Key Reason Dyslexics and Struggling Readers Hate to Read

Imagine going to the movies with your eyes closed.  How much of the movie would you understand?  How much of the storyline would you recall?  Not much, and it probably wouldn’t be very engaging. In fact, you may begin to focus on the smells and the sounds of people crunching on popcorn. Your thoughts might wander, and you could even fall asleep. 

Many struggling readers have a similar experience when they open a book. They get little to no visuals in their mind’s eye while reading, they report that it is difficult to maintain attention and many complain that the process is boring.  Others purport to have a “blind mind’s eye” and are amazed to learn that it is possible to create mental imagery while decoding text.    

Why Does This Happen?
The average reader puts 20% of their cognitive effort into decoding and 80% into the visualization and comprehension of the text.  However, most struggling readers put 80% of their cognitive effort into the decoding process, leaving a measly 20% for comprehension. It’s no wonder why many can’t generate personal visualizations and they end up putting books down out of boredom, frustration and exhaustion.

What Makes Reading Fun, Engaging and Memorable are the Visualizations Created from the Text
Voracious readers report that what makes reading enjoyable, enticing and memorable is the mental imagery that they encounter when reading.  They report that they get lost in a “movie in their head.”  In other words, their mind’s eye conjures up visualizations of the words they read and paints pictures. This is similar to watching a movie and their attention and motivation gets pulled into the pages.

What Can We Do to Help Struggling Readers Learn to Create Mental Imagery?
I have found that the best way to teach visualization is through games and mindful discussions. You want to develop this skill to automaticity so that students can generate visualizations while doing other activities such as reading and writing. Here are some activities you can try:

  1. Play imaginary games and encourage your students to generate visualizations and describe them in detail.
  2. Break your classroom into groups of three students.  Ask them to all read a short descriptive passage to themselves.  Then ask them to read it again and highlight the words that create mental imagery.  Next, encourage the students to share their personal visualizations with their partners.  Finally, have the groups report back to the whole class and make a list of all the unique personal visualizations.
  3. Encourage learners to listen to passages of text and then draw images.
  4. After your students read a chapter, ask them to create storyboards – a sequence of drawings that share the storyline.
  5. Take the decoding process away and offer text to speech software.  Encourage your students to close their eyes while listening and create a movie in their head.  When they are finished, have them write about or draw their own personal visualizations.

Are There any Added Benefits of Visualization for Students?
By helping your students learn how to visualize, you can provide them a “secret weapon” that can enhance their learning capacity, improve memory and spark creativity.  In fact, the research shows that visualization not only improves reading comprehension, but also creative writing abilities and memory for math, history and science concepts.  To learn more about this, CLICK HERE.

Is it Ever too Late to Develop One’s Mind’s Eye?
No, it’s never too late. Let me share a story about and elderly woman that began to visualize while reading for the first time in her life:

I’ll never forget a grandmother bringing her grandson to a consultation.  After learning that her grandson had a great visual memory, I asked him if he visualized when reading.  When he said he didn’t, I went into a short explanation and summary of the process I would teach him.  A week later, his grandmother sent me an email.  She expressed that she had been listening to our conversation and that she picked up a book and made a conscious effort to visualize the text for the first time in her life.  She reported that the experience was wonderful. 

Are There any Ready-Made Products that Can Help Students Learn to Develop their Mind’s Eye?
To help teach students to improve their visualization capacity, I wrote a book entitled Mindful Visualization for Education. This 132-page downloadable document (PDF) provides a review of the research, assessment tools, over twenty game-like activities, lesson suggestions in all the subject areas and more.  In addition, I offer two PowerPoint downloads that review the 10 core skills that need to be developed to optimize visualization abilities.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please post them below.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to, &

Are We Grading or Degrading our Students? Let’s Shift Paradigms

Over the 15 years that I have worked as a learning specialist and educational therapist, I have never had a student come into my office with a poor test grade and ask me to help them to learn the material that they clearly did not master.  Instead of nurturing a desire to learn, our current paradigm instills a fear of failure.  As a result, when a student receives what they believe to be a poor grade on a test or assignment, they often feel degraded and ashamed.  Oftentimes, these tests and assignments are hidden or thrown away, and learning takes a nosedive.  In fact, when a student does unexpectedly poorly on a test, they are often so mortified that they learn little to nothing the rest of the day.  Instead they tend to internally ruminate and stress about the grade.  Sadly, it is the high test grades that students love to share and celebrate, as students quickly learn that they are rewarded for perfection.

Traditional Grading Only Points Out the Errors:
When teachers limit feedback to pointing out errors on assignments and tests, this can be both demoralizing and discouraging for learners.  Can you imagine working in an environment that only points out errors?  Too much criticism can be discouraging and can cause kids to dislike school and ultimately learning.

Where Does This Leave the Average Student or Struggling Learners?
Average students and struggling learners are often disempowered and frustrated, as they rarely, if ever, get to experience the grades they desire.  As a result, many of these learners can fall prey to a sense of learned helplessness.  Learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from persistence failure.  They learn to give up quickly as past efforts have failed.  It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression, acting out in school and even juvenile delinquency.

Learning to Embrace Mistakes Builds Resilience:
Conversely, we should thank our students for sharing their misconceptions and mistakes and offer rewards for learning from them.  We should teach them the value of, “giving it another try” and learning from mishaps.  They should know that most of our greatest inventions were the result of repeated mistakes.  In fact, it was reported that Thomas Edison made 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When asked about it, Edison allegedly said, “I have not failed 1000 times.  I have successfully discovered 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb.” 

How Can We Shift Paradigms to an Environment that Helps Students Embrace and Celebrate Learning?

  1. Teach students that you love hearing about their mistakes and misconceptions.  You can even offer a locked box where students can safely and anonymously ask questions or request the review or reteaching of a topic.
  2. When students make a mistake, guide them to the correct answer.  Use words like:
    • “You’re getting there.”  
    • “Almost.”  
    • “You’re getting warmer.”
    • “Give it another try.”
  3. Reward students for effort instead of intelligence. As Winston Churchill professed, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”
  4. Let go of grades and only make comments.  Begin by telling students what they did right, and then point out a few things they can do to improve their abilities.  Try to offer more feedback on what you liked and limit negative feedback, so students do not get overwhelmed.
  5. Allow students to always earn back partial credit for doing assignment and test corrections.
  6. Share your own past mistakes and misconceptions.  
  7. If you don’t know an answer to a question, admit it.  Then demonstrate for your students how to find the answer.
  8. When students make a mistake, do not give them the answer.  Instead guide them to the correct response.  You can even turn it into a game like, “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” – where students can ask for one the the following lifelines: 50:50 (give them a choice of two options), ask the class (poll the class), or ask a peer.

I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have some other suggestions, please make a comment below this posting.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to:,  

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Remediating Dyslexia with Orton Gillingham Based Reading Games

Students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities often learn differently and require an alternative approach to learning basic reading.  What’s more, these young learners are working full tilt while sitting in the classroom and by the time they get home and have to complete their homework, they are mentally spent.  As a result, tagging on remedial reading lessons to a cup that is already overflowing can be enough to turn these kids off to learning altogether.

How Do We Help These Students Learn the Core Skills Needed to be Successful Readers?

  1. First, use a remedial program that is backed by time, testimonials and research.  The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is a well-established and researched approach that offers a multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, and explicit approach.  There are many programs that are available.  Click here to learn about a selection of these programs. 
  2. Second, employ an individualized approach as each student has unique challenges and gaps in knowledge.  If you need to assess the areas that require remediation be sure to use an assessment tool such as the Good Sensory Learning Reading Assessment
  3. Third, the process needs to be fun and engaging.  Many programs required students to slog through boring lessons, complicated rules, and bland workbook pages. Many of these concepts can be instructed through cute memory strategies and fun activities.  You can find many fun supplemental materials here
  4. Fourth, integrate a student-created, colorful, language arts handbook or guide. Click here to learn more about this method. 
  5. Fifth, help students learn how to visualize what they are reading.  Many struggling readers do not have the cognitive space to use their mind’s eye when reading, therefore, developing this skill to automaticity is key.  To learn about the research behind visualization and learning as well as how to teach this needed skill click here.  
  6. Sixth, and most important, supplement all reading programs with card and board games that allow students to practice the concepts they are learning.  This brings the fun factor into learning and can help to nurture a love for reading.
Where Can I Find Multisensory and Fun Reading Games?
At Good Sensory Learning, we offer a large selection of downloadable card and board games that work with any Orton-Gillingham or phonics based reading program.  In addition, we have many other supplemental multisensory reading activities and materials.  In fact, we just unveiled a new website. Let me know what you think!

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to:,  

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The Power of Nonprofits: Solving the U.S. Achievement Gap

This week, I am featuring an insightful and impressive guest blog by Marissa Zych.  

an advocate for global literacy and accessible education, it’s difficult for me
to swallow the United States education pill that is the achievement gap.
Directly related to both the learning and opportunity gaps, the achievement gap
commonly refers to the “significant and persistent disparity in academic
performance or educational attainment between groups of students.” The roots of
this disparity run deep.
to the National Education Association, the student groups that commonly
experience achievement gaps (as indicated by test performance, access to key
opportunities, and attainments such as diplomas, advanced degrees, and future
employment) include racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners,
students with disabilities, and students from low-income families. Inner-city
schools, which some researchers call “dropout factories,” are often at the
heart of this issue, due in part to their high numbers of minority and
impoverished students.
U.S. government’s No Child Left Behind law of 2002 was overrun with issues and
failed to make notable improvements. And while a number of city schools
nationwide have taken the issue into their own hands, working to improve the
quality of their teachers and their graduation rates with some success over the
last decade and a half, experts agree that gradual change over time will not
cut it. As recently as 2012, African American and Hispanic students trailed
their peers by an average of 20 or more test points, according to the National
Assessment of Educational Progress.
In general, the
students experiencing achievement gaps have a higher chance of dropping out of
school. These dropouts face significant trials in acquiring employment and
attaining economic stability. Female dropouts are at a unique economic
uncertainty. As compared to male peers, girls who fail to earn their diploma have
higher rates of unemployment; make notably lesser wages; and are more inclined to
depend on help from public programs to accommodate for their families.
Nonprofit Solution
important to note that many of these inadequate strategies have been centered on
making changes within regular school hours — changes that take time to
implement. How can we make a more immediate impact on our schools, outside of
studies have shown that superior after-school programs lead to positive
academic outcomes, including improved test scores, grades, attendance, dropout
rates, and increased interest in learning. Evidence also suggests that they
lead to a decrease in juvenile crime rates and notable boosts in self-esteem
and confidence.
many city school districts that need these programs the most lack the policy
and/or budgetary support, making education-based nonprofits a crucial part
of the solution
growing number of reports on the performance of education-based nonprofits
prove that their after-school and/or summer programs have a positive impact on
students and their families. They provide disadvantaged youth with a safe and
engaging environment, extended time spent on diverse subject matter,
mentorship, and psychosocial and intellectual enrichment in exciting contexts
and settings that aren’t available in school.
So, What Does a Superior
Program Look Like?
  •  MOST: While it’s no longer active, The Wallace Foundation’s Making the Most Out-of-School-Time (MOST) fundraising initiative partnered with other
    like-minded organizations in Boston, Chicago, and Seattle from 1993-1999 to
    increase the awareness and availability of after-school programs. The MOST
    contributed to the foundation of evidence that now proves how necessary these
    kinds of programs are to bridging the achievement gap.
  •  Girls Do Hack: Giving youth an opportunity to learn
    something that they wouldn’t normally learn inside the classroom is important,
    specifically young women. Young women are not always considered for roles in science,
    technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. With the help of Misha
    association with the Adler Planetarium, Girls Do
    gives young
    women a safe space to discover and be encouraged to learn and find their skills
    in these fields.
  •  826 National: A personal favorite, 826 National is a nationwide organization. It tackles the literacy and
    learning issues of students (ages 6-18) through programs centered around
    creative writing and is currently run by Gerald Richards. Their centers offer free programs including after-school
    tutoring, field trips, creative workshops (cartooning, anyone?), and their
    young authors’ book project. According to Arbor Consulting Partners, “students
    [at 826 National] develop ‘habits of mind’ that support the achievement of
    positive academic outcomes.”
There are a number of factors that affect a student’s chance at
successfully navigating their way to graduation. That’s where these education-based
non-profits really fill the gap in the education system. It isn’t possible for
every teacher, principal, school sentry and janitor to solve every potential
problem students have. Their plates are already loaded with getting students to
pass standardized testing, dealing with administrative issues and keeping
schools safe and clean. It’s the non-profits that have the opportunity to see a
problem and analyze it, to come up with a creative solution without the same
restrictions our school systems and administrators face, and to engage children
and their parents in a manner that is more likely to work within those
parameters. It certainly isn’t easy to create a successful non-profit. It takes
heart, great support, and engaged stakeholders. These are some non-profits out
there that have stood out and have done a wonderful job.
Thank you Marissa for writing this blog and sharing your insight!
Marissa Zych is a twenty year old student at RIT. She is interested in the education and political landscape and is from Albany, New York.  She loves getting involved in her community and seeing positive change through giving back. She likes to volunteer her time at after school programs, nursing homes, and animal shelters where she rescued her cocker spaniel puppy Bowie!

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go,  

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10 Great, Free Typing Games

Over the summer months, kids can easily improve their keyboarding skills while having fun. There are numerous free typing games available on the internet, and this blogpost highlights a few of them.  The very first one listed, Dance Mat Typing, is by far my favorite of all the options.  In fact, it is better than many purchasable software programs and online lessons. The first two games offer lessons, while the last eight are games that allow students to practice their keyboarding skills.

This is a comprehensive typing game.  It is a free, beginners keyboarding game by BBC.
This site offers some simple, free typing lessons.
Kids can practice keyboarding skills by typing the words on the oncoming planes to make them disappear.
Type the letters to make the oncoming spaceships disappear while dodging their attack with the space bar. 
Kids can save a martian colony by typing strings of letters that will destroy the attacking flying saucers.
Kids type in the string of letters to destroy the oncoming meteors.
If kids type the string of letters, a frog will eat the oncoming words before hit the ground, if not, the frogs will disappear – one at at time.
Kids race down a road and type in the string of letters to drive past the cars.
If kids type the string of letters before they hit the ground they will disappear, if not, the ghouls will disappear.
This game helps kids learn the location of all the keys.  It involves shooting down bombs that have letters on them before they hit a city. 
If you know of any other great, free keyboarding games, please let us know by commenting below.

Teaching Students Metacognitive Strategies Improves Grades

We are living in an information,
distraction rich time and multitasking seems to be a common way of navigating
the complexities of reality.  Our youth have grown up observing their
parents juggling multiple responsibilities at one time, while they have also
been immersed in the modern day influx of technology.  As a result, many
young learners have applied their observations to academic endeavors, and
homework is often completed while laying prey to constant interruptions from
social media, online video chatting, texting, television and more.
 Although there is some utility in life to being able to multitask, the
learning process is hindered when attention continually shifts.  In
contrast to this multitasking approach to learning is metacognition, and this can play a critical role in successful learning.
How Can Students Learn to Do Schoolwork with
Greater Efficiency?
foundation to instructing students how to maximize their learning potential is
teaching them metacognitive strategies.  Metacognition is often described
as “thinking about thinking,” and it involves higher order reasoning that
actively controls the thought processes engaged in learning. Some other terms that are often used interchangeably with metacognition are self-regulation, and executive control.  Planning a learning approach, self-monitoring comprehension, and evaluating ones progress are examples of metacognitive skills.    
Teaching Metacognitive Approaches:
Share your own thought processes aloud, so that students can hear how
you think about your own thinking.
Encourage students to focus on one task at a time from beginning to end.
Tell students to remove all distractions when completing
Teach students to be aware of their own thought processes through
mindfulness.  Here is another blog that discusses mindfulness
Instruct students on how to plan and manage their time.  Provide handouts and materials that help them
to think through the process.
Ask students to create an after-school routine where they schedule
homework time and down time separately.
Urge students to plan their approach, create deadlines, and report their
intentions to you or a small group of classmates.
Provide assignments that merely ask students to create a study approach
and have them share their ideas with their classmates. 
Encourage students to keep a written log of their approach to your
class.  For example, after students get
back tests and assignments, ask them to evaluate their approach.  What worked? 
What didn’t work?  How can they
improve their strategy moving forward?

you would like ready made checklists, handouts and assessments that can help
your students develop metacognitive skills, check out the many resources
available in my publication, Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and EasyApproaches to Mastering Executive Functioning Skills for Students.

Embracing Positive Learning Environments

Part of the learning process is making mistakes.  However, inadvertently teachers and parents often correct young learners with negative remarks.  Kids continually hear the words “no,” “incorrect” and “wrong.”  What’s more, in moments of
frustration, many children must withstand cutting, belittling names such as
careless, lazy and unmotivated.  I think
we have all been called these names at some time in our life, and I can promise
you, these negative labels never help the situation.  It only breeds frustration and
disempowerment.  In fact, if teachers or
parents get too critical, students can feel dejected and even develop a sense
of learned helplessness.
Stop the Negative
Have you seen Dan Siegal speak about the psychological impact
of the word, “no?”  Here is a
link to a YouTube Video where he shows an audience the difference between “no”
and “yes” responses (Click Here).  I hope
you have a moment to view it.  
Replace Negativity
with Words of Encouragement:
How can teachers communicate student errors without sending a punitive message? Always point out what is right before using
positive terms to guide any mishaps to the correct answer.  Here is a list of browbeating, contentious
words that can be replaced with suggested words of encouragement.

Evaluating Errors:
Getting students comfortable evaluating their mishaps can be useful for the teacher as well as the student.  I tell my students that there are two types of errors.
  1. An oops or oopsy doodle: This is when a student knew the content but overlooked a detail.  If my students get discouraged with these types of mistakes, I always give them a high five and remind them that we are human.  I then say, “If people didn’t make mishaps, there would be nothing to learn.” 
  2. What?:  I always say this as if I am asking a question.  A “What?” is when a student never learned the concept.  This lets me know that I have to reteach the concept in a different way. 

Many of us grew up with negative labels, and I know,
first hand, how difficult it can be to temper discouraging comments.  However, with practice, you will find that embracing
words of encouragement will change the atmosphere of the learning environment and
your students will embrace the learning process with confidence and enthusiasm.  In addition, providing a safe place where students feel comfortable evaluating their mishaps with cutesy terms such as oopsy doodle and What? will guide classroom strategies that nurture individual success. 

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to,,  
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Thanksgiving Giveaway at Good Sensory Learning

To give thanks to my readers, I am offering a chance to win a free product from Good Sensory Learning!  All you have to do is pick your favorite product from the ones listed and write a comment below this post telling me which is the one you would like.  Be sure to leave some way for me to contact you so we can make arrangements.  Here are your choices:

1) Reading Board Games

2) Following Directions Primary

3) My Pet PEMDAS

4) Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success

5) College Essay Workshop

Two lucky winners will be selected and contacted on Thanksgiving Day.  Good luck and have a happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to &  
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Free Webinar on Multisensory Teaching

Dear Friends:

I wanted to send you an invitation to attend a free webinar on Multisensory Teaching, featuring myself as the guest speaker. The hosts, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, the co-authors of The Dyslexic Advantage and The Mislabeled Child, are international authorities on dyslexia and learning differences.  They are featuring this online event on August 21st at 5:30 Pacific Standard Time or 8:30 Eastern Standard Time. You can register by clicking on the following link.

Cheers, Erica

Sight Word Bracelet Project and Game

Learning all the sight words in the English language can be
a challenging task for beginning readers and finding fun and engaging
activities to help them master these phonetically unconventional words can be a
chore.  One of my students recently
came to a session with a charming bracelet that she had created with the use of
letter beads, and it ignited an idea for a fun classroom or home project and
Sight Word Bracelet Project:
Go to the craft store or to purchase
letter beads and twine or cord.  Personally,
I like to use cord that stretches, so that children can easily slip their
creations on and off their wrists.  I included
some links at the bottom of the post. 
Make a list of challenging sight words.
Have your student(s) select a challenging sight
word and have them place the letter beads onto the cord in a sequence so that
they spell the word.  You can limit
each bracelet to one sight word, or you can do two or more by placing spacers
between the words. 
Sight Words Read and Write Race Game: 
three or more players)
Ask each player to wear his or her new sight word
bracelet.  Make sure each student
can read the sight word on his or her own bracelet. 
Give each player a piece of paper and a clip
Tell the players that they have to read the
sight word or sight words off of each student’s wrist.  But, so nobody else can hear, they must
whisper the answer so only the person wearing the sight word can hear them.  If they get it correct, then they get
to write it down on their piece of paper. 
If they don’t get it right, the person wearing that word or words
whispers the word back in their ear. 
They can come back to that person and whisper their sight word again,
but not right away.  They have to
go and read at least two other sight words before they can go back and reread
the one that they missed.  If there
are not any more words for them to read, they must wait one minute before going
back and giving it another try.  The first person to correctly read and write
down all the sight words on everyone’s wrist, including their own, is the
winner.  If you don’t want a “winner,” after all the players finish the activity, ask for volunteers to read all the sight words on their paper.
If you are only working with one student, you can let them
create a sight word necklace with a series of ten or more difficult sight words
that are separated with spacers. 
Encourage them to wear it and see if they can read and spell all the sight words for their friends and family members. 

I hope you enjoy this activity!  I’d love to hear your thoughts!!

Cheers, Erica


Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to and