As a classroom teacher, administrator, counselor, coach, interventionist or other school personnel you play a crucial role in early identification of reading issues. You can make the difference in a student’s life by ensuring they get the help that they need. As someone working with many students day in and day out, it is critical that you are able to notice signs of a reading difficulty. 

In the classroom, a few tell-tale signs signal a potential reading, spelling or comprehension challenge exists. The student may:

  • avoid participation in reading exercises
  • read the same word differently across a passage
  • read the beginning of a word correctly, but guesses at the rest of the word
  • work 2-3 times longer (harder) to complete an assignment
  • struggle to remember the content of the reading material because, for that student, the process of reading is so laborious.

Most importantly, the student may show limited growth (relative to peers) in reading, spelling or comprehension DESPITE participation in an outstanding academic program. 

As an educator at a prestigious and rigorous school, you know that your students are participating in an outstanding academic program. You know that the instruction in your classrooms is exemplary and you know that you and your peers are giving students what they need to excel. 

Yet, you still find that you have students who have gaps and need extra support with reading and written expression. This is not a reflection on your teaching or the academic rigor of your school. In fact, since you know that both of those are variables are outstanding, you can feel confident that your struggling students need more intensive reading intervention

That is where we come in. The clinicians at RW&C have completed advanced training to work with students with literacy challenges. RW&C delivers online, person to person remediation services for reading, writing, and spelling difficulties. Our program is:

  • Based on the Structured Literacy framework and aligns with IDA standards for reading remediation
  • Individualized for each student
  • 1:1 live conferencing with a highly qualified reading clinician 
  • Flexible for busy families

As your students receive targeted, one-on-one intervention for their reading struggles, you will find that it enhances their performance in your classroom and school. By working with a private tutor, your students can have their needs met and get exactly what they need to thrive in a strong academic environment. When you recommend outside intervention to parents, you can help them ensure that their child is receiving the one-on-one, intensive, Structured Literacy intervention they need to be successful. Reading is truly the gift of a lifetime and you are a critical player in giving that to your students. 

Contact us today to discuss if our program is the right choice for your struggling students. 


Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com

Becky Welsch’s certifications include the CEERI Tier I Qualification Exam (aligned with the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading). She has completed the Associate Level Training through the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Professionals and Educators for one-on-one instruction with students using the Orton-Gillingham methodology. 

Becky has a Master’s Degree in K-8 Education She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has specialist endorsements in the areas of Reading and Structured English Immersion. 

Becky began teaching in the Arizona public school system in 2007. She worked in both primary and secondary grade levels as a reading intervention teacher and teacher mentor. Becky has training in Spaulding Phonics, DIBELS Next, The 95% Group, and other whole group, small group, and one-on-one intervention programs. 

In 2014, she took the leap into using teletherapy to deliver one-on-one Structured Literacy tutoring. She has accumulated hundreds of hours working 1:1 with students via teletherapy. 

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When it comes to reading instruction, not all programs are created equally, especially for children who struggle with reading due to dyslexia or other learning disabilities. The most effective reading instruction teaches students to decode words in an explicit and systematic process, known as Structured Literacy. As a parent of a struggling reader you may feel like it is impossible to get the help you need. There are many online tutoring programs that are designed to help. While online tutoring can be a great option for many families, it is important to research the program to ensure that it offers effective reading instruction.

What to look for in an Online Tutoring Program

If you are looking for an online reading program, here are a few things to keep in mind when you are evaluating your options:

  1. Synchronous vs. Asynchronous: It is important to understand the program benefits and limitations for your child. Synchronous online programs require that the clinician works with you and your child in real time; this is beneficial because it allows for the clinician to adjust the instruction to meet your child’s needs dependent upon the response given. Participants can ask questions and offer suggestions to receive instant feedback similar to an in- office tutor; however, you may be thousands of miles apart! Limitations of this type of program may include difficulties scheduling meeting times with your clinician.  Asynchronous online programs provide pre-recorded instruction and computer-driven automated feedback depending on the student’s clicked response. These programs provide the benefit of access any time to meet your schedule. Limitations may include the lack of a clinician present to analyze your child’s error and offer techniques to avoid similar errors in the future.  
  2. Trained Clinicians: Just as an experienced and trained clinician is important during in-office tutoring, it is equally imperative in online tutoring. You’ll want to review not only the program but who is delivering the program. Look for online programs with clinicians who have received extensive training in Structured Literacy and have experience to deliver effective reading instruction remotely. Online programs can be very effective but they will only be as effective as the clinician working with your child, so make sure you choose wisely.
  3. Program Components: The National Reading Panel developed guidelines for effective reading instruction relating to phonemic awareness, phonics, morphology, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. Additionally, they include in their report methods of independent reading strategies and computer-assisted instruction techniques for students. An effective online tutoringprogram will incorporate these components as recommended by the experts.
  4. Instructional Process: The online program components must be introduced in the logical order of language development, beginning with the easiest concepts then progressing to more difficult concepts. It is paramount to always review the previously learned concepts; continuous and immediate feedback from the clinician is crucial for the skills to become automatic.
  5. Additional Support: Weekly sessions are important, but so is daily practice. Make sure that any program you choose offers resources for both traditional practice and online practice. In order to be successful, your child needs to repeat concepts until mastery. It is important that your child has access to books in an alternative format, such as audiobooks, until they are independent in their reading skills. 
  6. Progress Monitoring:Your clinician should offer baseline assessments as well as progress check points to ensure that your child is making progress. If not, the clinician should have the knowledge to offer suggestions and other methods of teaching to ensure that your child can succeed.
  7. Multi-Sensory Learning: Children are most successful when multiple modalities are utilized. An effective online program should include reading, writing, underlining, highlighting, graphic organizers, colored blocks or letters to manipulate, and other methods to engage your child.

By doing your research to ensure that your child participates in an exemplary online tutoring program, you will be taking an important first step in helping your child become a life-long reader. This is a gift that will last a lifetime!




Timmie Murphy
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com
(480) 213-4156




Timmie Murphy is the founder and managing member of  RW&C, LLC; an online and traditional reading intervention clinic specializing in Structured Literacy methodology. While Timmie realizes the limitations of helping every struggling reader; she is dedicated to help one family at a time and can honestly say: “I made a difference to that one.”  See the Starfish Story. 
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In many classrooms, reading instruction takes the center stage during allotted literacy minutes and spelling can become an afterthought. It is often assumed that if students learn to read, they will spell naturally. This leads to many teachers and educators giving little importance to the direct instruction of spelling throughout the day. However, this view of spelling fails to recognize the vital role it plays in learning to read. Explicit, multi-sensory spelling instruction is an essential component of Structured Literacy instruction. 

Before we dive into discussing how spelling can be effectively taught to children of all ages, let’s first look at the research on spelling. First and foremost, spelling enhances reading instruction through the reinforcement of phonemes and letter patterns. Learning to spell requires explicit instruction (Moats, 1995). It is not a skill that children will naturally acquire as they learn to read. 

It should also be noted that there is a strong correlation between spelling and reading ability. In 2017, Treiman concluded that spelling knowledge facilitated vocabulary growth and increased a child’s word recognition speed. This indicates that children who are more proficient spellers will be able to read more quickly and will know and understand more words than those who struggle with spelling. An additional study found a strong link between spelling skills and reading comprehension. Students spelling abilities were correlated even more strongly with their reading comprehension abilities than automatic word recognition (Mehta et al., 2005). These results demonstrate that not only does spelling increase word recognition speed, but that it might be even more important than automatic word reading in increasing reading comprehension skills. 

The research demonstrates that explicit spelling instruction is crucial for children to become proficient readers. However, it is important to note here that this does not mean that children should be given a list a words to memorize each week. Spelling is a complex and interactive process that requires both phonological and orthographic knowledge. Put a bit more simply, children need to be able to hear, segment, and blend sounds in spoken language and then transfer those sounds to a written form. 

Like all literacy skills, spelling develops on a continuum and is not a simple process. There are a variety of skills that must be mastered in order for children to become proficient spellers. Firstly, students must have a strong phonetic foundation. Phonetics refers to the characteristics of individual speech sounds that make up spoken words. In order to represent spoken words in writing, children must be able to hear and segment speech sounds. For example, if a child needs to correctly spell the word “cat,” they must first be able to identify and segment the three sounds in the word. If a child struggles with spelling, the first issue to examine is their phonological awareness as it is impossible to be a proficient speller without having a solid understand of phonetic skills. For more information on phonemic awareness and ideas on how to strengthen it, check out our blog here

In addition to be able to produce and segment phonemes, children then have to associate those phonemes to graphemes, their written representation. This is true for all levels of spelling instruction. From simple, phonetically regular words like “cat” to advanced spelling patterns children must know what spelling patterns are possible to make that sound, which are allowable in the rules of English, and which are most common in order to choose the most likely spelling patterns. For example, if a student were asked to spell the word “boy,” they need to understand the two sounds in word are /b/ and /oy/. They then need to know the possible spelling patterns to make those sounds which would be “boi” or “boy.” Finally, they would need to understand that in written English, words do not end with the letter “i” (with a few exceptions) so “boi” is not an allowable spelling of the word. This requires direct and explicit orthographic instruction with direct modeling of how to transfer those skills from reading to spelling.

Another critical skill in spelling is morphology which is the study of morphemes. A morpheme is the smallest unit of language that has meaning. A one-syllable base word like jump is a morpheme. Other derivatives of this word can be created using suffixes like “jumping, jumped, jumps.” Phonetic spellers often spell the word “jumped” as “jumpt” because that is phonetically what the word sounds like. Explicit instruction in morphology includes systematic instruction in suffixes and inflectional endings like “-ed” so that students know even though they hear the /t/ sound, it is a past tense word and therefore spelled with “ed.” 

Direct and explicit instruction in prefixes, roots, and suffixes facilitates students’ ability to spell multisyllabic words and is critical for helping them develop higher level spelling skills. An effective Structured Literacy program includes the study of morphology at all levels. 

It is also important to understand that English is a mix of different languages. Many people, parents and educators alike, will say that certain words are “an exception.” Often times, the words they are referencing are not exceptions, they are simply derived from a different language. For example, words of Greek origin use the <ph> digraph to make the /f/ sound. Words with Latin roots make up around 55% of the language and are often comprised of a base connected with a prefix or a suffix. Anglo-Saxon root words comprise around 20% of the language and are usually one-syllable words that name common objects. They are also responsible for many of those pesky silent letters like “kn” and “-tch.” 

Knowing the origin of a word can aid students in understanding its spelling. For example, take the word “come,” it sounds like it should have a “u” instead of an “o” as the vowel. Well, guess what, originally it did. However due to scribal writing styles, it was too hard to read when it was written so the “u” was changed to an “o.” The “e” was added at the end to show its relationship to the past tense form of the word, “came.” While this may seem complicated to an adult who has the spelling memorized, it can help the written language make sense to a child who is struggling. 


Formal spelling instruction must include all these elements to be effective. It must include multiple instructional experiences with phonological skills like blending and segmenting,  as well as opportunities to use phonics skills and invented spelling in the primary grades. All spelling patterns need to be introduced directly, explicitly, and systematically while using multisensory instructional techniques. The visual, auditory, and kinesthetic parts of the brain must be engaged simultaneously during spelling instruction. Students should also have multiple opportunities to analyze and sort words and there needs to be a multisensory procedure for learning irregular words. Word sorts that are approached from a visual skill are ineffective. In order to become automatic in any spelling pattern, the students must engage all modalities while reading the word and analyzing the orthographic patterns. Simply looking at the word and transferring it to a specific column will not enable the students to become proficient spellers. 

Our online reading program incorporates the best practices in spelling instruction and uses spelling as a tool to enhance reading and literacy skills. For us, spelling is never an afterthought. Explicit spelling instruction by a trained Reading Clinician is life-changing for many of our students. We teach them the language;  we do not ask them to memorize words and rules. 

If your child struggles with spelling, don’t rely on rote memorization and do not accept the answer that it will come with reading development. Spelling needs to be explicitly taught. Contact us today for more information and to get your child the help they need. 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She has completed 64 hours of Orton-Gillingham training at the Associate Level with the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Professionals and Educators. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

Resources: Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills by Judith Birsch

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As parents, we are our child’s number one advocate and are often the first to notice when they are having issues. This is particularly true in the area of reading development. Often parents may begin to notice warning signs in their children as early as preschool, yet they are often told by teachers and educational specialist to wait and see. Yet, as I have stated before, this approach is ineffective for the majority of kids with reading difficulties. Early identification means early intervention which leads to better outcomes and remediation for your child. 

However, many parents are not literacy experts and don’t always know what to look for when it comes to red flags for a reading difficulty. In fact, some of you might be wondering what to look for in a preschool student because, well, most three-year-olds are not reading so how can they have a reading difficulty? 

I understand your frustration and I want you to be able to effectively advocate for and make decisions about your child. So, I put together a list of some warning signs of dyslexia at various ages. It is very important to note a few things though. First and foremost, many of us may have one or two of these characteristics that does not mean that we all have dyslexia. Usually a child with a significant reading issue like dyslexia will have multiple characteristics that persist over time and make learning difficult. It is also important to note that this list is not exhaustive and if you are concerned about your child, it is important to get them Structured Literacy intervention to help remediate their difficulties. 

With that being said, here are a few common characteristics of dyslexia in preschool and kindergarten aged children:

  • Late learning to talk and slow to learn new words – if your child was a late talker without an apparent hearing difficulty, this can be an early sign of dyslexia as oral and written language are related.
  • Difficulty following directions – if you ask your child to perform directions that are age appropriate and they have difficulty remembering what to do, this can be an early sign of dyslexia. Of course, I think all preschool parents can relate here, it can also just be a sign of being three. However, if you know that your child is not being willfully defiant, it can be a warning sign of language processing issues. 
  • Avoids letters despite being explicitly taught them –  if you have worked on the alphabet with your five-year-old daily yet they only know two letter names, this is a sign that they are at risk for reading difficulties. 
  • Difficulty rhyming – by age 4 or 5, children should be able to identify and produce rhyming words, if they cannot they may have a reading issue like dyslexia. 
  • Cannot recall letter sounds – if your child is in kindergarten and does not know letter sounds it can be red flag for reading issues. 

As your child gets older, these signs generally persist and are compounded by some of these in grades 1st through 3rd :

  • Cannot recall sight words even after practice
  • Poor phonics skills 
  • Inaccurate and slow reading
  • Difficulty sequencing – this applies to sequencing events in a story as well as days, months, time, etc. In some cases, your child may even have difficulty with words like before or after saying things like they brushed their teeth “after” they went to bed. 
  • Poor spelling skills – this is an especially important indicator if they eliminate speech sounds. For example, if the word is bend and they write bed, it suggests they do not have the phonological skills necessary to be successful without structured literacy intervention. Make sure to pay attention to this on writing assignments, not just spelling tests. Many dyslexic children can fool their teachers and parents because they have good visual memory skills so they can memorize spelling words. 

As children move into intermediate grades 4th and then into high school, many of these problems will persist and there will be additional signs like: 

  • Slow , inaccurate, and laborious reading – at this point your child is working so hard to decode words that reading fluency is seriously affected. 
  • Weak reading comprehension when compared to listening and oral comprehension 
  • Poor spelling skills and handwriting in written assignments 
  • Slow at working on literacy skills – homework will often take hours and lead to frustration 
  • Poor comprehension and vocabulary due to lack of access to grade level text
  • Needs intensive intervention to increase reading and spelling skills 

It is important to note that in many cases these reading, writing, and language issues exist despite being part of a strong instruction program or being read to by a parent. I have often heard “but my son is in a good school” or “I read to her every night.” Dyslexia and other reading difficulties develop without regard to exposure to literacy. 

If you have concerns about your child, start getting them the help and support they need to be successful. You are their number one fan and the person they need in their corner. 

Contact us today if you have questions  or need more information.

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

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Often, in parent-teacher conferences or in a note sent home from school, parents learn the level that their child is reading at. Depending on the school you might be told that your child is “reading at level G,” or is “at a Lexile 130,” or “is below/on/above grade level,” or is “reading at a 2.3.” While this measure does provide some insight into where your child is performing with reading, it is far from the most important reading indication. In some cases, it can mask potential reading difficulties or leave you feeling confused about what to do next.

In order to truly understand your child’s reading performance, you need more information. However, if you aren’t a reading specialist, it can be difficult to do know what you need to know. Whether your child is at grade level, above grade level, on grade level, reading at level x,y,z or anything in between, you need to know how they perform at certain reading skills. This information is critical in assessing your child’s performance and determining a reading action plan. It is especially crucial if they are functioning below grade level in reading.

Here are a few areas that you can ask your child’s teacher about and some specific questions to get more information on your child’s reading performance.

Letter naming and sound recognition: this indicates your child’s ability to name letters and also associate the sound of the letter with the symbol. While they are separate skills, they are often lumped together on many assessments. By about mid-kindergarten (if not sooner) your child should know all letter names and all sounds, including all short vowel sounds and, depending on the state and school, it may also include long vowels. Also, important to note some students may have trouble with some consonant sounds (specifically sounds like <r> can come a bit later developmentally), as long as this articulation issue does not prevent them from reading and comprehending words with those sounds, it is unlikely to cause a reading issue.  

If this is a concern, ask your child’s teacher: What letters does my child know the names of? What about the sounds? What letter names is he missing? What sounds does she not know? Does he know both long and short vowel sounds?

If the answer to these questions indicated a gap in reading performance, Structured Literacy intervention can help close that gap before it becomes severe in the higher grades.

Phonological awareness: this is an absolutely critical reading skill and a predictor of future reading success. Most phonological skills should be mastered by kindergarten. See our previous blog  for a more detailed list of skills, but basically, this involves the ability to orally rhyme, identify sounds, segment and blend sounds, as well as add, delete, and substitute sounds in order to create new words.

To get more information on this subset of skills, ask your child’s teacher: Can she identify and produce rhyming words? Can he stretch and blend sounds? Can she change sounds in the beginning, middle, and ending of words?

This is an important foundational skill, and reading progress becomes very difficult if it is lacking. If your child struggles in this area beyond the middle of kindergarten, early intervention is crucial to reading success.

Phonics: this is a very broad topic and has to do with associating the phoneme or sound of a spelling pattern with its grapheme or written form. Each grade level has a different set of spelling pattern expectations, and it is important that your child demonstrates mastery of grade-level-appropriate phonics.

Even strong readers can have difficulty in this area. Often, students are able to memorize words and can trick educators into thinking they have phonics patterns mastered. However, if these are not truly internalized their reading can begin to “fall apart” as texts get more complicated.

To determine if your child is mastering appropriate phonics skills, ask the teacher: Can he read grade-level appropriate spelling patterns in and out of text? Can she spell words with appropriate spelling patterns? Can he read unknown words or nonsense words with grade level appropriate spelling patterns?

The ability to read nonsense words is especially important in determining if your child has mastered phonics skills. In order to demonstrate mastery, she needs to be able to read nonsense words using decoding abilities. If your child is able to read real words but not nonsense words, it is an indication of weak phonics skills. It is important to address and remediate this before it becomes a major roadblock in reading development.

Fluency: this refers to your child’s ability to read with appropriate speed and expression. Your child should be reading with a speed that enables him to understand what he is reading and expression appropriate to what is happening. Often, poor fluency can lead to poor comprehension and impede reading development in later grades.

To learn more about your child’s fluency, ask the teacher: How many words per minute does she read? What is the grade level goal for fluency? Does he read with appropriate expression? Are there any times when poor fluency seems to affect his comprehension? Is she trying to read too fast and failing to understand what she is reading?

The answers to these questions can give you important insight into your child’s reading, wherever it may fall on the grade level spectrum.

Comprehension: this is the ability to understand what is being read and use the information to answer questions, make inferences, draw conclusions, and make predictions. While it is included in most assessments that determine reading level, it is such an important element of reading development that it should be examined in more detail with your child’s teacher. Often, even strong readers can and do struggle with higher level reading comprehension.

To figure out how well your child comprehends a text, ask the teacher: Can he answer questions with explicit answers in the text? Can he answer higher level thinking questions and make inferences? Is she able to make and confirm predictions during reading? If so, how often can she do these things? What areas does he struggle with? What are his strengths?

In addition to these five areas, there are many more areas you can delve into. Vocabulary and writing also play an important role in literacy development as do sight word reading ability, oral retelling, and many other areas. It is impossible to create an exhaustive list, but hopefully the above will give you somewhere to start and some ways to talk about reading beyond a grade level.

Even if your child is at grade level, there may still be areas that they struggle with. It is important to know this and ensure that your child masters all reading skills.

If your child struggles with reading, getting effective intervention is key to their reading success. Even if you are told to “wait and see” by the school, keep in mind that this does not work. If your child is young, you may be told that children develop at different stages. This is not supported by research. Research indicates that early intervention does close the gap. Structured Literacy programs like our online tutoring program are research proven to increase reading skills. We work with your child and determine the exact areas of reading to focus on which increases their success.

Contact us for more information or if you have any questions about your child’s reading abilities.  

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com



Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.
Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 

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story starfish2

Studies have shown that children are interacting with the online world at young ages. Between social media and online gaming, we are all bombarded with increased technology. This is often viewed as a negative. However, there are ways to use technology to our advantage. From our state of the art online tutoring program to educational games, conscientious media use can be used as a tool to help our children learn.

dyslexic word artIt is a fact of the modern world, media and screens are everywhere. From iPads to cell phones to computers to video game systems, we are bombarded with digital media. We can get news and information faster than ever before. This is true for us as adults and for our children.

There is no denying it, children are accessing more media, more often, and more quickly than ever before. In fact, a new report shows that children as young as infants have access to personal media devices. The average American child spends about two hours in front of a personal screen. This is in addition to about 48 minutes spent watching TV.

While there are numerous studies about the negatives effects of screen time, this blog is not going to delve into those. The reality is that screens are a part of life. In fact, as I sit here writing this blog my son is reading a story on his iPad and my daughter is watching a video of other kids playing with toys (side note, what is it with those videos and why didn’t I think of them?).

What I am going to focus on is how we as parents can use the screen to our advantage as tools to help develop and foster learning. Not everything on the internet is education (as evidenced by the toy unboxing videos) and some of it can be dangerous. It is our job to make sure that our children interact with high-quality media that will enhance their learning as often as is possible. And of course, we have to make sure to keep them safe.

mosaic flowers1With that said, let’s look at some ways that technology use at home can help enhance critical thinking and literacy development. Keep in mind while you are reading that I am not a doctor and anything I recommend is based on my personal opinions, not expert advice.

  1. Online tutoring The program we have developed at RW&C uses technology and media to help students with reading difficulties. We use video conferencing software to provide one on one, real-time tutoring. We also offer a multitude of practice activities hosted on our website to help you practice at home.

This is a great use of technology for parents who live in remote areas or don’t have time to commute to a reading tutor. Our program is effective and helps save time. You don’t have to spend hours stuck in traffic or juggle your daughter’s dance class with your other child’s tutoring sessions. We work around your schedule. This is one way that technology can help enhance your child’s learning.

  1. Educational apps. There are a ton of apps that can help reinforce various skills and help your child practice. In fact, we even use a game based web program as part of our online tutoring practice. This can be a great way to get kids engaged and interacting with learning content as part of their screen time.

If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to education apps, check out this helpful list of literacy apps put together by the International Dyslexia Associate. Just remember, an app is a great way to reinforce skills, but if your child struggles with reading, you will need to make sure that these skills have been explicitly taught.

When you sign up for our online tutoring program, our reading clinicians assess your child and design their online learning games to specifically reinforce concepts that they have been working on. This can help take some of the guesswork out of it for you and make sure that the time your child spends on screen is valuable learning time.

  1. Audiobooks. Audiobooks are a great tool for both struggling and proficient readers. It allows children to access content that is above their reading level. This helps improve their vocabulary and their listening comprehension.

mosaic-books-to-ideasIf your child struggles with reading, this is something you need to take advantage of. Since many struggling readers cannot read at grade level, they are not able to access grade-level content. This leads to gaps in vocabulary knowledge. Audio books are one way to help bridge these gaps and ensure that your child has access to grade level (or above vocabulary).

There are many audiobook apps for both Apple and Android devices. Your local library may even offer access to free audio content.

  1. Online dictionary and thesaurus references. These can help children spell words, define unknown words, come up with synonyms to enhance their writing and more. They are valuable literary resources for students.

While this is far from an exhaustive list of all the ways that technology can help enhance literary learning and reading intervention, it hopefully gives you some ideas on how to make your child’s screen time more educational.

However, keep in mind, that if your child struggles with reading and is not making adequate progress, an app or an audiobook is not going to be the magic cure. They need Structured Literacy Intervention which has been research proven to help remediate reading difficulties. One way to access that is with our online tutoring program. Contact us today if you need more information.

And now, it’s time for me to go tell my children that they need to put down their iPads and play outside. Wish me luck…

Becky Welsch

RW&C, LLC

www.rwc4reading.com






Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. 
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

 

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reading tutoringIf you were asked to name a pivotal year in school, one that influenced future academic success for years, what would you say? Junior high, senior year of high school, the first year of college? While these are all important landmarks in an individual’s education, I would argue one of the most critical years is third grade.

 

Yep, you heard that right, third grade. The third grade represents a major shift in what students learn and how they are taught, especially when it comes to reading. The focus shifts from learning to read – decoding text and sight words – to reading to learn. Instead of simple sentences and predictable spelling patterns, students are now being asked to read about a topic and learn from a text.

 

There is also a shift from reading primarily fiction text to reading mostly nonfiction. Students are asked to read, absorb, and use information. This is a pivot point for many readers, especially those who struggle. If children are not fluent readers by the time they enter third grade, they are likely to fall behind, and the gap will continue to grow if appropriate reading intervention is not implemented. This has major effects on a child’s academic future. A study conducted in 2011 by Donald J. Hernandez and released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found that students who lacked proficiency in third-grade reading were four times as likely as their on grade level peers to drop out of high school.

 

Research shows that students with a range of reading disabilities who receive appropriate intervention focused on accuracy and fluency by the end of 2nd – 3rd grade will usually catch up (Torgesen et al., 2003). Unfortunately, students who get appropriate intervention after 3rd grade do not catch up in terms of reading fluency. This group of students may get close to their peers in accuracy; however, fluency, while it improves over time, remains behind peers and presents a significant reading impediment.

 

If your child is behind in reading as they approach or enter third grade, it is imperative that they get the reading intervention they need. Here are a few ways that you can help support your child with reading at home.

 

  1. Focus on reading a variety of texts. Even if your child hasn’t even started school yet, make sure that you are reading both fiction and non-fiction to them. Read functional texts as well, like the back of the cereal box, graphs, signs, and directions. Point out different text types and what their purpose is (to inform, to entertain, to teach how to do something).
  2. Work on phonological awareness skills. From preschool, children need to be working on manipulating the sounds in words and syllables. Ask your child to stretch out the sounds in words, blend them together, break words into syllables and generate rhyming words. For a more complete list of ways to practice phonological awareness skills, check out our blog dedicated to the subject.
  3. Make sure your child is still getting explicit phonics instruction. Children who struggle with reading need direct and explicit instruction in letter sounds. Check out our blog for some ideas to practice phonics skills. If your child shows significant deficits in phonics, you may want to think about signing them up for our online reading tutoring program.
  4. Have your child read out loud. Parents can often feel a bit blindsided because they think their child is doing fine. Starting in about third grade, we tend to stop asking students to read out loud. This makes it difficult to know if your child is struggling. You can make reading out loud fun and even trick your child into thinking it is a game. One activity to encourage reading out loud is to trade off. You start reading a text and point to your child when you want them to take over. Go back and forth until you finish the text. You can also have your child record themselves reading a story and play it back so they can hear how they sounded. Some children love to read to their pet. Particularly older children, as they are not self-conscious while reading to their furry friend. This may be the only time an older child will willingly read aloud. Encourage them to use appropriate expression and even voices for different characters. Also, like with other texts, make sure that you are reading a variety of fiction and non-fiction text.
  5. Ask your child about what they are reading. If your child is reading a fiction text, a few good go-to questions are: Who are the characters? What is the problem in the story? What is the solution? Would you have done anything differently? Why do you think he/she/they did that? How is the character feeling right now? Make sure to always ask for justification from the text. For example, if your child says a character is sad, make them prove it using examples from the story. If your child is reading a non-fiction text you can ask things like: What is the author’s purpose? What is the text mostly about? How do you know? What type of text is this? Why did the author write the text? Is there anything you would like to know more about?
  6. Encourage your child to monitor their own comprehension. Often, children who struggle don’t know when they don’t understand what they are reading. Encourage your child to identify when they are having difficulty and go back and reread. You can also have them take notes and ask questions as they read. Sticky notes or a reader’s notebook are a great way to get kids excited about this task.

 

reading interventionWhile these are all great ways to help your child who struggles to read, the best and most important thing you can do as a parent is getting your child the reading intervention they need. For children with reading difficulties, our online reading tutoring provides a Structured Literacy approach that has been proven time and time again to be effective.

 

Our reading clinicians are skilled at identifying areas for growth, and our program is tailored to fit your child. Plus, since it is all online there are no commutes or time wasted sitting in a waiting room. We also provide you will tools and skills to help your child at home.

 

If you suspect your child has trouble with reading, don’t wait for them to get further behind. Contact us today to get them the help they need.

 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com

 

Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading. Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

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dictionary-390055__340, CC0_pixabayWhen students struggle with reading and literacy, it is imperative that their reading intervention go hand in hand with writing and explicit spelling instruction. Often, in the classroom, it is the case that spelling instruction is an after-thought and is confined to spelling drills and memorization (Birsh, 2005). However, for students who struggle with dyslexia or other reading difficulties, memorization and drills are not enough and engaging in traditional spelling activities does them a disservice. Read on to learn how spelling and writing are integrated into a Structured Literacy program and how it can help students who struggle with reading.

I will admit it, when I was a first and second-year teacher, I struggled with integrating spelling into my instruction in a meaningful way. If I am being completely honest, it took me a few years to understand the relationship between reading and spelling.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayI cringe thinking about some of my first parent/teacher conferences when I told parents “there is always spelling check.” I adopted the common classroom philosophy that if students were immersed in print, and taught to read, they would somehow magically learn to spell (Birsch, 2005).

After specialized training in how language is developed, I became a more proficient teacher and focused on direct literacy instruction. I found that spelling and writing are absolutely essential parts of the reading process. Students need explicit spelling and writing instruction in order to become proficient readers. In fact, research conducted by Brady and Moats in the mid to late 90’s indicated that learning to spell is a more complicated process than learning to read and requires explicit instruction (Birsch, 2005).

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Without direct spelling instruction, many children will struggle to spell and ultimately to write even after their reading struggle has been remediated. Written expression is a necessary skill and needs to be explicitly taught in conjunction with reading skills. Students need to be taught about language and structure in order to learn to effectively spell and read words.

When engaging in spelling activities, the teacher or reading clinician must be an active participant and must be able to accurately impart knowledge about the rules of the English language. These include a deep knowledge of phonetics and phonics. Additionally, knowledge of orthography (conventional spelling rules and the representation of sounds as written symbols), morphology (prefixes, suffixes, and base word analysis), and vocabulary must be addressed during spelling instruction. These activities engage the student in a process that deciphers the reason for the spelling pattern rather than rote memory.

Many spelling difficulties arise when students are not able to accurately segment and blend the sounds in words. For example, if students do not understand that the word <tree> has three distinct sounds they cannot accurately spell it. An essential component of effective spelling instruction is the explicit teaching of phonemic awareness. When our reading clinicians at RW&C work with students, there is a phonemic awareness component to every single lesson whether students are working on letter sounds or advanced reading comprehension.

dyslexia

By ensuring that students can hear and manipulate sounds in syllables and words, our effective reading clinicians are making sure that students have and continue to develop the skills necessary to spell words correctly and express ideas in writing.

In addition, students need to understand the relationship between the sounds in words (phonemes) and the written symbols (graphemes). Our structured literacy lessons focus on this relationship with both reading and writing, helping students learn and internalize basic spelling patterns to complicated patterns.

Equally important, there should be a focus on morphology which is a critical component of any spelling program. Understanding root words and rules for prefixes and suffixes helps students understand spelling patterns. For example, looking at the word <business>, many people may wonder where the <i> comes from since it is silent. Understanding that the root word is <busy> and knowing that <y> changes to an <i> when adding a suffix (with the exception of a few orthographic rules) means that students will understand why the word is spelled the way it is and will help them internalize the spelling pattern.

By introducing, modeling, and practicing these skills explicitly, it helps students learn how to spell words correctly which improves and reinforces all literacy skills.

online tutoringOur reading clinicians also have extensive knowledge of child development and know when to correct spelling and when to allow children to rely on inventive spelling that is based on their own internalized understanding of phonemes and graphemes. This allows us to teach more than memorization because we teach the skills that students are developmentally ready for and not skills that are above their level. Just like in reading, in spelling it is “not the age, it’s the stage.” Students should not be pushed to memorize spelling patterns they are not ready for because it will ultimately do more harm than good.

Our online tutoring program integrates a multi-sensory approach to spelling according to the Structured Literacy framework. Students are engaged in looking, listening, repeating, segmenting, naming, and writing spelling patterns. Words are also integrated into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to promote and develop further understanding. Research has shown this to be the most effective way to teach spelling and to integrate it into reading and overall literacy development (Birsch, 2005).

Spelling and writing are integral parts of literacy instruction and must be included systematically and explicitly in all literacy programs, especially those designed for students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties. While one may think direct and explicit spelling instruction is a distraction from content writing, it actually enhances it by empowering students to use a wider and more sophisticated vocabulary to describe their story rather than choose words that are easier to spell. If your child struggles with spelling, it is not a problem that will simply fix itself and will likely lead to other literacy difficulties down the road.

The important take away is that our English language spelling system is logical, makes sense, and is critical to reading and writing. Approximately 87% of English words are reliable to read and spell (Hanna et al., 1966) once the orthographic patterns have been mastered. However, for the novice or struggling speller, in order for the system to make sense it may take a Structured Literacy expert to help your child navigate the nuances of the English language.

Don’t wait for your child to struggle. Get them the help they need to be successful. Contact us today to discuss your child’s needs and find out if our online reading program is a good fit for you.

 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com

 

Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading. Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

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With winter DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) benchmark tests right around the corner, let’s discuss the test in detail and what it may mean for your child. We’ll also look at effective reading tutoring for children who struggle to meet reading goals.

Today after school, I checked my kindergarten son’s backpack just like I always do. There was his lunchbox, complete with uneaten fruit but completely devoured cookies, homework packet, and his books from his teacher, just like normal. There was also something different, a DIBELS packet with activities to practice for the upcoming round of benchmark testing.

My phone almost immediately started buzzing with text messages and voicemails from some of my close mom friends who were wondering what this meant and what they were supposed to practice. They were also concerned about what the previous scores meant and how they could help their child improve.

DIBELS is one measure of reading ability that is standardized and used nationally in many schools kindergarten through 3rd grade (in some cases it may go further, but this is less common). The purpose of DIBELS is to measure a variety of reading skills and predict outcomes for students. When used correctly it can help teachers plan interventions and identify students who are at risk for reading difficulty.

DIBELS can also give parents some major anxiety. While it is not a perfect measure, it can be an accurate predictor of future reading outcomes, but in order to understand possible outcomes, you first must understand what is tested and what each score means.

Here are some of the areas included in the current DIBELS test. I am also including the common abbreviations you may see your child’s teacher use to refer to the individual sub-tests. Keep in mind these vary by grade level so your child may not take every test. Also, DIBELS is mostly oral, so students are tested one-on-one by a trained test proctor.

  • First Sound Fluency (FSF): This assessment is given only in kindergarten and only at the first and second benchmark period. It assesses students on phonemic awareness skills which are essential early literacy skills. Students are given a word like man and they are asked to identify that the first sound is /m/. Students who perform well on this test are less likely to have serious reading difficulties than those who do poorly.
  • Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF): This test is given in Kindergarten and the first testing period of first grade. Like FSF this assesses early phonemic awareness skills. Students are given a word like cat and asked to separate it into its individual sounds or phonemes /k/ /a/ /t/. Students must give sounds, not letter names. Like FSF this is a key predictor of how likely a child is to develop early literacy skills and students who perform poorly are more likely to experience reading difficulties.
  • Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF): Nonsense word fluency begins in kindergarten and is tested through second grade. It tests students understanding of phonics by having them read nonsense words like hig or nup. Using nonsense words ensures that decoding ability is tested as none of the words will be memorized by students (whereas real words like cat or dog could be memorized and would not indicate how well students understood letter sounds). When this test is scored, students receive a point for each individual sound as well as an extra point for reading the word without segmenting it. For example, if the word is hig, a student who read /h/ /i/ /g/ sound by sound would get 3 points. A student who did not have to sound the word out and simply read /hig/ would get 4 points. Since phonics and decoding is an essential early literacy skill, this assessment is a good indicator of early literacy development. Students who perform poorly are more likely to experience reading difficulties.
  • DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (DORF): This assessment asks students to read a grade level passage for one minute. They are scored based on how many words they read correctly in one minute. They are also then asked to retell the passage which gives an indication of their comprehension. This assessment starts in first grade and, depending on the school, may be used until students are in the 6th Fluency is a key component of the reading process and students who are not fluent readers are likely to experience significant reading difficulties.

Now that we have discussed the sub-tests within DIBELS, it is also important to understand the scoring system. Teachers will likely give you a number score. It is crucial that you ask them to also tell you where your child stands compared to the benchmark. This means you need to know if your child is Well Below Benchmark, Below Benchmark, At Benchmark, or Above Benchmark. You can ask for this information for each individual test as well as your child’s composite score.

By now, your head may be spinning, and that is ok. Let’s break down exactly what each one of these scores means for you and your child.

  • Above Benchmark: If your child scores Above Benchmark it means your child is performing well above the average for their grade level. Given appropriate core classroom instruction, the chances that they will meet literacy goals is above 90%.
  • At Benchmark: If your child scores At Benchmark they are performing at an average level for their grade. Without intervention and with only effective core classroom instruction, the likelihood that they will reach early literacy goals is 70% to 85%. Students who score at the lower level of At Benchmark are likely to need some strategic intervention to reach reading goals.
  • Below Benchmark: If your child scores Below Benchmark, it is very likely that classroom support will not be enough for them to reach subsequent reading goals. In fact, with only core classroom instruction, the likelihood that students who score Below Benchmark will achieve reading goals is only about 40% to 60%. If your child scores in this area, it may be time to think about an effective reading program for them.
  • Well Below Benchmark: If your child scores Well Below Benchmark goals, it means they are significantly behind grade level norms. Without appropriate intervention, the likelihood that they will make reading progress is only about 10% to 20%. These students need intensive reading intervention.

Now that you have an idea of what each test is and what each score means, you have the ability to help your child. Children who are below benchmark are not likely to reach subsequent reading goals with only classroom instruction. They need reading remediation.

 

However, not all reading programs are created equal. If your child needs intensive reading intervention, it is imperative that you find a high-quality program. A Structured Literacy program with a qualified reading clinician who can monitor progress and adjust instruction to meet your child’s needs will provide the best chance at success.

By helping your child get the reading tutoring they need, you can help increase their odds that they will be successful in reading. Don’t let your child struggle and have a 10% chance of meeting grade-level reading goals. Reading intervention will give them the best chance of success.

If you don’t live near a qualified, certified clinician or you have a tight schedule or budget, online tutoring can be a good option. RW&C offers individualized support with a Structured Literacy model. We incorporate all elements of effective reading instruction and have trained clinicians who can assess, monitor, and adjust instruction to fit your child’s needs.

Contact us today for more information or to get started with our online tutoring program.

If you want to know more about DIBELS scores, or want information specific to your child’s grade level, check out this scoring guide from the University of Oregon. All information regarding benchmarks scores was adapted from this source.

 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com

 

Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading. Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

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During my time as a classroom teacher, I taught a variety of different grade levels in a seven-year span. While this had its challenges, it also allowed me to experience first hand the ways that literacy instruction differed in primary and upper grades.

My initial teaching experiences were in the primary classroom. I have a strong background in early literacy development and I taught first and second grade for four years.

In the primary classroom, identifying reading difficulties is fairly straightforward. Maybe not why a child struggles or specific disabilities like dyslexia, but at least identifying that a child is struggling is simple for a classroom teacher. In kindergarten through about mid-third grade, students read aloud, all the time. Almost every literary activity is oral. They read to partners, read to stuffed animals, read to a teacher, segment sounds out loud. When students are learning to read, it is a noisy process.

When a student struggles, you can hear it. You hear that they mix up their b’s and d’s, or that they make the short i sound in the word hen. You ask them questions about what they are reading, and they answer out loud. You follow up to determine what specific comprehension skills they struggle with.

At home, students read out loud to their parents. If your child struggles with their reading, you know. You can identify if they are missing words or don’t understand the text. In short, the process of learning to read is a loud one. A beautiful, exciting, and noisy undertaking.

After my four years in the primary classroom, I moved up to 5th grade and then eventually to 7th and 8th grade reading. As I moved out of the primary classroom, I noticed a distinctive shift, reading became a silent, internal process. Students were very rarely asked to read out loud, and as a result, identifying reading difficulties became much more difficult.

Think about it, if you have a child in 4th grade or higher, when is the last time you had them read out loud to you? As students internalize the reading process, it becomes silent. While this is a natural progression, it can do a major disservice to older readers who struggle.

As I have moved on in my career to become an online reading clinician, I have noticed that many parents of older children don’t know why they struggle with reading or what their specific struggles are. Usually, I hear that they struggle with comprehension. However, when I have the student read a text out loud to me, I find that in reality, their reading level is low. They can comprehend texts at their instructional level, but their instructional level is below grade level.

When asked to read grade level text silently in class, they cannot answer comprehension questions correctly. In many cases, this may not be due to a comprehension issue necessarily but is due to the fact that they cannot accurately and fluently read the text. Without asking the student to read aloud, this can often go undetected for months or even years.

In order to serve the student and increase their reading skills, the correct diagnosis of the issue is essential. This is why the reading clinicians at RW&C give each student a variety of assessments to determine the underlying reading issue. Our online tutoring program is then adjusted to fit the needs of each student in order to ensure reading success.

Older students are given phonics assessments to determine if the issue is related to letter sounds. They are also given fluency and comprehension assessments as well as writing and phonemic awareness activities. Simply because a child is older does not mean that they have mastered all the basic skills necessary to become fluent and competent readers.

I have often heard that when it comes to reading, it is not the age, it’s the stage. This could not be more true. It does not matter how old a child is or even what their grade level in school is. If they have not mastered the basics of reading, they need direct instruction.

Coming from a classroom background, I know that often upper-grade teachers are not trained in early literacy and often do not have the resources that students need to master early reading skills. If your older child struggles with reading, they may not get the help they need in school.

With our one-on-one online tutoring program, we can help your child whatever their reading issue. Our clinicians are trained in all aspects of literacy instruction and can tailor their sessions to meet the needs of your child. Don’t wait and hope that they will catch up, get them the help they need today.

Contact us to get started and learn more about our online tutoring program.

 

Becky Welsch
RW&C, LLC
www.rwc4reading.com

 

Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading. Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy. Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

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