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

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

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!

Is cursive really better for dyslexics?

I have heard a lot of teachers and Orton-Gillingham tutors tout the benefits of cursive writing for their students with dyslexia. In my experience though, this is the wrong idea for most of our students. This recent article from the Yale Center for Dyslexia makes an argument for teaching keyboarding skills instead. “Once dyslexic students change to keyboarding [from cursive], their volume of word use increases dramatically as well as their written clarity, spelling, and overall editing.”

As someone who struggled with cursive writing myself, I can say that it just doesn’t ever “flow” for a lot of students, especially our students with dysgraphia.

Over the years, we have worked with many students who have started learning cursive writing from the beginning, and when these students also have dyslexia they struggle. They have a hard time with forming the letters properly, connecting them properly, and telling them apart from each other. Often, when we introduce them to printing they seem to form clearer images of the letters in their mind (they’re not all running together) and then learn their letter-sound associations more quickly.

One reason I have heard for cursive supposedly being better is that it prevents reversals– but our dyslexic students who learn cursive still do reverse b/d and p/q just as frequently as our dyslexic students who learn to print.

I think printing and keyboarding skills are much more important for our students. They can be taught to read cursive writing as an important life skill, but writing in cursive can be very laborious and difficult. Teaching them keyboarding skills will be much more useful for their future.

Of course, if your child attends a Suzuki, Montessori, or Waldorf school (and some other private or charter schools) they will be expected to learn cursive writing and we can help them with this task using a simplified cursive style called Handwriting Without Tears (it is how I finally learned cursive writing myself, and I can attest that it is much easier than “traditional” cursive!) Using multisensory techniques will help them learn to properly form their letters and the proper way to connect their letters.

Multisensory Monday: B/D and P/Q reversals

This week, both Sarah Z. and I have ideas for kids with b/d confusion. Go ahead and check out her video first for some hand-signals and other tricks to help kids distinguish these two letters.

My video today has an idea of how to practice visually finding those b’s, d’s, p’s and q’s!
It also incorporates some fine-motor practice, for those kids who might have some trouble with their handwriting grip.

You will need: a sharpie, scissors, these sticky-dots, and these free printable worksheets from my TPT store.

This activity works well one-on-one. You can time your student for each letter and see how fast they can find all the letters and put a sticker on each one. Or you could make it a center activity in a classroom.

Also, check out Sarah’s post from last week, where she made an adorable bunny to go with my Bunny Hop worksheet!

Multisensory Monday: Shaving Cream

Another fun multisensory way to practice your sight words, phonemes/graphemes, and correct letter formation is with shaving cream. It has a nice tactile feel, and it feels messy, which is fun for kids– but, because shaving cream is basically soap, it’s a very easy cleanup! We used to use it in the PreK classroom I worked at when I was in Americorps. We would give each kid a little bit to play with at the table, and have them practice writing the letters they knew or their name. It was really fun and kept their attention a lot longer than pencil and paper!

You can use shaving cream on a table or on a window. Just spread it around and write with your finger, like this:



When you’re done, wipe the surface with a wet cloth to clean up!
You can also use a sand tray to contain the mess a bit.

Over at RLAC, Sarah’s post today covers a great activity for remembering the “Floss” rule. It’s called “Sammy Loves Fuzzy Zebras” which is a mnemonic to help your students remember which letters to double!

Multisensory Monday: More iPad Apps and Blends Spinner Game

Welcome back to Multisensory Monday! This time I have 3 different FREE iPad apps which you can use for practice with various skills: sight words, handwriting (correct letter formation), phonemes/blends/units practice, and just having some fun!

Apps in this video are:
1. Draw With Stars by L’Escapadou (free)
2. My Blackboard by Akrio (Free with small ads/ also has paid version with handwriting and math practice built in)
3. Art Of Glow by Natenai Ariyatrakool (free, with small ads)

Also this week, Sarah at RLAC has a cool series of games for learning those 3-letter blends!

Multisensory Monday: Wikki Stix and Sentence Relay

This week for Multisensory Monday I show how to use wax yarn (aka Wikki Stix
or Bendaroos) to practice letters, for b/d reversal, and for practicing sight words:

Also this week, our friends over at RLAC have a great video about an activity to get your kids up and moving in a “sentence relay.” This would be a really fun way to do a warm-up for any OG program’s sentence dictations, if your kids usually dread that part of the lesson (as mine all do!)

Job openings at Ladder Learning Services!

We are hiring new Literacy and Math Specialists to start in September 2014. If you are interested in working with us, please review the job posting below and send your resume and cover letter to Dite Bray, Director at ladderlearningjobs at

We especially need tutors in the following locations: Norcross/John’s Creek, Roswell/Sandy Springs/Buckhead, South-East Atlanta/Decatur, and Santa Fe, New Mexico!

Qualifications: Must have a minimum Bachelor’s Degree with at least 1 year of continuous hand-on experience working with children in an instructional setting. Must have a friendly, patient and resilient personality and enjoy working with active children. Must have strong communication and writing skills. You must have access to your own reliable vehicle and be able to arrive to appointments on time. You must also have access to a reliable high-speed internet connection with ability to check email at least twice per day. You must pass a background check.

Duties: As a Literacy and Math Specialist, you will help students of all ages learn how to read using the Orton-Gillingham approach, learn handwriting skills using Handwriting Without Tears, and learn math using Multisensory (OG) Math. You will receive training on all of these programs and others as needed. You will be assigned sessions with clients that usually take place in their home for the duration of one hour with a single student. Sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. up until 8 p.m. depending on your availability, but most sessions occur during after-school hours or on Saturday. Your appointments are scheduled within a defined geographical location which you determine. You work as an independent contractor.

You must be able to:
* Follow pre-planned lessons and meet student objectives
* Overcome developmental hurdles during the session and devise new strategies
* Complete Lesson Notes weekly
* Provide progress updates to parents and managers
* Commit to regular scheduling for 12 weeks or more
* Attend all scheduled training sessions and respond to all emails

Not required, but nice To have:
* Teaching Certificate
* Knowledge of/ Certification in Orton-Gillingham or a related method
* Knowledge of a foreign language
* Experience with Montessori materials/methods
* Special Education Experience
* Graduate Degree (In progress or Completed)

Job Details:
* $20.00 – $35.00 per hour based on education and previous experience
* For Atlanta Positions travel in the Metro Atlanta area (within a defined geographical region) is required.

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!