Letter Writing: Writing for Real Reasons

Letter Writing: Writing for Real Reasons

Writing is a very complex task in literacy.  It has many components. Whenever we write, we need to think of an idea, then think of the language to describe the idea, then we need to think of the words and how we spell them – and finally we have to think about how we are going to select the letters for each word.  As we become more skilled and practiced writers, these skills become more automatic.  But in the beginning, each of these skills takes a lot of effort and planning. Writing also needs to have purpose.  We need to…

Continue Reading
Word families and Onset Rime: early literacy instruction with learners with CCN

Word families and Onset Rime: early literacy instruction with learners with CCN

As we learn to read, word recognition plays an important part in our literacy journey. Automatic word recognition is essential for fluent reading. We need to be able to recognise words quickly to be able to read quickly. However, word recognition isn’t just taught via whole words. One of the ways we learn to automatically recognise words is by decoding them. Decoding helps us to memorise words so that they become automatically recognised words eventually. Decoding is also an important skill for early readers as it helps them to figure out words they don’t know. Word families or onset rime…

Continue Reading
Too late to learn to read & write? No!

Too late to learn to read & write? No!

Last week I had a wonderful experience.  I’ve been smiling ever since.  Then yesterday I read a blog post by David Koppenhaver and decided that I needed to write about my experience. One of my favourite quotes is from Dr David Yoder. “No student is too anything to be able to read and write.” I firmly believe this – and the longer I work the more evidence I have to support it. Just over 10 years ago I met a young man – Tom. He was 17 years old and in his penultimate year at high school. Tom was referred…

Continue Reading
Big Mouth Camp 2013 – The Pirate Edition

Big Mouth Camp 2013 – The Pirate Edition

Big Mouth Camp is a camp for school aged students who use speech generating devices and their families. I started Big Mouth Camp in 2003 and this year was the 8th camp (we have had a couple of years off). I am very lucky to have a fabulous committee who help with the organisation – Helen Tainsh, Charlene Cullen, Fiona Beauchamp and Siôn Gough Hughes. And we are also very lucky to have a large number of volunteers who come back year after year and make camp possible.  Plus all the amazing students and their families who come along and…

Continue Reading
How do I use a switch with an iPad? iOS 7 Overview

How do I use a switch with an iPad? iOS 7 Overview

The latest operating system for the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch, iOS 7, has introduced some major changes to the accessibility of these devices.  In particular, switch access is now built right into the accessibility options, providing operating system level alternative access to these tablet devices for the first time – and this update is the main purpose for this blog post. In addition, there are also a range of apps that have switch access built into the app itself – and I’ll cover those apps and the options for switch interfaces too as I believe these still have a relevant place in…

Continue Reading
Symbol Supported Text: Does it really help?

Symbol Supported Text: Does it really help?

The introduction above has been written in symbols. Did you find it easy to read? Did you struggle to read it? Is the version below easier? When I first started working as a speech language pathologist, nearly 25 years ago, we were all using symbol supported text to help our struggling readers and writers. We used it with the intention of “simplifying” text so that the people we were working with were able to “read” the text. However, this approach fell out of favour for the simple reason that it didn’t practically help many of the people we were working…

Continue Reading
Literacy Lab: a great tool for quality literacy instruction

Literacy Lab: a great tool for quality literacy instruction

Literacy Lab is a fabulous piece of software for use as part of balanced literacy instruction from Mayer Johnson. The software is aimed at emergent readers and writers, providing a range of simple, easy to use highly motivating activities.  I have been using it for a few weeks now – and am extremely enthusiastic about the included content and also the options for many students I am working with. The main menu of Literacy Lab has a range of different non-fiction topics that a student can choose – animals, community, habitats, land & water, plants, the solar system, transportation and…

Continue Reading
Zybox for iOS – updated and upgraded!

Zybox for iOS – updated and upgraded!

The Zybox for iOS is a switch interface from Zygo that uses VoiceOver to control the iOS and any VoiceOver compatible apps on your iPad or iPhone. I reviewed it earlier this year and posted a blog about it on the 31st of March. However, the Zybox has had a makeover – a hardware update – that has improved it hugely.  So, it’s time for another review. As I mentioned in the earlier review, one of the signficant features of this interface is that it plugs directly into the port on the iPad. This will help in some situations where…

Continue Reading
Predictable Chart Writing: Group Writing for All

Predictable Chart Writing: Group Writing for All

Recently I have been talking a lot to teachers about doing group writing in their classroom. As teachers implement a balanced literacy program in their classrooms, it is important that writing happens daily – and that writing happens for real reasons.  Writing is one of the most complex tasks that we ask students to do.  They need to think of an idea.  Then they need to come up with the language and words to write about the idea. Once they’ve done that, they need to think how to spell those words and then how they are going to write or…

Continue Reading
Literacy and AAC Presentations from AGOSCI 2013

Literacy and AAC Presentations from AGOSCI 2013

Yesterday I was very lucky to present three papers around the topic of literacy instruction for students with complex communication needs (CCN) at the 2013 AGOSCI Conference. The first presentation was with the awesome Dr Sally Clendon.  Sally and I both do similar consulting roles – although Sally is based in Auckland, New Zealand. We try to collaborate with each other as much as we can.  Our presentation was entitled “Balanced Word Instruction – Supporting Students with CCN to Crack the Alphabetic Code” and allowed us both to share some of the fabulous things happening in the different schools we…

Continue Reading