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Essential Reading Intervention For A Student With Dyslexia

Did you know that students with a learning difficulty, such as dyslexia, benefit most from a structured, explicit, systematic and multi-sensory intervention?  Students with dyslexia will also not respond to standard reading instruction.

I’ve started using a new programme, called Sounds~Write, that provides highly appropriate intervention for students with a learning difficulty.  In fact, all students benefit from this different approach to the teaching of reading, spelling and writing.  I shared my experience of learning about this programme a few weeks ago, if you’d like to read more about the approach you can read that article here.

I’ve started working with an 8 year old girl who has been diagnosed with dyslexia and I wanted to share with you our experience with the Sounds~Write Programme.  Over the coming weeks and months I’ll share with you the activities we complete, how I feel the student is responding and my thoughts on the Sounds~Write Programme.  Let me know if you have any questions by using the comments below.

Diagnostic assessments

When working with a new student that you may not be familiar with or a student who has fallen behind in reading and spelling the programme recommends that the teacher begin with the diagnostic assessments.  These are criterion-referenced tests that are purely there to inform the intervention and help find out if the student has achieved competence at the skills.  They are not used to compare a student’s response with those of other students of a similar age.

There are 3 tests in total including:

  1. Phonemic Skills Test – this is used to determine a student’s ability to use the phonemic skills (blending, segmenting and phoneme manipulation) that are essential for reading and spelling.
  2. Alphabet Code Knowledge Test – used to discover if a student knows which sounds are represented by the individual letters.  Also, a sample of the common 2 letter spellings are tested.
  3. Non-Word Reading Assessment – this is to see if a student is using a ‘sight vocabulary’ strategy for reading, rather than attempting to decode accurately.

I performed all three tests with my student.  Below you will find a picture of the tests and how I completed them.  I am unable to share the specific content of the assessments with you as the programme is copyrighted.  As these are oral tests, I also recorded them with my iPad.  This was a really good idea, as the student went through very quickly with a couple of the tests and I had trouble keeping up with recording the responses, especially when there were errors.  When I analysed the results afterwards, I was able to listen back which was great as I picked up the parts I missed.

Essential Reading Intervention For A Student With Dyslexia | topnotchteaching.com
Diagnostic Assessments

The Programme does not provide an answer key or ideas on how to interpret the results.  That is up to the teacher to analyse the errors and work out the patterns and what skills and concepts may be lacking and then use this information to find a starting point in the programme.

I spent quite some time going through the tests and working out what the strengths and weaknesses of my student were.  I decided to make a template that I could use to document this information.  Also, this is then great to pass on to the parents to let them know where we’ll be starting and what to expect.  Below is a picture of the completed template.

Essential Reading Intervention For A Student With Dyslexia | topnotchteaching.com
Assessment & Intervention Template


Some of the strengths of the student included:

  • Proficient at blending;
  • Can blend 3, 4 and 5 sound words;
  • Can segment 3 sound words;
  • Could delete initial sounds and say the remaining words;
  • Mostly able to say all the sounds of individual letters, but with a few errors in pronunciation; and
  • Mostly able to read 3 sound nonsense words, e.g. mot, tep, saf and jud.


  • Had difficulty hearing some sounds, such as /ch/, heard this as a /t/ sound;
  • A few errors in pronunciation. E.g. /muh/ for /m/, /rah/ for /r/, /yeh/ for /y/ and /wuh/ for /w/.
  • Had difficulty segmenting some 4 sound words.  E.g. CCVC: green and CVCC: foond.
  • Had difficulty deleting middle and final sounds in words and then be able to say the remaining word.
  • Unable to identify sounds made by common 2-letter spellings.  E.g. /ou/ in out, /ir/ in stir and /aw/ in paw.  Said she hadn’t ‘seen these before’.
  • Difficulty in saying adjacent consonants when in a nonsense word.  E.g. said ‘piml’ for ‘plim’.
  • Could not correctly read many 5 sound nonsense words.

Where to begin with intervention

So I had now really looked at the results of the tests and worked out the parts that my student was having trouble with.  I’ve got to say it’s really hard picking a point to start and I feel this is definitely something that could have been focused on a little bit more in the training of this programme.  However, I don’t really think you can get it too wrong, as if you start at a point that is too difficult, then it’s easy to change.  Also if it appears to be too easy, then the teacher can quickly move ahead to a more appropriate point.

I was quite pleased that the student had a grasp of all the individual letters and their sounds, and had quite good skills with blending and segmenting.  However, before we get to the extended code, which is looking at the more complex ideas of one sound – different spellings and one spelling – different sounds, I really needed to correct the pronunciation errors and also focus in on 5 sound words.

Initial intervention

So the initial focus will be on correct pronunciation of all individual letter sounds.  I will focus on 5 sound words with 3 adjacent consonants, e.g. split, scrub.  We will then move on to some spellings are written with 2 different letters, e.g. /sh/, /wh/, /qu/, and /ng/.  This knowledge is toward the end of the Initial code which is Unit 10: 3 adjacent consonants and 5 sounds, e.g. CCCVC, CCVCC and CVCCC.  What I love about this programme is that each unit also reviews previously learnt knowledge, so if there are any gaps it will be focused on again as you move through the units.   The programme also focuses on having 80% mastery before moving on to a new unit, and thus why I also decided to start at this point.

Longer term intervention

When the student has a really good grasp on all of the initial sounds (in 3, 4 and 5 sound words) and is confident with the skills of blending, segmenting and manipulation of sounds, then we will move on to the Extended Code.  If students are not proficient with these skills then they are not ready to move on to the extended code.

Summing up

I had a fantastic time working with this student, and I really feel that I will be able to assist her with improving her reading and spelling.  I’ve spent quite some time working out my first lesson for the student and making all the resources we’ll need to begin.  I’ll share how I go with the first lesson with you and also let you know how I went with picking a starting point.  We’ll soon see if I started in the correct place 😉

8 Responses to Essential Reading Intervention For A Student With Dyslexia

  1. Hi again Mel.
    So your first student was 8 years old when she came to you. She has been in school for about a year and a half or so.

    Did she attend kindergarten?

    She had learnt phonemes wrongly. Who had taught her those phonemes wrongly?

    Do many schools/kindergartens in and around your place teach phonemes the same way as was learnt by your first student?

    Most of our kindergarten here in Malaysia teach students wrong phonemes which results in many kids shutting-down.

    How is this student doing now?

    I prefer not to use the word dyslexia and would like to use the word disengaged students as I believe they are a victim of ‘dysteachia’.

    • Hi Megan,

      Thanks for you question. Unfortunately at this stage the template is not available. But feel free to use some of the ideas to create your own :-)


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