"Determination, patience, and genuine love for teaching," is a phrase that describes teachers. Teachers involved in exceptional education may even have an extra dose of those qualities. Students come to an exceptional ed teacher with many--a large variety--of challenges. The teacher is trusted with finding and utilizing methods that remediate the students' struggling. A genuine love for teaching IS very important, because it leads the teacher in all her/his efforts. Teaching well with every student is the teachers' goal, and the teacher finds true fulfillment in the classroom when that is happening. Patience is very important as well, since the students' problems may be overwhelming them, and causing even more problems in the classroom. So, the exceptional ed teacher must try to help and wait patiently to allow the student to show the teacher how best to help her/him, accept, and utilize the help. Determination is very necessary because in many instances, helping the student find the problem and attempt remediation presents its own challenges.

Universal, applied concepts and techniques, explicit, concrete, and multi-sensory teaching and learning are very helpful for struggling students. When the teacher is able to use those methods with a student, the student is able to make sense of the skill or concept. Once the skill or concept makes sense to the student, the student learns. I have seen this happen with every one of the students who have allowed me to help them.

When Scott came to my classroom, he had learning gaps. I reassured him that I would do whatever I could to help him fill in the gaps so that he could get his high school diploma. It was important that he immediately improve his basic skills. So, I taught him how to discover the "sound spelling" for unfamiliar words in his texts, using The Sounds Of Words. We also used the method to help him improve his spelling. Because the Sounds Of Words is a universal, explicit teaching, concrete, multi-sensory, applied phonics, reading intervention, he was able to make sense of decoding and spelling words that he needed to comprehend in order to successfully earn his high school diploma. His fluency and comprehension continued to improve, and he was eventually able to earn his college diploma as well.

So yes, I try hard to act as a teacher who is determined, patient, and who demonstrates a genuine love for teaching struggling students.

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I had an interesting telephone call on Wednesday. One of my former struggling students, now 40 years old, called me to share information about his life. B also wanted me to understand how important I was to him. He told me that when he came to me for help, he felt so different from everybody else. "People made me feel like I was just so weird," he told me. "But I learned from you that it is ok to be different. In fact, you let me know that you cared about me, and that you thought that my being different, my learning differently, was special. That is what you taught me, that being different is not weird. It is just special."

Wow! That is exactly why I created The Sounds Of Words. I needed a method that would help my struggling readers improve reading skills. So my adult learner and I developed the decoding strategy. And, once she was able to decode the words for herself, she was able to comprehend the text. Then I knew I was helping her. Since then, I have helped many struggling learners of all ages and intelligence levels improve reading, spelling, and writing skills. And by providing a method that allows persons who learn differently to find learning success, The Sounds Of Words validates special learners.

B eventually graduated from college, and has had a successful career. He told me that he plans to come visit me and take me out to dinner. I eagerly anticipate his visit!

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Recently I bought a spelling activity game to use with my learners. The goal of one version of the game is to find and use alphabet letters obtained when landing on the letter space while moving around the board, in order to spell short words. Drawings illustrate familiar printed words spelled out letter by letter. To be assured that the learners were able to match usual sound with each letter, I had them match the letters printed on the gameboard with randomly selected colorful oversized letters while saying the letter, a simple regularly decoded word using the letter, then finally saying the usual sound of the letter.Then, I had the learners match letter tiles to the letters, while repeating the same process as with the large letters.

The next step will be to help the learners use The Sounds Of Words to discover the "sound spelling" for each of the illustrated words. Once they are able to sound out the words, they will play the game by moving around the board to obtain letter tiles. Finally, the learners will use the tiles they obtain to match and cover each letter of the target words, spelling the words with the tiles. For each word they cover completely, they will spell the word aloud and then name the word. To further improve comprehension skills, they may later do activities matching words and pictures, playing matching word games, writing sentences using the words, doing crossword activities with the words, etc, etc, etc.

And, because many of the words illustrate the usual letter sounds, the learners will continue to improve their skills, learning to read, spell, and write, The Sounds Of Words!

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Research has found that, "when writing by hand, the movements involved leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain, which helps us recognize letters. This implies a connection between reading and writing, and suggests that the sensorimotor system plays a role in the process of visual recognition during reading," associate professor Anne Mangen at the University of Stavanger's Reading Centre explains. And, "since writing by hand takes time, the temporal aspect may also influence the learning process." The University of Stavanger (2011, January 19). Better learning through handwriting. ScienceDaily.Retrieved May 14, 2012, from http://sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/01/110119095458.htm

So, The Sounds Of Words universal, explicit teaching, concrete, multi-sensory, reading decoding method is supported by this research, published in the periodical, Advances in Haptics. Hearing the sounds of the letters, repeating the sounds of the letters, WRITING the letters. MARKING the letters in the word to discover the "sound spelling", COPYING the "sound spelling", and then seeing the "sound spelling", the struggling learner is then able to read the "sound spelling", make the connection to the WRITTEN spelling, and then read and learn the word. Once the struggling learner learns the words, reading comprehension and fluency increase.

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Now struggling learners have another option if they wish to increase reading comprehension using The Sounds Of Words! The book, which originally published as an e-book as well as paperback, is now available as a digital e-book, for $4.95. The digital version of the book will work with all current electronic platforms, including the Kindle, the Nook, and the smart phones and tablets.

I wrote The Sounds Of Words to help parents and teachers of learners struggling to read, spell, and write English. It was written in response to regular education teachers inquiring about my mainstreamed special education students seeming to be reading easier than some of their regular education students. I was asked, "How are you teaching your students to read?" I told the regular education teachers that I was helping my students learn to decode words using concrete, multi-sensory activity. "What is that?" was the next question. So I attempted to describe how I taught the students to decode words. After that I decided it was time to write a book about the method, providing commonly used example words for each of the vowel-consonant patterns, as well as example words for consonant sounds.

When I published the book, I learned about the then new innovation of e-book publishing. It sounded like a great idea, as parents and teachers would be able to purchase and then print their own copy of The Sounds Of Words. I am very pleased that I decided to publish as an e-book as well as a paperback, since the earlier technology provided the stepping stone for the digital version. And now the digital version of The Sounds Of Words is available!

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Students with problems learning to read will often have problems with comprehension for single alphabet letters and their sounds. The Sounds of Words can be helpful in this area as well. The parent/teacher can choose very short, simple words familiar to the learner which feature the usual sounds of the consonants and short vowel sounds. Then help the struggling reader write and decode the words, discovering the "sound spelling." You will need to use an alphabet chart, and you will help the learner concretely and multi-sensorily work with the letters and their sounds. Singing the alphabet song, touching each letter, then finding the letter to write, and repeating the sound of the letter while writing it, will provide practice. And, if the student has difficulty copying the letter, the teacher/parent can write it and allow her/him the opportunity to trace it while discovering each letter for the illustrating word.

Connecting the letters to simple familiar spoken words helps the struggling learner comprehend the alphabet and its sounds. And if the student continues to have difficulty saying the letter names and their sounds, he/she can be helped by adding the activity of the manipulation of oversized letters. If the parent/teacher needs to use this activity, it is very important to use very familiar simple words. Introduce writing simultaneously, and teach the simple vowel-consonant patterns, as detailed in The Sounds Of Words procedure.

The teacher/parent should feel very free to use any short, simple words that interest the struggling learner. The goal is for her/him to make the connection between the words and the letters, thus comprehending the alphabet and its sounds. I have used words related to animals, food, songs, NASCAR, etc., etc. Anything goes, as long as it is short and simple, and G-rated!

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What does the parent/teacher do when the reading selection requires the learner to use comprehension for homonyms? Learners with decoding problems may have difficulty with some/all of the following example words: two, to, too; new, knew; through, threw; and so, sew. The teacher/parent may wonder whether learning by writing helps with reading English in this area. Yes, The Sounds of Words learning strategy works here too.

The parent/teacher can select the words that will challenge the struggling learner. So, use the strategy to help the student with reading disabilities discover the sounds of each of the example words, showing which letters correspond to which sounds. The learner will discover this: two, to, and too; new and knew; through and threw; and so and sew; share the same "sound spelling" among the grouped words. The teacher/parent should have the learner look at each grouped word and practice reading it, discussing the idea of shared sounds. Locate each one in the text.

Once the learner shows comprehension for shared sounds, consider each word individually. What is the meaning of two? Of to? Of too? How are they used in the text? Here is where comprehension for context is important. Make sure that the learner understands the definition and usage of each word. Read the sentence for each word.

Finally, have the learner read the text aloud. Then discuss it together, asking and having the student answer comprehension questions. Once the student is able to answer correctly, the parent/teacher will be assured that the struggling learner has mastered comprehension for those homonyms. And, the learner also understands the meaning of homonym--words with different spellings and meanings, that share the same sounds!

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Here are some thoughts related to Earth Day: Clean energy sources and uses prevent Earth's atmosphere from becoming polluted and overheated. This is important for the health of our planet, as well as our own health and breath. We need to keep our ears open, refusing to become deaf to the pleas of the ecologists. Individuals should hold the life of bears, and the life of other animals and plants close to each breast. Evidence shows that whenever we cease breaking ecological rules, our planet heals. Earth's land and water gleaming in the sun, and all her inhabitants feasting on abundant bread, is the ideal.

A struggling reader will have difficulty reading the above sentences because of some or all of the scientific terms and concepts, such as energy, atmosphere, polluted, ecologists, ecological, inhabitants, and abundant. However, some or all of the "ea" words, with their variety of spellings and pronunciations, will also confuse learners who have difficulty with decoding.

Using the Sounds of Words applied phonics strategy to discover the "sound spelling" for the words Earth, heart, heated, health, breath, ears, deaf, pleas, bears, breast, each, cease, breaking, heals, gleaming, feasting, bread, and ideal, will yield many different pronunciations for "ea" and the letters that follow. Then, once the reader is able to pronounce the words, vocabulary study and comprehension are able to develop.

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Were you aware that April 12 was National Drop Everything And Read Day? That day is Beverly Cleary's birthday, and since children love her books, she has been encouraging them to take time to drop everything and read those books. So, it is appropriate that children, big and little, celebrate her birthday by taking time to read. I was excited when I heard about the celebration, because The Sounds of Words is currently creating new adult readers, and strengthening reading skills. People are able to take some time for reading now, and they were very interested to hear about the celebration.

That is what the Sounds of Words is all about, creating new readers, and strengthening reading skills. Help struggling readers make sense of the text they need or want to read. Currently, participants in the Sounds of Words reading program are writing words, reading short selections and stories, reading Bible verses, reading songs, writing and reading words related to NASCAR, and learning the driver's manual. They are all adults, and when they are provided with choice of reading texts, they follow their interests. Because the method is universal, explicit teaching, concrete, multi-sensory, and applied phonics, it works with any text, any level, to increase reading skills.

So, were you able to Drop Everything And Read on April 12, 2012? Maybe you read a news or information selection. Maybe you even took some time to read a fiction or nonfiction book. Maybe you did not have time to read everything you wanted to read--yet you were able to read anything you needed/wanted to. I was, and am, and I celebrate that fact everyday. My dream is that one day everyone will have that ability.

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The reading book was a good choice for P. Page by page, she read aloud each selection. She took a copy of each page to practice reading for fluency. Finally, after rereading the story aloud, she read and answered questions about it. She read and completed comprehension and vocabulary building selections. As she continued though the book, her rate of reading and comprehension increased. Increasingly more words became part of her personal reading vocabulary.

She also began to lead our group as I taught phonics activities. At first, she listened to me as I sounded the letters, and took the lead naming the consonants as I spelled words. Next, she began labeling the items on her worksheet as I wrote them on the whiteboard. The skill of being able to name the vowels, short sounds as well as long, as I sounded them, was her next success. Then the day came when she was able to name the picture and helped spell the words as I wrote them. Finally, one day she came in after group was finished and proceeded to very quickly name the pictures, spell and label them with a very little assistance from me. At that point, I was assured that her reading, spelling, and writing skills were converging to form a solid base for her increasing success.

The Story of P will continue, as she continues to increase her skills.

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Because P was reading material with ungraded vocabulary, she was encountering some complicated words. I was using the term "complicated" when the decoding was complex, and the "sound spelling" varied considerably from the written spelling. At one point, as P and I were decoding an especially complicated word, she said to me, "Do you know what kind of word that is?" I wondered if she was going to use the word "difficult" or "hard" to describe it, which I had been avoiding. But, when I asked her to tell me what kind of word, she said, "That is a Tricky word!" I told her that "Tricky" was a great word, because of the tricks involved in order to discover its "sound spelling." So, from then on, she or I would announce, "Tricky Word!"

After completing the book of poems, P chose to read a book about Bambi. Though the vocabulary was even more complicated than that in the first book, she persisted until she finished the last page. I hoped that she had truly learned all the words. She was happy, however, because she had read two books!

Next, I decided to help P choose the book. I had found a reading book with several challenging words per story, and questions to answer after each selection. She agreed to work in that book. I told her we would slowly read through the book, and I would help her learn to read every word. She eagerly agreed.

To Be Continued

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P came to me with a little book of poems that she wanted to learn to read. She knew how to read some words, but had difficulty reading a sentence. I was unsure how successful she would be with the little poems, since the vocabulary was at a rather uncontrolled level. But, since she had selected the book she wanted to read, I decided to try it with her. If she became frustrated with the text, we could always find another for her.

Word by word, she figured out, and read aloud the first line of the first poem. We paused and followed the decoding procedure to find the "sound spelling" for each word she was unable to pronounce. After discussing the meaning, she found the word in the line, read it, and reread the line. Following the strategy, she slowly read each line. When she finished reading the entire poem, we reread it aloud together. Then I made a copy of it, and gave it to her with the instruction to practice reading it until we met again.

The next time we met, we began by rereading the poem together. Then she read it back to me. Then we tackled the next poem. Gradually she read through the little book of poems. By the time she completed the book, she was really beginning to read! The pace was slow enough, and the activity was universal, concrete, and multi-sensory enough, that she was learning every word in the book. She was also learning the sounds of the letters that made up the words.

To Be Continued...

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When helping a struggling reader improve reading skills, it is helpful not to encourage her/him to rely on context to figure out the word. The student is already having problems with decoding and comprehension, both of which are skills used in context reading. Therefore, it is unlikely that the learner will succeed in the effort, and attempting the skill will increase his/her frustration level. It is much better for the student if the teacher/parent pause, help the learner do the decoding to discover the "sound spelling", relocate the word in the text and say it, and then reread the phrase or sentence for comprehension. It is important to follow this procedure with every word that is causing problems for the learner. Or, if the parent teacher chooses, she/he can preview, select the problem words, preteach them, then locate them in the text and discuss and read them. Then read the text.

In order to best help the reader, it is important that the text be interesting to her/him, and that the instructional level be appropriate for him/her. A little challenge is positive; too much challenge is frustrating. Once the selection is appropriate, the reader should be taught to read and understand each word. When she/he is able to pronounce and understand every word of the text, he/she is finding reading success.

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Every word is decodable. The natural reader is able to look at a word, pronounce it, read it, and understand it, because she/he has been able to decode that word. At some time before reading and understanding the word, the natural reader has proceeded to do something of the following: Noticed and sounded out each letter of the word. Used information he/she already knew about decoding the word. Used new information about sounding the word. Used any or all of this information to sound out the word. Used words and information stored in the word recognition area to sound out the word.

Once the natural reader has figured out the prounuciation of the word, she/he proceeds to the something of the following: Used new information to learn the meaning of the word, and stored the word and the meaning in the comprehension area for future reference. Related the word to textual context to figure out the meaning of the word. Compared the word to (an)other word(s) with similar meaning(s). Used all previously learned information stored in the comprehension area to make connections in order to understand the word.

Every word is decodable. The struggling reader, however, usually has difficulty with the decoding, and so is unsuccessful with the rest of the process. He/she needs her/his instructor to show her/him explicitly, concretely, and multi-sensorily HOW to make every word decodable. The instructor should begin wherever the problem begins, providing the learner detailed and thorough assistance with every part of the decoding process for the word, in order to discover the "sound spelling". Wherever the spelling of the word deviates from the usual or expected sound, the instructor should help the learner recognize and learn the difference.

Once the reader has figured out the "sound spelling" and has learned the word's actual written spelling, the learner is able to follow the path of the natural reader, as detailed in paragraph two. Eventually, many struggling readers will also be able to follow the path of the natural reader, as detailed in paragraph one. At that point, the term "struggling reader" will no longer apply.

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