Top 10 Reading and Language Development Tips

Top 10 Tips I learned at Logic of English Master Teacher Training

April 8-11, 2019

I’ve taught Logic of English for four years. What could I possibly learn at a Master Teacher training? Apparently, quite a lot!

  1. Learning to read is like the growth of a plant

The roots grow out of the seed first, but even after the stem erupts through the soil, the roots continue to grow beneath the surface. If you don’t continue to feed the roots, the growth of the whole plant suffers.

Phonemic awareness, phonics, and oral language development are all key elements in feeding that growing root system in a child’s brain. The fruits of that growth is evident when he or she can read and comprehend anything he or she sees in print. Anything.

2. Rhyming is one of the hardest skills to learn

Children need so much more to be able to read fluently, and if they can’t rhyme words, which is something I thought was a basic, easy skill, then they can still learn to be fluent readers.

Think about how much reading instruction relies on rhyming (Cat in the Hat!), which is the hardest of the 14 steps!

3. There’s no such thing as “Whole Language”

I thought for sure there was, because my first-born learned to read “on his own” and never learned phonics. Turned out he did, but he did it with such ease that he learned to splice together the phonograms (sounds) and the morphemes (meanings) so fluidly that it looked like he was just reading the “whole word.”

Whole Language is a myth. We all learn to read by starting with the basic parts (phonograms and morphemes) and then learning to put them together to discern meaning (fluency). For most students, this takes time. Lots of time.

4. Handwriting is essential to learning

While cursive is preferred, even free-hand handwriting is essential to learning the sounds of our language and their corresponding symbols (letters).

Using MRI scans, studies on the brain indicate that a student who free-hand writes a new phonogram will store that information in the part of the brain where reading skills are stored (called the letterbox). Students who typed, traced, or repeated the phonogram orally without writing it, stored the information in a different part of the brain and had difficulty recalling the information.

Cursive is better (that’s a whole other blog post), but even handwriting has tremendous benefits, so toss the iPad and tell your little learner you’re feeding his brain!

5. Our brains aren’t wired for reading

For millennia, humans learned to speak and listen, but survived without reading or writing, so our brains had to adapt to literacy.

When we read, we use the part of our brain intended for facial recognition, which is why mirror-image letters are harder to learn (b & d, p & q). That’s often misdiagnosed as dyslexia & dysgraphia as students reverse letters.

6. Sight words are hindering readers

At first, sight words seem like a great idea to build confidence & reading skills, but by 4th grade, many students plateau in their knowledge of language because it’s assumed that they can read all the words.

They can’t. They can read the 300+ Dolch words and maybe a few others that aren’t “exceptions to the rule.”

Many students have never been taught to sound out words by known phonograms, nor discern meaning from known morphemes, so they’re just guessing. As a result, 68% of 4th graders nationally are below proficiency. That depressing number doesn’t really improve by 8th grade or 12th grade, either.

The number of words a student can decode (sound out using phonics) multiplied by the number of words in his or her spoken vocabulary equals the number of words he or she can read fluently. Since the average kindergartener has 10,000 words in his or her oral language, teaching the 106 phonograms and spelling rules will unlock 10,000 words. That’s a lot more than 300.

See? There was math at this English training!

7. Good readers slow down to read harder passages

Literacy assessments often look for “wpm,” which counts the words read per minute. Strong readers will often slow down when reading something more challenging. This does not reflect poor reading skills, but rather a higher level of literacy.

Fluency can and should be assessed in a multitude of ways.

8. Parents will focus on the graded materials

There are many things a teacher can focus on when assessing student work and grading homework, quizzes, test, and classwork. At the end of the day, parents will focus on what is graded.

If we, as educators, focus on spelling, then we’re telling the parents that skill is more important. Giving partial credit would be better.

For example, if a student misspells the word “clean” as “cleen,” the best way to correct would be to say, ‘You correctly spelled the sounds /k/, /l/, and /n/. You used one of the spellings of long /e/, but in this word we use EA.’ This validates the correct spellings for 75% of the phonograms in the word.

9. We store words in our brain based on meaning

Using orthographic mapping, researchers found that people store words in different parts of the brain, based on meaning.

All the words relating to family are stored in one part of the brain. All the words relating to math are in another. Food gets its own section, too.

10. Read aloud to your kids

Okay. I admit I already knew this, but now I know why I’m right.

Remember that equation (#6)? The number of words a student can decode multiplied by the number of words in his or her spoken vocabulary equals the number of words he or she can read fluently.

That equation means that you can boost your child’s oral language by reading books to him or her. From birth.

Remember the tree metaphor? It’s never too late to read aloud with your kids! Grow deeper roots! If they aren’t into reading on the couch, you can pop in audio books and devour J. R. R. Tolkien in rush-hour traffic. Everybody wins.


So, as much as I dreaded leaving behind the sunny Texas weather and heading to Minnesota with a snowstorm predicted, I am so grateful for the opportunity to learn more about a subject I am already passionate about.

And I got to play in the snow.

--Kim Lanicek, Lead Teacher of our Bethlehem Class

What tips can you share related to reading and writing?