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September 2, 2016

Building a New Neural Pathway to Help Your Child Read and Spell Sight Words

          Often, students struggle with reading and spelling Sight Words.  These words are also called High Frequency Words.  These words are special because we can’t sound out these words- How would you sound out w-a-s? or o-f?  or c-o-u-l-d?  No wonder kids have trouble with these words!  For the most part, kids are instructed to memorize these words through their visual memory.  This works for some kids, but many others need additional strategies to master the reading and spelling of these difficult words.  Visual memory can become “full” or overwhelmed as more and more words bombard our kids.  We want to create a new way for the brain to remember these words- a New Neural Pathway. 

A Multisensory Strategy to Create a
New Neural Pathway f or Remembering Sight Words (and other words such as vocabulary)

Steps to Success:

1.   Write one Sight Word on each of five index cards (three is also fine if your child is struggling with five words).  Write it big and with red marker.  The red color reminds kids that these words can’t be sounded out like other words.
2.  Have your child trace the word with his or her finger, saying the letters aloud and finishing with reading the word as they underline the word with the finger.
3.  Repeat step two with another finger.
4.  Repeat step two using the red marker tracing directly onto the card.
5.  For the fourth repetition, have the child write the word on another piece of paper with the red marker or pen, saying the letters, and finishing by reading the word.

NOTE-  Make sure that your child reads the letters each time, looks at the card as they read the letters, and finishes by reading the word.  Also, make sure they ARE NOT SOUNDING OUT THE LETTERS.

     In this manner, your children are seeing the words/letters, hearing themselves read the letters/words, feeling themselves say the letters/words in their mouth, and feeling the letters as they trace/write them.   As a result, your children are creating new neural pathways for the brain instead of using only the visual memory.

Alternatives- Use big paper instead of smaller index cards.  Use a dry erase board for step four.

          Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066


August 6,2016

Some Final Thoughts About Reading Fluency

          There are a few more things I would like to say about Fluency before moving on to another subject regarding literacy.
          Fluent reading comes together without conscious thought for most of us, but for those who struggle with fluency, practice is needed.  Think about the skill of driving- we do many things simultaneously like braking, checking mirrors, steering, changing the radio, talking to someone, etc.  These behaviors are automatic once we have been driving for awhile.  When we were learning to drive, we needed to think about each step and practice each step.  I can remember learning to drive a car with manual gear (a stickshift).  If I wasn't thinking about each step, I stalled out the car with every gear change.  It is the same with reading.  A reader needs to practice the act of reading over and over until certain words are known automatically, punctuation is attended to when reading aloud, and less known words are decoded quickly.  Getting beyond basic reading skills takes a great deal of careful attention and practice.
          Beginning readers need to read word by word reflecting the fact the reader's mind is consumed with trying to process each word.  In contrast, a strong reader processes words automatically, as if without effort.  Research shows that the eyes of even good readers linger instantaneously as they process each word and even each letter.  The difference is that strong readers do it automatically while weaker readers need to consciously focus their attention on the process.  The more the reader reads the same words and sounds over and over, the more automatic this process will become.  
          Here's something interesting-  some learners can do a new skill after only 2 or 3 repetitions, others need 12 or more reps, and still others need 44 or more repetitions to learn a skill.  Now, let's relate that to reading.  One child will learn a high frequency word after only a few times seeing that word, but the struggling reader may need to see that word 40 or 50 times before the word sticks and can be identified the next time they see or spell that word in text.  That's only one word!  Think of all of the words we need to know automatically to be good readers.  In the next blog, I will address ways to increase these repetitions and how to create a new neural pathway, other than the visual pathway, to learn to read and spell these words.
     I find research about learning fascinating, and I hope you do as well! Let us know what you think or need!

Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT
Sugarcreed Educational Concepts

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066

July 15, 2016

A Little More About Repeated Reading to Increase Reading Fluency

         Now that you have learned about Repeated Reading and have hopefully included it into your daily routine to support your struggling reader, you should be seeing an improvement in your child’s reading fluency.  Learning a little more about this strategy will help you to understand why it is so beneficial to your child’s reading success.
         Struggling readers are typically reading below grade level.  In school, text a child is expected to read is often several grade levels harder than his or her current grade level (especially science, social studies, and math text). For this reason, students need to be exposed to grade level text and above in order to be successful and confident readers. Repeated Reading is a research-based method to provide this exposure.  You might be asking yourself,  “Isn’t it too much for my child to read a level that they are not ready for?”  Or you might be asking, "Why not just let my child proceed at his or her own pace in reading level?  Why expose him or her to higher level text?"  There are several reasons to expose your child to challenging text.  First, you want his or her vocabulary (reading and oral vocabulary) to be challenged.  He or she may not be able to read the text independently, but that doesn't mean that he or she can't understand the vocabulary.  Secondly, they will also see more sophisticated sentence structure in higher level text which will enrich their writing.   Finally, you never want to underestimate your child's ability to pick up words, vocabulary, and spelling through challenging text.  Repeatedly seeing the same words will increase the likelihood that your child will be able to read those words in new text. 
       Many schools have small group reading instruction where the child gets the opportunity to master their instructional level and move to a higher instructional level.  This is very important!  While you child is mastering his or her instructional level, the class as a whole is expected to be reading at grade level or above and the class keeps moving forward.  There is a gap between where your child is currently and where your child is expected to be.  This gap will increase if an intervention is not in place.  Repeated Reading can address the gap and close it over time. 

        Here is another simple Repeated Reading method you can try-
1.  Read the challenging text for one minute to your child as the child follows along.
2.  Reread the same text for one minute with your child as you set the pace and demonstrate good expression and attention to punctuation.
3.  Your child reads the same text for one final minute independently.  Repeat phrases or sentences if it is not read fluently.
Three minutes a day can make amazing gains! 

As always, let us know how you are doing and if we can support your progress!

Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts (contact info. below)


June 8, 2016

Repeated Reading to Support Fluency and Reading Comprehension

       In the last we blog, we promised to give you a research-based method for improving Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension Repeated Reading is an easy and effective method to achieve these goals.  (You may want to reread the last blog to refresh your memory.)

Here is how to do Repeated Reading with your child:

1.  Read a paragraph (or sentence by sentence or a few sentences at a time) aloud to your child as you make sure they are carefully following with their eyes.  Don't slow down for your child.  Instead, you set a normal pace with expression and good pauses at periods and commas, etc.
2.  Reread the same passage as your child tries to read with you as you set the pace.  Be careful not to slow down too much and don't allow your child to race you.
3.  For the third reading, your child reads the same passage by him or herself.  If a sentence is choppy, if the child doesn't stop at punctuation, or if expression is not used, have the child repeat the sentence.

  You want this to be a positive experience.  Your child should be experiencing high levels of success because the text is familiar to them after three reads.  You can do use this method for just a short amount of time each day so that the experience remains always positive.  Read a paragraph or two each day, a whole page, or work through a book in this method.  It is better to do small amounts of successful reading, than push forward and have the child dread the experience.  If you do a little of this method each cay, these small  lessons will add up to lots of gain in reading fluency!

   You can track your child's fluency progress by letting them read a paragraph each week by themselves before you start the repeated reading.  You should notice that your child recognizes more words automatically.  You should start to see a gain in reading confidence as well as fluency and prosidy (reading with expression).

Give this method a try and let us know how it works for you.  If you have any questions, you can contact us!

Mary Bower, M.Ed, Master Teacher, COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor (contact info. below)

May 22, 2016

Lack of Oral Reading Fluency May Be Why Your Child Struggles with Comprehension

          Oral Reading Fluency is the ability to read "like you speak".  When we speak, we accurately choose words to communicate, we use a rate of speech that keeps the interest of the listener, and we use expression to help make our point clearer.   Oral Reading Fluency is the same thing while reading out loud-  words are read accurately, are read at a steady rate (not too fast and not too slow), and are read with appropriate expression.  (Expression in reading is known as prosody.)   You know a reader lacks fluency when you notice that he or she has to sound out many words, there is difficulty with Sight Words (also known as High Frequency Words or Word Wall Words), and their reading sounds choppy, hesitant, or robotic.  
          Oral Reading Fluency is highly correlated to comprehension.  If you are wondering why your child doesn't comprehend what is read, lack of Oral Reading Fluency could be the problem.  In a study conducted by Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, and Jenkins using four comprehension measures, Oral Reading Fluency was shown repeatedly to be highly correlated to good comprehension.
         You may be thinking that the struggling reader will catch up if he or she would just spend more time reading.  Well, according to the National Reading Panel Report from 2000, , reading alone will not significantly impact the fluency of a struggling reader and thus will not address comprehension problems.  Here's why-  When a fluent reader reads for ten minutes, he or she reads about 2,000 words while the struggling reader only reads about 500 words for the same amount of time.  The fluent reader will get stronger while the struggling reader will not read enough words to make up the difference.  Their fluency will not improve fast enough and their comprehension will continue to suffer.

          Now that you are asking how you can improve your child’s Oral Reading Fluency, look for the next blog in about two weeks for a research-based answer!

Mary Bower, M.Ed, Master Teacher, COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor (contact info. below)


Dear Friends,

Every two weeks we will be adding insightful blogs about education on this page. We encourage you to visit this site to gain insights into educating your child as well as education in general.


Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066