Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers, Part 2

A Homeschool Mom’s Simple Tool to Help Struggling Readers

This is Part 2 in a series to help homeschool moms equip their struggling readers for reading success.  In this second part, I am going to share with you one simple tool to help struggling readers at home.  If you have not read Part 1, please do so.  🙂

Like many homeschool moms, when I began homeschooling my girls almost 10 years ago, my first goal was to make sure my oldest daughter could read.  It seemed that all of her preschool-age friends were getting ready to go to traditional kindergarten and soon I was dodging questions from their respective mothers.

“Why are you homeschooling her?”

“Aren’t you worried about socialization?”

“Public school was good enough for me, so its good enough for my kids.”

My First Educational Goal

In response to the inquisition I experienced from well-meaning mom friends, I naturally became a little internally defensive.  Like many ladies who make the decision to homeschool their children, I began my homeschool journey with a specific goal in mind.

I MUST TEACH MY KID TO READ.

This was my mantra.  I figured that once I taught her to read, I would feel a little more at ease as I navigated the homeschool skeptics.

Searching for the Perfect Reading Program

In my effort to teach my oldest daughter how to read, I perused the local homeschool store.  I am so fortunate to live in an area where homeschooling is very popular.  The community of homeschool families is HUGE and so yes, we have a local homeschool store that could rival Target in its ability to suck me in for hours.  It is a haven of books, beautiful boxed curriculum, phenomenal art and composer study materials, maps, Bibles… math manipulatives… it is a homeschoolers dream!

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Mountains of Books

I cannot count the number of hours I have spent sitting on the floor of the local homeschool store surrounded by mountains of books.  Honestly, those memories are heavenly.  Anyway…

Needless to say, I searched and searched for the perfect reading curriculum because I was determined that my daughter would read.  I had to accomplish that goal and fast.  No, my motives were not pure, but God is merciful and I have learned better now.

Ultimately, it wasn’t an expensive boxed reading curriculum that ended up being the key to effective reading instruction for my daughter.  Nope.  It was a $15 paperback book that opened the world of reading to both of my girls.

Interestingly,  both of my girls (and their momma- aka Me) have since been diagnosed with ADHD.   I did not realize this at the time because I was of the belief that ADHD was a “fake” diagnosis.  I believed that my solid Christian parenting-style would eliminate any unwanted  hyper, impulsive and distracted behavior in my children.  Ugh!!! That is an entirely different story that you can read about here.  So sorry for that rabbit trail… like I just mentioned… ADHD.

 

Just be aware that my girls both have attention-based learning issues and one of them has been diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder.  APD is an auditory disorder in which the child has normal hearing ability but the brain is unable to accurately process and distinguish that auditory information.  This can hinder reading and language development.  You can read more about Auditory Processing Disorder here.

Back to that amazing reading program that I soon discovered.  Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was the program that I was able to use with my hyper and highly-distracted girls.

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

This book offers highly effective reading instruction for children with special learning needs.  Quite frankly, I think it is a great remediation resource for older children who are struggling with their ability to decode and blend words.  The goal of this book is to get the ball rolling per say.  Decoding skills and fluency are developed quickly using this method.  Reading comprehension methodology is not specifically addressed.

100 Easy Lessons uses an instructional strategy called the SRA DISTAR Method.  Prior to being introduced to this Instructional Book, I had no familiarity with the method despite my education training in graduate school.  However, I found the logic and reasoning behind the teaching method to be absolutely fascinating and extremely effective for me as an instructor and for my children as students.  The PARENTS GUIDE at the beginning of the text is extremely important to read as it explains the logic and reasoning behind the program.  For geeks like me, it is also mesmerizing.

The DISTAR method (Direct Instruction System for Teaching Arithmetic and Reading) is a very methodical teaching program.  It has been shown to be an extremely effective and simple tool to help struggling readers.  This methodology was used to develop the 100 Easy Lessons program written by Siegfried Engelmann over 40 years ago.

Modified Alphabet System

The system uses a modified orthography system (fancy way to say the alphabet symbols used to represent speech sounds).  This alphabet provides visual clues to indicate which sound is associated with the letter as it is used in a printed word.

For example, the letter symbol “e” is modified slightly depending upon its positioning and therefore, its use in a word.

  • The “e” in “led” is says the short e sound.
  • The “e” in “like” is silent and therefore has no sound.  It is therefore shown in a smaller text size in order to cue the student to it’s silent role in the word.
  • The “e” in she is long and says its name (which is noted with the macron above the “e”.)

The smaller size of the “e” indicates the “silent e.”    All silent letters are initially introduced in a smaller font to point out that the letter symbol makes no sound.

In the initial lessons of the book, the modified alphabet are used as a scaffolding technique (extra supports to help the learner).   These visual cues are extremely helpful for children with special learning needs.

They are gradually removed as the child begins to fluently recognize (whether consciously or not) the letter patterns and sounds.   The logic is that as the modified letter symbols are gradually dropped, the student is able seamlessly transition to reading and decoding using traditional letter symbols.  The child’s brain has incorporated the letter patterns and their usage and no longer needs the extra visual cues.

Mom-Friendly Teaching

100 Easy Lessons uses scripted step-by-step instructions for the teacher.  This may seem to be stifling to the teacher.  However, the scripting is one of the many reasons that instructional tool is effective for kids with special learning needs.

The modeling provided using the script, is verbalized aloud to the student.  The letter sounds and words are easily repeated by the child.  The child follows the visual text both with his eyes and his pointer finger.  Quick progress and smaller incremental goals are achieved which is ecouraging to child and teacher.

Minimalism Limits Distractions

The 100 Easy Lessons pages are very minimalistic with no pictures and very little color.

On the surface the text may appear dry and boring.  Again this is one reason why the system is so effective for children with special learning needs.     Highly distractible children tend to become overly stimulated with lots of visual input .

These students are set up for success.  The eyes are focused on the text only.  The text does not have to compete with the visual input of  illustrations.  (This is not to say that illustrations are not of extreme value.  They are so incredibly valuable.)

The goal is to teach students the basics of reading (phonemic awareness, decoding skills and growing fluency skills).  Therefore, limited visual input is a benefit during specific and direct instruction.  Once the basics of reading have been mastered and the child requires less mental effort to decode words, the addition of illustrations to books is less of an issue.

Minimal Time Commitment

The lessons are extremely short (no more than 20 minutes a day).   The lower time commitment makes learning to read very manageable for both the child and teacher.  When I used this system with both of my girls, I often broke up the lessons into 10-minute sessions.  I would break up the lesson into a short 10-minute session in the morning and a 10-minute session before lunch.

The point is that this book can be modified to fit the mental capability of the student.  If the student is older the student may be capable of more than one lesson per day.

Regardless, I highly recommend modifying ANY curriculum into smaller chunks of time when necessary.  I especially receommend  shorter lessons with your younger children and any child who struggles with executive functioning.

Short but consistent lessons over time is so effective.  Forcing longer lessons is more likely to lead to a resistant and frustrated student.  That leads to a dead end.  A child’s level of interest and motivation is one of your greatest weapons when teaching your child any subject area.

Please save yourself from the mistake of “forcing” your student to work through longer lessons when they clearly have reached their limit.

This will only create more resistance to engage when it is time for your next lesson.  A frustrated child leads to a frustrating teaching time.  Frustration within the brain of a child only leads to mental shut down.  Forced instruction when a child is mentally shut down is a certain guarantee that nothing taught is retained.  It is not worth it.  Trust me.  I have made that mistake.

Unfortunately, in our culture, we have believed a lie that says more is better.

This is not always the case.  I argue that longer lessons are definitely not effective with students who struggle with learning differences.   When learning a non-preferred subject area, I always recommend shorter and manageable lessons.

Additionally, I highly recommend reducing anxiety in your child by preparing them IN ADVANCE for what is expected.  Before your lesson, clearly tell your student your expectation of reading time over the next 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Time length should be based on child’s capacity at that time.  If a child knows what to expect and when to expect an end point, success is more likely.

Whatever you do.  Follow through on your end time.  If you set the expectation that you are asking for 10, 15 or 20 minutes, stop at 10, 15, or 20 minutes.  Be a trustworthy coach to your student and cooperation is more likely to follow.

Final Recommendations

Overall, I highly recommend Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for the beginning reader as well as for older students who are struggling with traditional phonics-based lessons.

As mentioned earlier,  the lack of  illustrations usually targeted to a younger audience is removed which reduces the older student’s potential feelings of embarrassment and shame  when using introductory level reading instruction.

Additionally, the book can be modified for older remedial students in that more than one lesson can be addressed each day if appropriate.

The scripted lessons, while some may intitially find stifling, are so helpful for the homeschooling mom or dad who may be nervous about his or her lack of reading instruction experience.  The book can also be used by parents wanting to supplement reading instruction over summer vacation.

Bottom line… Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons is very user-friendly, requires no prep time for the instructor, is extremely well-priced (around $16), and is extremely effective for a multitude of students.

Don’t Forget… Every Child is Unique

I will say it once, and I will continue to repeat myself… Forgive me.

Children are not all the same.  Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons using the DISTAR teaching method has been proven extremely effective with many children.  However, it may not be a fit for you or your student for one reason or another.

My goal is to bring to the forefront a variety of teaching tools and methods that can be implemented depending upon your child’s wiring.  Check out this post on the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction which has shown incredibly helpful for children who may have dyslexia.  

Praise the Lord for options as we educate our children.  They are a gift but they are many.  

What about you and your student?  What areas of reading skills does your student struggle in?  Phonemic awareness?  Decoding skills?  Fluency?  Reading Comprehension?  Send me your concerns and I will do my best to address them in the coming weeks.  I really want to hear from you.  Please reach out.  🙂 lindsay at a heartforallstudents dot com  

You’ve got this, Teaching Mom!

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Homeschooling with Dyslexia

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Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Dyslexia & Orton-Gillingham

Orton-Gillingham & Struggling Readers In Your Homeschool

Today we are discussing struggling readers, dyslexia, and the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading instruction.

We are blessed to have a guest post written by Karee Atkinson, a mom with a heart to equip children to learn well.  She is also a certified Orton-Gillingham tutor and is just one of several dyslexics in her family.

Take it away, Karee!!!

dyslexia, orton-gillingham reading instruction method, homeschool reading curriculum

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & A Mom Who “Gets It”

As a mom of kiddos with dyslexia, and as an adult with dyslexia myself, I “get it.”  There is so much contradictory information regarding how to teach struggling readers.  It can be so overwhelming. 

So let me start with my three guiding principles for struggling readers.

1.    This is my child.   

I believe this child was sent to me.  My husband and I have the most concern, love and hope invested in this little one.  I welcome and need the input of other partners in this process like tutors, teachers and friends.  But at the end of the day, this is my child.

2.    There is no “one” solution for every child.

Every child is different.  If you find a solution that works for you, great!  And celebrate when someone else finds a solution, even if it is different from yours.

3.    To help any child improve in reading, focus on building self-confidence.  

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The Orton-Gillingham Approach For Dyslexia

The Orton-Gillingham method helps those with dyslexia beautifully.  While Orton-Gillingham was created to meet the needs of students with dyslexia, this approach can help all struggling readers.  

Let’s review some of the lingo around reading.   

Phonological Awareness & Dyslexia

Phonological awareness refers to the ability to manipulate sounds.  A deficit in phonological awareness is one of the two main deficits associated with dyslexia. 

Related Post: How To Help A Struggling Reader 

The book Equipped for Reading Success by Dr. Kilpatrick is Karee’s favorite resource for phonological awareness.

It gives you tests and interventions for phonological awareness.

Karee says,

I cannot stress enough how much struggling readers of all ages need phonological awareness activities from either a tutor, teacher or a parent! 

Dyslexia Resource Library

Knowledge of the Alphabet & Sounds 

The next thing OG is going to explicitly address is knowledge of the alphabet and the sounds the different letters make.   If you have a struggling reader, chances are they are not firm on the letter sounds.  Letter sounds need to be explicitly taught. 

  • For example the word “Wasp” is not pronounced /w/ /a/ /s/ /p/ because the “wa” makes a /w/ /o/ sound.

Orton-Gillingham: Spelling rules and phonics 

It’s easy to see the need for this type of instruction for any beginning or struggling reader.   Understanding these additional reading variables greatly assists with reading instruction.  

  • Knowledge of syllable division/syllable types 
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics
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Syllablle Division

Syllable division and morphology are Karee’s favorite things to teach.   

If you have a reader who has leveled out at a 3rd to 5th grade level, struggles with these 2 principles are probably part of the problem. 

I didn’t understand how to spell many words until I received this training as an adult.  

Speaking to her own dyslexia diagnosis,

I have always been a strong reader, but my spelling and grammar is still weak.   Weak spelling and grammar skills are hallmark characteristics of an adult with dyslexia.  Honestly, once I was trained in OG, I became a bit frustrated that I hadn’t learned this earlier.  

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Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia & Morphology

Morphology is also a key component that adds meaning to the way words are spelled.  It’s just a fancy term to describe how suffixes and prefixes change a word.  Think metamorphosis… the changing caterpillar and butterfly.

Another fantastic way to add meaning to how words are spelled is structured word inquiry.   Check out this great video about this new and growing field.  Structured Word Inquiry.

Homeschooling with Dyslexia

Foundational Reading Skills: Syntax & Semantics

Syntax and semantics are the two final components of the Orton-Gillingham approach.  These help us understand how to get meaning from written language. 

You may be asking yourself the following question:

Don’t most reading programs have some of these elements? If so, then why is Orton-Gillingham so much more effective?   

Yes!  Many programs do contain similar components. However, if reading supports don’t contain ALL of these components, please don’t use them!! 

A strong reading program should have all these elements.  To learn how to tease out root issues of reading struggles, check out this post.  

Logic of English Tree

What Makes Orton-Gillingham Effective for Dyslexia?

The Orton-Gillingham approach is effective for dyslexia because of the way it presents the information.

It uses a multisensory and learner-driven approach.  Additionally, OG teachers and tutors are trained to be laser-focused on the specific needs of the student.

1.  Success is achievable with Orton-Gillingham

If I am doing my job as a tutor, a child should always find success in our lessons.  Orton-Gillingham lessons are hand-crafted to meet the needs of that student.

They are also very, very explicit in teaching how letters, sounds, syllables and morphemes all work together. 

Each lesson should circle back to previously learned material.  A student should never encounter a letter combination or spelling rule they have not been taught in any of the review segments of the lesson. 

2.  Paced for the Specific Student

Lessons are paced to the student’s masteryWe do not move on until the new information is mastered and the student is successful.

3.   Diagnostic

OG lessons are diagnostic.   This means that if a child is struggling with a concept or a word, we loop back to that again. 

If I see a strength in the way the way a student grasps new information, we use that learning strength in all future lessons.

Ultimately, the Orton-Gillingham approach is systematic, cumulative, explicit, multisensory and diagnostic.  And most important of all, it is focused on the success of the inidividual student.

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Family History of Dyslexia & Parent Tools to Support Their Students

Dyslexia runs in families and my family is no exception.  We have an official diagnosis of dyslexia for three of my children.

I’ve navigated dyslexia in many ways personally in my own schooling and as a parent supporting my children.

Eventually, when I realized that all of my kids would need reading tutoring, I decided to tutor them myself.   The cost for three dyslexic children to receive effective reading support, I had no other choice. 

If you are do end up supporting your own kids without formal OG training, I strongly suggest the programs Sonday System, Barton, or Reading Horizons.  

RELATED POST:  2020 Best Homeschool Curriculum Choices Chosen By Veteran Homeschool Moms- Language Arts Edition

Dyslexia Resource Library

Struggling Students Need Adults To Believe In Them

Most importantly, believe in your child.  Their future is not limited in any way if they believe in themselves.  

RELATED POST: 7 Homeschool Tips For Beginners

Remember, you are the parent and this is your child.  There are days we all feel fear and are just overwhelmed. 

At the end of every day though, your love for your child will help you find the path they need to be successful.   Always make sure that your children spend time building upon their strengths and not just facing down their weaknesses.  

Orton-Gillingham, Dyslexia: Every Child Can Learn To Read

A big thank you to Karee for lending her expertise in the Orton-Gillingham method of reading instruction.  More than anything else in her post, what speaks to me most as a mom, educator and lover of kids, is this.  Her heartbeat for the success of every child.  

You may or may not know the mission of AHFAS.   

Here it is:  To equip moms to empower outside-the-box thinking kids to thrive as exactly who God has created them to be.  

When a child is equipped based on who they are and how they are wired, they will thrive with confidence and purpose.  

Join us in AHFAS Private community for more support.   Together, one mom at a time, we can change the narrative for kids with ADHD, ASD, SPD, Dyslexia or no acronym at all.    We’re in this together!

Logic of English Tree

Karee received a B.A. in Political Science from Brigham Young University and a Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Utah.  Karee worked as a lobbyist for the American Federation of Teachers and as a trainer for the Utah State Department of Health, before deciding to be a stay at home mom.   Karee was a founding member of Decoding Dyslexia Utah.  Karee now lives in South Carolina with her tribe of dyslexics including herself, her husband, one son and three daughters.  

To contact Karee about her services: dyslexiasolutionsfortmill@gmail.com or  call her at 801-455-2402

All About Learning Press

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you do end up purchasing any of the recommended items through this link, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you. I appreciate your support.