Teaching With Reading Simplified

Those of you who follow my posts know that I am a devotee of the Science of Reading. I have trained in the Institute for Mulit-Sensory Education (IMSE) Orton-Gillingham method, and I have also trained with Reading Simplified. In fact, I am a Reading Simplified Expert Teacher/Tutor. Because Reading Simplified is a newer program, I would like to take time in this post to explain the Reading Simplified methodology and how I teach using Reading Simplified.

Reading Simplified | Facebook

The goal of Reading Simplified is to teach sound-based decoding strategies in order to get learners to grade level reading and fluency as quickly as possible. Reading Simplified was developed by Dr. Marnie Ginsberg and is based on the Targeted Reading Intervention she developed at University of North Carolina. The scope and sequence of Reading Simplified is provided in the Streamlined Pathway, and new skills build upon previously taught skills. Each lesson has three main sections: Re-reading for Fluency, Word Work, and Guided Oral Reading. All readings are selected to reinforce the sound-based decoding skills being taught or reviewed in the Word Work component of the lesson.

Beginning or struggling readers of any age benefit from the structured Reading Simplified approach, and many students learn to decode words within 12 weeks.  While some students may take longer or need more targeted interventions, I have seen tremendous and rapid progress with students who I have found to be “stuck” in the IMSE Orton-Gillingham progression.

Teaching reading online presents its own set of challenges in engaging students and monitoring progress, but I have found the Reading Simplified program easy to adapt to online learning. Every component, from the initial Snapshot Assessment at intake to the Dynamic Assessment for Lesson Planning, to the Reading Development Tracker which I share with parents monthly, is designed to be used together to support ease of planning and targeting instruction to students’ most pressing needs.

What Do We Do In a Reading Simplified Lesson?

Re-Reading for Fluency

Lessons always begin with a quick check-in and presentation of our plan for the day. Then we dive into a re-read of our last lesson’s Guided Reading materials for at least a couple of pages. Re-reading is so important as a formative assessment of where the student needs additional support. Re-reading also allows the student to begin the lesson with a boost of confidence in experiencing the re-reading as easier than it was last time. Finally, as we often “buddy read” during this portion of the lesson, re-reading can allow me to model fluent reading to the student.

Word Work

Word Work is the heart of our Reading Simplified lesson. In Switch It students build and manipulate three to six sound words to practice sound based decoding and sound manipulation skills. Students also build flexible thinking skills used to decode unfamiliar words. Using the Reading Simplified Read It activity, students learn and practice the Blend as You Read strategy, also known as continuous blending. My students, especially those with working memory challenges, have really benefited from learning BAYR. Sort It is used to teach and practice advanced phonics concepts such as long vowels, r-controlled vowels, diphthongs, and word endings. Rather than learning spelling rules, which do take up a lot of working memory space, students learn by doing. They practice sorting words by sound and spelling patterns and learn to think flexibly about those words and common exceptions to learned patterns. Write It is a dictation activity and can be words, phrases, or sentences. Write It is used to support sound-symbol learning done in Read It and Sort It as well as to support reading comprehension.

For reviewing and practicing target skills, I rely on games that I have created on Wordwall. Wordwall allows me to completely customize each game to the target skill, and kids love these! We use Open the Box, Spin the Wheel, Matching, and other games to review and practice sound skills being taught. I have also used many games on the BOOM platform to provide continued practice on previously learned sound-symbol patterns.

Wordwall.net

Guided Oral Reading

The final component of our lesson is Guided Oral Reading, which is continued practice in the sound-symbol patterns presented in the Word Work component of the lesson. The most important component of Guided Oral Reading is trust. The student must trust that they will be asked to read a book that is challenging, but not too challenging, and that they will have my support along the way. I depend on decodable readers for Guided Oral Reading for beginning and struggling readers, and then as they become more skilled we transition into authentic texts such as Frog and Toad or Nate the Great (two of my favorites!). I have found some great decodables on EPIC!, Flyleaf, Phonicbooks, and Starfall, all of which are free for teachers. And of course, we follow with a few reading comprehension questions to allow me to do a quick assessment of student comprehension.

Wrapping It Up

Students are ready to go at the end of a 50-minute tutoring session, but we always take a few minutes to talk about what was easy, what was challenging, and what the student would like to read about next time. Right now the most common request is non-fiction about sharks! I am lucky to be able to find great non-fiction books at many levels on the EPIC! platform, and after careful preview I feel confident that I can provide the support to make the book a “just right” read for our next lesson.

Reading Simplified provides the scope and sequence for effective Tier 1 instruction, but where I find it is outstanding is in the Tier 3 instruction that I provide as a 1:1 tutor. Reading Simplified lessons are easily customizable to allow me to meet students right where they are and provide effective and rapid intervention. Moving a student to grade level reading fluency as quickly as possible is my goal, and Reading Simplified allows me to provide the targeted support students need to get there. Learn more about Reading Simplified by clicking on this link: Reading Simplified.

Learn about my tutoring services: Sand Dollar Tutoring – Online Tutoring for Students in Grades K-3

Please reach out for more information or to arrange a Free Reading Assessment!

Understanding Dysgraphia

Students with dysgraphia generally have messy handwriting which may have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Irregular spacing
  • Unevenly sized letters
  • Writing above or below the lines
  • Erratic pencil pressure
  • Poor spelling, omits letters or words
  • Capitalization errors, including mid-sentence caps
  • Frequent scratch-outs and erasures

Dysgraphia is a neurological challenge which affects the ability to write, often referred to as “an impairment of written expression.” Some students with dysgraphia have low muscle tone in their hands, arms, or core which makes handwriting physically taxing.  Some students with dysgraphia expend so much mental energy in the formation of letters that they struggle to express their thoughts while writing. Some students with dysgraphia have working memory challenges or other brain differences that make associating letters (graphemes) with their corresponding sounds (phonemes) especially difficult.

With early diagnosis and intervention, students with dysgraphia can make significant improvements in their letter formation and written expression. Researchers have demonstrated that the areas of the brain that are active when writing are also active when reading, and students with dysgraphia usually also have impaired reading abilities (dyslexia). An official diagnosis can be made by a neuropsychologist, or a physical therapist can test for motor skills deficiencies. Teachers, tutors, or occupational therapists can implement structured interventions to help students overcome the challenges of dysgraphia. 

If you are a parent or teacher of a student with dysgraphia, the following things may help:

  • Wiggling fingers, hand and arm stretching, or using a stress ball before and during handwriting activities
  • Provide an assortment of pencil grips, especially fat and cushy ones
  • Provide paper with raised lines such as that provided in the Handwriting Without Tears program
  • Provide or request accommodations such as reduced writing requirements, the use of graphic organizers, and oral answers or drawn responses to demonstrate knowledge
  • Utilize the services of a tutor or occupational therapist to provide 1:1 handwriting instruction using a researched based program such as HWOT or EBLI

What do I use in my teaching?

EBLI (Evidence Based Reading Instruction) provides a research-based handwriting remediation program which has been shown to improve student’s letter formation in as little as 2 weeks with 1:1 teacher support. Students compete against themselves to improve their time in writing the alphabet in order to increase automaticity in letter formation. Teachers use the remaining lesson time for formative assessment and 1:1 instruction in letter formation.  The EBLI handwriting program can also be used as a whole class warm up, taking about 5 minutes each class period.

Another evidence-based handwriting instruction program that I have used, Handwriting Without Tears (HWOT), is often provided by Occupational Therapists to students with diagnosed dysgraphia, but it can also be used as a Tier 1 handwriting instruction program. The HWOT program assumes no handwriting knowledge and provides explicit instruction in formation of letters in groups by letter shape and placement on the lined paper.  This is a program with a complete scope and sequence and can take up to a full academic year to complete.  Handwriting Without Tears is sometimes referred to as the Wet…Dry…Try method. 

After a student has mastered letter formation, another tool I use is the handwriting exercises from The Writing Revolution by Judith C. Hochman and Natalie Wexler. The Writing Revolution is a guide to using student writing to inform instruction in grammar and syntax, and this method of instruction makes writing “real” for students.  Avoiding sentence diagramming or overuse of writing terminology, The Writing Revolution begins with instruction on how to write clear sentences that are engaging and informative. I am beginning to incorporate instruction from The Writing Revolution into my tutoring practice by having students complete sentence starters or frames using the model because, but, or so to assess their reading comprehension.

For students who have mastered sentence writing, The Writing Revolution instruction moves on to planning, writing, and revising paragraphs, and eventually into constructing essays and research papers.  Students gain further understanding of content by expressing their thoughts in writing, and teachers may use student writing to assess their content mastery. 

Please do not neglect handwriting instruction!  

While it is tempting to accommodate handwriting challenges using alternative technology such as keyboarding or speech to text, the evidence is clear that striving readers benefit from the brain connections made while learning handwriting.  Support handwriting development, and you will also support reading development. For a deep dive into this connection, see Brain research shows why handwriting should be taught in the computer age – James, Berninger.pdf (ldaustralia.org)

Thanks for taking time to further your understanding of dysgraphia.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help!

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Additional Resources:

EBLI – Evidence Based Literacy Instruction (eblireads.com)

Handwriting Without Tears | Learning Without Tears (lwtears.com)

Home | The Writing Revolution

7 Signs Your Student Has Dysgraphia – All-Star ELA (allstarela.com)

Brain research shows why handwriting should be taught in the computer age – James, Berninger.pdf (ldaustralia.org)

What Are Your Child’s Superpowers?

What are your child’s superpowers? My friend Kelly Rogan, owner of Skool-ed.com, shared an article this week that brought me so much joy!  According to a post by the World Economic Forum, People with dyslexia have ‘enhanced abilities’, according to a new study, people with dyslexia have a unique set of superpowers. Researchers at the University of Cambridge suggest that dyslexia should be regarded as a strength, not a disability, because the condition is linked to “enhanced abilities in areas like discovery, invention, and creativity.” Think about it… what we often think of as a deficit is actually a strength in the ability to adapt to a changing world!

Dyslexia is present in about one in five students, and it can be an inherited condition. People who are dyslexic generally have difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling.  Research has shown that early structured literacy interventions, such as those provided by Orton-Gillingham based programs, is highly effective in retraining the brains of people with dyslexia so that reading, writing, and spelling become less of a challenge. Generally, educators look at dyslexia as a deficit, rather than as a set of unique strengths. Imagine if we could ease the challenges for students with dyslexia while at the same time enhancing their strengths.

Please get in touch if you would like to know more about services offered at Sand Dollar Tutoring. We specialize in strengths-based instruction for students with dyslexia, and we put relationships first.  Let us help your child find their superpowers!

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Understanding Dyscalculia

Dyscalculia involves trouble understanding what numbers mean or how to use numbers to solve math problems. Hallmarks of dyscalculia are weaknesses in subitizing (quickly identify the number of objects present) or in approximate number sense (which plate has more cookies?).  It occurs when the brain’s centers for number sense, visual imaging, and language processing do not work properly or do not work together.  Dyscalculia often co-occurs with other learning disabilities such as dyslexia or ADHD, further complicating the identification and support of students with dyscalculia. In an episode of The LDA Podcast entitled Dyscalculia: Causes, Consequences, and Creative Solutions, Dr. Anneke Schreuder, the founder of Math and Dyscalculia Services, talked about different ways to test for dyscalculia and the importance of early screening and intervention.

Most states do not have any mandatory Kindergarten or First Grade screening requirements for dyscalculia, and there is still not one widely used screening tool for early elementary students.  However, Dr. Schreuder has used behavioral screening with infants as young as six months.  Using a simple test, babies are shown a group of 1-3 objects. When objects are added or taken away, babies commonly respond to the change with eye movements and facial expressions. Math screeners are generally not offered in school until a student has fallen well behind their classmates, and Dr. Schreuder argues that because math learning is sequential – new learning builds upon prior learning –  this “wait to fail” method makes it even more difficult for students to catch up to their peers. Even students who compensate by memorizing math facts find it hard to keep up by Third Grade when concepts like fractions are introduced. For students in Kindergarten and older, a free online numeracy screener is available from Numeracy Screener. This research-based screener developed by Dr. Daniel Ansari at the University of Western Ontario and takes about 5 minutes to administer. Dr. Schreuder offers a low-cost screener on her website Math and Dyscalculia Services

The good news is that once dyscalculia is identified, there are research-based interventions that can help to retrain the brain. Practice subitizing is a common math warm-up activity in Kindergarten and early elementary classrooms. With practice, response times and accuracy improve in many students. Multisensory math instruction has also been shown to boost students’ understanding of the concept of number and how to use numbers to solve math problems. Using objects for counting, number lines, and drawn representation of math problems are some examples of multisensory math instruction. The Corwin Mathematics Recovery Book Series provides intensive instructional tools for early mathematics learning. The US Math Recovery Council has as its mission to connect research in mathematics education with practice, and their resources are invaluable to teachers of math in the early to middle grades.

Below are links to additional information and resources which I have found helpful in understanding dyscalculia and in teaching students about early numeracy.  Please get in touch if you would like additional support on your child’s math journey.

Signs of Dyscalculia in Children

Learning and Thinking Differences That Cause Trouble with Math|

Subitizing Games with FREE Printable Subitizing Cards

Math Tip: Do Warm-Up Exercises to Motivate Your Child to Do Math

10 Multisensory Math Techniques

DIY Summer Math Camp: Budget-Friendly Activity Plans

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Hadyn Fleming Shares What It’s Like to Grow Up with Dyslexia

Teachers use the summer months to catch up on reading and podcasts that help us better serve our students.  One of the podcasts I am catching up on this summer is Science of Reading: The Podcast from Amplify Education.  In an episode from December 2021, Susan Lambert talks to 10th grader Hadyn Fleming about his experiences growing up with dyslexia.  Hadyn currently lives and attends high school in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  He is in Honors Biology and Honors English classes, and he loves US History.  He is a self-proclaimed gym rat who plays on the football team, throws shot put, discus, and hammer, and loves to ski.  He has moved around the US and Mexico with his family, and says of them, “We are adventurers!”  Hadyn’s confidence and charisma are absolutely contagious!

But life hasn’t always been easy for Hadyn.  Like many people with dyslexia, Hadyn had a sense early on that something wasn’t right.  The words in simple books that his friends had mastered looked like scribbles.  A teachers comment, “God, you are so stupid,” was absolutely crushing.  Hadyn became depressed; he felt stuck and insecure. Hadyn was lucky that his parents were able to locate help for him.  When he was 10 he attended Rocky Mountain Camp, a 5-week summer program where he learned that he was not alone in his struggle. Hadyn worked with a 1:1 tutor who provided explicit reading and writing instruction.  After working for up to six hours each day, campers were able to participate in outdoor activities such as kayaking and hiking. Hadyn felt for the first time that “I have a lot of potential if I learn to use it correctly.”  Following Rocky Mountain Camp, Hadyn attended Vertical Skills Academy for two years.  There he continued to work hard to read and write and build his confidence. Hadyn was later diagnosed with ADHD and admits that when his medication wears off it is hard to stay on track or find the right words to express himself. Hadyn admits that he feels very lucky to have a supportive family that helped him identify his dyslexia early and had the resources to help him close the gap.  

When asked to describe his dyslexia, Hadyn said that it is like an obstacle course, and that every time a teacher asks a question he has to go through the course again. This is in every subject. Like in an obstacle course, Hadyn gets bumped and bruised through it all.  Hadyn has learned to advocate for what he needs to make it through the course, especially additional time for tasks or tests and the use of audio books. Hadyn says he can now read just fine, but like other dyslexics the cognitive demands of reading interfere with his comprehension. Using audio books allows Hadyn to use his mental energy to understand and remember what he reads and to fully participate in class discussions.

In graduate school I was introduced to the challenges of Twice-Exceptional (2e) Learners. These students have learning disabilities, like Hadyn. They also have exceptional intelligence, like Hadyn. The combination means that 2e students are acutely aware of their disabilities, but that their giftedness masks their struggles. These students are not lazy or dumb. They require teachers who will look beyond behaviors to find the underlying cause of the student’s struggle and provide the appropriate intervention. If you are interested in more information about 2e Learners, I highly recommend the book Teaching Twice Exceptional Learners in Today’s Classroom by Emily Kircher-Morris. I turn to this book each time I encounter a new student to remind me of the importance of meeting these students where they are and providing interventions designed to support their unique needs.

Hadyn’s goal is to be an aeronautical engineer.  He wants to try one or two AP classes next year, and he plans to apply to Harvard University. While most of us really cannot understand how difficult academic work is for Hadyn, we can support Hadyn and other students like him by giving them the opportunity to be great. We will not be disappointed!

If you know of a student who would benefit from working with an experienced educator of Twice Exceptional Learners, please get in touch via my website, Sand Dollar Tutoring, for more information about private tutoring in the areas of reading, writing, and executive function skills.

Science of Reading the Podcast S4-E12: A conversation on growing up with dyslexia with 10th grader Hadyn Fleming

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Building the Bridge Between Science and Balanced Literacy Serves All Students

Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates

If you know me, or if you have read my previous posts, you know that I love everything about teaching kids to read. The biggest challenge I have faced as a teacher and tutor is the frustration kids feel when reading is really, really hard for them.  So hard that they begin to dislike books, writing, and pretty much everything to do with literacy. They feel so defeated, even by the beginning of second grade, and who can blame them, really?

I was excited to learn about the book Shifting the Balance: 6 Ways to Bring the Science of Reading into the Balanced Literacy Classroom by Jan Burkins and Kari Yates.  Both Burkins and Yates are passionate literacy educators with deep backgrounds in Balanced Literacy theory and practice. Burkins and Yates took on the difficult task of diving into the Science of Reading and reconciling their new knowledge with their expertise in Balanced Literacy classrooms. There is tension in K-2 classrooms between time spent in conversation or learning from books read aloud to build student listening comprehension skills, and time spent building reading comprehension skills by students doing the hard work of reading text. The authors argue that both are essential to growing accomplished readers. With a few modifications – The Six Shifts – we can use what we have learned from the Science of Reading to inform our literacy instruction without losing the joy and depth of learning found in the best Balanced Literacy classrooms.

In Chapter 1 I was reminded of the importance of oral language in the K-2 classroom, whether it be making space for interesting conversation, expanding on student ideas, introducing and using interesting words, or providing engaging interactive read alouds. The authors cite a study by Adlof, Catts, and Little (2006) in which by eighth grade “nearly all of the reading comprehension differences between readers can be attributed not to differences in decoding but to differences in listening comprehension.”  Burkins and Yates chose three areas for a deeper dive – the use of interesting words, the interactive read aloud, and dialogic conversations – and provided multiple suggestions for classroom implementation in each area. 

In Chapters 2 and 3, Burkins and Yates explored the science behind phonemic awareness and phonics instruction. Our brains are wired to understand and manipulate sounds, but our brains are not wired to attach letters to those sounds. Good literacy teachers know that phonemic awareness and then phonics must be taught intentionally and practiced daily in order to ground our students in the sound-letter skills that are the basis of fluent reading. The authors provided 5 High Leverage Instructional Routines for Phonemic Awareness which can be taught in mini-lessons or incorporated into daily work.  Because phonemic awareness is taught auditorily, there is minimal preparation.  Elkonin boxes, chips, and picture cards for sound sorts are easily located or created in K-2 classrooms.  In Chapter 3, the authors discussed the importance of a strong scope and sequence and provided examples of activities and word lists for phonics skill learning and review. Decodable word lists and sentences for short vowels, blends, digraphs, and long vowels, as well as a lesson plan template are available as Free Downloads at The Six Shifts. Templates for progress monitoring of students’ phonemic awareness and phonics skills essential to planning instruction are also provided as Free Downloads.

In Chapter 4, the authors discussed the importance of orthographic mapping in high-frequency word instruction to cement those words into students’ long-term memories – not by rote memorization but by taking those words apart by sound, by spelling, and by alignment to other known words.  New to me was Burkins and Yates discussion of lexical quality, or how much a reader knows about a word.  Lexical quality grows each time a reader encounters a word, and ideally every word will become a sight word.  Researchers generally agree that for most readers it takes about ten encounters to learn a new word, but students with reading challenges may take many more.  The authors provided a method for prioritizing high-frequency word instruction and routines for orthographic mapping and practice throughout the day.

In Chapter 5 Burkins and Yates turned the Three Cueing System on its head.  They advocated a shift to using print as the first strategy for word solving, followed by meaning and structure to cross check, and emphasized eyes on print time to grow reading skill. Then, in Chapter 6, they gave guidelines for choosing quality texts for striving readers. If a patterned text is to be used to support background knowledge or to appeal to student interest, it should also be viewed as an opportunity to practice orthographic mapping on a few unknown words in the text. Teacher guidance in selecting aligned texts is crucial, and student choice in trade literature to be “read” via picture or other support is best practice. Time for both is important to at once engage and challenge striving readers.

I share the concerns of Burkins and Yates that the readers who are so often left behind are those who are children of color or who come from marginalized communities. These students deserve intensive phonemic awareness and phonics instruction to catch up to their peers, and they need to be engaged by having their diverse cultures and interests represented in the literature they experience.  They, most of all, need to have the important role of listening comprehension, foundational in the Balanced Literacy classroom, not be abandoned in our rush to the Science of Reading. Like Burkins and Yates, we must build the bridge between Balanced Literacy and the Science of Reading in order to serve the needs of all of our students.

Would you like to know more about how I might help your striving reader succeed?  Visit Sand Dollar Tutoring to learn more about me and about the services I offer, including Orton-Gillingham and Reading Simplified private tutoring sessions.

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Enter the Read not Guess Back-to-School Reading Challenge!

Read not Guess is providing a Back-to-School Reading Challenge for striving readers and their caregivers!  The goal of the challenge is to create and reinforce positive reading habits.  By the end of the challenge, striving readers will understand that English is read from left to right, identify and sound out the most common letter sounds, begin blending these sounds into words, and even read simple sentences.  Even more experienced readers will benefit from practice using their sound-letter knowledge to blend sounds into words … Read not Guess!

Why is Read not Guess an important skill for striving readers?  For even the briefest moment a child’s eyes leave the text to use picture clues or the three cueing system ( Does it look right?  Does it sound right? Does it make sense?) they are not practicing the phonics skills that will, in the end, help them be proficient readers.  They are reinforcing the habit of guessing!  

So many of our striving readers have a wonderful memory for “sight words” that lulls us into thinking that they are on their way to reading fluently.  But, given a more advanced word that is actually quite easy to decode such as “compose”, they are stumped. Striving readers must learn to break a word into chunks, break those chunks into sounds, and put the word back together again to make sense.  Striving readers should be explicitly taught how to do this and practice these blending skills daily.

The Read not Guess Back-to-School Reading Challenge will provide daily emails with a 5-10 minute activity for child and caregiver to do together.  The Challenge will also provide caregivers with a deeper understanding of phonics; practice talking to their child about reading; additional tools and games for practice; and assessments to monitor their child’s reading progress.

The Challenge begins July 18 and runs through August 19.  Don’t miss this opportunity to share these wonderful resources with your child.  Sign up for the Read not Guess Back-to-School Reading Challenge today!

Thank you to Chad Adelman, Policy Director at the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University and Founder of Read not Guess, for permission to share the Back-to-School Reading Challenge with you.  Chad recommends the following free resources to families of striving readers: Teach Your Monster for online games; Reading Rockets for parent resources; and  find and use your local public library.  He also suggests the short Readiness Check from Learning Heroes, or these age-specific Literacy Assessment Toolkits to test or monitor your child’s progress.

Finally, if your child needs more help than you can provide, don’t hesitate to contact me about Reading Tutoring Services at Sand Dollar Tutoring!

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Summer Learning Together

A fantastic way to help your child build the background knowledge and vocabulary they need to succeed as a reader is to learn together.  As a family, you can use the summer months to explore your child’s interests more deeply than you might be able to during the rush of the school year.  Here are some places we look for inspiration:

Podcasts are our kids’ favorite ways to learn more when we are on the go!  Check out these podcasts that will engage and inform your child.  Brains On! from American Public Media is great for the curious family.  With episodes about science, nature, and history there is something for everyone.  Adults and children love Brains On!  If you are looking for something bite-sized, try their new spin-off, Moment of Um.  If your family is interested in history, check out Forever Ago.  I can’t wait to listen to the latest episode, Mac and Cheese: From “What’s in these?” to “Yes, please!”

Wonderopolis provides a Wonder of the Day.  Today’s Wonder #1009  Do Starfish Glow in the Dark?  includes written text that can be accessed using the Immersive Reader link.  There is also a writing prompt, a craft, and a link to a National Geographic video Sunflower Seastar.  Wonderopolis is searchable by topic so that you can find Wonders of interest to your family.  I will provide a link to the Wonder of the Day on my website Sanddollartutoring.com, so check back often.

The Who Was Show on Netflix is great for older kids.  This live action comedy sketch show brings famous names from world history to life including Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Louis Armstrong, and others.  Giving children a peek into topics they will be exposed to in the future can be really powerful.

Audiobooks from your local library or Audible can be a parent’s best friend when traveling by car, train, or plane.  They are a great bridge to grade-level (and beyond) content learning for striving readers, too.  Check out audiobooks set in the place you are headed or around summer themes such as the beach or sea animals to add to learn about your destination.  A great choice if you are heading to the beach is the Mary Alice Monroe series The Islanders and Search for Treasure.  We have a family book club using The Islanders this summer. Nonfiction series I recommend are the National Geographic Readers Series available on Epic! with a Read to Me feature, or at your local library in hard copy or as eBooks.  I haven’t found anything else of this quality in all the years I have been teaching!

Did you know that many eBooks have an Immersive Reading feature?  Your child can read the book while listening if the book has this function.  This can be especially engaging on the Kindle Fire using an Audible book and the companion eBook.  Be sure to download eBooks with the Whispersync feature. Read more here: Whispersync for Kindle.

It is really a challenge to identify books for the earliest readers that are about “real” things.  One wonderful source is Half-Pint Readers, a free source for online books grouped by decoding skills.  Each skill has a theme, such as Forest Fun or Digging Up Dinosaurs. These simple books are wonderful practice for striving readers.  I would recommend reading each theme in order to build background knowledge sequentially.

Remember, building background knowledge and vocabulary is essential for our striving readers to progress.  Conversations about what your child is reading and learning can flow naturally during your summer adventures.  Enjoy the journey with your readers!

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Learning to Read Is an Equity Issue

As NYC Mayor Eric Adams has shared publicly, he struggled with undiagnosed dyslexia until he was in college. He was the “D for dumb” student whose mother encouraged his efforts but had no idea of the nature of his struggles.

(Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Now, as Mayor, Mr. Adams has championed dyslexia screening for nearly all NYC students. The mayor’s plan calls for all district reading instruction in grades K-2 to be phonics-based, explicitly teaching the 44 unique sounds in the English language known as phonemes. It also calls for providing additional reading instruction to any students identified in the screening as having a reading disability. Other states, such as Mississipi and Tennessee, have already moved to require phonics instruction. See more about Mayor Adams’ story in this New York Times article: How Eric Adams’s Struggle with Dyslexia is Shaping His Mayoralty.

The movement to teach ALL students with a phonics-based approach is one of equity. Why not use the approach that we know is effective for 95% of children rather than let up to half of our students fall behind in reading by Grade 3, as in New York?

Please join a local movement such as your state chapter of the International Dyslexia Association to make your voice heard. And if your child has fallen behind in reading, don’t wait to catch them up! Contact me for more information about private tutoring, which has been shown to improve students’ reading by one grade level (or more) in 12 weeks. Click the link below now!

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We Put Relationships First!

Great teachers not only meet students’ educational needs. By building positive relationships with students, teachers also meet students’ needs for safety, security, love, and belonging. Students whose needs are met in these areas develop positive self-esteem and grow as learners and community members.

Do you know of a teacher who puts relationships first? Please take a moment at the close of this school year to let them know how much you appreciate them and encourage your child to do so too!

Are you looking for a tutor for summer or fall? At Sand Dollar Tutoring, we put relationships first!

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