Thursday, August 12, 2021

Sound Walls

Many teachers are interested in using Sound Walls instead of Word Walls. The more traditional word wall is organized alphabetically using all 26 letters of the alphabet. We place “sight words” or “high-frequency words” under each letter based on the first letter of each word. Working with word walls is print to speech. We find the print/letter first and then we match the sound. Our language develops from speech to print. We hear speech sounds before we learn to match the sounds to a particular letter or letter pattern. So, in the early grades, a Sound Wall makes more sense. 
Everything you need to explore the idea of Sound Walls is located in this blog post. The post shares the work of Mary Ellis Dahlgren, Ed.D., president of Tools 4 Reading. She is an experienced educator with more than 25 years in the field of education having served as a dyslexia therapist, elementary classroom teacher, international literacy consultant, and author. You can order her resources at Tools 4 Reading

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Decodable Texts

More and more of us are in search of decodable texts. Decodable texts are carefully sequenced to progressively incorporate words that are consistent with the letter-sound relationships that we have taught. For example, if you have taught closed syllables, you will want your student to practice using a decodable text. We might use the Primary Phonics book, Mac and Tab, or Ben Bug. The first set reviews short vowel sounds, using phonetic skills to read decodable/connected text, and sight words. Allowing the child to practice what you have taught will build confidence and help you assess progress. These texts are used in a small group or one-on-one instruction. You will have to determine how many books that you will need for a group. (I do not use the workbooks and other materials that are sold.) The decodable texts can be matched to your curriculum's scope and sequence. A good decodable text will list what the child will need to know in order to read it. Many programs offer digital books but you will want physical copies that do not have to be printed as well. 
Decodable readers have been around for a long time! As an Orton Gillingham tutor, I used these during each lesson. The  Primary Phonics books are one of my favorites! Another series that I own are the S.P.I.R.E. text sets. There are many choices! Here are a few more that are recommended:

Phonics Books- High-interest readers designed to build confidence with great illustrations.

Alphabet Series Readers ­­-They include elements of both fiction and nonfiction and are appealing stories for grades K-3. 

Flyleaf Publishing-High quality texts that kids love! 

High Noon Books—Sound Out Chapter Books

Saddleback Books-Offerings for older readers!

Don't forget about decodable poems and passages! These are quick and easy to print for your lesson and send home. Be sure to determine if the poem or passage is right for the student! This can be tricky. You might have to teach a few words before they read. You can find more passages to purchase from The Literacy Nest. Emily is a trusted resource for OG teachers. 

I hope this helps you to find the right decodable texts for your children!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Our Craft and Netflix

I have been watching Chef's Table on Netflix. It is about culinary stars that are redefining food. Some of the most renowned chefs in the world share their deeply personal stories and unique styles. They are all extremely passionate about their craft. It is exciting to watch as they work with their team and create wonderful dishes.
I have compared their passion to my own. I am passionate about literacy and want my teachers and coaches to create wonderful learning experiences for children. Here are a few reflections that have been simmering as I watch this series.
These chefs have developed a belief system about food and how it should be prepared. They are passionate about their beliefs. It has become a way of life. They continue to grow and may make changes but they do not go with every new trend or whim. This belief system gives them confidence and they excel in their craft.
They surround themselves with excellent staff. They work together in an open environment where ideas can be shared and nurtured. Nothing is hidden in the kitchen. They work together to create something special. In the end, they are all responsible for the evening's outcome.
They train inexperienced chefs. Newbies have to start somewhere! One chef only works with newbies and as soon as they are experienced, he sends them off into the world. He likes the energy of working with young people who do not have as many restraints. They are eager and open to learning.
The world respects and admires them. They have been elevated within their craft and rewarded for their hard work. People come from all over the world to see them and experience their talent. Some allow you to sit in the kitchen and watch the process of preparing the meals. These are coveted spots!
They want to leave a mark. It may be sustainable farming or authentic cultural experiences but whatever the passion, they want to share their best work. They are world changers.
Take some time to think about these ideas and compare them to your own experience. What do you believe? Do you work openly with others who are as passionate as you? Do you share your talents with others? Do you help new teachers grow? Are you adventurous and willing to learn? Are you leaving a mark? Are you proud of your craft and promote it?
Food for thought!!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Dyslexia is Real!

I don't normally post on subjects that involve my children or things of a personal nature. This time is different. I think it is important to share our journey and to support others that might be going through the same thing. I learned a lot as a parent and as an educator. Today is my son's birthday. With his permission, I share our story!
When my son was in kindergarten, I realized that he was not learning at the same rate as his peers. With a late birthday, I decided that he would repeat kindergarten. After a few months, his teacher met me after school and told me that he was still struggling. He needed more help than she could provide. He was easily distracted, upset that he couldn't do what the other students were doing, tired easily due to the challenges of school, and could not master basic kindergarten skills. School was so difficult for him that evenings were challenging at home. He decided in kindergarten that he did not like school and did not want to go.
I had him tested by a private psychologist. She found that he had a very high IQ and low achievement. She assumed that I was doing everything for him. I look back at that report and realize that she did not fully understand the issues that my child was experiencing. She did not have a background in reading or education. Her attitude added to the "mother guilt" I was already experiencing. The results of her report indicated that my child needed intensive remediation in basic skills. I took this report to the local school district and the only option they offered was a self-contained classroom for children with severe learning disabilities. I visited this classroom and quickly decided that this was not the right option for my child. I researched for many months and found the term "dyslexia". It seemed to describe my child and what we were experiencing. I went to seminars and read books on dyslexia. When I discussed my findings with the school staff, they were not familiar with dyslexia and had nothing to offer my child. Fortunately, there was a tutor nearby that offered the kind of support that my son needed. He went to this tutor every day during the school months for three years. His reading improved and while he never liked school, he was able to graduate. I used a 504 to support him with needed accommodations. Our experience in college was actually very positive. It took him an extra year, but he graduated and has a great job!
All of this happened 25 years ago! Back then, we did not understand dyslexia or how to help these children learn to read. I was trained to use a multisensory approach to reading and worked with a student while my son was being tutored. Over the years, I have helped many children learn to read using this approach. As a parent and an educator, I know that dyslexia is real. I know that some students need a multisensory approach to reading that involves sequential phonics. I know that one-sized reading instruction does not fit all.
Some things have changed in the last 25 years. We know much more about dyslexia. There are many resources online for parents and teachers.  However, there is still much debate on how to teach reading to students with dyslexia. There is much debate on how many children are affected and how dyslexia is determined. We need more professional learning for educators to help them understand what dyslexia is and how to help these struggling readers. We also need to understand foundational reading and how that impacts learning at a very early age.
I have a wide background in education. I taught second and third grade in general education. I have been a K-12 resource teacher and special education coordinator. I understand balanced literacy and the benefits that it provides to our students. I support reading and writing workshops. I also support multisensory instruction for those students that need it. There are no" reading wars" in my world. We provide each student with what they need. Period.
I do want to point out that my son did not become a "reader" until he found a series that interested him. He needed the decoding help that the multisensory instruction provided. But, he had to find a series that created in him a desire to read. He was in the ninth grade. He explains that here! 
I have developed a course to support educators in understanding dyslexia. Teachers are taking this course and are passionate about helping students. States are discussing dyslexia like never before. We want to identify these students early and provide the needed interventions. I hope the next 25 years are brighter for children like my son. With early intervention targeted to their needs, they can progress and develop a love for reading. I encourage you to learn more about dyslexia and how we can help to make all children readers.