I Guess Not!
Part Three of a 12-part video series showing the flaws of common word reading strategies taught in schools– Moral: Do not teach struggling readers to guess or memorize!
Word Memorization – Auto the Otter Strategy:
Fluent reading and writing requires automatic reading and spelling of all common words. Many of the most common words in English are phonetically irregular (e.g., <to, too , two>), and that has led to the practice of teaching the most common words as sight words (i.e., words that must be read “on sight” –memorized as opposed to understood or analyzed). However, this is not a good strategy because the spelling of most all phonetically irregular words still makes a great deal of sense when you look at the word’s meaning elements.
We’re excited to share more in-depth news coverage over how Lexercise’s Structured Literacy (aka Orton-Gillingham) teletherapy is a turnkey solution for struggling readers and writers.
Even with over 60 million people in the US suffering from dyslexia, the learning disability still poses a serious challenge for schools and parents to address. Many families are confused about where to find adequate help for dyslexia testing and/or treatment. The idea of using online services may seem a bit foreign, as it is definitely an emerging technology, so we are thrilled to give you this up-close view of what Lexercise’s teletherapy model actually looks like.
We cheer on Decoding Dyslexia and the International Dyslexia Association who work to educate, raise awareness and advocate for those struggling with dyslexia and are fighting to change how literacy challenges are addressed at school. As we all work together to raise awareness, we hope this news coverage caught the eyes of some parents, educators and/or medical professionals to help them understand that there are resources that can help (no matter where they live).
If you are concerned your child is dyslexic, take the free dyslexia test now.
I Guess Not!
Part Two of a 12-part video series showing the flaws of common word reading strategies taught in schools– Moral: Do not teach struggling readers to guess!
Scanning Word – Eagle Eye Strategy:
When coming to a long word, children may not want to attempt to read a word if it looks too difficult. This strategy encourages children to look over the entire word. A teacher may put a red dot under the middle of the word, with the hope that a child will look all the way through the word, at each and every letter-sound. The problem with this strategy is that a child might scan a whole word and then guess, perhaps coming up with a visually similar word (e.g. “boarding” instead of “boring”). Scanning fails to provide a clear “series of maneuvers” so it is really a guessing strategy.
I Guess Not!
Part One of a 12-part video series showing the flaws of common word reading strategies taught in schools — Moral: Do not teach struggling readers to guess!
When we begin Structured Literacy therapy with a struggling reader we often find that the child is tripping on inefficient and ineffective word-reading strategies. The nature of dyslexia naturally pushes students towards a whole language approach to literacy. Weaknesses in phonological awareness, rapid naming, and/or working memory mean that learning to sound out words is hard. When these weaknesses are combined with a strength in listening comprehension, students may even appear to be typical readers for years! The problem is that these strategies are based on the mistaken premise that English spelling is largely irregular or “crazy” and therefore not useful. In truth, English spelling is largely sensible and most English words can be both read and spelled by sounding out.
This tendency towards these ineffective word strategies is exacerbated when students receive direct instruction on what these “word solving” strategies are and how to implement them. Attached to cute and catchy terms, this type of instruction sends the message that words are so unreliably structured that rote memorization or guessing are the best options. While this may be harmless for the many (~70%) children whose language processing skills have equipped them with an in-born sensitivity to word-structure, many (~30%) children are not as linguistically attuned and can not intuit enough to become fluent readers and competent spellers. Since these students prefer to use the less accurate but easier-for-them strategies to read, it is especially important that we not teach or reinforce those strategies, but point them to the actual, consistent structure of the English language.
So, what are these strategies? Over the next few weeks, we will highlight “strategies” taught in school that are ineffective for children with language-processing weaknesses (i.e. dyslexia) and how to teach the same concept using the Structured Literacy approach.
To start off this series on how NOT to teach reading, let’s first look at the “Chunking” Strategy.
Chunky Monkey Strategy
This strategy aims to teach children how to break down an unknown word into smaller parts (e.g. the <st> in <stop>) and familiar suffixes (e.g. the <-ed> in <stopped>). The problem with teaching chunking as a strategy is that, unless the child has first been taught what “chunks” to look for (i.e., word structure elements), it is a haphazard, guessing approach. Children who are not attuned to linguistic structure may struggle to notice sub-word parts and/or to know how to pronounce them.
Review of Lexercise
Here is WNCN News anchor Mike Gonzalez’s segment on how Lexercise is helping families with dyslexic children all over the world through online technology. He interviews Lauren Furman and her son’s therapist Tori Whaley.
If you are concerned your child is dyslexic, take the free dyslexia test now.
Lauren Furman, Speech Pathologist and mother of a dyslexic son, reviews Lexercise’s dyslexia program and shares the role it played in improving her son’s self-confidence and self-esteem.
These two concepts are ones that our 10 year-old has struggled with as a student since entering Kindergarten. As early on as age 5, his teachers didn’t understand why he had difficulty attending to his work, wasn’t making sound-syllable correlations and often gave up before he even started a learning task. We now know that he has both ADHD and mixed type dyslexia also classified as Specific Learning Disability- Reading. Being able to name his difficulties was important; however, the classifications alone did nothing to change his situation. We worked with the school system to create a 504 plan and then later in 3rd grade an IEP with written goals and classroom accommodations. Classroom accommodations such as extra time to complete work, reading tests aloud and reducing the number of problems he had to attempt were helpful but did nothing to remediate his delays. Daily resource services in reading was also helpful but again, did not seem to directly correlate to his specific learning needs and did not remediate his issues. He was constantly plagued by low grades and constant feelings of failure as a learner. Then we found Lexercise…
I am not only the parent of a child with special learning needs. I am also an educator of children of special needs. Like the creator of the Lexercise program, I am a Speech-Language Pathologist. After 20 years of experience working with children with special learning needs, I know the importance of not just providing remediation but rather providing the right remediation. Lexercise is the right remediation.
With Lexercise, for the first time, we were able to address our son’s specific reading needs and as a result his reading skills have greatly improved. Even more important to us though, his self-confidence and self-esteem have improved. Our son will be completing his final Lexercise session tomorrow. We are proud to say that after conducting quantitative, follow-up testing, he has made significant progress in ALL areas of reading. Our son no longer feels like a kid who “can’t”. He is so proud of all he has accomplished and now feels like a kid who CAN and DID! He DID improve his decoding, he DID improve his fluency, he DID improve his spelling, he DID improve his ability to sound out hard words rather than guessing. He DID it!
We can’t thank the very special people at Lexercise enough for what they have given to our son and our family. Tori, our therapist, has been an invaluable addition to our lives. She has a true passion for what she teaches as well as for working with children. She has made our online sessions fun and interesting rather than tedious and boring.
The Lexercise program itself is structured in a very meaningful way. By using a consistent and familiar format, the program provides comfort while learning new concepts. Weekly Parent Resource letters provide beneficial follow-up materials to utilize throughout the week and the computerized games provide a fun yet challenging way to practice and integrate learned skills into daily use. In all, it’s a very well rounded and comprehensive program.
Lexercise has been a gift to our son. I hope it can be for your child too…
If you suspect that your child may be experiencing reading and writing difficulties cause by dyslexia, I recommend you use this free dyslexia screener they’ve developed, then call the folks at Lexercise at 1-888-461-3343 to talk about additional assessment and treatment options.
The first few years of schooling can be a time of uncertainty for parents with struggling readers.
Most students don’t fall behind in reading because of their age or general development. Rather, they fall behind because they lack the pre-reading skills that they need to learn to read by conventional methods.
Lexercise provides dyslexia help by using a leading approach so your child can overcome reading, writing and spelling difficulties.
A modern approach to dyslexia help backed by research
The Orton-Gillingham approach is the gold-standard to help children overcome dyslexia, supported by almost 35 years of research. The approach teaches sounds and letters using three main sensory pathways: sight, sound and movement. We make learning an active process so the child is able to make reading and spelling more automatic.
Receiving this treatment once meant seeing a therapist at a clinic, but now, Lexercise is delivering Dyslexia help with video conferencing, bringing clinicians to your own home!
Your son or daughter will work with a qualified literacy expert every week in a video conference room, where your clinician delivers multi-sensory instructions that are engaging, fun and effective. Parents can sit in on the session as well, and learn methods to practice with your child during the week.
Treatment is delivered by a fully qualified expert that has a background in learning disabilities. This is NOT a tutoring service.
Individualized and life-changing dyslexia help
Investing in dyslexia help is life-changing and is only short term with our personalized and comprehensive approach.
Every child is unique so in the first session, your child will be tested and the therapy adjusted to their needs. Every time they progress to a new level, you will also receive new material to work with your son or daughter between sessions.
Get your child screened today using our free online dyslexia test and find out what help is available.
When I was in school, I hated handwriting practice. Being left handed, the way the teacher explained things never made sense. However, I persevered and over the years and, like so many of you reading this, developed my own, recognizable script. These days, I enjoy adding an artistic flair to my signature and notes I write to family and friends.
The only compromises and changes I’ve made to my penmanship as an adult, in fact, came as a result of my excellent training at the Neuhaus Center in Houston. During training in multi-sensory language instruction, we were encouraged to teach children specific pathways for letter formation. Learning and teaching these pathways altered the way I wrote as well as gave me a valuable tool for improving my students’ performance. While handwriting is often a struggle for students with dyslexia, by teaching them consistent pathways to letter formation, I saw great improvement in their abilities and confidence in both writing and reading.
Recent research supports my observation. A recently published New York Times piece summarizes this research nicely. Diverse research from different parts of the world comes to one conclusion: learning to write letters activates pathways in the brain, improving learning. Writing by hand is associated with learning to read faster and retaining information. In short, it simply helps us think better.
However, despite what research says about the importance of teaching handwriting, there are many who advocate for its elimination from the curriculum. The Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity recently published an article which seems to advocate for the elimination of such instruction for students with dyslexia. I was eager to see what research supported this recommendation, but the article provides no such evidence. While I certainly agree with their statement that “There is no reason that handwriting should keep any student from reaching her full potential,” it seems to me that it is not an “either/or” situation but rather a “both/and.” I personally began keyboard lessons as a fourth grade student on an Apple IIE computer, with additional practice conducted on mimeographed sheets at our desks. I also received excellent handwriting instruction in the previous grades that benefited me greatly. While all students (not just students with dyslexia!) need keyboard skills to maximize their access to 21st century technology, the benefits of handwriting instruction for spelling and reading skills and the necessity of a personal script for many tasks and activities reaffirm a place for research-backed handwriting instruction now and in the future.
Hollywood star, Jennifer Aniston, admits that being diagnosed with dyslexia in her 20s was life-changing.
In an interview with January’s Hollywood Reporter the 45 year old actress said the discovery was made while getting prescription glasses.
“I had to read a paragraph, and they gave me a quiz, gave me 10 questions based on what I’d just read,” Ms Aniston told the magazine.
“I think I got three right.”
Ms Aniston is one of 62 million people in the U.S. with dyslexia.
“I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, drama were explained.”
The actress who featured in the popular sitcom Friends and movies Just Go With It and Horrible Bosses, said that having difficulties reading and writing impacted her education and self-image.
According to the International Dyslexia Association, almost 80 percent of children who are categorized with learning disabilities in the United States fall somewhere on the dyslexia spectrum.
If you are concerned your child is dyslexic too take our free dyslexia test now.
The first few years of schooling can be a time of uncertainty for parents of struggling readers. Parents wonder: is my child truly on-track? Will he catch up? What is causing the trouble? Is the teacher right that my child just needs the “gift of time” and will outgrow dyslexia? Might repeating this grade be all my child needs to catch up?
I began my career as a teacher in 2003 and attended more than one meeting discussing promotion or retention of first graders where I heard, “Retention is our first intervention” and “We can’t tell yet whether it’s developmental or a learning disability.” Many children whose test scores indicated that they were not meeting grade level standards were retained because the school team was convinced they could catch up if we just gave them a little more time.
Research contradicts this still widely held belief. Whether they are retained or not, students who are not meeting grade level standards in first grade are highly unlikely to meet those standards in 4th grade or beyond.
Cause and effect of poor reading skills
Most students don’t fall behind in reading because of their age or general developmental trajectory. Rather, they fall behind because they are lacking the pre-reading skills that they need to learn to read by conventional methods. Over the preschool years, most children demonstrate a remarkable ability to remember the structure and meaning of spoken words. Parents and teachers notice this when children correctly use a word that they have heard only once or twice. Children may also produce or point out words that rhyme or that start with the same sound. By kindergarten, most children can break spoken words into syllables (for instance, by “clapping the word out”) and break apart a three sound word into its first, last and middle sounds (such as representing “nap” as “n…a…p”) . This awareness of sounds within words (often called phonemic awareness) is a strong predictor of later reading and writing skills. Poor phonemic awareness is a symptom of dyslexia.
As they enter the first year of formal schooling children with poor phonemic awareness typically struggle to relate speech sounds to letters. They may resist reading and writing practice. By the time summer rolls around, they are not only behind in phonemic awareness but also in reading, spelling and writing skills.
At this point, there are really two options offered by the school system for grade placement.
- Grade Retention - Repeating a grade is the very definition of insanity: trying the same thing over and over expecting a different result.
- Grade Promotion - Promoting students to a grade for which they are unprepared will likely lead to them falling even further behind.
Over time, these kids read fewer words and fewer books than their peers. Since by 4th grade most new words are learned through reading, their vocabulary suffers. Since word-learning is limited to what they can pick up by listening their performance in content courses suffers. They enter middle and high school behind their peers not just in reading and writing but academic achievement in core subjects. The research shows that very few of these kids ever catch up.
There is a better way. Students at risk for reading disability can be identified at a very young age. These students can then receive the early, research-backed, structured literacy intervention they need to become successful readers and writers.
Research has told us a lot about what works for students who are struggling readers. There are a few things you should look for in a reading intervention for your child. The intervention should:
- Focus on learning to sound out words. The student should learn to identify letters and the sounds they represent, as well as other predictable word parts, such as prefixes, suffixes, and base elements.
- Discourage guessing at words and encourage understanding and explaining them. Even words that are not phonetically regular have sub-word structures that are rational and can be understood by young children.
- Integrate reading, spelling and writing instruction. At the same time the student learns to analyze words (sound out and/or explain) for reading, they should learn to do the same for spelling.
- Move at the student’s pace, not the pace of the curriculum or school year. Ideas should be taught until the child grasps the concept, not only until the class has to move on.
- Give the student immediate feedback and an opportunity to fix mistakes. This requires a very small group or one to one instruction so that the teacher can catch the student’s errors and support a positive, can-do mindset for error correction.
Unfortunately, schools struggle to meet the needs of these students for various reasons. In addition to the reasons detailed in this article, too many schools still believe that, despite what research indicates, students will catch up if we just give them the “gift of time.” If like most parents we know, you prefer your child get the gift of reading, contact us to begin a customized reading therapy plan for your child.
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