A 6 Minute Fluency Sequence for Students with Dyslexia (who have significantly impaired RAN)
How do we teach students with dyslexia to improve their fluency? We can’t.
Well, that’s not entirely true, but let’s talk about it.
Rapid automatized naming (RAN) is a task that measures how quickly students can name aloud objects, pictures, colors, or symbols (letters or digits). RAN is considered to be a strong predictor of a student’s fluency and later ability to read. In particular, RAN for letters and digits correlates more strongly with reading skills. Poor RAN is often associated with reading difficulties in students.
The problem - RAN scores cannot be directly remedied.
Research has shown that the training of RAN does not improve reading. This is why we would not attempt to address a student’s RAN instructionally.
So what can teachers do?
We can provide instruction to improve student’s fluency (this is different from RAN instruction) and/or teach strategies that integrate reading skills into a student’s fluency.
Slower than average RAN scores are often associated with struggles with word-level reading. At the word-level, readers must attend to the individual word in a text. Word-Level reading skills are based upon phonological/phonemic skills. Poor access to phonemes in spoken words negatively affects reading development. Such difficulties affect phonic development, sight word acquisition, and fluency.
Fluency refers to the reading of words quickly and accurately. And research has shown that skilled word level reading is the gateway to fluency.
The largest factor that determines a student's fluency is the size of a student's vocabulary. So fluency instruction should be directed towards building a student's sight vocabulary. These words can be either phonetically regular or irregular, but the point is for students to be able to instantly read them because they are that familiar.
So simple exposure to words and reading practice boosts sight vocabulary of typical readers!
This is the 5 minute fluency practice that can support fluency for MOST students.
Not only does it improve students' fluency, but it also supports students' social emotional learning skills by teaching students to take ownership over their learning by setting goals for themselves and graphing their progress.
But what happens if you do not see any improvement in a student’s fluency? Well, we need to figure out why! Is the student’s fluency not changing or improving because the student’s RAN is so impaired? If a student’s RAN is not significantly impaired, why is fluency not changing?
Difficulties with sub-skills of language are quite common among dyslexic students. And as a result, these students have lower RAN scores. Furthermore, students with dyslexia can perform average on RAN and poorly on phonological awareness and/or phonological memory and vice versa. This is called the Double-Deficit Phenomenon, and it refers to students who have difficulties with both phonological awareness and RAN. These student’s reading difficulties tend to be a lot more severe and remediation can take a lot longer. (Note: Research has demonstrated that students with deficits in RAN alone, and no phonological awareness deficits tend to have milder reading difficulties than those with phonological awareness deficits.
Now, remember what we said earlier? Research has also shown that the training of RAN does not improve reading. On the other hand, though, research has proven that phonological awareness training can improve reading skills. Problems with RAN have been shown to be partially addressed through phonological awareness training.
For students with impaired RAN who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, teachers should define fluency differently. This is because impaired RAN is closely related to word-reading speed, than to word-reading accuracy. For these students, the goal of fluency should be a moderate rate and expression when reading. For students with dyslexia, fluency cannot focus on the timed aspect of the skill.
Ask - What do I want contextual reading to look like for this student?
Don’t ask - How fast can this student read a text? Instead, set realistic goals and provide direct instruction to meet the student’s lagging fluency skills.
So to improve students’...
-expression while reading, and
-rate of reading to a moderate rate,
You can use this 6 Minute Fluency Sequence for Students with Dyslexia (who have impaired RAN):
Grab a FREEBIE of this instructional sequence by clicking HERE!
Happy and healthy teaching!
By Miss Rae
References, Kilpatrick, 2015
Interview with Dr. Maryanne Wolf https://childrenofthecode.org/interviews/wolf.htm#DoubleDeficitInterventions
Do all students diagnosed with an Emotional Disability (ED) qualify for an IEP?
Well, let’s think about this. If a student has a disorder of anxiety, bipolar, conduct, eating, obsessive-compulsive or psychotic, are they able to make progress in the general education curriculum without Special Education services?
First, let’s start by answering the question - what qualifies as an emotional disability?
What qualifies as an emotional disability?
An emotional disturbance is one of the 13 disability categories of IDEA, under which 3- through 21-year-olds may be eligible for Special Education services. This means that a student with an emotional disturbance MAY be eligible for special education and related services in public school. But the keyword here is MAY.
IDEA defines emotional disturbance as follows:
“…a condition exhibiting one or more of the following characteristics over a long period of time and to a marked degree that adversely affects a child’s educational performance:
(A) An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual, sensory, or health factors.
(B) An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal relationships with peers and teachers.
(C) Inappropriate types of behavior or feelings under normal circumstances.
(D) A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.
(E) A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with personal or school problems.”
Hmmm…that’s a broad definition with some vague language so let’s do a little deep diving!
How do we define a "long period of time"?
Under this standard, IDEA does not state how long a “long period” of time is, but the Office of Special Education Programs indicates that it is between two to nine months (Letter to Anonymous, 213 IDELR 247, OSEP 1989).
And what does "to a marked degree" mean?
This term "generally refers to the frequency, duration, or intensity of a student's emotionally disturbed behavior in comparison to the behavior of peers, and can be indicative of either degree or acuity or pervasiveness (Letter to Anonymous, 213 IDELR 247, OSEP 1989).
As defined by IDEA, ED includes disorders of anxiety, bipolar, conduct, eating, obsessive-compulsive or psychotic such as schizophrenia. However, IDEA specifically states that ED does NOT apply to students that are “socially maladjusted,” unless it is determined that they also have an emotional disturbance. And how is that determination made? Well, Special Education teams should…
Review the eligibility criteria definition under IDEA.
Ask - Does the student exhibit at least 1 of the 5 criteria to a marked degree? AND Has the student exhibit at least 1 of the 5 criteria over a long period of time?
If NO - The student does not appear to have an Emotional Disability.
If YES - Eliminate EXCLUSIONARY FACTORS:
Is the student…
-maladjusted (i.e. stealing, skipping school or class, or drug use)
-having emotional problems at home or out of school and NOT at
-exhibiting mood, behavior, or academic problems related solely to
If none of the exclusionary factors apply, the student appears to have an Emotional Disability BUT if any of the exclusionary factors apply, the student does not appear to have an Emotional Disability.
You can grab the Emotional Disability Determination Flowchart HERE.
It is important to have data when exploring eligibility under any disability category, and this data can be obtained through interventions!
Three Best Practice Interventions for Students with Emotional Disabilities:
A student who responds to the intervention, most likely does not have an emotional disturbance. This is similar to when we look at the Response to Intervention model for eligibility in Special Education.
If a student does not respond to the interventions AND qualified for ED after going through the flowchart, the student needs individualized programming!
Find more best practice interventions for students with ED at...
Intervention Central -
Grab some Social Emotional IEP goals and objectives HERE!
Learn more about Emotional Disturbance in the Classroom!
Do you know what it feels like to be a student who has a learning disability in reading?
Do you want to know what it feels like to be a student who has a learning disability in reading?
Let me give you a chance to feel what it feels like!
Let's pause for a moment of reflection!
How did you do?
How did you feel as you were reading?
After we ask students to read a passage, we ask them comprehension questions to assess their understanding of the text, right?
Do you think you can answer some comprehension questions about what you just read?
So what does it feel like to be a student who has a learning disability in reading?
By: Miss Rae
Learn more about Dyslexia!
Work smarter, not harder!
This is a great piece of advice to give to any teacher you know. I know we have all heard the jokes about teachers having weekends and summers off, and while I do hope that teachers take time for themselves during their breaks, I know that their work lives never end! And when the pandemic hit and we had to move our classrooms into our homes, teachers worked even longer hours.
So here are some ways to work smarter and not harder during remote learning.
Here are some tips for making our remote reading workshops smarter!
Start by sending students recorded mini-lessons. These can be viewed repeatedly if needed. A support of some sort (i.e. graphic organizer, mnemonic reminder, visual reminder, strategy anchor chart, etc.) should accompany the video recording to support the student's access of the general education curriculum. Small guided reading groups can be scheduled with students using an online platform like Google Meet. Additionally, a weekly one on one check-in for all students can include progress monitoring assessments and/or meeting with the teacher for direct instruction. Progress monitoring assessments can determine the frequency and need for the check-ins. Such data can guide the goal of the check-in (i.e. instructional-based, emotional support needed, clarification of academic misunderstandings, etc.).
Learn more about Teaching Strategies for Remote Learning!
Writer’s Workshop is a student-centered framework for teaching writing, based on the idea that when students write often, for extended periods of time on topics of their choosing, they learn to write best. We have mastered this in the traditional classroom
Now, we have to master Writer’s Workshop in our virtual classrooms!
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning will now forever be a reality in our lives. And because of this, it is important that we learn to translate our best practices into remote learning best practices!
Most of the workshop model can be implemented rather successfully through distance learning. Mini-lessons can still occur. These can be recorded lessons for students to watch and re-watch if needed! And they still can be developed based upon students' writing.
Independent writing can obviously still happen too! That one should be a no brainer!
To support independent writing in the classroom, we have charts and visuals around our traditional classrooms. Think about which of these need to also be provided to students at home. Perhaps students can have access to online writing reference and pictures of visual supports from the classroom.
During a typical mini-lesson, we often record our major points points you want students to be able to reference or have access to on an anchor chart. Give students access to a digital anchor chart either through a picture of one or a chart on Google Slides or Docs.
Offering feedback through comments on shared documents is great. But I would still suggest personalizing student feedback.
Personalizing feedback helps to build relationships with students. Research has shown that relationships are beneficial for student success for a number of reasons, but in particular, they help to protect against the effects of negative stress. About 45 percent of adults in the United States reported that their mental health had been affected from worry and stress during the pandemic (KFF, 2020). Children feel this stress too.
So how can you personalize feedback? Apps such as Mote (a Google Extension) allow educators to leave friendly comments on G Suite apps. Educators can leave messages about student writing to promote encouragement for further development of ideas and skills.
You can also still conference with your students! This can be done individually or in small groups. When looking at your students’ writing, if you see a small group of students who all need to conference about a similar issue in their writing, you can pull them for a small group instructional conference.
You can also create homogeneous groups of writers. This group can meet weekly to small group share and edit. They could meet as partners for peer share and edits. They can also contact each other for help as they would in the traditional classrooms.
I would suggest setting aside one day each week during your writing block for student-teacher conferences. Teachers could schedule a 5 to 10 minute virtual conference with students. Teachers should plan to conference with all students within a two week time period. If all student writing is being housed electronically, the writing can be pulled up on the screen during the virtual conference for a richer learning experience.
Make sure to support ALL students during this time. Students with learning disabilities might need to meet with you weekly for support. Students who just need that extra time may also need to meet with you weekly.
We can still support our students - even if we are not in the classroom with them!
By: Miss Rae
Reference: KFF poll
The end of the school year does not mean an end to our learning. But don't fight your students' needs at this time of year - embrace them. The end of the school year naturally lends itself to certain innate social emotional skills. So as educators, we can use these natural learning moments to teach skills.
Student reflection transforms academic experiences into genuine, lifelong learning. Reflections helps students to focus on individual values and goals, develop higher order thinking skills, and make connections to and problem solve larger social issues. Reflective learning supports students in stepping back from their learning experiences and use developed critical thinking skills to improve on future performance through analysis of what has been learned and how far the student has come in pursuit of goals.
By helping Special Education students reflect upon their school year, we support their understanding of a correlation between effort and achievement. Our students with learning disabilities are constantly bombarded with their struggles, reflection helps them to focus on their achievements. It also lets them see the outcomes of their hard work and praise themselves for this effort. This reflection allows learners to further develop their understanding of themselves as a learner as well. Through this analysis, students strengthen their problem solving skills through analysis of achievements and a plan to get to the next level of their goals.
Use the Rose, Bud, Thorn activity to prompt student reflection. Here’s how it works! Ask students to reflect on this past school year. What would be their Rose, Bud, Thorn?
Rose - What is the best thing that happened to you this school year?
Bud - What is something that happened this year that you are looking forward to happening again next year?
Thorn - What is the worst thing that happened to you this year that causes you to set a goal for next year?
This reflection challenges students to become aware of their own thinking processes, learn about themselves and how they learn. The next step in reflection is to take what you have learned and improve upon learners’ academic and emotional skills! Students do this by setting goals.
Reflection enables educators to assess the "why" and "how" of the learning. What needs to be done as a result.
Research shows that general growth mindset interventions have been found to have a weak relationship between mindset and academic achievement (Sisk, et. al, 2018). However, they are most effective when paired with oral and written reflection. So after students write about their reflections of the school year, further reshape student mindset by asking students to set goals based upon their reflections.
Ask students to ask themselves, “What is my goal for next year?”
Check out my end of year goal setting project:
In this resource, students set a bucket list of goals! First, students will SET goals for themselves by generating a bucket list. They will then RESEARCH their goals. Finally, they will WRITE about how to achieve these goals using informational text structures.
End of Year Learning Projects!
Like I said, learning does not have to stop at the end of the school year. In fact, it should NOT stop. Students should continue learning. By maintaining the learning focused environment that students have felt safe in all school year, educators will see less acting out behaviors. Now, with that said, you can still instill some fun into the learning! Here are some end of year learning activities:
-Teacher for a Day!
-Become a Children’s Author
-Talk Show “Expert” Panel
-Classroom Book Clubs
-Book Hall of Fame
-Classroom People of the Year
-Round Robin Writing Fun
-End of Year Math Idea
-Good Old Stand-By’s
-Mentor Tips Activity
Grab these projects here:
~By Miss Rae
Do You Know What the U.S. Government is Doing for Students with Learning Disabilities During the Pandemic?
The bulk of this story hasn't even been written yet.
The schools we walk back into are going to be different. Our students are going to be different. And that is going to be the story that we tell.
Our students with disabilities are still protected under IDEA during the pandemic. But recently, the United States signed into law a new act - the CARES Act.
The CARES Act is a US law targeting the economic fallout of the pandemic, and this includes our schools.
And one specific move that it makes is to allow waivers that free local educational agencies (or LEAs) from the legally binding evaluation timelines for students with disabilities. Essentially, this means that states can ask to have evaluation timelines waived for 30 to 45 days upon our return to schools. This would give schools time to provide instruction prior to evaluating students.
I think this will allow us all some time to come back and breathe. Most of us aren't going back until next year, and by then, a student will have a new class and a new teacher! That's shocking when you haven't prepared for it.
And I can’t stop thinking about the questions that IEP teams wrestle with when they are determining eligibility. How can we know if underachievement is not due to a lack of instruction unless we give our students some time?
But then I see the other side too…
Teachers and families alike get frustrated by how long the referral process can take.. And now imagine adding another 30 to 45 days to this timeline?!
And now think about those families who have hoped for that gap to be closed for years - they don't have time to wait.
What do you think about this?
Teaching our students with learning disabilities requires specialized instruction from a specialized instructor. Special Education teachers are able to masterfully design lessons that include an abundance of multi-sensory tools because as we know - this is how our students with learning disabilities learn best. But now all teachers are being asked to instruct from their computer screens, and multi-sensory instruction seems virtually impossible - pun intended!
I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but - teachers are amazing! They have been able to transition to distance learning virtually (pun intended) without any professional development and little to no distance learning resources.
But what we do continue to have are goals for our students.
We will be able to …
-keep our students’ skills fresh
-prevent regression and
Even virtual relationships are important!
And here are 5+ Ideas for achieving those goals for Distance Learning with Learning Disabilities:
1. Phonemic Awareness
Related Phonemic Awareness Resources:
Related Decoding Resources:
Related Spelling & Decoding Resources:
Related Comprehension Resources:
Related Decoding Spelling & Comprehension Resources:
6. Social Emotional Learning
And make sure you are checking in on your students every day. Ask them how they are feeling. Let them know that it's okay to feel how they are feeling.
Happy & Healthy Teaching!
Related blog posts...
Don't forget about students with disabilities when COVID-19 closes our schools.
Teachers all over are scrambling to transition from delivering instruction in their classroom to delivering it online. But is this equitable for ALL students?
The U.S. Department of Education gave some guidance to K-12 districts about closing for COVID-19. They told districts that if they close due to COVID-19 AND continue to offer instruction remotely, they MUST make that learning accessible to ALL students. This includes students with disabilities. And for students with disabilities, this means that services outlined in IEPs must be offered “to the greatest extent possible.” When schools re-open, Special Education teams will need to meet to determine if students with disabilities who missed services are entitled to make them up.
Are schools ready for this? Are us teachers ready for this? Are our students with disabilities ready for this? And more importantly, is remote learning beneficial for our students with disabilities?
If we cancel school and implement distance learning that can be accessed by some, but not all, of our students, it's unethical.
On the other hand, if schools close and do not move to distance learning, the federal education department stated that schools are then NOT required to provide services to students with disabilities during that time.
I know what you are all thinking... 'We have to continue teaching. Students have to keep learning. What about the regression they will show when schools re-open?'
We can offer suggested activities for ALL students.
These activities should not be graded or required!
We can offer summer school for our students. We can extend our learning time when we return. We can offer extra instruction or after school tutoring.
We are stressed right now. And our students are smart. They can read us. They can read the world. They are feeling the stress of the world too - no matter how much we protect them. It's most important for our students to stay healthy and safe.
By Miss Rae
So what really is the difference between an ACCOMMODATION and a MODIFICATION? Aren't they the same thing?
No. Accommodations and modifications are different from each other!
An accommodation is a way to help students learn the same material or take the same test in a different way.
A modification is a change to what the student is expected to learn.
By: Miss Rae