Friday, August 12, 2016

Three Simple Tips for Working With Kids In A 1:1 Setting

Hi everyone! I'm sharing three tips for working with kids in a 1:1 setting today. Seems like a pretty easy topic, but it's important. I look at different pictures of teachers in classrooms working with students,  and I'm often taken back to the days my supervisor would come during my Orton-Gillingham practicum and observe my lessons. These are real nail biters. I was a nervous wreck during my student teaching days and when my principal would come for an observation, but being observed with just ONE student brings a different level of intensity. They see EVERYthing. So today, I'm going to give you a couple of tips.

Simple tips and strategies for teachers and tutors when working in a  1:1 setting

  1. Have all of your materials READY to go. There's no time to be rifling through a crate with hanging file folders, cutting word cards or searching for your dice. Have it all in a strategic place. Before the lesson begins, overthink it.  Where do you want your game materials to be when it comes time to do some review? Where do you want to store your O.G. deck so it's the first thing you grab AND are the cards in the order you want them to be? 
  2. Watch your poker face. Kids with reading disabilities or ones who just plain struggle with reading have an uncanny way of reading your body language. They LOOK for your reaction to every decision they make. Add some insecurity to the mix and things can get dicey. Forget a long sigh or a wince. You would never do that when you saw a mistake while they were making it anyway. I mean subtle things like clearing your throat, a hard swallow, head scratch, or eyes opening a little wider. You might think I'm crazy for saying this, but kids NOTICE how you react when they are in an on demand situation like dictation. Show grace and compassion.
  3.  Here's the biggie. Check your seating. If your student is a righty, sit beside them to their left. If they are a lefty, sit beside them to their right. Don't sit across from them. I don't care how much of an expert you are at reading upside down. You need the BEST possible view of everything a child does within a lesson. If you sit to the left of a lefty or to the right of a righty, what's the problem? Their arm and hand are totally blocking your view. If you crane your neck over their arm, it's just not ideal. Climate is everything. Sitting beside a student builds a caring rapport. You are in this reading journey as a team. One last thing: Both of you need to watch your posture. 
1:1 teaching is incredibly rewarding. It's loaded with good kid watching. You're assessing by the minute, sometimes by the second. You pick up on the nuances of learning in a way that can't happen in a classroom of 25 students. Any if you're lucky, an added bonus is the relationship you get to build with the child. You are helping them climb one of the biggest academic mountains of their lives. Have a great school year!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Three Literacy Tips Related to Multisensory Teaching

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Hi everyone! It's back to school time and I'm sure you're busy getting all your classrooms prepared and supplies organized. I work with students all year round, but I certainly use the BTS season to rethink some of my teaching strategies, purchase new materials and set a plan to help my kids in a way that works best for them.

Looking for easy materials for multisensory teaching? Here are three tips to use in your literacy block or one one one instruction.

As an Orton-Gillingham teacher, I use multisensory techniques in everything I do with my students. Think of a triangle when you picture multisensory instruction. Here is a visual I created with Jason from A Sketchy Guy to illustrate what is happening when we employ a multisensory approach. It involves saying, hearing and writing and/or touching all together, as much as possible.

Grab this free poster set here.

One of the multisensory tools I use during a lesson is a sand tray. This is a great tactile tool to use when introducing new phonograms. Children can trace it in the sand while the vocalize the name, the sound it makes and a key word. Recently, I had a student declare he HATED using the sand tray. He literally cringed at the idea when I took it out. I was a bit surprised because we used it all the time. Some kids just don't like the feel of sand on their fingers. It may stick to their skin or get under their fingernails. So today, I am sharing THREE alternatives to the sand tray that you are going to LOVE. Are you ready?

1. Use tactile sheets.
These plastic canvas sheets are new to me. I just found out about them in my Orton-Gillingham Instructor's Group. It's a sheet of plastic canvas you can use for cross stitching or embroidery. You write a phonogram or in this case a sight word on a regular sheet of paper. I did mine in red down below. Slide the paper under the plastic canvas. Then your student will trace over the letters. It provides a nice bumpy surface for tactile feedback. This is my one of new FAVS! :)

This is an old Melissa and Doug wooden boxes that had some magnets or lacing beads in it when I bought it. SAVE THOSE WOODEN BOXES. They have so many good uses. I purchased some sheets of glitter paper with a a nice stiff foam and adhesive backing. After trimming it down to the size of this wooden box, I peeled off the backing and stuck it inside. Glitter paper has a nice sand papery feel for kids to use with tracing. They won't see the letter they form on it like a sand tray, but it has a similar strategy to sky writing. You can observe their letter formation and help make adjustments as needed. If you don't have a wooden box, GUESS WHAT?? You can peel off the backing of the glitter paper, and stick it inside or outside of the back cover of a composition notebook

Check here for more Orton-Gillingham notebook ideas.

2. Use gel bags.
I picked up some Ziploc storage bags, a huge bottle of hair gel, and some glittery Duck tape. Fill the bag with all the hair gel. I taped the bag down onto a piece of white cardboard I had. Your student can trace with the TIP of their finger, not their nail for this one. Nails can puncture the gel bag and that equals a hot mess. ;) If you just want to use the glitter Duck tape instead of a gel bag, peel a long piece off and stick it to the bag of a composition notebook. It has a nice tactile surface, too!

3. Use photographs.
If you have children with sensory issues, a photograph of a sand tray with the phonogram traced in it may be useful. A child can trace in the "sand" and still get tactile feedback. I have a whole set of these alphabet sand tray photographs in my TpT store. You can grab this set for free by clicking here!

Remember: Multisensory teaching is good teaching for ALL kids, not just ones with reading disabilities. Using visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile techniques while reading, and spelling help to create new neural pathways in the brain. Pretty powerful stuff! 

Be sure to check out another post on multisensory teaching for learned words (also known as sight words) here. Thank you so much for stopping my blog today. Please be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you have a spare minute. 

Now head to the other wonderful literacy blogs and enter the Rafflecopter below to win a TpT gift certificate! Have a great weekend!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Complete O.G.- News and Updates

Hi everyone! I am dedicating the entire contents of this post to those who have purchased The Complete O.G. Part One or The Complete O.G. Part Two. Why do I need an entire blog post? I am keeping a running list of updates and revisions I make here. I will list the dates of when things are changed or added along with the names of new resources. I recommend checking it monthly.

If you haven't read my post on organizing The Complete O.G., I highly recommend it. Click here. If you have any questions, requests or concerns, please email me at Thank you!

Revisions and Updates for The Complete O.G. Part One 
(as of July, 2016)
1. Revisions coming end of August/Early September, 2016

Revisions and Updates for The Complete O.G. Part Two 
(as of July, 2016)
1. 7/27/16: The Complete O.G. Part Two was uploaded to TpT.
2. 8/2/16: The completed O.G. Leveled Placement Bundle was uploaded. 
3. 8/4/16: Slight corrections in teacher notes on pages 4 and 5 on all packs in the Leveled Placement   Bundle. Added IND, ILD, OLD, OST Phonics Pack.
4. 8/10/16: Added: O.G. Editable Words and Sentences Levels 1-5. 
5. 8/13/16: Added: IGH Phonics Pack 
6. 8/18/16: Added- Variant Vowels: OO Sounds Pack
7. 9/8/16: Added- Alphabet Lapbooks, EY Pack 
8. 9/18/16: Added- IE Pack 
9. 9/29/16: VERSION 8- Added- OU pack and AU/AW pack. 
10. 10/20/16: VERSION 9- Added- EW pack, EI pack, and UI pack.

*Please take a minute to review my terms of use. Thank you! Click here for a free informational brochure on purchasing multiple user licenses for teachers, schools and districts.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

How To Find A Starting Point Using The Orton-Gillingham Approach

Hi Everyone! I'm going to walk you through a tricky part of using the Orton-Gillingham approach today: finding a starting point. As a teacher or tutor, you want to make the best choice for your student, but that means gathering some pieces of the puzzle that show who they are as a reader. Spending time doing that will help you make an informed decision and get your student(s) on the right track. Finding a starting point is a very important step when beginning OG. Having the proper tools to help you make this decision for your students is critical. I use this resource to assess my students when they are about to begin somewhere in a particular level, or are ready to exit a level.

You don't have to feel like a amateur tightrope walker when choosing a starting point, even if you're new to using O.G. 

Begin the process by asking yourself:

Why is this child being recommended for Orton-Gillingham?
What do they have difficulty with in reading?
What services are they currently receiving? Are they working? If not, why?
I created a system called On Track to help determine a starting point for your students when using the Orton-Gillingham approach and my materials. This is only one of the tools I use when I first meet with a student. 

I’ve used a variety of assessments such as:
  • Oral reading fluency benchmark assessment, 
  • Nonsense word assessment
  • Rapid naming assessment
  • Spelling assessment (I like the one from Words Their Way), 
  • Reading assessment that includes a running record, retelling and comprehension component. 
  • Anecdotal evidence from families and teachers is also very helpful. 

After gathering data, I am able to make a better judgement as to which O.G. pre/post test I will need at a particular level. Using a pre and post assessment system will give you a better snapshot of your student’s reading ability. Any other testing information provided from inside or outside school along with copies of an I.E.P. will help as well. 

Once I administer the pre or post test, I carefully look at the errors and gaps. I use an O.G. progression chart to choose my starting point and begin planning my lessons based on my data.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT to be used to:
Determine Special Education eligibility.
Diagnose Dyslexia or other reading disabilities.
Be used as a screening tool for Dyslexia or other reading disabilities.

Preparation for the pre/post assessment:
I prepare a deck of phonogram cards arranged in the order of presentation to the student. I always have this ready prior to the assessment so you’re not searching for the next card in the deck. Click here to purchase a deck.
Make copies of assessments and student sheets.
Have pencils, magnetic letters and a magnetic board.
Find out whether your student is right or left handed. If they are right handed, sit beside them to their left and vice versa if they’re left handed. This is so you can observe and take notes without their hand or arm obstructing your view.
Some may like to tape record certain parts of the reading. Be mindful of your student. This might make them uncomfortable.

During The Assessment
You will notice that the assessment I use follows the order of a typical Orton-Gillingham lesson plan. I chose words and sentences that follow the order of each level. It can take about 45 minutes to an hour to administer. Take your time and reassure your student that they are not  being timed and to do their best.  Explain that it is just a way for you to learn about them as a reader. Keep prompting to a minimum. If you are finding your student is getting frustrated at any point, use your best judgement and cut a portion of the assessment short if needed. If they are making numerous errors as you progress to harder words in any area, this is an indication of where they will probably need to start in the progression of O.G. In short, try your best to administer the entire assessment, without frustration or tears. 
Be sure to have a little prize or incentive when you finish for a job well done. A sticker, special pen or pencil or a piece of candy can go a long way.  

Please note: On the teacher recording sheets, I adjusting the spacing on the font. This is so you can make notes, mark miscues or note self-corrections as needed above or below each word.

After The Assessment
I tend to take a short time going over the assessment, finish making my notes, and then put it away. Then I go home and analyze it later. Carefully checking and analyzing each section, I look to see where the errors are with the progression chart beside me.  
  • Look for patterns in a child's errors.  
  • Where are the gaps? 
  • What does this child need?
  • What is the next step?
I strongly suggest starting on the progression chart at the first error they make. Then your lessons will progress in that order. For example, if a child knows phonograms a, b, c, f, h, and i, but has an error at j, your FIRST O.G. lesson will be on the letter j. It’s ALWAYS better to start further back on the progression chart than to begin too far ahead, see gaps and then have to backtrack. O.G. lessons should feel EASY to a child when they begin with you. This will build their confidence. 
If you are administering the post assessment to see if they are ready to progress to the next level, your student should have very few errors overall. One ore two errors on a post test indicate that you can add in additional review within the next level. If there are numerous errors, it is recommended that the student remain within that level. In that case, create review lessons to reteach to mastery.

The Next Step...
Now that you have all of your data and a starting point, you're ready to begin gathering materials for your Orton-Gillingham lessons. This is an exciting time. Remember to keep the integrity of the approach by being prescriptive, systematic, sequential, and multi-sensory. 

You can find this assessment resource in my TpT store
Click here for the bundle.
Click here for level one.

A Few More Things:
  • Check the sidebar of my blog for the heading, "Orton-Gillingham" for more related posts.
  • Sign up for my newsletter in the right sidebar of my blog.
  • If you are a trained Orton-Gillingham teacher/tutor, you may email me a request to join my private FB group for O.G. instructors.  
Have you used a similar assessment? I'd love to hear about it, so be sure to comment below. Best of luck in planning successful Orton-Gillingham lessons!