A Season of Gratitude

Here at Lexercise, we make a special effort to express gratitude. It takes just a moment to say Thank you, but the benefits can be long-lasting. As we move toward Thanksgiving, we want to extend our special thanks to the students, families, teachers, and Lexercise therapists and staff who have gone above and beyond in this year of less-than-ideal conditions.

For public school struggling readers who qualify, an Individualized Education Program (IEP) is supposed to define the specialized instruction and services they need to thrive academically. Unfortunately, many struggling readers don’t qualify or are never identified and never get the help that could be life-changing. Recent research indicates that even for those who are identified, it takes more than a year, on average, for a student just to be provided with an IEP so they can begin to get services. Schools may be under-resourced, and teachers and even school psychologists unprepared to provide the full evaluation necessary to confirm a diagnosis. 

As parents see their children falling behind their peers and contending with issues of anxiety, anger, frustration, and low self-esteem, they search desperately for answers. Happily—for parents and students—that search often leads them to Lexercise. Whether or not their child has an IEP, others find their way to Lexercise through referrals from psychologists, pediatricians, teachers, reading interventionists, and other consultants. 

We know, and any Lexercise family will tell you, that success requires commitment on the part of the student, the parent, and the therapist. It requires time and patience. It means showing up again and again, even when you’re not certain of the outcome.

So THANK YOU: to all those who refer struggling readers to Lexercise, to the students who commit themselves to daily practice, to the parents who encourage and support them, to more than a hundred qualified Lexercise dyslexia therapists who help parents and under-resourced schools identify and treat their struggling readers, and to the small but mighty Lexercise staff, who continue to support the Lexercise vision and our science-backed methods.

We are not alone in our gratitude. Read (and watch) some of the heartwarming stories we have received from Lexercise families

We are grateful to each and every one of you and look forward to continuing our work together.

Homeschooling’s Surge and Lessons Learned

Homeschooling’s Surge and Lessons Learned

As we move into another school year, parents everywhere are scrambling for resources and examining the “lessons” of last year’s experience. Whether the local school district implemented virtual learning or parents elected to homeschool their children, 2020 pushed families into new educational territory.

Given increased concerns for health and safety, homeschooling is surging. The U.S. Census Bureau has reported that while homeschooling rates had remained steady at about 3.3 percent for nearly a decade, they showed a sharp increase during the pandemic, from 5.4 percent of households in spring 2020 to more than 11 percent by October 2020 and about 19.5 percent in May 2021.

Prior to the pandemic, parents cited bullying and other forms of aggression as well as discontent with the curriculum as their primary reasons for homeschooling. Many parents who recognize their children’s learning challenges, including dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities, have witnessed the value of the one-on-one learning environment that homeschooling offers. (In a July NPR segment, one parent expressed concern that mandated classroom masks might pose a greater difficulty for her speech-delayed child.)

Of course, homeschooling is a significant commitment that must consider the standard curriculum, teaching materials and how to acquire them, and the particular learning abilities of each child. According to School Library Journal, personalization has become a key element, with parents tailoring both subject matter and teaching techniques to meet the individual educational and cultural needs of their children.

Homeschooling has also boosted the importance of libraries and social media. Parents “gather” in like-minded online groups to share resources and increasingly turn to libraries and librarians before purchasing new materials.

Whether families will choose to continue homeschooling remains to be seen. School Library Journal suggests that pandemic restrictions and economic resources will certainly influence that decision, but the success of a family’s recent homeschooling experience may be just as important.

When it comes to success, Lexercise online reading and writing therapy offers consistent, measurable language improvements to students with dyslexia and other learning differences. In fact, we guarantee it.

 

During this unusual time, we are particularly excited to extend our curriculum to meet the needs of families with Pre-K students. Our research-based, one-on-one, individualized approach includes on- and offline practice, and generous guidance for parents as they support their child’s successful, early start with literacy.

Lexercise provides young students with the foundational skills they need to move easily into the classroom—wherever that classroom may be.

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Can Letter Formation Promote Literacy?

Letter Formation and Dyslexia

January 23 is National Handwriting Day, established in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association to encourage people to buy pens and pencils. Today, it seems, our writing involves more key-clicks than ink and graphite, but, as research is discovering, letter formation by hand is a critical step in letter and word identification as well as spelling proficiency, especially among struggling readers and writers.

It’s so critical, in fact, that Lexercise has just released a new online practice game: Letter Formation.

Though we don’t fully understand why, children with dyslexia tend to have less efficient motor control over letter-writing. They may take more time to write letters even as the resulting letters are less legible.

Letter Formation and Literacy

Handwriting is deeply entwined in the brain’s literacy network. Children who have difficulty with handwriting often have problems with spelling and language fluency. In addition, children with dyslexia may struggle with mirror invariance for letter images. Mirror invariance is a normal and helpful feature of the mammalian brain. It refers to the ability to recognize a mirror image as the same object. A chair is recognized as a chair no matter which way it is turned. A person’s face can be recognized from multiple vantage points. But, to master literacy, a student must overcome mirror invariance for alphanumeric symbols. Letters are special. A -b- is not the same as a -d- and a -p- is not a -q-.

Neuroscience has shown that overcoming mirror invariance for letters is facilitated by Letter Formation and Dyslexiaattending to the hand’s movement pathway when forming letters. Each lowercase letter has a distinctive movement pathway – where it begins, how it moves and where it ends (entry, movement, exit).  To achieve fluency, this pathway is followed every time the letter is written and practiced over and over until it can be done with unconscious ease. Students who are taught to form letters using a targeted, structured, movement-based handwriting approach recognize letters more quickly, decode and spell words more accurately and fluently, and formulate written language more easily. 

Unfortunately, in the U.S., a structured approach to handwriting is not supported in public education and the Common Core State Standards curriculum has no specific guidance about how to teach this vital skill. While research supports teaching transcription (letter and word writing using a writing tool), teachers are rarely trained for the task.

Letter Formation Practice Helps Students Overcome Difficulties

The good news is that a targeted structured approach to letter formation can help students to overcome difficulties related to mirror invariance and letter identity and become more fluent writers, spellers, and readers.

The Lexercise Letter Formation game teaches students each letter’s distinctive movement pathway. The goal is legible, fluent, and automatic handwriting that promotes comprehension and memory and does not disrupt written expression. The multisensory (kinetic) focus can help dyslexic children anchor in memory otherwise confusable letters. For example, -d- and -b- have opposite movement pathways, so when learned as movement pathways they are not at all confusable! 

We invite you to try Letter Formation and the other Lexercise practice games and of course we are happy to answer your questions about online reading, writing, and spelling therapy for dyslexia and other language processing differences.

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The Best Dyslexia Games Online With Our Lead Artist, Iszzy

example of one of Lexercise's dyslexia games

Try Our Fun Online Dyslexia Games Here!

Thanks to the proliferation of games, films, phones, and other digital media, today’s school-age children are already visually sophisticated. They expect their online experience will come loaded with plenty of colors, sound, and motion, and might find it laughable that, just a few decades ago, a simple line of green text on a black screen could dazzle anyone.

Students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities are no exception. In fact, compelling visual elements may help to keep them interested when learning involves many repetitions. At Lexercise, we recognize the importance of graphics and build our educational dyslexia games online for children into an exciting visual framework.

The technological bells and whistles are designed to serve the purpose of the Lexercise games: to reinforce structured literacy concepts and make reading and spelling automatic and effortless. Each game’s artwork is a labor of attention and love. In fact, it is the dedicated attention of Lexercise Lead Artist Isabel Hennes that puts the visual pizzazz into our games.

So, meet Iszzy.

illustration created by Iszzy

A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, Iszzy studied Art and Design at North Carolina State University, where she was introduced to serious games in a studio class during her junior year. She could immediately see herself pursuing a career in educational gaming.

Describing her relationship with education as “complicated,” Iszzy’s school experience will sound familiar to the families of children with learning difficulties. “From kindergarten through grade school I found myself faced with challenges that felt above my level of capability and skill,” she says. “The lack of confidence in my academic ability stemmed from years of misguided teaching and inflexible education systems; as a result, I found myself struggling to keep up with the heavily standardized, test-based curriculum. Fortunately, what I lacked in book smarts, I made up for in creative aptitude and a proclivity for hard work.”

Designing Computer Games for Dyslexia

Recruited to work on a National Science Foundation-funded project in game-based learning, Iszzy was inspired to pursue a graduate degree. For two years she worked with a team to develop a serious learning game that sought to improve fifth-graders’ reading comprehension of scientific text using metacognitive scaffolding. At the same time, she worked on her own project that focused on how anxiety-coping mechanisms could be integrated into a serious game. 

“It brought me a tremendous amount of peace to know that people were finally recognizing that not all children learn at the same pace or in the same way, and were finding creative solutions to such ubiquitous problems. Fortunately, the accessibility of technology today means that no student should be subjected to a teaching style that does not suit his or her personal needs.”

Lexercise was a great fit and Iszzy worked as part of the development team of our online games for dyslexia for quite a while before she became a full-time Lead Artist. While she has a fundamental understanding of the technical aspects of game-building, Iszzy says, “I have always considered myself first and foremost an illustrator, so I try to draw as much as I can whether it is on the computer or on a piece of paper.”

Iszzy learned about dyslexia by redesigning the Lexercise instructional materials, and reviewing them, again and again, to make sure she understood the concepts well enough to illustrate them.

Lexercise game design, she explains, “is 100% a team effort.” Practice is a fundamental step in the Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum©, so the student dyslexia games have to accurately and efficiently target concepts. Everyone contributes their expertise to the plan that will eventually become a game.

 

Making Online Games For Dyslexia Fun!

Once a specific learning concept is targeted for a game, “we try to come up with a metaphor that not only applies to the concept but also comfortably fits into the world we’ve created – the Lexercise games platform. The game concept not only needs to fit all of the educational criteria but also must be engaging and motivating for the user. This step usually involves us scribbling all over a whiteboard and pieces of paper until we are satisfied with an idea.”

Inspiration for lively and relatable images can come from anywhere – “science fiction movies, games, television shows” and even the roof garden of the Lexercise communication tower!

Iszzy is quick to credit Lexercise Chief Technology Officer, Rob Morris, with “the majority of the heavy lifting,” saying he is “an incredible developer who makes the entire process such a pleasure.”

Before a game is released for use by students and therapists, there is a lot of testing and last-minute tweaks. “My favorite Lexercise game has to be Spell In The Blank,” Iszzy says. “I think it is incredibly satisfying.” 

Plus, she adds, “We do have another game coming in the future, so be on the lookout!”

Thanks, Iszzy! Try out some Lexercise dyslexia games online now or contact us for more information on reading, writing, and spelling instruction for children with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.

Does Online Learning Have to be Boring?

Is your student complaining or exhibiting symptoms of boredom with virtual classes? Fidgeting, wandering attention, trouble-making, unexplained sleepiness and mood changes can all be indicators of boredom with online schoolwork.

Thousands of teachers have found themselves in the deep end of the virtual-classroom pool and are learning by trial and error how to teach in this new environment. Many students complain of being bored. Students with dyslexia and other language-learning challenges or learning disabilities may be even more prone to boredom and stress if their online classes don’t measure up.

Over the last 12 years, thousands of students with dyslexia have used Lexercise’s virtual education platform with a therapist, a parent or a teacher to improve their reading, spelling and writing skills. We are continuing to follow the research as it evolves, fueled by input from enormous numbers of teachers, students and parents. Here are some observations and suggestions from recent peer-reviewed journals:

Dr. Erin C. Westgate finds boredom interesting. In a recent article in Education Week, she suggests: 

  • “Dial in on difficulty.” Classroom activities may be either too easy or too hard for the student. Individualized assignments and scaffolding (breaking lessons into smaller segments for a progression of learning) may help.  
  • “Make it meaningful.” Again, the more individualized the material, the better. If students can connect the lesson with work they’ve already done or something they have expressed interest in, they will be more engaged in the new material.
  • “Gamify lessons.” Fun is good. Challenges are good. A student will grow bored with something they’ve seen over and over. 

Importantly, Dr. Westgate also reminds us that “we all have trouble paying attention when we’re hungry, tired, or preoccupied with pressing matters,” so building in breaks is very important. 

Lexercise online therapy for students with learning differences integrates multiple solutions to the challenges noted by Dr. Westgate. Our lessons and games continually measure the performance of the dyslexic student so that each subsequent lesson offers just the right amount of challenge, immediately addresses any language processing issues the student may be having, and offers rewards for achievement along the way. The feedback system built into Lexercise therapy supplements the personal feedback from the participating therapist or parent.

In an article in Psychological Review, Erin Westgate and Timothy D. Wilson ask, “What is boredom?” and examine a new model of engagement: Meaning and Attentional Components (MAC). According to their research, boredom demonstrates missing components in attention and meaning. In other words:

1) what is being demanded of the student is not a good match with the student’s ability

2) the material or activity does match the student’s goals. Both under-stimulation and overstimulation can interfere with attention. As we have mentioned in many previous posts, children with dyslexia are typically very bright, but because of their language-processing differences, they may find the standard-education model for their grade level excessively difficult or boringly easy! Appropriate learning accommodations are essential to the dyslexic student’s progress.

In an article in Medical Hypotheses, linguist Dr. Elena Kkese examines the McGurk effect (put simply, poor integration of visual and auditory elements of speech) in the online classroom situation. Focusing on the particular needs of students with learning disabilities such as dyslexia, Kkese suggests that the virtual classroom “may provide a more suitable alternative” because it eliminates the noise and distractions of the classroom and allows the student to focus closely “on the lecturer’s face and voice.” In addition, the student can “learn more effectively since they could review sessions repeatedly.”  

Using the most current research, Lexercise has built an online learning platform that combats boredom. One of the primary ways that we engage dyslexic students and hold their attention is with reward-rich games and highly individualized sessions.

Learn how Lexercise can help your student today!

Making a Case for Practice

Perhaps you’ve had this experience: you decide to learn a new skill. Let’s use bread-baking as an example, but it could easily be a foreign language, golf, piano, etc. You sign up for a class and after the first session you can practically smell the loaves of fresh bread coming out of the oven. But then you discover some of your loaves are hard as rocks; others are still raw in the middle; yet others taste like salt. Yuck. It’s then you realize what’s missing: practice. And sure enough, as you practice you become more comfortable and fluent in the language of bread.

We know that practice is absolutely essential for developing skills of all sorts, yet we may forget this principle when it comes to learning to read. We think if a child just shows up in the classroom, they will learn the necessary skills “automatically.” Indeed, that may be true for some children, but for those who struggle with reading, consistent, structured practice is essential to produce the “muscle memory” of language fluency.

For decades, research has provided strong evidence for the benefits of structured literacy.

Explicit, systematic, and diagnostic, structured literacy includes all the components needed for struggling readers with decoding and spelling difficulties: phonology, phonics, syllables, word parts, vocabulary, and sentences.

But wait. This list is missing an essential piece: practice. Struggling readers need structured practice to improve outcomes and make skills automatic. In fact, struggling readers may need 10 times more practice than typical readers; what a typical reader may achieve in two practice opportunities is likely to take a struggling reader 20 practice opportunities.

Neuroscientist Stan Dahaene (2020) lists daily rehearsal as one of his 4 Pillars of Learning, along with focused attention, active engagement, and error feedback. But this is not new science. This principle of frequent practice has been established for more than a century. In 1880, Hermann Ebbinghaus pioneered landmark research in the field of retention and learning, measuring how much we forget over time. He discovered that without any reinforcement or connections to prior knowledge, information is quickly forgotten – roughly 66 percent after just one day!

So if we accept that frequent practice is essential to reading success, how do we achieve it? Compliance is certainly a challenge. Almost every struggling reader can – at least initially – think of many things they’d rather be doing than practicing their literacy skills!

Here are some ways to encourage daily practice:

  • Keep it focused and brief
  • Make it engaging
  • Report practice compliance to the parent and teacher 
  • Provide error reports to parents and teachers for focused coaching and progress monitoring 
  • Incentivize practice compliance
  • Incentivize correct responses
  • Provide special privileges, prizes, certificates, and awards

At Lexercise, we have found that drawing in the student with engaging graphics, offering meaningful feedback, and tracking progress add up to eager participants. For example, have a look at one of our practice games, Pickatron.

Designed to provide daily practice with concepts taught in regular lessons, these review and  practice games integrate Dehaene’s 4 Pillars of Learning. We stress to parents and teachers the importance of completing the 15 minutes a day of practice at least four days a week. Students who practice four or more days a week get two-and-a-half times more practice opportunities than students who practice one or two days a week; the two additional days of practice each week improved spelling accuracy an average of 6%. This could mean covering the curriculum twice as fast since students with 80% accuracy would likely be moved to the next lesson rather than repeating the same lesson the following week.

Practice makes a lot of sense, whatever the skill. We’d be happy to talk with you about your child’s learning needs and practice habits. We can almost smell the fresh bread!

———

Dehaene, S. (2020). How We Learn: Why Brains Learn Better Than Any Machine…for Now. Viking.

Closing the Gap

parent and child looking at the computer

With schools continuing in lockdown and students turning to online learning, we have been hearing something surprising from some of our Lexercise therapists. They have been noticing that there is a group of Lexercise students whose reading skills have actually improved faster since school has been canceled. At first glance, this seems crazy, but after a bit of analysis, we think it makes perfect sense.  

These surprising results remind us of the work journalist Natalie Wexler has been doing. (In fact, we’re such big fans of Natalie Wexler that we recently named our practicum scholarship The Natalie Wexler Scholarship in her honor.)

In her recent article in Forbes, “Achievement Gaps Increase The Longer Kids Stay In School,” Wexler discusses the learning gap that has become known as the “summer slide.” Briefly, this phenomenon attempts to explain how students lose ground when they’re out of school over the summer. As a result, some school districts are suggesting extended school days and/or year-round school – and this was before COVID-19 closures!

Wexler argues that the studies around summer slide are old and don’t necessarily apply or offer a valuable solution to anticipated losses due to our current school closures.

 

How You Can Help Your Child

Perhaps schools should be taking a page from the Lexercise approach. When we look at the Lexercise students who are sprinting ahead during their homeschooling, what they have in common is this: Each student has an involved adult (a parent, tutor, therapist, or teacher) who does two vital things:

  1. Makes sure they do their 15 minutes of structured literacy practice at least four days a week
  2. Connects with them – even very briefly – to comment on their practice results and provide some – even very brief – focused coaching and support

This involvement seems like a remarkably simple intervention – one that doesn’t require specialized knowledge or training but demonstrates a shared interest and shared investment in the student’s achievement.

 

See how our structured literacy approach can help your child with reading, writing, or spelling. We offer parent resources to help you connect with your child and turn your challenged reader into a reader for life. Schedule a free consultation with one of our highly-trained therapists here.

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 3: Lindsey Blackburn

hands typing on laptop

In this three-part article, we have been sharing the reflections of Lexercise teletherapists about how online structured literacy intervention and online learning work.  Two weeks ago,  Leahann McLaughlin shared her experience, and last week  Josie Moretti gave her perspectives.  In this final segment, Lindsey Blackburn reflects on her journey into working with students online.

Working online is engaging, not isolating.

Lexercise teletherapist Lindsey Blackburn worked for years in the New England public schools as a certified special education teacher and learning disabilities specialist. Aspicture of Lindsey Blackburn, Lexercise Therapist a resource teacher, she says, “I had very bright students in the 7th and 8th grade who did not know how to read.” Realizing that her training had not prepared her to teach these students how to read, she went in search of more training. With the guidance of “the most incredible mentors,” she immersed herself in learning the Orton-Gillingham method and was soon seeing the benefits. “I saw the growth, so quickly,” she says. “I worked with a 3rd-grade nonreader and after two months of structured literacy training he had caught up. It was really exciting.”

As a Lexercise teletherapist, Lindsey works online with students and their families all over the world. “Sometimes people are nervous because working online is new, and that’s normal,” she explains, “but technology today is very intuitive and it’s incredibly easy. If you know how to access your email or click on a link, you will have no problem joining an online learning platform. Any problems can be resolved within minutes, and of course, I’m there to help. It gets easier every time.”

The benefits of working online are huge, Lindsey says. In the classroom, “some students get very anxious when they’re asked to read. When they’re in a private and comfortable setting in their own home – and not distracted by their activities and classmates and devices – they can really focus on their work.” An unanticipated benefit for everyone, including the therapist, is the ability to partner with the child’s parent. “The parent is the first and most important teacher, but in a brick-and-mortar clinic setting, the parents are not in the room. Working together online empowers the whole family and expedites growth and progress for students.” Plus, Lindsey notes, since dyslexia often runs in families, many parents admit that working alongside their child, they’re learning English language concepts they never learned in school!

It’s not unusual for parents to be concerned about whether their child will have rapport with the online therapist. Lindsey answers with an enthusiastic “Yes! Working together online is very interactive and authentic. Working online is engaging, not isolating.

 Leahann, Josie, and Lindsey have compiled some questions that they suggest parents might want to ask of a therapist before they enroll their child in online services.

  • My child has reading problems but no diagnosis. What should I do?
  • What are your qualifications? What is your accreditation? (Look for the International Dyslexia Association, IDA, insignia on the provider’s website.)
  • What practicum have you completed? (Qualified therapists complete hundreds of hours of supervised practice.)
  • What is structured literacy?
  • What type of students, which learning deficits, does your program help?
  • What is your approach? Is your method based on scientific evidence? Can you explain your program’s scope and sequence?
  • What is the frequency of sessions and structured practice?
  • Why should we begin online therapy now rather than waiting to see what accommodations my child’s school will provide?
  • What will be expected of me as a parent and what can I do on my end to maximize my child’s success with the program?
  • Do all children get the same therapy? How do you decide what my child needs?
  • What’s the difference between what you do and what a local tutor can do?
  • How much improvement can I expect if my child completes the work?

If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

For more information on Lexercise’s online therapy, click here.

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 2: Josie Moretti

online therapy at home

Last week we shared the reflections of Lexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlin.  This week, Lexercise teletherapist, Josie Moretti shares her thoughts about online structured literacy intervention.

This is high level therapy.”

Lexercise teletherapist Josie Moretti was a guardian ad litem for six years. In that role, she encountered a number of “bright, smart children” who were being held back in school because they could not read. Some of them had a dyslexia diagnosis, and Josie knew she had to learn more.

picture of Lexercise Therapy, Josie MorettiJosie observed: “Before the printing press came along, a person’s physical actions would have been more valued.  In our culture, reading and writing are prized. But we know now that the dyslexic brain doesn’t work the same way as the non-dyslexic brain – and our school system is designed for the non-dyslexic. Roughly one in five children have some form of learning difference.”

Josie earned the Structured Literacy Dyslexia Interventionist certification from the International Dyslexia Association/CERI and completed Special Education Advocacy Training through the Council for Parent, Advocates and Attorneys. 

She admits that, at first, she was a little concerned about working online. “I had always worked face-to-face in people’s homes,” Josie says, “so I was skeptical. But it is extremely easy. Click, and boom it’s there, the same link each time. We do a tech check before the first session. It’s so easy. Lexercise is the real deal. This is high level therapy.

The advantages of working online are enormous, Josie agrees. “Focus issues (ADHD, etc.) may come along with language processing disabilities such as dyslexia. The online platform is so interactive that I can see if the child is having some difficulty and I can switch in an instant to something that’s more appropriate for the child so they get all the advantages of the learning platform.”

“I also love the team approach – the parent learning alongside the child, so the parent can work with and support the child outside of therapy hours. With ‘old school’ therapy, the parent is doing something else. With Lexercise, the parent is a vital part of the team. Plus, of course, with traditional therapy, I have a session with the child, I leave, and nothing happens until I return. With the repeated exposure offered by the practice sessions, you can see the child’s progress.”

“Also, I have more resources online,” Josie adds. “I can’t bring everything with me when I see a child in person. But online everything is here at my fingertips.”

Many families are today experiencing the world of online learning for the first time. If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

Bringing the Classroom Home, Part 1: Leahann McLaughlin

image of classroom

As you probably know, Lexercise believes in online learning!  For more than a decade, Lexercise has continually refined our online structured literacy teaching platform.  Now, with schools and workplaces closed down for the coronavirus, and people being encouraged (or required) to work, teach, and learn online we are hearing from more and more parents, teachers and therapists who want to know how online learning works.  

Over the next three weeks, we’ll share some reflections on online learning from three Lexercise teletherapists:  Leahann McLaughlin, Lindsey Blackburn and Josie Moretti.  We’ll start with Leahann’s reflection. 

Reading is a hallmark of every other academic expectation of these kids. 

picture of Lexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlinLexercise teletherapist Leahann McLaughlin previously worked as an elementary school teacher and interventionist in the traditional classroom setting. A passionate lifelong reader, she loved teaching reading. As an interventionist, working with small groups of students with different deficits, she found that the piecemeal curriculum made it “hard to get the desired outcomes” for her students. The work was not one-on-one and there simply were not enough repetitions to help the students learn. As she was trying to learn more, she “happened to meet someone in school who was a Lexercise therapist. I saw her working with a student, doing structured Orton-Gillingham activities.” Leahann was amazed. “Even in my Master’s program I hadn’t learned anything about this.” More research and training followed. “It was exactly what I was looking for.”

 

Can Anyone Succeed with Online Learning?

Leahann agrees that online learning is “extremely user friendly. There’s a learning curve,” she says, “but it’s not especially steep. Plus, the more you do it, the easier it is.” It’s particularly easy for the students: “They know instinctively what to click on, where to find things. They take to it naturally.”

The advantages of working online are significant as well. “I find that student outcomes are better than what I experienced traditionally in school. Kids have ongoing practice every day. Without this frequent practice, they don’t retain what they’ve learned. The structure and design of this program with repetition and reinforcement really lends itself to positive student outcomes.” Leahann also sees the benefit of parental involvement. “Parents are very supportive, very serious, and committed to the program. I didn’t see that in the schools. Many parents had not realized how misunderstood their child was until they saw a new way of responding to their child’s needs.”

 

Kids and Online Learning

“I feel like students are more engaged,” Leahann says. “Kids gravitate to the technology. Students think it’s a neat setting. They like that there is actually somebody on the other side of that screen that they look at all the time. I find there’s a lot less resistance in this sort of setting than in-office therapy. Because we can see each other and are talking in real time, it’s possible to gauge responses and read emotional feedback.”

“Many students have historically not been successful in the classroom and have damaged self-esteem. But in the safe online environment, they learn that getting it wrong is part of the learning process. This setting overshadows their previous experience so they can get past their fear and negative associations with literacy.”

“It’s very exciting when a child starts enjoying reading instead of avoiding it. I’m thrilled when a parent tells me that their child is reading cereal boxes or street signs!”

Many families are today experiencing the world of online learning for the first time. If you have questions about how online therapy works or how it can benefit your child, we invite you to browse the Lexercise website and we hope you will contact us.

Please stay safe and stay healthy!

For more information on Lexercise’s online therapy, click here.

Flipping Virtual Structured Literacy Intervention

Teachers have been using Lexercise for Schools to provide online lessons for their struggling readers during the coronavirus pandemic. Many of these teachers have been offering us valuable feedback and telling us what they need in order to reach more students. These conversations have led to some exciting changes in the teacher dashboard and the flexibility with which teachers can use the Lexercise for Schools platform. 

In the pre-pandemic days, teachers started with a 45-minute lesson. Online student practice followed each lesson. But teachers told us that some students couldn’t be there for the lesson; some had school scheduling difficulties or – especially since the pandemic has closed schools – due to internet connectivity issues. Practice, on the other hand, has been less of a barrier because it can be done at any time or, in a pinch, using a cell phone, connecting with cellular towers rather than cable or fiber internet.

With this valuable feedback in mind, we have re-designed the Lexercise for Schools teacher dashboard. Instead of a lesson-first protocol, the changes make it easy for a teacher to begin with a few days of student practice using Lexercise games. The Lexercise interface reports each student’s accuracy so, after a few days, the teacher can see who is mastering the decoding and spelling patterns and who isn’t. The teacher can get a detailed report on every student’s practice to see exactly which words and which concepts are causing difficulty. Then the teacher can schedule an individual or group  lesson and/or short concept-focused instruction to explain and provide guided practice with the concept(s).

Illustration: Accuracy report showing a student’s practice-game results

We have actually anticipated this model for some time. Over the last few years, our data have indicated that most struggling students can master decoding and spelling concepts with just the implicit and explicit instruction provided by the practice games platform.

Starting with a little practice instead of with a face-to-face lesson is  a “flipped classroom” model.  Direct instruction is provided after, not before, initial engagement and practice. Over the past decade,  research has indicated that a flipped classroom model can be very effective, especially with regard to improving student motivation. (See, for example,  Brame, 2013.)

Every day, we see teachers responding to the unanticipated demands of becoming instant online teaching experts. We are extremely grateful for the work they are doing, and for the time they have taken to offer feedback on the Lexercise platform. We are excited and pleased to be able to roll out this change quickly in response to their observations and suggestions.

 

Reference:
Brame, C., (2013). Flipping the classroom. Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. Retrieved from http://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/flipping-the-classroom/.