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Healing Depression Through the Science of Reading

My son has experienced many highs and lows since I wrote the blog post  Childhood Depression and How You can Help , but at the end of his 3rd grade year he seemed to hit rock bottom. It could be because I had not been as vigorous and proactive with his depression as I had the previous year. I perhaps got a little relaxed with some of the ideas I felt so passionately about. -But he also started to really compare himself to his peers at this age, and the gaps in his learning were becoming more and more apparent to him. He’d stare dejectedly at all his school assignments…a big, red 1 at the top of each paper…and he’d anxiously tell me that everyone else in his class got 3’s.  I will never forget the day he looked me in the eyes and said, “I wish I was one of those babies that got left in a hot car.” It took my breath away. My beautiful son was sinking. Suddenly we were bombarded with suicidal thoughts, desires, and comments. “I wish I was dead!” he would scream desperately over and over.
Recent posts

The 7 Deadly Errors of Teaching Reading

There’s a wrong way to teach reading and, unfortunately, it’s also the most popular way.   So, if you’ve ever committed these teaching errors, don’t worry, you’re not alone.   I’ve been there, too.   I was shocked when I realized that many teacher prep courses and even professional development classes are teaching reading methods not supported by science.   If you’re reading this blog and find yourself surprised or even defensive at these “errors,” please take a moment to step back, take a deep breath, and use it as a springboard to start your journey into learning more about the science of reading.   Instead of feeling denial, guilt, or anger…I encourage you to simply learn more and do better. Deadly Error #1:   3-Cueing Strategies (aka the Beanie Baby Reading Strategies)               I know they’re cute and cuddly. I know everyone uses them. I know you’ve scoured dozens of thrift stores to finally complete your set.   But there is actually no research to support these “B

How To CoronaSchool in Kindergarten

Teachers around the world are quickly having to figure out how to deliver instruction online.  The past week has been a whirlwind of emotions for me.  Things have not been easy and, yes, tears have been shed.  I'm still trying to figure out how to handle the stress of creating daily lessons for my 27 kindergartners, while also providing and organizing the instruction of my own 4 children.  And just when I thought things couldn't get worse, we had a 5.7 earthquake on Wednesday morning, the first official day of remote learning in my district.  My house was swaying, my daughter was crying...and then I had to go in to my school, nervous and unsure where the day would go. But I'm happy to say that I have come up with a plan for online learning for my students.  I would love to share what I'm doing in case it helps any of you.  Please be kind in your critiques...things won't be even close to perfect...and my instruction won't be as comprehensive as normal. As I t

How Should I Teach Sight Words?

I used to tell the parents of my students that sight words were words that could not be sounded out. When my students would start sounding out a sight word, I would stop them and tell them they couldn't read it that way.  I taught these words as basically whole words…the spelling just needed to be memorized.  I have since learned that teaching these words as primarily whole units to be memorized visually, inhibits the way the brain actually stores and learns these words. It’s actually critical that students match the individual sounds of the word with their visual representations. This process is known as orthographic mapping .  Any time we draw a student’s attention to only the spelling of the word, in a rote memorization fashion, we are inhibiting the orthographic mapping process. In other words, they need to sound it out…even when the spelling is not phonetically regular. Because of this I have completely changed the way I approach sight words. I’d like to share my curren

Phonemic Awareness: Where Do I Start?

The Why: I was shocked when I read that phonemic awareness is the most common source of reading difficulties. What!?!  Why in the world was I never taught about this in college?  Luckily, it has now become quite a hot topic in education, and for good reason.  Before we get into the how of phonemic awareness, let's clear up a few terms that are often confused. First of all, this: (Image from ) I often hear teachers use the terms phonics and phonemic awareness interchangeably, but they are two separate things.  Phonemic awareness activities are oral and can be done blind-folded...they involve an awareness of the individual sounds in a word.  When you tie those sounds with print (letters)....then it becomes phonics. Another term that is often confused is phonological awareness and phonemic awareness. Phonological awareness is the umbrella term for the knowledge of sounds in spoken language.  Phonemic awareness is a subset skill and is

A Decodable a Day Keeps Illiteracy Away

Teaching my kindergartners to read was so frustrating my first year. As kindergarten teachers, we naturally focus a lot on phonics.  After all, our main objective is to teach students the alphabet!  We spend a lot of time drilling and practicing letter names and sounds.  So, after spending so much time on letter/sound instruction, I'd bring small groups of students to the reading table and would give them books provided by our big box curriculum.  Suddenly, I had to tell students to stop sounding out the words and basically throw everything out the window that we had previously been learning. Example of a "repetitive" or "predictable" text. Another example of a "repetitive" or "predictable" text. "Oh, this word you can't sound out. Look at the picture, does it give you a clue?" I was so frustrated that these stories could not be read without me telling them the sentence pattern or having them look at the pictures fo