Just the Wrong Facts: Morphological Awareness

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) just came out with a new, “Just the Facts” sheet on Morphological Awareness. It is a new branding to bring awareness to the forgotten piece of our language, morphology. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree with the term “morphological awareness,” but that is not the point of this article. My concerns today are that the IDA so badly wants to jump on the “morphology bandwagon” that they have not done their due diligence to provide accurate information to those they serve. They just released an article called, “Morphology 101,” along with the Just the Facts sheet.

So what is all the hub-ub on morphology? Why is it all the rage? Here’s the thing. Spelling is not “sound written down.” Spelling is an interwoven use of morphology, etymology and phonology. The morphemes are the structures that make up a word. Morphemes include bases, prefixes, and suffixes. One of the biggest misnomers in the field of education is the term, “root.” A root is connected to etymology – the story behind a word. Where did this word travel from? Is it from Latin “placere?” Or maybe it’s Old English. If you are lucky you’ve find a word that got its beginning in our language from the warrior Viking of Old Norse. These traveler stories are the roots. Calling a morpheme a “root” or a “root word” is inaccurate. It is also confusing.

To make things even more confusing is the nonsense word “bound root.” Are we talking about a head of garlic that’s roots got all tangled? There are definitely bound bases. A bound base is a base that is not independent word. It requires an affix in order to be a complete word. An example would be the bases <rupt> or <cept> that is seen in <corrupt> or <intercept>. The respective roots would be rumpere and capere.

Word is getting out that morphology is a huge piece of the pie that’s been missing in reading and spelling. When morphology is accurately represented, it provides huge break throughs for kids who have sadly been deemed “treatment resistors.” These are kids who have been marked as having some sort of defect, with the inability to absorb what is being taught. In the medical field, physicians and scientist would agree that perhaps the medicine (or treatment) is not the right choice for the student. A physician would choose another medicine (or treatment). The other treatment includes the use of morphology. This is why and how the focus on morphology has become to great. Students are shining and making great strides with morphological instruction that includes etymology (and phonology) through orthographic linguistics. Sometimes it is termed, “Structured Word Inquiry” or “Real Spelling.” It is studying the written structures of English that bring about a deeper understanding, that drives both reading and spelling.

Another concern I have about how the Just the Facts sheet was written is the term “morphological awareness” is used when sometimes the word “morphology” would be beneficial. Sometimes we need to bring awareness to something, which means to be vigilant and watchful, but sometimes we just need to learn and understand something. When do we ever refer to the process of photosynthesis as photosynthesis awareness? We either know how photosynthesis works or we don’t. If we don’t we learn and understand it, we don’t become “aware” of it to figure out how it works. When I read this article, I asked myself, would “morphology” or “morphological understanding” be a better fit here than “morphological awareness.” Most of the time, the answer was yes. My concern is that we are creating a new “buzz word” when really the problem is that morphology needs to be understood. The IDA is just becoming aware that morphology is important. They are the ones who are becoming morphologically aware. Again, I’m still undecided about the concept of morphological awareness as a whole that needs to “address.” What I do believe is that morphology is a missing component in education and that it needs to start at a much younger age.

I also wanted to share what my white board looks like when I left my office today. I did not write any of this in response to the IDA article. I created this yesterday with a student and thought it might be helpful to leave it up for the week. I teach kids, 2nd grade, 4th grade, 8th grade, the difference between a root and a base. They are active participants in finding both of these. My white board, in my highly biased opinion, explains more about morphology than these articles.

Attached you will find my comments about the IDA article on Morphology 101 and the Just the Facts: Morphological Awareness: One Piece of the Literacy Pie. I will also be sending these critiques to the IDA in hopes they will consider a revision to their (inaccurate) “facts.” I will add that the Spring edition of the IDA Perspectives Journal on morphology also include linguistically inaccurate information (aside from the excellent article by Marcia Henry).  Perhaps I will include my feedback on those in a future post.

IDA Morphology 101 markup 

IDA Just the Facts: Morphological Awareness: One Piece of the Literacy Pie

While I would like to end the post here, I must leave you with the study of <pie>, since we are talking about “one pice of the literacy pie.” It turns out that <pie> has several definitions. Most people associate <pie> with the pastry, like apple pie, pumpkin pie. Yum, it’s getting to pie season. When we think of a piece of the pie, we usually associate it with a circle that has been cut in half, or quarter, or sixteenths. When we study fractions, pie shapes are often used. <Pie> is also a shortening of the bird, “magpie”. The names Margaret and Mag are derived from this bird’s name due to its “idle chatter.” In the 16th century, a phrase arose the “wily magpie” which referenced a sly rogue. Perhaps that is how I feel I will be looked at for writing this post. The last definition is the one that seems to fit the IDA’s literacy pie the best. Pie is also a mishap of typesetting. When a typesetter drops his tray of characters they would get all  jumbled up. If printed in this manner, this is called pie type (or pi type). Similarly, modern day “symbols” were referred to as “pi characters” by typesetters. When we type #(%&@^ , most consider this to be gibberish which is what pi type referenced. This, my friends, is how I think the morphological information provided about the literacy pie today by the IDA reads, in pi type.


Morphological Awareness: One Piece of the Literacy Pie. International Dyslexia Association, 11 Oct. 2017.

Hessler, Terri. Morphology 101. International Dyslexia Association, 11 Oct. 2017.

“Pi Type.” Pi Type – PrintWiki, printwiki.org/Pi_Type.

“Pie .” Etymonline, www.etymonline.com/word/pie.

“Pie.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pie.

Thornhill, Howard. “Pi the Type.” Pain in the English, 11 May 2008, painintheenglish.com/case/2585.

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

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.

Book Review: Thank you Mr. Falker

Thank you, Mr. Falker

Thank you, Mr. Falker book by Patricia Polacco

Thank you, Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco, is a book about a little girl who loves books with a great desire to read, but it doesn't come easy. Her strength of art keeps motivated through school. When the family moves to a new school, the girl's dislike for school grows, teasing begins, and so do the somatic complaints.  The new 5th grade teacher Mr. Falker connects with her and teaches her to read. The book never mentions that she has dyslexia, but it is implied.

See this book read by actor, Jane Kaczmarek.

Declaration of Independence From All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

In CALIFORNIA, July 4, 2015

The unanimous Declaration of Independence

from all

ineffective literacy methods for students with Dyslexia 

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve an ineffective educational method connected by Dyslexia, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the Laws of IDEA entitle them, the decent respectful opinions of mankind requires a declaration cause which impel them to revolt.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all students are not created equal, but that all students are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are free, appropriate public education.

To secure these rights, the Educational system, deriving their powers from the laws governed by our state and country, that whenever an Educational method becomes destructive, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Educational methods, laying its foundation on such principles for students to seek Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that certain Educational methods for Dyslexia long established should not be changed for light and transient causes: and accordingly all experience hath shown, that students are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations occur within the educational systems, it is their right, it is the duty, to throw off such Educational practices, and provide new interventions to guard for their future.

The student who is suffering with Dyslexia; now it is necessary to alter Educational practices. The history of the California Educational system has a history of repeated injuries and usurpations for such students, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over their School Districts. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to to candid world.

Districts have refused to follow the IDEA related to Dyslexia, indicating that it does not exist; it needs to for the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

Certain educations organizations have forbidden his Legislators to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance in literacy

Districts have called together their administrative bodies in such a way that its effect, and seeming purpose of fatiguing families into signing IEPs in which they do not agree that meets their child’s needs

Districts have endeavored to prevent the families from feeling they have the right to evaluation and testing, or interventions for that matter

Districts who have evaluated students have obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing to qualify students for a myriad of unfounded reasons.

Districts have combined with others to subject us to:

Following unacknowledged rules, regulations and policies; such guidelines which do not exist and cannot be found in writing among their district writings

Blocking access to evidence-base multi sensory direct explicit structured and systematic intervention; Only allowing the use of ineffective curriculum that only frustrate our child, leaving them grades behind

Depriving our children of the opportunity to read

Depriving our children of the opportunity to write and spell that is on par with their intellect

Ridiculing our children’s efforts, by way of telling them to “try harder”

Stabbing and stealing their self esteem, a secondary effect of they Educational system’s inability to effectively remediate our children’s reading and spelling

Absconding with their desire to learn; dashing their hope they can learn beyond.

Imposing a financial burden upon our families because the California Education system has failed to teach our children the basic inalienable right to read and to write, leaving families who want their capable children with Dyslexia to be literate to employ tutors trained in evidence-base multi sensory direct explicit structured and systematic which should be and could easily be available at every educational institution in California

For segregating those children, who are fortunate enough to have the Educational system agree to help them, by placing them with peers who do not have such similar educational goals

For the stronghold that takes place when a family should speak out about such Educational rights, and declaring these families should be fought in the area of due process

We do not want the attentions that has been bestowed upon us. We have warned them from time to time of the attempts of unwarrantable erroneous literacy interventions. We have reminded them of the circumstance of our right to a free and appropriate public education. We have appealed to their humanity and have requested the disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our children’s education. They too have been deaf to the voices of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounced the efficacy of these Educational methods to teach our children with Dyslexia in literacy, and hold them as unknowing, unlearned in the ways, yet those we must over come for the sake of our Children’s livelihood.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the children with Dyslexia of California, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Legislators of California for the rectitude of our intentions, do solemnly publish and declare, That these children and students have at their disposal the evidence based and effective interventions at their disposal at each and every educational institute erected in the the state of California. Being absolved from all previous ill mannered and ineffective literacy programs for our children of Dyslexia shall be dissolved and abolished from their curriculum. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of IDEA, we mutually pledge to each other our Loves, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Written by Lisa Klipfel

Adapted from the Declaration Of Independence of the United States of America


United We Stand Against All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

United We Stand Against All Ineffective Literacy Methods for Students With Dyslexia

California Dyslexia Bill AB1369 Goes to Senate

AB1369 the CA dyslexia bill goes to the sent

AB1369 the CA dyslexia bill goes to the sent

The California dyslexia bill, AB1369, passed the CA house of representatives this week. It will now go the the Senate. It is on it’s way to the Senate rules committee and expected to go to Senate floor at the end of August.

The current bill adds the description of “phonological processing” as an aspect that qualification can utilize. It states that the state superintendent will develop program guidelines for dyslexia that are evidence-based for school year 2017-2018 and this guide will be available online. The bill currently reads as follows:


Section 56334 is added to the Education Code, to read:

 The state board shall include “phonological processing” in the description of basic psychological processes in Section 3030 of Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations.

SEC. 2.

Section 56335 is added to the Education Code, to read:

 (a) The Superintendent shall develop program guidelines for dyslexia to be used to assist regular education teachers, special education teachers, and parents to identify and assess pupils with dyslexia, and to plan, provide, evaluate, and improve educational services to pupils with dyslexia. For purposes of this section, “educational services” means an evidence-based, multisensory, direct, explicit, structured, and sequential approach to instructing pupils who have dyslexia.(b) The program guidelines shall include, but shall not be limited to, characteristics typical of pupils with dyslexia and strategies for their remediation, as well as information to assist educators in distinguishing between characteristics of dyslexia and characteristics of normal growth and development.(c) In developing program guidelines pursuant to subdivision (a), the Superintendent shall consult with teachers, school administrators, other educational professionals, medical professionals, parents, and other professionals involved in the identification and education of pupils with dyslexia.(d) The Superintendent shall complete the program guidelines in time for use no later than the beginning of the 2017–18 academic year.(e) The Superintendent shall disseminate the program guidelines through the department’s Internet Web site and provide technical assistance regarding their use and implementation to parents, teachers, school administrators, and faculty members in teacher training programs of institutions of higher education.
The screening of dyslexia and teacher training was removed following pressure from the CTA to kill the whole bill. The opposition from SELPA currently is that it will cost more money to identify students with phonological processing issues. While it is true that there will be more costs in assessments, in the long run, it will cost less, because students can get remediation early which will take much less time. CSBA also opposed the bill. After amendments were made, CTA changed their position to neutral, neither opposing nor supporting.
Parents have asked what they can do. I would guide you to Decoding Dyslexia for legislative updates. Parents can sign up for email updates and learn how they can have their voices heard. In addition, we need to educate those agencies that are opposing this bill. It will not be long before another bill is submitted to bring back screening and mandatory teacher education. We would like these agencies on our side. The best position is for members of these groups: CTA, SELPA administrators and CSBA to write to their organization headquarters asking for them to support dyslexia, screening and teacher training. Although outside parents can do this, it would be more effective to have their own members to advocate within their own organization.
I am grateful that all three votes to this point have been unanimous. With over 5500 letters from parents, teachers, administrators and politicians in support of this bill, capital hill is hearing the roar of families who are asking for support their their loved one with dyslexia. I will share more information as the legislative process continues and grows organically.

Why the DIBELS is not a Complete Screening for Dyslexia



Screening for dyslexia should include several measures. It should screen for rapid naming, phonemic awareness and sound to letter correspondence at it’s minimum. Family history of learning to read can be a significant factor as well.

Phonemic awareness is a major problem with those with dyslexia. This is the idea of knowing what a particular letter, or set of letters, called graphemes sounds like. Much of the literacy tasks, book, shows that you see on the market focus on initial sound literacy. A “cat” starts with the sound /k/. The problem is that many dyslexic students struggle with middle and last sound phonemic awareness. This is why it is so difficult for them to rhyme. Phonemic awareness includes many other tasks such as phoneme isolation, phoneme segmentation, and phoneme deletion.

Rapid naming is the ability to state the name of an object quickly. It is a necessary school for reading and fluency of reading. Although the DIBELS screens for the accuracy of reading, rapid naming is a critical skills used in this task.

The question is brought before us. If the only screening tool is the DIBELS, who is getting left out? The DIBELS is a well normed test. It screens for nonsense words in first grade, but is not normed beyond 1st grade. There needs to be a more robust screening. We need screening that would involve phonemic awareness that involves isolation, deletion beyond just segmentation.

Moreso, we need to not just do screening but to look at the data and what it is telling us about what intervention needs to be put into place. Data without action is useless.

I’m providing a great article from Dr. Wolf which further explains these two concepts.

Does My Child Have Dyslexia?

Reading a picture book

Reading a picture book

“Does my child have dyslexia?” is a common question for parents who’s children are struggling in reading. Some parents have never heard of dyslexia. Some people have heard of dyslexia, “isn’t that seeing backwards?”  Children with dyslexia often have written difficulties associated with letter reversals, but that does not mean that a child reads backwards. Below is a list of things that can be seen in children struggling with dyslexia, that is beyond writing reversals.

Guesses at a word: Children may see the beginning letter is a b and guess any word that starts with b. In the beginning of their reading journey the guessed word does not make sense to the context – bat, ball, bag, bear when the word is bicycle. As they get more savvy, the guessed word could fit the context – boat, bat mobile, hot air balloon, or any other vehicle that goes. A child who is guessing is not decoding words.

Unable to Rhyme: Early reader books and many picture books are written to rhyme. Stop before the second rhyming word and ask the child to guess what word is next. They have to think of a rhyming word that fits the context. The cat in the ____. Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder where you ____. Up above the sky so high, like a diamond in the _____. Inability to rhyme is very common for children with dyslexia. They can often struggle with the end sounds of a word, which is what rhyming is all about.

Inability to read a word more than once correctly. A dyslexic reader reads inconsistently. When they are beginning, not tired, they do better, but after a couple pages (or paragraphs…or even sentences) they get tired and aren’t able to use their coping strategies as well. A student may be able to read a word on one page (or line) but on the next page (or sentence) they cannot, as if it is a foreign word they have never encountered before. There can be a few reasons for the this. It’s possible that at the first encounter of the word they guessed correctly and the second they guessed incorrectly. Another possibility is that they decoded the word properly the first time, but when needing to decode it a second time they have become tired from decoding all the words in between (and before encountering that first word).

Little words are skipped or stumping. Prepositions don’t contain content, such as for, that, with.  The reader is just skimming to the next important word to give context to what they are reading. Prepositions seem insignificant to them, especially if they are an irregular word that can’t be decoded such as “of.”

Blending strain. A reader may be able to sound each sound out, but not retain in working memory their sounds to blend all the words together. If the reader sounds out a blend, they may not see “pl” blends and sounds out each letter separately. This makes for a more exhaustive reading experience.  Another blending error that is common is to use a sound from the previous word into the current word. So if the phrase is “wild frog,” they might say “wild dog.”

Loving pictures in books. Looking at pictures in a picture book gives clues to the story. It is why picture books exist. Most dyslexic children prefer picture books and as they get older will gravitate to graphic novels and comics. It may also due to the fact that they are typically right brained processors as well. You may find that when you turn a page, they put their hands on the page over the words in order to look at the pictures. This could be unintentional or intentional. One may also find that even though all the words are read by the adult, the child insists on continuing to review the picture prior to turning the page. They are reading the story by picture and most likely be able to tell you the story without ever reading a single words.

There are so many other signs, but I find these to be huge in the initial phase of learning to read.

If you want more information about dyslexia or want your child to be screened for dyslexia, contact Lisa.

California Dyslexia Bill Radio Interview

On Air Radio

On Air Radio

On March 22, 2015, I was interviewed along with another parent and professional by We the People about the CA dyslexia bill 1369. The interview addresses how dyslexia is defined, the warning signs, as well as what the bill would do in our state. Our interview is an hour, and the second hour is an unrelated topic. Enjoy!

Listen here.  Additional information about the interview.

I Have a Dream…Let Appropriate Education Reign

I have a dream that all children will be able to read

I have a dream that all children will be able to read

On this historic today, in the honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought for our freedoms, I believe he would stand beside us in our advocacy for educational justice in literacy.

In a world where 15-20% of our population has dyslexia, a condition of difficulty in accurate, word recognition, poor spelling and inadequate decoding ability. Dyslexia disrupts our children’s ability to read and write in relation to his or her peers. It is seen in all states, in all ages, and in all ethnic groups.

We live in a world where the word dyslexia is considered profanity, and if given the opportunity it would be bleeped out at every school, administrator’s office and school board meeting. Those in use of such a profane word would be given detention and surely be expelled for repeated use. We have been told by teachers, principals, and administers it doesn’t exist, and that it has no meaning.

We live in a world where “special education” no longer refers to education, but to behavioral services, to mental health, and classroom management. Dyslexia is a disability that can only be addressed by the realm of education. It is not a mental health disorder. It is not a behavioral disorder. It is not a medical problem. It needs to be dealt with not only in the education system, but in the public education system.

We live in a world that passed a law 40 years ago affording persons will disabilities the right to free, appropriate public education, but today in 2015, we are still fighting for the ability to exercise our right. Parents are being told on a daily basis that their child with dyslexia does not qualify for specialized education services. Parents are being told their child will not be tested because they will be receiving RTI, albeit separate education services; they are neither special education nor appropriate. Tell us this is not a Jim Crow approach to education. Parents are told daily that their school does not have the researched based structured literacy programs necessary to teach their child. Parents are told daily that their child doesn’t need those structured literacy programs and their general education approach is adequate.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of it’s federal education code: “Each State must ensure that free and appropriate education is available to any individual child with a disability who needs special education and related services, even though the child has not failed or been retained in a course or grade and is advancing from grade to grade.”

I have a dream that one day any child of this America can sit on the field of his school under a tree and have the capacity to read the great literature of our nation.

I have a dream that my son and his friends with dyslexia processing will not be judged by the speed of their reading, the inadequacy of their spelling, nor the difficulty of their word retrieval, but by their extra-special abilities afforded to them by these dyslexic genes.

I have a dream that the blind educational administrators who vow to disregard dyslexia and the struggles of dyslexic students, those that deny the young 7 year old of specialized educational services will be granted sight.  That one day the administration will see, actually see, these students who have word blindness. That not only will they be seen, but that they will be worthy of specialized appropriate reading education as afforded in our federal education code.

I have a dream that students will not be put down for their reading skills. That their teachers will not call them lazy or tell them to “try harder.”  I have a dream that when teachers start their teaching career, they know the word dyslexia, it’s meaning, see it in the classroom and know how to teach them. That this newly trained teacher can join with his student’s parents in their deepest concerns for their child and truly help their child to read the great stories availed to them in this free nation and to be able to write the wonderful stories from their own minds.

I have a dream that our educational system will employ the specific teachings shown through research that will actually teach our child to decode and encode, to read and write. That they will be taught by multi-sensory structured literacy program, such as Orton-Gillingham, Slingerland, or another research based program. I have a dream that every teacher in America whether they just graduated yesterday or 40 years prior, that they too will know and embrace this way of teaching that is more than 30 years old yet has barely seen the inside of an American public school room.

I have a dream that every child in this great nation will learn to read. That we will live in a society where our prison population’s literacy is 100%, not 30%. I have a dream that if our literacy rates rose, it would give great hope to the young people of this nation. That hope would fill their souls, instead of despair and when it was time to make a choice that might carry them to prison, that they would choose otherwise, because they would have hope for their future because their ability to read.

I have a dream that other parents will not shake their heads and tell me that my child just “needs to read more.”  I have a dream these fellow parents will join with me to see that the education system needs change. That “reading more” is not effective if these young people have not been adequately taught to decode so they can read the words on the page. I have a dream that all Americans will demand 100% literacy for all of America’s children whether they have a child with dyslexia or not, and whether they even have have children or not. We must cross the Edmund Pettus bridge together.

I have a dream that all of America’s children will receive free and appropriate education.

Let appropriate education reign.

Let appropriate education reign.

God almighty, we need appropriate education at last.