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Today is the last day to sign up for our GREAT DEALS on ourĀ 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

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: Winston Grammar

Today, I want to share with you a program that I absolutely love called Winston Grammar which can supplement an Orton-Gillingham approach to teaching language skills very well. It can be used in 1:1 setting or in a classroom setting. I have used it successfully with many students who have dyslexia, dysgraphia, and/or ADHD.

I was never formally taught grammar or analyzing sentences in school– we just wrote a sentence, and it either sounded correct or it didn’t. But the formal study of grammar can be very helpful for those who struggle with writing skills or for whom English is not their first language. It can make it much more clear why a certain way to write is correct vs. incorrect, so for that reason I feel that it is an important thing for our students to learn.

Unfortunately, studying grammar, and diagramming sentences can be tediously boring for many students, and memorizing all the terms associated with grammar (noun/verb/adjective/adverb) can present a real problem for students with Language-Based Learning Disabilities such as dyslexia.

Winston Grammar is perfect for these students (and really great for all students, in my opinion) because it is a multisensory, hands-on grammar program. Best of all, it’s very affordable (no, they are not paying me to endorse them!) The Basic set costs $41 plus $4 shipping, and includes everything student and teacher need to teach the program.

The way Winston Grammar works is two-fold. First, you learn about a new part of speech and use color-coded clue cards to represent words in an example sentence. The program is cumulative and systematic, so it introduces one new thing per lesson and includes practice of previously taught concepts. While you are still learning parts of speech, you use solid black cards to represent an “unknown” word.

Once you get through the first 20 lessons, you know all the basic parts of speech, and when you analyze a sentence it looks something like this:

Winston Grammar Clue Cards

Then, after you practice a few sentences with clue cards, your students are ready to transfer that knowledge to “mark up” a sentence on paper (this is the part which is sort of like diagramming, and shows you how the different parts relate to each other).

Winston Grammar marked up sentences

Once you have practice with clue cards and marking up the sentences for each part of speech, then you begin to identify the “Noun Functions.” Every noun in a sentence has a function, and you learn to identify them all.

Each of the Noun Functions has a card, and you advance through them as in a flow-chart or “Choose Your Adventure” story– by the end you have identified the function of all your nouns. Here is what the Noun Function Cards look like:

Winston Grammar Noun Function Cards

That is what is learned in Winston Grammar Basic– there is also an Advanced Level which gets in to more complex topics.

According to their FAQ:

Because almost all grammar concepts are abstract, it is recommended that the Basic Level be done in 5th grade when children most often have developed their abstract thinking skills. In the front of the Basic Teacher Manual is a suggested lesson plan which, if followed, will take approximately one school year to complete the Basic Level. Using Word Works in 6th grade provides good reinforcement and helps with the difficult areas in our language. Teachers may choose to do the Advanced Level Program in 7th grade or choose to focus on other areas of language with review of the basic concepts that year. The Advanced level could then be started in 8th grade. The Advanced level is nearly twice as long as the Basic and could be stretched out over two years if desired.

The Top 3 Dyslexia Accommodations

School IEP/504 meetings are coming up!

Here are the Top 3 accommodations which we have found to help our students with dyslexia:

1. Access to AudioBooks (especially important if your child is beginning an Orton-Gillingham program– eventually your child may be able to read all text on his/her own but it takes time to get to that point!) The best we have found is Bookshare paired with the Voicedream app (on an Ipad). Learning Ally is also an option and sometimes the school will pay for your child’s membership.

2. Additional time on tests (because it will take a dyslexic student longer to read/write and re-read text)

3. Use of word-prediction software when writing (Co:Writer is a good one.) This will help your child not have to be concerned with spelling and get his/her ideas onto the page. Eventually your child can use dictation software, but this tends to not work as well for kid’s voices.

Also, please make sure the teachers do not count your child off for spelling, and do NOT make him/her read in front of the class!

If you are interested in learning more about accommodations that help for children with dyslexia, I would recommend watching the 3rd video down on this page: http://www.dys-add.com/freeVideos.html (you can also share this link with your child’s teacher). This video was created by Susan Barton, who is an expert in the field of dyslexia. This handout goes along with the video.

Keep in mind as you watch the video that you are going to choose the 3-5 most important accommodations for your child, and push for those with the school to keep it simple (it doesn’t state that until the very end). You may have more luck getting accommodations informally with your child’s teacher this year, then when the school sees how much they help they may be willing to write it into your child’s plan. This will be important for continuity between years or if your child changes schools.

Multisensory Monday: Homonym Game

This week, I wanted to share a new game I received and have been playing with my students that they really enjoy. This game teaches many common homonyms such as “see/sea” and “their/they’re/there” which dyslexic students often struggle with. It is played like Go Fish, or you can use the cards as flashcards to quiz your students. This is a game which will work well for any Orton-Gillingham or ELL/ESL tutor, or as a great center in your classroom.

You can get this and many other games specifically created for the Barton Reading and Spelling System from Spelling Success.

Here is a video of the Homonym Game by the creator, Barton tutor Janna Brenhaug:

Check out Sarah’s post today, a game called “Red Word Slap” to help your student with rapid recognition of sight words.

Multisensory Monday: in prefix family activities

I have an adult student who is struggling a bit with chameleon/assimilated prefixes, specifically when to use prefix in-, im-, ir-, or il-. They all mean the same thing, but are used in front of different basewords, depending on the starting letter of the baseword. So I made this free printable activity: Chameleon Prefix in word sort. It is a combination word-sort and worksheet to identify when to use which “in” family prefix.

If you intend to re-use the word sort, you probably want to print it on cardstock and laminate. Or you can just print it out on regular paper and use it as a cut-and-paste activity instead. Do the word sort first, identifying which category each word fits into based on its prefix. Then see if your student can identify the pattern of when to use in-, im-, ir-, or il- in front of the baseword. You may wish to teach your student that one meaning of this prefix family is “not”.

in family word sort

After your student has completed the word sort, they can do the worksheet. Use a highlighter to make it more multisensory. Your student will get plenty of practice with these four tricky prefixes! Here is what it will look like when they are all done:

in family worksheet

Happy Spring everyone! Here is a butterfly a student pointed out to me the other day in my garden:

Butterfly in garden

Along those lines, Sarah Z. at RLAC this week has a great idea to find pictures when teaching root words! You will also learn what a “pipkin” is, which is a new word to me. I now have a project on my hands to put all the common Latin and Greek roots to picture cards!

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:
BartonPhrases

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: Sight Words Salt Box

Because you can never have too many ways to practice sight words, I’m re-creating something I saw on Pinterest and liked a lot, a “salt box” for writing sight words.

You will need a long, skinny box (I am using the box from my Patricia Cunningham Counting Words kit, which was a perfect size/shape), some fancy “Duck Tape” or contact paper, and scissors. You will also need some salt to fill the box up when you are done.

Salt Box

To make the box, you simply line the bottom with your Duck Tape or contact paper (3 strips did nicely for this box) and then fill with salt (or sand, rice, or something else if you like). Have your students use their finger, a pencil eraser-side down, or a paintbrush to draw words in the box. Have them say the letters out loud as they spell the word to incorporate the auditory sense.

Since the box is nice and large you can work on longer sight words. Here is the word “father” which I did with a fingertip:
Sight Word Salt Box

Hope you all have a great MLK Jr. day and don’t forget to visit Sarah’s page today, where she has a cute “go fish” game for practicing words with the letter f!

Multisensory Monday: Typewriter Contractions

Today’s activity is a simple way to work on contractions. I find some of my students have a really hard time associating a contraction with the two words that make it up, and they have a difficult time placing the apostrophe in the correct position, so they need a lot of practice changing two words into the contraction.

You can preface this activity with a discussion about how people used to have to correct errors when they used a typewriter instead of a computer. They would have to white out the mistake and fix it with a pen or put it back into the typewriter.

You will need: this sheet, some white-out tape, and a ball-point pen (or, if you have access to a typewriter, you can use it instead of the pen, just show your student how to line up the paper and where the ‘ key is).

Print out the page. I designed it so the first page is “regular” contractions and the 2nd page is “irregular” contractions, but feel free to change the order of the words to suit your program.

Have your student figure out the two words, then decide which letters need to be whited out. They can use the white-out pen to draw over those letters, and then either insert the apostrophe with a typewriter or ball-point pen. They should put the apostrophe over where they whited out the letters.

typewriter contractions- page 1

For “will not” they will need to add an “o” as well to change it to “won’t”

It’s OK if they make a mistake a white out too many letters, they can just write or type them back in.

typewriter contractions-page 2

When they are done, have them read you the contractions they made.