Middle School Reading Comprehension Resource

I love using this K-W-L chart with my middle school and high school students because it is concrete and organized and at the same time gets them right into active reader mode.

The first thing I ask all my students to do when reading a passage or newspaper article is to warm-up their brain by thinking about what they already know.  This is a great way to turn on their brain so they don’t fall into the trap of reading multiple paragraphs or even pages without realizing what they are reading.  Using the K column in the KWL chart makes this a concrete step that students can refer back to.

Second, the W column keeps the student actively reading by having them write down questions as they pop-up in their reading.  For our struggling readers this is also a good way to break up the reading and get their ideas and questions out.

Last, the L column gives students a place to summarize and review what they have learned from their reading. 

This freebie is available from now through November 24th so get it while it's still here!



Essay Graphic Organizer

Essay Writing Graphic Organizer Freebie Friday.png

As we have mentioned before, writing is often one of the hardest tasks for our students. Even after remediation they struggle to apply skills at a higher level. It can be difficult for students to break up this monstrous task. Our goal is to support students by providing them a script or process that they can apply over and over as much as possible. We also want to teach our students that the same processes they have learned at the paragraph level apply to the essay level. If we can make this a clear repeatable process, students can focus more on the content of their ideas and the organization can just fall into place.

By following this step-by-step process our students can begin to have an essay format that works across all the subject areas and they can feel confident in following the steps to get a solid essay every time. Let's break it down:

Step One

Brainstorm your key details.

Step Two

Determine whether the key details have enough "meat" to be viable within the essay structure.

Step Three

Identify the key detail and outline three sentences to describe each detail.

  • We start with a topic sentence that outlines the key detail.
  • Next, we develop a brief summary using text evidence or information to support inclusion of the key detail.
  • We finish with a concluding sentence that helps a reader understand why the key detail matters - this is the "who cares" sentence.

Step Four

We repeat the process of Step 3 for our second key detail.

Step Five

We repeat the process of Step 3 and 4 for our final key detail.

Step Six

We create an Introduction paragraph.

Step Seven

We create a Conclusion paragraph.

Step Eight

We review and check for COPS focusing on Capitals, Organization, Punctuation, and Spelling.

This outline expands upon our paragraph writing structure. For Monthly Paragraph prompts using this outline consider joining our Membership Site or check out our Year of Paragraph Writing on TPT.

This freebie has expired grab it and several other resources in our Membership Only Website or on TPT.

Syllable Division Strategy - Rabbit Words

Members only resources template (31).png

Syllable Division Strategy - Rabbit Words

Syllabication is a really fancy term that just means dividing a word into syllables. However, while many people are familiar with the idea of breaking a word into syllables by clapping out the word, far fewer are familiar with the idea of dividing a word into syllables based on the structure of the word.

Why!?! -

Okay yes, valid question. One of the more well known reasons is that it helps break words that seem impossible into manageable chunks. But another less known reason is that dividing words into syllables in order to help students predict the vowel sounds which are often the most difficult for struggling readers.

Knowing where to divide the word is of critical importance however in predicting the vowel sounds. The most common syllable division pattern that we always teach first is the Rabbit rule. All of our syllable division strategies require two steps: identify the vowels and then use the appropriate division strategy. For this rule:

Step 1

Spot and dot your vowels.

Step 2

Divide between the consonants.

Often our students need a lot of support with these syllable division strategies so we have a number of games we like to play with them to keep this fun and engaging. Try out our Rabbit Division game and let us know what you think!

This limited time freebie has expired. But not to worry you can still get access by joining our Membership Site or you can check it out on TPT.

Welded Sound Fun


Our students often need a lot of practice with welded sounds. So we created this fun game to practice with them. Typically when we play, we set a timer for 3-5 minutes (depending on how much time we have allotted for review).

We each take turns flipping over cards and reading the word. If we read it correctly - we keep it, if we read it incorrectly - it goes back into the pile. If you draw a Take Card you get to choose an opponent to steal cards from if you get a Lose Card the cards go back into the pile. When the timer goes off the player with the most cards in their hand wins!

In our program - we focus on ang, ank, ing, ink as welded sounds and don't worry about including ong, onk, ung, and unk as welded sounds. The reason for this is because we want to reserve memory storage for patterns that truly distort the vowel sound (sound different than they would if you simply the sounded out the word using a tapping strategy). While we do want to gain fluency often lumping all these patterns can just be overwhelming and confusing to our students. And since so many of them have difficulties with rote memory or phonological memory, we try to reduce the number of things we are requiring students to memorize as much as possible.

Systematic literacy intervention (more well known as Orton-Gillingham or OG) requires students to hold so many rules in memory. So wherever possible it is important to try and keep that memory load down!

This limited time freebie has expired but you can still get access to this game and all of our others by joining our Membership Site here!

Crazy Short Vowels

Crazy Short Vowels Freebie Friday.png

Crazy short vowels is a really fun activity for our younger readers or readers needing extra practice with short vowel sounds. We play this game similar to Crazy 8s but it can be adapted to make it work however you want to play!

Secret: We've been known to adapt this game for Go Fish.

For Crazy 8s you want to hand each player 8 cards face down. Then you flip the top card on the deck over and use that as your target card. Each player needs to take turns looking at his or her deck and matching a card to the target card based on a match of the vowel sound or the initial letter. Before a player can match a card from their hand to the target card they must say the vowel sound or initial letter sound. Now this card that has just been laid down becomes the target card. Once the player has matched a card, the next player gets a turn. If a player does not have a card that will match the target card, they must draw a card from the card pile until they have a match. You continue placing cards down until the first player runs out of cards. That player is the winner.

Again, anytime we can do something fun and engaging - it's a win. This is a great way to practice those tricky short vowel sounds!

This limited time freebie has expired. Join our Membership Site to get full access to all of our games, activities, and comprehensive curriculum.

Halloween Literacy Activities

So here at Smart ALEC, we LOVE all things fall. As you can probably guess we were so excited to be able to throw some Halloween activities into our mix. Most of the students we work with really struggle with phonological awareness and while we have phonological awareness built into our lessons we know that some of our students need extra practice with it. So we have some fun phonological awareness practice activities for you.

This activity is meant to support syllable segmenting, phoneme segmenting, spelling, and written work. Here's why:

In order to be a good speller, a student needs to be able to break big words into smaller chunks. In order to do that the first step would be dividing a word like pumpkin into syllables. Pump-Kin. Next, the student needs to be able to break each syllable into the individual sounds. /P/ /u/ /m/ /p/ and /k/ /i/ /n/. Before a student can pair letters to each of these sounds they need to simply be able to break the word into its smallest pieces by sound. That's the goal of phonemic awareness (no letters necessary).

However, we also find that it's really important that students make this connection. So when creating these Elkonin boxes we created some of the boxes to match the number of sounds. You can use this in two ways: 1. If you have students that are really struggling to learn how to segment start here so they can start to understand how to break the words down. 2. If you have students doing well with phonemic awareness use these boxes to have the student begin to pair the letter or letter group to the sound.  This turns your phonemic awareness activity into a spelling activity.

Finally, we included a writing activity that helps students begin to put together appropriate syntax in their sentences: who/what, did what, why/how/when. For struggling readers and writers we often see that because there is so much struggle at the single word level we forget that writing is an incredibly complex task which requires phonological awareness, sound to letter pairing, syntax, and semantics. By scaffolding these activities in this way you work from the most basic writing task (spelling - which requires an understanding of how words break apart) to the most complex task (putting together a syntactically correct sentence).

You're in luck! We have decided to keep this as a longer term freebie to give you access through Halloween, because we're so glad you are here...and because we love Halloween so much!

Reading Intervention as Easy as Tic Tac Toe

Tic Tac Toe Freebie Friday.png

So if you know us at all, you know that we LOVE games. We try to incorporate them into every session because it keeps our students motivated and engaged through the things they generally hate more than anything (reading and spelling).

The wonderful thing about this very simple game is that you can use it in so many different ways depending on the skill you are trying to target. It's also truly NO PREP. If you don't have this grid it's so easy to just write out the tic-tac-toe lines on a whiteboard or piece of paper and students love this game.

We print off our game and stick it into a page protector for each of our students, the great thing about using a page protector is that is erases so easily!!! And it's cheaper and quicker than laminating.

So here are some ideas to get you started.

Beginner Level - Use this grid to practice letter formation, pick two letters that you are introducing for the week (or that just need extra practice) and use these letters instead of the tradition Xs and Os.

Intermediate Level - Use this grid to practice sight words. Use the sight words instead of traditional Xs and Os, you will notice how quickly the student is able to spell the word without referring to the example.

Advanced Level - Use the grid to practice higher level spelling. Dictate the words to your student and have them spell the words into each of the 9 boxes. Practice using the words in sentences or creating written sentences using the word you would like to mark with an X and O.

So there you have it, tons of ways to adapt this super fun game. The simplest things can make the biggest difference.

Grab this copy from our Free Resources section and incorporate some gamified learning into your intervention sessions. Let us know how you are adapting this game for your students!

Upper and Lowercase Sound Symbol Puzzle

SoundSymbolAlphabet Puzzle.png

Early literacy is very near and dear to us. See this blog post to find out why. But, we also realize that children shouldn't be learning through worksheets and drills at a young age. That's a great way to burn a child out before they ever even really get started down the path toward literacy.

So instead, we can begin to work with children in a fun and play-based manner with skills that will ultimately help them be successful later on. This Sound-Symbol Alphabet Puzzle is a great way to practice tons of skills.

1. We us the puzzle to practice upper and lower case matching which begins to develop their orthographic skills in recognizing the patterns of letters.

2. This puzzle works to begin building sound-symbol association with the most common target sound of each letter and working back to tie that sound that the student hears with the letter representation.

3. You can use this puzzle in ways far beyond just putting it together. Often we will put 4-5 letter options out and ask the child to find the letter that makes the /b/ sound for example. You can begin at the easiest level by asking the child to do this when the puzzle is put together so they can see the bat and start recognizing that sound correlation and as they progress on you can ask the child to perform this activity without having the bat image. You could also have the child sequence the upper case letters in order. Many of our struggling readers really struggle with sequencing and so this can be a great activity for them. You can start by putting several letters out in order like A, B, C, _, E and ask them to find the missing letter.

Practicing letters and sounds doesn't have to be boring, you really can do a lot of things to keep kiddos excited and engaged about this process. We hope you will try this out. Let us know how it goes!

This freebie has expired. Consider joining our Membership Site to get access to all of our exclusive freebies!

Consonant & Digraph Interactive Notebook Pages

It's really important that our young students (thinking specifically about our Pre-Kinder through 1st but keeping in mind this is true for all readers) start off with a strong foundation of letter-sound knowledge to support their early reading efforts. During the early stages of reading instruction it's so important that we focus on two key aspects.

1. Phonological Awareness

Consonant and Digraph Interactive Notebook Pages.png

Students need this foundational ability to blend the sounds of letters together and also to break them apart. This is a necessary skill in order to "sound-out" words and for spelling.

But of equal importance students need to know their letters and the sounds of those letters with enough automaticity to be able to blend those sounds together. Which brings us to the second key aspect.

2. Phonics

Often students (especially at-risk students) are going to struggle significantly with their letter sounds. If they cannot look at the letter and then quickly pull up its corresponding sound, they will be unable to decode. A student's working memory cannot support holding onto all the other sounds within the word if it takes longer than a couple of seconds for the student to recognize the letter and its sound.

We set up our interactive notebook as a fun activity to support systematic letter instruction. Usually, we pull in these activities in the order of our instruction. So if we are teaching the letters C and O, we would pull the C and O and work on adding each of those cards to the student notebook. We set it up so that the student has the opportunity to practice saying the letter sound, writing the letter while saying the letter sound and coloring a picture of the keyword for the letter sound.

This freebie has expired.

Consider Joining Our Membership Community so that you have forever access to all of our resources, a print-and-go intervention curriculum that will get you through all of your groups, and a community in which you can post questions and interact with others supporting struggling readers! Click here to Join!

What To Do When Spelling Rules Don't Stick

So we know that teaching students spelling rules in a systematic and cumulative (organized and building on itself) approach is the best way to make meaningful spelling gains. However, even with the best instruction we often see skills fall apart when they need to be applied at a higher level.

-ck writing activity.png

Often, even when using OG-based intervention, a student can spell the word perfectly in isolation (like on a weekly spelling test) but then fail to consistently apply that knowledge in his or her writing. So what do we do about it?

  1. Make sure that you are having the student practice applied spelling. So instead of just giving weekly spelling tests (or weekly spelling drills), have them practice using the rules in "real-world" writing. What is "real-world" writing you ask? It's writing that the student comes up with independently. Writing to which they can connect their own meaning and background knowledge. Most often we provide sentences we want the student to use through dictation because we want to control the writing and make sure the student is spelling words in which he or she has previously been instructed. However, what we really want is for the student to produce their own meaningful and engaging stories in which they can apply the rule. We do this by providing pictures and silly sentence activities that allow the student to focus on the rule application all while still taking ownership over their writing and the content they are producing.
  2. Make sure that you are consistently circling back to the rule that is causing struggles. We caution against staying in a specific lesson too long for students who aren't getting a specific rule because you need to be able to move forward in order to provide more background knowledge and patterns that a child may be able to use to spell more words correctly. Furthermore, sometimes a rule just won't stick no matter what you do - and in that case, it's better to have moved onward before losing the interest and engagement of the student. However, just because you move forward in the progression of systematic phonics based instruction does not mean that you just let go of that rule forever. Continue to bring it up every single week in a review group of words.

We are always looking for fun ways to add home practice components or other activities. This is a fun sample of our additional practice we might use to solidify the -ck spelling rule.

How does spelling go for your students? Are they consistently applying? If so, we would love to hear your strategies in the comments below.

This freebie has expired. Join our Members Only Community for access to all of our exclusive freebies.

How do I Improve Phonological Awareness?

Phonological awareness is a key foundation of building early reading skills. It's an umbrella term that essentially refers to the ability to break words into individual sounds, blend sounds to create words (sounding it out), and the ability to manipulate sounds in our language through tasks like rhyming, changing the ending sounds of words or the order of words (like in Pig Latin). Being able to manipulate the sounds in words is a necessary prerequiste to being able to "sound it out".

So, given that we know it's such a foundational building block for reading - how do we improve our students ability in phonological awareness?

Syllable Segmenting Freebie Friday.png

The short answer - tons of practice.

As we have discussed before, the best way to weave in practice is through engaging games and activities that target the specific skills we are looking at. There are tons of skills that comprise the umbrella term "phonological awareness". You can check out a list of very specific phonological awareness skills in our post over here about monitoring progress of these skills.

Today, we wanted to share one of our resources that we use to help make this skill more fun and therefore easier to practice. This is our Sound and Syllable Segmenting game. Typically we break this up and start by only introducing Syllable Segmentation and then once the student has mastered that skill we move onto focusing on Sound Segmentation. Once the student is very comfortable with the skill we may layer in both skills simultaneously to gauge the student's mental flexibility between the two similar but different tasks.

This freebie has expired. Join us and get this resource in Members Only Library or check it out on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Race & Read Blends - Keeping Students Motivated

The blends game is great practice for kids! They love playing and don't realize they are practicing their blends and digraphs!

So we all know that sometimes certain skills just don't stick for kids. They need tons of additional practice and sometimes finding the material to keep practicing can get daunting. What I realized early on in my intervention career was that for whatever reason games just did not get old.

While I couldn't keep giving a kiddo word list after word list with the same concept without hearing the moans and groans of a frustrated student, they were absolutely happy to review with a game over and over. This allowed me to get in the repeated practice that I knew was necessary in order to really solidify the skill. This is just an example we wanted to provide for you of how you can make your session more engaging. You don't even need to have words typed onto a game board to make this fun. You can just get a generic game board and write your words you want to practice on colored index cards that correlate with specific colors on the board and use the game board to keep your student motivated. It's all about being creative.

We wanted to include our blends game this week because blends themselves can be a very tricky concept for students with poor phonological memory (they have difficulty holding all the sounds in their mind and by the time they have remembered what each of the letters say they have forgotten all of the other letters). This concept often takes a great deal of practice. We will be adding tips and strategies to our Members Only Library on how to help support students that struggle with blends so join our Membership group and jump in on the fun.

This freebie has expired. But don't fret - you can get access to this and tons of other materials in our Members Only Library by subscribing as a Smart ALEC Insider. Click here to sign up. 

COPS - Writing Checklist

This checklist allows students to self monitor and make sure they're sentences have capitals, organization, punctuation and correct spelling!

One of the skills we love working on with our students is writing. We do this in our OG lessons through sentence dictation (having them write a sentence that we have provided) and also through applied writing. Last week we shared a persuasive writing prompt following the outline we like to use helping students learn to plan out their writing in a very sequential format - we share monthly writing prompts with our members as well!

What we noticed is that often students struggled most with mechanics and that giving them a brief acronym such as COPS could make all the difference. We like students to "send out the COPS on their work" in order to check for:


Do we have them where they belong? Do we have them anywhere they don't belong? Many of our students are equally guilty of throwing capitals into the middle of a word especially when it is a strategy that they developed to help overcome B & D reversals.


Do we have appropriate spaces and good overall appearance? Or for older students, we may be more focused on the organization of the sentence structure.


Do we have any punctuation? Many of our students are guilty of omitting these formalities altogether. Do we have the appropriate punctuation? For more advanced students do we have appropriate commas and other non-ending punctuation?


Often our students with dyslexia really struggle here. What we like to know is not necessarily if they can correct all spelling errors, they may not have the ability to do that independently. But - can they identify where a spelling error may have occurred? Can they underline or find words they think may have an issue? To us, that is a huge step in self-monitoring for writing since we have a number of technologies that can actually help us with spelling itself.

This freebie has expired. Join our Membership site to get access to all of our exclusive freebies!

Persuasive Essay Writing Prompt

Ah, Writing! This can often be the hardest piece to the puzzle.  Just think of how much we are asking our kiddos to do.  From thinking about the prompt to organizing their thoughts, to constructing a sentence,  to organizing the sentences into a paragraph or more, and then finally editing.  This is a tall order to ask even if you don't have a learning disability, but for our students, this is particularly difficult and needs to be broken down into small manageable parts.

With our writing prompts, we chunk this very large task into bite-size pieces.  With today's Freebie Friday resource we are giving you our persuasive writing prompt.  In this step by step guide, we show students how to brainstorm their ideas, organize what they have brainstormed, create their introduction and conclusion, write a rough draft and utilize the C.O.P.S. editing strategy.  

As a Smart ALEC member, you receive twice monthly emails with new writing prompts and reading comprehension support to bolster what you are doing in the classroom.  So if you like this resource you know you can find more where it came from!  

This freebie has expired. Join our Membership to get ongoing access to writing prompts.

Phonological Awareness Progress Monitoring

Progress Monitoring Sheets

We know that phonological awareness is a key foundational skill for reading. Many schools and teachers are doing a great job incorporating this instruction into the classroom. However, it can be difficult to know if the students are really getting it and if they are making progress - or if they are just "going with the flow". Students at risk for dyslexia often are slower to pick up these skills than their peers and so it's really important to be able to monitor each individual student's progress in each of the core domains of phonological awareness. The skills that we are often thinking of include:

Sentence Segmenting - The ability to break sentences into their individual words (e.g., How many words do you hear in the sentence "the cat is black").

Auditory Discrimination/Word Recognition - Telling the difference between similar sounding words (e.g., "pig - big" are these words the same or different?).

Rhyme Recognition - Knowing when two words rhyme (e.g., "Do car and star rhyme? Do truck and trip rhyme?").

Rhyme Production - Being able to produce a rhyming word when given a target word (e.g., "Tell me a word that rhymes with fan.").

Onset-Rime Blending - Being able to blend word parts together to create a real word (e.g., "Tell me what word these sounds make /sn/ /ag/.").

Initial Sound Recognition - Being able to determine the first sound in a word (e.g., "What's the first sound in bat?" Answer - /b/).

Final Sound Recognition - Being able to determine the last sound in a word (e.g., "What's the last sound in top?" Answer - /p/).

Medial Sound Recognition - Being able to determine a middle sound in a word (e.g., "What's the second sound in and?" Anwer - /n/).

Syllable Blending - Blending syllables together to create a word (e.g., "What word do these sounds make: win - dow?" Answer - window).

Syllable Segmenting - Determining how many syllables are in a word (e.g., "How many syllables do you hear in the word Sunday?" Answer - 2).

Phoneme Blending - Blending sounds together to create a word (e.g., "What word do these sounds make: /k/ /a/ /t/?" Answer - cat).

Phoneme Segmenting - Isolating the sounds within a word (e.g., "How many sounds do you hear in which?" Answer - 3).

Initial Phoneme Deletion - Being able to take the first sound out of a word (e.g., "Say slip without the /s/ sound." Answer - lip).

Final Phoneme Deletion - Being able to take the last sound out of a word (e.g., "Say meant without the /t/ sound." Answer - men).

Phoneme Manipulation - Being able to rearrange the sounds within a word (e.g., "Say the sounds in make backward." Answer - came).

This week we wanted to share a way to finally keep track of that data in small group instruction. This is great for RTI groups, small-group classroom instruction, or small group or 1:1 intervention in a school or therapy/tutoring session. If you are interested in learning more about Phonological Awareness through the lens of dyslexia consider checking out our Professional Development courses.

This Freebie has expired. Subscribe to our Membership Site for $15/month in order to access it in our exclusive Members Only Library or check it out at Teachers Pay Teachers!

Syllable Division Posters

Syllable Division Posters

Syllable Division Posters

Today we wanted to share a fun resource for teaching the different syllabication patterns. There are so many rules in Orton-Gillingham based instruction and so we wanted to find a way to make it stick more meaningfully for our students. We love trying to create memory devices and loved this traditional OG approach of using animals to help remember the different division patterns. We also have fun syllable division games available in our Members Only Library and on TPT.

Rab/bit Division - Spot and dot the vowels and divide between the consonants.


Rep/tile Division - Keep Magic E syllables together.

Hor/net Division - Keep Bossy R syllables together.

Ti/ger - When you cannot divide between consonants, keep the first syllable open.

Cam/el - When you cannot divide between consonants, keep the first syllable closed (we try this if an open syllable doesn't create a real word).

Tur/tle - Consonant LE, count back three and scoop.

Li/on - Typically vowel teams stick together, every once in awhile they repel and we divide between the vowels.

This Freebie has expired. Subscribe to access it in our exclusive Members Only Library or check it out at Teachers Pay Teachers!

You can also join our e-mail list in order to check out our comprehensive Orton-Gillingham Toolkit.

Check out these other resources we use within our curriculum in our Membership site or on TPT.


Syllable Types & Vowel Sounds Interactive Notebook

This week we are so excited to share part of our interactive reading notebook and syllable marking worksheets. This is a great way to start off your systematic, structured, reading intervention. It's also a great way to keep students engaged!

Why Present It Like This?

It can be hard to remember everything there is to remember in a structured, systematic literacy program. All the vowel sounds (short, long, and R-controlled) plus all the vowel teams and syllable types. Our students enjoy coloring in the pictures and coming up with words to help them hold onto all these rules.

We know that so many of our students struggle with working memory and this has proven to be a great way to serve as a memory aid while also helping with retention of all the things there is to know related to OG. This is a short version of our more comprehensive interactive notebook available through our Membership site! Click Log-In at the top of the page to sign up!

This limited time freebie has expired.

Don't worry, you can also get these interactive notebook pages and activities as part of our Membership in the Members Only Library. Also available for purchase on TeachersPayTeachers.Or you can get this as part of our free OG Toolkit, by signing up for our e-mail list!

Syllable Type Sort

One of our favorite activities to complete with students is the syllable type sort. There are tons of fun ways to adapt this game/activity in order to determine not only if your student can decode words - but also whether they can match the word to its syllable type.

Why does this matter?

1. If a student can match a word to a syllable type, they have a greater understanding of the "why" of our language and will likely be able to generalize the skill better to other less familiar words.

2. If a student can match a word to a syllable type, they generally have a much higher likelihood of being able to spell that word correctly.

How do you play?

I always play this game as a quick warm-up with my students. I first ask them to identify all the syllable types they know. While identifying each syllable type I pull out the corresponding card. Next, I take turns picking teams with my student, or if I have a group I let each child pick a syllable type team and put the remaining cards in my pile. Every student should be able to see all the cards as they will need to sort word cards into their syllable type. I typically set my timer between 3-5 minutes as this game is meant to be a super quick review of past concepts. Everyone takes turns drawing a card and reading the word then sorting by syllable type. At the end of the game, the player with the most word cards wins!

This limited time freebie has expired.

But don't fret, you can still get this game as part of our Membership in the Members Only Library. Also available for purchase on TeachersPayTeachers.

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out