Reading Comprehension: Read All About It!

With the start of the school year around the corner, I always love to research new teaching strategies and skills I can incorporate into my classroom for the following year. My main research focus this year is how to increase comprehension within the classroom environment.

comprehension tips, teach reading

Below, are some of the best resources I have found for teachers and parents when it comes to understanding the word “comprehension” and how we can best support our children.

  1. At a basic level, providing graphic organizers can help students organize their thoughts and questions. I prefer graphic organizers with lines since spacing can be an issue for a lot of students.
  2. Students should make connections with the text. Simple prompts such as “What does this remind you of?” “Has something like this ever happen to you before?” can help students connect the dots and remember more details after they are done reading a passage.
  3. Students need to make a habit of asking more questions as they read. This helps create a purpose for reading as well as an interest. I do something in my classroom called “Stop and Ask”. After one paragraph, students need to generate a question about what they just read. This helps a lot of students reread the passage and create discussion.
  4. Students also need to dissect what type of question is being asked of them. According to reading rockets, there are four different types of questions. Please see the image below.
  5. Lastly, students should feel your excitement about reading. Decoding and comprehending texts is hard, and teachers and parents need to be constant cheerleaders. We should model out loud how we want our children to approach literature by stopping, asking questions, visualizing, and making  connections with the text.

Here are some additional resources for further research:




Four different types of questions: (courtesy of reading rockets)

teaching reading, asking questions, increase

The History of Autism (A Summary)

Autism was official discovered 60 years ago. Although still puzzling to many, professionals are learning more about autism everyday.

Some facts:

  • Early accounts of individuals with autism are unclear
  • The concept and definition of autism has greatly changed over the years
  • Socio-political views as well as treatment available has evolved and continues to grow
  • Symptoms may have been confused with schizophrenia in the past


  • 1960s-Michael Rutter’s comparative study comparing the features of autism
  • 1960s-1970s: Kolvin distinguished autism from schizophrenia
  • 1970-Hermelin and O’Connor explored the “savant”
  • 1971- first association of autism as a specific medical condition (Stella Chess was the first to discover that autism can be associated with a neurological disease)
  • 1975- US Developmental Disability Act included individuals with autism
  • 1981- Lorna Wing’s seminal paper discusses Asperger’s Syndrome
  • 2000-Gillberg added to the knowledge of epidemiology, genetics, and clinical management

Early Accounts/History Records:

  • Book: Autism in History by Rob Houston (discusses the legal case of Uta Frith’s analysis of Hugh Blair in 1747)
  • The story of Victor “the wild boy of Aveyron”  in 1798 with Jean Itard
  • Paper: Observations on Madness and Melancholy chapter entitled “Cases on insane children” by John Haslam (discusses a boy with characteristics of autism published in 1809)
  • Book: The Pathology of the Mind chapter entitled “The insanity of early life” by Henry Maudsley (discusses a 13 year boy who shares similar characteristics of an individuals with Aspergers in 1879)
  • Ssucharewa’s account of six children in Germany during 1926
  • Hans Aspergers’s account of four children in 1949
  • Lorna Wing’s seminal paper in 1981

Outdated Ideas/Theories

  • Autism is caused by bad parenting
  • Autism is among the group of schizophrenia (we now know that autism is a developmental disorder rather than a psychosis)
  • Autism is secondary to language disorders

Interesting Facts:

  • Over 50% of children with autism are taking drugs/vitamins in the US (not the case in the UK)


  • The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (started in 1971 by Kanner and Chess)
  • Focus on Autism and other Developmental Disabilities (started in 1985)
  • The International Autism Research Review (started in 1987)
  • International Journal of Research and Practice (started in 1997)
  • Good Autism Practice (started in 2001)

Current Books to Read:

  • “Pretending to be Normal” by Liane Willey
  • “Growing up Severely Autistic” by Kate Rankins
  • “An Inside View Of Autism” by Temple Grandin
  • “Freaks, Geeks, and Aspergers Syndrome” by Luke Jackson


Wolff, S. (2004). The history of autism. European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 13(4), 201-8. doi:

Introducing the First Nonverbal, Autistic Talk Show Host

The world has been watching Carly Fleischmann, and her viewers have just increased by becoming the first nonverbal, autistic talk show host. Carly speaks through her I-pad and communicates with others with the help of technology. After many hours spent with her therapists and supportive family growing up, Carly has found a way to communicate with the world.

Her first interview —with the famous Channing Tatum —-gave viewers a good laugh as she asked questions that could make some feel uncomfortable. Her sense of humor, love, and youthful energy comes alive through the interview. I am excited to see the other guests she invites to her show in the future.

For now, be sure to watch Speechless –the newest talk show featuring the one and only –Carly Fleischmann!


First Interview: Channing Tatum 

Symbols and Signs

While touring Germany, Italy, and Spain, I was highly interested in the symbols each country used to signify basic street information. Here in the states, there has been much debate about if the Accessible Icon is legal since it has not been officially adopted as the symbol of access by the DOT or DOJ. While almost everyone will agree that the symbol represents movement, some argue that a new symbol is not needed or can cause confusion. Since I am now interested in exploring the different symbols that exist, I took pictures of the different symbols I came across while traveling.

 Accessible Icon Updates: 

  • DOJ (Department of Justice) verbal approval of the icon during the National ADA Symposium. Read here (May 2015)
  • New York State announcement of a slow phasing in of the symbol. Read here (August 2014)
  • New Jersey bill in progress. Read here ( September 2014)



Seeing the world through a lens of Signs and Symbols

How a new International Symbol of Access can change the way we see individuals with disabilities 


The Accessible Icon Project is an international project that has collected a lot of informal data through the many conversations, presentations, and emails received from people around the world. This research initiative is one of the first formal methods of obtaining specific information about the types of words people associate with the International Symbol of Access (original ‘handicapped’ sign) and the Accessible Icon (new symbol created by Sara Hendren, Brian Glenney, and Tim Ferguson-Sauder). The two surveys used in this study asked participants to compare the current International Symbol of Access to the Accessible Icon. The first survey asked participants a series of questions regarding the words they would use to describe both images. The second survey asked different participants to rank a collection of 18 words from most positive to negative.

Survey 1: (Screen shots of the survey are found in paper)

At the beginning of the survey, participants were shown a picture of the original International Symbol of Access (ISA) and were asked two opened ended questions:  1. What do you see? 2. What words do you attach to the image above? On a new page, participants were shown the Accessible Icon and were asked the same two questions. Participants responded to the symbols in historical order.

Participants were then shown the original ISA and were asked to choose from a list of 20 pre-selected words to describe the image. Participants were given the following words: Abled, Active, Determined, Disabled, Engaged, Handicapped, Human, Life-less, Mobile, Motivated, Movement, Moving-Forward, Parking, Passive, Ready-for-action Robotic, Slow, Static, Stiff, and Symbol.

Survey 2:

The second survey asked participants to rank the 18 words given in the first survey from most positive (1) to most negative (18). Participants from survey 1 did not participate in survey 2. Additionally, survey 2 participants did not know survey 1 existed.


More positive language is associated to words describing the Accessible Icon. Out of the top ten words linked to the Accessible Icon, all 10 were listed as the most positive in the comparative scale. The only word that described both the Accessible Icon and International Symbol of Access was the word “symbol”, which was ranked 10 out of 18. I analyze symbol as a neutral word since it is ranked in the middle of the positive and negative scale. Not one person associated the words: passive, static, slow, and lifeless (which was ranked the most negative) to the Accessible Icon.

The original ISA was described with the words that were found to be the most negative. 52 people identified the ISA with the word disabled and 40 people identified the ISA with the word lifeless. Not one positively ranked word was mentioned in the top ten words associated with the original ISA.

Please read the full paper by clicking on the blue link above.

Speech and Language Difficulties

Hello all,

In one of my classes, I was asked to put together a presentation on various speech and language difficulties. The powerpoint below shares basic facts about speech impairments as well as tips for classroom teachers working with students with various disorders.

This Speech and Language Difficulties powerpoint highlights how teachers must be sensitive to those with language difficulties and how it is not safe for teachers to randomly and unknowingly to the child ask certain students to read out loud. This act can cause some students extreme anxiety and result in them not paying attention since they are constantly trying to read ahead to be prepared for the callout.

A lot of the tips included in the powerpoint come from my personal experience.  Growing up, I went out for speech and felt very uncomfortable reading out loud since I could not articulate certain words. Instead of paying attention, I would constantly read ahead and ask my neighbor for help with words I did not know. This anxiety of being called on or reading out loud happened during round robin and anytime I knew the teacher was going to call on somebody to read.

While I know some teachers believe it is good practice for students to read out loud, teachers must understand how this makes some students feel. For one, I was not a shy student and loved interacting and performing in front of my peers; however, reading out loud was uncomfortable since all my attention went to articulating the words instead of comprehending what the text was actually saying. Although some teachers feel round robin and random picking help students pay attention, this did the opposite for me. My attention went to trying to predict when I would be called on and went to asking my neighbor words I did not know. I would literally sit there and skim the passage to ensure I knew how to say all the words that were written since I did not want to be embarrassed.

In addition, I hated how I was always forced to miss class. I was a student who hated to miss what was going on and did not per say enjoy the pull out. Although I am now thankful for the services and for all the help I received, I do understand how it can be uncomfortable for some students. I am not sure how to avoid this, but I do think it is important for teachers to keep in mind that every student sometimes pulled out of their class does not necessarily want to miss out on class time.

In conclusion, be sensitive to all students who have different learning needs and talk to the student if you feel they may be experiencing the same discomfort I felt in some of my classes growing up.



Phonics Lesson: welded -all and bonus letters (s,f,l)

I started a new practicum and am now responsible for teaching phonics to three different groups of kindergartners. In our school, we use the two reading programs for K and 1st: Fundations and Lively Letters. These programs guide our whole and small group instruction. Below is a lesson plan I created that focuses on students practicing the welded sound –all and words that incorporate the bonus letters: s, f, and l.   As you will read, the lesson is extremely detailed and incorporates three different activities that allow students to practice these skills.  Throughout the lesson, I continually describe how I am checking for student understanding and emphasize the different modifications I made to adjust to students’ needs. At the bottom of this lesson, I included pictures of the games I created.

Lesson Title: Fundations-a focus on the Welded Sound -all and Words that use the Bonus Letter Rules

Essential Understanding: Students will practice reading words with the welded sound –all and words that incorporate the bonus letters: s, f, and l.

Student Learning Objective(s):

-Students will be able to identify words that use the bonus letter rule (f, l, s) in every activity listed below.

-Students will be able to recognize words that have the welded sound –all in the Don’t’ Get Buzz Game, Popcorn Game, and “The Big Mess” reading.

-Students will be able to read words with the welded sound –all and words that use the bonus letters: f, l, and s.

Materials necessary for today’s lesson:

For Students For Teacher
Pencils Fundation Cards (set), Popcorn game with sentence strips, Don’t Get Stung game with popsicle stick words, The Big Mess Reading

Academic Vocabulary:

-Bonus Letters: added to the end of the word that ends in f, l, and s when the vowel is short

-Welded Sound/Glued: All, is not one sound, it is two. The second l is silent.


Motivational and Review Procedures (the “hook”): 

1. Review of Fundation Cards (3 to 4 minutes)

  • Familiar activity to students
  • Teacher shows cards, all students respond with the appropriate sound

Procedures to Accomplish Objectives:

  1. Say words with Fundation Cards (3 to 4 minutes)
  • Create groups with the cards (vowels in the middle, bonus letters to the side)
  • Have student read both real and nonsense words
  • Create opportunities for students to add the bonus letter
  • Some words include: mes (s), ful (l), mis (s), Jef (f), les(s), pas (s), shel (l)
  1. Don’t Get Stung (6-7 minutes)
  • Game where students pick popsicle sticks out of a container that is labeled “Don’t get stung”
  • The point of the game is for students to read the words on the stick
  • If they get the word correct, students keep the stick
  • If students pick out the stick with the bee, all students must put back their sticks in the container
  • If students pick out the fly repellent, students can use it as a “save” if they were to pick the bee stick
  • Words this week focus on the welded sound: all, and words that get a bonus letter
  • Words include: mall, puff, mill, tall, fuss, Bess, puff, Jeff, fell, huff, shell, wall, ball, mess, cuff, Bill, hill, chill, yell, miss, Jill, pass, less
  1. Popcorn Game (7-8 minutes)
  • Sentences are written on yellow pipe cleaners with popcorn pictures on top
  • Students pick a popcorn out of the popcorn container and read the sentence
  • Trick words are written in read, and regular words are written in black
  • Sentences used: 1. Did Dad yell at Tom? 2. I fell on the path. 3. This hall is a mess. 4. I got a chill in the tub. 5. The duck will quack at Bill. 6. Toss the ball to Kim. 7. Tim will fill the dish with fish. 8. Bess will go to the mall.
  • Ask students to read the sentence and then check for understanding by asking a follow up question related to the sentence meaning
  • To acknowledge the bonus letters or welded sound (particular focus of the Fundations unit), teachers can underline or highlight this part of the word. In this unit, I did not.
  1. The Big Mess Reading (6-7 minutes)
  • The hall was a big mess! “What a mess!” said Mom. “Pick this up.” Jill and Bill did the big job. Did they fuss? They did not fuss at all.
  • Students will read the text by themselves
  • Then we will read the text as a group
  • Students will be asked to mark up the text (Put a star over the bonus letters and put a box around the welded sound –all)

 Closing Procedures: 

How do we know when a word needs a bonus letter? Why do we need to pay careful attention to trick words?

Summary Statement:  Wrap Up 

Today we practiced reading words with the welded sound –all and words that use the bonus letter rule (f, l, and s). We will continue to identify words with these components in texts we read together.

Framework Standard(s):

MA.2. Demonstrate understanding of spoken words, syllables, and sounds (phonemes).

  • Recognize and produce rhyming words.
  • Count, pronounce, blend, and segment syllables in spoken words.
  • Blend and segment onsets and rimes of single-syllable spoken words.
  • Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and final sounds (phonemes) in three-phoneme (consonant-vowel-consonant, or CVC) words.* (This does not include CVCs ending with /l/, /r/, or /x/.)
  • Add or substitute individual sounds (phonemes) in simple, one-syllable words to make new words.

MA.3. Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

  • Know the spelling-sound correspondences for common consonant digraphs.
  • Decode regularly spelled one-syllable words.
  • Know final -e and common vowel team conventions for representing long vowel sounds.
  • Use knowledge that every syllable must have a vowel sound to determine the number of syllables in a printed word.

MA.4. Fluency (The Big Mess Story and the Sentence Strips in the Popcorn Game)

  • Read emergent-reader texts with purpose and understanding.

Teaching Techniques:

Direct Instruction: Help with tapping out the words and reading words, Help with attention and having students get back on task

Collaborative: Popcorn Game, Don’t Get Stung Game, Review of Fundation Cards, Reading “The Big Mess” together as a group

Learning Considerations:

Improving access to learning for all students (Hint: Consider UDL Principles) Associated Accommodations(s)/Modification(s)(Supports and Challenges)
Multiple Means of Representation

  1. Visual: Fundation Cards, Popcorn strips, Words on Popsicle Sticks
  2. Auditory: saying the sounds and words
  3. Kinesthetic: circling & underlining components in word, tapping out the sounds

 Multiple Means of Expression

  1. Visual: underlining, writing, circling, highlighting bonus letters and words with the welded sound
  2. Auditory: saying the word and sentence out loud
  3. Kinesthetic-circling, underlining, tapping out word

Multiple Means of Engagement

  1. Students play games that practice their word reading.
  2. Students work with partners and in small groups
  3. Students have their own material
  4. Students play a variety of activities that focus on word reading

1-2 most important factors for improving access to learning for all students

Consider UDL and academic vocabulary

  1. Explicit review and practice with the welded sound –all, and use of the bonus letters (f, l, s). Students will be given many opportunities to mark up the text and to highlight words that use these two rules.
  2. Students will be given their own popsicle sticks, and sentence strips, as well as their own story to highlight. In addition, students will be able to manipulative Fundation cards at the beginning to add the bonus letter to words created by the teacher.

Modifications for students who need additional support:

A. Content:

  1. Help individual students sound out the word
  2. Ask guiding questions (what sound to hear you at the beginning of the word (________)
  3. Repeat the word
  4. Slow down and emphasize certain parts of the word (whether the beginning, middle, or end)
  5. Assist student in tapping out words
  6. Model when needed

B. Behavior:

  1. Help the student regain focus by calling them back to the activity
  2. Give clear directions and written directions/visual pictures if necessary
  3. Remind students of expectations for behavior (feet on the ground, in chair, head up, good attitude, staying on task)
  4. Create a reward system
  5. Encourage good behavior by praising child using their name and specifically saying how they are doing well
  6. Provide clear and short directions for students before and leaving the table and returning to group (Go back to your class quietly and slowly)
  7. Have each student repeat directions before returning back to group
  8. Tell each student what he or she is doing well

C. For students who need to be challenged:

  1. Students will read more words in a sentence
  2. Students can create words that use the welded sound
  3. Students can create words that use the bonus letter rule.


EVALUATION- The Assessment Plan:

I will assess student understanding….
Formative  During the lesson plan by:

  • Are students able to identify the beginning sound?-Are students able to identify the middle sound?
  • Are students able to identify the ending sound?
  • Are students able to match the appropriate sound with a letter/symbol?
  • Are students able to sweep their hand under the individual sounds and say the sounds all together to form a real/nonsense word?
  • Are students able to read word on popsicle stick?
  • Are students able to read sentence on popcorn strip?
  • Can students understand the meaning of the sentence?
Summative   At the end of the learning opportunity by:

  • Can students read the story “The Big Mess” as a group and box the welded sounds and put a star above the bonus letter words?


The c/k spelling rule

I learned a great spelling trick today about c/k rule. The rules is as follows: k takes and e while c takes the other three vowels: aou.

spelling rules, spelling tips, c/k rule, teacher spelling tips

To help students remember, point out that the k, which is made with a straight line, goes with the two vowels made with a straight line: i and e. As the document shows above, a triangle (a shape made with straight lines) surrounds  the three straight-made letters to reinforce this concept. When introducing the c rule, show students how c is made with a curved line. Allow students to trace their finger around the curve. Then show the three vowels: a, o, and u. Point out how these letters are all curved as well. Have students draw a circle around the three letters to reinforce that c, a curved letter, takes the other three curved letters: a, o, and u. Tricks like these are helpful for students who have trouble memorizing basic spelling rules and facts.


The Beauty in the Writing Struggle

One of the best classes I am currently taking at Gordon College is Arts in the City. Here is one of my reflection papers in response to the reading: The Invisible Embrace: BEAUTY by John O’Donohue. I hope you can find some inspiration in this piece as you think of ways to help struggling writers. Please feel free to share your thoughts!

I stink at writing. Everything in me screams when I am asked to write a long, extensive research paper. Although I willingly put myself in these situations in the hope that the struggle will fade, I repeatedly feel defeated, frustrated, and utterly down on myself for not completing the assignment as I wish. While reading, The Invisible Embrace: BEAUTY by John O’Donohue, the quote “when we lose site of beauty our struggles become tired and functional” really struck a cord since I often lose site of the world and myself when I write. My focus strictly becomes the struggle and my inability to express as I wish. For me, the beauty in writing doesn’t exist simply because I feel I am not good at it.

Since I was a little girl, I have always tried to combat this by searching for the magic answer that would get me out of this writing funk (or at least the negative feelings I attach to writing). Although I know I can never truly solve all my problems with writing, I was impressed when O’Donohue mentioned how we can overcome the lost of beauty with courage. Defining courage as “tapping in to the heart of fear and taking that frightened energy and turning it towards initiative, creativity, action, and hope,” I started reflecting in how I can use this to change my attitude toward writing. With this definition, I start to slowly see my struggle as beautiful and unleashing since I am conscious of the place my heart is leaning towards. When we move from the place of fear and into the mindset of Beauty, one can invite any difficultly and find a way to call it beautiful, although it may be challenging. Both readings suggests that Beauty is possible, even in the midst of an intense struggle.

Another great point the text made was seeing beauty as something that “calls us out of ourselves”, and “appeals to feelings deep within us”. If we define beauty in this way, I can again call writing beautiful since it appeals to the deepest feelings in me. Although these feelings are not positive, the writing process opens the insecurities of my heart and brain. If I approach these insecurities with grace and love, I can find this process potentially healing and even holy, if I long for the simple and complex answers to my struggle and my identity.