Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on spelling.

Solving Spelling Problems with Digital Assistants and Voice Search Technology

Challenges with spelling disrupt the flow of thoughts, distract the writer and often result in poor word choice.  Even though the author may have an excellent speaking vocabulary, their writing may suffer due to avoidance of words that are difficult to spell.  What’s more, many poor spellers skirt writing altogether because navigating spelling potholes can be time-consuming, and they fear that others will question their intellect.

What Can Be Done to Help Poor Spellers?
The technology age offers a number excellent tools for struggling spellers.

  1. Speech-to-Text Software: Speech-to-text is a type of software that transcribes the spoken word into typed words on a computer or handheld device.  Writers nolonger have to be distracted by spelling.  As long as they inunciate their words clearly, all spelling will be accommodated via voice commands.  Macs come with this option for free. To learn more CLICK HERE.  In addition, there are many other speech-to-text options like Speech Recognition on Window 10 and purchaseable software programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  2. Word Prediction Software: Word prediction software helps writers, during word processing, to “predict” a word they intend to type.  Word predictions are based on frequency of use, syntax, and spelling.  To learn more about this technology you can view a short video on ClaroCom Word Prediction and Co-Writer.
  3. Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now:  Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now is a speech recognition option in Google’s search engine. Available via the Chrome browser and Google mobile apps, Google Voice Search merged with Google Now to provide a voice-based personal assistant.  There are also a few tricks that can make the app even more useful.  For spelling in Google Voice Search, simply ask, “how do you spell____”. Google will quickly return the correct spelling of the word and speak the spelling aloud too.
  4. Voice-Recognition Digital Assistants: Voice Recognition Digital Assistants are programs that work as a personal assistant and knowledge navigator. This option uses a voice recognition interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web-based services.  My 4 favorite digital assistants are:
  • Alexa:  The Amazon Echo is a cylindrical device that offers, Alexa, a voice-recognition digital assistant that can spell words aloud, complete simple math, answer questions, share facts, tell jokes, provide the news, make to-do lists and more.  Click here to watch a video of Alexa in Action.
  • Siri: Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knwledge navigator.  If you ask, Siri can you spell words for you aloud and provide a visual definition .

I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you  come across other helpful spelling devices.  Please share these resources below this blog.


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 www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Letter Cube Fun: Freebie Language Arts Game

I love to use foam blocks for all sorts of language arts fun.  Most recently, I created a game that my students adore.  Here are the steps so you can create it too.

1) You can purchase colorful foam cubes on Amazon for a very reasonable price.  I included a link at the bottom of the post.

2) Select 12 cubes.  I line the cubes up in a row and write all the vowels in capital letters (including “y”) on each cube two times making sure not to place the same vowel on a single cube more than once.  Then I add the consonants as suggested below.

3) I assign the point value on the bottom right hand corner.  This will also help the players to orient the letters.  For example the letter P will look like the letter d when it is upside-down but as long as the number indicating the point value is in the bottom right hand corner, players can recognize that they need to rotate the letter to the proper orientation.  Also, using capital letters helps with letter confusion.

4) Other items needed to play:  a timer and a set of 12 colored cubes with the letters and point values for each player.
5) To Play:

  • Each player rolls their set of 12 colored cubes onto their playing area (they can not change the orientation of the cubes but must use the letters rolled.  
  • Set and begin timer for 2-5 minutes.  You can decide the amount of time you like.
  • Words must crisscross like a scrabble game, and players must try to use as many cubes as they can.  
  • When the timer goes off, the play ends and players add up their points.
  • Bonuses as granted as follows:
    • 4 points for a 6 letter word
    • 5 points for a 7 letter word
    • 6 points for a 8 letter word
    • 5 points for using all 12 cubes

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 www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Improving Spelling for Students with Dyslexia

Not all students require the same remedial process even though they struggle with the same academic difficulties.  Diverse combinations of cognitive processing weaknesses and deficits can unite to create the “perfect storm” that can cause challenges with reading, math, writing, spelling and more.  In fact, no two students have the same cognitive profile, so to provide the optimal solution, one needs to consider both a student’s strengths and weaknesses when designing a remedial approach.  

Occasionally, I like to present the questions emailed to me from parents and teachers.  This week, I will share an email that I received from a parent in England as well as my response.

Email received: 


Hi there:
Love the website!
Our son (age 8) is dyslexic and we have been told that he has a good visual memory (so he can easily spot a correctly spelt word and can even easily distinguish the correct meanings of similar sounding words e.g. sea and see). However, he has poor memory retrieval – so he has massive difficulties finding the correct spelling of a word. We have found that if he really concentrates and can think of a place where he has seen that word written previously, then he can eventually extract the word – but it takes time and is not a practical way of remembering spellings in a busy classroom. I wondered, which of your resources would be good to try to help him to build on the skill of word retrieval?
Many thanks
Here was my response:

Thanks so much for your email.  That is terrific that your son has a great visual memory, and it will come in handy.  I have a few suggestions:

1)  Develop his visualization capacity.  Visualization – which is a little different than visual memory (because your son has to conjure his own imagery) will help him become a better speller, reader, writer and will improve his long-term memory – auditory and visual.  I think it will be his secret weapon!  So the main publication that I recommend is Mindful Visualization for Learning: http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/teaching-visualization.html  I think the two of you will have a lot of fun with this.  It helps students develop their capacity to visualize through games that the two of you can play together.  
2) Exercise his word finding abilities by playing the game Spot it.  You can find it just about anywhere.  I purchased it on Amazon.com.  There are many versions and any of them would be great.  It is all about practicing quick retrieval.  I will place links to a few versions at the bottom of this blog.
3) Keep track of the words that your son finds tricky or difficult to recall.  Create a little book.  Each page can be devoted to one word.  Have him write the word.  Practice visualizing it (Once he thinks he’s got it visualized, ask him questions like: “what is the 3rd letter?”, and “Can you spell it backwards?…”).  Also on each page ask him to come up with a memory strategy.  For example, let’s take the word “what.”  Your son might notice that the word “what” has “hat” in it.  So his strategy might be – “What hat?”  Then he can do a drawing of a hat on top of the word “what.”  Make it a fun and creative project that integrates coloring, collage, and anything else that he enjoys… 
4) Encourage him to develop his keyboarding skills and use a computer for his written work.  A spell check will help him to see the words spelt correctly which will improve his spelling over time.  Also consider purchasing Word Prediction Software, or a device like the Franklin Spellers to assist him with the immediate process. 
Before long, he’ll be a wonderful speller!! Keep in touch and I’ll be happy to help if you have any more questions.  


Yours sincerely, Erica


In Summary: 

When considering the best remedial approach, investigate each student’s strengths as well as any reported difficulties so that a plan can be tailored to accommodate individual needs and achieve quick results.  Ideally, it is best to meet with families as well as review prior testing, teacher comments and other pertinent materials.  I hope you find this blogpost helpful.  If you have your own suggestions, please share 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 www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Reading and Spelling Difficulties: 7 Main Causes

Here is a guest blog by my friends at Easyread.  Enjoy, Erica

By David Morgan
It is estimated that up to 10% of the general population struggles with dyslexia. Some studies call that a conservative estimate, with many more people struggling to read and spell.
Many parents of dyslexic children or dyslexic adults find themselves in this situation, armed with a label but no real solution. Some feel it means that their child will never come to love reading. With the right help that is almost certainly not the case!
Reading is a neurological process that the brain undertakes every time it is presented with text on the page. In order to target the primary cause of reading difficulty to find a solution, we have to look at different areas where that process can break down.
There are seven main causes of reading and spelling difficulty that we have found to date. If you or someone you know is dyslexic, see if any of them match up with what you experience.
1. Optilexia – The main sign of Optilexia is guessing when reading, particularly with the short words. Sometimes the longer words seem easier and the reader will read a word without a problem on one page, but not the next. Spelling in free writing is atrocious, but the Optilexic can usually perform well on a spelling test. Unfamiliar words and place names will feel very difficult. The underlying cause of Optilexia can be found in how the learner is processing the text visually rather than aurally. Once that has been switched, a steady rate of progress can be gained.
2. Eye-Tracking Weakness – Does your child skip words and lines? Do single words seem easier than sentences and paragraphs of text? Normally a reader’s eyes perform a refined jump from word cluster to word cluster left to right, called a saccade. Some struggling readers have weakness in the neural feedback loops controlling the eye muscles that control this movement. That makes focusing accurately on a word in a sentence very hard. The right simple eye-tracking exercises usually fix this neural weakness in just days.
3. Irlen Syndrome – Has your child ever complained about the words moving around on the page? The human eye has a great visual sensitivity to changes in color and brightness in order to identify patterns. However, some struggling readers have an over-sensitivity to black text on white background, which causes the words to shimmer or move around on the page. This can be alleviated with colored films to soften the level of contrast.
4. Memory Difficulties – Memory plays a big part in the reading process. Not only does the person have to remember each sound when decoding a word, but then multiple words need to be remembered for a sentence, then sentences remembered to comprehend a paragraph. People with short-term memory challenges have great difficulty retaining all this information when reading. Short-term memory difficulties have very distinct symptoms. In reading this can show up as poor comprehension, stilted reading flow and difficulty remember phonemes when sounding out a long word. In life this can show up as inability to remember multi-step directions, inability to remember lists of items and being generally forgetful of recent events.
5. Attention Deficit – Have you seen your child struggling to focus on the task of reading? Fidgeting? Easily distracted? I am sure you know why reading is harder than it should be. However, I am also sure you have seen your child happily focusing for long periods on some tasks; ones that seem enjoyable! That is the key to fixing this issue. Make reading fun with games.
6. Fluency Block – Does your child decode words competently, but struggle to read fluently? A conventional reader uses a part of their brain called the letterbox cortex to recognise common letter groupings. Amazgainly you aer able to raed scarblmed txet quite flnuetly, due to this function. Some struggling readers bypass their letterbox cortex when reading, instead using visual memory to store letter groupings. This causes the reader to be able to decode quickly but never really develop any fluency or smoothness. To fix this tricky problem means engaging this very specialist bit of cortex in the decoding process. We do that with anagrams.
7. Stress Spirals – Reading is a higher brain function and is therefore controlled by the frontal cortex. When the brain is under stress, 70% of the frontal cortex energy is diverted to the fight or flight center (amygdala) and the brain loses its capacity to think clearly. A child who struggles with reading is in a state of stress when trying. This sets the child up for inadequate mental resources when attempting to read. The pattern of being under stress and getting more stressed when trying creates a downward stress spiral which often results in meltdowns, tears and finally giving up.
A dyslexic reader may have one or several of these causes of difficulty. The key to making reading or spelling easier is to identify the cause and then find ways to address it. That is what we specialize in at Easyread.
Looking for a phonics program to help your struggling learner? Easyread incorporates solutions to these causes that may be due dyslexia, auditory processing disorder or highly visual learning styles. www.morganlearning.com 


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 www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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Free Reading and Spelling Game for the TCH or CH, DGE or GE, CK or K Rules


The English language is packed with confusing rules that can make decoding and reading difficult tasks to master.  What’s more, many of the workbooks and activities are boring, and even if students complete the lesson, it doesn’t mean that they can apply the content in a different learning situation.  However, presenting the same content in a game-like format can make a lesson memorable and engaging even for struggling learners.

Here is a fun game that my students love to play.  It’s great for literacy centers or reading centers, and it will also assist students with spelling.

Materials:

  • 1.5 -2.0 hole punch or round object that can be traced
  • Craft paper
  • Laminating sheets and laminator or 
  • Round wooden discs from the craft store and glue
  • Playing cards:  You can purchase blank playing cards on Amazon:  see link at the bottom, or use laminated craft paper and then write the letters on the blank side with a permanent marker.

How to make the game – using TCH and CH:

  • Place the word beginnings onto playing cards.  I make a stack of at least forty cards.  Twenty cards should illustrate the beginning of TCH words such as MA, WI, DU, and STI. The other twenty cards should illustrate the beginning of CH words such as MUN, HUN, BEA, and BEL.  Many lists can be found on the internet.
  • Make the spinning disc with the two word ending options on either side.  You can glue craft paper and colorful letters onto wooden discs, or glue two, thick, round pieces of craft paper together and laminate.

Instruction:

  • Teach the students the spelling rule:  TCH is usually used after a short vowel sound, and CH comes after a consonant or long vowel sound.
  • Teach the students the spelling rule:  DGE is usually used after a short vowel sound, and GE comes after a consonant or long vowel sound.
  • Teach the students the spelling rule:  CK is usually used after a short vowel sound, and K comes after a consonant or long vowel sound.

How to play:

  • At the beginning of each turn, the player spins the round disc with the word endings on them.  Hold the disc with one finger as illustrated and flick the edge with another finger.   
  • When the disc falls to the table, select a card with the word beginning.
  • Put the word beginning and word ending together to see if it forms a word with the correct spelling.  
  • If it does, the player gets to keep the card.  If not, the card is returned to the bottom of the stack. 
  • The winner is the first player to collect 10 cards.
If you would like to learn about some of my other popular reading games, go to: http://goodsensorylearning.com/reading-games.html  There, you can even download another fun, free game for learning the short vowels! 
I hope you enjoy this game.  I would love to hear you 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 www.goodsensorylearning.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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