Using 1-Minute Drills with a 2nd Grader

Lately there has been some debate among reading professionals about whether training students’ advanced phonemic awareness skills is a useful endeavor. We have seen success with using this approach with our students who have weak phonological skills by incorporating Kilpatrick’s One-Minute drills (from Equipped for Reading Success) into our twice/weekly Orton-Gillingham tutoring sessions. Below, I present a case-study of a student who has greatly benefitted from this approach. Student “A.” was tested using Kilpatrick’s PAST assessment both in October of 2020 (2nd grade) and again in January of 2021 (2nd Grade). A’s parents were wanting to know, if A. needed Auditory Processing interventions (as an Audiology assessment had indicated) or simply needed tutoring on phonological skills and dyslexia-specific interventions, so we decided to take data to see what type of gains she could make in 3 months of intervention. She ended up doing well with our tutoring and did not need any further audiology interventions.

Case Study: A.

A. was tested using the Kilpatrick PAST asessment at 3 months apart, during which she participated in twice/weekly Orton-Gillingham tutoring using the Kilpatrick Drills. My hypothesis was that if we did not see much or any growth on the PAST, then it would indicate A. would need to pursue the auditory processing interventions; if she did show gains, then our tutoring is doing what it should be and she should stick with it. (And probably what the audiologist was seeing on their testing was more just the struggles common with dyslexia.)

What we found was some good growth in her phonological awareness skills, about what I would expect with a student who has dyslexia and is receiving interventions targeting this skill.

At this point, I advised A’s parents that the only reason they may still want to consider the auditory processing interventions is if they see that they may be indicated in other areas (for example, if it would help her to hear in a noisy classroom environment, or for some other reason). Her phonological awareness is showing typical gains with our work, which┬áis great and will support her reading and spelling knowledge.

After 3 months, A. achieved the level of a typically achieving 2nd grader in phonological awareness skills using our interventions.

Here are some before/after graphs so you can see what I am referencing.

First assessment, the PAST (Kilpatrick) Version B, given in October 2020:


Highest Automatic Level was “I” but she did not pass F, G, or H. So I would consider this Late Kindergarten/early 1st grade level, but with gaps.

Second PAST assessment, Version C, given in January 2021:


Much improvement in the Onset-Rime, Basic Phoneme and some improvement in Advanced Phoneme levels. She is still Automatic at “I” but without ANY gaps, so that means she’s now at a typically achieving 2nd grade level in phonological awareness skills.

After this testing was done, A. continued tutoring with us until July of 2021. She graduated Level H in the Kilpatrick Drills, and got half-way through Barton Level 4 lessons (multisyllabic words). Her word-reading fluency (as tested by Easy CBM 1st grade lists) went from 73% accuracy 27 CWPM in March of 2020 to 94% accuracy with 46 CWPM in May of 2021. In Feb 2021, she read a 2nd grade assage at 84% accuracy and 41 CWPM. My hypothesis is that her improved phonological skills (from doing the Kilpatrick Drills) are translating to faster reading skills on these measures, although her reading is still below grade-level which indicates a need for continued tutoring services.

A. was able to read a 2nd grade level passage with 96% accuracy at 71 CWPM by July of 2021, so that puts her at the 30th percentile for her grade. Her vocabulary and comprehension were never a concern, so we focused on testing her phonological and decoding skills.

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: Open – Closed Syllable Door

Today’s Multisensory Monday is an old idea that Orton-Gillingham instructors and tutors have been using for a long time to teach the difference between open (long-vowel) and closed (short-vowel) syllables.

First, if you have access to a door in your classroom or tutoring area, the easiest way to show this is with a real door! You can put word-parts on sticky notes and attach them to the door and frame like this:


Have your student read the words with closed door first and the vowel being short.

Keep in mind that the onset & vowel must be on the door-jamb and the final consonant(s) must be on the door itself.

Then, have your student open the door, and read the syllables with a long-vowel sound:


If you are travelling or want to make this into a center activity, here is a way to make the door “portable” using a file-folder:


Note that when you “open” the door, you have some nonsense syllables. As an extension activity, have your students come up with ideas for real words that start with or contain that syllable. For example, the syllable “si” happens in the word “si-lent.”


Multisensory Monday: Rubbing Plate Words

Today I’m doing a different format, as I thought this would lend itself better to photos than video.

This activity is a great way for your students to visualize the concept of a digraph as two letters that make just one sound. It can also be adapted as a way to practice “red words” or non-phonetic words for spelling. This activity would work great as a “center” in a classroom or as an activity to do in tutoring or homeschool.

supplies for rubbing plate activity
This project requires only 4 things:

– Crayons (dull are better than pointy!)
– small paper squares (scrap paper works)
– rubbing plates that just have a texture (like these)
– a black Sharpie marker

This activity will work best with words that have a digraph at the beginning or end of the word. Each paper square will represent one sound. Take the paper squares and draw some bubble-letters. The digraph will be on one square but the other letters get their own squares. Place each square over a different rubbing plate. Depending on the age/hand strength of your student, you may want to secure the paper with a clip. It should look something like this:
rubbing plate word



Next, have your student color in each bubble-letter, like this:


rubbing plate word colored

You should end up with some really cool-looking textured sounds!

Have your student point to each square and tell you the sounds separately: /sh/ /i/ /p/, then slowly blend it together into a word “shiiiip”, then say the word like normal “ship.”

Some other words to use (with dashes to show how to separate the word so it is one sound per square):

You can include some “floss rule” words as well:

For a more advanced student, you can try words with more sounds and more complicated patterns, like ch-e-s-t or th-r-o-ng.

For a fun activity, make up the letter squares but don’t put them in order. Have your student color the letters and figure out what order the sounds go in to make a real word.

Using the same supplies to practice “red words:”
You can use these supplies for some red word spelling practice also. If you have a short word, you can fit it onto one plate, like this:

red word rubbing plate


I drew the word in pencil, then had my student trace over it, with the “tricky part” in red:

red word rubbing plate colored

You can have your student say the letter-names (not sounds) as they trace each letter (“A-N-Y says any”) to help them remember how the word is spelled, or however your program teaches to practice red words.

If you have a longer red word, you can do as above and put each letter on a different paper square. Just make sure they know which letter or letters are making a different sound than they should!

Please also check out the Picky Turtle activity, posted today on the RLAC site! This is a super-cute activity for working on the beginning letter sound /t/.

Picky Turtle

I hope you enjoyed this week’s activities. Please feel free to comment if there is anything you would like to see in a future installment of Multi-sensory Monday!

Now seeking students!

We currently have several openings for new students! Our tutors are all highly-trained specialists in multisensory learning strategies (Orton-Gillingham) and have experience with dyslexia, ADHD, math/writing learning disabilities and other challenges. We come to you in the greater Atlanta area. Call today to schedule an assessment: 404-654-3557