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

Multisensory Monday: See to Spell Sight Words

Hi everyone! This week, I was lucky to have a set of these new “See to Spell Sight Words” cards sent to me to review, so I wanted to show you all how they work.

These will save you and your students a lot of time if you are into illustrating the sight words, and they are aligned with the sight words taught in the Barton Reading and Spelling System.

You can order your own set of See to Spell Sight Word cards from their website.

This week, Sarah Z. at RLAC has a challenge for you– are you up for it? head on over to her blog and check out her Think, Ready, Read MacGyver Challenge!

Multisensory Monday: CH Chain

This is a simple, fun multisensory idea for practicing the “CH” digraph with the /ch/ sound.

Ages K-3rd grade. For a whole-class activity or center.

You will need:

  • Several long strips of paper, in various colors.
  • Markers to write with
  • Glue stick
  • List of “CH” words

Hand out the list of “CH” words to each child and a few markers each, and several strips of paper. Have them copy the “CH” words onto one strip each, then link the strips into a chain and glue them together, like so:


When they get to their last strip of paper, have them link it with the next child’s, and so on, until you have one big paper chain. For extra reading practice, your students can read the words from the “CH” chain.

Here is a list of “CH” words, in order of difficulty:

CVC words with “CH”:

CVC words with “CH” and FLOSS letters/other digraphs:

“CH” words with short vowels and consonant blends:
cinch (soft-c)

“CH” words with vowel-teams and r-controlled vowels:

Multi-syllable “CH” words:

Challenge words:

This week, Sarah at RLAC has another digraph activity. It’s a great idea for drawing key-word pictures to cement those key-words in your student’s minds (and most of my students love to draw!)

Multisensory Monday: fun writing dictations

Sometimes just a few little things can make the “boring” parts of OG tutoring much more fun– I bring in just a few art supplies to spice up the dictations part of my tutoring sessions. My kids with ADHD, dyslexia, and dysgraphia especially appreciate being able to make things more fun and interesting. Rotate these ideas with a white-board, magnet-board, and other writing tools to keep it novel for your kids!

1. Black notebook paper

(I use these Crayola Wild Notes journals, which come with a few really bright metallic gel pens):

This is great for dictation phrases/sentences and sight word practice. Or use the different colors to make a concept stand out, like this “worksheet” I made about adding suffixes:
black paper adding suffixes

2. Chalk Pencils

(My set was made by Board Dudes and I got them at Target– this was the closest I could find on Amazon:)

My Barton students use these to “color-code” their sentences and make it a little more fun, like this:

The chalk pencils also work great on the black paper:
chalk pencils black paper

3. Glitter Gel Pens

Another favorite of my students are glitter “gel” pens, like these Stardust Jelly Rolls from Sakura:

They are very cool colors, shiny and sparkly! They all work on white and some of them work very well on black paper, making dictations and sight words EVEN MORE fun!

4. Smelly Markers

dictation with smelly markers

These are a big favorite of my students, who use them to write words, phrases, and sentences. They all have their “favorite” smells they like to use for writing. If you have a student who is having a bad day or just really tired, get these out and engage another one of their senses! They make nice, bright-colored lines and I use them on white lined paper.

I hope this gives you some good ideas of how to make dictations fun and exciting for your students.

Today’s Multisensory Monday post from Sarah at RLAC is a great presentation about how phonics supports fluency and comprehension— definitely share with all your teacher friends!

Multisensory Monday: Ending Blends Floss Rule BINGO

Do your students struggle with ending blends? Help your students sound out words with ending consonant blends and also practice the Floss spelling rule with this fun BINGO game.

You can make the cards with this handy free bingo maker. Print, cut, and laminate the cards and use wipe-off markers or BINGO chips to mark them.

Ending Blends Bingo

Here is what to input in the 5 columns (notice the spacing between blends vs digraphs):
l m
l t
n t
s t
p t

n d
n ch
s k
s p
m p

f th
d th
ng th
l d
f t

l f
l p
p s
n k
n th

f f
l l
s s
z z
c t

In your program, the ff, ll, ss, and zz may not be thought of as separate, so modify as necessary. As much as possible, I used short vowels. I included some especially tricky ending blends like the -fth in “fifth” for some extra challenging practice (these types of words are included in the Barton system Level 3), but if your students are not ready for that maybe you would want to replace those with some beginning blends instead.

Print out these Ending Blends BINGO calling cards, and have your student figure out what letters belong on the line, then search their BINGO cards for that blend. Every blend (except one if you have a free space) will appear on every card.

Play until a student gets BINGO, or go for Blackout, an X-shape or other pattern. You could easily play this 1-on-1, with a small group, a whole class, or make it a center in your classroom!

Sarah’s post today is a great idea for “Slicing Syllables” to make the phonological awareness task of counting syllables more multisensory! We often have students who do not pass “Part B” of the Barton Screener and need to work with them on this particular skill, so it could be used if you are tutoring a student with that profile.

Multisensory Monday: Flowers vs Monsters FREE Printable Tutoring Game

Happy Spring everyone!

A few weeks ago, one of my students caught a glimpse of a certain very popular video game on my iPad, and asked if we could play it. Since it is not educational, I had to say no, but I promised her that I would make a version we could play together in tutoring.

This is basically a way to “gamify” your tutoring lesson, and it’s called “Flowers vs. Monsters”! I plan to only bring it out on special occasions, since it does seem to take a lot of time up out of the lesson (but it’s super fun for the students), so if you are using the Barton system, for example, maybe this can be what you do for your end-of-book post-test. This could be used by any type of tutor, really, to review any subject– just come up with quiz questions and assign them point values. Kids with ADHD especially go for anything that makes a lesson competitive and fun!

You will need a color printer, cardstock, and scissors to make the game. You may also want a 6-sided die and some tokens (eg Bingo Chips) to mark damage with.

You can download all the components for free from my TPT site here.

Print out the game board and pieces, and cut the pieces out. Separate the pieces into two piles, Flowers and Monsters. Save the two gravestones to put down on the game board. This is where the Monsters will “spawn” from.
You will need to either assign point values to whatever you are using (for example: reading a word gets you 1 point; reading a phrase gets you 2 points, reading a sentence gets you 3 points). Alternately, each player starts with 10 points and then gets 10 more points when they run down to 0. Points are then spent to buy Flowers or Monsters.

Flowers vs Monsters Game Pic

Game Play:
Let your student choose if they want to be the Flowers or the Monsters. If they want to be Flowers, they will need to sit on the left and plant their flowers on the soil or moat area. If they want to be Monsters, they will need to sit on the right.
Place the two gravestones on the right side of the board, where the Xs are (Monsters will spawn orthogonal to a gravestone).
Flip over 4 Flower cards and 4 Monster cards. These will be the Flowers and Monsters available to “buy” with your points. Flower and Monster cards all have a Cost at the bottom: this is how many points they cost to plant/spawn. If you do not use all of your points up on your turn, the points carry over to the next turn.
Flowers go first. The Flower player may spend as many points as they have to plant one flower. Flowers must be planted on the soil squares and cannot be moved after they are planted. Lillies can be planted only on the Moat squares and cannot be moved after planting. The Petal Bombs are not planted, they are placed on top of a Monster.
After the Flower player has planted their choice, the Monster player has a turn. First, the Monster player spawns a Monster (spending their points) orthogonal to a gravestone. If there are no open spaces next to a gravestone, then no Monsters can be spawned this turn. Then, the Monster player moves all Monsters forward 1 space (Skeleton Runners move 2 spaces, as long as there is a clear path). Monsters may not move between rows.
Monsters that move into a Flower space will try to battle that Flower. The Flower will fight back with its pollen or thorns. All cards have a black Defense Rating and a red Attack Rating, and this is how you determine who survives the battle. For example, if my Skeleton Runner attacks a Purple Flower, then they will both do 1 damage and they both have 1 defense. They will destroy each other and both be removed from the board. But, if my Zombie tries to attack a Rose, it will be destroyed and the Rose will live with 1 damage. Place a marker on the Rose so you remember that it has 1 damage; the next Monster to attack that Rose will only have to do one more damage to destroy it.

Flowers vs Monsters Game Pic2

Special Symbols on Cards:
‡= Skeleton Runners move double
≈=Lillies can only be planted on water
*=Petal Bombs are not planted, they just Bomb a Monster for 3 damage and then disappear

The Monsters win if they manage to get past the Moat. The Monsters then are assumed to take over the House.
The Flowers win when all Monsters have been placed and moved as far as they can go but they do not get past the Moat.

Alternate Rules:
Roll a 6-sided die to see how much the Monsters can move during their movement phase. The number on the die is how many movement points you have to spend. You can assign up to 3 movement points to one Monster. This makes the Monsters move much faster, and less predictable.
Try placing the Gravestones in different spaces on the board for more variety. To make it random, assign the spaces numbers 1-6 and roll a 6-sided die to place them at the beginning of the game.
Give your Monsters alternate powers. Perhaps the Vampires can fly and move more spaces. Maybe Petal Bombs don’t work on certain Monsters.

How this game is used for learning?
To insert some learning in to this game, you can have your student perform a task to earn points. If you have them spell a word, phrase, or sentence, you can even have any mistakes give your side extra points (that is up to you!) You could also have them read a word, phrase, or sentence on their turn to earn points, and spell a word, phrase, or sentence on your turn and subtract the points they earn from 10 to see how many points that gives you. Be creative and have fun!

This game is dedicated to Lilly!

Today’s Multisensory Monday from Sarah at RLAC is equally fun! It’s about increasing reading fluency by reading in funny voices (something most of my students do anyway!) Check out her post here.

Does your child’s teacher think he is lazy?

This blog post from Dr. Erica Warren hit home for me. I have sat in meetings with teachers who referred to the child as “lazy” or “unmotivated” or “careless” and knowing that child in a 1:1 tutoring situation, I knew they were none of those things.

If your child’s teacher thinks your child is lazy, they don’t really understand your child. Children do not want to constantly be in trouble all day, or to do work that isn’t up to standards. They want to try and make the adults in their life happy. If they are acting out, there is almost always an underlying reason. Good teachers are detectives and find out what motivates that child or what is going on for them that is making them appear “lazy.”

Multisensory Monday: Blending Book

Today I have something that you can make easily with a few cheap materials, and is a great way to work on blending skills with CVC or CCVC/CVCC words!

This is called a “blending book” and I got the idea from another OG tutor several years back.

Supplies you will need:
– one notebook of 5″ x 8″ spiral-bound index cards
– Scissors
– a ruler
– a pencil
– a sharpie

You’re going to cut up the spiral-bound index cards but leave them in the binder, to create a “flip book” for blending CVC (or CCVC/CVCC) words. First of all, determine if you want to do CVC or CCVC/CVCC words. You could also make a blending book for vowel teams, silent-e, or other things that might have 4 letters. You could combine all of these into one book, separated by an uncut sheet, if you like, or make them all into their own books.

Here is what a simple CVC blending book looks like:

CVC Blending Book

Here is what it looks like with a nonsense word, and using a tab for a “digraph” or floss-letter:

CVC Blending Book

To make a CVC blending book, you will need to mark about 2 5/8″ for each tab. I measured a few spots, made marks with a pencil, then cut one page at a time, just to be sure it lined up correctly. You can also use the page you just cut as a guide on the next page, but that tends to get off after a few pages down.

To make a book with 4 letters (CVCC or CCVC, or vowel teams/silent e) you can just mark every 2″ which gives you 4 tabs.

Blank Marking a Blending Book

Cutting up a Blending Book

Here are the letters I used for my CVC (3-tab) book:

1st tab:
m, c, b, r, d, f, h, p, l, j, s, z, k, qu, t, v, w

2nd tab:
a, o, i, e, u, o, a, e, i, e, u, a, o, i, u, e, o

3rd tab:
t, g, d, n, b, m, x, ck, ff, ll, p, ss, zz, g, n, t, p

of course, you could add other digraphs like “sh”, “th”, “wh”, “ph”, and “ch/tch” to your blending book if your student knows them.

When I use the book, I usually have my student touch and say each sound, then blend it together into a word, then tell me if it’s real or nonsense. Then I have them pick one flap to flip over, and I pick one to flip over (so I can avoid any weird combinations or words I don’t want them to make!). Then I have them touch and say and blend the new word, and repeat until we’re out of flaps!

Here is what I did for the CCVC blending book:
1st tab: b, p, g, c (tore one out)
2nd tab: r, l, r, l (tore one out)
3rd tab: a, e, i, o, u
4th tab: g, d, t, m, ck

Other ideas:
For non r- and l- blends I would suggest just keeping the first two tabs together (st, sc, tw). You could flip it around and do the same thing with ending blends (nd, ct, pt)

You could either make a 4-tab book for silent-e, or just add an e onto the end of your CVC book when it works.

You could have a 4-tab book where the middle two are uncut and make vowel-team words (p ai l, t ea m, etc.)

You could have your student roll a 4-sided die to determine which tab to flip, or if you are doing a small-group have the student pick which tab to flip for the next student to read.

Any other ideas for a blending book, please post in the comments section! Happy blending!

Over at RLAC today, Sarah has a great, versatile activity using pom-poms! I’ll let you check it out here.

Another great summer camp option in Atlanta

I wanted to share this with you all, in case you or someone you know is looking for a summer camp opportunity in Atlanta for children with developmental/sensory delays or ASD:

Learning on the Log provides social skills therapy in recreational setting for children with developmental and sensory delays, including children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Swimming, hiking, team sports, rock climbing, and rafting are just a few of the fun activities our campers enjoy within a supportive environment while developing their ability to interact, relate and communicate. We offer summer camps, an Enrichment Preschool, afterschool programming and weekend programming.

LOTL 2014 summer camp
LOTL preschool

Introducing: Multisensory Mondays!

I’m very excited to share this wonderful idea, started by Sarah Zelenak and the folks at the Reading and Language Arts Center (AKA RLAC) in Michigan. She does a blog post every Monday with a new Multisensory idea for Orton-Gillingham Tutors to use. She was gracious enough to allow me to use her idea and we are now collaborating on Multisensory Mondays!

Here is a little bit about Sarah:

My name is Sarah Zelenak. I’m an instructor with the Reading and Language Arts Center and a certified teacher. As an instructor and tutor for RLAC, I have gone through extensive Orton-Gillingam based coursework and stay up to date on effective, research-based methods for teaching reading.
I began as a tutor with RLAC as I was launching my teaching career. Then I ended up astounded by how powerful and effective the Orton-Giillingham based Phonics First program was. I couldn’t get enough! What started out as a part-time job became a life-altering passion for teaching reading and working with struggling students.
While I was tutoring, I also worked in a school as a Tier II interventionist and long-term substitute in 1st grade. I was itching to become more involved in RLAC and share their multisensory methods with teachers in order to reach as many students as possible. Amazingly, the universe gave me that opportunity. I became an instructor for RLAC, putting on professional development workshops and also going into classrooms coaching teachers and working with their students (my favorite part).
How lucky am I?! I have a job I love that allows me to positively impact the lives of students all over the country. As a classroom teacher, I struggled with finding time to research and ways to implement the most beneficial for my struggling students. Now, I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to help other teachers with that task, so they can focus on the students in their classroom.

You can see her blog here: RLAC Orton-Gillingham Blog. The past few weeks she has some awesome games and activities which are both educational AND use up that leftover Easter candy! This Monday, she features Jellybean Jewelry for practicing the tricky /j/ sound.

My contribution to Multisensory Monday: looking at some ways to use a sand tray for a tactile/kinesthetic experience when teaching phonemes, sight words, or letter formation.

If you’re OG trained you have probably been taught to use a sand tray like the one in my video to reinforce the multisensory aspect of your teaching or tutoring. If you are using a pre-packaged OG-based system like Barton or Wilson, you may not have been taught to use one, so I wanted to show it here. Unfortunately the nice small Sand Boxes are no longer for sale on the Really Good Stuff site. The small plastic trays I am using also do not appear to be available ( I think I got them from but it was a long time ago!) But, I found this neat tray on which has a spout to pour out the sand when you are done (very handy for keeping messes down!).

Some other ideas for tactile practice using a sand-tray are: rice, shaving cream (sounds messy-but it’s just soap so you can easily clean it up!), or finger paint.

Please comment if you have another idea about a good use for a sand tray!