Five Fluency Interventions Worth Trying

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

As a dyslexia practitioner using the Orton-Gillingham approach, I can't stress enough the importance of a good fluency intervention for your struggling readers. I've taught in a 3-5 building for twelve years and saw many children that really needed this added component into their reading repertoire.
Sadly, there were problems with implementation.

I would hear things like:
1. This is "one more thing" to add onto my already busy teaching plate.
2. I don't have any training on how to use fluency intervention.
3. There's just no time.
4. Isn't there someone else to do this with the children that truly need it?

Every point listed above valid. Teachers are busy. Training is imperative for teacher to "buy in" to ANY program. Our schedules are jam packed. It would be so helpful to have an extra pair of hands to help.

Instead of seeing as "one more thing", see fluency intervention as a key component to a child's reading success. The programs I will list below can be used in a station, during independent reading time, at a computer, or even in a small guided reading group. Once you have a fluency program up and running  at the beginning of a school year, things can run smoothly if you commit to being consistent with it. I've seen wonderful results with several of these programs.

Here's a list of ones that are highly effective for fluency intervention:

1. Read Naturally
I've used this program for many years and I love it. This is a research based program for improving fluency. I started out with the tapes and stories a long time ago. My students always enjoyed the stories and charting their progress. They have a wonderful online component and many teacher resources.

2. Great Leaps
Again, this is another fabulous, research-based program I used for many years. I especially loved the lessons on phrasing with this program. No tapes or CDS like Read Naturally, but plenty of high interest stories that can used in a brief practice session.

3. Quick Reads
I really like the informational text used in this program. It's research based and offers brief practice each day. Using science and social studies topics is especially appealing for struggling upper elementary readers, since the bulk of their reading becomes more content driven as they get older.

4. Reading A-Z fluency passages.
This is an online subscription-based reading program that has become very popular over the years. They offer an extensive list of leveled fluency passages. Since my school had a subscription to Reading A-Z, I found the fluency passages to be very helpful, and user friendly.

5. FCRR fluency lessons
Fluency aside, this website is a GOLDMINE. You will have to spend a little time hunting around, but it is well worth it. You can search for free fluency lessons by grade level, and tons of results will come up. The lessons come with EVERY printable you need in student friendly font.

Have you used any of these with success? Let me know! Thank you for reading and have a great day!

Seven Things Parents Would Like Their Child's Pediatrician To Know About Dyslexia

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Seven Things Parents Wish Their Child's Pediatrician Knew About Dyslexia

You trust your pediatrician with your child and for most things, they are the best resource. They can tell you if your child is growing well, if their diet is healthy, and they are there when injuries or accidents occur. Sometimes, however, there are things that might come up that your pediatrician is not really an expert in. Dyslexia often falls into this category. Unless your pediatrician specializes in dyslexia or has taken the time to learn more, this might be a case of “parents know best”.

Many parents of children with dyslexia find themselves in the position of needing to teach their pediatrician things about the condition or how to handle their children’s needs the best way possible. I've worked with many families over the years as both classroom teacher and Orton-Gillingham tutor. It's incredibly daunting for families to begin a testing process when they suspect dyslexia in their child. Certainly, they want to have an open discussion with their child's pediatrician, but it can be frustrating when suggestions are made that simply won't work. We all now each child is unique, but their are some common threads I hear from families when they bring up the subject of dyslexia and testing with their pediatrician. 

Here are seven things parents wish their child’s pediatrician knew about dyslexia:

  1. Screen early. (as early as preschool and kindergarten). Offer the pathways to early screenings. Screening early will help to end the "Wait to fail" culture in schools.
  2. It's the most common learning disability. 1 in 5 people have it
  3. Dyslexia is on a spectrum. There are degrees of severity. 
  4. Listen to what parents tell you. This is a big one. Parents have gut instincts when it comes to their kids. Please take the time to listen to what they observe and what their concerns are. 
  5. For pediatricians to know what dyslexia is (signs and symptoms, myths, facts.) There are lots of opportunities to spread facts about dyslexia. It is still misunderstood. Having access to sites like the International Dyslexia Association is incredibly helpful.
  6. Offering to treat dyslexia like it's ADHD is the wrong approach. Even though some kids have ADHD and are dyslexic, there is no RX for treating dyslexia.
  7. Refer patients to a neuropsychologist when signs of dyslexia show up. Having names of reputable neuropsychologists to refer to can be so helpful, rather than having to search for your own.

With these things in mind, pediatricians could work more closely with parents of children with dyslexia to help meet the child’s best needs. Is there anything you would add to this list? 

Before you go, I'd love to add that although the pathway to testing and a diagnosis can be sometimes be a challenging and frustrating process, please keep your eye on the prize. It's all about kids first. Stay focused, take good notes, and meet with like-minded families who share the same goals as you. 

As an extra special thanks to my readers, I have an EXCLUSIVE promo code for only fans of The Literacy Nest. Have you heard of Nessy Reading products? They have designed web based applications and other technology tools to help improve your child's reading. They apps are FUN and engaging and I know your kids will enjoy them. Nessy has a new product called Nessy Reading and Spelling

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99 independent learning lessons spread over ten engaging islands employ an intensive, multisensory, and sequential method of instruction based on the highly respected and researched Orton-Gillingham approach to reading & spelling. Lessons emphasize phonemic awareness, phonics, blending, sight words, fluency, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension. Each island consists of a series of lessons composed of strategy videos reinforced with games which teach fundamental reading & spelling skills.

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Taming the Fly-aways: Weaving Review into Orton-Gillingham Tutoring

Thursday, March 9, 2017

As a teacher and tutor using the Orton-Gillingham approach, I am always looking for ways to improve my instruction. Meeting with other teachers and tutors online has truly been a valuable experience when it comes to planning my Orton-Gillingham lessons. Did you know I run a private Facebook book for trained O.G. teachers and tutors? It's a vibrant, supportive and very active group. Members come to share ideas, wisdom and advice. If you are trained and interested in joining, feel free to email me at

Today I have Sarah from Magic Moments Tutoring in Maine to share some absolutely FABULOUS and PRACTICAL tips that you can implement in your Orton-Gillingham lessons or other reading interventions right away. Please feel free to comment or ask questions at the end of the post. Thank you, Sarah for writing such a valuable post for both me and my readers! :)

Taming the Fly-aways: Weaving Review into Orton-Gillingham Tutoring

For students with dyslexia, reading can be compared to juggling with many balls in the air at once, but for those teaching children with dyslexia, I think a better analogy is French braiding. As we add new bits of learning (the new pieces of hair) to their reading system (the braid), we must constantly:  hold the pieces, keep appropriate tension, smooth and incorporate the hair and catch any fly-away pieces to create a well-structured, solid, sturdy system for processing print.

One of the challenges for an Orton-Gillingham tutor or parent is building in adequate review for our students. Children with dyslexia benefit from frequent revision of past learning and often particularly struggle with the retrieval of specialized vocabulary. The gift of knowing our students so well can also be a double-edged sword, making it tricky to see their review needs clearly.

Typically, I build review into my lesson in four places; First, during the phoneme card drill at the beginning of the lesson; Secondly, immediately before introducing the new concept; Third, when time allows, I include a brief review activity; And finally, as part of the day’s reading lists and SOS.

I frequently build in review during the phoneme card drill, simply through the use of deliberate questioning. By giving students the necessary language, they are able to concentrate on the concept and showing their understanding (or need for further review) rather than word retrieval.

Some examples would be:

“Is this a consonant or a vowel?”
“How many letters do you see? How many sounds? Do you remember what that’s called?” I am always ready to provide a hint or the word digraph if necessary.
“Where would you find this sound in a syllable?”
“Is that sound long, short or something else?”
“These are prefixes. Do they come at the beginning of the word or the end?”
“Where would we find this added to a word? What do we call that?”

In just a few extra seconds, a tutor is able to assess areas in need of review and refresh the child’s learning.

This same type of questioning technique can also be applied very effectively to spelling rules, particularly if, like me, you have a terrible poker face. When a student makes a tricky spelling decision, such as the use of tch in the word stitch, and particularly if they self-corrected, hesitated or showed uncertainty, it is a golden opportunity for learning. I find it helpful to follow up with a question such as “Why is it spelled tch?” If they are able to tell you, it provides you with some certainty about their proficiency. If they are not, you are still able to praise their correct choice while reinforcing the spelling generalization. “Yes. It does look right, AND the /ch/ sound is immediately after a short vowel.”

The second major opportunity for review is immediately before introducing the day’s new concept. I make a decision about what to review based not only on the individual’s strengths and needs, but also on the type of new concept being introduced. If I am introducing a new prefix, I may have the student mark and read one or two words with prefixes, base words and suffixes. If I am introducing a new type of syllable division, I may have the student divide several words using the types of syllable division we’ve already practiced. For a new spelling generalization, I may have the child practice or explain a previous related spelling rule or make a list of the ways they know to spell a particular phoneme. For a new syllable type, you might have a student generate a word for each of the syllable types studied so far, or identify which syllable type a small group of target words are.

One of my students’ favorite activities is also one of the most challenging. I write a couple of sentences on the board and have the student divide and mark all the syllables. You can have students locate and mark a particular phoneme or mark prefixes, suffixes, and base words as well. You can easily adjust the length of the sentences to suit individual students. Students find it really exciting and motivating to see so many things they have learned all in one place. It is a great opportunity for them to synthesize their learning and frequently exposes weaknesses that may be harder to detect in isolated word work.

Frequently, either before dictation or before diving into our day’s reading, I will take a few minutes to work on something a little bit extra. This makes our third review opportunity. One day it may be learned words, another day may have a fluency focus, still another day we may work on practicing and reviewing one of our spelling generalizations. There are lots of ways to do so, but here are some of my favorites. Have the student segment the sounds using the manipulative of your choice (pennies, gems, tiles, legos, or unifix cubes), make two of these manipulatives marked with the spelling options such as –ge and –dge. Dry erase stickers, masking tape, correction tape are all ways to make this marking temporary. As the student sounds out the word using one item for each sound, they need to choose the correct spelling choice. This makes them rely not just on how the word looks visually, but also on the sounds involved.

Another fun idea is to make a fortune teller/cootie catcher. For each flap that opens up have a spelling choice such as k or ck? stu___ . This also makes a great exit ticket from a lesson. For directions and a free k/ck spelling choice cootie catcher, visit  After making just one or two, the process comes right back to you from grade school.

Another great review activity for spelling rules is a game somewhat like Blackjack. The first step is to have the student pick a number. You can offer a range that matches the time frame you have available. Have the student roll a die and keep a running total. For each roll of the die, they have to solve a word using the spelling rule. You can do this orally, as a fill in the blank or a writing activity. When the students get close to their target number, you can ask if they want to get closer without going over or stop. Even teenagers get excited when they land exactly on their number.

The final place I incorporate review, the word lists for reading and SOS, is probably the most familiar, and frequently the most time consuming to plan. No two review lists for different students are ever quite the same. While you might use almost the same list each time you teach oa, no two children have exactly the same pattern of review needs. When I design a review list in reading, I look at the most recent lesson plan for two things. What was the most recent concept I covered and what words did they struggle with reading in their last lesson? In my review list, I like to provide a few examples of recent learning and then use the student’s errors to inform the rest of my choices. For example, if a child had difficulty with the r-controlled syllables, I will make a point to weave words with r-controlled syllables throughout the lesson, in single syllable words, as part of multisyllabic words, and with and without suffixes. Our SOS functions in much the same way. I look for areas of difficulty, places where the child may have had difficulty segmenting sounds, differentiating vowels or applying a spelling generalization and put words with similar patterns and challenges into our review words for SOS.

By making regular review a part of your lesson routine, it is possible to tame the fly-aways, create a solid braid with your student, and keep the momentum moving forward. 

Bio: Sarah Rimkunas is a Literacy Specialist and a Certified Dyslexia Practitioner. With more than 13 years of experience in public schools under her belt, Sarah opened Magic Moments Tutoring in 2014 and has been busy tutoring ever since. Sarah lives in beautiful Southern Maine with her husband and two daughters ages 5 and 15.
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