Wednesday, May 31, 2017

We Are Not Alone

As I sit to write this blog about our new classes, I see them in a new light—that of parent, not professional. I am in the ER, feet propped on my son’s gurney, typing thoughts that have been swirling in my head since 2:00 am. My son is battling Ulcerative Colitis, and we are in the unsettling stage of trying to learn what we need to know, while frustrated over how he has suffered due to our inevitable learning curve.

I have been having those intense Momma-moments for the last 24 hours, finally lamenting to my husband in frustration: I just wish we had a nurse or professional that is available to guide us. Someone to tell us what signs to watch for. Someone to walk us through the system. Someone to tell us when we need to get more help, but also to help us manage at home what we can manage at home!

What I want is twofold: information to help me learn what I don’t know and a coach to guide us as we walk this path, for those inevitable (but unforeseen) footfalls and obstacles along the way.

What I want for my child is what I am trying to provide for yours! And let me tell you, now as a parent who also needs help, I am even more committed to give you support for managing your children’s reading and writing development.

Laying a Path is our educational series designed to help build skills. Moira and I create these classes to provide you with teaching strategies for strengthening a specific skill area needed for successful reading/writing. We provide conference-level, hands-on demonstrations of how we teach our students.

1)   Laying a Path: Phonics and Spelling includes three 90-minute recordings of our March-April class, available for purchase.

2)     Laying a Path: Vocabulary and Word Study is our live class available in August. Word Study will demonstrate how we support vocabulary, spelling, and grammar through the practice of morphology. We will again provide three 90-minute sessions, each with explanation, demonstrations, and lessons for kids of all ages. The live class allows you to ask questions specific to your child’s needs.

Roots Entwined is our coaching class. Moira and I will be available to help you coordinate all of your Language Arts goals, with specific attention to strategies to support both reading and writing. We will teach you how and help you manage as you move along the path. We will help you decide if you need to pursue other professionals. Roots Entwined will not cover essential skills to the depth of the Laying a Path classes--those are used to build skills, and make an excellent supplement to your everyday teaching. Our monthly coaching class (Roots Entwined) will help you learn how to practice the consolidation of those skills, in reading, writing, editing, Intentional copywork, dictation, and original writing, all throughout the school year.

Meanwhile, we are combining my 30+ years’ experience, Moira’s updated education and creative endeavors, and Tracy’s artistic talents to give you other educational choices.
Free videos and our Twigsblog allow us to answer questions and provide helpful information. We are always loading free and affordable ideas and materials in our store, and alerting you via newsletters and Facebook of what’s new at Rooted in Language. Be sure to download the Twiglet on our website to receive our top three Post-it Note strategies for generating Bits & Pieces of Writing! Moira is sharing Instagram ideas daily, so be sure to follow us @rootedinlanguage.

I am committed to writing more Trees in the Forest books, so I can help you better understand WHAT matters in reading and writing, WHY we do what we do, and HOW you can apply important strategies to your language arts studies. Tracy and I are working on the Vocabulary and Word Study edition. It will be a great expansion to the Laying a Path: Word Study demo class.

Finally, I know with my son, I just want someone to give us a prescribed plan. Something we can pick up and use, without having to wade through all of the theory and research involved, making mistakes all the while. Therefore, Rooted in Language is also working to provide activities for you to buy. These are real lessons we teach real kids year after year. A few of these are already in our Shop at, and there will be more available in time for fall.

Go to our website ( and click on "Classes" in the menu bar to register for our courses. I want to support you, so you can educate your kids and manage their learning struggles.


Monday, May 22, 2017

From Rita to Rooted

For some of you, Rooted in Language is a new resource you've recently discovered. For others, you have known me, Rita Cevasco, Speech-Language Therapist, for over 12 years, since I began teaching online classes for Brave Writer. Still others have known me longer, as the therapist who worked each week with your now adult children who struggled with speech, reading, writing, listening, or speaking, or some combination of language skills.

Here is the story of my path from Rita Cevasco, Speech-Language Pathologist, to Rooted in Language. Ironically, it is more a story about all of you, than of me.


I have been a Speech-Language Therapist since I finished my master’s program in 1984, but I began to specialize in reading and writing around 1990. This was a time of growing research into dyslexia--both its causes and its interventions--due to the advent of the fMRI and improved cognitive science research.

I started small: as Rita M. Cevasco, M.A., SLP, beginning my own private practice in 1994 in Maryland, and then again in 1996 when we moved to Mason, Ohio. At the time, my husband and I had two young daughters and were planning our third child (my son). Moving was a relief since my practice in Maryland was growing beyond my means. Starting over allowed me to see a few clients, work from home, and let people discover me, once again, through word-of-mouth referrals.

Yet, need brings change. Last month, I received this email from a home school parent:
“In the Pittsburg area, I contacted two dyslexia centers for my son. Believe it or not, they each have two-year waiting lists.”

I believe it. I have a waiting list, too. One psychologist recently estimated that 30% of all school-aged children have what he calls a “rough road” in their learning. Likely, 20% of those individuals struggle with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or both. There are strategies to pave that “rough road,” but this is not a one-size-fits-all matter. Learning is a path that varies from child to child. I was “laying a path” for each of my students, while thinking about the path set before me.

People, like my husband and Julie Bogart of Brave Writer, began to suggest that I stop focusing on only helping one child at a time. Through Julie, I transitioned from mentoring children to mentoring their parents--teaching in classes rather than in individual therapy. I taught Kidswrite Empowered, Foundations in Writing, and Partnership Writing. I created the Wand. I was learning how to take all this information I have in my head, my strategies and techniques, and teach it to parents.

Meanwhile, my practice was overwhelming me. I had to give my time to either my practice or to Brave Writer’s classes. I stopped teaching for Brave Writer, but Julie kept me aware of the growing requests for online help. I realized I need to focus on one clear mission: to help as many kids as I can on their path to becoming better readers and writers. As many as I can.

My mission is authentic, so I love my work. But my mission has also grown as I work with the parents of my students. I can see their skills and their growing desire to help their kids. I made a shift from only teaching children to also teaching the parents who teach those children! I became more generous with my time as my own children became adults and demanded less of me.

One thing I know from my own family, my students, and parents: learning happens best in relationships. I always allow for conversation and game time with my students. Knowing and caring for kids is crucial to their growth. Enjoying kids is a gift. Showing kids I value them is life-changing. As one parent told me: “Aside from you teaching my son that he could write, you sat beside him and built up his confidence week by week. The way you talk to him and care about him has made all the difference.”

Relationships led to Rooted in Language.

My husband encouraged me to begin to give more away--more of my time, more of my resources, and more of my knowledge.

Julie Bogart of Brave Writer invited me to return to her online community, helping me understand how I can be more available to home school parents.

My friend Tracy Molitors, who has been my cohort in all of life (parenting, gardening, reading, and writing) generously agreed to join the mission. Tracy is an artist and designer, and she is also passionate about taking all my ideas, which can be overwhelming, and creating visible, workable products to help parents help kids on their reading and writing journey. She added her own creative ideas, as well. Without Tracy, I am a pile of words; with Tracy, those words take shape. Tracy joined me financially with her hours of unpaid labor, and is now working week after week to help me share strategies that work with all of you!

My daughter, Moira Chrzanowski, finished her master’s in Speech-Language Pathology. In spite of knowing there are shortages for SLPs everywhere, she was passionate to teach reading and writing and join my practice (both private and online). In less than a year, her caseload is full and we, once again, have a waiting list.

Together, we three created Rooted in Language--an umbrella group that includes my private practice (Rita Cevasco & Associates) and our online resources. Tracy, Moira and I are intent on sharing our strategies and ideas through Instagram, video classes, our website and Blog posts, and Facebook resources. We want learning to happen in relationship: our relationships with you (the parent/teacher), and your relationship with your child.

My head is full of 34 years-worth of ideas. Rooted in Language is full of talented people who make great ideas even more fun and accessible to you. Our mission is to be of value and a good value. We want to Lay a Path for you to find what you need, whether it’s a great strategy that has been tested with other children, or more personal help in teaching your individual child throughout the school year.

We are ROOTING for your kids!


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Handwriting and Copywork: Your Questions Answered

I get many questions through my webpage, Here are two recent questions from a parent:

Question 1--How do you recommend modifying Handwriting Without Tears?

Handwriting weaknesses seem to be connected to the phoneme-to-grapheme link for both letter names and letter sounds. Much of the research showing improved skills utilizes saying letter names while writing. We can’t ignore this key strategy.

I suggest that handwriting is viewed as a separate activity from Copywork and Dictation. Handwriting practice follows this rule: “Say your letters while you write.” This is a key strategy for two reasons.

First, I have seen kids produce more perfect letters while saying the letter name, then produce illegible letters while saying sounds. It appears that saying the letter name is easier than saying a letter sound, resulting in greater writing skill. Over time, this difference disappears, but informs me that it is best to let handwriting practice be as successful as possible.

Second, handwriting is a good place to learn letter names. Some kids have difficulty combining all they need to know about text: the word, its sounds, its letters, its grammatical structure, its relationship in word families, its denotations and connotations, etc. There is A LOT to manage while writing! Practicing the skill of letter naming in Handwriting, then letter sounds in Copywork, helps strengthen each skill so it can be combined with other skills in writing.

Third, saying letter names is helpful for spelling, especially for confusing suffix spellings or fornunexpected letter combinations.

Engaging in Handwriting is the practice of SKILLS for better CONSOLIDATION OF SKILLS in writing.

Some people refer to this theory as the practice of AUTOMATICITY for better CONNECTIVITY.

No matter the terminology, think of practicing writing the way you think of practicing music. Original writing is like an entire musical piece. To play the musical piece, we must practice our notes, our scales, difficult measures, difficult phrasing, entire portions, etc. Then we have to practice putting all those individual skills together. Which leads us to Copywork and Dictation . . .

Question 2--When doing Copywork, do you recommend sticking with one passage (1 or 2 sentences) all week? Copying the same passage each day?

When I ask kids to do Intentional Copywork, I give this rule: “Say your sounds while you write.” This is key to tapping into the language system while writing. There are many reasons we do this.

First, we need to hold phrases and sentences in our working memory while writing, so we learn to manage more text, without constantly looking back and forth. This is good training for when we create generative writing and hold onto our original thoughts.

Also, we solidify the sound-to-symbol (phoneme-to-grapheme) relationship in words. We practice breaking words into syllables, and other phonological strategies.

In addition, we hear the text. We hear the syntax. We hear the phrasing. These are all key skills connecting our written language skills to our spoken language skills.

I like to select a passage that would take my students 5-10 minutes to write, much the way Brave Writer recommends. In Intentional Copywork, we follow the schedule I outlined in my book and my March blog, in which we read and study one passage from text, adding bits and pieces of writing each day throughout the week.

On day one, we make notes or write on the passage’s meaning, using the ideas I share in Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension.

Day two, we practice words from the Copywork passage, using Phonics, Spelling, and Word Study strategies. The Phonics strategies are available through our free Welcome to the Forest Video and our Laying a Path: Phonics and Spelling video series. These are both available on the website, in the Video Shop.

Day three, we practice studying the grammatical structures and punctuation in the passage.

Day four, we do Copywork of the entire passage (as able) and edit.

Day five, we use the same passage for Dictation, writing only as much as can be accomplished in 10 minutes. Then we edit again.

In this way, one passage is studied in depth throughout the week.

Rooted in Language is working hard to make more materials available, so you will have more ideas for all five days of Intentional Copywork and Dictation!