The Missing Piece of My Reading Intervention

I have been teaching kids with dyslexia for many years now. I have always been dedicated to the Orton-Gillingham (OG) methodology and I have watched as child-after-child went from not being able to read to becoming a reader!  This growth is truly awesome to watch and even more powerful is experiencing the child's self-confidence blossom as they learn they are not stupid because they can in fact read, learn and quench their curiosity.

Despite this success, I learned a few years ago that I was missing a huge piece to my OG lessons!  I was shocked that I was leaving out what would soon become my most favorite piece of reading instruction - morphology, or what I like to call Magic Morphology!  Sure I taught adding vowel suffixes to silent-e words means you have to drop the e, or that adding -s makes things more than one, but I wasn't explicitly teaching it in each and every session!

Now, when I look at morphology I see it as magical because when you explicitly teach morphology in a sequential and thoughtful manner there is so much to be gained. I tell each of my students there are three important things to think about with prefixes and suffixes; first, we always read them the same way so, if you see pre- as a prefix we will always read it the same. Second, we always spell them the same so if you hear /pre/ as the first syllable in a word go ahead and spell it p-r-e. Lastly, these affixes give us meaning!  This is the best part because this opens up so many words that previously may have felt too difficult for the student.  

My older students take to morphology right away because it immediately makes their reading instruction feel more sophisticated, and my younger students love it because when we brainstorm words with a particular prefix or suffix I let them make up silly words and they love it.  For example, I may be teaching the prefix un- and I will ask my student to brainstorm some words with un- at the beginning.  For younger students coming up with this off the top of their heads is very difficult, so i ask them to look around and just add un- to anything around them. They may say unchair or unpencil and then we define these silly words.  Quickly they will create a super silly word with this new prefix and they will want to draw a picture to define it for you! This is meaning, memorable and fun.

With the Smart ALEC curriculum, we have added morphology into every lesson at the intermediate level and we go into a deep dive of higher level morphology with the advanced level.  Adding this explicit and thoughtfully presented study of morphology into my reading intervention has been a game changer.  This opens up so many doors if you work in small groups or even in the classroom setting because you can have morphology exploration be part of the child's independent word study and this will be fun and immensely meaningful to them.

Whether you are a reading interventionist, an SLP, or a classroom teacher adding morphology in a structured and sequential manner will add so much to your reading instruction that I promise you too will be calling it magical! 

Why SLPs are Uniquely Qualified to Support Students with Dyslexia

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) are one of the best professionals to support students with dyslexia but often feel under qualified from the educational and reading perspective to help these struggling students.

We know that dyslexia is a language-based learning disability and so often the students that are referred to speech early on for early language struggles are the same students that wind up working with reading interventionists later on.

But the interesting thing is that SLPs really could be the best professional to take these students all the way through their journey of dyslexia. 

When we break down the key features of strong reading intervention, specifically for the dyslexic reader, we begin to see just how well poised SLPs are to support the needs of these struggling readers. Let's break it down. Strong reading intervention needs instruction targeting:

Phonology

Phonology is the study of how individual sounds within words break apart, come together, or change to vary words. In reading intervention we specifically want to teach students to break sentences into individual words, recognize and produce rhyme, recognize initial, final, and medial sounds, blend sounds, isolate sounds, and manipulate sounds. This is all a large part of what SLPs do every day with their kiddos. They are incredibly knowledgeable in this area as well as the progression of each of these skills!

Sound-Symbol Knowledge

When we work with dyslexic students we need to draw very clear connections between the letter we see and the sound we hear. Often students with dyslexia have a difficult time discriminating (telling the difference) between similar sounds like /m/ and /n/ or /p/ and /b/. It is at this time that we draw a very clear connection to the shape of the mouth whether air is being stopped when it comes out of the mouth like in the /k/ sound versus whether air is being pushed like in the /s/ sound. SLPs do this work with kiddos that struggle with articulation every single day. The only difference in strong reading intervention is that we are pairing that letter and its sound with the grapheme (the visual letter). By simply including this one additional piece SLPs are well on their way to providing solid intervention. The only difference between articulation instruction and systematic literacy is that the sound patterns are taught in a sequential matter moving from the most basic to the most difficult from a reading perspective as opposed to an oral-motor perspective.

Morphology

Morphology is such an important part of strong reading intervention and it's so important in building strong language skills because it can help to support vocabulary and grammar. Morphology is the study of how we add prefixes and suffixes to words in order to change the meaning and/or to properly conjugate the words to create a logical and correct sentence structure. Diving into morphology helps students with reading and spelling from the educational perspective, but from the speech-language perspective, it supports even more. By studying prefixes like dis- and mis- we can learn to create antonyms, by studying suffixes like -ly we can create more vivid visual imagery. The addition that morphology brings to our language and reading truly is magical.

Syntax

Syntax is another crucial area of reading intervention that is often left in the hands of SLPs, especially for students who struggle with creating grammatically correct and well-flowing sentences. The bottom line is that children who cannot speak in a grammatically correct sentence certainly cannot write in a grammatically correct sentence. And often, it's the children who started with difficulty speaking in syntactically correct sentences who will later struggle to write in syntactically correct sentences. By merging spoken language and written language we create a bridge for these students who will inevitably struggle in both areas.

Semantics

Semantics is the fancy term for comprehension. We know this is the end goal of strong reading intervention. We need students to understand what they have read. In many programs designed to support struggling readers, this aspect is completely left out!!! This is okay if you have professionals who understand that development of reading comprehension skills as a hierarchy moving from the most basic skills like direct recall moving to the most advanced skills of inferring or drawing conclusions. SLPs are often very well suited to help support these areas because they were preceded by instilling strong listening comprehension abilities.

So....

Reading is a complicated process involving a number of neural processes. When you look at these neural processes alongside the core components necessary to develop strong reading skills, you notice that SLPs have this knowledge and can tick the mark in every single one of these categories. The only piece they often feel less confident with is the order in which they would be teaching each concept so that they build logically, sequentially, and cumulatively.

When SLPs are provided with the basic structure of these lessons they can often fill in the gaps and holes that are often left out! We challenge you as an SLP to join the team of those supporting struggling readers because you can do this. We have an OG Toolkit available here to help get you started. Or if you are ready to jump in and start providing intervention to your struggling readers - consider joining our membership site for a fully comprehensive print-and-go lesson series. This IS your space...and the more professionals we have building up these students (especially because you often saw them first) the better. Power on team!

Why Are We Waiting? ... Providing High-Quality Intervention Before They Fail

Why Are We Waiting? ... Providing High-Quality Intervention Before They Fail

Study after study tells us that the earlier we intervene when it comes to dyslexia the better.  We know that we can see indicators of dyslexia in children as early as 3 & 4 years old using early measures of academic and speech-language development and reviewing family history. By working with these students that have red flags we can make significant progress early on and change the long term outcome of their reading potential.  In other words, we can have a life changing effect on kids that may otherwise significantly struggle to learn how to read.  

One Major Reason Your Reading Intervention May Not Be Working

One Major Reason Your Reading Intervention May Not Be Working

So we go to all the classes and training seminars and know exactly what we need to deliver high-quality reading intervention. We have a scope and sequence and well-designed intervention program based on hitting all the core components of reading, and we are individualizing the program based on student need but sometimes even with all of that - progress seems to be lackluster at best.

We recognized early on, that beyond all of the typical necessities of providing evidence-based reading intervention there was another key ingredient that was absolutely necessary to get consistent growth from our students.

Multi-sensory Reading Explained

Multi-sensory Reading Explained

Multi-sensory instruction is a very frequently used term, but what in the world does it really mean? Simply put, it’s a method of teaching that encourages children to use more than one sense at a time during reading instruction. Instead of just asking the child to read the words on a page silently in their head, you'll teach them to engage their senses beyond sight.

Why OG isn't Working and What You Can Do About It

Why OG isn't Working and What You Can Do About It

So obviously, we believe very much in the power of Orton-Gillingham (OG) instruction. But we have been around long enough to know that sometimes, for whatever reason students just don't make the progress we expected. So the questions we always come back to are: Why does this happen? and What can we do about it?

Are Our Readers Really Reading?

Are Our Readers Really Reading?

Dyslexia is often referred to as a hidden disability because it can go undetected for so long. On the surface, everything looks fine. It has been my experience that dyslexic students are good at coping, they know how to play school. They work hard, they are highly verbal, love to answer questions in class, they are curious, can make the most amazing connections, and at an early age – when texts are predictable, repetitive, and have strong picture support – these students can look like readers. It’s not until you dig deeper and begin to analyze their phonemic awareness skills or their ability to rhyme and manipulate sounds that you may realize there is a hiccup.

Structured Literacy Components

Structured Literacy Components

One of the reasons Orton-Gillingham (OG) instruction is so effective is that it is individualized to the student. Many students with specific reading disorders (dyslexia or oral and written language disorder) really struggle in several areas targeted in a structured literacy lesson. It is important for the interventionist to zero-in on the areas specifically that are causing the most difficulty for each individual student.

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