One Minute to Improve Reading Skills?!

I know I don’t post often enough. Keeping up with tutoring and managing all our amazing tutors at Ladder Learning has kept me so busy these days, and I can’t complain!

But I wanted to share something that recently changed the way I tutor, because it is SO SIMPLE and QUICK and it is something that parents, teachers, and tutors can start doing today to improve their student’s reading skills!

A few months ago, I was able to hear Dr. David Kilpatrick give a talk about reading science in Portland, Oregon (shout-out to the amazing IDA folks in Oregon who put on a great conference with wonderful food!)

Dr. Kilpatrick has written a few books which are of interest to teachers, psychologists, and those of us who tutor students with dyslexia. Here’s one of them, which is a great overview of where the reading science stands and what interventions are effective for students with dyslexia (paid link):

Another book he authored is less well-know. Those of us who dig pretty deep into reading science have recently become psyched about it, but it’s actually based on research and ideas that have been around for decades. The book is called  Equipped for Reading Success (paid link). Most of it is an overview of research with a few ideas for 1:1 or classroom work. But tucked away in the back of this book is a truly amazing idea, the One-Minute Drills for improving what he terms “advanced phonological awareness.”

Dr. Kilpatrick’s innovation in the research was the discovery that when older students with dyslexia were not making gains with automatic recognition of words, what was going on “behind the scenes” was their lack of these advanced phonological awareness skills.

Tests which are often given to show children have dyslexia don’t have a timing element (eg, the CTOPP). So some children can actually ‘game’ the tests by thinking of the spelling of a word and working backwards (not what the test is designed to measure). However, Dr. Kilpatrick includes a new assessment which he created called the PAST, to determine not only how well students can answer phonological-awareness questions (such as can they say “birthday” without “birth”?) but also how FAST they can get to the answer. (A copy of the PAST, with explanation and instructions.)

This innovation led to the development of the One-Minute Drills in his Equipped book, which are an incredible resource. Starting with the most simple tasks (removing a syllable from a compound word) and working step-by-step up to the most complex task (reversing the phonemes in a multi-syllable word completely to form a new word), you have hundreds of exercises to work with even the most phonologically-challenged student and slowly, one minute at a time, build up those skills they need to be successful readers.

I have seen my students take off and make incredible gains after adding this very simple exercise to their lesson plan! It’s something that is so simple to add into a classroom routine or to do at home– just one minute at a time can make all the difference for our students who struggle with reading and spelling skills. And, best of all, some of my students actually enjoy doing them (and the others really don’t mind them at all)!

If you do decide to start using the One-Minute Drills with your students, here is a freebie from me that you can use to track their progress: Equipped One-Min Drills Checklist.

Important Podcast about reading instruction in the schools

Why American kids aren’t being taught to read by American Public Media reports goes into detail about the importance of making sure our educators are properly using the science behind reading instruction. Here at Ladder Learning, we understand the science behind dyslexia and other reading disorders. We keep up with the latest research to ensure that our students are receiving the best instruction possible.

What to do if you can’t afford dyslexia tutoring

Recently, I responded to a mom who was looking for tutoring services for her son with dyslexia. They do not live near any dyslexia specialists, providers, or tutors. Although our prices are very affordable compared to other in-home tutors in the Atlanta area, the options we had were out of her budget.

I realize there are many parents out there in the same situation, so I thought that what I wrote to her may be helpful to other families.

Here are 3 options if you can’t afford a dyslexia tutor:

1. Work with a tutor doing a practicum for a lower fee per session until they are certified. (send us an email at ladderlearning@gmail.com to see what we have available. Or email your local branch of the International Dyslexia Association)
2. Find a parent, grandparent, babysitter, etc. who can do the Barton Reading and Spelling System with the student at home. If you’re in the state of Georgia and are a member of the Georgia Cyber Academy you can get sent to you for free. Otherwise, you can buy it at www.bartonreading.com First, you need to make sure the tutor can pass the tutor screening and your student passes the student screening.
(If the student doesn’t pass the Student Screening, we might be able to work with him online until he’s ready to pass.)
Yes, it can be difficult to work with your own child. If nothing else, you can try to get them through the first 3 levels of the program, and we can take over from there– and you have saved yourself some money that way.
3. You can try to get your school district to provide the tutoring and pay a tutoring company  like ours directly. Other parents have been successful with this if they either get an advocate, lawyer, or are knowledgeable about their rights. (Typically, these families have older students who have been failed by the school system for many years, and there is a history of neglect on the school’s part.) You must know your rights, the law, and be very assertive about what your child needs. More information about this can be found from this website: www.wrightslaw.org We are happy to work directly with a school district to do tutoring services.
NOTE: The MOST important thing is that no matter what the school says, DO NOT WAIT to start the intervention your student needs. Because of the “Matthew Effect,” without the correct type of help our students with dyslexia only continue to fall further behind as time goes on. http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.matthew.effect.htm
Hopefully one of these options will work out for your family!
PS–Research shows that children who do not read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times less likely to graduate high school on time… and dropping out of high school increases your odds of ending up in prison dramatically.  I’m not trying to scare you, but I want you to know the facts so you make the best decision for your child. Yes, there are dyslexic high-school dropouts who started successful companies and became billionaires too… but I’m sorry to say they are few and far between, and that isn’t a chance I recommend taking with your child’s future.

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:

Multisensory Winter Holiday Practice

If you’re looking for a fun, simple idea to practice your Orton-Gillingham tutoring clients over these winter holidays, Orton-Gillingham tutor Heather Groce has a wonderful idea to share:

Multisensory Winter Holiday Bingo
Multisensory Winter Holiday Bingo

“I made a bingo game for segmenting phonemes. I bought a Christmas go fish card game at Dollar Tree. Then I taped them together in different order to make “BINGO cards”. I saved one set of cards out of the box to use as my caller set. I circled phonemes/graphemes/blends that are only found in that particular word. So,when I call out the phoneme/blend they will look at the word and see if that sound is in the word. If it is then they mark it.Just like a BINGO space. So,for example,when I call out /oo? They should mark the “igloo”. I hope that makes sense and is helpful. I believe I will be playing this with different cards for all the holidays. If you can’t find the cards,you could use stickers and index cards to create your boards.”

Thanks Heather for sharing!

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)

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

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/

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!