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!

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

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!

Multisensory Monday: WordWright Game

It’s no secret that I love to play games (card games, board games, word games…) so for me, the best part of my job as an Orton-Gillingham tutor is that it involves playing games with my students! Games work for reinforcing and learning new concepts for all levels and ages. Best of all, games are especially powerful for my ADHD students who need as much interactive (and fun) learning as they can get.

I think all of us Orton-Gillingham tutors also understand that there is really no more powerful language tool than the study of morphology– you get a lot of “bang” for your buck, because when you learn a root or affix, you not only learn how to pronounce many words, but it also helps you with your spelling, writing, and vocabulary. I fondly remember learning Latin and Greek roots when I was in a school which taught using the Orton-Gillingham approach and this started me down my life-long journey as a lover of words.

So, for today’s Multisensory Monday, I am featuring something which combines these two concepts: morphology and games. It is a new game called WordWright, by the Defined Mind designers in Chicago. Defined Mind is a sister-and-brother team whose mission is “to help all people– disadvantaged and privileged alike– empower themselves through games.” I think that is a great idea, because there is really nothing simpler yet more powerful of a hands-on learning tool than a card game!

Here is their KickStarter video:

This game consists of a standard deck of 52 playing cards, but instead of suits, they’re roots (and affixes), and the goal of the game is to construct words from the cards using morphology (mostly from Latin). They have many different games that you can play with their card deck.

Here are some examples of games you can play with the WordWright deck:

They’ve already reached their goal, but you can still go support them to get a copy or two of the game (and you can even donate one to a teacher who needs it for their classroom). For just $5, they will send you the printable version and the ability to print as many copies as you need for your classroom, which is very affordable. And the graphics on the cards look super!

WordWright looks like it would be great for some of your more advanced Orton-Gillingham students, or if you are using a program that gets into roots/affixes early as some OG programs do. It would also be a wonderful addition to any classroom for around 3rd grade and up!

This week, Sarah Z. At RLAC has a Thanksgiving activity: making a UR Turkey! This is a great craft project for your classroom to celebrate the holiday and do some word work at the same time!

Multisensory Monday: Vowel Team Chart

There are so many vowel teams and so many possible spellings that is can be difficult to try and make sense of them all– So today, I have a multisensory activity to help organize your vowel teams!
OG Vowel Team Chart finished p1

I have a student in our online Orton-Gillingham program who is struggling with reading and spelling words with vowel teams. It looked like he needed some sort of conceptual graphic-organizer to figure out what sounds/spellings were possibilities for a word with a certain sound. He has learned almost all of the more common and some of the less common vowel teams for reading, but still gets several of them mixed up with one another.
On his online whiteboard, we have the vowel teams organized into a chart, by sound and by placement in the word (beginning/middle or end), with the more frequent spellings in front of the less-frequent ones. I figured putting this chart on paper would be a great multisensory practice activity to help him internalize the structure behind English vowel teams.

Vowel Team Chart

This activity can be modified to suit your scope/sequence and individualized to what graphemes/phonemes your student already knows.

What you will need:
Vowel Team Chart BW, Cardstock, and Scissors OR Letter-Tiles with vowel teams from your program (optional)

To make a reusable puzzle:
Print out the pages on cardstock and cut out the vowel teams you want to use on the last page
— laminate everything if you want them to last a bit longer and you want to re-use this as a puzzle-style activity (or, if you use a program with letter-tiles, you can use those to place in the boxes on the chart).

OG Vowel Team Chart Puzzle
To make a permanent reference chart:
You can have the student make their own personal chart by gluing down the vowel teams onto the chart for their own reference. They may also write a Key Word or draw a picture to go with each vowel team placed on the chart. If you use the LiPS program, you can also have them place LiPS mouth-pictures next to the sounds on the chart for reference.
OG Vowel Team Chart finished p2

As an alternative, you can have your student glue down or write in the vowel teams on the chart and then cover with paper flaps, so your students can quiz themselves on the vowel teams in each section of the chart.

Extend the activity by having your student organize the vowel teams by frequency of use; time your students and see how quickly they can complete the chart; have your students come up with a way to color-code the chart– points for creativity!

Check out Sarah Z’s post today— she has a game for “double duty” nouns and verbs (words that can be both, like dust and bat). This is a great idea for our students who need more grammar practice!

Multisensory Monday: the H Brothers

Today’s Multisensory Monday is a strategy idea I have seen used in several different places before, and I saw a great explanation post about it on this blog: http://thewisenest.com/digraphs-h-brothers.html so I am posting her video explanation below!

The “H Brothers” is a way to give each digraph it’s own personality, as a mnemonic device. This is a good strategy to use with your students who have a hard time learning their digraph sounds (th, sh, ch, wh, and ph), or it would work great to introduce Kindergarten students to these sounds after they master their basic letter-sounds.

Here is the story, with examples:

Digraphs vs. Blends?

I have seen that some phonics programs do not teach digraphs and blends separately. In Orton-Gillingham programs, we know it is very important to a child’s development of phonemic awareness skills to differentiate between the two (this helps greatly with reading and spelling down the line). Consonant blends are made up of individual sounds, whereas consonant digraphs have only one sound (represented by 2 letters).

I use the Barton Reading and Spelling System, and the digraphs are represented as two letters on one single tile; whereas the blends are each on their own tiles. We “blend” the sounds together to make the blend in the word. When I taught young children reading skills, I noticed that when they are learning to read they will make the mistake of trying to blend their digraph sounds together– so you may hear a young child try to sound out the word “them” as “t-h-e-m.” Teaching the digraph sounds or “H-Brothers” is a very important step after teaching all of the alphabet sounds! Wouldn’t it be great if all of the alphabets in Preschool and Kindergarten classrooms included the “H Brothers” sounds?

Multisensory Monday: Word Ladders

Orton-Gillingham lessons tend to follow very set procedures, and sometimes this can get too repetitive for our students. I like to mix things up with different activities and ideas for doing the same skills, but in a different way (especially when reviewing a concept) so that my students don’t get too bored! One way I like to do this is to occasionally throw in a “word ladder.”

Word Ladders are great puzzles that engage your student’s phonemic awareness, decoding, and encoding skills!

The concept of a Word Ladder is that you start with one word on the bottom and change one letter (or add/delete one) for each rung in the ladder, following the clues, until you get to the top run with a completely new word! If you provide or create controlled word ladders for your students, they will enjoy it as a fun game break and still be reviewing phonics concepts they know. Also, they are a great center or homework activity for students which can be completed independently if they are leveled correctly for your students.

One great source for phonics-controlled word ladders is this book by Scholastic: Daily Word Ladders: 80+ Word Study Activities That Target Key Phonics Skills to Boost Young Learners’ Reading, Writing & Spelling Confidence
It starts off with CVC words, and moves into VCE words and more complex phonics. There are other sets in this series, which are not phonetically-controlled, but may be good for your older/more advanced students.

Or, here are some free downloadable worksheets created by a classroom teacher that follow the same concept (and are phonetically-controlled): http://mpsdwordstudy.wikispaces.com/Word+Ladders

If you want to design your own Word Ladder worksheets, here is a free template,

For a very beginning student, check out these cut-and-paste word ladders (with pictures instead of word clues) from SuperTeacherWorksheets.

Another Word Ladder idea that is more “hands-on” is to use Unifix Phonics Cubes and
with the Unifix word ladder accessories:

CVC words:

Words with consonant Blends & vowel teams:

These are a great choice for center-work for younger children or your more severe dyslexic children, because they do not require any reading of clues as the worksheets do (they simply require logic to move from one rung to the next).

I have used these with several students, and my only complaint is that the Unifix cubes do not always stick together; and their idea of a Vowel Team/blend/digraph is a bit different from my training/program. You could easily make some of these from Legos or other building blocks you have lying around too!

I hope this gives you a fresh idea for practicing phonics/spelling skills with your students!

Also check out Sarah of RLAC’s post today on Rolling with Word Families, a fun dice-game that would be good for students beginning an OG program in tutoring.