How We Teach Reading
Online Reading Tutor improves reading comprehension by developing fluent, automatic decoding skills. When reading requires little effort and is automatic, comprehension improves dramatically.
Students achieve significant and permanent gains by building strong roots in the five areas outlined by the National Reading Panel:
• Phonemic Awareness (sound match)
• Phonics (letter sound match)
We improve reading comprehension by developing fluent, automatic decoding skills. Phonemic and sound-symbol association exercises are exactly what Dr Sally Shawitz recommends for struggling readers: rhyming, sound match beginning, sound match end, sound match middle, blending, segmentation etc. The phonics (sound-symbol association) instruction builds understanding of the alphabet principle through exercises that address letter to sound mapping, consonant and vowel blends , diphthongs, spelling conventions and word building.
Sound Match – Blending 4 sounds.
In this blending exercise the student hears four different phonemes (speech sounds) and then chooses the correct word.
Letter-sound match 4 letter word building.
In this word building exercise, the student hears the target word and then uses the mouse to drag the letter into the gold bubbles to build the word. This exercise is an example of segmentation and is one of our phonological awareness exercises.
Auditory-Visual Match Decoding
In our auditory visual match exercises students hear the target letter pattern and simultaneously see three choices. The student chooses and the program measures how accurately students answer each question and the consistency in their pace. The goal is for students to develop automatic and fluent decoding skills. Although the auditory-visual match decoding exercises can be challenging and may take several sessions to master, they are very effective for helping struggling readers.
The emphasis on decoding pseudo words is exactly what reading researchers like Dr Sally Shaywitz recommend. According to Dr. Sally Shaywitz, “The ability to read pseudo words is the best measure of phonological decoding skill in children. The reader literally has to penetrate the sound structure of the word and sound it out, phoneme by phoneme; there is no other way.” (Overcoming Dyslexia, Dr. Shaywitz, 2003, p. 133-134) These pseudo words have not been seen before or memorized. Dyslexics cannot hide behind the words, guessing, and hoping they are right. They either have the decoding skills necessary or they do not.
Not only are pseudo words used in diagnosing dyslexia, they are also used in teaching reading to dyslexics. They are used to eliminate guessing; there is no way to guess a nonsense word. If a student cannot guess the word, they have to use their decoding skills. These words help them to focus on sounding words out from left to right. Using pseudo words helps to train the dyslexic’s brain and gets them on track with their phonological decoding.
In the visual match activity, students are given a set of 50 exercises where they select the answer that matches the target word or pseudo word. The program measures how accurately students answer each question and the consistency in their pace. The goal is to develop fluent, automatic decoding skills. Students identify and associate the sounds of written high frequency patterns of consonants and vowels. Students train to a high degree of accuracy and consistency of response times, improving fluency and decoding of text. This is an Orton-Gillingham based multi-sensory approach.
Dr Stanislas Dehaene, in his book Reading In The Brain describes mirror image errors that impairs the reading of some dyslexic readers. “Early in life virtually all children make mirror errors in reading and writing. Indeed the ability to generalize across symmetrical views, which facilitates view-variant object recognition, is one of the essential competencies of the visual system. When children learn to read, they must “unlearn” mirror generalization in order to process “b” and “d” as distinct letters. In some children, this unlearning process, which goes against the spontaneous abilities inherited from evolution seems to present a specific source of impairment”.
“Good decoding skills do not arise from associations between letters and speech sounds alone – letters must also be perceived in their proper orientation, at the appropriate spatial location, and in their correct left-right order. In the young reader’s brain collaboration must take place between the ventral visual pathway, which recognizes the identity of letters and words, and the dorsal pathway, which codes for their location in space and programs eye movements and attention. When one of these actors stumbles, reading falls flat on its face.”
Students apply their improved decoding skills by reading connected text in high-interest subjects and genres that correlate to state standards. After reading the passages silently to themselves, students answer a variety of multiple choice questions that determine retention and assess comprehension skills such as author’s intent, main idea, inference. etc.
The comprehension lessons cover grade 1 through 10 (college level). Each reading level has 9 passages with each one having five comprehension questions.