Phonemic awareness (PA) is the foundation of reading success, yet many schools and reading programs do not emphasize these critical skills and many parents may have never even heard of them. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.

A child’s ease in acquiring reading skills is closely related to strong phonemic awareness skills. In fact, according to the National Panel on Reading Research, strong phonemic awareness is one of the single most important predictors of reading success. Unfortunately, for our struggling readers, phonemic awareness is often not explicitly taught beyond the second grade if it is even addressed at all. 

Older children who struggle with reading, spelling, and written expression often have an underlying phonological weakness related to their ability to process, identify, and manipulate the sounds in words. In fact, nearly 88% of children with dyslexia have a foundational phonological weakness. When we address this weakness, we give them the tools necessary to become proficient readers and spellers.  

Phonemic awareness deficits have also been found to be the cause of weak decoding, fluency, comprehension, and spelling issues in older students who struggle with reading. In addition, research has shown that the explicit teaching of phonemic awareness skills like segmenting, blending, and manipulating sounds has the greatest effects on spelling improvement with older readers, more so than any other single intervention. In addition, with older students in particular, phonics instruction alone may not be enough to close the gap with reading and spelling skills. They need direct, explicit, and multi-sensory instruction in PA skills in order to make progress. 

Since phonemic awareness is so critical to helping older students improve their reading and spelling skills, it is an essential component of any intervention program. However, not all interventions will incorporate PA instruction effectively. In order for phonemic awareness weaknesses to be effectively remediated, interventions must be explicit. Students with severe deficits and those with dyslexia will often not “catch on” naturally, they need direct modelling of PA skills.  

Another key component of an effective phonemic awareness intervention is that it should be short in duration when compared to the time devoted to other aspects of reading intervention like phonics, fluency, or comprehension. Older students showed the greatest improvements with programs that were short in the amount of time they took per intervention session and that were differentiated to address each student’s specific needs. This led to the most significant improvements with decoding and spelling skills. 

It is absolutely crucial that phonemic awareness interventions for older students focus on the specific skills that are most closely aligned with reading and spelling improvement. Here are a few key areas that effective PA interventions should address: 

  • Phoneme Segmentation: When we speak, many of the sounds in words end up being co-articulated. This leads to difficulty with spelling and decoding because children may have trouble segmenting out individual sounds. If you cannot stretch out individual sounds, spelling and reading will be difficult processes. Older students with a phonological deficit need direct, explicit, multi-sensory instruction on how to segment sounds within words and within syllable parts of larger words, as well as opportunities to apply this skill. 
  • Phoneme Blending: Simply stretching out the sounds in a word is not reading; the sounds must be blended back together to create a word. Students who struggle with poor spelling and inaccurate decoding must have direct modeling on how to blend segmented sounds back together. In addition, they need multiple opportunities to practice and review this skill. 
  • Phoneme Manipulation: Students also need to have instruction in how to change sounds in words to create new words. It is critical they receive direct instruction in changing beginning, middle, and ending sounds to create new words. This skill in particular has been shown to have a strong impact on spelling and reading improvement. In students with reading deficits, medial sounds can be particularly challenging and they need both direct instruction as well as multiple practice opportunities with this skill. 

With nearly 55% of 4th grade students, 58% of 8th grade students, and 53% of 12th grade students NOT reaching reading proficiency standards, it is evident that reading intervention is necessary in older grades. Often, these students have significant phonological gaps that must be addressed by an effective intervention program. In short, PA skills are not just for the K-2 crowd, they are necessary for ALL struggling readers. With older students, it is critical that the need for phonemic awareness remediation be incorporated into an intervention program that is designed to explicitly address their areas of weakness and remediate them.  

Here at RW&C, our highly qualified reading clinicians know how to incorporate phonemic awareness skills into every lesson and for every student. Our program incorporates explicit instruction for all students so that they can increase their reading and spelling skills. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your child improve their reading and spelling, regardless of their age or needs. 


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. 

Sources: 

https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading/nation/achievement/

https://www.nichd.nih.gov/sites/default/files/publications/pubs/nrp/Documents/report.pdf

Overcoming Dyslexia by Sally Shaywitz 

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills by Judith Birsch 

images from pexel.com

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Is handwriting important? 

Many people would suggest that it is not. Students, parents, and even some teachers may view an emphasis on teaching handwriting as a relic of the past, a skill made obsolete by the modern reliance on typing and other technology supports for written communication. However, the research shows otherwise. While handwriting is not emphasized in the common core standards, many state standards, and many classrooms, explicit teaching of letter formation and handwriting skills is an important pillar of literacy development.

Handwriting is a powerful, multi-sensory tool that aids in orthographic mapping, a key component of reading and writing development. In a study at Indiana University, researchers examined how writing impacts the brain. Children were shown a letter and asked to reproduce it in one of three ways, trace the image on a dotted line, draw it freehand, or type on a computer. The results showed that when children were asked to draw the letter freehand, there was increased activity in three areas of the brain. The students who traced the letter showed less activity and those who were asked to type it showed no increase in the areas of the brain in question. 

Additional research with MRI scans and brain imaging has shown that handwriting practice stimulates the areas of the brain that are involved in memory, impulse control, and attention.  Research also strongly indicates that writing by hand helps move information from short term memory storage to long term memory. A study conducted in 2014 found that college students who took notes by hand demonstrated a greater understanding of the material and were able to retrieve information more quickly and accurately than those who took notes on a laptop. 

Handwriting in the early grades is linked to reading and spelling achievement. Students who learn how to form a letter can simultaneously learn the sound of the letter.  This creates a stronger orthographic link and reinforces early literacy skills. Orthographic and phonological coding are directly related to handwriting and spelling. Explicitly teaching handwriting skills creates powerful connections in the brain that lead to better literacy outcomes in children and adults. 

The research is clear,  teaching handwriting is important, however, like all literacy skills,  handwriting instruction methodology must be effective in order to work. It cannot be a quick five-minute skill that happens occasionally with tracing worksheets. In fact, research has shown that tracing an already created line actually does very little in terms of brain activation. In order to produce results, handwriting must be taught in conjunction with phonics. Students need to link the letter name and sound to the formation of the letter. 

Handwriting instruction must also focus on form over perfection and even legibility, at least initially. When children are first learning a letter, large strokes will help to activate their gross muscle memory and make the process more efficient and meaningful. They can use skywriting to trace large letters in the air, sidewalk chalk to write large letters on concrete, whiteboards, sand trays or needlepoint canvas to increase tactile feedback when tracing letters with their fingers, or even carpet squares to trace letters with two fingers. They should be making large, sweeping movements with their whole arm, not just their hand, to emphasize the motor pattern and correct formation. 

It is also important to teach children to write with continuous strokes when possible. Letters like <f> and <t> will of course require them to lift their hand for the second stroke, but writing is more efficient if it can be done with a single stroke of the pencil. Also, writing is a more efficient process when students start at the top of the line rather than the bottom. 

It is also critical to separate letters that are often confused and use a logical scope and sequence for letter formation instruction. For example, you would not teach the letters <b, d, p, q> in the same lesson. Having children master one before moving on to another of these commonly confused letters is a far more effective instructional approach. In addition, you want to group together letters that use the same strokes. The letters <c> and <a> both start at the same position and require a looping stroke so teaching them together is logical in your instructional scope and sequence. 

You can also use arrows to help students remember the directions that letters face. While letter tracing is not the most effective way to teach handwriting, it does have a place in the early instructional sequence, especially when working with a larger group of students. Just make sure that sooner, rather than later, students move on to forming letters freehand and not relying on tracing patterns. 

It also bears repeating that handwriting instruction must be integrated into a cohesive literacy program. Do not teach it in isolation. Letter formation should be directly tied to letter sounds and names so that students can transfer these skills into their reading, writing, and spelling. 

While computer and assistive technology are tools that can help mitigate writing issues common in dyslexia and dysgraphia, early intervention in handwriting can help reduce the number of students who rely on these accommodations. They should absolutely be used when necessary, however effective instructional techniques in handwriting can help eliminate their need later in the educational process. 

Handwriting instruction can also aid in orthographic mapping, making spelling and reading easier. It helps to eliminate load on working memory when letter formation becomes automatic. This allows students to focus on the content of their writing and their spelling rather than the formation of letters. 

Typing skills and technological literacy are important, but so is handwriting. By incorporating handwriting and keyboarding skills in a multi-sensory literacy program, children can have the best of both worlds. 

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. 

References:

https://www.readingrockets.org/article/importance-teaching-handwriting
https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2003-02238-020
https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/case-handwriting/
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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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As parents, we want to make sure that our children have every chance to succeed and have all the support they need in place. One key component of ensuring academic success is to support literacy skills at home. If you are not a literacy specialist, it can be difficult to know exactly what to do to promote reading at home. Luckily, literacy skills can be practiced in a variety of fun ways that are both effective and engaging. 

Here are just a few ways to support your children at home and strengthen their reading skills. Keep in mind, these are activities that will help support skills your child already has acquired. If your child has a reading issue or needs to make forward progress, they may require more intervention and specialized knowledge than these activities offer. If this is the case, tutoring with a Structured Literacy™ intervention program is recommended. 

  • Flash card matching games: Kids of all ages love to play games with flashcards and they are easy to make using index cards. If your child is younger, use phonics patterns to practice skills they are working on like long a, blends, or consonant digraphs. To play, write several words containing the desired spelling pattern. Players take turns flipping over and reading a card. If they make a match, they keep the word. The player with the most matches when all of the cards are gone is the winner. Here is a short list of grade level appropriate spelling patterns to help you create your game. If your child is older, this can be a great way to practice base words, roots, and affixes. Write several root words and affixes on cards, players flip over each card, read the root or affix and explain its meaning, if they make a match, they get to keep it and the player with the most matches at the end wins. A few common prefixes you can use are <con-> (with or together), <un-> (not, opposite of), <re-> (again). Common roots include <struct> (to build), <ject> (to throw), and <cept> (to take).  For suffixes you can use inflectional endings which change the tense of a word like  <-s>, <-es>, <-ing>, or <-ed> or you can use suffixes such as <-ion> which turns a verb into a noun. Please note this is not a complete list and the roots and affixes your child needs to know will vary by grade level. You can also play memory match using sight words that your child needs to practice. 

  • Swatting games: I used these for independent practice in the classroom and kids love it! Write words using a phonics pattern, sight words, vocabulary words, or bases and affixes on pieces of paper and tape them on the floor. Give each player a fly swatter or they can use their hand. The referee says a word or definition and the players race to be the first to hit the corresponding word on the floor. This game is fast paced, action packed, and can be adapted for all skills and levels. 
  • Practice phonemic awareness: If your child is younger, read lots of rhyming books and books that have a natural rhythm and cadence. “Chick a Chick a Boom Boom!” and Dr. Seuss series are great for this activity. Have your child repeat words and phrases with you and ask them to give you additional rhyming words. You can have your child segment sounds with a rubber band and then blend them back together while releasing the tension. Legos can be used as well with your child pulling down one block for each sound and the running their finger under them as they blend the sounds back together.  Stick with two, three, and four sound words which can be real or nonsense words.  One example would be to progress from “at” to “lat” to “slat.” Clap out syllables in longer words. While phonemic awareness activities should focus on sounds, not letters,  these skills do transfer to reading and spelling. If your child is struggling to spell a word,  these activities can help. Ask them to segment the sounds in single syllable words or the syllables in multi-syllabic words. This will help them ensure they write the correct grapheme for the phoneme in the word. For more ideas on promoting phonemic awareness, check out our blog here

  • Make it multi-sensory: There are a variety of ways to make literacy practice multi-sensory and help those skills stick. Use words with a phonics pattern, base words, root words, vocabulary words, whatever your child needs to practice and follow these easy  and fun ways to activate other senses.
    •  Use a bumpy surface. An embroidery board is a great option and can be found at most craft stores. Have children use their index and middle finger to trace letters as they say the sound and letter name. Display the letter using index cards or a projector to incorporate the visual system as well.  
    • Use sand trays. Like an embroidery board, a sand tray provides a rough tactile surface. Have your child trace letters or words as they say the sounds and letter names. 
    •  Use shaving cream. Put some shaving cream on a non-porous surface like a counter-top or window. Your child can trace words and letters in it. This is a fun, messy activity that provides sensory feedback as they trace spelling patterns. 
  • Read, read, read: listen to audio books, read aloud, and have your child read books that are appropriate for their reading level and decoding skills. Ask questions while you read and practice rereading to encourage fluency. You can also practice poems and songs to improve fluency and give your kid some diversity in their reading material. Maps, cookbooks, and directions are great ways to practice reading functional text.  If you are feeling extra creative, you could even create a treasure hunt for your kids.

As you can see, it is possible to have fun and practice literacy at home. Literacy skills are so much more than sitting and reading in silence. Practicing with your child will help support skills they have and may keep them from regressing. 

However, if you  want your child to make forward progress or they need extra support in reading, our online tutoring program can be a good option to supplement literacy activities at home. Contact us today for more information. 



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

Becky Welsch is currently an Associate in Training with the Orton-Gillingham Academy of Practitioners and Educators. She 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 tele-therapy. 

images from pexel.com


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It is widely understood that, on average, students lose academic skills during summer break. For many typical students, this can be a setback, for students with reading challenges, it can be devastating. Reading does not develop naturally and, according to research conducted by Judith Birsh “is highly dependent on language development and quality instruction” (2005). Without quality instruction over the summer months, many students will fall behind.

In 2018, the Northwest Evaluation Association conducted a study to determine how significant the summer slide is for students in grades 3-8. The results were sobering, with third grade students losing nearly 20% of their reading gains they had made during the school year. As students got older, this regression became even more alarming with the average student losing 36% of reading skills they had gained in 7th grade over the summer months (NWEA, 2018). 

While these numbers are alarming, they are not inevitable. Individualized, systematic, Structured Literacy based tutoring can help ensure that your child does not lose close to 40% of what they learned during the school year. If your child struggles with reading, this is even more important as underlying phonological deficits as well as working memory issues make learning and retaining skills even more difficult.  However, using scientifically based reading intervention with children has been found to make “significant and durable changes” in their brain’s organizational systems and patterns and in turn, significant reading gains (Birsh, 2005).

When you are exploring your options for summer tutoring for your child, it is crucial that you choose a program that follows the Structured Literacy framework (also known as the Orton-Gillingham approach). In addition, the tutor delivering the instruction should meet the guidelines laid out by the International Dyslexia Association for remediating reading difficulties. The program should also be individualized and customizable for your child. No two children need the exact same instruction which is why many box programs that are scripted cannot and do not work for everyone. Here at RW&C our highly trained and qualified reading clinicians meet IDA guidelines and are able to use their professional knowledge to personalize their instructional approach when needed. In order to prevent summer regression, your child needs personalized instruction. Additionally, the tutoring your child receives needs to be systematic, cumulative, explicit, and sequential in its approach. The program developed by RW&C explicitly teaches phonological awareness, phonics, syllabication, morphology, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension in a systematic and cumulative way until mastery is reached. The online tutoring program also uses diagnostic assessments as well as informal observation to customize each session to the needs of each client.

Other than program and clinician qualifications, it is also important to think about your schedule and lifestyle during the summer months. While instruction is important, so is the ability to have family time and opportunities for fun. Many families find intensive in-person programs to be impossible to navigate while still traveling or engaging in other activities. This is where an online tutoring program can be a perfect fit. Generally, online programs are more flexible and they can be done anywhere. Going on a trip? No problem, as long as you have internet access you can logon and have your child meet their reading clinician for their tutoring session. I have even had families use their phone as a hot spot so we could meet while they were camping. Online tutoring can fit into your busy lifestyle and allow you the flexibility you need to meet your child’s needs and still enjoy activities and trips. 

If you are considering an online program, it is important to critically evaluate all of your options and decide what will work best for your child and budget. In order to be effective, it must be multi-sensory and explicit. If you are evaluating different online programs, check out this useful checklist that can help you make an informed decision on what is right for your child. 

The summer slide is scary, but it is not inevitable. With quality Structured Literacy tutoring, your child will not only retain what they learned during the school year but will also make progress towards mastering new skills. By enrolling them in a tutoring program, you are giving them the gift of reading, which lasts a lifetime. 

For more information on our online tutoring program, contact us today. 


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

Becky Welsch is currently an Associate in Training with the Orton-Gillingham Academy of Practitioners and Educators. She 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 tele-therapy. 

Sources: Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Judith R. Birsh 2005

http://dyslexia.yale.edu/resources/parents/stories-from-parents/taking-time-for-summer-fun/

Images from pexel.com

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As a teacher, you may have heard the terms multisensory instruction being used more and more frequently. This is a buzz word that tends to get thrown around a lot without full understanding of what it entails. It is a key component of Structured Literacy™ reading, writing, and spelling instruction. An extensive and growing body of research demonstrates that the Structured Literacy™ approach is effective in reading intervention for students with  reading difficulties (Birsh, 2005). In addition, newer research shows that Structured Literacy™ is a more effective approach than whole language for all students, including those with typical reading abilities (Lorimor-Easley & Reed, 2019).

In the Structured Literacy™ approach, multisensory means that instruction engages the visual, auditory, and tactile centers of the brain, often simultaneously. Students are encouraged to use manipulatives and movement to help reinforce sounds and spelling patterns. Here are a few ways that you can incorporate multisensory instruction into your reading block:

  • Use manipulatives. When you have students doing phonemic awareness activities like segmenting and blending sounds, you can incorporate a tactile experience by using blank tiles. They pull down a tile for each sound in a word and then run their fingers under the tiles to blend the sounds back together. If you don’t have tiles you can have them tap on their arms and blend or use rubber bands to stretch out phonemes as they simultaneously say the sounds out loud.  
  • Use a bumpy surface. An embroidery board is a great option and can be found at most craft stores. Have students use their index and middle finger to trace letters as they say the sound and letter name. Display the letter using index cards or a projector to incorporate the visual system as well. 
  • Use sand trays. Like an embroidery board, a sand tray provides a rough tactile surface. Have students trace letters or words as they say the sounds and letter names. 
  • Use shaving cream. Once or twice a week when your desks need to be cleaned, students can trace words and letters in shaving cream on their desk. This is a fun, messy activity that provides sensory feedback as they trace spelling patterns. 
  • Explicitly teach handwriting and letter formation. There is a growing body of research that suggests handwriting in and of itself can be a multisensory activity. Often students with reading issues as well as writing issues struggle to form letters. This extra load on their processing centers makes writing nearly impossible. By teaching explicit handwriting skills the load on a student’s working memory is decreased and they can focus on the content they need to write, rather than the writing process. 
  • Use paper with raised lines. Some research suggests that having paper with raised lines can help increase sensory feedback and make writing easier for students who struggle. 
  • Take it outside and use chalk. Using sidewalk chalk can be a fun twist on rainbow writing words and can be a great activity for a nice day. With the larger surface of the sidewalk, students can write the words larger which activates different muscle memory than writing them small on paper. Also, the texture of the sidewalk can help give tactile feedback as well. 

When incorporating multisensory literacy activities, it is important to keep in mind that they should be done regularly, not just once in a while as reward or when behavior permits. Once you start incorporating them into your instructional routine, you will find that they are not only fun for students, but also help solidify spelling patterns and improve reading and spelling skills. 

Students who continue to struggle even though they are involved in an excellent academic program may need extra help and expertise when it comes to literacy instruction. Our online program can help them with their reading skills so they can be more successful in your classroom environment. If you have a student who you think is a good candidate for our program, contact us today to learn more. 

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. 

Resources:

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Judith Birsch 2005

“Structured Literacy: A New Term to Unify Us,” International Dyslexia Association 

“An Explanation of Structured Literacy, and a Comparison to Balanced Literacy,” Nina Lorimor-Easley and Deborah Reed 2019

Images from pexels.com

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Multisensory, structured language education is the most commonly endorsed and research-based approach for literacy education for students who struggle with reading. It includes methodologies like Orton-Gillingham instruction as well as programs based on those methodologies. Several years ago, the International Dyslexia Associated formally adopted the name “Structured Literacy™™” as an umbrella term to describe all programs that use a structured, systematic, and multisensory approach to reading (International Dyslexia Association). 

While the term Structured Literacy™ may be new, the approach to teaching reading is not. Samuel Orton conducted groundbreaking research in the 1920s on multisensory, systematic instruction and documented its success in teaching students with reading difficulties. An extensive and growing body of research demonstrates that the Structured Literacy™ approach is effective in reading intervention for students with  reading difficulties (Birsh, 2005). In addition, newer research shows that Structured Literacy™ is a more effective approach than whole language for all students, including those with typical reading abilities (Lorimor-Easley & Reed, 2019). 

Although the principles behind Structured Literacy™ and the methodology themselves are not new, it is also not well-known within the general education community. In fact, many schools still use leveled readers with heavy picture clues to teach reading in both whole and small groups. Phonics has become more mainstream yet is often not explicit and systematic. Teachers and educators have the best interest of their students at heart, yet do not always have the professional knowledge and resources to deliver the most effective instruction. 

In order to effectively remediate reading issues and teach reading, it is important to understand what Structured Literacy™ is and how it can be effective. First and foremost, Structured Literacy™ is structured. It is systematic and emphasizes phonological awareness, phonics, decoding and spelling along with morphology, fluency, and comprehension. Phonics follows a logical scope and sequence that explicitly teaches each spelling pattern. 

Using the Structured Literacy™ approach, students are encouraged to use decoding skills and phonics patterns to sound out words, rather than guessing at words based on context or pictures. The logic behind this strategy is two-fold. First and foremost, even in early readers, the pictures are not always a reliable way to figure out a word. For example, if there is a picture of a duck in water with the sentences “The duck swims,” a student could come up with a  variety of words that would make sense based on the pictures. Anything from “The duck splashes” to “The duck eats” could make sense depending on the illustration, but neither are correct. If students are taught proper decoding, they can read the word swim rather than guess at reasonable alternatives. A second reason that using the pictures is ineffective is that eventually the text becomes too complex to be encapsulated in an illustration. As students get older and text complexity increases, those who cannot decode often have few strategies to rely on and their reading level tends to not keep up with that of their peers who are able to use decoding strategies (Birsch, 2005). 

As a reading clinician, I can tell you that the “check the picture” strategy is very rarely effective, even when texts have significant picture clues. I have had students make wild guesses that often do not even start with the same initial sound as the word they are attempting to “read.” For example, in a book I was recently reading with a student, the text said “They sat…” the student read the words “They ate…” which based on the picture, made sense however it was not the correct word and did not even have the same initial sound.

The Structured Literacy™ approach is also multisensory. This is a buzz word that tends to get thrown around a lot without full understanding of what it entails. In the Structured Literacy™ approach, multisensory means that it engages the visual, auditory, and tactile centers of the brain, often simultaneously. Students are encouraged to use manipulatives and movement to help reinforce sounds and spelling patterns. Some programs may use colored tiles or tapping sounds to incorporate movement. In addition, during auditory and visual drills, students are encouraged to trace letters using their index and middle finger while saying the sounds, letter names, and looking at the letter. This engages all three critical areas of the brain while learning and reinforcing letter sounds, names, and formations. 

Another way the Structured Literacy™ methodology incorporates multi-sensory activities is by emphasizing handwriting and correct letter formation during instruction. Often students with reading issues as well as writing issues struggle to form letters. This extra load on their processing centers makes writing nearly impossible. By teaching explicit handwriting skills the load on a student’s working memory is decreased and they can focus on the content they need to write, rather than the writing process. 

The Structured Literacy™ framework is also cumulative, meaning that skills are constantly reviewed and spiraled in so that students have adequate practice time. Once a student learns a skill, that skill is not dropped from explicit instruction until it has been fully mastered. For example, if a student is working on silent e words, once that lesson is over the reading clinician does not move on and stop practicing. The skill is spiraled into reading and spelling so that the student can review and internalize it in multiple forms and at both low and high levels of complexity.

A final key component (for the purposes of this blog at least) is that Structured Literacy™ is delivered by a highly trained professional. Effective Structured Literacy™ instruction requires more than an 8-hour professional development where you look through the curriculum. Our reading clinicians all have credentials that align with International Dyslexia Association standards for working with students with reading difficulties. They attend professional development and engage in reading and discussing current reading research. In short, they are experts in the field of reading intervention. 

If you are looking for a high quality, one-on-one Structured Literacy™ program for a student or your own child, RW&C’s program may be the right fit for you. We offer reading, writing, and spelling remediation services. Our online program is flexible and built to fit your needs. Contact us today for 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. 

Resources:

Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills, Judith Birsch 2005

“Structured Literacy: A New Term to Unify Us,” International Dyslexia Association 

“An Explanation of Structured Literacy, and a Comparison to Balanced Literacy,” Nina Lorimor-Easley and Deborah Reed 2019

Photos from www.pexels.com

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When we think of reading issues like dyslexia, we often only consider how to help students be successful in their language arts classes. However, many learning issues that are related to dyslexia  can impact a student’s performance in other academic areas as well.  Students with reading difficulties need to have the appropriate accommodations and scaffolds in place so they can truly thrive in all environments. 

Math: For many students, accommodations needed to be successful in math classes can be overlooked because we often do not think of dyslexia as impacting performance in math. This could not be further from the truth. Many students who struggle with reading also struggle with rote memory issues. This can make memorizing math facts very challenging and hinder their ability to complete higher-level problems. Often, these students  can perform more complex mathematical calculations but their inability to memorize multiplication facts makes it nearly impossible for them to do so in an efficient manner. One way to support dyslexic students in math classes is to give them references for math facts. This may include multiplication charts, number lines, or even calculators to aid in solving memory-based math problems. 

Another simple and easy to implement math accommodation is to allow students to use graph paper. Often students who struggle with reading and writing will have trouble lining up problems and organizing their work. Graph paper provides a way for them to line up their numbers so that they can solve problems correctly. If you are a teacher who wants to try graph paper with your students, make sure to teach them how to use it correctly. Like any other math tool, it is only effective if students know how to use it to help them organize their work. 

You may also notice that many students have trouble with word problems. You can accommodate them by allowing the problems to be read to them. You can also teach them critical reading skills as they relate to math. Things like finding key information and coding problems using boxes and circling key words can help students with reading difficulties be more successful in solving word problems. If you are a teacher using this strategy, teach students how to find, code, and use essential information in word problems. It takes time to teach a consistent system, but it is extremely helpful for all students, especially those who struggle with reading. 

Social Studies:  As children get older, this content area becomes very reading intensive. Make sure that all teachers are following reading goals and accommodations for all students. These may include extra time on assignments or having audio options for grade-level text. Teachers can also re-write complex passages to an easier reading level but still include all key information. 

If you are a teacher and want to try re-writing text to make it more accessible to students who are not reading at grade-level, this can often seem like a daunting task. To make it more manageable, first decide on the main idea. Ask yourself “What do I want students to take away from this text?” If you are teaching the revolutionary war it might be something like “There were many important battles in the American Revolution.” If this is the case, you are going to type out this sentence somewhere in the beginning of the text. Make the main idea obvious for students who struggle. Then you will add in details from textbook or other text that you are using for reference. Break down complex sentences. Rather than  stating “The battles of Lexington and Concord were crucial battles that showed the British that the Americans were a force to be reckoned with,” you can make this same idea two simple sentences. “The battles of Lexington and Concord were critical battles. They showed the British that the Americans were able to fight.” The important thing here is not to create a literary masterpiece but to make the text more accessible to student who struggle with reading. Once you finish, you can turn on readability in your word processor and it will give you an approximate grade level of the final text. 

This may seem like a daunting task, but the more you practice the easier it will become. Additionally, with 1 of every 5 students having dyslexia, I guarantee you will have more students in the future who have trouble with grade-level reading. You can use these resources for years to come and share with colleagues. The benefits to students are immense as it allows them access the content without their reading abilities hindering them. 

Another accommodation that can help students who need reading intervention is to allow them use graphic organizers to sequence key events. A hallmark of dyslexia is difficulty sequencing so using a graphic organizer consistently can help them understand and internalize the content more efficiently. 

Science: Like Social Studies, this subject can be quite reading intensive and difficult for students who are not reading at grade-level. One way to help students with dyslexia be more successful in science is to pre-teach all content specific vocabulary using visual, auditory, and kinesthetic processes before asking them to read it in text. Teachers may even consider having them make their own dictionary of science related words with pictures and drawings to help them remember the vocabulary. 

Another way to make science more accessible to students with reading difficulties is to break down directions for experiments into multiple parts. Children with dyslexia often have issues with sequencing multi-step directions. Breaking directions down into simpler steps can help them be more successful. 

Science teachers may also try using graphic organizers for them to categorize, classify, or sequence what they are reading. Having a consistent way to organize information can help them when they need to recall facts or when they are completing a reading assignment. 

Another way to help students with dyslexia and other reading difficulties in a science class is to find audio books of their text. Often, science text is complex and above the reading level of even proficient readers. Having audio options available can help ensure that students with reading issues are still able to access the content. If you teach science, you may also want to re-write some of your textbook at a lower reading level. Check out the directions in the social studies section for some tips on how to do this. 

Although we may traditionally think of dyslexia as primarily a reading issue, it can and does often affect all academic areas. By pushing for accommodations in other areas, you can help your child be more successful. As a teacher, you can help your students achieve in your classroom by mitigating the role of their reading difficulty and providing them access to the curriculum. 

If you have academic performance concerns about your child or a student, Structured Literacy Intervention (also known as the Orton-Gillingham approach) can help with reading success. Contact us today for more information for yourself or to pass along to parents. 

Our online program is effective reading intervention that fits your schedule. 

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. 

Images from pexel.com

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For many kids, the beginning of the school year can be a time of butterflies in their stomach and stress. If students struggle with reading, spelling, or written expression, these worries can be intensified. While I am not a child psychologist, I have seen my fair share of the first days of school and kids with apprehension about their new grade level both as a teacher and – a parent. If your child is not looking forward to the beginning of the year it can cause you both to worry. Here are a few simple and easy to implement solutions that you can help calm your nervous child and set them up for success this school year. 

  • First and foremost, make sure your child is getting the support they need. You are their number one advocate. Whether that means having an IEP meeting, writing up a reference sheet of IEP accommodations for their teacher, or making sure your child is getting the Structured Literacy tutoringthey need to be successful you need to be their voice. It’s also important to make sure they know what is going on and what is going to be expected from them. Talking through their accommodations and discussing when and where things will be happening can do wonders to help calm your nervous child. 
  • Once you know that proper supports and interventions are in place both inside and outside of school, as a parent, you want your child to know that there are ways to talk about the worry they are experiencing. For some children drawing or writing their worries may help. As tempting as it is, try not to ask them to “calm down” or “not worry about it.” Your child needs a place to express their concerns through talking, drawing, and writing. Make sure your child knows they can come to you with their worries concerns. 
  • Come up with a schedule. All kids function better with structure and predictability. This is particularly true for kids who are having apprehensions about their school schedule. Talk to your child about your family schedule, their after-school activities, and any other events. Make sure to include after school tutoring if your child needs additional reading support. For some busy families online tutoringmight be a good option to get in the intervention without sacrificing too much family time. 
  • Help your child practice deep breathing skills. Once they are able to identify their worry, they can begin to use practical skills to help lessen it. One important way to calm their nerves is to help them learn to focus on their breathing. There are tons of different deep breathing techniques available on the internet and you need to find one that works for your child and aligns with your family belief system. 
  • Help your child create a toolkit for home and school. This may include some supplies like a stress ball to help them manage their nerves. You may also try using Velcro to attach a textured fabric like flip sequins to the underside of their desk. This gives them something to do with their hands when they start to feel worried at school. Having it underneath the desk is discreet and does not distract other students. For this one you are going to want to make sure it is ok with your child’s teacher. If under the desk in not an option, consider a small piece of fabric in their pocket that they can run between their fingers to help calm them. 
  • Make sure your child is having all of their physical needs met. Many stress related issues can tend to rear their heads when you don’t get enough sleep or have a poor diet. Make sure your child is sleeping and eating well. 
  • Also make sure they move their body every day. Exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress naturally. Not every family enjoys traditional exercise but there are many fun ways to make sure your child is moving everyday. Going for a bike ride, playing outside, jumping on a trampoline, or making up silly dances to your favorite songs are all some fun ways to help your child get moving. 

These tips may help  to reduce mild angst related to going back to school. Keep in mind that many bright students struggling with literacy skills may develop stress in trying to deal with their deficits. If this is the cause of your child’s stress, we can address these deficits in a comfortable environment….your home….via audio-video conferencing with a certified literacy specialist.  If your child continues to struggle or has intense anxiety symptoms, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor. 

Once your child is able to feel calm and comfortable, they can begin to thrive at school. If they struggle with reading, spelling or written expression, it is imperative that you get them involved in Structured Literacy tutoring. Our online option is a good fit for many families. Contact ustoday to learn more.

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. 

Additional Resources:

https://www.psycom.net/help-kids-with-anxiety

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Up until about ten years ago, there was a prevailing theory in reading instruction that some children simply took longer to mature. If they were having reading difficulties, time would somehow fix them, and they would eventually catch up. In short, these children were seen as being “late bloomers.” Teachers would tell parents to wait and see and early intervention for reading was delayed under the assumption that these students simply needed more time to catch up to their peers. 

This was known as the developmental lag theory and was the prevailing ideology for nearly 30 years. It was also the justification for waiting to intervene in reading until the difficulties were quite severe. However, as our understanding of reading instruction has grown, this theory has been disproven by the evidence. 

New research indicates that early intervention with an appropriate Structured Literacy program is crucial to closing the reading gap. This new theory, known as skill deficit, indicates that waiting does not work and that children will not pick up literacy skills without explicit instruction. The old approach of wait and see is actively harmful to struggling readers as it causes them to fall further behind instead of addressing their reading issues. 

The research behind skill deficit theory is substantial and indicates that students who struggle with reading need early intervention as it makes their reading success significantly more likely. In fact, 90% of students who struggle with reading difficulties will achieve grade level reading outcomes if they receive reading intervention by the first grade. However, if intervention is delayed to age 9 or later, 75% of these students will continue to struggle throughout their school career. Furthermore, if students get reading intervention in the fourth grade as compared to the end of kindergarten, it will take them nearly four times longer to make the same amount of skill gains. 

So, what does this mean for parents and teachers? Well, quite simply put, it means that late bloomers are not going to bloom without some help. Children who struggle with early literacy skills have the best chance of catching up if they are given appropriate Structured Literacy intervention. The earlier they can start, the better their outcomes. 

Students who do not receive appropriate early reading intervention can seem to be stuck in a sort of downward spiral, but it does not have to be this way. While it is clear that we cannot “wait and see” to improve reading, there are methods of intervention that are supported by the most recent reading research. 

If your child struggles with reading, it is critical that they get the help they need. However, not all reading intervention is created equal and if you want to close the gap, you need to make sure their intervention is appropriate. Teaching something the same way repeatedly will not cause them to magically “get it.”

At risk readers need explicit, systematic instruction. They need an OG based program like our online tutoring program that emphasizes phonological awareness skills like rhyming, phoneme segmentation, blending, and substitution. They need explicit and systematic phonics instruction as well as direct instruction in vocabulary and word meanings. A quality program will also include direct and explicit instruction in morphemes and include significant practice time. A fluency component will also need to be directly taught so that children learn to read quickly and accurately. Comprehension also needs to be included and specific. 

With appropriate and early intervention, children who struggle with reading can and do catch up to their grade level peers. As a parent, we want our children to experience success and an effective reading program is one of the best ways we can ensure they learn to read.

After reading this, if you have an older child, you may feel disheartened. Don’t. While early intervention is more effective, you can still intervene with older students. The process may be slower, and it may require a more intensive schedule, but it is possible. 

If you are looking for an effective program for your child, regardless of their age, our online tutoring may be the right fit. Our trained reading clinicians work with your child one-on-one using research-based techniques. With the right help, your child can succeed. 

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. 

Sources:

https://www.aft.org/periodical/american-educator/fall-2004/avoiding-devastating-downward-spiral

https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/reading-disorder-or-developmental-lag/

https://www.readingrockets.org/article/waiting-rarely-works-late-bloomers-usually-just-wilt

Resources for Choosing an Intervention Program: 

https://rwc4reading.com/wp-content/presentations/Online%20Reading%20Program%20Evaluation%20Checklist.pdf

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