Peggy Ployhar

One of the biggest struggles in teaching a child who struggles to read is finding content that appeals to their intellectual level as well as their instructional level in subjects other than reading. Below are some great free resources available to parents/educators who are looking for modified instructional reading texts to improve your child’s reading and comprehension skills.

 

Instructional Reading Text For Reading Comprehension: already modified for you

ReadWorks – ReadWorks is a nonprofit that provides teacher resources to help with teaching reading comprehension. Search by topic, subject, reading passages, specific articles or even text paired to already developed lessons, vocabulary sets, or comprehension questions.

Newsela – Newsela is a free to access news content site providing text at 5 reading levels, including applicable comprehension quizzes. Search for content by reading level, topic grade level, and articles that include writing prompts.

 CommonLit – Free teacher resource with a searchable text library of passages to use from reading instruction from grades 3 to 12. Not only can you create a teacher account on this site, but you can also create student accounts, assign comprehension assessments and track progress. An additional feature on this site is the Spanish passages and comprehension questions.

TweenTribune   – K-12 Lexile-leveled free resources for teachers created by the Smithsonian based on current kid-friendly news topics. Each article is written at 4 different Lexile levels and also includes a critical thinking question at the end to use for testing student comprehension and understanding of the topic’s broader application.

Breaking News English  – Free current event articles written at 7 different reading levels. This site is based in the U.K. and each article is written in at least 3 different reading levels and includes a teacher lesson plan with vocabulary words, a table for organizing the text’s ideas, as well as a critical thinking exercise.

 For the Teachers Articles – A variety of free fictional articles written at three different reading levels for students from grade 3 to 10.

UNC Charlotte Adapted Popular Chapter Books – Over 20 free online adapted chapter books including Where the Red Fern Grows, Because of Winn-Dixie, and works by Shakespeare.

Teachers Pay Teachers – Two stores on Teachers Pay Teacher offering an extensive selection of lessons, books, and other teaching material with modified reading texts are Miss A’s Mismatched Miracles  & Ms Meghan’s Special Minds and Hands  

 

Modified Instructional Reading Text for Reading Comprehension: modified by you

If you still haven’t found what you are looking for, here are some other free online resources you can use to modify instructional text you already own.

Rewordify – Copy and paste in complex text and this site will simplify the language to make it easier for a struggling student to comprehend. This site also provides you the option to include definitions of complex vocabulary words or create word learning sessions based on the vocabulary converted in the text and builds spelling as well as vocabulary skills.

Special Reads – This site sells modified books for special needs readers, but also provides this free instructional article on how to modify your own text or books for your student.

 

Improving reading comprehension and finding resources that are the right fit for your child’s interests and abilities make an enormous difference for academic success, and these resources don’t have to cost a fortune. Rather than spending your time and energy searching for modified instructional reading texts to fit your reading comprehension goals for your student, spend your time actually helping your child progress and find success.

 

 

 

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

Few moments match the exhilaration of your child reading for the first time. When his eyes light up and he sees a word he can read, your whole world lights up with him. On the other hand, seeing a child struggle to the point of tears with letters and words and sentences can be discouraging and heart-breaking. The challenges of teaching reading are many, particularly for families of children with learning differences. How do you meet these challenges and persevere? Our SPEDHomeschool team members tell their stories.

 

Tracy Glockle

My oldest nearly taught himself how to read. He breezed through kindergarten in half the time and devoured books well above his supposed “reading level.” I’ve often been thankful that he was my first child, giving me the confidence that I could teach a child to read and that I could homeschool successfully. I’m thankful because my next two children have had considerably more difficulty learning to read. My daughter’s dyslexia made reading an uphill battle. Slowly we’ve gained momentum, and she now loves to read. But it took her until about the third grade to hit her stride. My youngest is now fighting his way through confusing phonograms that don’t always do what he’s learned they should do, and words that seem to jumble together and dance across the page.

For each child, the resources that helped them to overcome their reading challenges have been different. What worked well for one child didn’t work as well for the next. One child needed a curriculum that focused on sounds and phonemic awareness. Another child needed a more visual curriculum. One child loved fantasy books. Another child thought she hated reading until she discovered Judy Moody and realistic fiction. Each child is different. Rather than feeling as though either myself or my child is failing, I have to look at our toolbox and decide which tools aren’t serving us best at this time and need to be replaced.

In the meantime, we’ve immersed ourselves in stories. We use a literature-rich curriculum with read-alouds and audiobooks. Piles of books are everywhere, and we’ve always got an audiobook blasting in the car. Though it may seem odd to have settled on a literature-rich curriculum with struggling readers, it’s been perfect for us. We love books and stories. Our reading challenges have never gotten in the way of enjoying a good book.

 

“No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child.”

Peggy Ployhar

My kids have been all over the place when it comes to learning to read. One child finally caught on at the age of 11, and by the next year, he was reading at a college comprehension level. Another child of mine struggled through high school and still, as a young adult, finds reading a laborious task. Then there is my youngest, who taught herself to read at age 3. What I have learned through these three unique children, who all learned to read in our homeschool by the very same teacher (me), is that my ability to teach reading has had much less to do with their ability to learn to read than the pace each child just naturally needed to master the necessary steps to become a proficient reader.

It is said that one of the most stressful times for a homeschooling mom is when she is tasked with teaching her child(ren) to read. And now looking back, I recognize how much of my self-worth I allowed to be determined by the pace each of my children took in this process. I can see exactly why it was a stressful time in our homeschooling.

No matter how quickly or how slowly the “learning to read” process is taking for your student, it is a process that can’t be accelerated beyond the capacity of your child. Yes, there are some tips and tricks that will help your student to conquer some of the hurdles of reading a bit quicker, but on the other hand, you also need to make sure you are not pushing your child so much that they don’t like reading at all once the basics are mastered.

 

Dawn Spence

When I taught in public school, I loved reading because my students came to me already knowing how to read. When I started homeschooling, I realized how complex it is to teach reading. For my oldest, reading came naturally with very little effort. My twins came next, both with learning disabilities, and my challenge began.

Looking back I realized that my one daughter had no developmental delays; she was simply not ready to read. Being ready to read is very important to the process. So I read to her and waited. I waited and waited and decided she was ready when she was loving letters and sounds. But she still struggled. During this time we discovered that she had dyslexia and knowing why she struggled made it easier to research and develop her reading program. I gleaned all I could from others and figured out that she saw the world in pictures. When I taught to her learning style it became easier and she became more confident. She loves reading and I have to make her quit reading and go to bed. She read in her own time and in her own way.

My last daughter is still learning to read. She has multiple learning difficulties. Reading for her has to be hands-on and repetitive. She struggles, but we work through it together. We play reading games, and I read to her. Reading is a gift that I know she will open fully when she is ready.

 

The challenges of teaching reading vary with each child, but persevering through those challenges means that we recognize a few important things.

  • Different tools work for different kids
  • Our identity and self-worth do not depend on our child’s reading skills.

Each child learns at his or her own pace. And when that light bulb moment happens—whenever it happens—all the uphill battles and challenges of teaching reading will be worth it.

 

 

 

 

 


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Faith Berens, M.Ed., Reading and Dyslexia Specialist &
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

When it comes to reading levels, choosing books at just the right reading level can help your child enjoy reading and will help them succeed in becoming a better reader. Being able to determine your child’s instructional reading level and then select books to match this level can certainly be a helpful skill for you, the parent-teacher, to master. Doing so will aid in your child’s success and can save your sanity because it means fewer tears of frustration! Let’s face it, most of the time, people avoid things that are too hard! Books that are too hard, or at “frustration level” can be very discouraging for children. However, reading books that are too easy (while helpful for practice for fluency and expression) don’t provide enough of a challenge to help kids grow in their decoding and vocabulary skills.  

 

There are 3 different levels of reading:

  • Easy level: at this level, the student can read the text with 95% or better accuracy for word recognition
  • Frustration level: at this level, the student is only able to read the text with 89% accuracy or less
  • Instructional level: at this level, the student can read the text with 90-94% accuracy; this level is the “sweet spot,” known in the education world as the “ZPD”-zone of proximal development. In this zone, learning is just right! You want to find text that is in this zone. 

 

Follow these easy steps to select books at just the right level for your child.

1. Determine your child’s measured reading level.

Parents can get an approximate (but pretty accurate) idea of their child’s reading level by using the San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability. (Download a PDF of the assessment.)

2. Look for books that match his/her level.

Many children’s books list a reading level on the back cover, book jacket, or spine.  Scholastic’s Book Wizard can help you search for books at your child’s reading level. 

3. Use the five-finger check to determine if the book is too hard, too easy, or just right!

Ask your child to hold up five fingers and read one page of a book. Each time your child doesn’t know a word, put one finger down. If all five fingers end up down, the book is too hard.

4. Use oral narration or retelling to do a quick comprehension check. 

After reading a few pages, have your child pause and tell you about what was just read. Get him to describe what he was picturing or imagining in his mind while he was reading. If he is unable to tell you what he was picturing, he may not be “making a movie” in his mind while reading and this skill can be taught.  

 

Often, there can be a discrepancy between a student’s silent reading comprehension level and oral reading comprehension level. If the student performs better with comprehension by reading aloud to himself, this can indicate the need for more auditory feedback and could perhaps signal weakness in auditory, working memory, or even visualization skills. 

 

Comprehension Levels:

When it comes to reading instruction, it can also be helpful for parent-teachers to understand that there are different comprehension levels for reading:

  • Listening level comprehension: what level of text the student can listen to being read aloud and understand 
  • Silent reading comprehension level: what level of text the student can read to himself silently and understand
  • Oral reading comprehension level: what level of text the student can read out loud and understand

Many bright but struggling readers can listen to and comprehend text at much higher levels than they can decode on their own. So, reading aloud, shared reading and echo readings, and providing books on audio are great ways to accommodate and facilitate reading. Also, using audiobooks while following along with text (audio assisted reading) is a research-based intervention that has yielded positive results with struggling students. Often, there can be a discrepancy between a student’s silent reading comprehension level and oral reading comprehension level. If the student performs better with comprehension by reading aloud to himself, this can indicate the need for more auditory feedback and could perhaps signal weakness in auditory, working memory, or even visualization skills. 

 

Looking for teaching tips and types of texts to motivate and encourage struggling or reluctant readers?

  • Use a program, intervention, or curricula such as Visualizing and Verbalizing, available at Gander Publishing, Equipping Minds, available at www.equippingminds.com, or Diane Craft’s resources, available at www.diannecraft.org, to train and equip students to make connections, visualize, comprehend, remember, and express their thoughts with language in organized ways.
  • Graphic novels, such as the Histronauts series, can be a great choice for struggling students! Read this post at Understood.org about why graphic novels can be a great choice for struggling readers.
  • Try Reader’s Theater, poetry/rhymes and jingles, and repeated readings to increase fluency and develop expression and prosody, which will, in turn, improve comprehension skills. Be sure to check out Dr. Timothy Rasinski’s teaching materials, available through Scholastic publishers.  
  • High interest/low or easy readability materials can be particularly motivating and helpful for older students or reluctant readers. Check out the many resources at High Noon Books, https://www.highnoonbooks.com/index-hnb.tpl

 

Let’s Talk Book Leveling Systems:

Keep in mind that finding books that are not too hard, not too easy, but in the “just right” zone is not an exact science, but rather an art that homeschool parents can master. However, understanding designated reading levels can sometimes be confusing for parents particularly because there are several different leveling systems out there—grade level, interest level, Lexile levels, guided reading levels, to Accelerated Reader (AR) levels, your head could be spinning!  

And you may be wondering, where did the levels/numbers come from? They are generated by a mathematical readability formula. Readability formulas were created in the 1920s when science teachers expressed an interest in having simplified texts for students. Readability formulas were created to count the number of syllables and words and then rate the complexity of sentence structure in any given passage; the higher the number, then the more difficult level the text. And textbooks were then created/written at varying levels of difficulty. Series of books, such as those used in classrooms around the world during guided oral reading lessons, are “leveled” on a text gradient of difficulty, from levels A-Z. The popular homeschool reading curriculum A Reason for Guided Reading, https://areasonfor.com/collections/guided-reading, employs this leveling system.  

Today, libraries often use reading levels and also book publishers use them to provide adults with an age range or reading level on the back of the book which then makes selection easier and handy. In public and private schools across the nation, computerized reading programs, such as Accelerated Reader (AR) have been adopted. Such programs use readability formulas to calculate a reading level as well as assign numbers of points that are awarded for passing a comprehension quiz after the student has read the book.  

But when it comes to reading leveling systems—here’s the rub—each publisher and each computerized reading software company uses different readability formulas, so the same title can have several corresponding levels depending upon the formula that was used. It can be confusing trying to understand what is meant, for example, by a Guided Reading level M as opposed to a Lexile of 240. 

 

Other Helpful Websites & Articles:

 

 

 

 

 


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Jan Bedell, PhD, Master NeuroDevelopmentalist

The controversy, almost hostile conflict, over the best way to teach reading has been waged for decades. The pendulum seems to swing to one side or the other to an extreme. When the extreme is reached on either side of the issue, many children struggle to read and the pendulum swings back in the other direction. If you are a homeschool teacher of young children, chances are very good that phonics is your go-to approach. A conviction that phonics is basically the ONLY way to teach reading leaves many parents purchasing one phonics program after another to no avail. Maybe your current phonics program is failing to produce the reading level that you desire or maybe it worked for other children in the family but not for this particular child. Sound familiar?

Many years ago, when I was in elementary school, reading instruction was a whole word approach. I know that method works as I got through college on the Dean’s List. My first job after graduation was teaching kindergarten where phonics was required. I learned right along with the children and find it very helpful in decoding unknown words to this day.  

Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love phonics as a way of teaching reading! I “taught” both of my girls to read in our homeschool with an intense phonics program. Actually, I successfully taught one of my girls to read with phonics and the other one struggled to read anything past a three-letter-word even though she mastered all 70 phonograms in isolation. I was perplexed, to say the least!

“Many families have been helped with the alternate approach to teaching reading. Children’s belief in themselves as readers has been restored with this different approach. “

I discovered that there are prerequisites to reading in general and for phonics specifically. One of those prerequisites is good auditory processing. Phonics is an auditory approach to reading. You have to hold pieces of information in sequential order and sometimes even a rule together in your short-term memory to decode the word. The capacity to hold auditory sequential pieces of information together is called your auditory processing ability. Without good auditory processing, phonics is a painful, frustrating and often an ineffective way to learn to read. The good news is that with practice, a person’s auditory processing can be raised and then phonics can be successful. An individual needs a strong level 5 or better yet, a 6 auditory digit span for phonics to work well. To get a free test kit to discover processing levels for your family members go to www.LittleGiantSteps.com. This information will give you a clue as to whether low processing is a root cause of an individual’s reading struggle. 

If your child’s auditory processing is low and reading recognition, as well as reading comprehension, are a challenge, a sight word approach to reading may be helpful. I know the following statements are almost heresy in the homeschool community, but let me ask you a question. Do you sound out each word when you read? No, absolutely not. After you learn a word, you never sound it out again as it would be to slow and laborious. 

Many families have been helped with the alternate approach to teaching reading. Children’s belief in themselves as readers has been restored with this different approach. 

  • While you are working on the child’s auditory processing for two minutes twice a day, teach “sight words” by flashing cards and telling the child what the word is. 
  • You can also read a sentence and have the child read the same sentence after you. This is called Echo Reading and is a temporary but very effective approach to building reading confidence!  

So how do you square up your belief that phonics is the best way to teach reading with this new information? Simple, as soon as your child’s auditory processing is at a level to handle phonics, go back to the phonics approach. In the meantime, your child has developed a really good sight word vocabulary and will feel encouraged by a new ability to read. The best of both worlds is now achieved! Your child has a head-start on identifying a word immediately and then will master an ability to phonically decode unknown words.     

If a phonics approach or the sight word approach is not effective in teaching a child to read, one must explore other root causes by looking at how the eyes are working or where information is being stored in the brain. For more information about The NeuroDevelopmental Approach to reading struggles, go to www.BrainCoachTips.com or Brain Coach Tips channel on YouTube and search “reading”.

 

 

 

 

 


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By Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP

One of the most puzzling situations a mother finds herself in is when she has a child who can read the words in a book but cannot answer the questions or tell her what has just been read. These moms frequently hear the phrase, “I don’t remember,” when queried about the reading material.

When working with bright, hardworking 4th through 8th graders in my reading class, I often had students who were experiencing this particular reading difficulty.

I realized that these students were not proficient at converting the words they were reading into a “movie” in their head, as the rest of us do when we read. They were merely doing “word calling” much of the time. I found that “movie making” was a skill that could be developed in them, using an easy fifteen-minute a day exercise. This exercise did not involve paper or pencil, but only the use of their brain. “Word calling” is a left-brain auditory task, while creating a picture or movie of those words is the responsibility of the right brain hemisphere. I merely showed them how to create a seamless flow of words to pictures as they were reading. You can do this at home very easily.

Converting Words to Pictures
When a child or teenager regularly reads a passage well, but “can’t remember what is said,” we know that he is using an inefficient strategy for comprehension. He often is trying to remember the exact words he read, rather than converting the words into pictures.

Whether he is reading for recreation or information, he must change the words he reads into images in his mind. The more these images involve the senses (sight, sound, smell, feel), the greater will be the comprehension of the passage.

Daily Training Sessions
The following steps can be used with a student to develop his ability to change the words he hears or reads into pictures for good comprehension. You will be surprised how fast his comprehension skills will improve after just a few weeks of these “training sessions.”

This method works well with one child or a group of children or teenagers.

 

STEP 1: PARENT/TEACHER READS A PASSAGE ALOUD
Choose material to read to the child that is interesting and very descriptive. Standing in front of him as you read to him, have the child sit upright and keep his eyes upward, creating a “movie” in his mind. You can pretend that you are looking at the projection screen in a movie theatre to further aid him in his “movie making.” Read a sentence or two aloud. Then ask him a few questions until you are sure he is seeing the pictures of the words you read, in detail.

For example, this is how your training session might look if you are reading aloud a passage about a beaver. The first sentence you read may be, “The beaver is the largest rodent in North America.” Stop reading, and point to the imaginary screen, and say, “On our screen, let’s draw a quick sketch of North America. Now put the beaver on that map.”

Your next sentence in this passage will read, “An adult beaver weights from 35-70 pounds.” Stop reading and point up to the imaginary screen and say, “Now, use the ‘zoom lens’ of your brain camera and write ‘35-70’ on the beaver’s coat. Let’s use white paint to do this. Is your paint dripping? Oh well, he’ll wash it off soon.”

The next sentence in the text will be, “Because of its large lungs, a beaver can remain submerged in water for fifteen minutes. Stop reading and look up at the screen and help the child see this in his head by saying, “Now we need to change our scene. Let’s make a picture of a pond, with beavers around it. Do you see it on your screen? Now have one of the beavers slip into the pond. See him down on the bottom of the pond. Picture a large clock next to him. Have the hands of the clock move from twelve o’clock to twelve fifteen.”

As you do this training, instruct your child how to “move” his pictures and “freeze” them when he wants to notice something. You both will have great fun with this!

When you get to the end of a passage you’re reading, instruct your child to “rewind” the movie, to answer some questions about the passage. As you ask the questions, direct his gaze upward as he reviews his “movie” for the answers. This is the exciting part. Your child will be amazed at how easy it is to answer the questions.


STEP 2: THE STUDENT READS ALOUD TO YOU

After your child has demonstrated proficiency in converting words to pictures as he hears them, he is ready to read the words himself while creating his “movie.” Select a reading passage that is easy for him to read so that he can concentrate on making pictures rather than sounding out new words. Repeat the process you used before, stopping him after he has read a sentence or two, to ask him some questions about his “movie.” Direct his gaze upward to see what he just read. Be sure he gives you detailed pictures. As this becomes easier and more accurate for him, you can increase the number of sentences he reads before you ask questions.

STEP 3: THE STUDENT READS SILENTLY
When your child is successfully reading aloud while making good pictures in his mind, you can have him read a passage silently, asking him to stop every few lines or so, and asking him to tell you about the pictures he has made. If the pictures are detailed and accurate, you can have him read to the end of the passage uninterrupted. At the end of the reading, have him “rewind” his film and tell you all that he has read. You will be surprised at the things he remembers! His “words to pictures” process will soon become automatic. The upward eye movement will soon be unnecessary for the storage and retrieval of reading material.

Remember:
No pictures = No answers
Few pictures = Few answers
Great pictures = Great Answers


This strategy is simple but very effective. Expect to see great changes in the comprehension and retention of reading material in your children.

 

 


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By Jan Bedell, PhD, M.ND

We all want our children to read so they can read God’s Word and get along better in the world. Much of learning comes through the ability to read. As moms, we often make it “our mission” for our children to read well. This is an admirable mission.

The Truth About Phonics
I am going to say something controversial now and get it out of the way. Are you ready? Here it is: Phonics may not be the best way for you to teach reading to a particular child. Unless foundational skills are in place, phonics will be ineffective. I know it may be a shock to hear me say that about phonics. This was quite a surprise when I first heard it as well. I had diligently been trying to teach my daughter with special needs to read with a phonics approach for five years!

Before my own attempts at this reading quest, the public and private school were also trying to teach her to read with phonics. She was a phonics dropout, but she was a phonogram champ! She knew the sounds of all 70 phonograms, even the ones like “ough” that have six sounds. Even though the sounds of the phonograms were solid, she couldn’t hold the sounds together past a three letter word to read anything! This was rather confusing, and I have to admit extremely frustrating.

I found out after my five-year, miserable struggle with phonics that she had low auditory processing. That meant she couldn’t hold the pieces (phonograms) in her short term memory long enough to put them together to get the word out. We were in an endless loop of sounding out the same word over and over until something sort of like the word came out. So, by the time she got to the end of the sentence, she had no clue about the meaning of what she read. WOW!

The Auditory Processing Disconnect
For some children, learning to read using the phonics approach is a breeze, but for others it is a huge struggle like it was for my daughter. When children have low sequential auditory processing abilities (an inability to hold a series of items in consecutive order in short-term memory), phonics doesn’t work well. Why is auditory processing so important for using phonics? Phonics is an auditory learning system, meaning the child must be able to hold all the pieces of the word and the rules together in his brain long enough to get the word out of his brain. Phonics is a fabulous way to learn to read for those with good auditory sequential processing! I love, love, love it! For those with low auditory abilities though, it can be a nightmare for parents and students alike.

When auditory processing is low and words get longer and more complicated, the child gets lost by the end of the word and starts guessing. There are also some developmental issues with the eyes that can make reading in general difficult. You can listen to Podcast #17 – Make Reading Easier for a better understanding of other developmental challenges. Number 17 at  www.BrainCoachTips.com will also help you learn how to raise your child’s auditory processing abilities so he can be more successful with phonics in the future.

Some Brain Coach Tips for More Reading Success: 

  • Determine if your child is struggling with low sequential auditory processing by ordering your Free Auditory Processing Test Kit. Your child should have a strong 5 digit span and preferably working on a 6 digit span before reading with phonics is effective.
  • Do some auditory processing activities twice a day for two minutes (instructions included in your free kit). In my opinion, this would be the best investment of your homeschooling time that you will ever make! The benefits go far beyond phonics help.
  • Read to your child with him following word by word. Then have the child read the same sentence or paragraph immediately after you (Echo Reading). I know this sounds a bit like cheating and memorizing, but prepare for another shocker that you might not have realized yet: We are all sight readers! Once we know a word, we don’t sound it out again. I know that is hard to believe, but read the statement at the end of this article: Phonics vs. Sight Reading. Now tell me if you read it with phonics. 
  • Don’t let your child struggle. Tell him the words he doesn’t know or sound it out for him.
  • Have your child listen to auditory books daily and read aloud daily. At least an hour a day of listening will help develop the auditory processing.
  • Teach your child sight words while building auditory processing levels. Then work more successfully with the phonics approach when the foundation of processing is set. Find resources here. We become sight readers once we know a word, so by combining these approaches you have the best of both worlds and a happier, more successful reader.

 

 

 


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