Wednesday, September 6, 2017

BEST Literacy Apps for More Reading and Spelling Success!

There was a time in the world of education when teachers utilized flashcards and ringed charts filled with sight words to help improve reading skills and student literacy. Those very low-tech and no-tech approaches to reading success were appropriate for their time but not all that stimulating and engaging as some of the tech resources currently have available to educators and the students they serve.

Today, we have tech hardware and software applications for literacy that grab student attention and keep them engaged, resulting in better skill building, improved comprehension and increased retention of content read by those students. We have been gifted with tablet and desktop programs that can help kids zero in on the exact text needing to be read. We also have applications available for the classroom and home use that can help support readers easily overwhelmed by too much text on a digital page. In addition, there are spelling apps that make learning new words much less tedious than in years past.

In this article at the beginning of a new school year, we wanted to provide the latest in reading and spelling apps for students in today's classroom. For your benefit and that of the students or children you serve, we have gathered such a list here to help you address the needs of challenged spellers and readers. We hope you will find this list not only helpful now at the start of the new school year but will keep it handy for use throughout the entire year. Happy Reading and Spelling, everyone!

Apps to Help Challenged Readers and Spellers

1. Top 10 Spelling Apps by Reading Rockets
(Various prices w/ 1 FREE app)

2. Beginning Spelling App for Word Study by This Reading Mama
($4.99-for Android & iPad, iPhone & iPod)

3. VocabularySpellingCity by SpellingCity
(FREE-for Android & iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch)
For Apple:
For Android:

4. Spelling Applications-compiled by DyslexiaHelp, University of Michigan
(Some FREE & various prices for Android & Apple)

5. Reading & Spelling Programs -compiled by DyslexiaHelp, University of Michigan
(Various prices for Android & Apple)

6. The Reading Focus Cards Desktop App ($5.99-for Macs & PCs)

For more tools & resources to help improve reading & spelling skills, visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at AND at

Thursday, August 31, 2017

BEST Research-Based Interventions for Dyslexia, ADHD and Other LD

As educators and parents, it is prudent to consider research-based or evidence-based resources when assisting students in any way. This is even more critical when helping challenged readers and learners.

In this article, we wanted to provide the most up-to-date research-based resources to help the many adults who serve populations with dyslexia, ADHD and other LD. We have listed them here with direct links for your convenience. Please know that every child is unique, exhibiting individual behaviors and specific needs. Discovering the BEST resources, techniques and interventions for an individual child or student of any age may take time, patience and extended efforts in order to increase the possibility of good outcomes.

Special Note: It is suggested that teachers, tutors, programs, and schools provide specific, evidence-based techniques. We also recommend that these techniques be discussed at follow-up meetings after student evaluations and/or assessments. This does not mean or guarantee that these techniques will result in a positive outcome in all cases. There are too many variables involved to provide any kind of guarantee of success. We also do not receive any financial or other exchange benefit from making specific recommendations. We sincerely want to provide our professional opinion about what may be an effective intervention for your child. This is not a complete list. There are many other effective techniques which we are continually discovering.

BEST Research-Based Interventions for Dyslexia, ADHD and Other LD

Interventions for Challenged Readers

1. Orton-Gillingham Techniques for Dyslexia
Of all the reading programs specifically designed to help struggling readers by explicitly teaching the connections between letters and sounds, Orton–Gillingham was the first. Today—decades later—many reading programs include Orton–Gillingham ideas based on a multi-sensory approach to reading and learning.

2. Tools for Unfocused, Overwhelmed and Other Readers w/ LD

a. Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759)
Low-tech tools for reading physical books, documents and other printed media

b. Reading Focus Cards App (Patent 8,360,779)
Digital tool for Macs and Windows PCs that allows readers to more easily and more comfortably remain focused on digital media--both online and offline (for web pages, digital documents and more)
For Macs:
For Windows PCs:

Instruction Techniques for Dyscalculia (Math Learning Disabilities)

1. The University of Chicago School Mathematics Project
UCSMP has created a curriculum for students from pre-kindergarten all the way through 12th grade. UCSMP materials, including Everyday Mathematics for Grades preK-6 and seven UCSMP textbooks for use in Grades 6-12 mathematics (Pre-Transition Mathematics; Transition Mathematics; Algebra; Geometry; Advanced Algebra; Functions, Statistics, and Trigonometry; and Precalculus and Discrete Mathematics), are being used currently by an estimated 4.5 million students in elementary and secondary schools in every state and virtually every major urban area. (Usiskin) We find that these techniques are appropriate for children with strong visual memory, language, and fluid reasoning ability. They are not as effective with children who are concrete learners and who need foundational memorization of facts and consistent scope and sequence of skills.

2. Connected Mathematics
CMP is a problem-centered curriculum promoting an inquiry-based teaching-learning classroom environment. Mathematical ideas are identified and embedded in a sequenced set of tasks and explored in depth to allow students to develop rich mathematical understandings and meaningful skills.

3. Saxon Math (for Elementary Students w/ Math LD)
Saxon takes an incremental approach to math, introducing a new skill or principle each day, then reviewing these concepts and skills day after day for weeks. This approach helps build students’ confidence in their ability to “do” math successfully. Students who have used this program receive consistently high scores on standardized math tests. We find this technique to be successful with concrete, sequential learners who need memorization, review, and scope and sequence learning.

Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) (for Middle to Sec. Students w/ Math LD)

1. I Can Learn
A full-curriculum mathematics software solution that is a self-paced, mastery-based technology fully aligned to Common Core State Standards for math grades 5th through algebra and allows for effective differentiated instruction in a positive learning environment.

2. Accelerated Math
Students must learn to think critically—like mathematicians—in order to master math. Accelerated Math keeps students working—and thinking—to solve a set of 6 problems before they see which ones they missed. The right amount of productive struggle helps students learn.

Assistive Materials for Dysgraphia

1. Stem sentences, essay templates and graphic organizers for dysgraphia

2. They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing with Readings (Second Edition)

3. High School Essay Templates

4. Elementary School – Sentence Generators

5. More Stem Sentences

6. Handwriting without Tears


Evidenced-Based Intervention Techniques for Dyslexia, Learning Disorders, and ADHD-from Turning Point Assessments

Orton–Gillingham: What You Need to Know-by Peggy Rosen and

For more information about tools & resources to help improve reading fluency, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at AND at

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

More Fluency Results in Improved Reading Rate, Comprehension and Retention, too!

Most educators know that a variety of skills come together to enable a student to read and so so proficiently. Those same educators will cite the specific reading skills required for this to be accomplished.

The right tools, strategies and teaching techniques can make all the difference in successfully developing and improving these skills in emergent as well as experienced readers. The following is a list of basic or primary reading skills needed for effective reading to result:

Primary Reading Skills

1. Phonics: To know the relationship between the sounds of spoken language and the letters of written language is essential for reading.

2. Word recognition: Many common words in English, such as "the" and "one," do not fit the normal phonics rules, so your child will need to memorize them.

3. Fluency: To read fluently, your child must not only be able to recognize words instantly, but also be able to divide the text into meaningful chunks.

4. Spelling and writing: Your child increases his knowledge of how print works when he spells and writes on his own. When he sees each letter, he learns to associate a sound with it. At first he may write "book" as bk — because he hears the /b/ and /k/ sounds. With instruction, he learns correct spelling.

5. Comprehension: To read, your child must understand the meaning of the words. She builds comprehension when she discusses what she thinks a book will be about and summarizes what happened in a story. Her understanding increases as her vocabulary expands.

In this article, our focus in on fluency (#3 above). We wanted to provide resources and information to help with the improvement of this all-important reading skill of recognizing words instantly and dividing them into meaningful chunks. Developing fluency does not simply require the teacher or parent to "force feed" a group of words or text to a child. It most definitely does not involve "speed reading" or increasing the rate of the words viewed by a reader, which many software programs attempt to do. The teaching of fluency requires specific activities and resources to encourage a child to attack the text needing to be read.

In a 2011 focus study of secondary students who were challenged readers, it was found that when implementing the appropriate strategies and tools, reading fluency improves, which in turn significantly improved the student' reading rate and comprehension. For more information on this study, please visit this link.

So, in our attempt to help parents and teachers with the development and improvement of reading fluency, we have provided here a list of resources and links to assist you. We hope you will discover that the following links will help your child or students do just that---Improve fluency so that reading rate and comprehension will follow. In the end, retention of what has been read will also be positively impacted with these improvements.

Reading Fluency Resources

Fluency Resources for Reading - from Brennan Innovators, LLC
70+ reading fluency resources all in one place

Reading Fluency Activities - by
The FREE reading fluency activities on this page are essential for children with dyslexia and struggling readers. These activities can be taught in the classroom (small and large group setting) and can also be implemented at home! Keep checking this page for more free printable reading fluency activities and other ways to increase reading fluency!

A Complete Guide to Reading Fluency- from Scholastic
Videos, activities, strategies and more to help develop and improve reading fluency.


Breaking the Code: Primary Grade Reading Skills---by Scholastic

For more information about tools & resources to help improve reading fluency, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at AND at

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Get 'Em In-Gear for a Great School Year!

The summer vacation time has always been a great season to reconnect with family and friends at a much more leisurely pace. Travel and enjoyable activities both indoors and in the sun can do much to help all of us recreate and refresh. This is especially true for children who have a chance during the summer months to experience important downtime, allowing for more creativity and reading for enjoyment than during the much more structured school year.

However, how can we best get them ready for late August or early September when the new school year begins? There are a few ways parents can do this, ways that are relatively painless and that may even go unnoticed by the children! Here are a few great ways to start the ball rolling to get your kids in-gear to begin the new school year:

GREAT Ways to Get Kids In-Gear for the New School Year

1. Get the children to bed on time. During the summer, children aren’t always on a schedule. However, proper rest is essential for a healthy and productive school year. Help your child get used to the back-to-school routine: start the transition now to earlier wake-up times and bedtimes. Structure and consistency are very important here.

2. Provide for healthy meals. Hungry kids can’t concentrate on learning, so good nutrition plays an important role in your child’s school performance. Studies show that children who eat healthy, balanced breakfasts and lunches do better in school. Fix nutritious meals at home, and, if you need extra help, find out if your family qualifies for any Child Nutrition Programs, like the National School Lunch Program (see link below for additional information).

3. Prepare a study area. Set up a special place at home to do school work and homework. Remove distractions. Make it clear that education is a top priority in your family: show interest and praise your child’s work.

4. Read Together. Take the pledge to read with your child for 20 minutes every day. Your example reinforces the importance of literacy, and reading lets you and your child explore new worlds of fun and adventure together. Change it up and promote variety by including read-alouds, sustained and independent silent reading and discussions about what you read. Do it TOGETHER!

5. Talk about and discuss ways to manage or limit school stress. If you or your children are overly anxious about performance in school, work through your negative beliefs, especially the beliefs about the implications of school failure. Challenge those negative thoughts that the worth of a person or future prospects hinge entirely on academic grades. Good performance will be achieved only when you and your children manage or overcome your fears and discover your own personal worth.

6. Set goals. Enjoy setting goals for your children and yourself, so weaknesses can be transcended and full potentials can be reached. Study goals must be realistic and achievable. For example, encourage small steps to reach higher targets.

7. Motivate the need to learn. Achieving some goals will certainly motivate children to reach more challenging targets. Another motivating factor would be to understand that a child works primarily for herself and her future career. Apart from the external rewards that parents may promise, a child or teen must understand that studying well is an opportunity for self-development and personal improvement.

8. Provide interesting learning opportunities that engage your child. To encourage your children or teens to prepare for the new school year, expose them to activities that inspire them to learn about things that interest them. A visit to a museum in a particular area of interest for the child is a place to start. A day trip to several libraries outside your usual locale can also be a good idea. Look into library and civic programs that may be offered over the summer months at little or even no cost.

Additional Important Tips for Parents

1. Communicate with teachers and the school. Contact your child’s teachers at the start of the school year. Get acquainted with them and let them know you want to be an active partner in helping your student to learn and grow. Plan to keep track of your child’s subjects, homework, activities and progress throughout the school year. And, consider serving on your local PTA or joining other parent groups that engage with and support your child’s school.

2. Take your child to the doctor, and make sure your child has health insurance coverage. It’s a good idea to take your child in for a physical and an eye exam before school starts. Most schools require up-to-date immunizations, and you may be asked to provide paperwork showing that your child has all the necessary shots and vaccines. So, check your state’s immunization requirements (see link below for additional information). And, always keep your own copies of any medical records.

Sources & Resources

Get in Gear for the New School Year: Back-to-School Tips for Parents by

Eight tips to start the new school year by My English Pages

National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

State Vaccination Requirements

For information about tools & resources for children & teens with reading challenges, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Tools and Strategies to Help Unfocused, Overwhelmed and Visually-Fatigued Readers

There is no doubt that in today's world, most of us are often unfocused, inattentive and overwhelmed as a result of the amount of reading required of us each day. There was a time (and not that very long ago!) that we were not faced with a hundred emails in our inbox, various "white" papers needing our attention and attached digital documents requiring review and signatures. Needless to say, that has all changed, AND these kinds of digital media vie daily for our attention in addition to the physical media demanding our readers' eyes. To say the least, we are fast becoming immersed in text 24/7. Is there any wonder that we feel overwhelmed by it all?

Then, for a moment, imagine a challenged reader who also struggles with ADHD, dyslexia or another reading issue, too. This individual is frequently overwhelmed and often unfocused even BEFORE attempting to read. What can the average amount of media currently presented daily cause for such a reader? The result is much more challenge and struggle than many of us can visualize.

There are ways to manage such focus and overwhelm issues with large (or small) amounts of reading or text. Sometimes the right tools can make all the difference for a number of readers. For others, it might be a particular tool, focusing strategy (or combination of tools and strategies), resulting in more attentive reading with better comprehension and retention.

We have gathered here a list of resources that include BOTH tools and strategies for such readers. In fact, most readers could benefit from knowing about these resources for those times when they are fatigued or just have too much reading to accomplish in a specific time period.

We hope these resources will help you or someone you know who struggles with focus and overwhelm when reading!

Other Resources to Help with Focus and Overwhelm

How to Stay Focused: Train Your Brain from Entrepreneur
Amid the noise, understanding your brain’s limitations and working around them can improve your focus and increase your productivity. This article will provide some tips for how to do that.

The RIGHT Strategies Get the Job Done for Challenged Readers w/ ADHD & Others
Refer to this set of specific strategies often, and then match the appropriate strategies to every reading situation in order to improve focusing and tracking skills as well as overall reading success.

Distracted Reading in the Digital Age by Elizabeth Randolph and Vassar
This article describes how an English professor and a librarian help students focus and read with more success.

Strategies and Accommodations for Challenged Readers
This web page provides a FREE downloadable list of strategies to help unfocused and overwhelmed, challenged readers of all ages.

Kindle & Reading Focus Cards Apps Work TOGETHER to Help ADHD & Dyslexic Readers Succeed!
The combination of these two desktop apps can work together to provide more FOCUS and less OVERWHELM than any other tech device for ADHD or dyslexia.

10 Bible Verses For When You Feel Overwhelmed by Rachel Wojo
Sometimes, the best remedy for feeling overwhelmed is reading God’s Word. The article here may be a simple post, but it is a beeline of verses that might hit the heart of the matter and could be just what the doctor ordered.

18 Tips to Support Dyslexics & Other Challenged Readers
This article offers readers a list of 18 tips to help and support the challenged reader(s) in your family or in your classroom.

Feeling Overwhelmed is a Common Anxiety Symptom by CalmClinic
Feeling overwhelmed is perhaps the most common symptom of anxiety, and it can actually affect you on a very base level. This resource from CalmClinic will provide some ideas to help you manage the anxiety of being overwhelmed.

Low-tech Reading Focus Cards - Customizable reading tools for physical books, documents & other applications (From $16.95)

Reading Focus Cards App - Virtual index card-like reading tool to aid visual focus, tracking, fluency, comprehension & retention---infinitely customizable (Mac, PC-$5.99)

OpenDyslexic - Font designed by Abbie Gonzalez to ease visual aspects of reading for dyslexia (FREE)

For more information about tools & resources for children & teens with ADHD, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at AND at

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Best ADHD Resources on a Budget

As parents and educators, we know that attention issues are more prevalent than they should be for the estimated 11% of children 4-17 years of age who have ever been diagnosed with ADHD (as of 2011, statistics provided by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). That's right. Depending on the state of residency, more than 6.4 million children in our country from ages 4 to 17 are challenged with some type of attention issue.

Because of continuing budget cuts for schools and a challenging economy for family households, funds are not always available for the necessary resources to address the pressing needs of these children and teens with ADHD. Although medical care and medications for ADHD can often be covered by family healthcare insurance plans, holistic or non-medical resources for ADHD are rarely included in such plans or coverage. Parents, teachers and others who care for and serve the significant number of children with ADHD are many times left to locate, research and obtain services and resources for their children or students on their own time and with their own personal funds, too.

We thought it would be beneficial to help provide some current ADHD resources to at least help save valuable time for these adults who are "on a mission" to help kids with ADHD gain access to the resources they need. As a result, we have gathered a sizable collection of ADHD articles, strategies, service providers, tools and other supportive resources---all in one place on our ADHD Resources & Support Pinterest board (1,300+ resources!) It will be good to know that many of the resources in this collection are available at very low or even no cost, too. We hope you will find all or most of what you need to help a child or teen you know and care about who struggles daily with ADHD.

ADHD Resources & Support

ADHD Resources & Support---ALL in 1 Place!
This is a collection of 1,300+ ADHD supportive resources for parents, teachers, homeschoolers & others who help or care for children & teens with attention challenges.


Data & Statistics: Children w/ ADHD--from Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

For more information about tools & resources for children & teens with ADHD, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Friday, March 31, 2017

The 6 Most Important Things About Dyslexia Teachers Need to Know

For many years, there is has been such controversy about dyslexia in the world of education. The reasons for this are varied, but the results of this controversy have been staggering and pervasive. For too long, there have been far too many students who cannot read. The nearly 1 in 5 students (17%) challenged with dyslexia continue to pay the price for this long-lasting controversy.

In this article we thought it would be helpful to all involved and invested in helping these students if we were to provide a short list of points for educators to keep in mind as the topic of dyslexia accommodations continues to be at the forefront of educational discussions across the country. In this way, perhaps teachers will be better able to begin addressing the pressing needs of their students with dyslexia in ways that will indeed make a difference in their academic and life experiences.

The 6 Most Important Things about Dyslexia Teachers Need to Know

1. Dyslexia is NOT a myth or imaginative condition. It is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia is not a vision problem. It is not about intelligence. It certainly is not about laziness. Dyslexia affects the way the brain processes written and spoken language. Individuals with dyslexia have trouble mapping letters onto sounds and vice versa. Students with dyslexia usually have a hard time reading, but they can also struggle with spelling, writing and even pronouncing words.

2. Dyslexia is inherited and lifelong. It is not something a student will outgrow. At the same time, dyslexia and its symptoms may appear or be experienced differently at different times throughout development. Very often, a child’s diagnosis will result in a parent realizing for the first time that he or she also has dyslexia.

3. Dyslexia is more common than many believe. The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) estimates that as many as 15 to 20 percent of people have some symptoms of dyslexia. These individuals have trouble with reading, spelling and writing, or mixing up similar words. Dyslexia affects people from all types of backgrounds, too. Of the 13 or 14 percent of school-age children who have a condition that qualifies them for special education services, 7 percent are diagnosed with a learning disability. Furthermore, 85 percent of those children have a primary learning disability in reading and language processing.

4. Prior to Kindergarten (and even as late as third grade), dyslexia may not be obvious or suspected. Children are generally diagnosed with dyslexia when they learn to read or begin reading in order to learn. That may be in kindergarten, first grade or even later at the primary level. However, as dyslexia is often suspected or discovered in older students, it is still a good idea to request assessment since the condition sometimes isn’t identified until much later. Early identification and treatment can make a very significant difference in the long-term quality of life for students. Teachers have a very important role in all of this because they are on the front lines when it comes to identifying dyslexia.

5. There is no one solution for all with dyslexia. Not all children with reading, decoding and spelling problems consistent with dyslexia actually have dyslexia. Other language problems that cause reading challenges also need attention. Educators can use tools like the Test of Integrated Language and Literacy Skills (TILLS) to help determine what individual students with language or literacy problems need to succeed in the classroom. It is important to note that in the case of dyslexia, a combination of the right tools, strategies and other supports may be required for reading success. A unique combination of these may very well be needed for each individual students affected with dyslexia.

6. Current and pending dyslexia legislation in many states will very soon affect teaching and learning methods, strategies, accommodations and more in many U.S. classrooms and at all grade levels (K-12). It is most important that educators begin to build their own "dyslexia toolbox" so that a portfolio of resources will be ever at-the-ready for dyslexic students (and others who struggle with reading) at every grade level. To learn more about the current and pending dyslexia legislation in your state, visit Dyslegia: A Legislative Information Site.


10 Things About Dyslexia Every Teacher Needs to Know-by Nickola Wolf Nelson, Ph.D.

8 Things Every Teacher Should Know About Dyslexia-from We Are Teachers

Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs to Know-from the International Dyslexia Association (IDA)

For more information about tools, strategies & support for challenged readers with dyslexia, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image sources:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at