, and n and u.

What Is Considered Normal?
If your child is struggling with letter reversals and is between the ages of three and seven and is just beginning to read this is considered quite normal. A letter confusion or reversal problem does not necessarily mean your child has dyslexia or a reading disability. But if your child is seven to eight years old or older and has had reading instruction, and is making frequent reversal errors, this may be a problem. It is important to take steps to solve the letter confusion.
Parents and teachers have two jobs to do regarding letter reversals:

1.   Try to prevent confusion.
2.   Where confusion exists, resolve it.

Preventing Letter Confusion Before It Begins

One of the first ways to help children avoid letter confusion is to make sure the child is forming his or her letters correctly. When your child is learning to print, teachers need to be sure to teach correct letter formation. When children habitually form letters incorrectly this sends confusing messages to the brain. 

According to a very interesting article by Betty Sheffield in the Annals of Dyslexia   "The  special needs of left-handed children and dyslexic children are seldom addressed. Yet, these children need to be taught handwriting meticulously. When forming the letter b, start with the stick first, followed by the circle. The star indicates the starting position.

To write the letter d, start with the circle first, followed by the stick. Again, the star indicates the starting position. If a child has been forming letters incorrectly it might take a while to retrain the brain. For this reason, a teacher or parent should supervise handwriting practice and not just leave a child alone to practice to avoid forming letters incorrectly.

Strategies to help solve reversal problems

When children are writing I teach them to self-talk. For the b we say “go down back up and around.” For the d we say “push like for a c, go up, then back down.
These strategies can help any reversal problem, but I will concentrate on b and d because they are the most common letters which cause confusion.

Strategy 1: Use the sense of feeling

 Get students to feel the difference by using tactile surfaces such as salt trays, gel boards or sand paper letters. Using the pointer finger of his dominant hand, have your child trace the letter b on the textured surface or in a salt tray like the one shown. Be sure that he starts and ends in the correct place. Practice until he can easily write the letter b.

Strategy 2: Use “air writing” 

Another powerful method for correcting letter reversals is “air writing.” Air writing is simple: using the writing hand, the child uses his hand and arm to write letters in the air as he says the sound of the letter. The child uses his hand like a pen.
Saying the sound and using the major muscle groups to “write” the letter  this is a very helpful multisensory activity. It develops a students ability to mentally visualize the letter.

Strategy #3: Use mnemonics.

Some children are helped by first the bat and then the ball. Others find it helpful to remember b is the first letter of bed and d is the last letter.

Strategy #4: Use the shape of the mouth and tongue.
d mouth
b mouth

When we say /b/, our lips come together in a straight line. Point out that the straight line comes first when you write the letter b.

When we say /d/, our lips are open, and we curl our tongue and tap the roof our mouths. Our tongue makes a circle. Just like, the circle comes first when you write letter d.  Helping students become aware of these differences when they say the sounds can help.

Use Games to Practice, Practice, Practice

It is important to give students enough multisensory practice to become fluent in telling the difference between these letters so that this confusion does not slow down reading fluency. Another resource filled with fun games to do this practice is the B and D reversals activity pack that I use with my students who struggle.  Here is a maze game for practicing this concept.

 I designed a complete pack of activities to help children practice mastering this concept. You can get it here.

Article Cited: Handwriting: A neglected cornerstone of literacy

Annals of Dyslexia, 1996, Volume 46, Number 1, Page 21
Betty Sheffield