spelling Archives - Lexercise

How to Do a Spelling Analysis

Spelling analysis is a powerful tool for helping students master decoding and spelling.  Spelling patterns are like little lights illuminating how the student’s brain has processed a word. A brief conversation about a spelling error can light the way to more accurate and automatic reading and writing.

graphic showing how proficient spelling develops
How Proficient Spelling Develops


Spelling Analysis in Practice

To use spelling analysis you need to know how the English spelling system works.  For example:

  • English has 44 speech sounds spelled with 26 letters and letter combinations.  
  • English spelling uses both phonics (how letters represent speech sounds) and morphology (how word parts combine to represent meaning), but it prioritizes the consistent spelling of meaningful word parts over their pronunciation.  For example, the past tense suffix is pronounced three ways (“d” as in filled; “t” as in backed; “uhd” as in lifted), but it is always spelled -ed. 
  • English spelling operates on predictable patterns, but most of the patterns are not obvious. 

    • There are sound-based patterns, such as the pattern that predicts that -a- will be pronounced “aw” when it comes after a “w” sound (as in want).
    • There are letter-based patterns, such as the pattern that predicts that the consonant sound “k” will be spelled -c- when it comes before the letters -a-, -o-, or -u- (as in cut) and the pattern that predicts when the -e- will be dropped when adding a suffix (as in making).      
  • English has a lot of homophones (words that are pronounced alike but that have different meanings), like tax & tacks; meet & meat; which & witch; to, too & two
  • English has a number of heteronyms (words that are spelled alike but that have different pronunciations and meanings), like tear meaning “rip” and tear meaning “liquid from the eye.”
  • Letter case is part of spelling, so capitalization matters, like in holly & Holly


Using Conversation to Correct Spelling Errors

Conversation (sometimes referred to as Socratic dialogue), used in conjunction with spelling analysis, can be a powerful and memorable way to correct a student’s spelling errors. 

conversation spelling analysis

In the example illustrated above, in which a student misspelled the word pig as peg, the conversation might go like this:

  • Adult:  (The adult realizes that the child’s error is related to a letter-sound confusion so asks a question to clarify that.) There is one letter-sound that is spelled wrong. Let me hear you isolate the three sounds in the word pig.  
  • Student: “p” “ih” “g”
  • Adult: Great! Now just pronounce the middle sound, the vowel.
  • Student: “ih”….. Oh!  I should have spelled it -i-! 
  • Adult: Exactly! Great job spotting your error! Let’s fix it.


An example of a more advanced student who misspelled the word defrosting as dufrosting, the conversation might go like this:  

  • Adult: (The adult realizes that the child’s error is related to over-extension of phonics. The prefix is spelled de-,  but it is pronounced “duh”,  so the adult asks a clarifying question.) There is a spelling error here. Let’s see if you can spot it. What is the base part in the word defrosting
  • Student: frost
  • Adult: Right!  So, what are the other word parts?
  • Student: Well, the suffix is -ing. And the prefix is…..Oh!  It is spelled de-!
  • AdultYes! Exactly How did you figure that out? 
  • Student: Because defrost means to remove frost. 
  • Adult: Super! The prefix sounds like “duh” but it is spelled de-, not du-.  It was in our lesson this week, in words like depart and delay.  Do you remember what the prefix de- means?  
  • Student: I think it means…like off or remove? 
  • Adult: You nailed it!  One more question.  Why is the de- prefix pronounced “duh”?
  • Student:  Because…it is… weak and mushy …uh….a schwa sound?!
  • Adult: Very impressive! 


How Lexercise Can Help

If you are a parent whose child is struggling with reading and/or spelling, consider Lexercise Professional Therapy, with a therapist who can use spelling analysis and error correction adjusted to your child’s current level and specific patterns.  

If you’d like to learn more about structured literacy, check out our Professional Education Courses and make sure you subscribe to our blog below for information and resources on literacy and dyslexia. 

Finally, here is a rationale for evaluation and teaching of spelling by D.K. Reed (2012), funded by the US Department of Education. It includes a chart of (basic) spelling expectations by grade according to the Common Core State Standards. Why Teach Spelling?



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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How To Get Information “In” – Elaboration Learning Technique

diagnosing dyslexia (4)

In the past two weeks we’ve discussed the benefits of two kinds of practice:  spaced-out practice and retrieval practice.  

This week we are going to talk about a method called elaboration.  Elaboration aims to put information “in” memory in such a way that is more likely to “stick” and to be easier to retrieve.  

The word elaborate means to add details or expand.  There are many different elaboration techniques, but they all work on the principle that using details, especially related to the student’s life and what they already know, will improve understanding and memory of new information.

Let’s “listen in” on a little part of a Lexercise online session to see how elaboration is used in Lexercise therapy.
















Using the Lexercise Isolator Procedure with the hand, students begin with what they already know (how to say the word) and then elaborate the word’s letter-sound structure. 

The base of the word elaborate is the Latin word for labor. This suggests that elaboration takes some work and, as you can see in the example above, that’s true!  But with elaboration the student is likely to retain and retrieve spelling patterns, not just for the Friday spelling test, but permanently.

How To Get Information “Out” – Retrieval Practice

diagnosing dyslexia (2)

Last week we talked about the importance of Spaced Out Practice.  This week we’ll discuss another technique that has shown to improve memory and learning: Retrieval Practice. Lots of learning exercises, like lectures, reading assignments, and watching videos are aimed at getting information “in”. However, retrieval practice aims at getting the information “out”.  Retrieval practice can be asking the student to name a concept, recite a definition or answer a question. Quizzes are often designed as retrieval practice. One of the main things that makes retrieval practice different from other types of practice, like re-reading or reviewing–and one of the things that make it work– is that retrieval practice is difficult!

Cognitive Learning Scientists, Megan Smith, and Yana Weinstein highlight the benefits of quizzes here, emphasizing that quizzes facilitate the retrieval of information previously learned.

We all have limited time, so we want to use the techniques that will work the best in the shortest time possible. In a study conducted by psychologist Pooja Agarwal and her colleagues, children with different working memory capacities were given different ways to study. Here is what they found:

  • Retrieval practice yielded better results than restudying the material – for example, by reviewing notes.
  • When tested after two days, children with lower working memory capacities actually benefited more from using retrieval techniques than did their peers with higher working memory capacities.

boy-computerIf you have been told that your child has weak working memory skills, this information is especially important because it suggests a science-backed way you can help your child! First, provide some
Spaced Out Practice.  Then, use short, focused retrieval exercises to strengthen the information in memory.  

Here are some examples of retrieval exercises used for daily practice in the Lexercise Structured Literacy Curriculum©:

For beginning readers and spellers:

  • Seeing letters and saying the sound associated with each one;
  • Giving the definitions of the two types of speech sounds:  vowels and consonants;
  • Spelling the /k/ sound correctly (with <c>, <k>, <-ck>, etc.);
  • Using the correct movement pathway for writing lowercase letters.

For more advanced readers and spellers:

  • Explaining why the vowels in the 2nd syllable of words like tablet and metal  sound like “uh”;
  • Naming the term for 2 letters that spell 1 sound (e.g., the 1st sound in shell );
  • Naming the term for 2 consonant sounds next to each other in the same syllable (e.g., the first 2 sounds in stem).
  • Spelling words correctly with suffixes (e.g., tap→ tapping).

Retrieval practice can be difficult so it is important to be patient with your child, provide lots of encouragement and support and teach the value of persistence!  Retrieval practice in conjunction with spaced-out practice supports learning and develops expertise.

aid481086-900px-Make-the-Most-of-Your-Time-when-Studying-Step-07Lexercise Structured Literacy Teletherapy is designed with a little practice every day. Here is a blog series with information about how well-designed practice supports memory and learning.

You can learn more about Lexercise Structured Literacy Teletherapy and even schedule a free 15-minute consultation with a Lexercise dyslexia therapist here.

Learning Methods and Note Taking Skills for Dyslexic Students

Neuroplasticity Research on DyslexiaDyslexia has been defined as a neurological disorder that causes difficulties with accurate word reading and spelling.  Listening comprehension is typically a strength, but reading comprehension may be weak due to disruptions when reading words.

Dyslexia can cause significant academic problems because, especially after 3rd grade, teachers expect students to be independent readers. Strategies that help students comprehend and remember what they read can be helpful.

Yale University has provided note-taking and study tips for students. These techniques can be adapted for elementary school students. The Cornell Method of note-taking remains one of the most popular and is outlined below:

Cornell Note-Taking Method

When taking notes on a reading assignment or lecture aim to take down the main points rather than copying everything verbatim. Call out any questions or points you don’t understand. Use diagrams or sketches if that helps. Finally, write a 3-4 sentence summary.

Divide the page of your notebook into three sections:

  1. Notes (main points)
  2. Questions and/or illustrations
  3. Summary

note taking blank exampleClick to expand image

Note-taking strategies can be helpful, but the student must have a basic skill level to use note-taking tips. For example, the student must be able to write legibly enough and with
good enough spelling that they can later read and make sense of what they have written. Students who are not quite at that point may be showing symptoms of dyslexia. You can screen your child for dyslexia in 10-15 minutes here, for free. Dyslexic students benefit from technological accommodations and researched-backed intervention.  Our dyslexia therapists meet and exceed the International Dyslexia Association’s Knowledge and Practice Standards for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. Sign up for a free fifteen-minute consultation here.

Sight Word Practice Tips for Parents


Lots of the top 100 most frequently used words in English have at least one irregular spelling element.  These words are not only common words today but they are often words that have been around a long, long time. Words that are not perfectly phonetic (spelled the way they sound) are sometimes called “irregular” or “sight words”.  Even so, most irregular words also have some regular spelling patterns. While the irregular element(s) must be learned “by heart”,  the rest of the word can be sounded out as usual.

Ask your child to draw a heart around the letter(s) that make up the irregular spelling element.  said-sight-word

For example, in the word <said>, the <s> and the <d> can be sounded out but the <ai> vowel can not be. So, draw a heart around the <ai> and discuss that spelling element with your student. In the word <said> the “irregular” element is the vowel, and it sounds like a short <e>, but it is spelled <ai> !

To remember irregular spelling patterns it can help to create a mental image of the word. Use your mind’s whiteboard! Then connect that mental image to the word’s pronunciation and the printed word on the page.

Knowing a little about the word’s history can help, too. Many words that are phonetically irregular today are words that have been in English for centuries and that have changed over time.

history-998337_1280For example, the way we pronounce the vowel in the word <said> today is related to the way it was spelled before the year 900!  Back then this word was spelled with an <e>:  <seyen> or <seggen>. (I’m just saying…. the spelling of this word has changed over the centuries but the pronunciation of the vowel has not.)

Dictionary.com is a good source of information about word history. It has a section on the origin in every word entry. Here is the Dictionary.com entry for <said>.

If you notice your child is having difficulty reading or remembering sight words it may you can screen them for dyslexia in 10-15 minutes for free here. 

The Case for Audiobooks

Some people will argue that listening to a book does not have the same benefits as reading it yourself. That is true, but just because it does not have the same benefits does not mean it is any less effective.

A popular model of reading is called “The Simple View (Gough & Tumner)” which says that there are two fundamental processes contributing to reading:

  1. decoding
  2. language processing

“Decoding” refers to figuring out words from print, but “language processing” refers to the same mental processes you use for oral language. They are both equally important, and language processing is worked on when listening to a book.girl with earphones

Audiobooks are especially useful for children with dyslexia. When reading is not their favorite thing to do, the next best tactic is to subject them to as many words as possible audibly. They may not be able to decode words as well on the page but they will be able to use them in their everyday conversation.

Another reason why audiobooks are good for children with reading disabilities is that usually, they have superior oral comprehension and high vocabulary. Audiobooks will expose them to complex words, storylines, and concepts that they otherwise would sacrifice by only reading books at their reading level.

Audiobooks will allow children to have a positive relationship with storytelling. They will gather all of the same information without all of the frustration. Listening to audiobooks is not cheating.

You can become a subscriber to audiobooks through one of our partners, Learning Ally.

If your child has trouble with reading skills, visit our website to learn more about what we can do to help.

Unconventional Summer Learning

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (33)The summer is drawing to a close and the school year is going to begin again. You don’t want to burn your child out with new information, but you also want to warm up their brains for a new school year.

So what do you do? This would be a great time to explore topics outside of the conventional classroom instruction.

Educational Screen Time: You can do this at your home with channels like PBS or History, but you can also take your child to see a documentary in an IMAX theatre. This makes learning an exciting experience that you can do together. This brings along positive thoughts to a learning experience for your child that may have had difficulty before with learning prior. Some good documentaries that are circulating at IMAX are “A Beautiful Planet” and “National Park Adventure.”

A day at the museum: Kid’s Museums are a great way to get out of the house for an educationally fun day. Not only will kid’s museums teach topics related to the classroom, it will also encourage your child to use their social skills to meet and play with new friends. These museums can assist you in facilitating productive play with your child, skills you can bring home.

pexels-photo-11523Cook together: Have your child read you the recipe steps and help you get the ingredients together. Recipes are less intimidating to read because there aren’t many words, but they may learn some new vocabulary. This will help your child learn patience and how to follow directions. It will also teach them that hard work leads to rewards.

If you suspect your child may have dyslexia or may need some extra reading practice, visit our website here. Our program is a perfect supplement to the start of the new school year.

Building the Literacy Staircase

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (19)A pattern of hard work followed by disappointing results and limited progress can naturally lead struggling readers and writers to the conclusion that they “just aren’t smart.” What’s going wrong when bright students work so hard but still can’t seem to develop the type of reading and writing expertise that seems to come naturally to so many of their peers?  

In their new book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Ericsson and Pool explain that, while hard work is important, it is not enough. To overcome their literacy difficulties struggling readers and writers must develop what Ericsson and Pool call rich mental representations or “patterns of information.”  To explain, “The relationship between skill and mental representation is a virtuous circle: the more skilled you become, the better your mental representations are, and the better your mental representations are, the more effectively you can practice to hone your skill.” (Peak, p. 70-80)  

Children who develop reading and writing skills normally demonstrate their high-quality mental word representations by spelling, generally with unconscious and automatic ease.

14143338033_20c1ce9c44Every skill has its own set of mental representations, patterns that expert users apply automatically and often unconsciously but novices struggle to remember or even notice.  The value of practice that focuses on the key mental representations needed for expertise has been demonstrated for various activities, including many sports. For example, research has shown that golfers improve more and faster when they watch videos that spotlight key actions as opposed to videos that show examples of good swings but without highlighting key actions.  

Ericsson and Pool describe mental representations needed for a skill as “….a staircase that you climb as you build it. Every step of your ascent puts you in a position to build the next step….Your existing mental representations guide your performance and allow you to both monitor and judge that performance.” (Peak, p. 83)

Fortunately for struggling readers and writers, research has identified the mental word representations that are needed for skilled reading and spelling and has described how those mental representations are most efficiently and effectively developed. The term for this method is structured literacy.  It begins by identifying the mental representations that the individual student is missing and then provides a “staircase” to expertise.

If you would like to learn more about Lexercise Structured Literacy therapy, you can talk to one of our wonderful, expert therapists here>>>

Differences in the Dyslexic Brain

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (15)It is important to remember that Dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder which means the issues are located inside the brain. Common misconceptions about the cause include poverty, developmental delay, speech, hearing or vision impairments or learning a second language.

According to multiple studies, there are real structural differences in the brains of people with and without reading disabilities.

In these studies, they break down the differences further. The brain is made up of two types of material: gray matter and white matter. Gray matter is mostly composed of nerve cells and it’s primary function is to process information.

brain-147026_960_720The white matter is found in the deeper parts of the brain and acts as the connective fibers that create communication between nerves. The white matter is also responsible for information transfer around the brain.

Researchers Booth and Burman found that people with dyslexia have less gray matter in the left part of the brain than non-dyslexic individuals. These researchers say that this could cause the problems with the sound structure of language.

Interestingly enough, these researchers also found that people with reading disabilities have one area of their left hemisphere larger than the same area on the right.

Laurie Cutting, a human development educator at Vanderbilt University, explains the disadvantages of having decreased white matter. “When you are reading, you are essentially saying things out loud in your head. If you have decreased white matter integrity in this area, the front and back part of your brain are not talking to one another. This would affect reading because you need both to act as a cohesive unit.”

At Lexercise, we work hard to surpass these issues through individualized therapy. Our therapists are trained in the technical side of dyslexia as well as what it takes to navigate the emotional side. If you think your child may have dyslexia, take the free screener here.

Teachers Aren’t Taught Learning Disabilities

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (8)
Fifteen percent of Mississippi children didn’t pass the state’s reading test by third grade.
 Though, Mississippi is not the only state with reading scores lower than the national average. In 2013, thirteen other states scored below the national average in their 4th and 8th graders.

Teachers are just not adequately trained, a new report from the Barksdale Reading Institute says. Teachers are more than capable to help these children, but they aren’t taught to teach children with learning disabilities let alone identify them. 

The group from BRI reviewed 15 traditional teacher preparation programs at 23 different sites in Mississippi and found inconsistencies throughout the programs. Many of the new teachers are taught strategies to teach literacy that are not even research-based. The programs varied on the hours required to spend on instruction and in the classroom.

For one early literacy course that is offered by all programs, the hours spent in class ranged from 14 to 40 among the prep programs, and the hours of fieldwork required ranged from zero to 20. These are huge discrepancies!

Even though the amount of time spent on teacher preparation programs since 2003 increased as a whole, this is not the case for most individual situations. The five components of early literacy are phonological/phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

The study found that 11 teacher prep programs do not teach letter formation, and 4 programs spend less than an hour teaching candidates about vocabulary.

Some teacher prep students said they were graded on the organization of their notebooks and were given tasks like reading 100 children’s books.Syrian_refugee_children_in_a_Lebanese_school_classroom_(15101234827)

According to the BRI study, in 2015, only 31 percent of the state’s fourth-grade students scored proficient or advanced on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, compared to the national average of 35 percent. Only 21 percent of the state’s eighth-grade students were proficient or advanced.

Dyslexic students have trouble with content even if it is taught by someone trained to fit their needs. Since 1 in 5 children have a learning disability, this makes the lack of teacher education particularly concerning. 

Martha Youman, who came out of college as a New York City Teaching Fellow with a Master’s degree, felt she did not know how to teach the “bottom third” of the class. She ended up giving them low-level busy work, to keep them from acting out. She did not have the proper training to help these kids, even with a master’s degree.

It wasn’t until she went back to school to get her Ph.D. that she truly learned about dyslexia. She was alarmed to find out that five to twenty percent of school-aged children have dyslexia.

Lexercise knows that teachers want to learn and help their students. We created the Mississippi dyslexia screener to help teachers identify children with dyslexia in their classroom. Additionally, Lexercise offers professional educational courses to learn the Structure of English and the Orton-Gillingham method to teach children with Learning Disabilities.


After School Reading Practice

How to Correct Your Child Without Discouraging them (7)Most of school is made up of reading, and when you are dyslexic, it can be extremely draining. When your child comes home from a long day, the last thing they want to do is read more. So how do you get them to practice without burning them out?

Social Media and Blog Posts

If your child is old enough to have some social media accounts, don’t steer them away. They will be reading captions and comments about people and things they are interested in. This will also help your child realize that reading is everywhere.

Joke Books

They may just be one line a piece, but it is still practice. They will most likely want to tell their friends and siblings, so they are also practicing memory skills with these books. Joke books replace the stress of reading with laughs, and who knows– they might pick up a great joke or two.

Young_boy_reading_mangaComic Books and Graphic Novels

These are perfect because the illustrations will help guide them through the story line. If they get frustrated with a page, they can skip reading and simply look at the pictures. These publications also have small blurbs of text so it does not look overwhelming to tackle.

Cookbooks, Menus and Online Recipes

Your child will read and then implement the action they just read, which will test and enhance their comprehension skills. This can be a fun activity for you and your child to do together.


Tablet Apps and eBooks

Sometimes reading on technology is more exciting than the paper books they have been looking at all day. Let them switch between playing games and reading, so that they want to read in order to play the games.

Lexercise highly recommends structured literacy therapy to accompany daily practice in order to achieve the best results. If you would like to learn more about our therapy sessions, click here.