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.

Background Knowledge for Comprehension

One often overlooked factor which can really make-or-break a child’s comprehension of a passage of text is background knowledge.

Just today, I was working on summarizing 3 short 5th grade level paragraphs with a 5th grade student who is dyslexic but reads at her grade-level. As we read through the paragraphs, I asked her some comprehension questions and came to realize that she had little to no background knowledge of the topic we were reading about (World War II).

In order for her to understand these short passages, we had to talk about many different things that were implied knowledge in the text, including:

  1. World War II happened in the 1940s (roughly her great-grandparent’s time)
  2. Germany (specifically Nazi Germany) was invading other countries in Europe and North Africa
  3. We looked at a map, and discovered where Germany was in relation to other countries mentioned in the text: France, Great Britain, and North Africa and we compared with where we are in the United States.
  4. We talked about how Great Britain/England/and the United Kingdom are all basically the same place.
  5. How it’s called the United Kingdom because they have a Monarchy (king/queen) and we don’t have that here
  6. The meaning of the words “French Resistance”
  7. Who Winston Churchill was

Having not studied yet about WWII in school, nor read much about it, she really had no concept of any of these things. For starters, she believed the war was a very, very long time ago and she did not understand the geography of the world at all. So this made reading the passages very confusing to her.

Part of her confusion about geography may stem from a dyslexic’s difficulty with directionality. I find my students are also very confused by terminology and have trouble differentiating between what is a continent vs a country or state or city. And, I am often quite shocked by the lack of geography and Social Studies knowledge my students have (this particular student has an IQ which is in the Superior category and does very well in school).

After we explored these different topics, she was then able to read the passages and have a much clearer understanding of what the passage was saying, and was then able to get the “main idea”. While she may still have been able to answer some basic test questions about the passage without all that knowledge, some other details may have escaped her completely. For example, the meaning of the word “Resistance” when it was applied to the French Resistance. What were they resisting? She had no idea about that, or what those words would have meant without that background knowledge.

When working with a dyslexic student, it’s especially important to realize that while they may be quite intelligent, they may lack the reading experience of other children and they will often have a lack of background knowledge of many topics. Therefore, they may not do well on test questions for reading comprehension on those topics.

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: 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!