Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Clever Parent Moment!

Our readers have probably noticed a similar theme to the last couple posts: carry-through of language therapy skills throughout the home school week. All this pontificating on the same topic is for a reason - expanding upon therapy goals can be difficult for parents, and sometimes requires a bit of creativity!

So for those of you who continue to crave some guidance, I thought I might occasionally post examples of ways the parents of my clients have “run with” therapy activities in their home practice.

This week, I saw a young 4th grade boy who struggles with reading accuracy, spelling, syntax and depth of writing. Writing for him is arduous and boring. We’ve been targeting specific phonics and spelling skills through use of his Wilson reader and workbooks, and have recently begun “freewriting” on personal topics both in and outside of the therapy session to stimulate flow of ideas and creativity (more on freewriting to come).

My student decided to write about his grandma for his first freewrite. For his homework, I asked his mom to set a timer for 5 minutes, and allow her son to write freely (no worries about spelling, grammar, etc.) about his grandma. The next week, he read his paragraph to me, and we discussed some of his written thoughts. After some positive probing, he mentioned that he enjoys setting traps to catch chipmunks while at his grandma’s house. Intriguing! As this was not mentioned in his paragraph, I asked that he do another freewrite on the specific topic of chipmunk trapping! I have continued to engage in this process with him, facilitating deeper and more detailed writing.

Meanwhile, in his phonics work with me, we had begun working with long vowels and silent ‘e’ syllables, combined with closed syllables, to form two-syllable words (i.e. explode, concrete). We practiced reading word lists, sorting syllable types (closed vs. silent ‘e’), and spelling two-syllable words with short vowels and broken vowel teams. We engaged in a bit of partnership writing using words from his Wilson book, in which we took turns writing sentences and practiced sentence complexity/expansion. My student’s mother always sits with us at the table, engages in the therapy activities, and makes note of what we do. I have explained to her that she can continue to practice with her son at home by repeating or expanding upon any of the things she sees me do in the therapy session.

This week, I had asked my student to expand upon a funny anecdote mentioned by his mother regarding the chipmunk trapping in his freewrite. His mom reported that this task was more difficult for him, as it tapped into the creative side of writing, less literal or reportive. So to continue practicing more imaginative writing, sentence expansion, and phonics work, his mother engaged in some partnership writing at home. They practiced reading words from his Wilson reader, and copied some of them into his notebook. Then they took turns writing sentences using the Wilson words, but with a creative twist: each sentence was about the chipmunk topic!
While the sentences they created may not be usable in the developing chipmunk narrative, her writing activity expanded upon her son’s therapy goals by combining original writing, syntax, and phonics work! And to top it all off, my student cracked a smile as he read me their silly sentences about chipmunks who “explode” on the “concrete” - the beginning of a love (or at least tolerance) for writing!


Monday, August 22, 2016

Coordinate and Consolidate!

The school year has lifted off! 'Tis the season of children struggling to wake up their snoozing summer brains, and parents furiously working to stay one step ahead. As a home school child, back-to-school meant the start of a more structured schedule – spending my days engaging in learning and completing school assignments. However, at the end of the school day, I was able to throw myself back into the world of relaxation and play. Not so for my mother, the home school parent. For her, back to school meant something entirely different. It meant figuring out how to fit it all in and check all the boxes. It meant time spent planning behind the scenes, careful planning from which I benefited and bore fruit. 

For parents of struggling readers and writers, all home school planning must incorporate specific language strategies and goals. The question becomes, how to prioritize this learning with all other learning?

In last week’s post, Rita offered a weekly calendar to help parents continue (and expand upon) what is done in the therapy room into their weekly school schedule.

At this point, I like to offer some insight into the therapy process. Why do you see Rita and I doing what we do in the therapy room? How do we target retention of language concepts and strengthening of underlying processing skills in our students? As Rita likes to call it, we aim for “stickiness” (retention) of the strategies and skills that we teach our students, and our methods serve as the adhesive.

So what do you see when visiting the therapy room with Rita or myself?
Coordination and Consolidation:
On our website, www.rootedinlanguage.com, click the Educational Media tab – scroll down to the file titled Lulu Learns to Write, and click for download. This little document is an illustrated metaphor explaining the concept of cognitive load, written by Rita and illustrated by her friend Tracy Molitors. This graphic metaphor helps parents understand why our kiddos with Dyslexia are seemingly unable to retain/internalize all of the language concepts we have taught them. This short, illustrated story uses the image of trying to hold too many boxes - as you learn more (pick up more boxes) you begin to drop old ones…you just cannot hold them all. Our job as SLPs is to help problem solve and teach strategies for consolidating skills into single boxes, so that skills become automatic and our children can "hold it all."

Skills must be both coordinated (learned) and consolidated (automatized). Kids practice this in school. A skill may be learned and practice (i.e. reading single syllable words), and consolidated (i.e. reading and writing a paragraph through copywork).

As a result, we weave therapy through all areas of language: phonology (sound), orthography (writing), syntax (grammar), semantics (meaning/literary elements), and morphology (word study). As you saw with Rita’s sample calendar in last week’s post, we strive to engage our students, consistently and methodically, in practicing skills to consolidate all areas of language, which results in the most “stickiness.”


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Scheduling For Home School Families

It is that Back-to-School time of year. I still recall sitting in an unairconditioned school-room, in my scratchy all-wool plaid uniform, ducking wasps as they buzzed around and watching the clock shimmer in the heat. Ah, for the good old days!

This is the time of year Home School families look at me and say, “So what days should I be doing all of this?”

For families with children who have dyslexia and/or dysgraphia, practice needs to be consistent. Yet consistency can be overwhelming. So I try to help parents discover how one activity can overlap and cover many areas of language arts. I put together a schedule that helps us to map out what needs to be done, and how best to fit small and consistent practices into a busy school week. The schedule looks like this:

So, for one young boy, His phonics book lesson was set up for Tuesday through Friday, but it counted for both Phonics and Spelling, as well as Reading. Likewise, his Copywork was set up for Tuesday through Thursday, with Dictation on Friday. But his word practice counted for original writing on Tuesday through Thursday. He will do a Freewrite on Fridays. His unit study will be Monday through Thursday, but he will engage in narration and Partnership Writing for original writing on those days.

An 8th grade student will be using Bravewriter’s Faltering Ownership program on Mondays and Wednesdays, counting for both Literature and Original Writing. She will read in her Jamestown Reader on Tuesdays and Thursdays to study Literary Elements, engage in reading and engage in answering questions with short answers. She will practice reading and writing multi-syllable words in Science.

Remember that many language arts activities work best when we overlap skills—and it makes the schedule easier also! Overlap helps kids who struggle practice often, but not to the level of frustration.

Scheduling actually helps parents keep goals in perspective, helping us see all that can be accomplished, while still giving our kids plenty of time for creative fun.

If you are using Bravewriter products, and want to incorporate the Bravewriter Lifestyle into your home school, Angela Awald shared her wonderful bookmark design with me, altering it so I could offer it to parents with struggling readers and writers! Print it up as a reminder to make time for library trips, theater, Poetry Teatime, and all those activities that sets home school apart. 

Subscribe to get a copy of your bookmark and schedule, which you can modify every month as you alter your home school plans. Subscribing will give you the handouts as well as keep you updated on new ideas! To receive the handouts, go to:

Enjoy a fresh start this fall and know that learning to read and write is the foundation for all learning! As your children practice consistently, progressing in these areas, they are on the road to becoming life-long independent learners.