Top 5 Myths about Dyslexia: Busted! An article on Noodle.com

I am thrilled to announce my latest article on Noodle.com, entitled “5 Myths About Dyslexia: Busted.” It lists common beliefs about dyslexia, then corrects those illusions with the most current research about reading. Some of the language is a little fancy, but it is intended for teachers, parents, and even high school students. Click through the sources to read more about the latest research!

Did it help bust any myths that you had?

I’m back from vacation…and better than ever :º)

sun

I went on vacation and swore off (almost all) technology. Hence: no blog posts. But I haven’t been idle! I’ll post a few articles I wrote for noodle.com that are intended to be shared with parents, teachers, whomever! I’ve also been doing more training into SRSD, which has led me to develop more materials for teachers to use with Upper Elementary & Middle School students.

I hope you are all having a refreshing summer, too!

 

5 Best Spelling Apps

I had a previous post about 10 Best Spelling Games, which included lots of fun games that were for students who may have struggled with spelling, but did not require structured, multi-sensory instruction. For students who do require that, apps are still limited (That’s why my list only has 5, not 10 apps, as usual). I use these apps as a supplement to my Orton-Gillingham literacy interventions. Rarely assigned to be done independently, we use the app as a talking point.

 

Apps that have random spelling lists, allow for things like word scrambling, and do not focus on phonics are not educationally sound. They rely on memorization not skills or pattern-based learning, which is how students with reading and spelling difficulties need to be taught.

Below are the 5 Best Spelling Apps currently on the market for students with dyslexia or spelling/encoding difficulties:

  1. Sound Literacy ($24.99) I have to admit, I initially found Sound Literacy to be not very user-friendly. The more I’ve used it, though, the more I think it’s worth every penny. It allows for multiple student users, each with their own alphabet set, or letters and syllables that they already know (not the full alphabet that most apps provide, even when students have not learned all sounds). It also has different colors for vowels as well as inflectional suffixes (-ed, -ing). Focus on patterns and processes (e.g. drop the e rule).  Youtube videos were a great help when I was figuring out just how to use this tool most effectively. Lots of customization options available, including having Elkonin boxes, if your student has been using those.

    Sound Literacy

    Sound Literacy

  2. Simplex Spelling Phonics 1 ($4.99) & Simplex Spelling Phonics -Advanced Phonograms (4.99) (Also have a Lite Version, Free): All of these apps are incredibly helpful. Once again, color coded differentiation between vowels and consonants, plus Elkonin-like boxes for various sounds. The app lines up various potential sounds for each box, then has the student select the appropriate sound, activating phonetic knowledge, but also working on MGR. The Apps also allow for multiple student users, and it tracks their progress, plus can print Progress Reports.

    Simplex

    Simplex Spelling Phonics 1

  3. Word Connex (4.99): The sorting activities in it remind me of Words Their Way (which I love). Lots of focus on vowels, so best for elementary. Also has some vocabulary extensions that may be useful for some students.
  4. Alpha Writer ($4.99): for younger (elementary) students. What I like is that vowels (including vowel digraphs and r-controlled vowels) are represented with a different color than consonants. What I don’t like is that the sounds are read with an extra schwa or karat (e.g. B is read as “buh” instead of “b”). I’ve used it with the sound off and with my own vocal supports, or having the child practice segmenting and blending. Also, students have to scroll through the alphabet to find their letters (vs. something like Sound Literacy, where you can select the letters they already know).
  5. Word Magic ($0.99): Also for younger (elementary) students. No color coded differentiation for vowels and consonants, but there are various settings which allow the app to be pretty customizable (syllable amount, vowel types). A motivating app.

10 Best Interactive Stories for iPad

Actual books will never go out of style, and all children should learn the wonders that can be held on paper, alone. However, sometimes, there can be a benefit to stories presented on an iPad as well (even when not being used as an assistive technology device).

Below are my picks for Top Ten Interactive Stories for iPad. There are many others out there, and I welcome recommendations in the comments! In no particular order…

  1. Scruffy Kitty: a simple interactive book for younger readers. 5 language options available.
  2. Speech with Milo (Interactive Storybook): Especially good for students who are using other Milo apps and are familiar with the characters, but no background knowledge required, so it’s a great fit for any younger reader. Nicely illustrated with bright colors.
  3. Little Polar Bear: Okay, I’m biased. My favorite animal is a polar bear. BUT this app is wonderful nonetheless. With options to have the story read to you or not, the pictures animate as you go along, and provide fun (but not too distracting) sound effects throughout
  4. Town Mouse and Country Mouse: Great for younger students and for somewhat older (still elementary-aged) students learning about fables. Has lots of games within the story, which can prove to be distracting, but it can also be a great motivating tool. Just make sure that the page is read before beginning the games.
  5. Good Night, Little Rainbow Fish: With characters from the excellent story, Rainbow Fish, each page has some amount of interactivity (although not all of it is necessary for the plot, so it has the potential to become distracting).
  6. Mr. Fox and Mr. Rabbit: One of my favorites! Deceptively simple, but adorable and just silly enough. Not too much interactivity, but the sound effects are fun!
  7. Hide Run Growl: For preschool and kindergarten ages, these stories are
  8. Wanderful Storybooks: Requires in-app purchases to get a real library, but the wide selection of stories and interactivity they provide make it worth it. Samples available with the free app.
  9. Middle School Confidential 1 & 2: for older students, these comics write about real issues, and the interactivity allows students to zoom in on various parts of the book to really understand and analyze it
  10. …and the Ulimate Interactive Story is: Brush of Truth. Inviting students to add to elements of the plot, and truly participate in their reading. It’s a Choose Your Own Adventure for the 21st Century!

 

SRSD: Models

A key component in Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD) is providing your students with sufficient models, which they then use to score, critique, revise, and then as a sample for their own writing. Sometimes I write my own models. Sometimes I use previous or current student work. Other times, neither of those will do. So, where can you find student writing samples?

  1. Think SRSD: Since this is an SRSD site, not only will you find rubrics and research, but the top link (CCSS Standards one) includes writing samples (embedded under each genre type: persuasive, narrative, or expository), for a range of grade levels.
  2. Achieve the Core: Achieve the Core is an excellent resource for a number of reasons, one of them being that they have a ton of writing samples, across ages, across genres, across abilities. They even have annotated student samples. Viewing these is like your own SRSD lesson (learning by viewing annotated models will be exactly what your students will be doing!).
  3. Oregon State Tests (for Grade 3Grade 4, Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 8, and High School): This site has old state tests with various levels of student achievement, with different genres (narrative, expository, persuasive, and imaginative). Have your students grade the poor ones; what’s missing? What makes the good ones better? They can apply these same critiques to peer editing and their own writing.
  4. Core Standards: The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Appendix has several samples across ages (K-12) and genres (informative/expository, persuasive, and narrative). All annotated for your learning pleasure!
  5. Teen Ink: Teaching summarizing or any kind of reviewing (book review? movie review, game review)? Teen Ink is the source for you. They’re written by real kids, so some are better than others… and that’s the point! Students can grade various pieces, and if they want (and your school’s technology policy allows it), they can post their own final products on the site.
  6. Teachers College Reading and Writing Project: They have excellent samples for grades K-3, and 6-8. Expository and narrative, and persuasive (which they call “opinion”).
  7. The Write Source: I don’t love all of the writing samples here, but I do like that they have various types of writing for each genre, such as personal narrative, pet peeve essay, etc. (for narrative and expository, respectively). Also, if you find a bad sample, use it as a basis for critiquing and fixing it up.

Which sites do you use?

Technology for Reading Comprehension : 7 Best Strategies

In my previous post, I listed the 7 Best Reading Comprehension Strategies. Below are suggestions for how to use technology to work on each goal. Those of you who were at my Everyone Reading lecture will recognize many of these, though I’ve added a few new ones! While the research paper was for these strategies being used K-3, I use them through middle school, so you’ll see many of these activities are more Upper Elementary and Middle School appropriate.

1. Activating Prior Knowledge (or Making Connections to the Text)

I like to use graphic organizers to help students connect to the text: text-to-self comes most easily, but I also focus on text-to-text (which includes diverse “text” types, including movies, art, etc.), and text-to-world.

My favorite graphic organizers are:

I also use visuals as a way of activating prior knowledge: I use instagram to find interesting pictures related to a topic, National Geographic has vivid pictures and videos, I just do my own Google searches for relevant images that can inspire conversations and build connections (which enhances reading comprehension!).

2. & 3. & 4. Predicting & Questioning & Fixing Up Strategies

I have grouped these since my intervention approaches to the three are pretty similar… They also interact: predictions are implicit questions (“Will this happen?), and to do accurate fixing up, you’re always questioning, “Does this make sense?”

With both predicting, questioning, and fixing up or monitoring, I find that I do a lot of modeling (which I subsequently fade).  Initially, I read a text and take a screen cast video of my thinking (“think aloud”). I used to use Screen-cast-o-matic, but QuickTime now does easy video casts with newer Macbooks. With these, you can read along & speak what you are thinking, modeling any of the interventions.

With time, I use Google Docs to annotate texts with questions: I practice Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR), so I begin with making Comments that ask different types of questions: Where did she move to? Who is in the basement? I then move on to putting in comment with just the first question word (Who… ? When…?). Thereafter, I’ll put in a Comment but not write anything on it (it signals to students when they should be asking a question or making a prediction). Finally, students annotate their own texts with their own questions and predictions.

Questioning

Probably too tiny to see, but a sample of a highly structured Google Doc, with several teacher-written questions

5. Visualizing

The internet is an amazing resource for finding images. For fiction, my favorite activities are: “casting” a movie (using imdb or Google searches to find various characters), being location scouts (finding images that match the settings), and being a producer or prop consultant (finding other images that are relevant and important to the story). These can all be combined to make a movie poster. Photo editors I like are:

Students can also combine these elements to Summarize visually (see “7” below).

6. Making Inferences

I always begin instruction about inferences with visuals. Visual Thinking Strategies is a way of interacting with an analyzing visual texts, which is structured and evidence-based, but you can find any art that you like and have students make inferences based on the picture. I like this picture… it tells such a tale:

Tornado Over Kansas inference

Tornado Over Kansas. So many inferences to be made!

I also use Graphic Organizers to help with inferences. Readwritethink has one about character changes (here). I also link Questioning with Drawing Inferences a lot (for Why? and even How? questions), so students have multiple exposures about how to make inferences.

For some low-to-no-tech options, check out minds-in-bloom.

7. Retelling or Summarizing

Summarizing and retelling can be done via slideshows. If they’ve already found images while working on Visualizing, then they’re one step ahead. Some apps and sites I like for creating slideshows are:

Students can also make super-short videos to summarize a short passage, poem, or chapter of a book. I like the following apps for that:

More tech-y and not-so-tech-y techniques to come! Stay tuned…

7 Top Reading Comprehension Strategies: An Introduction

The Institute for Educational Services (IES) has an amazing website, with lots of research-based resources and white papers. One excellent resource, is the practice guide, Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade. Among its great recommendations are teaching students Reading Comprehension strategies. They include:

  1. Activating Prior Knowledge (or Making Connections to the Text)
  2. Predicting
  3. Visualizing
  4. Questioning
  5. Making Inferences
  6. Monitoring/Fixing Up
  7. Retelling or Summarizing

It is stressed in the article that these are not meant to be isolated skills, and along with modeling and doing “think alouds” for each strategy, using and applying multiple strategies should be encouraged as well.  Not all texts are great for focusing on each technique, so plan ahead and pick texts that really lend themselves to the diverse strategies listed.  Coming up, I’ll give my favorite resources on how to use technology for each of these skills.

Top 10 Spelling Game Apps

Sometimes (particularly in the summer), I like to assign Spelling Games for my students who are struggling with spelling, but do not need strictly hierarchical, multi-sensory instruction. These are for my older students who have learned many spelling rules, but require more practice. These are intended for independent practice only, as there is no inherent instructional element to them. In “real life,” I like Bananagrams, Boggle, Word Searches, and Hangman. Below are my Top 10 Favorite Apps (many of which mirror my favorite offline games)…

  1. SpellGrid: a lot like Boggle, SpellGrid offers students a grid, from which to find as many words as they can
  2. Letris: a combination of Tetris and Boggle, this game has letters falling from the sky, and students need to make words from the random assortment of letters

    Letris

    Letris

  3. Word Warp Xtreme: like Text Twist, this game is an anagram-based one that requires students to find various words within large words
  4. Bonza: also like Tetris, Bonza requires students to combine random shapes with letters written within them to form words (kind of like banagrams). What I like most about it is the words are always linked by a category, which is great as a clue, and also for cognition

    Bonza Screen Grab-page-001

    Bonza

  5. Word Abacus: has students searching for strings of letters that form words
  6. Ultimate Word Search: as the name suggests, this game is an app-based word search game
  7. Spelling Ninjas: the earlier levels are much too simplistic but there are more difficult levels as you go along
  8. Crossword Adventure for Kids: a little on the easy side as a starter, it does have higher levels that are appropriate for later elementary and middle school students

    CrossWord

    Crossword Adventure for Kids

  9. Ultimate Hangman: a well-illustrated hangman game
  10. Words With Friends: I just had to include the infamous Scrabble-like game

For younger learners, check out this list from Reading Rockets.

 

(All images courtesy of the App Store)