What is the Difference Between Tutoring and Educational Therapy?

Tutoring differs from educational therapy in a number of ways. The three areas in which they differ include training, goal setting and services provided. An educational therapist provides intensive intervention, which goes beyond just homework help. The service provided can include remediation of a basic academic skills such as reading, spelling, and/or math. Educational therapists can provide formal and informal assessments of academic skills. They can also provide case management for learning disabilities with parents, teachers and other involved professionals. A tutor on the other hand does not have the breadth of skills to provide all of these services.

Another difference is that education therapists set forth goals. Although they tend to focus on academics, they can also include executive function skills and encompass the psychological issues surrounding educational struggles. Many times students need help with organization, time management, and dealing with test anxiety, along with remediation of academic skills. Tutors tend to focus on the subject matter in front of them and not address the psychological factors associated with struggling to learn.

Lastly, an education therapist has extensive training about learning disabilities including learning styles, assessments and intervention strategies. Education therapists learn about dyslexia, dysgraphia and dyscalculia, as well as ADHD. Educational therapists’ training includes a supervised practicum that ensures fidelity of services and intervention. Tutors may or may not have information about assisting in areas beyond their area of expertise.



AET article, The Difference Between Educational Therapy and Tutoring

Homophone of the Week: Fawn, Faun

Homophones are words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently. The base <phone>  relates to sound, while the base <hom>  denotes “same”. The study of homophones allows us to look at the meaning behind the spelling of two words that sound the same and why they might be spelled differently.

This word pair came up when a student spelled <fawn> as <faun> and I’ve learned that sometimes what we might think is a “nonsense word”, is actually a real word. It certainly was here. This was one of my favorite homophone studies to date!


Fawn is a noun meaning a young deer (Websters). Bambi is a fawn, a very cute fawn. Fawn can also be used as a verb to show affection. The teenagers are fawning over the band. The noun originally came from Old French <faon, feon> earlier derived from the Latin of meaning an offspring (Etymonline). Originally the term referenced any animal baby, but over time it grew to just apply to deer. The verb however is Old English <fægnian> denoting “rejoice, be glad, exult, applaud”. It derives from the Old English word for glad.



Faun is a noun meaning a deity with human form along with goat characteristics in their ears, horn, tail and legs (World Reference). Mr. Tumnus in The Chronicles of Narnia is a faun. A faun is similar to a satyr, that is referenced in Riordon’s Percy Jackson books. While fauns and satyrs are similar, fauns are Roman mythology and satyrs are from Greek mythology. A faun’s animal characteristics are goat and wasn’t always represented with goat hind legs. The animal characteristics of a satyr are typically horse or donkey. The word faun derives from Latin <faunus> which came from Greek φαῦνοςphaunos. Faunus was a Roman woodland God. He was written about by Virgil and in modern times he is referenced as Pan. A grammatical note that the plural of <faun> is <fauni>.


I would like to thank my students who brighten my day with their questions and Doug Harper at Etymonline for providing us with such valuable resources, as well as the artists who created these fabulous images.



Faun image credit: http: Amanda Edlund //www.deviantart.com/art/Faun-196262322

Fawn image credit:Jessica Lee https://www.facebook.com/JLPhotos


Periaktoi – those spinny set pieces

Word of the day: periaktoi



Periaktoi (“perry-act-toy”) are theatrical prism shaped set pieces that turn to define separate scenes. The face of a periaktos (singular) is painted to represent a scene. The periaktos will traditionally have have 3 faces, but can have more. It is thought that have 3 faces gives the quickest scene changes. When periaktoi are used on stage, there are typically more than one matching periaktos that are moved in synchrony and highly coordinated.

The word itself is Greek, as it comes from Greek theatre. The initial base is <per> which denotes round, or revolving. It is seen in words such as <perimeter> the measure around something. <Periodontal> means to go around the tooth. The second base is <aktos> which denotes “carry”.  The word sum for <periaktos> is peri+i+aktos. It is something that is rotated and carried. Before set pieces were on wheels, they would have to be picked up and carried to be moved or rotated.

Now you can enjoy your theatre a little more when you see periaktoi moving around the stage.


6 different scenes using a 3 sided periaktoi video

3 different cityscapes video

Photo credit to Lexi Marton –  http://alienaritist7812.deviantart.com/art/Periaktoi-4-332124938

Matrix of candidate

Let the Best Candidate Shine

Matrix of candidate

Matrix of candidate

In honor of election day, I wanted to shine some light on the word <candidate>. This word originates from the Latin word <candere> which means to “to shine, to be white”. It is where the word <candle> comes from. An <incandescent> bulb means to shine within, as it shines within a light bulb. A <candidate> is someone aspiring to be in office. In Roman times, a person seeking office would wear white, specifically a white toga. Well, let’s see who will shine today.




The Story of Halloween


The traditions of Halloween date back about 2000 years ago with the Celtic festival of Samhain /say-when/ which was celebrated on November 1st. It was thought that the ghost of the dead came out on the even of Samhain. So on the last day in October people would not leave their house unless dressed as a ghost to fool any actual ghosts into thinking they were a ghost and thus leave them alone. Additionally, people would leave food and wine on their doorstep in order to appease the ghosts. It was a great celebration.

In the 8th century, the Christian church turned Nov 1st into Allhallow’s Day, to celebrate the saints. Hallow means saint or holy person. It appears that our current word <halloween> comes from allhallow’s day. It was often referred to as Hallow’s Day. Evening in that time was just called “even” which was often shortened to “e’ve”. Over time, Allhallow-even was shortened to halloween, which became the common usage.

The concept of Halloween spread with the literature of Robert Burns in his poem, Halloween. I’ve included a reading of Robert Burns’ reading of the original poem that popularized Halloween in 1785. If you would like to see the original poem text, here’s the link.



Homophone help



Homophones are words that sound the same. means same. means sound. Common homophones we use in daily life: two, to, too. I often get the question, “why is it spelled that way?” when it relates to a homophone. Sometimes I hear, “why don’t they just spell all those words the same way?”

I have to start this conversation with the fact that our writing system is a way to record meaning, not necessarily sounds. Our oral English language has been used for a lot longer than our written language. Spoken language shift over time. Think of the word, “selfie”. That is a word that did not exist 20 years ago, but became popular in our language with the advent of smart phone and front facing cameras. Eventually Webster’s dictionary decides that it needs to formalize it’s spelling and add it into the written language. You can see how spoke words typically develop long before a written representation exists.

So what’s the deal with homophones? Why do we have to spell them differently if they are said the same? Most homophones start in our speech, but as we talk the context we use allows us to know whether we are talking about items or meaning also. We might as a society revolt against the word and insist everybody uses because it is distinguished from and , but society will continue to use words that are familiar.

So it leaves scribes attempting to figure out how to spell homophones differently because they represent two different items or meanings. Therefore, scribes must look into the history of related words to choose the spelling of words that create meaning on its spelling. One might ask, why it is that there is a unvoiced in . Great question! That marks a connection to the words such as and which both have a in them. It may seem odd to insert an unvoiced letter into any word, but English scribes worked to create morphological connections between words. They wanted to connect the meaning (2, 12, 20) together in the spelling or orthographic representation.

So when you come across a set of homophones, try to consider what their history is. Try to consider what meaning a vowel team or unvoiced letter might have in the spelling. It wasn’t put there to be “weird” or “crazy”. It has a meaning.

Lastly, I will leave you with a resource for finding homophone. It is the homophone dictionary. There are many homophones that we come into contact with daily, but some are more obscure, yet equally valid.

Dyslexia Warning Signs App

APP TESTER NEEDED: Dyslexia Warning Signs

Dyslexia Warning Signs app is a simple app designed for professionals that have no experience or knowledge with dyslexia, but who are professionals that parents come to for help. This app is currently in its testing phase and that is where I need your help. I am looking for parents who would be willing to download this free app on their iPad, take the questionnaire, and give me their feedback on the experience. Feedback should be emailed to apps@levelupdyslexia.com. I need feedback on look/feel, usability, information provided, and additional features that would be helpful. Thank you again for your help and support.

Download app on your iPad here. It’s free.

Why we teach the difference between a grapheme and a phoneme.


graphemes and phonemes of the word “school”

All children need to be taught what a grapheme and a phoneme is and why. A grapheme is the letter representation of a sound, while a phoneme is the sound representation of a letter or letters. The reason why this is important in English is because we don’t have a one to one letter to sound correspondence. So we use two or three letters to make up a sound such as ‘sh’ making a shushing sound. Likewise there are some phonemes (sounds) that are represented with more than one grapheme. The /z/ sound as in the beginning of “zoo” is typically thought of as spelled with a ‘z’, but it is also spelled with a “s” in words like ‘please’ and ‘design’.

The reason to use these distinctions is mainly to assist in spelling, although it does also have a place in reading. I point out a great video by Pete Bowers who explains about the spelling of ‘school’. Note that he talks about how there are 6 letters in ‘school’, but only 4 graphemes and 4 phonemes. While some may wonder why there is a silent ‘h’ in school, there really isn’t. The ‘ch’ represents the /k/ sound, such as in Christmas. The teaching of kids in the lower elementary grades that there are phonemes and graphemes helps them significantly with spelling.

If we were to break down words according to not only their letters but by phoneme and grapheme, it makes it easier for kids to see and remember the words for spelling and reading at a later time.

How to Respond to “Your Child Just Needs to Read More”

Stack of books

Stack of books

One of the most common recommendations that families with struggling readers get is “your child just needs to read more”. Let me analyze why this phrase is not helpful and in some cases might be hurtful.

There is an implication in this statement that a child is not spending time reading. At the International Dyslexia Association conference, it was stated that a fluent reader reads in two days what a struggling reader reads in one whole year. This is jaw dropping for parents and teachers. The thought might be, lets have those struggling readers read more. One of the flaws in that statement is that a struggling reader is expending a lot of energy when they read. That student is often exhausted when they read for the same amount of time as a fluent reader. A struggling reader is decoding every syllable in every word. That last sentence has 20 syllables and 10 words. So instead of quickly recognizing the 10 words, they are stopping to process each 20 syllables, deciphering the vowels, determining schwas, and that’s not to mention the dropped schwas. As far as time goes, a struggling reader would need to increase their reading time by 182. That is logistically impossible.

There is another implication of “your child just needs to read more” is that the practice of reading leads to improved reading. It has been found that guided reading does not improve decoding skills. It increases compensatory skills which mask decoding difficulties. Asking someone who wears glasses to take of their glasses, look at an object and “see better” would be a ridiculous request. That is how someone who is struggling in decoding feels when they are told to “read more”. The skill that will help them read better relates to explicit, direct multi sensory instruction, or an Orton-Gillingham based approach. Another common approach in schools is for kids to take home a passage and read it 5 times for the week to increase fluency. This task teaches a dyslexic student to memorize the passage, because that is a compensatory skill they learn when they aren’t allotted the skill of decoding.

So I am asked, “how do I respond to that request?” Education is the answer. Sometimes it needs to be put into perspective. This may be different if it comes from a teacher verses a friend. Teaching others about the multitude of processes your child endures while reading helps them to understand it is not about “more time” reading. It also helps them to see that reading doesn’t click for everyone the same. Educate people about the skill of decoding and what works. Explain to them that reading is not accessible unless the skills of decoding is present. The time focus for a struggling reader should be on instruction and not leisure reading, until the student masters ALL the tasks of decoding. Once a student has mastered decoding then reading more will be a decision between the student and the child, but until a student is decoding, it’s best to spend that time in a more fruitful way.

California Dyslexia Law 2015

CA dyslexia bill
Today, Governor Brown signed into law, AB1369, a California Dyslexia Law. It is the first time in 30 years that dyslexia has been addressed.

It should be noted that there is not a mandate for teachers to use a specific program, but with the guidelines by the state forthcoming it will be expected that multi-sensory structured literacy will become the method for reading remediation. Additionally, it give parents, teachers, and administrators guidance on what is effective, as delineated by the scientific evidence.

Additional California law is expected to follow to address the inadequacies of screening for dyslexia and the need for teachers to be trained in the risk factors and implementation of these reading interventions.