Editor's note: This post is an excerpt from the report, "Saxon Phonics and Spelling: Research Evidence Base." It's been lightly adapted for format. All research citations can be accessed in the linked full report.
Saxon® Phonics and Spelling provides multisensory instruction to support all learning modalities and aligns with the Orton-Gillingham approach for differentiated reading instruction. All students, including those with dyslexia, receive support for ongoing success.
What do students with dyslexia need to learn to read?
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin that is characterized by an “unexpected difficulty in reading for an individual who has the intelligence to be a much better reader, most commonly caused by a difficulty in the phonological process, which affects the ability of an individual to speak, read, and spell” (Shaywitz & Shaywitz, 2020, p.100). Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge (IDA, 2020). Early identification, remediation, and providing accommodations where necessary are critical for minimizing these secondary consequences and others such as the detrimental effects of experiencing repeated failure.
Developing a dislike for reading can make problems worse if students avoid reading and thereby fall further behind. Therefore, providing systematic, explicit instruction and multiple opportunities of practice and review are effective instructional strategies for students with dyslexia and critical to implement from the early grades.
Research indicates that students with dyslexia perform worse in reading irregular and nonsense words compared to regular words, suggesting that impairments in decoding are characteristic of dyslexia (Ziegler et al., 2008). Recent research has highlighted the importance of rapid naming skills in fluent reading. The ability to quickly and automatically process, identify, and name familiar text and objects is related to reading (Georgiou, 2013), and this skill is impaired in students with dyslexia (Jones et al., 2010). Moreover, students who struggle with reading may lack the “reading stamina” needed during a literacy block that requires independent work in addition to working with teachers and students. Students with reading difficulties need extra practice, extra time, and books aligned with their proficiency that engage their interests.
How Saxon Phonics and Spelling aligns with research to supports students with dyslexia
Saxon Phonics and Spelling K–2 provides systematic, explicit, incremental, and cumulative instruction with application and continual review with foundational literacy skills that benefit all learners, particularly those students with dyslexia. The best practices from reading science and research base from the Orton-Gillingham approach helped guide the development of the program components to specifically address the needs of striving readers. The flexible implementation options found in the Resources for Differentiation booklet allow teachers to tailor the program and instruction for students at all levels in their reading journey.
Providing differentiated instruction to students showing signs of dyslexia
To further meet individual needs, teachers can use the Options for Differentiation activities, located at the end of each lesson. The recommended activities within the Options for Differentiation specifically call out additional supports teachers can provide to students showing signs of dyslexia. Teachers can focus on multisensory reinforcement of letter shapes and sounds, as well as phonemic awareness activities and other prereading activities for striving readers. Working with children in small groups organized by skill level enables teachers to tailor activities to the skills each child needs to improve.
The Options for Differentiation activities are optional, small-group activities designed to help children learn and practice the concepts from each lesson at their own skill level. Activities are leveled according to the amount of support children need to help develop or strengthen a given skill. Children with learning difficulties can be read to and assisted with the worksheets individually, but they should continue to participate in all activities so that they are presented with the same vocabulary and concepts as their peers. Thus, as their reading skills improve, other areas of learning will not be neglected.
The Fluency Readers in particular are designed to meet children’s individual needs. Through methods outlined in the Fluency Instruction booklet, children are matched to books at their independent reading level. The three levels of fluency readers have been carefully designed to correlate with one another so that all children can read about a common topic, such as ants or farms, at their independent reading level.
If assessment results indicate that children require remediation, consider offering a “Kid Card Day” using the Kid Card Activities. These Kid Card games offer additional practice and repetition that students with dyslexia may need in order to master a phonics concept. Teachers can review the decks as usual; then divide the class into small groups that need work in specific areas. During this time, teachers may work with specific groups or walk around the room to ensure that children are playing correctly. In these cases, teachers are encouraged to group children according to their learning abilities and by the skills that need strengthening. Children who require more practice should not compete with those who might quickly know the answers unless teachers are able to adjust the level of difficulty for each child’s turn.
The program also provides various opportunities for multisensory learning by incorporating recommendations of activities that use manipulatives, skywriting techniques for letter writing, and letter formation activities on sandpaper or trays with sand, salt, or glitter. These activities can be done with individuals, with a small select group of children, or with the whole class to give all children extra practice.
About Saxon Phonics and Spelling
Saxon Phonics and Spelling K-2 primarily focuses on the decoding component of the Simple View of Reading. It is aligned with the phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency pillars identified by the National Reading Panel as essential elements of effective reading instruction (NICHD, 2000). However, it also incorporates the development of the vocabulary knowledge and comprehension pillars as the students establish a solid foundation in their early literacy skills.
Saxon Phonics and Spelling is a supplemental series for grades K–2 that explicitly teaches phonemic awareness, phonics, and fluency in a way that is supported by scientific research and proven effective by years of classroom success. Saxon’s approach to teaching phonics and spelling concepts is based on solid foundational research in cognitive science and best practices in literacy instruction. It has been found to be consistently effective for children of varying ability levels and socioeconomic backgrounds.