Learning Letters and Sounds

I have a Kindergarten student that does not know thier letters.  They have been exposed to the letters in pre-school, Kindergarten, and in interventions but they are retaining very little.  What resouces or ideas do you have to help a struggling learner learn their letters? -Mike in Southern Utah

A typical child can learn a concept or in this case a letter with reletivily few exposures to that bit of content.  For some of our children with significant learning challenges this may take hundreds of exposures to a bit of content before it sticks.  The key to success it to find as many ways to teach the letters as possible and to spread those teaching moments across a variety of activities times through out the day.  For example after teaching a specific letter, have the students search for that letter when going down the hall, make the letter with play-dough, when doing math have the student place counters on a large letter and count the noumbers of counters needed.

In addition to the suggestions above there are a some great resources and tools to help you teach the alphabet.

  • Word Wagon & Fish school by Duck Duck Moose availible on ios, android, and Kinndle Fire.  These apps are fun and simple and provide a lot of practice in a way that keeps students engaged.  It uses scafolding to initially have students just matching letters based on letter names, then to letter sounds, and then indipendanly spelling.  Word Wagon
  • Wet-Dry-Try is a multisensory activity that appeals to different learning styles. It gives just the right amount of handwriting practice in a game-based format that feels like fun, and not like practice. Wet-Dry-Try


What do I do about sleeping in class?

I’m looking for suggestions of interventions for narcolepsy/sleeping.  The student has a diagnosis of narcolepsy and schizophrenia.    He sleeps constantly in class.  Gentle reminders to wake up will work momentarily and then student goes back to sleep.  Any ideas on what to do?

Narcolepsy is a legitimate disorder and can be difficult to deal with.  It is important to figure out the sleeping habits at home and find out if he is sleeping there.  If he is spending his nights playing video games then sleeps through school then his system is turned around and you need to do what is possible from a school setting to get that back on track.  Sometimes it is just as effective to set up a plan and goals directly with the student as it is to meet with parents.  It would be helpful to set goals with the student about bedtimes, awake time in class, and work accomplished.  Having a clear plan with incentives in place is key to getting the student to practice the techniques to stay awake.  That being said, there are a few practical techniques to deal directly with the problem.

  • Scheduled Power naps- 15-20 minute power naps can be very powerful in restoring energy and getting a student back on track.  If possible this should take place in a quiet dark location like the nurse’s office.  It is critical however that naps not exceed 20 minutes.    Contrary to logic more sleep does not equal more energy.  A 20-minute nap will leave you refreshed and energized, but a 40-minute nap will leave you groggy and unfocused.
  • Exercise- Nothing is better to restore energy that brisk exercise.  Using Brain Breaks as a whole class could get everyone a little more focused and on task.  When I had this issue with one of my former students, I would send them on a run to the fence and back.  I could see them easily from the window in my classroom.  On some of the tougher days, we had to do that about every 20 minutes.
  • Standing Desk-  An adult friend I have also had issues with Narcolepsy.  In meetings, he would often stand in the back of the room with a clipboard for notes.  He also had a standing desk in his office.  It was not necessary to stand all of the time, but when he was feeling drowsy standing up made it possible to stay awake.
  • Yoga Ball-  Sitting on a Yoga Ball would have a similar effect on the standing desk, but be cautious because if he falls asleep on the ball it could result in an injury.

SUECON Presentation

Welcome to my SUECON course “50 Amazing Interventions”.   This course is designed to give you some ideas to address specific challenges that many students struggle with. I also give a brief overview of the RTI Process.    I have included a link to download my presentation.  The presentation does not include links or details but I will soon complete an ebook that will have all the details and links.  Click on the SUECON link and put your email address in. As soon as the book is complete I will send instructions to download. I will only email  you when the book becomes available or if major updates are given.

50 Great Interventions PDF

50 Great Interventions PowerPoint

50 Great Interventions.key Keynote

You didn’t attend my session?  No Problem!  I will honor the free book offer to anyone who enters their email address before the book release, expected in early December.   Also I will create a video with the presentation that can be downloaded watched here soon.

How can I improve fact fluency?

Fact fluency can be the biggest asset or hinderance in learning mathematics.   When a student is struggling with math fact and counting on their fingers, their focus is on the counting rather than on the concept they are trying to learn.  When we introduce multiplication to the mix students who have not have not mastered the facts will simply not be able to solve the problem without a multiplication chart.  The use of a multiplication chart is extremely slow and also hinders learning key mathematical concepts.  Once these facts are mastered learning double digit multiplication, long division, and algebra are much easier to understand and master.

Intervention 1: Use software to practice facts.  There are many applications that will help students learn their math facts.  Some are free, and some are very expensive, but price does not determine effectiveness.  Selecting Software should be a matter of finding the best match.  I think the biggest key to effectiveness is that each student has their own account that tracks their progress and builds and reviews previously learned facts while gradually teaching and adding new facts to the list. Ideally the software will combine multiplication and division into a single training system and teach the concept as fact families.

  • Reflex Math https://www.reflexmath.com/ is one of the best, It is fun and engaging for students, adjusts perfectly to provide instruction on their level, and teaches the concepts as fact families.  Although it is probably the best, it’s price is extremely high compared to other options.  It’s almost $3,000 for a school license, or $35 per student for  teacher licenses.
  • Big Brainz Timez Attack is an arcade style game where students work through the game to and frequently review the facts.  This program is also very engaging to students and is almost as effective as Reflex Math.  There is a limited free option for just working on multiplication which is actually pretty good.  The Prices listed on the website are even higher than Reflex Math however because it’s a Utah based company they work with prices for Utah schools.  The Site license is listed at $5,000 but our school pays way less than a thousand.
  • Moby Max is not focused on fact mastery, but has a mastery component

Intervention 2: Audio -Problems Intervention


  • Audio recordings of sets of basic math facts problems (e.g., a set of 15 addition facts). At least three sets should be recorded. Note: The teacher determines the interval between the problem and the given answer. This interval remains consistent throughout the recording.
  • Student answer sheet for the set of math facts on the audio recording
  • Head phones (if needed)


Instruct the student to listen to the audio recording of a set of basic math facts. As each problem is spoken, the student is to “try to answer faster than the recording” by writing the answer for each problem before he hears it on the audio recording. If the answer is given before he can write it down, then the student writes the correct answer that he hears. If the student writes an incorrect response, he writes a slash mark through his answer and then writes the correct answer is written next to it. The student is to follow along with the recording and not move ahead.

The procedure is repeated multiple times with the recordings of the other sets of basic math facts problems.

The time interval can be very short (e.g., 1 second) in the beginning to help the student develop accuracy and to provide practice with modeling. Then, the intervals can be increased to help the student become more independent in his responses, and, finally decreased to promote more automaticity.

Intervention 3: Building-Up Flash Cards

Flash Cards have always been a relatively effective method of learning math facts, however if used properly it can be become very effective.  The best way to use flash cards involves starting with a few known facts then adding one or two new facts each session.  That way the new fact will be mastered quickly and is added to the known fact pile.  The known facts are reviewed frequently so they continue to improve, and new facts are in small enough increments that they are not overwhelming and are easily learned.

Intervention 4: Learn with Stories

Multiplication tables can be taught using short stories that help the child relate images and stories to the fact that needs to be memorized.  A few places you can find this are: