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Sight Word Assessments

6 Aug

Administering a Fluency Assessment

6 Aug

Administering Fluency Assessments


 Directions. The following are some guidelines for administering fluency assessments:

  • Give your daughter a reading passage she has not seen before at her instructional level.
  • Fluency assessments are always done as “cold reads”; that is, they are done with material that is new to the person being tested.
  • Explain that you would like her to read the passage out loud and then answer tell you about  the story. Then say: When you are ready, you may begin.
  • Start your   stopwatch when the student reads the first word.
  • Follow along on your copy of the passage as the student reads. Place a line through each  word that is read incorrectly or omitted.
  • Place a check above each word that is read correctly.
  • If your daughter  substitutes or mispronounces a word, put a line through the word and write  the word she said above it.
  • If your daughter  does not correctly say the word within 3 seconds, say the word for her and circle the word to mark it as incorrect. Self-corrections and repetitions      are not marked as errors.
  • At the end of one  minute, stop your stopwatch and place a bracket (]) after the last word  read .
  • Have your daughter finish reading the passage.
  • Ask your daughter  to retell the story.


How to score. Use the following steps to determine your daughter’s fluency rate.


Scoring the retelling. Score the retelling using the following criteria. Assign an appropriate numeric score from 1 to 5 for future comparison.

  • No recall or      minimal recall of only a fact of two from the passage.


Ode to Football

6 Aug

Ode to Football

As the mother of two boys, I can remember taking long early morning walks in the heat of August praying for the beginning of football season. When the day finally arrived the boys would don there symbolic warrior pads and tight pants and prepare for their quasi war games.  From an exhausted mother’s perspective, this meant all of that adolescent angst that Lesko carefully discounts, would have an outlet in a culturally accepted rite of passage.

In Act Your Age! A Cultural Construction of Adolescence, Nancy Lesko questions these tendencies to label adolescents as deficient, controlled by hormones, crazy, and a little dangerous. She asks us to entertain a social-constructivist interpretation of the adolescent phenomenon. She attempts to debunk the popular assumptions associated with adolescents. She investigates how adolescence was conceptualized throughout history, and how ideas from the past affect current thoughts about youth.

Lesko’s discussion focuses on the Great Chain of Being, a symbol for  human development along the lines of race, gender, and national progress. The Great Chain of Being  depicts the hierarchy of animals, people, and societies that portrayed evolutionary history and sociological ranking. Evolutionary rankings were depicted from bottom to top. According to the Great Chain of Being, progress and civilization were the exclusive right of white men. Conversely, people of color, women, and youth were ranked lower and consequently regarded as being less civilized. The job of society was to help white male adolescents progress up the evolutionary scale, to become better, more civilized human beings. And what better way to accomplish this task than suiting them up in warrior costumes and letting them beat the shit out of each other. Wait a minute, how is this assisting in the journey of becoming an evolutionary superior? The alternatives presented to achieve this end are not as compelling as Friday Night

Lights. A trip to Juvie Hall rarely has a long term uplifting or rehabilitative effect. Perhaps the Young Men’s Christian Association and scouting have had more luck civilizing the savages.

I buy Lesko’s argument until she stretches her argument to assert that Great Chain of Being is a subversive metaphor for societal brainwashing in relation to race, gender, and national progress. She suggests that the Great Chain of Being insinuates the state of progress and civilization as being exclusive to white men, while people of color, women, and youth are ranked lower and regarded as less civilized. Personally, I wish my daughter could have suited up in warrior gear for a fall floundering. She needed an outlet for her adolescent angst much more than the boys.

Southeast Homeschool Expo

27 Jul

I am providing materials presented in my workshop at the Expo. It was a pleasure meeting so many wonderful and committed parents.

Why My Daughter?

21 Apr


Once upon a time there lived a beautiful prom queen. This prom queen possessed all the requisite physical characteristics that one might expect in a fantasy queen. She had golden tresses, blue eyes, porcelain skin, and a perfect white smile. She gave the illusion of developed sexuality without denying the possibility of innocence. She was a combination of loner and outsider.  She had the ability to mediate conflicts within her high school population because she has the genius of communication. She could be characterized as a cultural heroine in that she unified the individual and the group. Our prom queen differs significantly in one aspect of her life. She lived with a secret that she kept hidden throughout her school years. This young woman walked into my office and set this book into motion. This vision of perfection had one veiled flaw.  She was an undiagnosed dyslexic.

As much as 15-20% of the population demonstrates a significant reading disability.  This means that 4 or 5 children in the average classroom will have some form of reading disability. The symptoms of this disability may include slow or inaccurate reading, poor spelling, poor writing, or difficulty with comprehension. Whether or not these individuals qualify for special educational services is uncertain, but what is certain is they are likely to struggle with many aspects of the learning process.

The fundamental and powerful assumptions of our culture regarding literacy are that it is inherently good for the individual, good for the culture, difficult to acquire, and should be transmitted in classrooms. If literacy is difficult to acquire, then it becomes necessary to create a multitude of reasons to explain why some read better than others, as well as the cultural imperative to label as inferior those individuals who have poor reading skills.  The consequence of believing that literacy is best learned in classrooms enables schools to create a monopoly in which they blindly repeat the same failed instructional practices with the expectation of a different outcome.  

A history of Learning Disabilities (LD) in the United States reveals much about the cultural roles of literacy. After decades of neurological speculation regarding the exact nature of  dyslexia, critics of the diagnosis of dyslexia still assert that it is nothing more than a plausible explanation of why children of privilege and intelligence do not learn to read as expected or a means of securing more time for labeled children on high stakes examinations. The breakthrough of neuroimaging in children withdyslexia has revealed scientific evidence that individuals with dyslexia have a reduced engagement of the left temporo-parietalcortex for phonological processing of print. This same neuroimaging technique confirms the plasticity of the brain as it responds to effectiveintervention. Behavioral and brain measures identify infantsand young children at risk for dyslexia, and preventive interventionis often effective. There is hope that a combination of targeted teachingpractices and cognitive neuroscience measures could preventdyslexia from occurring in the majority of children who wouldotherwise develop dyslexia. To fully explore this phenomenon, it is necessary to understand the complexity of dyslexia.

The difficulties and concerns of a parent advocating for the reading disabled child are already significant. The confusion and misconceptions surrounding the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia only add to the parental dilemma.  Unfortunately, there are charlatans who will take emotional and financial advantage of the desperate parents of the reading disabled. Providers of costly vision therapy require parents to commit to sixty to ninety hours of left to right tracking exercises at ninety to one hundred and twenty dollars an hour. Trendy movement therapy promises improved balance in the body and the brain. The neighborhood chiropractor is more than willing to lead the dyslexic child through a series of exercises promised to improve reading performance. The well-meaning but misinformed reading specialist assures the parents that their child’s reading will improve if only they use multicolored overlays on the child’s reading materials.

The correction of this very serious disability is not so simple. In order to seriously address the identification and remediation of dyslexic children, and protect the parents of these children from unnecessary expenditure of time and money, the myths and misconceptions surrounding dyslexia must be addressed. As we work to deconstruct the masculinized educational framework in an attempt to make the system more equitable, often forgotten are the compliant girls who are experiencing academic difficulty. The gender normative behavior of boys demand most of the attention of educational researchers and policy makers. As a reading specialist working primarily with diagnosed dyslexics, I am acutely aware that the immediate and long term impact of dyslexia upon the lives of girls is only now beginning to be considered. Many undiagnosed dyslexic girls enter the “closet” early in life, spending childhood years anxiously avoiding classroom participation in oral reading for fear of embarrassment and disclosure. Because girls tend to be affiliative by nature (Gilligan, 1982) the fear of possible peer rejection results in sustained levels of anxiety. Carried further, this fear of disclosure may curtail participation in typical literacy activities such as note writing, emailing, blogging, and yearbook signing.

Teachers often encourage girls to take on identities that emphasize nurturing, such as mother or teacher, and although these identities may provide girls with increased power in some classroom relations, they also deny girls access to other roles.

Carol Gilligan (1982)  created a stage theory of moral development exclusively for women. Rather than departing from the limitation of developmental stage construct to explain human development and behavior, she just develops her own female friendly version. Just like Kohlberg (1981), Gilligan’s model identifies major stages of moral development.  Female children begin with a selfish focus. As they develop they learn to care for others and reject selfishness. In the conventional stage, women doubt their freedom to act in their own interests. They value the interests of others above their own. In the post-conventional stage, women finally learn that their own interests are just as important as others. The core theoretical difference in the feminist model exists in Gilligan’s assertion that the transitions between the stages are caused by changes in the sense of self rather than in changes in cognitive capability. Kohlberg’s approach is based on Piaget’s cognitive developmental model while Gilligan’s is based on selective aspects of Freud.

Gilligan’s stages of moral development emerged from the study of women making significant decisions in their lives. This investigation was driven in reaction to Kohlberg’s experimental results that insinuated that women tended to be less morally developed than men.  Gilligan concludes that women’s sense of integrity appears to be entwined with an ethic of care rather than the ethic of justice.  Morally developed women think more about caring, for themselves and others, rather than following the rules.

Thus, an even closer look must be taken at the philosophical and academic profiles of the teachers with whom we entrust the academic and social growth of our girls. Levine (2006) in his description of future elementary education teachers as “less academically qualified than our children need or deserve” (p.56) epitomizes this critical perspective. In response to this criticism, the American Educational Research Association (Cochran-Smith & Zeichner, 2005) has called for more research in the area of teacher education.

     The majority of teachers in today’s work force are white, female and middle class. Teachers of color comprise about 16 percent of the teaching force in the United States (Banks, et al, 2005). In addition, pre-service as well as in-service teachers have little experience with children with learning differences or from cultures and languages different from their own. Our call as avocates is to determine the particular attributes, skills, and dispositions that are needed to increase the probability that all teachers will be able to deliver an academically appropriate pedagogy.

Today, with the advent of Response to Intervention (RTI), all teachers are mandated with the task of meeting the educational needs of all the children. General educators are understandably uncertain regarding their level of preparation for their new role of delivering special education pedagogy. There are few studies focused on the task of preparing teachers to work specifically with  girls. New research must focus on how well we are preparing teacher candidates with the theoretical understandings and pedagogical skills necessary to meet different learning needs and styles of our girls. In addition, we must also determine whether teacher education programs are preparing graduates who internalize and embrace the importance of debunking gender stereotypes.

It is essential to understand that domination and elitism still exist in America’s classroom to fully understand how the literacy identity in dyslexic girls occurs.  “Feminism is not just theoretically significant. Educational practices and educational outcomes are damaged by sexism. This is because there is a prevailing sexism both in and out of formal educational institutions: schools, universities, local authorities, governing bodies, government departments, educational publishing, and voluntary pressure groups. Inevitably sexism also distorts how such educational practices and outcomes are understood and researched. This is precisely the concern of feminist epistemology: how to improve knowledge and remove sexist distortions (Griffiths, 1995, p.219).”

The significance of a compliant female with reading problems is far down the list of educational concerns. Historically, much of the focus on policy, practice, and research on gender and education has been on issues related boys. The tide shifted in the 1990’s with the publication of a number of reports and popular books about girls and their educational disadvantages. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) published the much touted report of How Schools Shortchange Girls (1992). The focus of this report is the argument that current curricula and pedagogy are educationally depriving girls. In addition, books such as Failing at Fairness (Sadker & Sadker, 1994), School Girls (Orenstein, 1994), and Reviving Ophelia (Pipher, 1994), address the psychological damage and educational neglect to which girls are subjected in the male dominated classroom. According to these authors, girls are called on less often by teachers, show less involvement and achievement in math and science, and receive fewer and lower-quality comments from teachers.

Alert from MD-IDA Concerning Vision Therapy

7 Apr


Bills would test efficacy of vision therapy on Special Education Students
The Minnesota House and Senate each have a bill before legislation that would fund a three-year pilot study to require vision therapy screening and treatment for all Special Education students in grades 2-5 to determine the effectiveness of the therapy in improving the students’ learning outcomes.

Please contact your representative and senators and ask them to VOTE NO on these bills and to keep the issue out of other education legislation.

Proponents of the bills suggest vision therapy may improve learning for students with a variety of “adverse academic behaviors,” claiming these behaviors are due to convergence insufficiency instead of learning disorders. Research does not support such claims. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in a 2009 joint policy statement with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and American Association of Certified Orthoptists, stated:

“Most experts believe that dyslexia is a language-based disorder. Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitivie conditions. Diagnostic and treatment approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy, including eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses, are not endorsed and should not be recommended. ” (CLICK HERE FOR FULL STATEMENT)

We need to provide sound research-based reading instruction to struggling readers rather than subject students to costly therapies without scientific merit.

The bills in the House (HF638) and in the Senate (SF812) are still alive – they have been from Education policy committees to finance committees in both houses. Both bills are identical and propose a three-year vision therapy pilot project grant to determine the effect that comprehensive eye exams and vision therapy have on 2nd through 5th grade students’ need for special education services.



25 Mar

• Center for the Improvement of Early Reading Achievement
• Education Commission of the States
• Florida Center for Reading Research
• Institute for Reading Research
• The International Dyslexia Association
• International Reading Association
• International Reading Association: Reading Online
• National Association for the Education of Young Children
• National Institute for Early Education Research
• National Institute for Literacy
• National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education
• National Reading Panel
• Pacific Resources for Education and Learning
• Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts
• What Works Clearinghouse
• Texas Education Agency

Assistive Technology applications for Apple, Android, Windows Mobile &Blackberry app stores.

18 Feb

The apps listed here are currently downloadable at little or no cost
• Apple devices come equipped with the VoiceOver feature that serves as a screen reader for those with visual disabilities. By touching or scrolling your finger across the screen, you will be told exactly what lies beneath your fingertips. When you wish to write an email or send a text message VoiceOver will echo every letter you select and then speak it again to confirm it. With Voice Control you can easily call or play music by speaking the name of the person or artist you would like to hear. The iPhone4 and 3GS understands 21 different languages!
• Dragon Dictation (Nuance Communications) – voice recognition application allows you to easily speak and instantly see your text or email messages. Works on Apple iPad, iPhone and second and third generation iPod Touch (external microphone required). Available as Dragon Email for Blackberry, and FlexT9 for Android.
• Dragon Search (Nuance Communications) – accurate way to search online content using your voice. Search queries from a variety of top websites including Google or Yahoo, YouTube, Twitter, iTunes & Wikipedia.
• Note2Self Audio Recorder (Web Information Solutions) – audio recorder and voice note sharing solution. Notes can be saved or emailed automatically.
• QuickVoice Recorder (nFinity Inc.) – one touch recording for memos, email, dictation, lists, meetings, classes or entire lectures.
• Audiobooks (Cross Forward Consulting) – over 3,535 classic audio books, plus a growing collection of newer titles. Paid version also available for $0.99 to eliminate ads.
• Audiobooks for Your Kids – free version contains three classic children’s books. $0.99 version includes 30 titles.
• Free Audiobooks (from Books in Audio) – best selling and professionally narrated audio books; new premium titles added monthly.
• Best Audiobooks (100) (Gp Imports Inc. Software) – 100 audio books, titles continuously updated to most popular public domain books.
• Image to Speech (OCR) ‐‐ This application is not free, but listed since it is only $0.99. Allows you to take a picture, any picture and the application will read out loud the text inside the image.
• MindNode – Available for MAC users at no cost. Program is a simple‐to‐use mind mapping application for the Macintosh that help to visually: collect, classify and structure ideas, organize, study and solveproblems. Mind maps can be used for many different tasks – including to‐do lists, brainstorming, holiday planning, research, writing, project management – and in many different environments – school, meetings, workspace.
• Read It Later ‐‐ a simple text‐to‐speech program worth exploring as no Internet connection is needed to use it. Upgraded Read It Later Pro version available for $0.99. Available for Apple, Android, Windows Mobile and Blackberry under different names:
• Say it and Mail it ‐‐ allows you to record your email then mail it. Record and email voice memos using your iTool. Use it to email reminders to yourself or email messages to anyone. (iTouch will need a mic attached.) Upgraded version available for $2.99.
• Talk Mail Lite – Listen to your emails out loud, 2 months free. Reads aloud emails received via Google, MobileMe, AOL Mail — any IMAP‐enabled email account. For Microsoft Exchange or Yahoo, sync with Mobile Me or use auto‐forwarding. Talk Mail Pro available for $2.99.
• Typ‐O (Anders Johansen) – Typ‐O uses a powerful word prediction engine and sophisticated spelling error model to help you write, even if your spelling isn’t perfect. Available for Apple Mac, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch at $4.99.
• Jagamaga Audibooks Lite (Andreas Mehrens) – over 50 titles, plus hundreds of free short‐fiction; searchable by genre, title, author, and narrator.
• vBookz ‐‐ is a free book reader with voices that are really quite fantastic. What vBookz have done is expand upon Apple’s theme, keeping much of the design and functionality used by iBooks whilst adding one feature that is absent from the iBooks application: text‐to‐speech. Application available for $3.99.
• Web Reader (Chris Chauvin) ‐‐ Web Reader 2.2 for iPhone uses text to speech technology along with web page content recognition to read web pages to you. You can configure web pages to be read as soon as they are loaded, read pages manually after they are loaded, or use Cut, Copy, & Paste to read only sections of text. Available for $1.99.
• ZenTap – a word prediction system that allows you to complete words simply typing the first letters. Itfeatures: auto completion, spell check, a wider typing screen and the possibility to change the font size.For those who struggle with the iPhone keyboard, this may be a good option. Free ZenTap Pro available for $2.99. Multiple formats available at