Assignment Reading: Opening Doors for Students with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities - Full Transcript - Learning Disabilities Discussion List - Literacy Information and Communication System(LINCS)

Assignment Reading: Opening Doors for Students with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities

Full Transcript

Discussion Announcement | Guest Speaker | Suggested Resources

Guest Speaker: Susan Jones, M.Ed., Academic Development Specialist

Discussion Dates: June 6-10, 2011

Moderator – Rochelle Kenyon, Ed.D.

Rochelle Kenyon

Tue May 31 19:47:17 EDT 2011


I am pleased to announce the next guest discussion scheduled for the LINCS Learning Disabilities Discussion List. All the pertinent information is explained in the announcement below. I welcome you and your colleagues to join us. Kindly share this announcement with any colleagues, friends, or family members that might have an interest in the topic. Those wanting to participate must subscribe to the List by going to

Thank you.

Rochelle Kenyon

Learning Disabilities Discussion List and Community of Practice

Moderator – Rochelle Kenyon, Ed.D.

Susan Jones, M.Ed. (Learning Disabilities) has been teaching and tutoring secondary students and adults for over 25 years. She has also completed extensive graduate level work in gifted education, math education, and instructional technology. She was trained in Orton-Gillingham methods and was a language fundamentals teacher at The New Community School in Richmond, Virginia, where she also learned effective strategies and scaffolding techniques to help students comprehend what they read. She has written several articles for LDOnline and edited Dr. Steven Chinn’s Tools for the Times Tables for American Audiences, stories and lesson plans for the K-12 online reading curriculum, and has many of her teaching resources at her website She spends less time on that now that she is an “Academic Development Specialist” at Parkland College, where she has the delightfully challenging job of working with students, faculty, and staff to use, discover and develop tools to enable students to reach their learning and career goals. She is still determined to find ways to use technology to develop multisensory, interactive learning to build numeracy and literacy skills.

Tentative Agenda:

  1. Welcome, Self-Introduction
  2. Goals/Objectives for the Discussion
    1. Identify affective and cognitive issues for college students with suspected or diagnosed learning disabilities in meeting the reading demands of their college programs.
    2. Share information about needs and tools for improving student decoding, accuracy, and spelling for college work – including technological support and accommodations.
    3. Share information about needs and tools for improving student reading comprehension, including helping students understand what those comprehension demands are as well as technological supports and accommodations.
  3. Material to be Covered During the Discussion
  4. Day 1 – Monday, June 6, 2011

    Introduction, Definition of Terms, Affect and Attitude

    Compensations that only work sometimes: only using words you can spell, or extensively using text straight from a reading because then the grammar and spelling will be correct.

    Day 2 – Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    Decoding, Accuracy, Spelling

    1. Teach or accommodate – advantages and disadvantages of each
    2. Tools for teaching
    3. Tools for accommodating

    Day 3 – Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Comprehension at Word and Phrase Level

    Vocabulary – quantity and quality

    1. Medical Terminology and the like – strategies for visualizing and organizing terms
    2. Literary’ vocabulary and other abstractions; how to bridge from concrete to abstract
    3. Phrasing – helping students break sentences into phrases (to help with ‘flow’ and to identify where they are understanding and where things are breaking down.

    Day 4 – Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Comprehension at Sentence and Paragraph Level

    1. How to get students to look for the meaning instead of “what do I have to copy so the teacher says it’s okay?”
    2. Main idea vs. details
    3. Making connections, inferences, and other “bizarre” things that teachers expect.

    Day 5 – Friday, June 10, 2011

    1. Strategies, Tools, and Techniques
    2. Final Thoughts
  5. Questions for Subscribers to Consider:
    1. How can we get students access to effective instruction – if that’s appropriate - and how can we convince them to do it?
    2. How can we help college students better understand what is expected from them, and understand the tools and services available to them?
    3. What are the tools and services we can provide college students to make reading less of an obstacle?
    4. What are the comprehension issues LD students face (other than the typical “oops, this is more abstract/unfamiliar/time-consuming than I ’m accustomed to” issues?
    5. How can we teach students those issues (including ferreting out main ideas vs. details, understanding metaphors and other non-literal ideas, and generally making the printed words convey meaning)?
  6. Case Studies
    1. Bob Armstrong – dyslexic but wanting very badly to just “ work harder,” and he does – but his teachers don’t see the evidence of it because of the mechanical errors that they find ‘inexcusable,’ who is reluctant to use technology because somehow it’s “cheating.”
    2. Shawanda Nelson – she’s gotten by cutting and pasting for years, and still does for the most part. She spends far more time figuring out strategies to get around tasks than getting them done… and is sure she just “doesn’t test well.” Now, her Sociology teacher expects understanding…
    3. Greg tested into Pre-Calculus in the Math assessment – but was a “pink slip” student because of his reading score (below the lowest pre-college course) and won’t be allowed to take courses unless he can improve his test score. He was informally diagnosed as LD but nobody thought Special Ed placement was appropriate, so the small school simply made sure things were read to him.
  7. Recommended Interventions for Case Studies
  8. Suggested Pre- and Post-Readings
    4. These are some standard suggestions; will they work with students with LD?
    5. How can these be adapted to older students?
  9. Additional Resources/Websites
  10. Wrap Up

[LD 6376] Posting Questions for the Guest Speaker

Rochelle Kenyon

Thu Jun 2 13:16:09 EDT 2011


Just a quick reminder that our next guest discussion will begin on Monday, June 6th. Now is the time to begin posting specific questions for the guest speaker. All questions will be answered during the discussion. Please share the following information about the guest discussion with your colleagues:

Guest Speaker Topic: Assignment Reading: Opening Doors for Students with Dyslexia or Reading


Discussion Dates: June 6-10, 2011

Guest Speaker: Susan Jones, M.Ed., Academic Development Specialist

Tentative Agenda:

  1. Welcome, Self-Introduction
  2. Goals/Objectives for the Discussion
    1. Identify affective and cognitive issues for college students with suspected or diagnosed learning disabilities in meeting the reading demands of their college programs.
    2. Share information about needs and tools for improving student decoding, accuracy, and spelling for college work – including technological support and accommodations.
    3. Share information about needs and tools for improving student reading comprehension, including helping students understand what those comprehension demands are as well as technological supports and accommodations.
  3. Invitation to Ask Questions and Comment
  4. Material to be Covered During the Discussion
    1. Day 1 – Monday, June 6, 2011 - -

      Introduction, Definition of Terms

      Affect and Attitude

      Compensations that only work sometimes: only using words you can spell, or extensively using text straight from a reading because then the grammar and spelling will be correct
    2. Day 2 – Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - -

      Decoding, Accuracy, Spelling

      Teach or accommodate – advantages and disadvantages of each

      Tools for teaching

      Tools for accommodating
    3. Day 3 – Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - -

      Comprehension at Word and Phrase Level

      Vocabulary – quantity and quality
      1. Medical Terminology and the like – strategies for visualizing and organizing terms
      2. Literary’ vocabulary and other abstractions; how to bridge from concrete to abstract. Phrasing – helping students break sentences into phrases (to help with ‘flow’ and to identify where they are understanding and where things are breaking down.
    4. Day 4 – Thursday, June 9, 2011 - -

      Comprehension at Sentence and Paragraph Level

      How to get students to look for the meaning instead of “what do I have to copy so the teacher says it’s okay?”

      Main idea vs. details

      Making connections, inferences, and other “bizarre” things that teachers expect.
    5. Day 5 – Friday, June 10, 2011

      Strategies, Tools, and Techniques

      Final Thoughts
  5. Questions for Subscribers to Consider:
    1. How can we get students access to effective instruction – if that’s appropriate - and how can we convince them to do it?
    2. How can we help college students better understand what is expected from them, and understand the tools and services available to them?
    3. What are the tools and services we can provide college students to make reading less of an obstacle?
    4. What are the comprehension issues LD students face (other than the typical “oops, this is more abstract/unfamiliar/time-consuming than I ’m accustomed to” issues?
    5. How can we teach students those issues (including ferreting out main ideas vs. details, understanding metaphors and other non-literal ideas, and generally making the printed words convey meaning)?


Rochelle Kenyon

[LD 6377] Re: Posting Questions for the Guest Speaker

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 3 13:24:25 EDT 2011

I'm going to toss a question out there -- I tutor students in our “developmental” reading courses -- pre-college level. I will sometimes have a student confused about what the teacher wants; the main elements of the courses are “Summaries” and “Critical Responses,” with some vocabulary development also included.

Several of my LD students (and others) think that copying what they think are key phrases together and sticking in transition words makes for a summary. I work with them to read, then *cover up the text* and tell me what that author was trying to tell them... I say: “Imagine: you're walking into class and you're going to be asked about the reading, and your friend tells you s/he didn't get a chance to read it... but might get asked about it. What would you say so that your friend can at least say *something* about the article that sounds like she read it?”

If they don't grasp the concept at all, I try to see how much the LD is affecting them -- I ask if they have watched a TV show... and can they tell me what it was about... or heard a song...

Any other ideas to get students to summarize what they've read?

Susan Jones

[LD 6378] Re: Summarizing

Caroline Beverstock
Fri Jun 3 17:17:59 EDT 2011

It is time to adapt/make more current the metaphor underlying this strategy, but I'll introduce it as it was introduced to me. Imagine that you have important information to give to someone who is far away. The state of the art for communication at a distance is the telegraph. It's expensive to send lots of words, so the message writer needs to choose her words carefully. Ask your student, “If you only had one word, which one would you choose?” “If you had three words, which would you choose?” Continue on until you have a sentence that is the main idea. At that point, ask for the most important supports/details to add. It seems to me that many students understand the summary when they work from just a few words while working to delete from the whole is more confusing.

Caroline Beverstock

[LD 6379] Re: Posting Questions for the Guest Speaker

Dave Middlebrook
Fri Jun 3 23:02:46 EDT 2011

Susan asked, “Any other ideas to get (LD and developmental reading) students to summarize what they've read?”

My suggestion: LD and developmental reading students, in particular, need more than just a description of what a summary is; they need to learn how to -- from the ground up -- build one. They need to be walked through the process. In order to learn summarizing skills, they need a format that allows them to see the entire text (article, book chapter, etc.) in a single view. This will enable them to learn how to recognize a text's structural features and organization -- to see how all the pieces fit together and to construct a summary. For this kind of instruction, the standard book forms -- bound pages or ebooks -- are not particularly helpful; they fragment the text across a series of pages or screens, which means that your students can never see the whole piece in a single view. The solution to this problem is to present the text in scroll form.

An unrolled scroll is a very effective teaching tool. Students can see the entire piece -- which means that it's much easier for them to divide it into sections, determine what's important, and see how all the pieces fit together. More information on scrolls and textmapping (a marking strategy for scrolled texts) can be found at

[LD 6380] Re: Summarizing

Betsy Gauss
Sat Jun 4 11:07:34 EDT 2011

Hello Everyone,

For those interested in teaching how to summarize a passage, I am referring you to Suzanne Carreker's “Two Tips for Developing Reading Comprehension and Skills”. (See link below.) It outlines building a card pyramid by having students identify the subject, the main idea and supporting details and writing them on index cards. The card pyramid serves as cue cards for an oral summary and/or a written summary (précis) which is 1/3 to 1/4 the number of words of the original selection. I have found this to be an excellent strategy for teaching how to summarize.

Betsy Gauss

[LD 6381] Welcome to Day 1 - Online Discussion on Reading for Students w/Dyslexia

Rochelle Kenyon

Mon Jun 6 09:36:02 EDT 2011

Good morning current and new LD Discussion List subscribers,

I am pleased to welcome you to the discussion on Adult Assignment Reading: Opening Doors for Students with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities. Your guest speaker, Susan Jones, M.Ed., Academic Development Specialist from Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, has an informative agenda planned. She will also answer questions and encourage you to join in to the discussion. Please feel free to comment and ask

For those new subscribers participating in our online discussion for the first time, here is a short description of what you can expect. The discussion takes place online from today through Friday as the guest speaker posts messages to the List and subscribers both ask questions and respond with comments.

Those messages will appear in your email's in-box. The discussion is not in real-time, so you can read your messages in the order that they are posted (each message has date & time noted), respond to messages, and ask questions at any time - as you access the messages in your email's in-box. Some people read messages before work in the morning, others during the day at work, and still others after work at home in the evening.

Also, remember that all discussion messages will be archived and can be accessed in the order they are posted at:

After the week has ended, I will prepare a transcript of the entire discussion for posting in the archives. The guest discussion will begin with the first message from the guest speaker, Susan Jones. Happy reading~

Thank you,

Rochelle Kenyon

[LD 6382] Introductions!

Susan Jones
Mon Jun 6 13:16:35 EDT 2011

Happy Monday!

I know some subscribers are on vacation, but others are brand new and others, perhaps, are at work with fewer obligations and more time to spend with online professional development.

Assignment Reading: Opening Doors to Students with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities

I'm hoping to share practical ways to enable students who struggle with reading to successfully complete assignments in postsecondary settings -- and also, to open their minds to the idea that getting meaning from text is more than an “assignment” -- it's a powerful tool worth learning.

Today’s general topic is “attitude and affect” -- and introductions. If you're so inclined, Let us know:

Whom do you serve?


What’s wonderful ?

What are some built-in barriers to reaching people who really need what you have to offer?

The description of our “Academic Development Center” is that it’s designed for students in the pre-college level classes, and “Our Specialists also provide academic support to students who have experienced learning difficulties or who have documented learning disabilities. They assess students' preferred learning styles, teach study methods, and organize academic skill-building workshops.”

Good: students don’t need a label to get help, Not wonderful: our ability to help with the unique challenges of learning disabilities are sometimes overlooked, especially with assistive technology and coaching in time management and the like, and especially since most students don’t read our online description, and “word of mouth” is usually “you can get help in (whatever course, or using the computers) and free printing!”

Other ways we serve - A 1- or 2-hour course in applying assistive technology to learning; first hour emphasizing email and Internet they have to know how to use, and text-to-speech software. The second hour emphasizes speech-to-text and visual mapping software and self-directed use of assistive technology. Students can also take tutorials for individualized help with reading skills, but this is rarely done.

We also work with faculty and advocate for students and encourage use of our technology tools and tutoring.

Another serious positive impact that our setting has is that an accepting sense of community develops, especially since the other full-time staff devoted to supporting these students teaches that assistive technology course and sponsors Club Access, “a club for students disabilities and their allies.” Students often come in for some help with grammar or reading... and then get more comfortable with talking about their struggles. My link: Parkland College’s Center for Academic Success

Susan Jones

[LD 6383] Second Salvo-- Success! What is it Anyway?

Susan Jones
Mon Jun 6 13:25:49 EDT 2011

Success -- many students with learning disabilities have a significantly different definition of success than others. Before I try to “help” a student, I need to know the student's perspective.

We have a course designed to help students be successful, PSY 109 Educational, Career, and Life Planning. We use the book On Course and their site and newsletters have great insights and lessons. Here's a collection of quotes about success:

Here’s your challenge, and something like what our students are often asked to do: pick one and apply it to students with learning disabilities trying to succeed at things that require reading.

For instance, “Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty to those for whom you work, and persistence.” ~Colin Powell

Its my job, providing academic support, to help them do the hard work that will let them know they’ve actually learned something; to help them own that knowledge, beyond having completed an assignment but aiming at least *toward* perfection instead of passing.

Its my job and joy to help them make the connection between the hard work and growing; also to help them, when necessary, “fail forward” per Scott Adams of Dilbert fame.

Fail Forward. If you're taking risks, and you probably should, you can find yourself failing 90% of the time. The trick is to get paid while you're doing the failing and to use the experience to gain skills that will be useful later. I failed at my first career in banking. I failed at my second career with the phone company. But you'd be surprised at how many of the skills I learned in those careers can be applied to almost any field, including cartooning. Students should be taught that failure is a process, not an obstacle. (see How to Get a Real Education at

Any other pithy ideas out there?

Susan Jones

[LD 6384] Third Thing: Technology and Attitude

Susan Jones
Mon Jun 6 12:08:28 EDT 2011


It seems that we’re *always* taking off into an “entirely new dimension” when it comes to technology and learning. The lines between “assistive technology” -- tools you use to overcome a disability -- and “productivity technology” -- same tools, but they’re more productive for just about anybody -- are being blurred. Still, the bottom line is that many of my students think that if they use text-to-speech software, they’re admitting that they can’t read -- and they know that they can read. The fact that the goal is to get meaning from the text is sometimes hard to convey. They also think that “using accommodations” is frowned upon by their teachers even when teachers think they are projecting a positive attitude (per Postsecondary Students Who Have a Learning Disability: Student Perspectives on Accommodations Access and Obstacles which can be accessed here: has information about assistive technology, and the very beginning offers information about students and resistance of AT. What have you experienced? What are your questions and challenges? What do you want to know? What do you want to share?

This is something that is a real challenge here. Maybe something as “simple” as a “how to” guide at each computer would help... has some more very useful information about their assistive technology. - just as the address says, “Questions to Ask Colleges about Assistive Technology Resources” -- Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking, and Technology

Susan Jones

[LD 6385] Re: Third Thing: Technology and Attitude

Daphne Greenberg
Mon Jun 6 17:22:52 EDT 2011


I was wondering if you could clarify the difference between “assistive technology” and “productive technology.” I have never heard of “productive technology” before, and therefore would like to know more about it-especially when it comes to working with students with learning disabilities.

Thanks, Daphne

[LD 6386] Re: Third Thing: Technology and Attitude

Susan Jones
Mon Jun 6 18:08:23 EDT 2011

“Productivity technology” is supposed to make your work and business more efficient, so word processors and spreadsheets would be included. Inspiration software is a classic example of a product that was originally marketed to the business community for presentations and business publications, but was adapted by educators, and fortunately, the folks working on the software saw the value of that market. Now there are countless teacher-made templates out there, for “regular” and “special” education purposes.

Voice Recognition has made the shift in the other direction; it started out being used primarily by people who could not type. The learning curve and the demand on computer resources made it unpopular with anybody who could already type 20+ words per minute. Unfortunately, their marketers spent years claiming, “you talk and it types!” -- so that, like the boy who cried Wolf!, now that it's basically true, nobody believes it. And now, phones and tablets are just Doing What You Ask -- you don't even have to click any more.

There are also all kinds of Ipad and Ipod apps, some designed for special needs folks and others not necessarily -- but even the special apps don't *look* “special.” You're just using your phone.

Susan Jones

[LD 6387] Fourth Foray: Surprise Successes

Susan Jones
Mon Jun 6 13:34:41 EDT 2011

Many of my students arrive with serious baggage. Many of them have not been successful in academic settings because of their reading difficulties; many of them don’t even perceive an assignment as something to learn from, but as something to endure.

Small successes can help -- but really, only if the student makes the connection between their efforts and the success -- and then, we have that sometimes more elusive goal of connecting the success with having grown and changed, as opposed to having “merely” dodged failure and total humiliation. For too many of my students, those tasks are all they think they can aspire to.

How can we help students make useful attributions of success or failure? There’s no formula, but I try to learn from those times when I know I just Happened to Say The Right Thing.

Online food for thought: -- Learned Helplessness and Attribution for Success and Failure in LD Students

Here’s my anecdote:

A student was working on My Reading Lab, essentially reading passages and answering questions about them, for the entry level developmental reading course. She had gotten behind and did consistently dismally on the assignments, generally muddling through until she got the minimum score to move forward. She asked me for help.

At the beginning of the semester, I give lots of help -- I’ll talk about what to look for in an answer, and guide you there. Success has to come at all before I can get you to own it... but now things are getting close to the end. I asked leading questions, and in her quest to get me to tell her the answer, she asked good ones, too, or so I thought.

After about five minutes of what I thought was active engagement, she said, “I’m tired. I’m just going to guess.” She did, wrongly... as I speechlessly stood up and went to my desk. I knew she had heard “do NOT ask me for help if I’m wasting my time!” message because everybody else in the room was reading that thought bubble hanging in the air. I wondered how I could have done things differently, either before or during or after...

Fifteen minutes later, she said, “Could you please come here for a minute?” I walked over. She was on the next passage, passing score on the first attempt. She said, “I wanted you to see that I could try.”

The next day, she sat down... called me over to show me several more successful, independent attempts. (She probably asked a question or two.) I said, “What did you do differently?” She said, “I gave myself credit. I stopped telling myself ‘You can’t do this.’” She still slips down the “I can’t” trail -- and I still struggle to convey “I’m disappointed in you because you are good enough to do well!” instead of “why do you need so much help?” (realizing that students filter these messages through their own experiences so that I don’t control how they interpret things -- but I can try to anticipate it!)

Do you have a success story that you didn’t expect?

Susan Jones

[LD 6388] Day 2 of the Guest Discussion on Dyslexia/Reading

Rochelle Kenyon
Tue Jun 7 09:26:01 EDT 2011

Good morning all,

Welcome to day 2 of our discussion on Assignment Reading: Opening Doors for Students with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities. Yesterday, there were technical problems with messages reaching the system, but that has been corrected now.

In order for subscribers to get the maximum benefit from this discussion, we need you to participate by sending in comments, asking questions, and posting anything else that will enhance the topic. This is your opportunity to speak directly to an expert in the field.

Thank you~


[LD 6389] Decoding: Should We, or Should We Not?

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 01:59:07 EDT 2011

Decoding and accuracy -- these are loaded words in the “reading wars.” Lovers of reading cite “drill and kill” phonics worksheets and students reading smoothly and accurately but with no appreciation for meaning. They'll figure out what the words are, won't they, with enough exposure in a positive, language rich environment? When it comes down to it, students with dyslexia or reading disabilities don't.

Do you teach students decoding skills? All of them? Some of them?

Do students resist it?

Do reading tutors even know about it?

See (Teaching Reading *is* Rocket Science)

Here's my experience:  -- In “Testing Adult Basic Education Students for Reading Ability and Progress: How Many Tests to Administer?” the “Results” indicate that while other test scores for students in basic education were similar, the scores for phonemic awareness were lower. These were students with or without a diagnosis of a learning disability or dyslexia.

Most of the time, this isn't even measured, especially in the college setting. From Louise Bohr's “College and Pre-college Reading Instruction: What are the Real Differences?” According to recent studies, the number of students with no knowledge of sound-letter relationships is only about 6 % of the adolescent population. (Davidson & Koppenhaver, 1993). For this reason, college reading is usually not concerned with orthography, phonics, and word recognition.”

I did an extensive survey of “developmental reading” (pre-college level reading) when I started working here, and this was one of the few times decoding was even mentioned, except for a few citation-free comments that “we assumed decoding wasn't a problem.” Students need rather more than "some knowledge" of sound-letter relationships to fluently decode.

However, when working with adults, we have to choose our battles and respect adult choices. How do we decide whether to get down to the decoding basics?

Several reasons why not:

Building from the bottom up takes time, and we often don't have the years we need to train students thoroughly.

Students as well as faculty and tutors feel it is humiliating to go back to “learning the alphabet.” It's fine to be bad at math, but to not know how to read? That's “ignorant.”

Faculty and tutors don't know how to teach it, and if a student has learning disabilities, it needs to be taught well.

We have accommodations -- even on cell phones these days.

Older learners *don't* use phonemic awareness as much as younger learners do; we have so many other clues!

The goal of reading is to get meaning from text -- let's focus on that!

On the other hand, there are also sound reasons to prioritize learning the sound-symbol relationships, including:

You simply don't always have text-to-speech.

Orthography is a core foundation of word meaning.

As humiliating as it may seem to be to dig back and learn the basics... is it not more humiliating not to know it? Conquering the code can teach a struggling student that yes, success IS possible. The adult learner *can* use all those other clues to support neurological weaknesses, so s/he may be more able to learn to read fluently than before these other skills developed.

Susan Jones

[LD 6390] Re: Third Thing: Technology and Attitude

rmurv at
Mon Jun 6 23:16:13 EDT 2011

I know this discussion is about adult education. My question is how can they learn to use this technology if they can not read? I worked with some non-English speakers and if they can tell you what want or need, it made me wonder how will they survive even with modern technology and I am technological impaired. Excuse me for being confused how do we help them? We pass them on the streets, in our churches when they come to ask for help. Just my two cents.

ps. How we get secondary schools to allow them to use the assistive technology? I have had a few battles in this regard, they told me we them to learn how to write.

[LD 6391] There's an App for That

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 08:11:18 EDT 2011

There's so much talk about how computers and mobile technology can be used to accommodate an adult's need for help with reading and spelling. Why can't we use that technology to teach those skills?

Do you think adults would use mobile technology to develop the more “boring” language skills of decoding and spelling? How accessible is mobile technology to the people who need it? Should/How can we be developing pedagogically sound “apps” that would be effective for students with learning disabilities?

Susan Jones

[LD 6392] “Diagnosing” Undiagnosed Reading LD

Stephanie Moran
Tue Jun 7 10:08:40 EDT 2011

Since so many students now arrive at higher ed's door with undiagnosed reading disabilities, what's the best way for a mere Dev. Ed. Reading instructor (usually part-time, of course, without office privileges) to hone in on the nature of the student's issues in a timely and accurate fashion? At our adult education center, we have all been trained to spot potential issues and direct students into our Lindamood-Bell LiPS and V/V program, but at the college level, if a student does not come with appropriate paperwork (and sometimes, even when they do), dealing effectively with the weakness/es can be problematic. Many college students can graduate with lousy writing and math skills, but it's the rare student with weak reading skills who can make it through legitimately.

Stephanie Moran

[LD 6393] Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 11:04:13 EDT 2011

Aoccdrnig to rscheearch by the Lngiusiitc Dptanmeret at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Does anybody remember this little widely-emailed-and-blogged tidbit (when things going “viral” on the internet was actually fairly rare)? Since 2003, it keeps bubbling back up, either as a point of interest or to defend inconsistent (poor) spelling, or choosing not to teach it.

Actually, here was no such research, and the words in the passage don’t follow the rule of “only the first and last words matter.” It’s a myth. It is fluent readers who can figure out this highly predictable text – and the path to fluent reading includes a firm foundation in the sounds represented by letters and their spelling.

People with learning disabilities are often execrable spellers, even if they have conquered other difficulties. Spell checkers tend to be inadequate at the college level, especially if their reading skills make choosing the "right" word a challenge. However, spell checking programs designed for students with dyslexia do a significantly better job (see

How can we help our students improve their spelling (and manage the challenges spelling presents in college)?

Do you think improving spelling -- encoding the language -- improves reading and literacy? Or should our time be spent focusing on decoding?

I found in exploring research on reading and spelling that if a student could read a word, there was something like a 60% chance that s/he could spell it... but if s/he could spell it, there was a 90+% chance that s/he could read it. I've also watched students who want to say one thing substitute shorter, simpler words because they can't spell the word they want to use.

One of my wilder fantasies <grin> is making a fun spelling app that would apply the strategies that work more often for folks with dyslexia, since I can testify that “copy the word five times” absolutely, positively, does not work for many of them. -- Five Guidelines for Learning Spelling and 6 Ways for Practicing Spelling -- a nice site with games and activities and ways to make custom spelling lists. -- sophisticated grammar and spelling checker (free if you are checking one sentence at a time). -- How Words Cast Their Spell; Spelling is an Integral Part of Learning the Language

1Rayner, K., White, S., Johnson, R., Liversedge, S. (2006). Raeding Wrods With Jubmled Lettres; There Is a Cost. Psychological Science 17(3), 192-193. Discussed at:

2Vail, Priscilla (1991). Common Ground: Whole Language and Phonics Working Together. Rosemont, NJ: Modern Learning Press, p. 4

3Joshi, R., Treiman, R., Carreker, S., & Moats, L. (2008-2009, Winter). The real magic of spelling: Improving reading and writing. American Educator, 9.

Susan Jones

[LD 6394] Technology and Non-Readers Answer

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 11:37:08 EDT 2011

People learn to use technology in the same way they learn other things -- figuring it out, or by being taught. How do people survive “even with” modern technology? It's almost a survival requirement to become technologically literate. Applying for an entry level, minimum wage job often has to be done online. Forget your productivity applications -- you need to know how to use a computer for a job application.

We have a “Bridging the Digital Divide” program here -- and from the site, the clients who use the lab are mostly:

* Over 40 and unemployed

* 50/50 male/female

* 50/50 minority and white

* 50% no computer or internet at home

We can help people by getting them through the day or the month -- but we can also help them by teaching them ... it used to be about fish (give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, he is fed for a lifetime); the skills have changed, but the principle hasn't.

I'll answer the high school issue separately.

Susan Jones

[LD 6395] Technology and Transition

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 12:05:06 EDT 2011

When I hear the “they need to learn to...” I first ask “and what are you doing to teach that?” because often the school isn't actually giving appropriate special instruction to the student. (This applies even more often when the student “needs to learn to get organized!” and the like, but can also be applied to reading and writing.)

Then I commend them for their efforts but say, “In the meantime, Star Student's still developing skills are preventing him/her from access to the curriculum in (whatever s/he's taking). In addition, Star Student will be making a transition to college, where s/he will need assistive technology to gain access to their curriculum. The transition plan needs to prepare Star for this.”

In my experience, the most effective way to change what high schools are doing with special education is to get parents to apply pressure -- and to find out what logistical reality is keeping the use of assistive technology from happening. Sometimes it boils down to helping them find a grant (or going to ), but I suspect it's often that too-difficult task of Changing The Routine and Learning The *& (Technology, which of course they're generally supposed to figure out In Their Spare Time. Sometimes it comes down to learning the stuff yourself and then finding THE person at the school willing to work with you.

There is a ton of excellent information about assistive technology at the qiat (Quality Indicators in Assistive Technology) site and their email group is anything but quiet.

High school IEPs are required to have a transition plan, and parents have taken schools to court and won when assistive technology training and use was not executed. See and -- Family Center on Technology and Disability -- unfortunately, I think this site gets too much traffic for its server so it's hard to get past the home page. -- this is the website of an assistive technology consultant, and more folks like this are showing up and could be a valuable resource.

Susan Jones

[LD 6396] Re: There's an App for That

Doug Powles
Tue Jun 7 15:41:23 EDT 2011

First, I DO NOT want this to appear as a commercial message.....BUT, there are several AT companies that do more than “accommodate” the need but in fact “assist” with “Accessible Reading Solutions.” Our proudest testimonial comes from a rehab counselor in Texas who has a client that could not read his own name; she goes on to say:

Hi Doug,

I will not be able to attend TRAN, however, my coworker, Toi Porter will be there to check out your booth. She and I have been comparing your XXXX X XXXX to Kurzweil 3000 and to be honest, I don't know why anyone would buy Kurzweil or WYNN Wizard. I am hoping you could introduce your software to the community colleges here. If our students can drop their texts off at the colleges' disability labs to be scanned by their high speed scanners, that could save them some time when they go home. Of course they can still use their XXXX X XXXX at home for other papers.

As you can tell I think very highly of XXXX X XXXX. It had helped my consumer make a B average in college and he was able to transfer to a university. He was in Special Ed/Resource classes before college. Keep up the amazing work!  Jeana Chen

Doug Powles

[LD 6397] Re: “Diagnosing” Undiagnosed Reading LD

Rosemary Schmid
Tue Jun 7 12:38:14 EDT 2011

Stephanie has it right on the button. Our disabilities service is set up to serve already diagnosed students, and finding someone to test and certify an international student has been challenging! Then, the monotone of the computer reading a text is a challenge for an international student who has heard ESL teachers insist on listening for intonation on a sentence level to clarify meaning. It IS possible to read a test question to someone without "giving away" the correct multiple choice answer! but it's difficult to convince professors of that concept, unless they or their TAs experience it first-hand.

Rosemary Schmid

[LD 6398] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Doug Powles
Tue Jun 7 16:26:56 EDT 2011

Susan: I believe comprehension comes before spelling. Bimodal or trimodal methodology for those with dyslexia have shown greater comprehension than repetitive modes.

[LD 6399] Re: “Diagnosing” Undiagnosed Reading LD

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 14:05:13 EDT 2011

Is it the assessment or the instruction that's the problem? Would your students be eligible for the LiPS /V/V program at all? (And would they be willing?)

If we have a student that we think has uncharted LD's, we can refer them to the disabilities office and try to get testing going (tho' it can be hard).

We have mandatory assessment testing. If a student places below "098" level, they basically can't take any degree- seeking courses. So, if this happens to a student, we have several options: online practice reading (links will be in an hour or so in the next installment), or Lexia Learning's Strategies for Older Students, or Reading Plus.

It's almost harder when a student qualifies for 098 because they're less inclined to focus on the skill. Right this second I have to duck upstairs and spend an hour with incoming students... but I'd like to explore this further.

Susan Jones

[LD 6400] Food for Thought

John Corcoran
Tue Jun 7 16:47:28 EDT 2011

To Susan and All,

Op Ed: The Term, By John Corcoran, May 5, 2011


We must take all history seriously – the history of what we did right and the history of what we did wrong. People learn from both their successes and their failures.  -Burton Blatt[i]

As children, we are taught that “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Although I was told this by well-intending parents and teachers, I don’t think I ever agreed with or accepted this psychological placebo. As an adult I know that words and labels can and do hurt. One such label is ‘Learning Disability.’ While a thorn in a lion’s paw may be too small for some to see, it is the lion himself who feels the pain and effects of the thorn, regardless of whether or not others can see it. Some may not see the label “Learning Disabled” as harmful but that does not discount the pain felt by those labeled, though the term is often given in childhood, the repercussions carry on into adulthood.

Today we use Learning Disability as a conventional term, originally coined by Dr. Samuel Kirk (April 6, 1963) then a professor of Special Education at the University of Illinois. He suggested to a group of concerned parents that they use the term to describe “their children who had disorders in development of language, speech, reading, and associated communication skills.”[ii]

Before the 1960’s, terms used by the medical and education community to describe these children included: brain damaged, minimal brain dysfunction, mentally retarded and emotionally disturbed. Many parents would gladly embrace the idea that their child was not ‘damaged, dysfunctional, retarded, or disturbed,’ but simply Learning Disabled? They swallowed the placebo and from then on the term “Learning Disability” was accepted.

It has been almost fifty years since we started using this term, which literally means NOT ABLE TO LEARN. Although it is not a scientific term, it has become an economic term that turns on the money faucet of Special Education services. Webster defines the prefix “dis” as meaning NOT, thus Learning Disabled means NOT able to learn. Teachers and parents tend to change the term to learning differences because they don’t feel comfortable labeling the children they see face-to-face in an educational setting.

The term is damaging to children, teens, and adults who are perceive the word to mean something is wrong with them or their brain. The blame is placed on the child or adult. This belief fuels the feeling of defeat. So why bother trying? I am often asked which term should be used to replace learning disability. Let us call each child and adult by his or her given name. Identify their reading difficulty by giving them a diagnostic test, articulate the results, and prescribe evidence-based treatment.

We now have the science that tells us that although some may have initial difficulties processing language, the vast majority of humans are able to learn to read. The federal government has spent millions of dollars over the past half-century on research on how the human brain learns to decode symbols to derive their intended meaning. We now know more. We know that there is a science to teaching reading. However, we have yet to close the gap between what we know and what we do.

We know why the term was introduced in our vocabulary, later legalized, and its usage sanctioned. Teachers today had no say in this inherited phraseology. If we want to progress we must to be linguistically precise. It is time for present day educational shareholders (which is all of us) to take a long and hard look at the harmful side effects of the use of this toxic 1963 placebo.

There is a great need for us to improve our language and bring new consciousness to the labeling of those with reading difficulties. We must make efforts to be assertive in our articulation on their behalf. What we see depends mainly on what we are looking for. If we change the language and labels we use for individuals struggling with reading, it will contribute to changing our perception of them and even more important, changing their self-concept and self-esteem. It is clear children and adults who have difficulties reading are not disabled, they are Learning “ABLE.” It is up to us to have a laser focus on teaching them to read.

If I were in school today I would be called Learning Disabled and would have been recommended to be in special education classes because I had difficulties learning to read and write; I was considered an academic underachiever with behavioral issues.

Identifying students with learning and behavioral problems is not new news. When I was in school, I ended up in the “dumb row” in the second grade because I was one of the millions of children in the United States who had difficulties learning how to read and write. The term ‘dumb’ stuck with me until I learned to read as an adult, at the age of forty-eight. I was fortunate to find a teacher who knew how to teach me to read, who never called her students Learning Disabled nor did she ever refer to them, when speaking to others (parents or educators), as having a Learning Disability. She understood the science and the art of teaching someone like me how to read. I was given a battery of diagnostic tests; my lifelong learning difficulties were diagnosed and articulated using scientific terminology (severe auditory discrimination was my main problem). Proper treatment and instruction were recommended and received.

I did not learn to read as a lad of eight.
I learned to read as a man of forty-eight,
And I have to say that was great!
But, don’t you think a man who learned at forty-eight
Could have learned, should have learned at eight?
And wouldn’t that have really been great?
Time to Turn the Tables

John Corcoran

The key to teaching children and adults like me to read is the use of proper instruction. Proper instruction is delivered by teachers who have been properly prepared. All teachers should be trained to teach reading and to administer and interpret a diagnostic reading test.

Certainly some will say that I am overreacting, majoring in minors, or making a mountain out of a mole hill. This however, will not hinder my personal belief that there is great need to improve our educational system. Teaching children to read and do math are the most important skills we can provide. So, you may ask, ‘What difference does this term make?’ My answer to that question is that it is illogical and irresponsible to continue to use language that relegates science to the backseat and demeans the self-efficacy of a child or adult.

You have read my urgent appeal and conviction that as a nation, we need to stop looking away from how we are labeling and treating students of all ages who have difficulty learning to read. When a person has mastered the basic cognitive processes of reading, their skill set is freed up for the process of learning all subjects. As a nation, we should liberate those learning to read from all labeling that might indicate they are unable or inadequate.

With the current statistics regarding literacy in America, 90+ million functionally illiterate adults in the United States, it is obvious we need to acknowledge and repair our ever-growing illiteracy epidemic. We have camouflaged our failures and ignorance behind the term ‘Learning Disability’ for much too long a period of time. We have outgrown Kirk’s 1963 suggestion to use the term Learning Disabilities. It is part of our past history but no longer should it define the future of our children and adults who have difficulty reading.

The language of our evidence-based research indicates a focus on teacher training and skills, not on placing blame on learners by referring to them as disabled. I urge us to stop underestimating the horrendous impact the term Learning Disabled has on our children and our nation as a whole. The research on reading has proven our students can learn how to read. Educational professionals must communicate and clarify this fact with parents and students. We are Americans and we love a fair game, a level playing field that produces equal opportunity for all. I invite you to join with our citizens of this Great Nation and see them for the Learning Abled people they are.


[i] Blatt, B., “Bandwagons also go to funerals,” Journal of Learning Disabilities, 1979, vol. 12 (4), 222-224.

[ii] Stallman, Richard. “Birth of a Syndrome.” The Right to Read. Audioblox. 1 May 2011. 

John Corcoran

[LD 6401] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 16:53:24 EDT 2011

Oh, I would absolutely agree that comprehension comes before spelling for folks with dyslexia. That's the thrust of the articles from the American Federation for Teachers linked below.

However, I stand by the need for practice. "Bimodal methodology" could mean a plethora of things -- could you elucidate?

Susan Jones

[LD 6402] Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 16:45:21 EDT 2011

As Stephanie pointed out, students arrive in college without the reading skills they need to succeed. My experience and extensive developmental ed. concurs with hers -- the success rate for these students is absolutely abysmal. Unfortunately, the success rate for students who take developmental reading courses is also painfully low. However, for students with specific reading disabilities or dyslexia, it would make sense that the reading skills were more of the primary obstacle to success than any of the myriad other issues faced by developmental college students.

How can we hone in on a student's issues, and deal with them in a timely manner?

The "timely manner" can be completely critical in my setting. If a student relies on financial aid, they need to complete 67% of the courses they attempt. Students simply can't afford -- literally -- to fail.

Developmental Ed teachers can be taught to look for signs of an LD -- and sometimes we flag them based on their placement scores. However, sometimes there are flags. That student whose Math placement score was pre-calculus, but did not place into our lowest level reading course? No, she didn't have an IEP at her rural school --she simply had her tests read to her. Students who place into developmental reading here are sent to advisor/advocates who are trained in steering students to whatever support they need. is an article that describes the reality of decoding problems in college, and then effective and not-so-effective remedies. - This article by Louisa Moats describes effective instruction for older students struggling with decoding.

It is now much more feasible to teach older students decoding skills; at one time, private individual therapists held the keys to that domain. Now there are teacher-based and computer-based programs that can provide that foundation. - has an extensive list of resources, but it is conspicuously missing one which I think has special potential, Susan Barton's Reading and Spelling System ( ). She has extensive training DVDs that make the Orton-Gillingham structures available to parents and tutors without extensive background in reading or education. (She also consults with people about establishing tutoring opportunities either in school or as an independent business.)

The Orton-Gillingham program I was trained in is described in -- these workbooks are for learning to break down longer words systematically. - links to a handout by the author summarizing many of the strategies.

For background knowledge, this is an excellent site. It's geared at K-12 teaching, but the "Letterbox Lessons' can easily be used with all ages.

Susan Jones

[LD 6403] Re: Food for Thought

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 17:18:51 EDT 2011

Okay, the attachment makes it clearer -- it's not labeling per se that you take issue, but labels that stamp a student unable to learn. I agree completely that an important part of our task is helping the student understand his or her particular challenge.

Many of my students haven’t necessarily been labeled... but they have been branded with low expectations. If what I think is an "accurate description of a problem" is, to the student, a "label of inferiority," then I need to change my terms for working with that student.

Susan Jones

[LD 6404] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Doug Powles
Tue Jun 7 17:40:35 EDT 2011

Bimodal Reading: Benefits of a Talking Computer for Average & Less Skilled Readers - Julie Montali

Julie Montali is a doctoral student in school psychology at Syracuse University. Her research interests include assessment of and intervention for reading disabilities, and understanding memory as it relates to learning and reading disabilities.

Lawrence Lewandowski, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology and director of training in school psychology at Syracuse University. His research and writing activities focus on understanding the neuropsychological, cognitive, and psychosocial aspects of learning disabilities. Address: Lawrence Lewandowski, Department of Psychology, 472 Huntington Hall, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY 13244.


Studies have shown that when information is presented through visual and auditory channels simultaneously (i.e., bimodal presentation), speed of processing and memory recall are enhanced. The present study demonstrated the efficacy of a bimodal approach to fostering reading comprehension. Eighteen average readers (9 girls and 9 boys) and 18 less skilled readers (8 girls and 10 boys) in Grades 8 and 9 participated in the study. Students were presented with social studies and science passages via a computer. Passages were presented in three conditions: visually (on screen), auditorily (read by digitized voice), and bi-modally (on screen, highlighted, while being voiced). Following each passage, students answered 10 oral response, short-answer comprehension questions. Results indicated that less skilled readers comprehended more with bimodal versus unimodal presentations. Overall, their performance in the bimodal condition was commensurate with average readers' comprehension in the visual condition. For less skilled readers, an increase in word recognition from pre- to post-testing on word lists was found across conditions. In addition, results of a brief consumer satisfaction survey suggested that low-skilled readers felt most successful in terms of their comprehension when passages were presented bi-modally. Several clinical issues involved in presenting information bi-modally using computers are discussed.

[LD 6405] Oops add to Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 17:31:48 EDT 2011

Another promising computer-based program is “System 44.: When I heard Ted Hasselbring talk at the Technology, Reading and Learning Diversity conference about the “Reading 180” project his team had put together, I was rather disappointed. It looked like a very sound and structured approach to working with students who struggled with reading ... comprehension.

The next year, he disclosed that he was working on a new program, because he had been very surprised to discover that older students didn't have decoding skills. (Why didn't he call me? -;) Here is that program; it's marketed as for the “most struggling” readers, but I suspect that is influenced, again, by the resistance to acknowledge just how many people do know *something* about letter-sound-relationships... but could read far more fluently if they knew more.

Susan Jones

[LD 6406] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Maggie Downie
Tue Jun 7 17:45:20 EDT 2011

I don't understand why 'comprehension should come before spelling'. It sounds to me as if one is teaching students to read other peoples ideas, but not enabling them to communicate their own (because they won't communicate if the person reading their writing can't understand what they are saying). The two skills should be concurrent.

Students need to know at least one way to represent each of the 44 (ish) phonemes of English, how to segment words into their component phonemes, and how to write a letter (or letters) for each sound in the correct sequence. This is not beyond the capabilities of most students so long as they have had good instruction and practice in learning and using letter/sound correspondences. A good phonetic spelling will convey their meaning. Random, half-remembered letter strings do nothing for writer or reader!

I also think that repetition of writing words correctly is very useful so long as the student says each 'sound' as they write it (not using letter names) and isn't copying the word. Spelling depends a great deal on kinaesthetic memory; i.e the 'memory' of writing the word correctly, imprinting its unique 'feel'. How can one consolidate this memory except by repetition?

Maggie Downie

[LD 6407] Re: There's an App For That

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 17:45:42 EDT 2011

Thanks for being conscious of those commercial issues -- what would you say would be the features that differentiate between “accommodating” and “assisting?”

I am thinking, possibly, of some of the features some products have that enable students to interact with the text. Actually, there's a *lot* you could do with Microsoft Word if you can use Optical Character Recognition software to make that switch from scanning to text you can edit. (ABBYY software is awfully good at that.) Once it's editable text, you can highlight in different colors, select chunks and put them in bold or italics... you can highlight a word and paste it into that ol' Google toolbar in your browser and find out just who the "Bright Young Things" of the 20's were that your article referred to.

I had several students whose reading teacher assigned many words to look up, and they were quite skilled at copying and pasting the word into an online dictionary. Happily, they had to apply that definition to the way the word was used in their reading passage, so they learned which dictionaries had better definitions, and how to dig through definitions to figure out which one applies.

I think there is much power in seeing the computer as able to do more than imitate the decoding task. I also profoundly appreciate developing products that facilitate getting the most out of technology.

Susan Jones

[LD 6408] Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 18:27:48 EDT 2011

If you look up “accommodations college learning disabilities” on the search engine of your choice, you'll find this video:  and this PDF --  which discuss the idea that you can “buy” an LD diagnosis and that accommodations are a dirty little secret. It's painfully clear that these people are absolutely sure that many students asking for accommodations don't really “deserve” them.

Have you encountered direct or indirect opposition to accommodations for your students? What can students do? How can we keep this "it's cheating" attitude from leaking to the student, which it does all too often?

One of the many strengths of The New Community School, where I taught for five years, is that it recognizes that it is possible to remediate and accommodate simultaneously. 5 days a week, each student went to a Language Fundamentals teacher (I was one) for intensive remediation (2 in the 50-minute class period; half a period with me, half-independent work).

In the content area courses, though, students received accommodations for all required reading if that was appropriate (and when in doubt, it was). It has always completely frustrated me when students are, essentially, punished for not learning to read independently as fast as they learn other things. Learning should not be like a meal where you earn your dessert by eating your okra, especially if you're allergic to okra.

Advocating for accommodations is at -- who's got other ideas for preaching to people who are *not* in our choir?

Susan Jones

[LD 6409] Day 3 of the Guest Discussion

Rochelle Kenyon
Wed Jun 8 09:30:46 EDT 2011

Good morning all,

Welcome to day 3 of the discussion with Susan Jones. Thank you to Daphne Greenberg,, Stephanie Moran, Rosemary Schmid, Doug Powles, John Corcoran, and Maggie Downie for contributing to the discussion. I will begin posting additional messages next ~~

Rochelle Kenyon

[LD 6410] Accommodations -- Digging Deeper

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 18:35:30 EDT 2011

One problem with K-12 schools is the tendency to figure out some services to provide, and then try to make the student fit the services. We do that with rather a vengeance in postsecondary settings, too. Extra time, testing in a distraction free setting, note-takers and... okay, if you really, really, qualify... somebody will read a test to you.

This page takes the accommodations idea deeper. Granted, we're not legally *required* to “help students reach their potential” -- no, just to give them access to the curriculum... but should we not seize the chance if we can? If we examine the objectives of a course -- and that's not an easy thing -- are there things we can do with groups or individuals to effect meeting those objectives in non-traditional ways?  has me thinking... how about you? Of course, focus on the accommodations that deal with accessing text, a.k.a. “reading...”

Susan Jones

[LD 6411] Re: “Diagnosing” Undiagnosed Reading LD

Robin Schwarz
Tue Jun 7 21:51:14 EDT 2011

Rosemary--I agree that finding someone to “test and certify” international students IS challenging. Who do you find to do that?

Robin Lovrien

[LD 6412] Re: Food for Thought

Dave Middlebrook
Tue Jun 7 18:33:43 EDT 2011

I liked this answer. Like John, I don't like the label, “learning disabled.” I've written about that; I prefer something like “learning differences” or, “diffabilities.”  That said, I also understand that this label -- which might also be in some circumstances, as Susan wrote, an “accurate description of the problem” -- can also be helpful in many ways. A label can be so many things at the same time!! My personal experience is that it has, often, at the same time, been accurate and inaccurate, helpful as well as unhelpful. It is tremendously complicated.

So in my view, Susan hit the nail on the head. It's about making the label work where it can -- or something along those lines.... Better yet, just read what Susan wrote in her last paragraph (below).

Many of my students haven’t necessarily been labeled... but they have been branded with low expectations. If what I think is an "accurate description of a problem" is, to the student, a "label of inferiority," then I need to change my terms for working with that student.

It was spot-on. Very cool.

Dave Middlebrook

[LD 6413] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 22:44:48 EDT 2011

I didn't say *teaching* of comprehension comes before teaching spelling.

Students, especially but not exclusively dyslexic ones, can usually decode and understand better much better than they can communicate well-constructed ideas using correctly spelled words. The skills simply *don't* develop concurrently. Also, one of the biggest flags (or loudest signals, if you're an auditory thinker ;)) that a bright child may be dyslexic is that his/her reading (perhaps based on sight word and context clues) is leap years ahead of spelling. (This is why when somebody disparages phonics instruction as creating mindless decoders and spellers, I ask them if they would please show me these students. I encounter roughly 100 times as many with the reverse profile.)

Spelling instruction practices are a bit like math instruction practices in my opinion -- we haven't really figured it out yet. Oh, the bright but very dyslexic kiddos at New Community who started there in seventh grade could usually spell *reasonably* well... by eleventh grade. Students who gained 5 years of reading skills in 2 or 3 would gain... a year... they'd have control of the six syllable types and the Greek and Latin routes and all kinds of garnishes and flairs... but spelling would kind of hang up at the v-c-e syllable.

So, I'd like to know what “bimodal methodologies” are... if there were a way to tie in a student's cognitive strengths to spelling, I'd be all over it.

Susan Jones

[LD 6414] Re: Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Tue Jun 7 23:25:42 EDT 2011

I am a community college counselor and instructor for “College Success,” our course which teaches study skills, time mgmt., etc. Our college looked at success rates in first year courses for students testing at developmental reading levels. They recommended a first-semester schedule of two developmental reading courses, the College Success course, and a computer course. Sounds good & it works when students follow this plan. Our students can also self-advise and register on-line, so they often take courses in which they fail; they often listen to friends instead of counselors. Unfortunately, they arrive in college without the reading skills they need to succeed AND they see no reason why they must acquire these skills in order to succeed. I share they frustration of these other contributors.


[LD 6415] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Hugo Kerr
Wed Jun 8 04:39:38 EDT 2011

In a message dated 07/06/2011 21:18:56 GMT Daylight Time, Susan writes: “copy the word five times.” Copying is never going to be useful, as it is not passing through the grey cells at all. “Look, cover, write check” & SOS (Simultaneous Oral Spelling) does work, though.


[LD 6416] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 22:50:41 EDT 2011

So the bimodal instruction is for reading, not spelling. It would be interesting to see how it applied -- but of course, multisensory instruction in spelling has a student repeating words and spelling them out sound-by-sound -- seeing and hearing. We usually had students spell the word while saying the letters, but for some students, we had them say the sounds.

The “letterbox lessons” on the Reading Genie page involve associating letters with their phonemes; the visual and auditory connection, together. It makes sense that getting something in two channels will work better than just getting in one; it also speaks specifically to the value of screen readers that highlight as they go. I am trying to remember if Tom Snyder's _Thinking Reader_ program, which has a support option that reads text aloud, is a “live” reader or a computer-generated voice, and whether or not the text is highlighted as it is read... hopefully I'll find out by the time we get to Comprehension on Thursday :)

Susan Jones

[LD 6417] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Stephanie Moran
Wed Jun 8 10:19:02 EDT 2011

It's been my experience that some colleges have a solid system for educating their faculty and staff about formal accommodations and others fall painfully short to the extent that I have had to advocate for the student and try to bring student services folks into the 21st century-which isn't my job. Yet I want my students to get the full complement of services.

Any long-standing teacher has found out just how much better and more easily a student learns through a particular medium and uses that medium/modality/approach-whether we call this a learning preference or difference or in some cases a disability, we do owe it to these humans to help them. You all probably know the dismal stats on incarcerated people and the correlation with low reading scores-NOT low intelligence.

Not sure where I'm going here-haven't had my coffee yet.


[LD 6418] Re: Oops add to Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Susan Jones
Tue Jun 7 23:46:50 EDT 2011

Technology Tools for Accommodating Reading Difficulties

When students are assigned to learn something from text in postsecondary settings, it often doesn*t matter what the student does to effect this process. The grade school teacher would object, but the History teacher would revel in the student who had conferred with someone else, read a passage together and discussed it, and was able to express intelligent thoughts about what s/he had read.

Computer generated speech software is on the verge of becoming ubiquitous. GPS gadgets gaily *recalibrate,* and most of us have endured computer recited menus on the telephone.

Software companies have been working on making this specifically useful for students and professionals for many years now, and the technology has *matured* so that it is fairly easy to navigate... and it usually works, though every upgrade brings its unique quirks. is where an article from the International Dyslexia from 2007 describes the benefits of TTS software and some details about different products. There are other free and/or simpler text-to-speech products as well. There is some information comparing their features online (such as and I saw most of them are advertised in this May 31, 2011 USA Today feature on Learning Disabilities at  but as I've learned from the netizens at the listserv , each student is different. Hence the *SETT* framework for assessing assistive technology needs (see ). This is a *very* useful framework to use when someone (including myself :)) is getting all kinds of excited about New Stuff -- that might not actually meet student needs. Two things have not changed, in my experience: a: if you can afford it, it*s worth getting a product with a company that provides technical support and b: integrating the technology into the instruction is still a significant, though shrinking, challenge. For instance, several of our developmental reading instructors bring their classes to our computer lab for lessons in using Inspiration (the mind mapping software) and Read and Write 9. We try to present it as a convenient tool, not an *accommodation* -- but I don*t think we succeed; or perhaps it*s not *that* easy to use. The number of students who decide to use it is still much smaller than it should be.

Have any of your students used the free or purchased software? Is it worth the effort? DO they resist? Do you? Is it not?

Susan Jones

[LD 6419] Re: Day 3 of the Guest Discussion

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 10:23:37 EDT 2011

People with dyslexia or reading disabilities often read much, much less than their peer through their youth. From  When children fail at early reading and writing, they begin to dislike reading. They read less than their classmates who are stronger readers. And when children with disabilities do not receive adequate remediation, they read less and learn less from reading - than non-disabled children.

As a consequence, they do not gain vocabulary, background knowledge, and information about how reading material is structured. In short, the word-rich get richer, while the word-poor get poorer. This is called The Matthew Effect.

Guidelines for selecting to-be-learned vocabulary


Less is more — depth is more.

Teach fewer vocabulary terms, but teach them in a manner that results in deep understandings of each term.

Teaching or assigning words from textbooks just because they are highlighted in some way (italicized, bold face print, etc.).

Teach terms that are central to the unit or theme of study. These are terms that are so important that if the student does not understand them, s/he likely will have difficulty understanding the remainder of the unit.

Teaching or assigning words just because they appear in a list at the end of a text chapter.

Teach terms that address key concepts or ideas. While a text chapter may contain 15-20 vocabulary terms, there may be only 4 or 5 that address critical concepts in the chapter — sometimes only 1 or 2!).

Teaching or assigning words that will have little utility once the student has passed the test.

Teach terms that will be used repeatedly throughout the semester. These are foundational concepts upon which a great deal of information will be built on over a long-term basis.

Assigning words the teacher cannot define.

Assigning large quantities of words.

Assigning words that students will rarely encounter again.

Elaboration technique #2: How can we bridge that gap? Students enrich language skills by making connections to what they already know. When students know less, we need to work harder at making the connections. Instead, sometimes we try to bridge the gap by providing a huge *quantity* of information, such as vocabulary words. When we toss a learning disability into the mix, we may also have to deal with a student who has an especially hard time seeing the big picture and making connections, or conversely a student who struggles with understanding specific details that support the big picture.

How do you help students develop richer receptive and expressive vocabularies? What are the problems your students confront with vocabulary? Edwin Ellis article on his clarifying routine includes this quote, followed by some advice for improving student vocabulary: When you think of vocabulary, there is a good chance that you think of long lists of words from social studies or science textbooks, spelling word lists, or even the humongous lists of terms to study for college entrance exams. Zillions of flash cards also may come to mind. No doubt you share the common childhood experience of having to "go look up the words in a dictionary, write the definition, and then write a sentence using the term" but how much of that vocabulary do you remember now? Do you remember how you could rote copy the definition of a term as part of a homework assignment, but have no real idea what the definition meant and still get an 'A' on the assignment? Perhaps the least effective way to study vocabulary is the "look and remember" technique. Here, students typically stare at the term and definition, apparently trying to activate photographic memory they wish they had. Another common study technique is 'rote verbal rehearsal' saying the word over and over again, usually in the exact language and format from which the definition originally came. Ross Perot, with his unique use of the English language, said it best "That dog don't hunt!"

Some other resources: - Multisensory vocabulary ideas --

Susan Jones

[LD 6420] “Too Many Words!”

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 11:39:39 EDT 2011

People with learning disabilities often find rote memorization difficult. However, an awful lot of professions have “gatekeeper courses” with a ton of terms, especially in the medical professions.

Now, my lady who indignantly and sincerely inquired, “They can't *make* us memorize all these words, can they?” has a ways to go... her friend informed her, “I'm taking that class by itself next semester so I can.” She also got another student’s notes the semester before, so she could start studying then.

What are other strategies our learners can use to develop their ability to use more words in more ways? -- this article from the International Dyslexia Association includes strategies for organizing words (“This is applied to lower level words, but could easily work at any level.”) -- this site has visual anatomy quizzes that begin with matching, and build to the student having to spell the terms correctly. One skill I teach students who are stuck on something specific is to find key terms for what they're learning and search for something from a “dot edu” site or textbook support (such as, that corresponds to what they're learning. It's absolutely mandatory that they be able to sort the useful from the unrelated, though, so varying amounts of coaching in that will be needed.

Those Ubiquit

[LD 6421] Re: Food for Thought

Lucille Cuttler
Tue Jun 7 21:51:54 EDT 2011

You are so right on the mark, John! As a teacher with experience in the field since 1986, I know learners of all ages. I use the term “teaching disabled” because I've never had a learner that failed to succeed.

We will reduce the cycle of illiteracy by changing the licensure for teachers who are preparing to teach reading Grades K-4. A structured, kinesthetic, explicit teaching method, in accord with researched based evidence, can benefit all learners. What are we waiting for? We know what to do. It's time for public education to reform. Where is the critical thinking? We know about learning differences and struggling learners - and we know how to deal with that. So let's do it !

Lucille Cuttler

[LD 6422] I need a Signal!

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 12:04:46 EDT 2011

While many teachers do give some instruction in "transitions," people with dyslexia or reading disabilities often trip over those little abstract words that should be telling us what to expect.

Our students ………..

There's a rather excellent, categorized list at  -- what a great site! :-) :-) has some exercises using signal words. Added structure make them more accessible to students who struggle with coming up with words and ideas; these are connected to _Harry Potter_ but I will make them connect to something meaningful to my audience.

What I really like about this kind of exercise is that it can stay almost entirely concrete ... or students can take off with their imaginations. This also provides gently guided practice in sentence generation. has similar exercises from the UK.

How do you adapt exercises to be open ended... without having them fly apart?

How do you help readers understand the abstract "traffic signals" in reading?

Susan Jones

[LD 6423] Developmental Ed. Teachers

Daphne Greenberg
Wed Jun 8 09:29:06 EDT 2011


Thanks for all the information you have been sharing with us. Do you think that most developmental education teachers in college/community college know how to recognize signs of LD? Do they receive this as part of their professional development training? If a teacher does suspect LD, what kinds of resources do most colleges/community colleges to help the teacher and student?

Thanks, Daphne

[LD 6424] Phrases

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 12:31:01 EDT 2011

This is online at -- so if any links don't work, go there. A previous article indicated that giving students text already chunked into phrases is *not* particularly effective in helping them understand the text, but working with phrases are an excellent way of engaging students with text. This is also an excellent extension of the exercises with signal words, which will be found in many of those phrases. What do you do when a student presents you with text and says “I just don't understand this!” One thing I will do (when it's appropriate) is break the sentences into phrases and work with the student to figure out where it did break down. Even though each word we read or speak has its own meaning, we generally don't read, speak or think of each word by itself. We tend to group words together into phrases. We can have entire conversations in phrases, and if we want to be sure we're understood, we often pause to emphasize the most important phrases. Understanding phrases while reading can help fluency and comprehension. When trying to read something complicated that doesn't seem to make sense, it's very helpful to go back and read it one phrase at a time to figure out just where understanding stopped. If you want to savor a book, or are having trouble paying attention to something you're reading, you can read one phrase at a time, imagining how it would sound, and you can make a mental picture of it or re-phrase it in your own words.

You can make reading in phrases easier by lightly underlining (usually with a slight scoop, as if drawing a spoon to hold the phrase) phrases as you read. Re-reading a passage emphasizing the phrases can make it easier to read smoothly and with feeling. Repeated reading has long been known to help fluency and comprehension. ACTIVITIES WITH PHRASES Aside from practicing reading in phrases and underlining phrases as you read, there are many written exercises that will develop understanding of phrases. If the student is working independently, make sure that she can read the words in the exercise. Of course, any written activity can also be done orally. Phrase generation This is a very good exercise for learning to think of words and ideas. It's also a fairly simple language exercise that can be done independently by students who struggle with most writing tasks, and it's easy to adjust for individual needs and sometimes gives real insights into a student's thought processes.

1. Pre- phrase language generation:  A good precursor to generating phrases is to generate lists (especially for students who struggle with either writing or word retrieval). These can be based on individual student interests and can be easy or challenging. Write a question on top of a sheet of lined paper, such as one of the following:

What are 25 things you would find in a grocery store? (other possibilities: shopping mall, in outer space, underground, in the woods, in the city, at a dance, in the kitchen)

What are 25 kinds of furniture?

What are 15 things that are small and expensive?

What are 25 things you might eat for dinner?

What are 25 parts of a car?

What are 25 different animals?

What are 15 different animal sounds?

What are 15 different ways to get from place to place, with or without machines?

If the student has difficulty with the task, some strategies include visualizing the scene where the list items would be found (the car, the woods), using a “zoom lens” to imagine the scene close up or far away, thinking of large and then small examples, or assigning other arbitrary categories. Sample Exercise One (

Blank lined paper (  These are in PDF (Portable Document Format) which can be read by Adobe Acrobat Reader. It's probably already on your computer; if not, you can download it for free from the Adobe Acrobat site


2. Language generation with phrases: Write an incomplete sentence at the top of a sheet of lined paper, with a line where the final phrase would go. Instruct the student to complete the sentence with different phrases (either ‘as many as they can' or a specific number), but that all of the phrases should answer the specific question specified and have some variety. I generally model several answers that are fairly diverse (see the examples). You can adjust the challenge of the task by adjusting the number of phrases (and the nature of the sentence) and encouraging the student to use variety in their phrases, to use descriptive adjectives where appropriate, etc. I sometimes draw from academic subjects or literature I know the student is reading for this task, but make sure I don't assume background knowledge. I generally have the student write only the phrase, and not copy the first part of the sentence each time.


I found a quarter ___________________ (where?) under the sofa in my back pocket stuck to gum under my desk

I did my homework _________________ (when?) right before I fell asleep while three cats ran in circles around me during lunch

John impressed his friends _________________ (how?) by running five miles by getting straight A's with his new jacket by not speaking for three days

Comprehension is the goal here; there are many right answers and unless a phrase is clearly of the wrong type (such as saying "I did my homework at the kitchen table" instead of answering the "when" question) consider it correct.

Sorting exercises:

This is an exercise that can also be done to varying degrees of complexity. The task is simplest if the student is given a list of phrases and two choices of questions that the phrase answers that are clearly different, such as "where" and "when." (See Example Two: What and Where). Other readers will be able to start right into taking a sentence and breaking it into phrases and figuring out what question is answered from all seven. (See Example Three: Sentence division)

Sample Exercise Two: Choosing between Where and When HTML (web page) version

( PDF version ( This is in PDF (Portable Document Format) which can be read by Adobe Acrobat Reader. It can be downloaded for free from the Adobe Acrobat site (

Sample Exercise Three: Breaking Up Sentences into Phrases HTML (web page) version

( PDF version


Sentence Puzzles: This exercise adds a hands-on element to phrasing. Pick a sentence (I usually choose one from a book the student is reading) and write its phrases on index card pieces. Make other pieces of index card with the questions answered by those phrases. I usually do this to three or four sentences, clipping the card pieces for each sentence together and slipping the whole thing into a bankers envelope. If I'm afraid the pieces will get confused, I use different color index cards for each sentence. The capitalized first word and period at the end are, of course, a big help to the student. The student's job is to sort out the pieces into sentences and match the phrases to the question each one answers. The student can then copy the sentences, underline the phrases, and write the question above each phrase, but the writing can be skipped to reduce the writing demand. If this is work that must be put away, the puzzle pieces can be glued (glue sticks are great for this) to a piece of paper (but that does make it harder to re-use the exercises). Have the student read the sentences aloud at least once, with good expression and fluency, emphasizing the phrases. Some students like to use creative accents or be very dramatic when reading the sentences. Challenge exercise: Ask a question This exercise is challenging, but excellent for teaching students to manipulate words and ideas in their minds. The student is given a list of phrases; for each phrase s/he makes up a question that the phrase could answer. For example, if the phrase were "the broken light bulb," the student might suggest “What did Frank cut his foot on?” When I am introducing this exercise, I often supply the first word (what, where, why, etc.), I model and do several exercises orally with the student (so I may think of one question, and ask the student to change something about it to make another question), and I make sure that the phrases are vivid and easily understood.

Sample Exercise Four & Five: Here's the answer, what's the question? What's the question 1:

HTML (web page) version ( PDF (Portable Document File) version (

What's the question 2: HTML (web page) version ( PDF Version


There are other phrasing exercises and ideas, and many, many other helpful exercises to build reading comprehension in Joanne Carlisle's Reasoning and Reading books, available from Reading and Language Arts Center (

Susan Jones

[LD 6425] Re: Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Lucille Cuttler
Wed Jun 8 14:16:18 EDT 2011

Isn't it time to ask why students lack the requisite reading skills?

Literacy begins in the formative years. Teacher development since “whole language” came on the scene. It threw out the window what science tells us is critical for learning literacy skills.

Not only elementary grade students are teaching disabled, but so are their teachers Can we consider changing licensure for teachers so that they are prepared to teach all children including the 20% dyslexics who flounder or find help at private schools.

Lucille Cuttler

[LD 6426] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Mary Kelly
Wed Jun 8 15:44:17 EDT 2011

Most of the community college students we see receive some form of academic accommodations - mostly in terms of extended time for tests. Although there have been problems with disability services offices not really knowing what they are “allowed” to do to accommodate students, we encounter more problems with individual professors. Often the professors don't believe the person needs or “deserves” the accommodation. Some allow the accommodations grudgingly. In one case we had a college student whose professor stood behind her and read over her shoulder as the student wrote her test answers using a laptop - which was an approved accommodation. The student was really embarrassed and so stressed by this that she did very poorly on the test. I generally advise students to go to their disability services office for help in advocating with specific professors. Do you have other suggestions?

Mary S. Kelly

[LD 6427] Multimedia, Multimodal...

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 13:48:10 EDT 2011 --BEFORE

This is another spin on vocabulary with multiple meanings.

How to create:

  1. Google “multiple meanings.”
  2. Find examples of words with multiple meanings.
  3. Come up with sets of sentences.
  4. Find images to match them. Be mindful of copyright.
  5. Paste pictures in. -- AFTER

I had an anxious student preparing for a math final, so I didn't have time to finish the pictures, but in less than 20 minutes I had made this exercise easier. It still requires a student to comprehend the sentence, and then construct language to express what was understood.

How can we use readily available technology (I had already done this in Microsoft Word) to help people comprehend what they read?

How can we use blogs to share?

Susan Jones

[LD 6428] Re: Food for Thought

John Corcoran
Wed Jun 8 16:03:15 EDT 2011

To Dave and All:

Dave wrote: It is tremendously complicated. Could it be just tremendously convenient?

Street smarts and an observing eye may get us by but we really need “able people” to teach us how to read, they have to know we are learning able, they need to stop using the label “learning disable”. It is time for “able people” to be more a articulate. Are they able?

This discussion is a search for the truth; it is not about who the good guys are or who the bad guys are. Thank you for considering my opinions.

Technology and its power is very helpful in the delivery of literacy instruction to both adult learners and children, it is essential if we going to have a more literate country.

John Corcoran Foundation

[LD 6429] Re: Food for Thought

Stephanie Moran
Wed Jun 8 16:29:09 EDT 2011

Amen to Lucille’s focus on improving teachers’ ability to teach reading and reforming classroom instruction before we label students as disabled—

Stephanie Moran

[LD 6430] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Schwarz, Robin
Wed Jun 8 16:50:55 EDT 2011

Does anyone remember the wonderful universal design model that Renton Community College (WA) developed? Debbie Reck wrote about it in Focus on Basics (Volume 8a) ( click on focus on basics on the lower right). This model provides access for ALL students and allows students to decide the degree and kind of support they need. It is a truly inclusive model. Of course, it took a while to get up and running since teachers needed a lot of training in how to help students use accommodations, and how to have a UD classroom. (It was Stephanie's comments on teachers who may not be in the 21st century (or even late 20th century) that caught my eye. When I was working to have students accommodated at the university where I worked in the 90's, many teachers were amazingly clueless, mostly about violating privacy--like asking if someone in the class would take notes for the student who could not, or telling the student with the different test format to sit facing the class.....sigh... no wonder many of my students flatly refused to accept accommodation they were entitled to and which I had battled to get them!!

Robin Lovrien

[LD 6431] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Cathy Jenner

Wed Jun 8 17:29:25 EDT 2011

I think the key is to train faculty on what learning disabilities are. Many faculty (many people) think LD equals dyslexia and that dyslexia is seeing letters backwards. They don't really understand the many forms that LD can take. We did quite a bit of training with our faculty a few years ago when we had a federal grant and it made a huge difference. In fact, the numbers of students who disclosed a disability (after enrolling) in the classes of the instructors who were trained increased more than 5 times --due, we think, to a much more disability-friendly environment in these classes. We also trained on using Universal Design for Learning. Sadly, after the grant ended, the training stopped but hopefully, some of the information stuck with those instructors.

Cathy Jenner

[LD 6432] More Abstractions and Signals -- Similarities or Differences? Examples or Definitions?

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 14:35:47 EDT 2011

What are some of the “question words” people struggle with? How many people have told me, “I see the question and I just go blank!” Trying to understand what a question is asking for, out of context, can mean a mental “face plant” if you aren't “automatic” with your understanding of the words in the question, even if you know the material.

Practice thinking of examples and definitions of concrete things can help a student bridge to being able to do the same for communism and capitalism on that History test. Recognizing that “Therefore” and “consequently” are cause-effect words is helpful, while “including,” “such as,” and “for example” are asking for examples.

What are some words and ideas you see students trip over?

Web resources: -- “cause and effect linking words” (Lots of excellent ideas in Joanne Carlisle's Reasoning and Reading, too.)

Susan Jones

[LD 6433] Welcome to Day 4 of the Discussion

Rochelle Kenyon
Thu Jun 9 09:25:06 EDT 2011

Good morning all,

Welcome to day 4 of the discussion with Susan Jones. So many interesting and useful topics were posted and discussed yesterday. Thank you to Cathy Jenner, Robin Schwarz, Stephanie Moran, John Corcoran, Mary Kelly, Lucille Cuttler, Daphne Greenberg, Hugo Kerr, Lynn, and Dave Middlebrook for their significant contributions to the discussion yesterday.

We will begin today with a few messages that weren't posted yesterday and then continue with the content for today.

Again, feel free to comment and ask questions of our guest speaker, Susan.

Thanks, Rochelle

[LD 6434] Dissecting Essay Questions

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 14:40:22 EDT 2011

This is a single lesson that would be worth visiting and revisiting. You do need to “x” out of the ad in the slide show before finding the more discreet “play” button, but this strategy enables a student to find the words and phrases that are the “meat” of the essay question.

What other strategies and challenges have you experienced in comprehending questions at the secondary and postsecondary levels?

Susan Jones

[LD 6435] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 15:00:04 EDT 2011

Yes, indeed -- though not for everybody. Copying is a jim-dandy study tool for me and many of my more scholarly associates. It's sometimes easy to jump to the conclusion that it is the repetition that is the problem -- when it's what you're repeating that is the key.

Susan Jones

[LD 6436] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Robin Schwarz

Wed Jun 8 16:59:59 EDT 2011

This is highly reminiscent of a presentation I heard at a qualitative research conference a few years ago. One presenter had studied the discourse among providers of accommodations on college campuses all over the country (there is a listserv, evidently, for people who do this on campuses). The research presenter had the most astonishing, cringe-inducing quotes from people whose job it was to provide accommodations. Many had the very attitude you describe, Susan, that the students were trying to get accommodations to get out of working, and that he or she (student services office personnel) would do all possible to prevent it. One boasted about a victory keeping a service animal off campus; another about how NO students SHE dealt with were EVER going to get accommodations. WHERE do these attitudes come from?

At my daughter's med school graduation a couple of weeks ago, an eloquent young woman who is a medical researcher exhorted her fellow graduates to make efforts and take pains to communicate FULLY what it is their research is about so that the general public will understand and will not proclaim research on fruit flies, for example, a waste of taxpayer money.

I have felt for long time that the same needs to happen in special needs education. LOTS of awareness training, communication, student panels, etc. to help persons on campuses feel that providing accommodations is NOT cheating. That is yet another reason I so admire the UD (Universal Design) accommodation model at Renton Community College I wrote about in the previous posting. When the WHOLE SCHOOL undertakes inclusion and ALL teachers are trained and all students are given the chance to use anything they think will help them in classes, then the stigma is removed in both directions. Worth considering for sure-- it is SO forward looking.

Robin Lovrien

[LD 6437] Re: Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 17:27:05 EDT 2011

To re-focus your question on this week's topic, one thing that makes “timely assessment” of an adult in college a tougher task is that yes, some students arrive with problems with decoding because they never learned how to do it, and others who didn't get the more intensive, explicit instruction they would need because of their specific difficulties. Still others have had good instruction, so their reading difficulties are masked by their higher level skills and the teacher in English 101 doesn't understand why their papers are so concrete, or disorganized, or....

Susan Jones

[LD 6438] Re: John Corcoran's Food for Thought

Sharon Hillestad
Wed Jun 8 17:31:19 EDT 2011

Five years ago I taught a 22 year old woman how to read. Now I am teaching her 6 year old daughter. After the child learned to read words with short vowel sounds; the mom said to me “I didn't know that when I was her age did I.” No she didn't. She didn't have a clue about the vowels because she went to school when the “experts” trained teachers not to teach vowel sounds. These same “experts” are still in control of teacher education. Now the teachers teach words containing a variety of vowel sounds in the same lessons. It is All or Nothing. Children are still confused. That means we can be guaranteed students for our Adult Literacy classes in years to come. We should be outraged as is John Corcoran and acknowledge the significance of his words:

I did not learn to read as a lad of eight.

I learned to read as a man of forty-eight,

And I have to say that was great!

But, don’t you think a man who learned at forty-eight

Could have learned, should have learned at eight?

And wouldn’t that have really been great?

Time to Turn the Tables, John Corcoran

Sharon Hillestad

[LD 6439] Re: Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Doug Powles
Wed Jun 8 18:15:46 EDT 2011

Lucille, I strongly agree with you that we do have to “Teach the Teachers.” For years, my peers and I have stated that the larger problem is the need to “Instruct the Instructors.” I had minor involvement several years back when the Gates Foundation granted $45,000,000 to an ESD to “Teach the Teachers” technology. This was an abject failure due mainly to politics, poor management of the funds, and involvement of advocacy groups that were more socially minded than goal oriented.

I do not have teaching credentials, nor do I have licensure, but I have successfully taught many to teach using Literacy Assistive Technology. So I think what I am saying is that we need private sector that is not beholdin’ to any academic, advocacy group, or union to instruct the instructors.

Doug Powles

[LD 6440] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 17:29:28 EDT 2011

We have successfully gone to department chairs or deans of students about such issues. This is when a cool head and good documentation are really your friends.

Susan Jones

[LD 6441] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Sharon Hillestad
Wed Jun 8 20:26:59 EDT 2011

In 1985, I met Cynthia Barnhart of the Barnhart dictionary family. She told me then and reiterated in the new edition of LET'S READ, A LINGUISTICS APPROACH that the pure linguistics technique of learning words by spelling rather than sounding created wonderful spellers. Of course, the students were children and they learned groups of words according to structure (word families). I don't know how this would work with college students, but I do know of an illiterate young woman who is teaching herself to read and spell with that book and a bit of help from a literate friend. The spelling lists I see that children usually get in public school certainly do not teach groups of words with similar structure.

Sharon Hillestad

[LD 6442] Re: Developmental Ed Teachers

Susan Jones
Wed Jun 8 17:40:32 EDT 2011

I think it depends *so* much on the school -- and whether the person in, say, my position remembers to periodically send out a little missive, so thanks for the heads-up.

HOWEVER: Our developmental ed folks are hired because they have an interest in that, and most of them are looking for ways to reach learners. Therefore, they're looking for ways to engage students and they're less interested in a diagnosis or a stamp or a label than they are interested in seeing the students learn. Generally, those labels *are* toxic to an awful lot of our students - and there are laws that preclude asking a student about a disability. So, we spend more time talking about strategies and structures. Fortunately, our computer lab/tutoring doesn't have to deal with any labels; teachers will come to us about a student who “might need our extra help.” Unfortunately, some of the gifted/LD folks see our determined pluggers and assume that we'll serve them in the same way... fortunately, some do stumble in and find out otherwise and spread the word.

Unfortunately, strategies and structures that are like guardrails to one student to lean on and move forward serve as speed bumps and hurdles to another, so we try to steer students to a good match.

Susan Jones

[LD 6443] Re: Food for Thought

Karen Greer
Wed Jun 8 23:48:36 EDT 2011

We sometimes have students who suffer from disteacheria (my term). All teachers can profit from PD (professional development) that addresses how the brain learns and what to do if there are problems.

Karen Greer

[LD 6444] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 07:55:44 EDT 2011

How were faculty trained to approach students? Or, was the change in climate enough to make it less threatening for students to disclose?

Susan Jones

[LD 6445] Comprehension -- The Big Picture

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 08:09:30 EDT 2011

In my first summer here, we examined our placement test (COMPASS) and whether student scores correlated to success in our curriculum. They did. We also examined the two diagnostics scores in "Vocabulary" (word meanings) and "Comprehension" (main idea, etc) and their correlation to passing grades. That correlation was interesting. While there was a definite pattern with comprehension -- better score, higher likelihood of doing well -- the same didn't apply to vocabulary. In fact, a strikingly high percentage of students with high vocabulary but low comprehension scores did not pass their developmental Reading courses.

Going back further in time, When I interviewed for my teaching position at The New Community School, I had done my homework. They actually claimed to *teach* reading comprehension.

I had never been able to do that. I knew how to answer those comprehension questions, but... how to teach it ?!?!?!? I*d shopped in catalogs, and found shelves and shelves of *read the passage and answer the questions* resources, many of which would even tell you what skill you lacked (literal facts, inferences, main idea)... but "instruction" was practice. Obviously many students figure out those things just with the practice... but that's exactly where students with dyslexia or learning difficulties struggle -- and where they *could* succeed and thrive, given the chance.

I discovered when I started working that yes, the New Community School teachers *did* teach comprehension, from the concrete to the abstract. For instance, inferences... drawing conclusions. We started with a picture of a picnic scene, with a salad bowl; just next to the salad bowl, the salad dressing bottle had been *whited out.* (it was cut out of the picture and then waved over the copy machine.) What was in that missing place? Oh, almost certainly salad dressing! And... what were the clues? People make inferences all the time, whether wise ones or not. Learning to identify the clues -- now that*s a skill!

I brought in a Garfield cartoon, single screen, with the main character walking in the door, head hanging down... Garfield saying, *so how did the date go?* What*s your inference? What are the clues? Then, we could move to more complex ones, with more text. That was y*ars ago, folks, when it wasn*t as easy as it is now to generate visual examples. Now, they*re easier --

This is yet another exercise that can be adapted to many levels and needs. The *image with clues leading to the conclusion* could be used to learn to interpret emotions from facial expressions... or the properties of an organic compound.

I sometimes use a picture taken of me with a very big grin, in my bicycle helmet... and *then* I tell them that this was taken just after my elbow had been cleaned up after a bit of a crash. Then, they look more closely and see that the grin has clenched teeth and you *can* see an awful lot of whites of my eyes. That lends itself to talking about jumping to conclusions... Can you think of your own?

When bridging to text, I keep it interactive and multisensory -- we*ve got scads of passages that are exercises in finding inferences, but if I also ask you to highlight the clues, you*re going to be thinking a little harder.

When you start mastering this, we*re also going to talk about what it*s like to really *know* that you*re getting the right answer, and why. You*re going to own the success; you might have been inferring that when you get things right, it*s because you guessed.

What else can we do to teach intelligent inferential thinking?

Susan Jones

[LD 6446] Re: Teaching Teachers

Brant Hayenga
Thu Jun 9 11:32:03 EDT 2011


The National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published a report in 2006 titled What Education Schools aren't Teaching about Reading and What Elementary Teachers aren't Learning. Here is a link to the report: I recommend at least reading the abstract, but the whole report is better.

NCQT presented their findings to the New Mexico Legislature in 2009. The local deans from the colleges all cried foul, so the Legislature commissioned an in-house study for New Mexicans, by New Mexicans. The in-house findings were only slightly better. The Legislature just passed 2 bills that will help change teacher preparation in NM. HB 70 would “prohibit funding of postsecondary teacher preparation programs and colleges of education that do not instruct students in how to teach reading based on scientifically-based reading research.”

I believe this is a step in the direction of having teachers who are not misinformed or under informed.

Brant Hayenga

[LD 6447] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Cathy Jenner
Thu Jun 9 13:03:47 EDT 2011

My answer is that both the climate in the classroom changed AND the instructors approached students differently because they understood more about LD and other disabilities. With that, they came to understand how much they, as instructors, could help. In other words, demystifying “accommodations.” Instructors began to suggest accommodation to the DSS office!

We trained instructors to use UDL which promotes inclusiveness and also created a questionnaire with a feedback report that asked students about their learning strengths and concerns. The instructors gave the students this assessment the first few days of class (many still use this tool). At first, it was paper and pencil but then it became automated. Here is a link to the paper and pencil version:

Cathy Jenner

[LD 6448] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Maggie Downie
Thu Jun 9 14:13:26 EDT 2011

Sorry to revive a topic when the discussion is moving on, but I'd just like to note that I would never advocate 'copying' a spelling x# times, for just the reason Hugo gives. I would require a student to identify the component sounds, check and memorise how each is spelled, and then repeat write the word from memory, saying the sounds as they did so. That does do something for the grey cells.


[LD 6449] Re: Comprehension -- The Big Picture

Stephanie Moran
Thu Jun 9 16:59:43 EDT 2011


Eoe means end of message--Cathy Jenner posted it earlier--it's the link below—

We trained instructors to use UDL which promotes inclusiveness and also created a questionnaire with a feedback report that asked students about their learning strengths and concerns. The instructors gave the students this assessment the first few days of class (many still use this tool). At first it was paper and pencil but then it became automated. Here is a link to the paper and pencil version:


[LD 6450] Re: Timely Assessment and Intervention (Decoding)

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 10:52:14 EDT 2011

IMO it makes no sense to teach “technology.” Teach me how to use technology tools to teach someone to read -- okay, now we're talking.

I've been pondering for a little while now the notion of “Off the Grid Learning” -- independent cultivation of a not-so-elite group of educated, well-read critical thinkers who actually have reading and math skills... not beholden to anybody, indeed ;) The Hewlett Foundation is accepting letters of inquiry for “deeper learning” and “Open Educational Resources” at, by the way...

Susan Jones

[LD 6451] Health Literacy as Way to De-Stigmatize and Focus on Getting Meaning

Julie McKinney
Wed Jun 8 11:39:09 EDT 2011

Hi Susan,

Thanks so much for all of this information and the many resources! I come from a health literacy perspective, and also have a 2nd-grader who is beginning his educational journey with dyslexia.

My question is how we might use health as an example for people to de-stigmatize their need for special attention in understanding written information. It could also be a way to emphasize how getting meaning out of the assignment is the important thing. (You had mentioned this on Day 1.)

Health care information is something that everyone needs and everyone has a hard time understanding. According to the 2003 NAAL, 88% of American adults have a less than proficient level of health literacy. Because of this, one thing that has happened with the rising awareness of health literacy is that more people can relate to the feeling of not understanding what is being told to you or written for you. This terrible, helpless feeling, which must be so prevalent among people with low literacy skills and learning disabilities, is now experienced regularly by millions of highly literate and educated people who:

...struggle to understand a tricky diagnosis or self-care routine

...are briskly given a consent form, which is written at a 14th grade level

...try to figure out how to change their habits based on a vague and scary public health alert that's all over the news

...must try to understand a critical message given to them when they are in an acute state of stress

If we can show and remind students that everyone experiences these things, it may help students to understand that they are not alone. It also helps teachers, employers, doctors and others in a student's life to understand what they go through.

In health situations, it is very clear that getting specific meaning out of the instructions is the absolute important thing. (What should I do to treat this at home? When should I call the doctor? How much do I give to my child? etc...) If we could ask students to think of their assignment as if it were a health-related issue, it might help to emphasize this.

Sorry for going so long here! I just wondered if sharing this perspective with students may help.


Julie McKinney

[LD 6452] What's the Big Idea?

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 11:24:30 EDT 2011

Before moving into comprehension, yes, the Orton-Gillingham trained teacher in me must start by saying that if a student is supposed to understand text, especially the reading they're supposed to do in college, and they're not fluent and automatic in accurate decoding, *that's* going to be where the cognitive effort goes.

If you're driving along and conditions are good, you can also converse with your friends. When conditions get dicy, then... something's got to give. If you're busy figuring out the words and phrases, then the comprehension is going to “give,” and unfortunately people sometimes assume that they *can't* understand the material. That said, many people with reading difficulties struggle with understanding and organizing the ideas even when they know what the words are and what they mean. These folks “can't see the forest for the trees.”

As with the inference skill building, figuring out “main idea” can start with pictures. Go onto the internet and grab the “categorizing” exercise of your choice -- or, better yet, bring things in. If this were elementary school, we could stop there -- but we need to step back and see the bigger picture -- the whole concept of “this is the *category* word and this is the *example* word.”

This is also an *excellent* chance to do language generation exercises. “What are 25 things you can find in a grocery store?” ... “on a soccer field?” When I did this kind of exercise throughout a semester, my guys could tell that they were getting better at thinking of ideas. Any time I can get you to say “I've changed!” I'm happy  :)

We talked about strategies of closing your eyes and putting yourself there, and looking around... walking around... of looking at the last thing you thought of, and thinking, “is there anything else *like* that?” “Is there anything the *opposite* of that?” “Is there anything *big* I’m missing?” “Is there anything *little* I'm missing?”

The lists can also be fun -- I would grab my “Reading teacher's book of lists” and get ideas from it. “How many small, expensive things can you think of?” “How many things that are underground can you think of?” Creepy things, things for kids...

Yes, this is “output” -- but it is making the connection between language and what we see, hear, taste, smell, do... And then students can take those ideas and organize them into groups. What are the categories of things in the grocery store? Is everything you've put down a food item? Hmmm.... We can plan our own grocery store and put similar things together, and map it out -- a good visual organizing idea.

Then we can start getting learners to organize ideas from their reading, starting with words. has an exercise in organizing ideas... takes it just one hair harder by asking the student to add to the list.

The next level of difficulty is to give students a group of words: carrot vegetable pea squash ... and have the student identify which word is the category and which are the details. Of course, these can be as sophisticated as is appropriate for the learner.

We can also make this more visual by using “mind mapping” -- putting the words together visually can cross that bridge between confusion and comprehension. I know I forget this far too often because I'm so comfortable with words.

What are other ways to learn to organize ideas? How can we keep it connected to the visual and concrete?

Susan Jones

[LD 6453] Re: Accommodations -- That's Cheating!

Cathy Jenner

Thu Jun 9 19:17:33 EDT 2011

It seems like this link is not working too well. Try going to the Learning Styles Page on the UDL Website and clicking into the Learning Assessment System (LAS) hard copy to see the questions and reports.

[LD 6454] Re: Food for Thought

Robin Schwarz
Thu Jun 9 20:29:08 EDT 2011

Yes, what I call in my trainings, (quoting from Alba Ortiz of UT Austin about ELLs who appear to have LD but do not) “pedagogically-induced learning problems.” One of the teachers I am coaching in a project in Vancouver asked if I didn't agree that it is often not the student who is having problems, but the teacher who hasn't found the best way to teach that student.

I love attitude of the late Sally Smith of the Lab School of Washington, who taught all of use who worked for her that every student can learn, and every student has his or her own “learning prescription”--which must be determined through collaboration of student with teacher, just as my teacher- mentee has known for a long time herself.

It just requires not settling on easy answers-- the title of one of Sally's books--No Easy Answers. She should know-- she educated-- and her schools continue to educate--hundreds of students with learning differences VERY successfully.

Robin Lovrien

[LD 6455] More Big Ideas

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 11:43:31 EDT 2011

One piece of technology I *know* I under-use is Inspiration, our mindmapping software. There are free versions of this, too ( is a good one). If you've got ideas, please share ;)

The more we really do integrate the technology into what we’re doing, the less the technology will be one more cognitive load and the more likely the student is to use that technology for something else.

I have set up some things with Read and Write 9 (or Gold -- and it seems the company has discerned the problem with name changing, as the current version is something like “Read and Write 10 Gold”) -- here's an example that can be used to teach students how to use the highlighters:

Using Read and Write Gold to Highlight

Each group of words has a main category and four examples of things that belong in that category.

___Highlight the main categories in yellow using the Read and Write Gold toolbar.

___Collect the highlights using the >> button on the toolbar.

___Put a heading on the top of that paper in MLA format. has directions for the heading.

___ Add a brief explanation of what you did in this exercise, either before or after the collected highlights.

___ Print it out and hand it in.



Golgi Apparatus


Endoplasmic Reticulum


Graphic Arts

Elementary Education

General Education

Criminal Justice

Wildlife and Fisheries











Susan Jones

[LD 6456] Welcome to Day 5 of the Guest Discussion with Susan Jones

Rochelle Kenyon
Fri Jun 10 09:35:54 EDT 2011

Good morning all,

Yesterday, we had another informative discussion. Thank you to Robin Lovrien Schwarz, Cathy Jenner, Maggie Downie, Brant Hayenga, Karen Greer, Sharon Hillestad, Stephanie Moran, John Corcoran, Mary Kelly, Julie McKinney, Daphne Greenberg, Hugo Kerr, Lynn, Lucille Cuttler, Dave Middlebrook, John Corcoran, Doug Powles, and Rosemary Schmid for their significant contributions to the discussion. Today will be your last opportunity to participate and ask questions.

Just as a reminder, all posted messages are saved in the archives. New subscribers that joined in the middle of the week can go to and read the entire discussion in order.

First, I will post some awaiting messages from late yesterday. Enjoy reading!


[LD 6457] Re: Food for Thought

Lucille Cuttler
Wed Jun 8 23:33:02 EDT 2011

John, all I can say is thank you for words that go right to the point. That adult who seeks help to learn to read was a kid who started school expecting to learn how to read. It's not that the methodology is lacking. It's been available since the early 20th Century. Why aren't we developing teachers to use it? Why is that gift of literacy limited to those who can afford private tutoring or private schools? The cycle of illiteracy can be halted by changing licensure requirements for teachers of reading.

I agree with every word you say, John. Particularly I thank you for ridding the language of “learning disabled.” My experience - like yours - is that with appropriate instruction, all learners are able learners.

Lucille Cuttler

[LD 6458] Those Ubiquitous Main Idea Exercises

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 11:55:37 EDT 2011

1. Have you seen a new two-dollar bill yet? This bill may be new to you, but not to your grandparents. The first two-dollar bill was printed in 1862, the year that paper money was first issued. The “deuce” continued in circulation until the 1960’s, when collectors hoarded the last of the discontinued bills. The government then decided to stop printing deuces because they were not used much and often confused with other bills. The two-dollar bill was reintroduced in 1976 as a Bicentennial gesture. It is possible many of them will again become collector's items and not be widely circulated.

The paragraph mainly tells:

_____ (A) When the first two-dollar bill was introduced

_____ (B) Why people hoarded two-dollar bills in the 1960's

_____ (C) What collectors do with two-dollar bills

_____ (D) What has happened to the two-dollar bill throughout history

.... Do you think exercises like this have a place in teaching adults literacy and reading? The answer should be “it depends.” On what? What are their possible benefits? If learners had screen readers or reading pens to discern the odd word they don't recognize, would that make them more likely to be beneficial? What are the problems with this kind of exercise?

... next discussion: and how *do* you teach somebody to answer these questions?

Susan Jones

[LD 6459] Re: Teaching Teachers

Robin Schwarz
Thu Jun 9 20:45:41 EDT 2011

Brant-- do you know if that report was related in any way to this report

10. Joshi, R., Binks, E., Graham, L., Dean, E., Smith, D. & Boulware-Gooden, R. (2009). Do textbooks used in university reading education courses conform to the instructional recommendations of the National Reading Panel? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 42(5), 458-463. *

I heard Dr. Joshi give a presentation on this research at IDA a few years ago and it was hair-raising. He and his graduate students learned that the problem of poor reading instruction in the schools has a long tail-- the professors of the teachers teaching reading themselves had very little foundation in the scientific approaches to reading, and the text books those professors used nearly universally ignored or highly diminished the findings of the NIH reading panel, for example. Thus, the classroom teachers were being taught about reading by professors who knew little about it and used textbooks with little correct basic information.

Frankly I believe the statistics somewhere that indicate that about 2-3% f the population has dyslexia, but over 25% has significant reading problems due to poor preparation in learning to read.

This is really a severe problem that we are all paying for in federal and state support of community colleges that are flooded with “developmental” reading students. WHAT can we do about it????

Robin Lovrien (Schwarz)

[LD 6460] Re: Spelling -- Don't We Have Spell Checkers?

Val Yule
Fri Jun 10 05:22:51 EDT 2011

Suppose we had the wit to change the unnecessarily difficult spellings so that we did not have to rely on spellcheckers or Copy 5 times or Look Cover Write Check. Hav a sensibl spelling sistem like Italian or German which need nither of the three. Allow up to 4 vairiants for 9 vowels and 4 consonants, as the French allow vairiants - why not? It's up to us to start.

val yule

[LD 6461] How to Answer Main Idea Questions

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 12:14:58 EDT 2011

1. Have you seen a new two-dollar bill yet? This bill may be new to you, but not to your grandparents. The first two-dollar bill was printed in 1862, the year that paper money was first issued. The “deuce” continued in circulation until the 1960’s, when collectors hoarded the last of the discontinued bills. The government then decided to stop printing deuces because they were not used much and often confused with other bills. The two-dollar bill was reintroduced in 1976 as a Bicentennial gesture. It is possible many of them will again become collector's items and not be widely circulated.

The paragraph mainly tells:

_____ (A) When the first two-dollar bill was introduced

_____ (B) Why people hoarded two-dollar bills in the 1960's

_____ (C) What collectors do with two-dollar bills

_____ (D) What has happened to the two-dollar bill throughout history

1. Figure out the “topic” of the passage. It will be one or two words. Most of my folks can come up with “the 2-dollar bill.”

2. If it’s multiple choice (“multiple guess,” as one of my teachers disparagingly called it) then I ask that my learner defend the answer by highlighting at least three things in the paragraph that support that idea. This is the part of the process that nudges the student from guessing to knowing. If there’s only one thing that supports it -- oops, that's probably a detail. If you can’t *find* support (“why people hoarded,”) then that dog doesn't hunt, either. If you’re not sure what a phrase or sentence means, now you can ask me.

When the passages are appropriately chosen (and I don’t personally think that means they have to be something the student is interested in, but I am in the college setting where students *are* expected to learn brand new things), and the student is either reading them fluently & accurately or using technology so that s/he has access to fluently read text, then I've found that these exercises really do build an understanding of what “main ideas” are ... and, perhaps more importantly, just what kinds of things these goofy people who ask these questions are looking for.

To find the main idea independently, start with “finding the topic,” and then ask “what is the passage about?” Again, students should be able to defend their decisions with their highlighters. Their answer usually won’t quite be the main idea... it will be something like “How the Grand Canyon was discovered.” Well, that’s a question. Your main idea (or thesis statement for longer passages) is the *answer* to that question.

That is the part of the process where a tutor or at least a partner can really help – it’s a challenge, but it's a very powerful skill, and worth practicing. Or so I believe. How about you?

Susan Jones

[LD 6462] Was Accommodations = Cheating, Now Simulating That Feeling...

Susan Jones
Thu Jun 9 18:16:50 EDT 2011

I would be interested in seeing the assessment (this list doesn’t take attachments, but my email will ;)). I also think, as I mentioned before, that we can be more creative about accommodations.

I have had faculty bring their classes down here, and structure assignments around using text-to-speech and “active reading” on the computer. It's not for everybody -- many students prefer to mark up their own texts -- but it’s very liberating for some students.

I’m also on a “Twice Exceptional” parents email list... and one of the parents posted this PBS site which includes some exercises in “decoding frustration” at (see the “firsthand experience” links at the top of the page).

One of the parents responded that none of those simulations served the student with slow processing speed. She shared these two videos, one with captioning and the other without... and expressed how much easier it was to follow and stay attuned with the words to follow. It’s an amusing string of Parental Wise Sayings to the tune of the William Tell Overture:

without subtitles:

with subtitles:  

Susan Jones

[LD 6463] Re: Teaching Teachers

Maggie Downie
Fri Jun 10 11:43:54 EDT 2011

We can’t do anything about it while we have the Reading Wars to contend with! We have just the same problem with teacher training in the UK. Most of the teacher trainers are ideologically opposed to structured, systematic phonics instruction and go to tremendous lengths to dismiss/downplay/disprove scientific evidence of the most effective way to teach reading. Ideology trumps evidence every time...


[LD 6464] Structures and Scaffolds

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 09:59:49 EDT 2011

One of the many exciting ways I learned to open doors for learners at The New Community School was to provide structures with visual elements -- and, more importantly, to infuse the structures throughout learning. These structures were applied to higher-level academic activities to provide scaffolds.

I’ve often been frustrated by the “Mnemonic of the day,” because too often it's just another layer of language imposed on an already inscrutable task. The student creates the structure and sticks *something* in the appropriate places, and gets a C- because that part’s right, and believes even more firmly that this whole reading and analyzing thing should be used to fertilize the cornfields. However, when the structure is fairly simple, is rooted directly in meaning, and is broadly applied, then it can actually serve as a scaffold.

What are your experiences with mnemonics, structures and scaffolds? The University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning has been working on these for rather a while. has scads and scads of examples. When I’ve been to their sessions at conferences, they stress the importance of consistency; it would be a nightmare if each teacher had their own little recipe for structuring things. (Their math materials are a bit of a weak link, though, IMHO.)

I independently constructed a few tools for analyzing reading myself (feel free to use or modify or whatever!) –

“Symbolism” and “Character Analysis” are two verbal tasks that sometimes leave students in confusion... on the second and third page of this pdf you’ll find a breakdown of “Character Analysis”.

Susan Jones

[LD 6465] Re: Those Ubiquitous Main Idea Exercises

Mary Kelly
Fri Jun 10 11:50:58 EDT 2011

We found a series called Critical Reading Skills from Jamestown Press. It is a series of books with well-written non-fiction articles. Each article is followed by several types of comprehension questions. The main idea question presents three sentences. One summarizes the main idea well, one is too broad, and one is too narrow. The student has to determine which sentence best expresses the main idea. Each article is also followed by fact questions, inferences, and a vocabulary exercise that requires distinguishing between the same meaning and “almost the same.” We have found that using these materials along with reciprocal teaching strategies for comprehension to be very effective. We mostly use modeling to work on the main idea question. It seems to be a really good way to get people to think about the most salient information.

Susan, thanks for an interesting discussion and for the very useful suggestions you made in terms of teaching strategies and assistive technology.

Mary S. Kelly

[LD 6466] Summarizing

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 10:21:09 EDT 2011

Before the discussion formally began, I tossed out a question about an ongoing challenge for me: how to facilitate summarizing a passage, short or long. *Reconstructing* a “main idea” and supporting details requires applying the subskills we've been discussing such as understanding vocabulary, phrasing, and main ideas and supporting details.

There were two excellent responses that I’ll paste below -- let's revisit!

What challenges do our students with reading disabilities or dyslexia face when asked “summarize what you read?”

How can we help them meet those challenges?

It is time to adapt/make more current the metaphor underlying this strategy, but I’ll introduce it as it was introduced to me. Imagine that you have important information to give to someone who is far away. The state of the art for communication at a distance is the telegraph. It’s expensive to send lots of words, so the message writer needs to choose her words carefully. Ask your student, “If you only had one word, which one would you choose?” “If you had three words, which would you choose?” Continue on until you have a sentence that is the main idea. At that point, ask for the most important supports/details to add. It seems to me that many students understand the summary when they work from just a few words while working to delete from the whole is more confusing.

Caroline Beverstock

[LD 6467] Improving Reading Instruction

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 10:57:58 EDT 2011

In May, I got a newsletter and discovered that Susan Barton was coming to Illinois to speak about dyslexia. To my utter astonishment, she was *not* going to Chicago but... right here! Shampoo-Banana! (Champaign-Urbana, okay ;)) I was even happier when I went to the church where she was speaking, tho’ I could only stick around for the first half hour, because the meeting hall was full with hundreds of teachers. is her website; she is a very engaging, organized speaker. The teachers near me were talking about how they were going to try to figure out a way to get the funds for training.

I more recently surfed onto this site -- -- and recalled Linda Farrell, with whom I worked when I was writing lessons for the phonics K-1 reading program for an online curriculum for the K-12 company.

It seems that there are people out there taking active steps to giving more learners the foundations they need.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled program :)

Susan Jones

[LD 6468] Re: What's the Big Idea?

Sharon Hillestad
Fri Jun 10 12:38:28 EDT 2011

I really like the “idea” of such a list to generate IDEAS! It is a perfect gradient to writing ideas. First, one has to think of them. We can use this idea with the children and adults at our Learning Center.

Sharon Hillestad

[LD 6469] Re: Those Ubiquitous Main Idea Exercises

Stephanie Moran
Fri Jun 10 13:10:30 EDT 2011

We use the Jamestown series with our students as well. For my Dev Reading class, I very much like a relatively new text, Critical Reading, Critical Thinking--it starts with word families--prefix, suffix, root--that makes clear how important learning word families is to unlocking vocabulary. Fantastic approach with the telegraph idea--we can also use Twitter in that manner--how would you communicate the topic and main idea in 142-characters?

Stephanie Moran

[LD 6470] Visualizing and Verbalizing

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 11:00:58 EDT 2011

Visualizing and Verbalizing is, of course, the program developed by Nanci Bell (of “Lindamood-Bell”) -- but it is basically an excellent description of an effective way to help a learner connect the visual and verbal parts of the mind. It would need to be approached radically differently for different students; some students can “verbalize” without deeper understanding, while others can “visualize” and struggle mightily to connect the pictures with words. Being much more of the effusive verbalizer myself, I am challenged to include visualizing in my teaching, but usually I can count on the learner to lead me forward. ;)

Here are some links with ideas -- have you done anything like this with your learners? heavens!) describes using these techniques with ABE/pre-GED students. describes the theory behind the program.

Susan Jones

[LD 6471] The Even Bigger Picture -- Structure of Learning

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 11:27:16 EDT 2011

We’ve spent a lot of time this week analyzing tasks of reading comprehension, and assorted ways to help foster it in adult learners with dyslexia or reading difficulties. Nobody has an IEP any more. We no longer have lists of objectives that we can check off as “achieved to 80% proficiency.” (Thank heavens!)

Now, our learners are adults. We still have some of those structures of grading periods, assignments, and “passing” or “failing,” but the terms are different. How can we encourage our learners to take control of their learning? To try to understand what they read, instead of doing the assignment?

Leonard Geddes (on another email discussion list I’m on) uses a metaphor of comparing an hourly employee to a manager and he's got it online at He also said this in an email message: What does it take to manage learning? (I’m glad you asked!)

* A clear understanding of your professors' expectations

If you are to be an effective manager, then you must know what the boss (your professor) expects of you. Specifically, you need to know the degree to which your professor expects you to know the subject matter. Most students fail here because their expectations are usually much lower than their professors. How can one meet unknown expectations? I have developed an entire workshop: Professors are From Mars, Students are From Venus: understanding your professors’ expectations, to address this issue.

* An understanding of, and distinction between, your responsibilities and those of your professors

Again, covered in the Professors are From Mars...workshop. Once you have the expectations clear, learning is then a matter of managing the various studying tasks along your learning process. The continuing bullets list what you need to know about this process, and the next section shows what the learning process entails.

* A knowledge of the key factors involved in the learning process (as they relate to collegiate test preparation)

Managing your learning requires you to know your learning process.

* An awareness of when you are actually learning something

* The ability to assess what you have learned and what you may still need to learn

* The ability to adjust learning to meet your goal

This may sound difficult, but it is more natural than you think. In fact, after conducting hours of student interviews and assessments, I am convinced that practically every student possesses these skills and applies them on a daily basis. However, they are unaware because they are being used in different areas of life.

Managed Learning Analogy

I prefer working with students individually (or in small groups where they all have something in common such as a sport). They are often surprised when I start our meeting off discussing non-academic things. I usually begin by probing their past in search for examples of past learning - playing video games, extracurricular activities, athletic endeavors, musical talents, all will do. The whole time, while enjoying our conversation, I am making mental notes of things and ways they have learned. I then pick a few things that they enjoy to demonstrate how they have already, unknowingly, used the skills it takes to learn in college in other areas in life, often times at a much younger age. Together, we then select a subject of interest, and exam it to determine how they have learned what they currently know. We then compare their former learning structure to the current structure that they are using in college. By this time, the light has been turned on and the “aha’s” are flowing as the oddness of the way in which they are attempting to learn becomes apparent to them. I then use several analogies and metaphors to help illustrate key points and connect cognitive dots.

I have used the following driving analogy when addressing larger groups of people to illustrate how the managed learning principles are used in everyday life. Since everyone has traveled from one place to another, I will use taking a trip as our analogy. Driving serves as a great analogy because like learning, in its simplest form, it gets us from point A to point B. (The following bulleted points correspond with the above-managed learning skills listed in the previous section.)

* Let’s say Susie wanted to visit her parents at the beach. Her parents expect her to arrive by 12:00 p.m. (The expectation - to arrive at the beach by 12:00 p.m.)

* Her parents give her a map and gas money, and tell her to gas up the car, pick up her little brother and beach equipment, while they are responsible for the picking up food. (The understanding of, and distinction between, responsibilities - the parents are responsible for the food and Susie is responsible for gassing up the car, picking up her brother and the beach equipment.)

* Susie is ultimately being tested on whether she can arrive at the beach by 12:00, having done all her parents asked of her. The key factors involved in this learning process, or journey from point A to point B - (1) gassing up the car, (2) picking up her brother, (3) picking up the beach equipment, and (4) using the map. (Note: there are two implicit expectations and abilities that her parents assume of her - [1] to know how to read the map and [2] how to time everything so that she will arrive in time. College professors have similar implicit expectations of students. More about that later.)

* She must be aware of progress she is making. (She is aware of this by the mile markers, exit signs, landmarks, etc that she passes along the way. Each one assures her that she is getting closer to her destination [closer to passing her test]).

* Susie may look at the map to locate her proximity to her destination. (The assessment - how far she has come and how far she still needs to go.)

* Susie realized that she might not make her goal; she may have taken a wrong turn or wasn’t driving fast enough. (Because she knows the ultimate expectations [what she will be test on], her responsibilities [what she must do], and can assess how far she is in the process of meeting the expectations, she can adjust to ensure that those expectation are met.

Susie has just demonstrated that she has the basic skill set to manage her learning. By applying those basic skills to collegiate learning, she can be a successful student.

Susan Jones

[LD 6472] Victim or Creator?

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 11:56:09 EDT 2011

Another metaphor used to encourage “ownership” of learning... and life... is put forth by the contributors to the OnCourse website. This activity asks students to examine their “professionalism.”

In the OnCourse book, instead of droning about being proactive instead of reactive, they wax vivid and concrete: are you thinking like a Victim or a Creator? has an interesting chart... ( I would recommend the book, even if you’re not teaching the course, if like me you tend to get lost in the details of the content and forget that People Have Lives ;)) has an actual lesson from it.)

Susan Jones

[LD 6473] Re: Those Ubiquitous Main Idea Exercises

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 12:59:49 EDT 2011

I *really* like a lot of what Jamestown Press has. They are well written and interesting without trying too hard to Be Cool. We used them extensively for practice in the assorted “highlight the main idea in orange, and supporting details in green” exercises. Another book that I like for vocabulary is Building College Vocabulary Strategies by Darlene Canestrale Pabis and Arden B. Hamer. (Pearson Prentice-Hall) -- it uses roots like “pre” and has lots and lots of *applications* instead of recitations of definitions.

Susan Jones

[LD 6474] Re: Teaching Teachers

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 14:37:27 EDT 2011

When Susan Barton spoke to the crowd of teachers and parents and some younger folks, she didn’t talk about analysis of the 44 phonemes or the assorted scientific research. She talked about the human cost. She talked about what it was like to be sure you were stupid and to be doing X, Y, and Z to hide your humiliation and... she talked about *solutions.* I felt like she was oversimplifying things... and I realized that was my analytical self -- she was giving the big picture.

She doesn’t just speak about it:

Susan Jones

[LD 6475] Re: How to Answer Main Idea Questions

Betsy Gauss
Fri Jun 10 17:32:58 EDT 2011

Susan, I am teaching prep reading at a local state college. We use John Langan's “Ten Steps to Improving College Reading Skills,” an excellent textbook. However, somewhere in my past I ran across the FIND Method for finding the main idea. My students seem to grab onto this strategy. It goes like this.

1    F- Find the topic of the passage.

2    I- Identify the major details (power 2’s) by looking for “addition words” such as First, Second, Finally, Moreover, Furthermore.

3    N- Note the type of relationships being used. (definition/examples, cause/effect, classification, compare/contrast, time order/listing, etc.)

4    D- Determine the point the major details are making about the topic.



Betsy Gauss

[LD 6476] And... Speaking of People...

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 15:31:42 EDT 2011

Let's finish up with a few humans.

Young man came in whom I’ll call Bob Armstrong. He’s used to working hard; he’s dyslexic. He wants to be a special ed. teacher. He is very well spoken -- none of those quirky phoneme or word muddles that we often hear (“it was a blessing in the skies” instead of “blessing in disguise,” or “flusterated,” and the list goes on...), but he needs quiet and really benefits from hearing the text.

He’s signed up for “Critical Comprehension Skills” 099, English 099 and another general studies course that I would never, in all my born days, recommended piling onto English and CCS because it is writing intensive even for the average bear. It took *just* too long -- too late for a full drop or course switch for him to figure out he couldn't handle the overload, but he could handle 1 W this semester without jeopardizing his “academic progress status.” Heck, he could handle two.

Next obstacle: that CCS teacher is the king of “tough love.” He uses great reading materials that grab the students’ interest, and has lots of other positive attributes, but knows that these guys are going to be in 101 and on their own. He also brings his classes to the lab at least half a dozen times a year -- so we’re up front about our “good cop/bad cop” relationship.

Then, he blew out his ankle and missed a week. Very bad for the attendance policies -- and ... next to fall was CCS... and then he pulled an all nighter to get *something* in for English, but he knew it was substandard. We all know what the non-proofed-and-edited works of a dyslexic student look like. His English teacher told him, “it’s mathematically impossible -- you need to W if you don’t want an “F”

So, he’s on financial aid suspension now... until he can get some courses passed... which of course he’ll have to pay for out of pocket. (Fortunately, he qualifies for our “second chance” course-repeat scholarship for students with disabilities for exactly these kinds of situations... so one of ‘em can be paid for.)

I think it is worth asking “what should he/we have done differently?” as well as “what do we do now?”

I strongly believe this man could benefit from learning Dragon Naturally Speaking. He’s agreed but putting that on top of his academic demands... that’s why I think that learning to use these tools should be part and parcel of the high school transition plan. (We also have a 2-credit course in using our assistive technology -- if he could afford that, we could have two more “successful completion” hours.)

Let me just toss his story out there... he promised us he would not disappear, so I do hope he’s back next week when “real summer session” starts.

(Of course, if y’all wanted to hear some classic “victim! victim! victim!” language, I could have just taped the last half hour. On the day after things are due, it *is* hard to focus on understanding the content... but harder when all your voices are reciting the reasons you shouldn’t possibly be expected to complete this.)

Susan Jones

[LD 6477] And One More People Story...

Susan Jones
Fri Jun 10 15:42:43 EDT 2011

Keisha is another very hard-working student. She’s got an 8-year-old daughter and CNA certification; she wants to move up the medical professional ladder into nursing. Reading and math and spelling and memorizing are all challenging. She’s got to take Intermediate Algebra, up to English 101 and 102, and... medical terminology courses.

How can we use our teaching and technology resources to help her move forward and earn enough to pay the rent?

Susan Jones

[LD 6478] Re: John Corcoran's Food for Thought

Lucille Cuttler
Thu Jun 9 11:17:00 EDT 2011

Thank you, Sharon. We know how to do this. When will we answer a wake-up call and start teaching in the formative years? Teacher development in effective methodology - methods based on research-based evidence - is the start. Why should this be the privilege of those who can afford private schools and tutors? I’m grateful for your letter that I’m passing along in my efforts to effect reform in the school system.


[LD 6479] Teach Reading Without Using Labels

John Corcoran
Fri Jun 10 19:41:28 EDT 2011

Happy Friday Friends,

Earlier this week, I shared with you a three-page draft expressing some of my opinions and thought I would follow-up with the final Op Ed piece that was published in the San Diego Union Tribune today.

Any feedback, comments, or sharing would be greatly appreciated:


John Corcoran

[LD 6480] Re: Teaching Teachers

Lucille Cuttler
Fri Jun 10 20:18:48 EDT 2011


Consider the history of instituting legislation for social security - and in Europe, health care. We guarantee an education for all - not just the 80% who would learn to read no matter the method. So why can’t we act to legislate for a reform of licensure for teachers of reading? The social rewards are obvious. But think of the money saved on truancy and dropouts and - yes, the prison population.

Lucille Cuttler

[LD 6481] Re: Whose Idea is Main Idea?

Sharon Hillestad
Fri Jun 10 21:49:43 EDT 2011

“I've found that these exercises really do build an understanding of what “main ideas” are ... and, perhaps more importantly, just what kinds of things these goofy people who ask these questions are looking for.” excerpted from Susan Jones.

Goofy people!! That explains everything. Two years ago ten of our tutors spent three hours taking 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Tests). We were appalled on how “tricky” they were. There was even some disagreement as to right answers. Whose idea was main idea?” It’s unnecessary to stress children about Main Idea. Our job should be to get them to want to read a lot. Then maybe they wouldn’t grow up unable to get the main idea of what they read.

Sharon Hillestad

[LD 6482] Re: And... Speaking of People...

Sat Jun 11 09:26:19 EDT 2011


Thank you for sharing your expertise and resources during this discussion. This was one of the most informative and resourceful discussions we have had on this list. You do a fantastic job with the Resource Room. Being an Orton-Gillingham trainer and tutor myself, it has been one of my main resources for some time. I often promote it when giving out resources and websites.

Betsy Gauss

[LD 6483] Re: Thanks

Kate Nonesuch
Sat Jun 11 09:35:53 EDT 2011

Thanks so much, Susan, for leading this discussion this week. I enjoyed the rich mix of your own experience, your classroom-based discussion of theory, your respect for students and their lives, and the resources you referred us to, as well as the interesting contributions the discussion sparked from other participants.

Kate Nonesuch

[LD 6484] Re: Teach Reading Without Using Labels

Hugo Kerr
Sat Jun 11 13:20:24 EDT 2011

Hi John,

I read your piece with nodding head. As you, and other list members, probably know, I am skeptical as to the validity of a ‘diagnosis’ of learning disabled. This is a scientifically defensible point of view. The reason I am exercised on the subject, though, is precisely as you have delineated in your article - the ‘diagnosis’ of a disability is, in and of itself, disabling. It tends to induce learned helplessness. It is a negative label and so should be challenged at any and every opportunity. Your unusual history makes you a peculiarly good advocate for such a challenge.


[LD 6485] Thank You!

Rochelle Kenyon
Sat Jun 11 18:38:07 EDT 2011

Hello to all of our subscribers,

Thanks to our guest speaker, Susan Jones, and to all members of our online community of practice, the discussion entitled Adult Assignment Reading: Opening Doors for Students with Dyslexia or Reading Disabilities has been a very productive one. A tremendous amount of resources and teaching techniques was shared.

Remember that all messages from the discussion are now posted by date in the Learning Disabilities 2011 Archives at

You can also search the archives by ‘thread,’ ‘subject,’ and ‘author’ by clicking on the correct link just below the title, LearningDisabilities 2011 Archives by date.

My most sincere appreciation goes to Susan Jones for her willingness to share, and for the time she spent in planning, posting content, and answering messages. It was my pleasure to work with her. She is a true professional.

My best to all~


[LD 6488] Re: Motivation to Read

Val Yule
Sat Jun 11 19:05:53 EDT 2011

Good on Sharon. I’ve always made teachers take the tests too. I’ve made psychology students take the Piaget questions they gave to children. Very illuminating.

> Our job should be to get them (students) to want to read a lot.

I learnt to read because I wanted to find out what happened next. I think that is one main reason to read. So pictures are teasers to that, not telling them what happened next. Or to find information that students need. Then pictures are helpful.

If discussion before reading is about what happens next, many readers lose the motivation to read. Some students hate answering questions that are set them. They want to ask their own questions.

val yule

[LD 6489] Re: Thank You!

Rosemary Schmid
Sat Jun 11 23:38:13 EDT 2011

It is wonderful to be a part of this community for the reasons we all know and appreciate. I especially thank you for this timely reminder of the archives. I have been busy with something else and my Inbox is full of unread messages that I cannot bear to delete unread - even though the IT folks at my university are muttering about the size of my account.

My best to you all who know the delight of learning and want to share that joy.

Rosemary Schmid

[LD 6490] Fwd: Re: Thank You!

Rochelle Kenyon
Jun 12 09:45:06 EDT 2011

Hi Rosemary,

How nice of you to comment! Discussion Lists like ours are truly Communities of Practice. We are a group of people who share a concern or a passion for what we do and just want to learn how to do it better. Our subscribers regularly discuss resources, ask for advice, respond with suggestions for practice, debate important issues, problem solve, and interact with experts in the field.

The LD Discussion List and all other LINCS Discussion Lists are important resources for the field because of our subscribers' vast experience and their willingness to share.

Rochelle Kenyon

[LD 6491] Re: Thank You!

Maureen Carro
Jun 12 03:56:59 EDT 2011

Many thanks! This was a great discussion. I am on vacation undergoing some language challenges of my own : ), but have been following. Many thanks for all of the wonderful resources! I will be going back through the archives when I return. Ciao!

Maureen Carro

[LD 6492] Re: Motivation to Read

Sharon Hillestad
Mon Jun 13 10:43:11 EDT 2011

I have been instructed to do a “picture walk” through the book with students. I just could never bring myself to do that. I too read a lot as a child. I wanted to find out what would happen, how the story would end. That’s why these “picture walks” repel me. You are literally showing the student what happens and how the story ends. Guess that has to be done when the students aren’t taught how to read the words and encouraged to think for themselves.

Sharon Hillestad

[LD 6493] Re: Teaching Teachers

Brant Hayenga
Mon Jun 13 11:33:50 EDT 2011


I looked in the references of the NCTQ report and did not find reference to any Joshi article. His article is listed as 2009, and the NCTQ article came out in 2006, so it is probably the other way around. It is hair raising! Here is what the NCTQ report states:

No single text, no matter what its approach to reading instruction, was assigned in more than a handful of courses. Teacher educators clearly have not reached any sort of consensus about a single scholar or text that serves as essential reading in the field. In truth, the field is a free-for-all.

Other fields generally agree upon a few scholars or texts that every student of the field should read in introductory courses. For example, sociology students all read Max Weber, medical students refer to Gray's Anatomy, and economics majors read John Maynard Keynes and Adam Smith. No such author or core text exists in the reading instruction in schools of education.

The field of reading does not lack scholars or texts that could serve as the seminal readings for an introductory course. For example, Betty Hart and Todd Risley’s short, accessible, and groundbreaking work Meaningful Differences, which compares the language development of young children raised in poverty with their more affluent peers, should be essential reading in any course dealing with early literacy skills. Only one school, the University of Wyoming, required the book. Other essential, generally accessible books were absent. Not a single course required any of the works by Jeanne Chall, perhaps the best-known scholar in the field, who has written an excellent series of short, accessible books that she edited and which were intended for teachers.30 The University of Florida was the only school that required works by Louisa Moats to be read, despite her focus on creating books targeted to teachers, not just to other scholars. William Nagy, an expert on vocabulary, was never read. Keith Stanovich, perhaps too scholarly for an introduc-tory course on reading, but indisputably one of the field's most respected academics, was never read. Despite the fact that Marilyn Adams' work has been re-fashioned for undergraduate level reading, it too was found in only one reading packet at Indiana State University. Isabel Beck, although quite accessible and teacher-friendly like Louisa Moats, was not read. For a complete list of authors and the number of courses in which they were included as required reading, see Appendix C.

Only a tiny fraction of authors was read in more than a single class. The only author read with any regularity was Gail Tompkins, whose five books were widely used in 47 classes.


Brant Hayenga

[LD 6494] . . Re: Re: Teaching Teachers to Speak

Val Yule
Mon Jun 13 19:02:49 EDT 2011

None of the education departments I have been in have had what I think is absolutely important for teachers, except as an elective - how to speak clearly, effectively and without shouting, and making what you are teaching sound fascinating.

In classrooms I have sat in to observe my child patients, I have usually found my first action is to alert the teacher as to how to improve her speech so that students will not be bored and inattentive.

Australians are worse at speaking in public than American, I think.

val yule

[LD 6495] Re: . . Re: Re: Teaching Teachers to Speak

B Harpster
Tue Jun 14 14:34:30 EDT 2011

Hi, Val and Daphne,

I learn so much from you. Maybe one of these days you can share how to make what we teach sound fascinating? I mean, I like learning all the ways to use a comma (for example). But somehow, my adult students seem to view it as a necessary evil to learn anything at all about commas, and the idea that it has mutiple uses -- well, might as well give up now.

[LD 6496] Re: Teaching Teachers to Make Fascinating Lessons

Val Yule
Tue Jun 14 20:17:40 EDT 2011

The best way to learn how to make what you teach sound fascinating is to watch and listen to someone who does this. It will be someone who is fascinated about their subject themselves, and puts their enthusiasm over. There should be videos with people like this - collect them. But the real person is better.

I used to ask teachers if they had ever had a brilliant teacher as children. Most had not - they had no idea before of how to do it.

There are many styles of brilliance - find the one that suits you.

I have a book made by 6th graders in which each child wrote their memories of school. Most of them said how scared they were in their first year, and told about their friends, sports and camps. Only one teacher made it to several children’s memories. She was ‘mad about the stars’ and had the ceiling decorated with them. Her enthusiasm caught on.

val yule

[LD 6497] Teaching Teachers

Tue Jun 14 20:22:24 EDT 2011

To Val, Daphne, and Anne:

A teacher’s presentation, attitude, and voice can make learning interesting. You have to let the students know that this material is important - create the lessons so that they apply to something that is meaningful to them. Your voice, attitude, and presentation are powerful tools.


[LD 6498] Re: . . Re: Re: Teaching Teachers to Speak

Lucille Cuttler
Tue Jun 14 22:38:46 EDT 2011


Thank you - always - for sharing essential information otherwise unknown.

This lack of teacher preparation for teaching reading can be compared to asking a plumber to fix a leaking toilet but fail to provide him with a plunger - or other tools.

May I add one more author = Marcia Henry, UNLOCKING LITERACY. 

Lucille Cuttler

[LD 6499] Re: Teaching Teachers

Rochelle Kenyon
Sat Jun 18 10:51:58 EDT 2011

Hello all,

Below is a message from Nora that was sent during the discussion, but it didn’t reach the discussion list. I am posting it now.


-----Original Message-----

From: Nora Chahbazi

Sent: Friday, June 10, 2011 11:31 AM

To: The Learning Disabilities Discussion List

Subject: Re: [LD 6459] Re: Teaching Teachers

Robin and all,

I shouted ‘yes’ out loud reading your post! So few people are aware of or acknowledge that the reading epidemic our country faces originates from the fact that teachers are not taught how to reach reading in college. We could call it a teaching disability but that would be inaccurate and unfair, just like the learning disability label. My experience has been that most all teachers can be excellent teachers of reading. resulting in virtually all of their students becoming proficient readers, once they (the teachers) are taught how to effectively and efficiently teach reading. When you have a firm understanding of the research based theory of how to teach reading and are given a bridge to connect that with strategies and activities to use to actually get this information into learners, the sky’s the limit! However, taking on reform of the colleges of education in our country would be overwhelmingly daunting, to put it mildly.

I recommend the book Leaving Johnny Behind by Anthony Pedrianna. Among other things, it highlights how teachers are in the dark about the research on what really works to teach reading and that they are not educated on how to teach reading in college. Almost all students, not just the obviously struggling readers, suffer because their teachers are not equipped to teach reading. We had two valedictorians in our reading center this spring to assist them in improving their ACT scores. One pre tested at a 6th grade level and the other at a 7th grade level. Both had over a 4.0 GPA. Our society as a whole will pay more and more each year, literally and figuratively, for our sub-literate citizens until the root of the problem is addressed.

Colleges are not teaching teachers how to teach reading, students are getting inaccurately labeled because of it, and content in schools is watered down more all the time to accommodate the lower abilities of students. It is a horrifying epidemic that is getting worse every year.

What are we all going to do about it?!

Nora Chahbazi

[LD 6500] (no subject)

Donna J G Brian
Mon Jun 20 06:33:05 EDT 2011

Greetings, Transitions, LD, and Workforce Colleagues,

Here’s an online resource that looks to be of interest to all of you, so I’m forwarding it. The relative benefits found for students with and without learning disabilities taking a first-year university preparation course

Maureen J. Reed, Deborah J. Kennett, Tanya Lewis, and Eunice Lund-Lucas Active Learning in Higher Education 2011; 12 133-142 

Donna Brian

[LD 6501] I’m Back  :)

Susan Jones
Mon Jun 20 13:29:20 EDT 2011

The Saturday after our discussion ended, I folded my bike, tossed it into my friend’s Prius and three of us went off on the Grand Illinois Trails and Parks ride for the week, and I didn't access the Internet, except for weather forecasts (anybody know how to get a radar map on an LG Rumor Touch?), so I'm a little late in thanking you all for participating and sharing so many excellent thoughts and resources.

I especially appreciate the specific focus on *reading* -- sometimes the nature of my job means I spend all my time with short-term solutions. It helps immensely to step back and look at the big picture; consistent infusion of instruction into those short-term solutions (“I need this essay in an hour!”) can pay off over the course of a semester.

I would strongly encourage those of you who are concerned with the state of reading instruction to hear Susan Barton speak -- has some links. If she had her way, “dyslexia” would be as destructive a label as, oh, “near-sighted” -- or even “blue-eyed” or “interesting.” Linda Farrell and her “Really Great Reading” site and Michael Bend's ABeCeDarian program are also good examples of people who are getting away from the “reading wars” by saying" hey, students are struggling – here’s what will help without pointing fingers or conveying “Repent Sinners! I have the One True Way!!” I wish we could also dispel that “You are a [insert Label for Struggling Student]” aspect, but that will take time...

People-oriented teachers who really want their students to love reading are extremely unlikely to respond well to legislation and regimentation. There’s a fair amount of research (not to mention common sense) that says that if a teacher doesn’t believe in what s/he's doing, it’s not too likely to be effective. I know at least one person quite sincerely believes whole language was imported by Communists to lower our literacy rates, but there are also people who quite sincerely believe direct instruction to be a fascist plot to create robotic decoders. I say, let 'em talk all they want... let’s find a way to be teaching those teachers and kiddos while they're arguing.

Susan Jones

[LD 6502] Re: I’m Back  :)

Pat Bush
Mon Jun 20 14:09:02 EDT 2011

Glad to hear you mention Susan Barton ......... we implemented her System last fall and are finding great success with it. She is, indeed, a great speaker on the subject, also.

We are finding that 80% of the students we serve at our Literacy Council have several of the warning signs of dyslexia and this program works!!! It is user-friendly, yet intense! I think many other literacy council cbo’s should think seriously about utilizing it, also. Check it out, as Susan Jones has mentioned.

Pat Bush

[LD 6505] Re: Whose idea is Main Idea? TRANSFER

Vicki Hoffman
Sat Jun 25 02:08:21 EDT 2011


To what extent does learning how to find “main idea” in these relatively formulaic (in my opinion) passages help students to better understand college level texts (which include - but are not limited to - textbooks, trade books, articles from periodicals and original documents)?

Vicki Hoffman

[LD 6506] Re: Whose Idea is Main Idea? TRANSFER

Rosemary Schmid

Sat Jun 25 09:51:40 EDT 2011

Oh, I am so relieved. I feel like I’m at an XXXXAnonymous meeting. I have a TERRIBLE time finding the “main idea” and have just spent an hour with a test prep book fretting over their choice and mine, even with explanation. I must add that I’m nearly 70 and can't remember when I couldn't read (my mother said I was 3). Teaching academic ESL only exacerbates the problem. When a reader brings questions to the reading, the answers might be “the main idea” for that reader. I do suppose that figuring out what the test writer wanted to be the answer has some merit. (Please don't mention this posting to my students, for obvious reasons!)

A Saturday posting from Rosemary Schmid

[LD 6507] Re: Whose Idea is Main Idea? TRANSFER

Dave Middlebrook
Sat Jun 25 11:26:40 EDT 2011

That's a great question. Most, if not all, of the focus in comprehension work continues to be on paragraphs or short works ranging from a few paragraphs to one or two pages. Practically speaking, that doesn’t take us very far -- certainly, no where near contracts, substantial magazine articles, journal articles, books, and the like.

The challenges involved in understanding whole texts -- and even large portions of them, such as chapters -- receive very little attention. Instruction in this area tends to be exceedingly rare and very shallow. In this respect, we are still where we were in the late 70’s, when Dolores Durkin released her study of comprehension instruction -- which is to say that we simply assume that kids will learn this on their own.

This is a big question for both “mainstream” and LD students, starting at the elementary school level and continuing on up through college and on into continuing education.

I have done a lot of work in this area -- from preschool through college. There is a lot that we can do. My solution has been to unroll books -- to use scrolls, fully-unrolled -- to teach, in depth, the thinking that drives whole-text comprehension. It’s simple, fun, intellectually stimulating, very motivating to students of all ages (three-year-olds love scrolls, and so do college students), and, most important, it works. I’ll say that again: it works.

You’ll find more information here:

* introductory notes:

* comments from teachers and students:

* home page:

If you like what you see, please “like” it on Facebook, and/or “share” it on LinkedIn. The buttons are right there, at the top of each page.

I hope that you find the information on my site addresses your question in a thoughtful and useful way.

Dave Middlebrook