Understanding Dyslexia: Signs & Characteristics


Classroom teachers may be unable to diagnose whether or not a child has dyslexia, however; through the effective Dyslexia professional development training, teachers will be able determine with more success, the early signs and/or characteristics of a student who may possibly be struggling with dyslexia.  Then, refer these students on to a dyslexia professional or diagnostician for assessment.

Here are some possible signs and characteristics of dyslexia:

  • Delay in early language development
  • Problems with segment words and processing the differences between similar sounds
  • Slow to learn new vocabulary words
  • Experiences difficulty in copying content from a book or the board
  • Experiences difficulty in acquiring reading, writing, and spelling skills
  • Unable to recognize or read a repeated word within a book
  • Difficulty with spatial relationships, especially processing Left & Right directions, as well as difficulty participating in organized games or sports
  • Difficulty with establishing a dominant hand.  This means they will use their left hand for some tasks and right hand for another, yet never seem to write well with either hand.

Dyslexia is a difficulty with processing phonemes (sounds), thus there is a difficulty connecting the sound to a letter(s) which represent the sound(s).  Sometimes this is mistaken for a visual or auditory difficulty. Two or more learning differences can co-exists in a child.   Here are some possible characteristics which may be confused with an auditory or visual difficulty:

  • A child with dyslexia usually finds it hard to remember and/or understand what he or she hears.
  • A child with dyslexia can experience difficulty recalling the sequences of things and executing more than one direction at a time.
  • When talking, a child with dyslexia may miss or mispronounce some parts of a word or parts of a sentence.  Their words come out sounding scrambled.
  • A child with dyslexia often interchange words, replacing the actual word with a wrong or similar word instead.
  • A child with dyslexia will often know what they want to say, but have difficult “finding” the actual words necessary to express their thoughts.

Here are some other signs, though subtle, are common to children with dyslexia:

  • A child with dyslexia can show signs of withdrawing, seeming depressed
  • Sometimes, a child with dyslexia may start acting out, thus drawing the attention away from their struggles.
  • Low self-esteem & difficulty interacting with their peers and siblings
  • Sometimes, educators with a lack of knowledge about dyslexia & learning differences in general, may refer to a child with dyslexia as lazy or unmotivated because of their lack of interest in school-related activities.

Emotional signs and characteristics are as important as the characteristics which affect a child academically and should not be neglected.

Knowledge is power.  If you notice any of these signs or characteristics in your child & suspect it is because of dyslexia, I highly encourage you to seek a professional diagnostician in your child’s school or community,  to evaluate your child to discover what is causing them to struggle.  Once you have a diagnosis, the best intervention for your child can be decided.

Early intervention is always best for a child.  The earlier in their educational career they receive intervention for a learning difference, the more success they will experience.

If you have a Pre-schooler or Kindergartner and would like  to begin laying a solid foundation or enhance their learning & understanding of the Alphabetic Principle {Sound to Letter correspondence} using multi-sensory activities, take a look at these activities I use with my Early Literacy students: …did I mention this product is 50% off this week?!

Let's Explore the Alphabet



Have a great week loving and changing the lives of your students!


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Understanding Dyslexia: Are there Different “Types” of Dyslexia?


Causes of Dyslexia

The causes of dyslexia are not completely understood, but with the use of brain scans from an fMRI, brain imagery studies show that those with Dyslexia have difficulty learning to read despite conventional classroom experience, traditional instruction, average to above average intelligence, desire to learn and learning opportunity. Dyslexia is caused by a difficulty with the brain’s ability to process phonemes (these are the smallest units of speech that make words each word different from the other). Read here!

Dyslexia does not occur as a result of vision or hearing problems and is not and should not be mistaken for a lack of intelligence.

There is only one official  “type” of Dyslexia. Scientists have suggested there are sub-types of Dyslexia.  None of these have panned out successfully and are still heavily debated.   Intervention and research cannot be overstated, however; as it not only helps in early identification of children who are at the risk of becoming dyslexic but also allows for early educational interventions and better outcomes.


  • Phonological Dyslexia: This impacts the left side of the brain also known as the cerebral cortex. Dyslexia affects the ability to process sounds – to connect with the letters a child sees with its sound &  they can also struggle breaking syllables in a word apart. The struggles with dyslexia varies among dyslexic individuals, and in most cases, those who receive the appropriate early educational intervention would be academically successful throughout their lives. However, the effects of Dyslexia reach into writing, reading, and spelling even in their adult lives. The impact of the cerebral cortex is in certain cases, hereditary (passed down through gene lines).
  • Dyseidetic Dyslexia: Sometimes called, “Surface Dyslexia”.  Children sometimes struggle with sight recognition of words.  They will see & read a word on one page, but not recognize it on the next page.  Reading fluency and comprehension, as well as vocabulary development is affected.  However, this “type” of dyslexia is not supported well in describing a child’s reading struggles.

Usually if a child’s reading struggles are being discussed at school, they will not refer to any sub-types of Dyslexia.

Other “types” of Dyslexia debated:

You may hear other types “loosely” use the term Dyslexia incorrectly:

  • Visual dyslexia: This can refer to a range of things.  Also referred to as visual processing disorder or Surface Dyslexia,  is a term used to describe a condition where the brain’s ability to properly interpret visual signals is impaired.
  • Auditory dyslexia: Also referred to as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) is similar in description to the visual processing disorder. Characteristics of APD can mirror those discovered with Dyslexia.  However, different interventions are needed for both. APD effects the brain’s ability to properly process and interpret the different pitches in sounds and speech.
  • Math Dyslexia: this is an inaccurate term used to describe a math processing difference called, Dyscalculia.

So, it is important to know that there is generally one “Type” of Dyslexia.  Struggles with Phonological Awareness makes it hard for children to make the sound/letter connections they need to in order to become successful readers.  Dyslexia “looks” different with each person.

Celebrate the differences in your students this month.  Read, “Fish in a Tree” by  Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  My 4th graders and I are listening to the book this month.  It has been amazing to hear their insights, but most of all how they connect with the main character, Ally.

Happy Monday!


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Understanding Dyslexia – Definition & Facts


Hello!!  Welcome to the month of October!!

Did you know October of every year is Dyslexia Awareness Month?

Here on the TAD blog, I would like to join millions of people around the world in creating more awareness about Dyslexia.  I am committed to turning around dyslexia and helping people with learning difficulties.  This month I will be in honor of Dyslexia Awareness Month, I will be posting information for my readers to be more knowledgeable when the topic of Dyslexia arises. In today’s post I will detail facts about Dyslexia, as well as a thorough definition of Dyslexia.

Facts About Dyslexia

Characteristics of Dyslexia are sometimes misunderstood as an indicator of cognitive ability leading to misdiagnosis & inappropriate intervention.  Here are the facts you need to know to help identify characteristics early:

  • Dyslexia is not an indicator of lack of cognitive ability
  • Dyslexia is a difficulty with processing sounds which causes difficulty in learning the (alphabetic principle (letter-sound correspondence), spelling, & reading.
  • Dyslexia is often related to certain hereditary factors in one or more relatives.
  • 1 in 5 people or 20% of people have characteristics of Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia is not a vision issue, it is a language-based issue.
  • People with Dyslexia have the same risk of vision problems as those without Dyslexia.
  • Dyslexia can cause struggles with speaking – not being able to find the correct word to say & other social situations.
  • Dyslexia is not just reversal of letters or reading words backwards.
  • People with Dyslexia are working 5 to 10 times harder than peers to read, spell & write.
  • Dyslexia is not curable.  It is a brain-based condition with lifelong challenges.
  • Early Intervention & accommodations will have a positive impact in language & academic development.

Definition of Dyslexia

The International Dyslexia Association defines “dyslexia” in the following way:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.

(Adopted by the International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, November 12, 2002)

Contrary to popular belief, Dyslexia has been in existence for a long time and do has its evolving definitions.  As more and more knowledge is acquired about this learning different, newer more concise definitions arise.  In the late 1960’s the World Federation of Neurologists said dyslexia was, “a disorder in children who, despite conventional classroom experiences, are unable to attain the language skills of reading, writing, and spelling, commensurate with their intellectual abilities.”   We have come a long way since the 1960’s in our understanding of Dyslexia.  Although, this definition is not so far off from IDA’s more detailed definition above.

Some may believe Dyslexia only affects children, but in actuality the difficulty persists throughout a person’s lifetime if not identified and treated early.  The earlier dyslexia is tackled, the more successful the intervention will be.  However, people with dyslexia who may not have been identified early on can still learn strategies to improve their language skills.

The signs of dyslexia in early learners could go undetected.  One tendency of dyslexic children is to become frustrated by their struggles they encounter in learning to read.  They can begin the “hate” the process of reading, when our goal for them is to love this process. Other problems that can arise & sometimes disguise the signs of dyslexia in an early learner, may be:

  • low self-esteem & signs of depression
  • attitude and behavior problems at school and at home as well.
  • lack of motivation and a dislike for school
  • task avoidance

Dyslexia is learning difference,  not a disability.  And if handled correctly, a child with dyslexia could be the next Steven Spielberg or Albert Einstein…Yes!!  Both geniuses battled dyslexia.

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TacScreen Review – Tactile Touch Screen Cover for Multi-Sensory Learning

In this day and time of the 21st Century, technology and its dividends have been infused into the educational system to aid learning.  As a result, many classrooms today have access to iPads or other brand-name mobile devices to improve the learning environment.  This not only helps to match up with new technology standards but also meets the expectations of our 21st Century learners.

Considering the diversity of learners in each classroom, meeting each of their individual educational needs is always a challenge, and even more challenging is adapting to the needs of struggling students with Dyslexia, ADHD, Dysgraphia or even Autism.

There is not gainsaying how passionate I am about the Multisenory Approach to teaching, not only for the struggling learner but for all students.  As I have always reiterated in my blog posts, I am constantly seeking new methods, researching products and apps that can efficiently enhance this concept of auditory, visual and tactile approach to teaching.  I vehemently believe that the Multisensory Approach to teaching and learning not only makes a better student by also makes a better teacher.

On product I would strongly recommend for this purpose is the TacScreen.

The TacScreen is a tactile iPad learning screen that easily fits on any tablet.  The TacScreen fuses the fundamental techniques of multi-sensory stimulation to an iPad and helps complement an overall learning process.

Susan Mon Pere, a USC Business Entrepreneurship graduate created the TacScreen in 2013 and subsequently founded TacScreen, Inc. in 2014.  The development of TacScreen was born out of a desire to help her oldest son, who had been diagnosed with dyslexia at age 7.  When Susan realized the school system wouldn’t provide the much-needed intervention for her son until 3rd grade, she knew she had to get creative and do something for her child.

Susan knew the signs and struggles of dyslexia as she struggled in similar ways growing up with dyslexia herself.  She was not only well versed on the importance of treating and tackling her son’s different learning needs early on, but also knew that to effectively turn around dyslexia with her son, the services of an Orton-Gillingham tutor and a speech pathologist would be needed.

Sitting in the OG tutoring facility Susan pondered on the possibility of infusing the “sense of touch”, like sand, to an iPad…and TacScreen was created.  Today, Susan is dedicated to sharing TacScreen with other kids mothers just like her!

In order to effectively write an informative, unbiased review, I had to test-run TacScreen because I knew that to find out if the TacScreen was everything it claimed to be, I would have to bring it right to my own students to try it out!

My student “testers were in Kindergarten through 4th grade.  Here are some of their responses after trying the TacScreen for the first time:

  • “This is Awesome! It’s like my finger is a pencil actually writing on paper.”
  • “It’s very cool! I like it because it is different.”
  • “I love the bumps!”
  • “I think it helps me remember what the letter “feels” like when I try to write.”
  • “Can I have this?”

Teachers discovered many things they loved about the TacScreen, too:

  • “The students were more engaged during the activity using the TacScreen.”
  • “I can tell this will help students keep focused on the task longer.”
  • I love having a Multi-sensory option with the iPads during stations.”


There are many advantages to using the TacScreen as a multisensory learning tool.  I’m going to share my top five with you!


The TacScreen is an easy tool to use in the classroom or at home.  It is very easy to apply and fits perfectly on any iPad.  It works with any app or document you have on your iPad!  The app you see in the pictures below is the “Writing Wizard”.  You will also see below in the pictures, the easy step-by-step process for applying the TacScreen to an iPad.


The TacScreen comes with clear & easy application instructions.




TacScreen even thought to include a specially designed cloth to remove any dust or dirt on your screen before application of the screen.

Peel back the blue tab to pull off the first screen protector before application.

Peel back the blue tab to pull off the first screen protector before application.







Align the film to the corner of your tablet & hold in place. Slowly apply TacScreen.

Align the film to the corner of your tablet & hold in place. Slowly apply TacScreen.

Once TacScreen is set on your tablet, pull the orange tab off. These protective covers are to insure your TacScreen will be dust and finger-print free when applied.

Once TacScreen is set on your tablet, pull the orange tab off. These protective covers are to insure your TacScreen will be dust and finger-print free when applied.





Now the TacScreen is ready to use!!

Now the TacScreen is ready to use!!



  • The TacScreen was created to enhance the learning process for not just a dyslexic child, but also for growing learners. After observing all kinds of learners using the TacScreen, I am convinced that this is beneficial, especially to early learners.  However, I must add that whether or not a student has learning difficulties, this product is beneficial as it engages students, helping with retention and application of information. Hear the honest and organic responses from these students  after using the TacScreen for the first time:


  • The TacScreen is an easy and effective way to improve the use of technology as an educational tool with a Tactile Multi-Sensory approach.


  • With the TacScreen, there is a powerful connection students can make – learning and touching.  Multi-Sensory teaching essentially provides three important pathways or modalities for learning:  Auditory, Visual, and Tactile/Kinesthetic.  When all three pathways are activated while learning, retention of information will be much greater.


  • often times, outstanding products such as the TacScreen are placed at a steep price making it inaccessible to the populace but the TacScreen is affordably priced at $19.95 and they accept P.O.’s, too!

Here is the ordering contact information:

  • If you are purchasing without a P.O., go to TacScreen’s website to place your order.
  • If you are using a Purchasing Order,  contact Susan at Tacscreen@gmail.com or 559-288-6881

If you need to enhance learning for your students or you are in need of something to help your struggling learners, TacScreen is the way to go as it brings Multi-Sensory strategies into your classroom.  Furthermore, any learner can benefit from tactile learning and since the TacScreen works with anything you download to your iPad, you could create a task-specific document for use on an iPad.  Ideal for student remediation or writing stations!

Ideas for teacher-created documents for student practice or review might be:

  • Vocabulary: Words and Definitions
  • Spelling Words
  • Sentences
  • Cursive Letters

Are you ready to change your students’ lives by bringing a more Multi-Sensory component into your classroom and teaching approach? Then choose the TacScreen!

You will experience a big difference in the quality of your teaching and in the engagement of your student’s learning.

TacScreen is certainly a great way to start.  If your ready, start here.

Let me know in the comments below how you would use the TacScreen  in your classroom.  I’d love to hear your ideas – remember, there is no better personal development than when teacher’s share their ideas with each other!

Make it a great week!!


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Building Successful Word Awareness Strategies

Word Awareness

There are six essential developmental levels of building a solid foundation for phonological awareness for students.  They are:

  • Word Awareness
  • Rhyme Awareness
  • Syllable Awareness
  • Rhyme Production
  • Phoneme Awareness
  • Phoneme Manipulation

On May 10, 2016 here on the blog, we discussed “Rhyme  Awareness and Production” with the Rhyme Time Set in the post “Why a Multisensory Approach” .  In this post, you’ll discover that each of the activity sets in “Building Great Spellers and Readers”  include strategies which build on each other, enhancing spelling and reading development. Phonemic Awareness was discussed in the “Understanding the Importance of the Alphabet beyond Pre-K and Kindergarten.” post.  Please refer to these posts to stay informed with the details of these 3 levels of building a solid foundation for phonological awareness.

Seeing as we have extensively discussed “Phoneme Awareness” and “Rhyme Production & Awareness” levels, the natural step forward in developing a solid foundation in phonological awareness would be to discuss “Word Awareness” using the “Word Building Activity Set”.

This post details the importance of “Word Awareness” as one part of the six developmental levels of building a solid phonological awareness foundation for students.

There are many “spelling” activities that focus on primarily on the visual learning pathway, neglecting the auditory and kinesthetic learning pathways, which sadly leads to memorization of letters in words instead of actual decoding of the words. As a result, students become great memorizers instead of great decoders.  However, with the “Word Building Activity Set”, a student’s “Word Awareness” is greatly improved because the activities included in the “Word Building Activity Set” allow students to use all three learning modalities: auditory, visual and kinesthetic.

While a student who memorizes words is seemingly on par with a student who actually decodes words, when the student who memorizes words encounters a word they don’t know how to read or spell, they will struggle with decoding it visually (seeing the spelling patterns of the word) and/or auditorily (ability to break apart the sounds in a word individually) while a student who “decodes” words will easily read or spell words they are not necessarily familiar with.

To build a solid foundation in spelling and reading, it is pertinent that the student is properly grounded through explicit teachings.  This means we are essentially teaching our students to THINK about what they are spelling and reading by using important strategies.  These strategies help to sharpen their spelling and reading abilities in the long run.

The earlier we begin teaching our students about the proper ways to spelling and read the better!!  Early intervention is always best!  I’m talking about starting as early as Pre-K explicitly introducing multi-sensory strategies for letter/sound correspondence and building on these strategies for spelling and reading through at least 2nd Grade.  As a result, we would be developing better writers, THINKers, and problem solvers.

All of the activities in the “Word Building Activity Set” , as well as the other products in my TpT store, have been developed with this purpose in mind.

So…Ready…Set…Here’s a LOOK into the Word Building Activities included in this set:

I developed the SLAP! phonological word building activity in 2015 in a bid to help improve the phonological awareness activities in our curriculum by making them a little more engaging.  And by engaging, I mean on a Multi-Sensory level.  SLAP! helps to develop spelling and reading patterns for your students and is a simple basis for many activities in word building.

SLAP! quickly became one of my students’ favorites!  And quite unsurprisingly, too, because SLAP! has a rather simple concept.  In as much as SLAP! is simple to grasp, it does, however, manage to provide a much deeper understanding of sounds within words for students.

Here is how SLAP! works:

Using one of the 12-word lists provided, students will build a word, putting letters to match the sounds they hear in the initial, medial and final positions of the word.  Each word in the word lists changes by one sound.

Students un-blend the new word by listening for the one sound they need to change in order to create the new word.  When they have added, switched, or changed a sound to create the new word, they hit the “SLAP!” card and hands go in their lap.

Picture1 Picture2







There are several options for playing SLAP! which can be redesigned for children or students on their different learning levels.  I use SLAP! with my Pre-K – 4th grade students and have since experienced massive progress in their spelling and reading success.







It is noteworthy to state that when I incorporated the “Magnetic Write-on & Wipe-off Dice” from Really Good Stuff, SLAP! as a means of learning became even more fun and engaging.  The goal of the “Word Building Activity Set” is to engage the student on a multi-sensory level while using fun as a means of teaching.


One of the most important things toward the spelling and reading development of your child or student(s) is keeping them active in learning throughout the year.  Whatever program, curriculum or activity you choose, make sure it is explicitly teaching your child to THINK about the sounds and letters attached to those sounds using an engaging Multi-Sensory method for optimal application of strategies taught.

The “Building Great Spellers & Readers” Bundle includes the SLAP! activities and many more activities for all the six developmental levels for building a solid foundation for spelling, reading and writing.  Through this process, students are not limited to just memorizing the words, but truly being able to decode unfamiliar words.

Click HERE to take a closer look at this bundle.


I am confident that purchasing the “Building Great Spellers & Readers” bundle  will be both be fun and enriching for your students or child as they grow in their spelling and reading skills.

If you have any questions, helpful product suggestions or requests, please email me at slturnquist@gmail.com

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Have a great week,


Understanding the Alphabet Beyond Pre-K & Kindergarten


#phonicslabIn my years of experience as a Dyslexia Therapist, one common denominator with most of the students referred to me for evaluation is basically a lack of understanding of the alphabet.  Most people would argue that this problem is primarily for the “Littles”, (Pre-K through Kindergarten aged) but that’s not entirely true as many older students share the same difficulty in spelling and/or reading.  It goes without saying, Dyslexia has no real age limits.

The English language is alphabetic and as such, the essential component of learning to read the language is understanding that each letter of the alphabet represents a sound.  This is called the Alphabetic Principle.

The importance of understanding the alphabet is grossly underestimated.  As a result, the teaching of the alphabet is abandoned way to early in the learning process.  It is as though the sole purpose of learning the alphabet in Preschool grades is to sing the alphabet song.  When that’s accomplished, the alphabet is pushed aside.

Our education system appears more focused on students just being able to read.  While this is an important goal, the rudimentary steps to becoming a successful reader are being passed by too quickly or in some cases left out completely for the emerging reader.

In my expert opinion, Judith R. Birsh’s book, “Multi-Sensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills” offers the best rationale for the importance of teaching the Alphabetic Principle.  This book was my “bible” when I studied Academic Language Therapy back in school.  Birsh understands the value of letter recognition and its importance in spelling/reading development.

The Role of Letter Recognition and Naming within the Reading Process:

  1. Letters are the data that make reading possible and are visually processed by every reader.
  2. Beginner level readers who readily recognize individual letters soon develop and start recognizing orthographic patterns (familiar letter sequences) – an essential step to becoming a good reader.
  3. Knowing letter names provides a springboard for learning and remembering letter-sound relationships.
  4. The ease or difficulty with which a student acquires letter knowledge determines how easily and successfully a student will learn to read.

Knowing letter names provides the stable property to which other variable properties, such as sound and shape can be attached.

So, how can a teacher or home-school parent dig deeper into the aforementioned points?

Keep reading and find out!!

I have implemented this process with not just my dyslexic students, but also with non-dyslexic students as well and I believe you would achieve the same level of success if you do, too.



  1. Letters are the data that make reading possible and are visually processed by every reader.

Skillful readers visually process virtually every individual letter of every word as they read, and this is true whether they are reading isolated words or meaningful connected text (Adams, 1990b, p.18).

This  process is not perceived on a conscience level, so as unbelievable as it mas sound, studies show that misprints of even very familiar words are detected by skillful readers. However, struggling readers who have difficulty recognizing individual letters are usually unable to identify letter sequences or letter patterns in words as well as a skillful reader dose almost naturally.

I begin each of my classes with multi-sensory alphabet activities.  Simply using 3-D plastic letter and an alphabet arc.


Students name (aloud) and place each letter, in order, around the arc.  This activates the tree important learning modalities – Auditory, Visual, & Kinesthetic.  Each of these modalities is important in helping struggling students make connections with letter formations and the name.  “Children who know letter names have a foundation for learning the alphabetic principle which struggling children do not know automatically.” (Birsh, p.87)  Knowing the letter names gives students the ability to make a more successful connection to the sounds each letter makes, bringing them closer to understanding the Alphabetic Principle.

So, spend time on this skill.  Repetition is key.

As the year progresses, we play alphabet games to reinforce letter names as well as alphabetical order:

  • Guess the Letter: put plastic letters in a non-clear container.  Students pick a letter with eyes closed.  Using only their hands/fingers to feel the letter, they try to guess which letter it is.  They keep the letters named correctly and incorrectly named letters go back into the container.  The student with most letters at the end of the game is declared the “alphabet guru” for the day.
  • Before & After: once students have named and placed their plastic letters on the alphabet arc, say a letter name aloud and ask a student to find that letter on the arc and name the letter before and after it.  As they become more comfortable, play this game without the arc in front of them.  Sometimes I provide an alphabet strip, but find that students want to try to answer with out looking.  In such cases, set a time limit on giving an answer.
  • Closer to A / Closer to Z (Two Players): put plastic letters in a non-clear container.  Decide prior to starting whether you want the “winning” letters to be closer to A or Z.  Two students choose one letter each from the container.  The students have to decide who has the letter closest to either A or Z.  Then they place the letters on their arc or alphabet strip.  Repeat this process until all the letters have been chosen.  This is a great thinking game and help students develop a better understanding of the organization of the alphabet.

2. Beginner level readers who readily recognize individual letters soon develop and        start recognizing orthographic patterns (familiar letter sequences) – an essential          step to becoming a good reader. 

This is the point where my students have a strong grasp on recognizing letters in isolation and are now ready to start learning about letter patterns.  I being by teaching the two basic syllable patterns: Closed and Open.

Slide3 Slide4


Introducing these two basic syllable patterns opens the door for teaching the short and long vowel sounds.  Vowel sounds (a,e,i,o,u) are the most important sounds to know before word building begins.  Having a grasp of the vowel sounds and being able to differentiate between hearing a short or a long vowel sound in a word or syllable will set students up for success in making connections with the application of these and other syllable patterns in spelling, reading and writing.

3. Knowing letter names provides a springboard for learning and remembering letter        -sound relationships.

4. The ease or difficulty with which a student acquires letter knowledge reliably,                predicts how easily and successfully a student will learn to read.

So, we know these points to be true.  Repetition of the activities discussed in points 1 & 2 will set our students up for success in digging a bit deeper toward building a solid foundation for reading, spelling and writing.

5. Knowing letter names provides the stable property to which other variable                    properties, such as sound and shape can be attached.

At this point in laying a solid foundation in the Alphabetic Principle, I share with my students that every letter has a:

  • Name (we know this now!!)
  • Shape (we also know this!!)

But now we are going to learn that every letter has a

  • Sound and a…
  • Feel


Grab this poster for FREE in  my TpT store.  Click graphic for link.

Grab this poster for FREE in my TpT store. Click graphic for link.

This introduction to a letter’s SOUND and FEEL opens the door to discovering word building skills, launching our students into the world of becoming successful readers!!

I purchased small mirrors for each of my students to view how their mouths make each sound of the alphabet.

When making  VOWEL sounds, the mouth will be open (to varying degrees) while CONSONANT sounds will be blocked by the Tongue, Teeth, or Lips.

Another multi-sensory practice to show students in order to help them become aware of the use or non-use of the voice when making sounds is to have them place two fingers gently around the middle of their throat.  Say a vowel sound aloud & have your students repeat the vowel sound while fingers are gently resting on their throats.  They will feel a vibration because when making a VOWEL sound we use our voice, so our voices will be “on” when we make a vowel sound. VOWEL sounds are VOICED sounds.

CONSONANT sounds can be VOICED or UN-VOICED —> For example, the sound of ‘B’ uses the voice to project its sound; while the sound of ‘P’ uses air to make its sound.  It can also be said that unvoiced sounds are “quiet” sounds.

Once these multi-sensory practices are understood, word building skills should begin in order to help students understand the importance of the application of the multi-sensory strategies.  With automaticity of these strategies, student will process sounds more successfully in spelling, reading and when writing.

The Kindergarten, First, and Second grade teachers at my school began implementing a more purposeful & explicit phonetic multi-sensory teaching process in the areas of Alphabetic Principle and Word Building.  In just three short years, we have seen a growth in letter knowledge & improved reading skills overall.  Taking a purposeful & explicit approach to teaching the foundation steps for reading beginning in Kindergarten, allows us to see clearly, if you will, those students truly struggling with a learning difference, whether it be Dyslexia or another language-based learning difference.

Take a peek at the multi-sensory alphabet activities I use with my students to begin laying a solid foundation in the Alphabetic Principle:

Let's Explore the Alphabet

Have a GREAT start to your school year equipping your students for success in spelling and reading!


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Let’s talk about the Fine Art of Spelling



As a former First Grade teacher for more than 14 years, it’s safe to say I have quite the experience with children and their spelling difficulties and frankly, while I will tell you that building a solid foundation for student success in spelling can be an uphill task, it is not exactly a “no-brainer”.

 Here is a little something I created at a parent’s request. Spelling Patterns are not always easily identified in words.  This is especially true if you are not teaching these specific skills every day.  So, I frequently have parents ask for something to help them identify spelling patterns in words in order to help guide their child to use their spelling/reading strategies when working with them at home.

Take a peek at these super cute posters



Now, let’s talk spelling…


Language according to Wikipedia is the ability to acquire and use complex systems of communication, particularly the human ability to do so, and language is any specific example of such a system.

Each language, irrespective of how seemingly complex, has a pattern. The art of spelling in all languages is built around the patterns of each language…at least it should be.

Spelling in recent times has become a more of a memorization of letters for students. More troubling is the fact that instead of actually decoding words, students simply memorize these words and this usually results in difficulties when they encounter uncommon words. This act of memorizing can be quite a challenge for those students who learn differently, and for their parents and teachers,  too.

Over the years, words have had their meanings designed and redesigned throughout history. Take a look at this article by The Dyslexia Training Institute on Orthography ~ the way in which the words of a language are spelled,  which gives a helpful explanation of the history of words ~ etymology.  Also, check out www.etymonline.com  to find more explanations of what our words mean and how they sounded throughout history.

Learning and understanding the history of a word opens up the opportunity to give students or your own child a rich foundation for understanding how & why words are designed ~ this leads to understanding how a word is spelled and by extension, how a word is rightly pronounced.  Understanding the word origin of a word helps shape the way we say the word.  For example, the word “Sachet” could be mispronounced by some just as it is spelled, but understanding that “Sachet” has a French origin will help students understand why the “ch” will make the “sh” sound in this word.  Also, words that begin with “wr” typically will have refer to “twisting”, as in the words: wring, wrist, & wrap. Understanding word origin gives students the opportunity to make a connection with words and their meanings, which will lead to improved vocabulary understanding, thus improved reading & writing skills.  The history of words cannot be underestimated.

Here are some mini-lessons & activities that I use to help my dyslexic students approach spelling words more successfully.  You can experience the same progress I have made with my students by using these same strategies daily.

First, we take a fresh look our spelling words…

spelling patterns pic

… and we discover the pattern(s) in the words.  I’ve mixed some patterns in the words above for the purpose of this post; however, weekly spelling lists should focus on one, maybe two patterns.

to discover the patterns in the word “stay” we:

~unblend the sounds


~Then I give students some time to discover there are 3 sounds & 4 letters in the word ‘stay’

~ we connect the sounds to the letters in the word

sound letter connection

~now we can see what patterns are spelling what sounds in each word.  In the word ‘stay’  we find the ay pattern spells the final long ‘a’ sound.

Here are the un-blended words and sound-letter connections for the other words listed above:

all words unblending

The Sound Pattern Posters were designed to help with this strategy.

We also use these Application Pages to apply focus on sound/pattern strategies:

Take a peek at all the newly updated editable pages here:

Each application page focuses on a pattern: -ck, -tch, etc.

…or spelling rule: k or c in initial/medial position, for example.

A Teacher Guide is included with each application page, which allows each of the Application Pages to serve as a small or whole group mini-lesson.

As my students are learning to apply these important spelling strategies, I have these posters hanging in my classroom as a visual reminder of “What Do Good Spellers Do?”

What do Good Spellers Do

These helpful posters

identify step by step

the process I explained today for successful spelling.

Hanging these posters adds the important VISUAL learning modality for your students in becoming a good speller.

Feel free to share this post with friends or family that may benefit from these helpful resources and info.

 Please leave your comments below. As always, I enjoy reading your comments and feedback on what struggles you are seeing with your students & what strategies you are using to help.

Have a great week!!

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