Do you ever wonder what tools your colleagues love?

Come take a glimpse into my educational therapy office. These are the programs and tools that I use every day with my students. I’ve used most of these materials for a number of years.

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Locating and Correcting Reading Difficulties

There’s a reason why this book is in its 10th edition. This 500+ page book includes 11 short assessments that you can use to determine if a child has weaknesses with a variety of reading skills including phonemic awareness, basic sight words, phonics, and structural analysis. Best of all, it includes a variety of resources for correcting those reading difficulties. (

Qualitative Reading Inventory

This book is an invaluable tool for determining a child’s reading level and measuring progress. The QRI includes three narrative and three expository passages for each grade level (pre-primer through sixth grade). To measure comprehension, each passage includes retelling, factual, and inferential questions. I find that the QRI gives me more accurate information about the child’s reading comprehension than a norm-referenced assessment like the GORT. (

Beginning Reading

First Book Recommendations

Once students are ready to move past decodable readers, it can be a delicious challenge to find the “just right” book. I favor book series to promote comprehension and fluency. Here’s a sampling of my students’ favorites.

  • Dav Pilkey’s Dragon Series – Dav Pilkey is better known for Captain Underpants and Rickey Ricotta, but the Dragon series is not to be missed. These gentle stories feature the affable Dragon and his humorous mishaps. (
  • James Kochalka’s Johnny Boo Series – These books are a bit more advanced, but I couldn’t resist including them. Johnny Boo and his pet ghost Squiggle get into all sorts of familiar, fun jams. The author James Kochalka “gets” kids and the silly, goofy humor that’ll delight their funny bones. (
  • Mo Willems’ Elephant and Piggie – series is perfect for beginning readers. There are a limited number of words on the page, the pictures support comprehension, and they’re just plain fun! (
  • Tedd Arnold’s Fly Guy Series – If you don’t own these books, stop what you’re doing and go buy them. Seriously, these are the most beloved beginning reader books on my shelves. Buzz and his pet fly are an unstoppable duo and will have your students doubled over with laugher. (

Montessori Sand Paper Letters

Do you have students who struggle to recognize graphemes? Reverse letters? Accurately match up sounds and symbols? Sand paper letters are large, easy-to-read letters that students trace with their fingers. I find this tool especially engaging for younger students and kids who struggle to pay attention. (

“Primary Phonics” by EPS

If you think you don’t like decodable readers, try these! This valuable set of books gives beginning readers massive practice in these nicely scaffolded books. Most of the books are interesting and have limited sight words. I recommend purchasing the Complete Starter Set. (

“Reading Pathways” by Dolores G. Hiskes

Are you looking to reinforce phonics skills at home? These quick exercises sequentially target reading of words with short vowels, long vowels, mixed vowels, and multi-syllable words. (

Seeing Stars Vowel and Consonant Cards

These simple consonant and vowel cards are printed on heavy, durable cardboard. Mine look great after five years of daily use. The Vowel Set includes 25 short vowels, digraphs, and diphthongs. The Consonant Set includes 26 consonants and digraphs. (

Seeing Stars Workbooks

Another Lindamood-Bell product, the Seeing Stars Workbooks include 6 levels, ranging from 2-sound words to 3+ syllable words. Occasionally they include orthographically impossible nonsense words (e.g. divving). I use these for scaffolded decoding, orthographic awareness, and phonemic awareness instruction. (


Gel Board

I use this tool to reinforce sound-symbol correspondence. You can also use the gel board to practice spelling and math facts. Students use a magnetic stylus to write on the gel board. These are a nice alternative to white boards, and your pen never dries out! (

Gold Coins

Students in my private practice enjoy “earning” these coins. Here’s one game we like to play with them. (

Iwako Erasers

I use the Iwako erasers every day. My students love using them on blending boards to represent phonemes. (

Sensational Sand

Sensational sand includes sand in two bright colors. When students write in the sand, the lower color of sand is revealed. I mostly use sensational sand to reinforce sound-symbol correspondence. I write about how I use it in my office here. (

Sensory Balls

Some of my favorite manipulatives are these brightly colored and textured balls. We use them to play ball toss. (


Base Ten Blocks

Essential for teaching math! I especially enjoy using these to teach basic regrouping with addition and subtraction. (

“Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3” by Jessica F. Shumway

Many of my students are missing foundational math sense skills. Just as children need phonemic awareness to read, they also need to understand how numbers work. This book has a variety of different games and activities to develop numerical literacy. (

Overcoming Difficulties with Number by Ronit Bird

If you have students who don’t seem to “get” math through traditional methods, this book is for you. Specifically created for children with dyscalculia, this book covers the basic math operations – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. The activities and games in this book are engaging for even the most math-phobic student. (

Multi-Syllable Reading


These are short, high interest reading selections to boost reading fluency. Students complete a daily read and reread of these materials. I recommend having Quickreads at every grade level, but it’s difficult to order individual items from Pearson currently. (


This is probably the best program for older students who struggle to decode longer words while reading. In the REWARDS program, students learn a strategy for breaking down multi-syllable words into affixes and bases. There are about 20 lessons in each book, and they are well structured and sequenced. I recommend the Intermediate and Secondary versions as well as the Social Studies and Science extension workbooks. (


Do you have students who can read the word “flip,” but have no idea how to read “flipping?” The Teaching How Words Work Book will walk students through discovering the three major suffixing patterns. I find this tool particularly useful for students with dyslexia. (

Reading Comprehension

6 Way Paragraphs

Each book contains 100 brief passages. Each one-page expository selection is accompanied by six comprehension questions. This book allows students to practice finding the main idea, answering factual questions, making conclusions, understanding vocabulary, and recognizing clarifying devices like figurative language and transitional words. (

Jamestown “High-low” Books

These Jamestown high-low comprehension books are a student favorite. I love reading them too! Each book includes real-life adventures and mysteries that are downright riveting for middle school and high school students. Four pages of comprehension questions accompany each article. There are questions to reinforce literal understanding, vocabulary, critical-thinking, author’s purpose, inferential thinking, identifying cause and effect, and making predictions. I recommend all three levels:

Visualizing and Verbalizing Workbooks

One powerful comprehension strategy to share with students is the ability to create a “Mind Movie.” These workbooks walk students through how to create images. These activities are also helpful for language development. You’ll also need the manual and the structure cards to implement this program. (

Sight Words

Seeing Stars Sight Word List

I use Lindamood Bell’s list of the 1000 Most Common Words in English. This list is broken into ten individual pages with 100 sight words on each list. My students are so motivated to complete a page because they know they’ve mastered 100 new words! (

“Sight Word Stories” and “More Sight Word Stories” by Gloria Lapin

These reproducible books are sadly out of print but the author has made them free to download at her website! Do you work with students with slow rapid naming or weak orthographic awareness? These books are critical for students with delayed sight word acquisition. The vocabulary builds slowly from book to book, so students master the basic sight words. Great to send home as homework and a huge confidence booster! (


“Primary Spelling by Pattern” and “Spellography” by Voyager Sopris

I recommend any spelling program by Louisa Moats. There are three levels of the Primary Spelling by Pattern for 1st through 3rd graders. (

My personal favorite is the Spellography program for children in the upper elementary grades. It’s funny and engaging. (

Recipe for Reading Manual

Intervention Strategies for Struggling Readers – This inexpensive manual has a sequence for teaching sound-symbol correspondence. Each level includes words, phrases, and sentences for spelling and dictation. (

Words Their Way

One of my favorite tools from the Words Their Way program is the diagnostic spelling test. It makes it quite easy to see what students know about spelling. (


This is a wonderful resource to help build your own morphological and orthographic knowledge. If your students think spelling is boring, irrelevant, and “just too hard,” this is the program for you! Kids love creating words and discovering the patterns that govern our spelling system. (


“Vocabulary Through Morphemes” by Susan Ebbers

Teaching morphology is an efficient and engaging way to boost vocabulary skills. Susan Ebber’s program provides a fascinating overview of the history of the English language and targets specific bases, prefixes, and suffixes. (

The Teacher’s Big Book of Graphic Organizers by Katherine S. McKnight

This book includes 100 reproducible graphic organizers for vocabulary development, study skills, reading comprehension, and writing. (


“Powerful Writing Strategies for All Students” by Karen Harris and Steve Graham

If you buy one book about writing, but this one! It describes Self-Regulated Strategy Development, a method of teaching writing that has been validated by two decades of rigorous research. This is a particularly useful book because it includes lesson plans for teaching expository and narrative writing, strategies for revision, and strategies for improving word choice. (

Handwriting Without Tears

Research has demonstrated that fluent handwriting frees up cognitive resources for higher-level writing. Start young writers off the right way. (

Kidspiration and Inspiration Software

Many students just don’t get why organizing one’s thoughts before writing is so important. These two software programs are engaging ways to help students brainstorm and organize their ideas before they write. (