Soft-C and Soft-G sounds

Hi everyone,
I want you to check out Sarah Z’s post from yesterday for Multisensory Monday (I took the day off). She has some great ideas of how to help your students remember that C and G make their soft sounds /s/ and /j/ before E, I, and Y. It involves a great hands-on art project that your students will love! This would be great for students with dyslexia, ADHD, and ELL/ESL students too.
You can see her video here:

Dyslexia Reading a Clock – Multisensory Monday

Multisensory Monday Post from Sarah at RLAC
Please also go check out Sarah’s excellent video post today, which is about when to spell with C or K and a nice mnemonic drawing your students can make to remember this concept!

Telling Time on an Analog Clock

One thing that can be VERY difficult for our students with dyslexia is telling time using an analog clock. I know I struggled with it due to my dyscalculia, and only in my 20s did I finally figure out how the darn things work!

There are several ways to introduce reading an analog clock using multisensory activities.

First Concept: the Clock is really 2 number lines!

Ronit Bird is my hero, because she makes difficult concepts understandable to people like me with dyscalculia. I so wish I could have been taught math by her! Here is a wonderful video she has made about reading a clock:

Here is a similar concept, showing a home-made number line turned into a clock:

Clock-Wise and the Hour Hand

First, teach your students that a DAY = 24 hours, but we count the day in 2 halves so the clock has half of 24 or 12 hours on it.


Then, show your students, and practice, which way is clock-wise. Have them watch the second-hand on a real analog clock– which way does it always go? Practice winding a watch– forward/backward so they can see which was is clock-wise. Make some drawings where you can only draw circles clock-wise. When you play many card games with 3 or more people, play passes clock-wise, so that is another good time to practice the concept!

Once a child has a good concept of counting from 1-12 on a simple number line and a good grasp on the clock-wise direction, they can be shown how to figure out the hour hand on a clock (many 4 year olds can do this, although dyslexic kids may take longer) and show them that the small hand is the one which points to the hour (because there are fewer hours than minutes, so it needs a smaller hand).

One VERY important concept which is lost on a lot of students unless explicitly taught is that the hour hand MOVES during the hour (so slowly it is hard to see)… it may or may not be pointing close to the number of the actual hour. Think about where the hour hand is for the time 4:59– it’s actually pointing right at the 5. One way to practice this concept is to use a geared clock to show that the hour hand moves. This is something a child will not get much practice with if you are using a teaching clock without gears!

Judy teaching Clock with gears
Many instructors like to use this “Judy” clock, because it contains gears and moves like a real clock. Of course, you could use a real clock for the same purpose, with the plastic face taken off so that you can manipulate the arms.


Introducing the Minute-hand

Then, once they can skip-count by 5’s and count to 60, they can be shown the minute hand and start the process of learning to tell time to the minute.

clock flower with minute petals
There are many versions of this idea to make a clock into a flower with the minutes included, so your students can learn the minutes.

Practice, Practice, Practice!

When you have a difficult concept, never underestimate the amount of practice that it can take for the skill to become automatic. The more practice the student has access to, the more likely the concept will stick and that reading an analog clock will become a life-long skill that student can use.

Here is another great video which talks through all the steps for telling time from an analog clock (great for older students too!):


Here is an online, interactive clock to play around with that simulates the movement of all 3 hands (hour, minute, second):

The Language of Time

After your student is adept at reading off the hours & minutes on the clock, you can then start to talk about the language of time. Your student will need some basic idea of simple fractions (halves and quarters). Some suggested vocabulary terms to define and practice:

  • A.M.
  • P.M.
  • noon
  • midnight
  • O’Clock
  • Half Past
  • Quarter Past
  • Quarter ‘Till
  • 5 Past
  • 5 ‘Till

This is one thing which will be especially difficult for dyslexic students– all the ways we talk about time. So, if you say “half past 3” or “quarter-til noon”, they must parse the language in that and really understand what you mean. Your students will need LOTS of practice saying the time in various ways. How many ways can you express that it is 5:45? You could say “it is 5:45 A.M.” or “it is 5:45 in the morning” or “it is a quarter ’till 6”. But they’re all referring to the same time.

Telling time can also be very difficult for students with dyscalculia or dyspraxia. If you have worked through all the concepts and practiced-practiced-practiced, but your student is still not fully capable, maybe having their own special teaching watch could help. This was developed for children with dyspraxia, but it would certainly make it easier for all students who struggle with telling time:

CHair kiCK Trick for CH/CK Confusion – Multisensory Monday

Hi everyone! I had a wonderful holiday season and am looking forward to a great 2016!

For the first Multisensory Monday post of this new year, I have a simple trick called the “Chair Kick.” Thanks to Karin Merkle of Rapid City Dyslexia Care for teaching me this great idea, which has worked wonders for one of my online students who has dyslexia.

The “CHair kiCK” trick

This simple trick works great for kids who are confused between the sounds of the digraphs “ch” and “ck” (because they look so similar).

Make a drawing like this one for your student:

CHair kiCK Trick for CH/CK confusion
CHair kiCK Trick for CH/CK confusion

Tell your students that the “ch” digraph is a nice comfy CHair. The round part of the h is the poofy cushion and draw a stick figure sitting down on the /ch/ chair. Then tell your students that if they tried to sit down on the “ck” instead, they would get a kiCK right in the behind. If you’re more talented than I, you could draw the k as a leg that is kicking up.

Then when your student comes across the ch or ck in reading, you ask them if the digraph is the /ch/ chair to sit down on, or the /k/ kick one.

This is also a great one to demonstrate and act out!

For some free, printable worksheets to work on digraph sounds (especially good for older kids), check out

Also check out Sarah Z.’s post today about the Floss Rule AKA FLSZ rule. Sarah will be dedicating the first part of the year to the OG (Phonics First) spelling rules.



Multisensory Monday: Rabbit Rule

This week, Sarah Z. has a great video with an activity to go along with the Rabbit Rule (when to double consonants in the middle of a 2-syllable word, like “rabbit” and “letter”).

See her full post here:

Awhile back, I posted this activity, which goes nicely with the Rabbit Rule, so I wanted everyone to take another look at this: Bunny Hop.

In The Barton Reading and Spelling System, this is similar to the Happy Rule (from Level 4). If you are Barton trained and want to do this activity with a Barton student, you could have them do this after they tap syllables: put up one ear if they hear a short vowel in the first syllable, and another ear if they can’t hear anything closing that short vowel off. Then they will know the next sound they hear needs to be doubled.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, and Sarah and I will return with more Multisensory Monday posts in 2016!

Multisensory Monday: Criminal Red Words Book

I currently have several students who especially struggle with learning their “red words” (non-phonetic words for spelling). So, I decided to try something new– a product from Kendore Learning called the Criminal Word Book Set.

criminal word supplies should

Here is Syllables Executive Director Jennifer Hasser describing how to use the workbook:

This kit appealed to me, because it’s an inexpensive multisensory workbook with a few basic (easy to transport) supplies, and it involves acting out a story: your students are detectives, and they are pursuing the “criminal words” (criminal, because they are breaking the rules). They have to gather evidence, follow the trail left by the criminal, then catch and fingerprint the suspect! How fun (and in the process, they learn their red words!)

The workbook comes with 153 pre-printed pages of high-frequency red words (they follow the Kendore/SMART sequence and include commonly used non-phonetic words such as “were”, “come”, and “thought”) as well as a blank page to create your own. When I re-arranged the words to follow the Barton sequence, I was left with a few words in Level 3 and about a third of the words in Level 4 that I had to create on my own, but this was not too difficult, and overall it was a good time-saver to have the template. Also, the words are listed alphabetically in the front of the book, so it is easy enough to copy the words that follow the O-G scope/sequence you are using or customize a workbook for a particular student.

The workbook would also be great for small-group or whole-class practice for teachers using an O-G program.

You can buy the workbook separately, or buy their “kit”, which includes the workbook, a red plastic screen to create the tactile words, and some fingerprinting “ink” (which is not messy- it just rubs off cleanly). You will have to copy the pages out of the workbook to use them though, as they are double-sided. You will need to provide a red crayon (or red colored pencil seems to work also, maybe this would be more appealing for older kids) and pencil.

Here is how the kit works (demonstrated with the word “should”):

First your student will gather evidence by placing the plastic screen underneath the page for the word “should” and trace the word with the red crayon/colored pencil, while saying “S-H-O-U-L-D” and underlining it while saying “Spells should”.

Then, your student will follow the criminal’s trail by tracing their (now bumpy) crayon letters with their fingertips and while saying “S-H-O-U-L-D spells should”. This is great multisensory (visual-tactile-auditory) memory work!
criminal word gathering evidence should

Your student then traces the word “should” 3 more times (while saying the letter-names out loud, for the auditory piece).
criminal word tracing should

Lastly, your student needs to catch and fingerprint the suspect! They do this by folding the page and remembering the letters and writing the word (accessing their memory of the word to help reinforce those pathways). They fingerprint the suspect (to provide a nice “finger-space” when writing) and double-check that they wrote the word correctly (caught the correct criminal). Repeat 2 more times, so they have written the word 3 times.

criminal word writing should

criminal word fingerprinting should

You then have space to have the student write a phrase or sentence with that word, if you want them to.

If you really want to get into the spirit of this activity, I suggest some props: a magnifying glass, a detective hat… you could even cut the page off at the fold point and hide them around the room for your student to find and apprehend (write the word they are practicing on the back).

Kendore Kingdom also makes a similarly-themed handwriting workbook (with phoneme/grapheme practice as well as individual letter practice!), and a card game to go along with the criminal words theme, called Cops and Criminals. One of our tutors here at LLS has been using this game with her Orton-Gillingham students to help them learn their sight words, and she tells me it is a lot of fun for the kids!

Multisensory Monday: WordWright Game

It’s no secret that I love to play games (card games, board games, word games…) so for me, the best part of my job as an Orton-Gillingham tutor is that it involves playing games with my students! Games work for reinforcing and learning new concepts for all levels and ages. Best of all, games are especially powerful for my ADHD students who need as much interactive (and fun) learning as they can get.

I think all of us Orton-Gillingham tutors also understand that there is really no more powerful language tool than the study of morphology– you get a lot of “bang” for your buck, because when you learn a root or affix, you not only learn how to pronounce many words, but it also helps you with your spelling, writing, and vocabulary. I fondly remember learning Latin and Greek roots when I was in a school which taught using the Orton-Gillingham approach and this started me down my life-long journey as a lover of words.

So, for today’s Multisensory Monday, I am featuring something which combines these two concepts: morphology and games. It is a new game called WordWright, by the Defined Mind designers in Chicago. Defined Mind is a sister-and-brother team whose mission is “to help all people– disadvantaged and privileged alike– empower themselves through games.” I think that is a great idea, because there is really nothing simpler yet more powerful of a hands-on learning tool than a card game!

Here is their KickStarter video:

This game consists of a standard deck of 52 playing cards, but instead of suits, they’re roots (and affixes), and the goal of the game is to construct words from the cards using morphology (mostly from Latin). They have many different games that you can play with their card deck.

Here are some examples of games you can play with the WordWright deck:

They’ve already reached their goal, but you can still go support them to get a copy or two of the game (and you can even donate one to a teacher who needs it for their classroom). For just $5, they will send you the printable version and the ability to print as many copies as you need for your classroom, which is very affordable. And the graphics on the cards look super!

WordWright looks like it would be great for some of your more advanced Orton-Gillingham students, or if you are using a program that gets into roots/affixes early as some OG programs do. It would also be a wonderful addition to any classroom for around 3rd grade and up!

This week, Sarah Z. At RLAC has a Thanksgiving activity: making a UR Turkey! This is a great craft project for your classroom to celebrate the holiday and do some word work at the same time!

Multisensory Monday: Vowel Team Chart

There are so many vowel teams and so many possible spellings that is can be difficult to try and make sense of them all– So today, I have a multisensory activity to help organize your vowel teams!
OG Vowel Team Chart finished p1

I have a student in our online Orton-Gillingham program who is struggling with reading and spelling words with vowel teams. It looked like he needed some sort of conceptual graphic-organizer to figure out what sounds/spellings were possibilities for a word with a certain sound. He has learned almost all of the more common and some of the less common vowel teams for reading, but still gets several of them mixed up with one another.
On his online whiteboard, we have the vowel teams organized into a chart, by sound and by placement in the word (beginning/middle or end), with the more frequent spellings in front of the less-frequent ones. I figured putting this chart on paper would be a great multisensory practice activity to help him internalize the structure behind English vowel teams.

Vowel Team Chart

This activity can be modified to suit your scope/sequence and individualized to what graphemes/phonemes your student already knows.

What you will need:
Vowel Team Chart BW, Cardstock, and Scissors OR Letter-Tiles with vowel teams from your program (optional)

To make a reusable puzzle:
Print out the pages on cardstock and cut out the vowel teams you want to use on the last page
— laminate everything if you want them to last a bit longer and you want to re-use this as a puzzle-style activity (or, if you use a program with letter-tiles, you can use those to place in the boxes on the chart).

OG Vowel Team Chart Puzzle
To make a permanent reference chart:
You can have the student make their own personal chart by gluing down the vowel teams onto the chart for their own reference. They may also write a Key Word or draw a picture to go with each vowel team placed on the chart. If you use the LiPS program, you can also have them place LiPS mouth-pictures next to the sounds on the chart for reference.
OG Vowel Team Chart finished p2

As an alternative, you can have your student glue down or write in the vowel teams on the chart and then cover with paper flaps, so your students can quiz themselves on the vowel teams in each section of the chart.

Extend the activity by having your student organize the vowel teams by frequency of use; time your students and see how quickly they can complete the chart; have your students come up with a way to color-code the chart– points for creativity!

Check out Sarah Z’s post today— she has a game for “double duty” nouns and verbs (words that can be both, like dust and bat). This is a great idea for our students who need more grammar practice!

Multisensory Monday: the H Brothers

Today’s Multisensory Monday is a strategy idea I have seen used in several different places before, and I saw a great explanation post about it on this blog: so I am posting her video explanation below!

The “H Brothers” is a way to give each digraph it’s own personality, as a mnemonic device. This is a good strategy to use with your students who have a hard time learning their digraph sounds (th, sh, ch, wh, and ph), or it would work great to introduce Kindergarten students to these sounds after they master their basic letter-sounds.

Here is the story, with examples:

Digraphs vs. Blends?

I have seen that some phonics programs do not teach digraphs and blends separately. In Orton-Gillingham programs, we know it is very important to a child’s development of phonemic awareness skills to differentiate between the two (this helps greatly with reading and spelling down the line). Consonant blends are made up of individual sounds, whereas consonant digraphs have only one sound (represented by 2 letters).

I use the Barton Reading and Spelling System, and the digraphs are represented as two letters on one single tile; whereas the blends are each on their own tiles. We “blend” the sounds together to make the blend in the word. When I taught young children reading skills, I noticed that when they are learning to read they will make the mistake of trying to blend their digraph sounds together– so you may hear a young child try to sound out the word “them” as “t-h-e-m.” Teaching the digraph sounds or “H-Brothers” is a very important step after teaching all of the alphabet sounds! Wouldn’t it be great if all of the alphabets in Preschool and Kindergarten classrooms included the “H Brothers” sounds?

Multisensory Monday: Word Ladders

Orton-Gillingham lessons tend to follow very set procedures, and sometimes this can get too repetitive for our students. I like to mix things up with different activities and ideas for doing the same skills, but in a different way (especially when reviewing a concept) so that my students don’t get too bored! One way I like to do this is to occasionally throw in a “word ladder.”

Word Ladders are great puzzles that engage your student’s phonemic awareness, decoding, and encoding skills!

The concept of a Word Ladder is that you start with one word on the bottom and change one letter (or add/delete one) for each rung in the ladder, following the clues, until you get to the top run with a completely new word! If you provide or create controlled word ladders for your students, they will enjoy it as a fun game break and still be reviewing phonics concepts they know. Also, they are a great center or homework activity for students which can be completed independently if they are leveled correctly for your students.

One great source for phonics-controlled word ladders is this book by Scholastic: Daily Word Ladders: 80+ Word Study Activities That Target Key Phonics Skills to Boost Young Learners’ Reading, Writing & Spelling Confidence
It starts off with CVC words, and moves into VCE words and more complex phonics. There are other sets in this series, which are not phonetically-controlled, but may be good for your older/more advanced students.

Or, here are some free downloadable worksheets created by a classroom teacher that follow the same concept (and are phonetically-controlled):

If you want to design your own Word Ladder worksheets, here is a free template,

For a very beginning student, check out these cut-and-paste word ladders (with pictures instead of word clues) from SuperTeacherWorksheets.

Another Word Ladder idea that is more “hands-on” is to use Unifix Phonics Cubes and
with the Unifix word ladder accessories:

CVC words:

Words with consonant Blends & vowel teams:

These are a great choice for center-work for younger children or your more severe dyslexic children, because they do not require any reading of clues as the worksheets do (they simply require logic to move from one rung to the next).

I have used these with several students, and my only complaint is that the Unifix cubes do not always stick together; and their idea of a Vowel Team/blend/digraph is a bit different from my training/program. You could easily make some of these from Legos or other building blocks you have lying around too!

I hope this gives you a fresh idea for practicing phonics/spelling skills with your students!

Also check out Sarah of RLAC’s post today on Rolling with Word Families, a fun dice-game that would be good for students beginning an OG program in tutoring.

Multisensory Monday: Monster Words

Today I have a wonderful multisensory Halloween-themed idea courtesy of Kellie Lunsford of Marietta, GA.

Kellie taught for 12 years in the classroom and has now been in private practice as a diagnostic interventionist for 7 years. She is certified at the Associate Level of The Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators and serves students in Marietta, Georgia. While remediating students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia and other comorbid learning differences, she has continued her professional development in order to receive her educational therapist endorsement.

Monster Words

Monster Words Blue Monster

This game will help your students practice the Doubling or 1-1-1 Rule and the Drop-e rule in an Orton-Gillingham program. This idea can be used in 1:1 tutoring, or in a small group setting.

Explain to your students that some words are real “Monsters” to read– so we call this activity Monster Words! We’re talking about words like:


These words are tricky for all students, but especially for students with dyslexia or ESL/ELL students. Recently, I had a dyslexic student who just couldn’t get any of these words right. She would flip one for the other almost every time because she was just used to guessing at them and was not motivated to figure out the baseword and rule used. We started working on these types of word-pairs when we got to Barton Level 6– after she had learned the Doubling Rule (aka 1-1-1 Rule) and the Dropping Rule (aka “Drop-E Rule”). This idea did the trick for my student, and gave her that extra push she needed to attend to the words and get them correct, and hopefully it will help your students too!

Monster Words

(to practice words with suffixes that used either the 1-1-1 or dropping rule)

You will need:

  • Monster parts– There is a great free printable here, courtesy of the SomewhatSimple Blog) — Or if you have an artist for a student, you and your students can try drawing your own (always fun!)
  • a popsicle stick with an “e” on one end and an arrow on the other
  • Monster Words Game Word List or your own word lists

To make the game:

Print out or draw up your monster parts, then cut them out and separate by part (arms, eyes, etc.). Print out and cut out your word-lists (I separated them into groups of 5 words but you can modify this as needed for your students). Take the popsicle stick and draw an “e” on one end and an arrow on the other end. This will be your pointer for the drop-e or 1-1-1 rule.
Here are all the supplies:
Monster Words Supplies

To play:

Your student will get a chance to build their monster if they read the words correctly and tell you the correct basewords.
Set a goal with your student that is appropriate for them. You may want to start with getting 3/5 words correct and that will earn your student a monster part. You can work up to 100% accuracy and then start working on fluency and using a timer if that is your goal.
Hand your student a word list, and tell them they must meet their goal of fluency or accuracy in order to earn a part for their monster. They can use the popsicle stick as a helper tool to determine if the word is using the 1-1-1 (Doubling) rule and the first vowel is a short sound:
Monster Words Doubling Word

OR the word had a dropped silent-e and the vowel is making a long sound:
Monster Words Dropping Word

Once they have figured that out and know the correct way to say the word, they can say it out loud and then tell you what the original baseword was. If they meet the goal, they have earned a new part to build their monster (start with a body, then add mouth, eyes, horns, hands, and feet!)

Here is an idea of what finished Monsters will look like:
Monster Words Blue MonsterMonster Words Green Monster

You can get the Monster printouts from the Somewhat Simple blog here: