What is the best way to teach a dyslexic spelling?

On an email list I participate, Susan Barton recently wrote this response to a tutor who was looking for the best program for a child who has what was termed Orthographic Dyslexia (a sub-type where spelling is more of a difficulty than phonemic awareness). Here is her response (shared with permission) with some great links to do further research:
No other O-G program focuses on spelling as strongly and intensely as the Barton Reading & Spelling System.
Yet all of the research shows that spelling and reading and strongly linked, and you need to work intensely on both skills.
Here is a link to a great article called Why Spelling Matters that quotes the research.
The International Dyslexia Association has a 4-page fact sheet on Spelling (“Just the Facts…Spelling”), which states that people with dyslexia have “conspicuous problems” with spelling and writing. The fact sheet quotes the research and explains how spelling needs to be taught.  You can download and print their fact sheet by going to:
Also show them the article called “Brain Images Show Individual Dyslexic Children Respond To Spelling Treatment”  published on MedicalNewsToday.com, in February 15, 2006.  Here’s a summary:
Brain images of children with dyslexia taken before they received spelling instruction show that they have different patterns of neural activity than do good spellers when doing language tasks related to spelling. But after specialized treatment emphasizing the letters in words, they showed similar patterns of brain activity.
These findings are important because they show the human brain can change and normalize in response to spelling instruction, even in dyslexia, the most common learning disability.
To download that article, go to:
And in case any teacher claims that a student can just use a spell checker, read this article by a dyslexia advocate, entitled “To Spell or Not to Spell:  Is it really that important?” by clicking on this link:

Great simple idea for multisensory practice

If you are looking for a simple way to practice building decoding skills and fluency along with an Orton-Gillingham program, this mom/tutor has a great idea for a DIY board game where you can change out the words. She’s using the Barton Reading and Spelling System, but you could use this concept with any Orton-Gillingham program’s word list (real or nonsense words would work great). What a wonderful idea for at-home practice between lessons! I love the simple ideas, because they usually are so versatile. Also, I love how this is a larger game, so that gets your kids moving around while they learn– always a great thing!

Required materials:

  • posterboard
  • markers
  • post-it notes (squares)
  • tokens
  • dice
  • washi tape (optional)

Multisensory Monday: TacScreen Review

Hi Everyone,
I know it’s been awhile since I posted for Multisensory Monday– it’s been a busy time at Ladder Learning as we prepare for many new students this summer!


Today I have a video review of the TacScreen, which is a great multisensory tool for travelling Orton-Gillingham tutors or those who just want another option to keep their students engaged (most of our students love some occasional iPad work to break up the lesson.) The TacScreen would be ideal for students with ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, Dyscalculia, and Autism Spectrum.

I was sent a free copy of TacScreen to evaluate it, although I had previously purchased a few for my tutors in Atlanta to use. I have been personally using the TacScreen for a few weeks now, and I can definitely say I’m going to leave it on my iPad and continue to use it in my tutoring sessions!

If you would like to purchase your own TacScreen cover, you can do so at www.tacscreen.com

Summer Sign-up Last Day!

Hi everyone,

Today is the last day to sign up for our GREAT DEALS on our summer tutoring packages! We offer experienced tutoring in-home or in-school in the Atlanta metro area or ONLINE with our Literacy and Math specialists. We specialize in DYSLEXIA, DYGRAPHIA, DYSCALCULIA, SLDs, and ADHD!

If you miss the 4/15/16 deadline, you can still register with us for summer tutoring, just go ahead and fill out the form on our home page instead and we’ll contact you with more information.

If you have any questions about summer tutoring with us, please contact Dite at 404-654-3557 or ladderlearning at gmail.com

Reversing Reversals Series

Good Sensory Learning is a great company that makes workbooks and curriculum for students with dyslexia and other learning challenges. They recently came out with a new set of activities in their Reversing Reversals series. Reversing Reversals is a wonderful series that involves fun exercises and activities for students who need help with b/d, p/q, and other types of reversals of letters, numbers, or words. My students love the different activities where they are racing to beat their time (by circling all the b’s or p’s or q’s in a row) or coloring all the b’s one color and d’s another to make a neat picture. These are easily transportable activities that parents, tutors, or teachers can use with their students to help them improve their attention to detail and reduce those reversals!

Reversing reversals products

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: http://www.rlacortongillingham.com/multisensory-monday-soft-c-and-g/

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): http://www.visnos.com/demos/clock

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: http://www.dyslexiadublin.ie/easyread-time-teacher-watch-red-blue.html

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 http://www.funfonix.com/

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: http://www.rlacortongillingham.com/rabbit-rule-for-spelling-multisensory-monday/#sthash.yzHmiwXA.vcx3surc.dpbs

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!