Proven Strategies You can use when Conventional Approaches to Reading Don’t Work.

Are you a teacher who strives to go above and beyond for your students, especially those struggling to learn their sounds & letter names, or to spell or read?  You realize that the same conventional approaches are just not working for these students.

struggling student

Well, I can relate because I felt this way…every year of the 14 years that I taught First Grade.

 I get it.

The desire to learn more about how I could help the group of 5 to 10 students each year who struggled to put sounds together to spell or read a word, drove me to head back to college to become a Certified Academic Language Therapist.

I’ve mentioned this in a previous post, or two…

1 in 5 people or 20% of the population struggles with Dyslexia Characteristics.  This means each classroom has at least 4 to 5 students who struggle specifically with Dyslexia.

The multi-sensory approaches I was trained to use to teach students a new way of thinking about sounds in order to spell and read with more success, specifically students with Dyslexia, are scientifically proven, Orton-Gillingham based approaches.

I’d love to share with you one of the most effective approaches I use to teach my students successful spelling & reading strategies.

Spelling is the process of hearing a word, breaking it into its individual sounds, and then writing them on paper. ~Uncovering The Logic of English

The strategies used for spelling are basically used in reverse for reading.  So, how important is it for us as teachers to choose the right approach in order to lay the most successful foundation for our students so they will be equipped with the most successful strategies to apply when they spell and read?

My students know that when they enter my class, they are working to become Word Scientists. A more detailed explanation can be found HERE in this post.  Basically, we are all about de-coding the English language ~ taking apart words into its individual sounds – visually & auditory, manipulating them, and putting them together in a logical way to read or write.  Scientists manipulate chemicals or dinosaur bones and puts them together in a logical, scientific way in order to create a solution to a problem or need.  The problem we are solving is breaking the code of our phonetic language in order to read & spell words.


Enter into the Phonics Lab…

One way my students learn to become Word Scientists is by making Auditory Word Pictures.  We do this by using Mouth Position Pictures.


Mouth Position Pictures provide a way for students to connect the sounds they are trying to manipulate within a word by using visual and auditory pathways.  When a word is spoken in running speech, individual sounds are distorted, in a sense.

This quote explains it best…

…sounds are rarely found in their pure forms within words.  Sounds in close proximity distort one another within the flow of natural speech. ~Uncovering The Logic of English

This is especially true with the nasal sounds – m, n, ng, nk and L & R.  Each of these sounds can get “lost” in running speech unless a student knows how to “feel” these sounds in isolation.

I use this poster to introduce the concept that sounds have a “feel”.

Grab it FREE in my TpT Store!

Name Shape Sound Feel Poster

Click the graphic for link.


Beginning as early as Kindergarten, teachers at my school implement Mouth Position Pictures when they introduce sounds/letters.  One mouth position is introduce at a time.   Each Mouth Position Picture is placed on the classroom alphabet under the letter it represents as a constant visual reminder for students. Below is an example of the cards that are placed under  the classroom alphabet.

Slide4 Slide6Once students have been introduced to a Mouth Position Picture, it is important to provide activities to help students begin to make important sound/letter connections.  Here are examples of pocket chart activities used in a Kindergarten classroom:


This pocket chart activity is one of the first activities the kindergarten students do after being introduced to the sound, letter and Mouth Position Picture.  Here, the student matches the Mouth Position Picture with the letter it represents.  A small mirror should be provided at this activity so the student can look at the position of their mouth when making each sound.


In this pocket chart activity, the students listen for the Initial, Medial or Final sound, of the picture and place the Mouth Position Picture that represents the sound underneath the picture.  A small mirror should be provided for this activity.


In this pocket chart activity the students say the picture’s name, listen for the Initial, Medial or Final sound & attach the Mouth Position Picture along with the letter.  A small mirror should be provided for this activity.


This pocket chart activity would be a goal for kindergartners to reach by the end of the school year.  Here, students will say the picture’s name aloud and using a small mirror, break apart the sounds to create an auditory picture of each sound. Then student will match the Mouth Position Picture card that represents each of the sounds in the word. First Grade students could begin the year with this activity and then progress on to an activity requiring them to manipulate sounds in a word in order to create new words.  I will explain this activity in more detail further down in this post.

My students LOVE clip cards, so I always try to have them ready for word work stations & my Early Literacy groups.

Here are some clip cards that provide another opportunity for students to become familiar with the Mouth Position Pictures and to also make important sound/letter connections creating auditory pictures in their mind’s eye. Each of the picture clip cards have been designed with each of the mouth position pictures for the Initial, Medial or Final sound.  So you can assign any position’s sound for your students to focus on to provide multiple uses for these clip cards.Slide34 Slide42 Slide50 Slide59

(The picture of the box for the final /x/ sound is represented by two mouth position pictures b/c its sound is a combination of the /k/ & /s/ sounds.)

This is great to use as an assessment tool and/or word work station activity to review the skills of creating Auditory Pictures & connecting to letters for word building. I am collaborating with two amazing teachers who teach Kindergarten and First Grade to create independent activities that work in the KG and 1st grade classrooms.  These will be added throughout the school year to the Mouth Position Picture Activities product.

Click the graphic below to download this free Independent Activity Sheet.

mouth pic independent activity

The key to reading and writing a phonetic language is the ability to break a word into its individual sound parts and to glue it back together.                                   ~Uncovering The Logic of English

The next activity is one that I use daily with my students and build upon for the remainder ofthe school year.  The approaches used within this activity unlock the code to our phonetic language and open the door to word building, reading & writing.

When conventional approaches to spelling and reading are not effective for your struggling students, you now know another way to open their minds to discovering letters & sounds, changing the direction of their future by giving them the tools…the keys to unlocking the code to our phonetic language in a way they can understand.

If you are interested in purchasing the The Mouth Position Picture Activities, click the link below:

**this product will be 20% off Feb. 7-8 during the TpT Site-Wide Sale – use promo code: “LOVETpT” for a total of 28% off your purchases!!**Slide1


If you have any questions, please comment below or email me at

Make it an amazing week,


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