My three children are now 20, 19 and 17. When Response to Intervention (RtI) was first introduced in our districts around 10 years ago, I was spending just about the same amount of time in the Orthodontist’s office as I was on the soccer fields. As our family Orthodontist explained, there was something about my husband’s and my genetic combination that contributed to our children’s very unique orthodontic problems. My son’s issues were mild compared to my two daughters. What was astounding to our Orthodontist was that Kassie and Lizzie had the opposite problem. Kassie had a severe overbite and Lizzie had a severe underbite (among many other issues). He informed us that out of the three very difficult orthodontic problems to correct, Lizzie had two.
Fortunately, I took the advice of a good friend who read that your child should first visit the Orthodontist at the age of five. Although our Orthodontist did not “intervene” at that time, I had a heads up of what was to come and my children were scheduled for periodic checks to see how they were developing. Years later, as I was preparing for a presentation on Response to Intervention, I couldn’t help but see the correlation with orthodontics nowadays to RtI. Let’s take Lizzie’s treatment for her underbite as an example.
Years ago, the correction of a severe underbite went something like this. The patient had to wait until about the age of 18 when the jaw bone had stopping growing. A very invasive surgery then ensued where part of the bone on either side of the lower jaw was removed and the remaining sections were wired together. The upper and lower jaws were then wired together for about six weeks. During this time, the patient could only sip from a straw. It was very painful. I had a friend who had this surgery in the early 80′s and I still have vivid memories of seeing her bruised and puffed face a few days following the surgery.
Let’s now fast forward to the orthodontic treatments of today. Fortunately, I took Lizzie for the orthodontic screening at a young age and then regular periodic checks as she was growing and developing. When the time was right, the Orthodontist started intervention– systematically moving structures around with devices such as a palate spreader to “make room” for her emerging teeth. When it was time to address the issue of the underbite, Lizzie was given a Frankel appliance. The device encouraged the growth of the upper jaw while slowing the growth of the lower jaw. Starting at the age of 7, Lizzie had to wear this rather large device 23 hours a day for one and half years. We visited the Orthodontist every 6-8 weeks where he would check Lizzie’s progress and make adjustments to her treatment as needed. Eventually, the time wearing the device decreased to the point where she only had to wear it at night and then not at all.
Well, that’s RtI in a nutshell- screening, early intervention, monitoring of progress, and changing intervention as needed until you get the desired outcome. Was it work? Yes. Was it expensive? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely!! Leaving her orthodontic issues untreated would have very likely affected her self esteem and, in addition, had physical repercussions later on in life. The same holds true for not addressing reading problems early on. So, let RtI do for your school and students what our Orthodontist did for Lizzie. Here’s Lizzie’s senior picture. She graduates from high school this year.
So what do you do with an orthodontic appliance when you no longer need it? Well, Lizzie wanted to make into a Christmas ornament-she is crafty. Eventually, maybe, but for now it’s still a prop for presentations.
Okay, for you “younger-ones”, the appliance on my mannequin is headgear that we slightly “older-ones” wore at night when we had those thick metal braces.
Our kiddos just love it when we add a little holiday fun into literacy centers. The 4-In-A-Row games are ideal for literacy center activities as students can play these games with partners while learning targeted phonics skills. Playing 4-In-A-Row is pretty easy. Students just take turns reading the words on the game board and placing their colored chips in the square. The first player to have 4 of their colored chips in a row wins the game. When you download this activity you’ll receive 12 phonics-based game boards for practicing vowel teams, long vowel sound spelling patterns (for example: i/ie/igh/y), and r-controlled vowels.
Here’s another fun center activity! This activity is designed for practicing sight words. When you download this activity you’ll receive 9 game boards containing words from the Dolch 220 sight word list. This activity is easily differentiated as students use the game board with the words they are learning and practicing.
It happened again. I’m reviewing a file of a student having difficulty learning to read and there it is! A recording of three failed school vision screenings. I would love to say that this is an isolated incident, but unfortunately, all too often we seem to overlook the obvious. With all of our literacy screenings, progress monitoring, digging deeper assessments, we have all seemed to neglect the possibilty that the child may not even be able to see the text clearly. We assume that the parents, after receiving the letter from the health department, followed through on the recommendation for further vision testing. Ugg…. what valuable instructional time has been lost.
Another frustration is that many children who actually are prescribed glasses are not wearing them during school. I can’t tell you how many times I go to work with a child, ask the child to bring their glasses and wait patiently as the child digs through their backpack in search of the glasses case. Yikes! Does this mean that the child did not wear their glasses during guided reading? With 80% of childhood learning processed through vision, and knowing that 25% of children K-6 have vision related issues, it’s critical that we know which children have issues with their vision.
Vision plays a critical role in learning to read. Not only do children need to be able to see the print clearly, they must also be able to coordinate the movement of their eyes. They must also be able able to “track”–meaning that they are able to follow a line of print without losing their place and their eyes need to be able to focus on the print and make quick adjustments as they move from the page to the board and back. Children must also be able to interpret and accurately process what they are seeing. Sounds a bit complicated? Maybe, but a difficulty in any one of these areas can have a pretty dramatic impact on the child’s ability to read.
Eye Teaming Problems
Children with eye teaming problems may see the print as blurred, scrambled or as doubled. Our eyes work as a team. When the eyes look at an image, let’s say a word on a page, each eye sends a separate message to the brain. The brain then combines each image into a single picture. If the eyes are not aiming at the exact same point, each image that’s being recorded is slightly different. If the images sent to the brain are greatly different, the brain cannot combine the images into a single picture. The child’s vision will then be blurred.
Children with tracking problems often lose their place in text, skip line, misread short words. They have great difficulty controlling the fine motor eye movements at a close range.
When reading, the eyes must maintain a clear sharp images for extended periods of time. The eyes must also be able to shift easily and focus from near and far. For example, the student must be able to look at the print on a page, look up at the teacher, and then look back on the page. This is a quick transition and the eyes must be able to quickly adjust to the changing distance. Children with focusing issues may experience an increased blurriness in print the longer they read. Their eyes may easily fatigue.
Visual perception is the ability to understand and use the information that is seen. Students with visual perceptual difficulties may have difficulties in the following areas:
Well, having glasses is just the start. There are definitely visual issues, other than acuity alone, that could be the cause or a contributing factor with difficulties in learning to read. Unfortunately, the screenings offered within the school do not detect all visual issues relating to the ability to access print. Children who are experiencing reading difficulties really need to receive a complete eye exam.
As educators, it’s our responsibility to ensure that our students are able to access the educational experiences that we offer. For students with visual difficulties, that education is clearly compromised when they cannot see or process text. For all students, but especially for those who are struggling, please look through the student file to see if there is a record of failed vision screenings. Also, make it a point at conference time to recommend an eye exam. For those students who are already prescribed glasses, please be sure to set up systems in your classroom to ensure that the students wear them. Here are some ideas for reluctant glasses-wearers:
Click the following link to download this file Who Wears Glasses?
There are so many challenges that face our students today. So many of those challenges are totally out of our control. Ensuring that our struggling readers can first access the text seems like a good place to start. Encouraging parents to get an eye exam for their child and making sure that the students who need glasses to read actually use them are two things that we can do right away.
Oh…St. Patrick’s Day! It’s just around the corner. St. Patrick’s Day activities are always fun to incorporate into centers and small group instruction. For our little first graders still struggling with their short vowel sounds, the Pot O’ Gold activity might do just the trick. You can easily differentiate this activity by choosing which and how many vowels to use. Students simply name the picture and then places the picture on the correct pot.
Many of my first grade friends are struggling with consonant digraphs. Sorting the pictures in the Pot O’ Gold activity may help them distinguish between these sounds. When you download this activity you’ll receive 40 colorful gold coins with pictures containing sh, ch, th and wh.
The Pot O’ Gold activity is also available for r-controlled vowels and word families.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
St Patrick’s Day is coming up soon so let’s celebrate with a little freebie! Kyle, my fabulous artist, created this adorable game board last year. When you click the link below, you’ll be able to download 6 game boards with sight words from the Dolch 220 sight words. I’ve also included a blank game board for you so that you can individualize the activity for your students.
Just click HERE to download this freebie!
So, let’s get those St. Patrick’s Day centers ready! Enjoy!
Just click the following link to download this list of homophones: List of Homophones
A homophone is a word that sounds the same as another word or words, but has a different meaning and spelling. Homophones can really trip up our young readers and writers. It’s sometimes difficult for them to know for sure which spelling to use within their writing. Targeted instruction in the meaning of the different spellings of these words is needed. Activities involving homophones can actually be quite fun. The Homophone Pear Match activity makes for a great literacy activity or as an activity for your small group instruction. Students simply match each homophone pear and provides either a definition of the words and/or puts the words in a sentence. When you download this activity you’ll receive 72 homophone pears.
I’ve also included a label just in case you’d like to store the activity in a baggie or a container.
File folder activities are great for classroom literacy centers. They are typically used to reinforce skills so they are ideal for independent work. For these activities, I’ve included a word sorting activity, a word writing activity and then a fill-in-the-black activity on the back of the file folder. There’s a little bit of assembly involved, but it’ll be well worth it as, if laminated, the folders can be used over and over again. Here’s a few pictures:
Here’s the activity for Consonant + le:
…and here’s a picture for the oi/oy file folder activity. You’ll notice that some file folder activities have 2- , 3- and 4- areas for sorting and writing. I’ve included step-by-step assembly directions for each format.
The File Folder Phonics activities are available for a variety of phonics skills. You can find the activities in my online Teachers Pay Teachers store or on the Make, Take and Teach website:
When I was a Speech/Language Pathologist I used to love to teach multiple word meanings. When students understand that a word can have a different meaning depending upon it’s use in oral or written language, their comprehension improves. There are a lot ways to help students learn multiple meaning words. The Ice Cream Scoops activity is a fun activity for expanding vocabulary by teaching multiple word meanings. When you download this activity you’ll receive 16 ice cream cones containing words with two or more definitions. Students match the definitions to the words. You’ll want to be sure to have the students use the words in sentence so that they can clearly demonstrate that they understand the word meaning.
Storing activities can also be a bit challenging. I’ve included a sticker for you just in case you’d like to store your activity in a baggie.