Understanding DIBELS Scores

Understanding DIBELS Scores

With winter DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) benchmark tests right around the corner, let’s discuss the test in detail and what it may mean for your child. We’ll also look at effective reading tutoring for children who struggle to meet reading goals.


Today after school, I checked my kindergarten son’s backpack just like I always do. There was his lunchbox, complete with uneaten fruit but completely devoured cookies, homework packet, and his books from his teacher, just like normal. There was also something different, a DIBELS packet with activities to practice for the upcoming round of benchmark testing.


My phone almost immediately started buzzing with text messages and voicemails from some of my close mom friends who were wondering what this meant and what they were supposed to practice. They were also concerned about what the previous scores meant and how they could help their child improve.


DIBELS is one measure of reading ability that is standardized and used nationally in many schools kindergarten through 3rd grade (in some cases it may go further, but this is less common). The purpose of DIBELS is to measure a variety of reading skills and predict outcomes for students. When used correctly it can help teachers plan interventions and identify students who are at risk for reading difficulty.

DIBELS can also give parents some major anxiety. While it is not a perfect measure, it can be an accurate predictor of future reading outcomes, but in order to understand possible outcomes, you first must understand what is tested and what each score means.


Here are some of the areas included in the current DIBELS test. I am also including the common abbreviations you may see your child’s teacher use to refer to the individual sub-tests. Keep in mind these vary by grade level so your child may not take every test. Also, DIBELS is mostly oral, so students are tested one-on-one by a trained test proctor.


  • First Sound Fluency (FSF): This assessment is given only in kindergarten and only at the first and second benchmark period. It assesses students on phonemic awareness skills which are essential early literacy skills. Students are given a word like man and they are asked to identify that the first sound is /m/. Students who perform well on this test are less likely to have serious reading difficulties than those who do poorly.
  • Phoneme Segmentation Fluency (PSF): This test is given in Kindergarten and the first testing period of first grade. Like FSF this assesses early phonemic awareness skills. Students are given a word like cat and asked to separate it into its individual sounds or phonemes /k/ /a/ /t/. Students must give sounds, not letter names. Like FSF this is a key predictor of how likely a child is to develop early literacy skills and students who perform poorly are more likely to experience reading difficulties.
  • Nonsense Word Fluency (NWF): Nonsense word fluency begins in kindergarten and is tested through second grade. It tests students understanding of phonics by having them read nonsense words like hig or nup. Using nonsense words ensures that decoding ability is tested as none of the words will be memorized by students (whereas real words like cat or dog could be memorized and would not indicate how well students understood letter sounds). When this test is scored, students receive a point for each individual sound as well as an extra point for reading the word without segmenting it. For example, if the word is hig, a student who read /h/ /i/ /g/ sound by sound would get 3 points. A student who did not have to sound the word out and simply read /hig/ would get 4 points. Since phonics and decoding is an essential early literacy skill, this assessment is a good indicator of early literacy development. Students who perform poorly are more likely to experience reading difficulties.
  • DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (DORF): This assessment asks students to read a grade level passage for one minute. They are scored based on how many words they read correctly in one minute. They are also then asked to retell the passage which gives an indication of their comprehension. This assessment starts in first grade and, depending on the school, may be used until students are in the 6th Fluency is a key component of the reading process and students who are not fluent readers are likely to experience significant reading difficulties.


Now that we have discussed the sub-tests within DIBELS, it is also important to understand the scoring system. Teachers will likely give you a number score. It is crucial that you ask them to also tell you where your child stands compared to the benchmark. This means you need to know if your child is Well Below Benchmark, Below Benchmark, At Benchmark, or Above Benchmark. You can ask for this information for each individual test as well as your child’s composite score.


By now, your head may be spinning, and that is ok. Let’s break down exactly what each one of these scores means for you and your child.


  • Above Benchmark: If your child scores Above Benchmark it means your child is performing well above the average for their grade level. Given appropriate core classroom instruction, the chances that they will meet literacy goals is above 90%.
  • At Benchmark: If your child scores At Benchmark they are performing at an average level for their grade. Without intervention and with only effective core classroom instruction, the likelihood that they will reach early literacy goals is 70% to 85% Students who score at the lower level of At Benchmark are likely to need some strategic intervention to reach reading goals.
  • Below Benchmark: If your child scores Below Benchmark, it is very likely that classroom support will not be enough for them to reach subsequent reading goals. In fact, with only core classroom instruction, the likelihood that students who score Below Benchmark will achieve reading goals is only about 40% to 60%. If your child scores in this area, it may be time to think about an effective reading program for them.
  • Well Below Benchmark: If your child scores Well Below Benchmark goals, it means they are significantly behind grade level norms. Without appropriate intervention, the likelihood that they will make reading progress is only about 10% to 20%. These students need intensive reading intervention.


Now that you have an idea of what each test is and what each score means, you have the ability to help your child. Children who are below benchmark are not likely to reach subsequent reading goals with only classroom instruction. They need reading remediation.


However, not all reading programs are created equal. If your child needs intensive reading intervention, it is imperative that you find a high-quality program. A Structured Literacy program with a qualified reading clinician who can monitor and adjust to meet your child’s needs will provide the best chance at success.


By helping your child get the reading tutoring they need, you can help increase their odds that they will be successful in reading. Don’t let your child struggle and have a 10% chance of meeting grade-level reading goals. Reading intervention will give them the best chance of success.


If you don’t live near a qualified, certified clinician or you have a tight schedule or budget, online tutoring can be a good option. RW&C offers individualized support with a Structured Literacy model. We incorporate all elements of effective reading instruction and have trained clinicians who can assess, monitor, and adjust instruction to fit your child’s needs.


Contact us today for more information or to get started with our online tutoring program.


If you want to know more about DIBELS scores, or want information specific to your child’s grade level, check out this scoring guide from the University of Oregon. All information regarding benchmarks scores was adapted from this source.



Becky Welsch


Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
When Older Children Struggle With Reading

When Older Children Struggle With Reading

During my time as a classroom teacher, I taught a variety of different grade levels in a seven-year span. While this had its challenges, it also allowed me to experience first hand the ways that literacy instruction differed in primary and upper grades.

My initial teaching experinces were in the primary classroom. I have a strong background in early literacy development and I taught first and second grade for four years.


In the primary classroom, identifying reading difficulties is fairly straightforward. Maybe not why a child struggles or specific disabilities like dyslexia, but at least identifying that a child is struggling is simple for a classroom teacher. In kindergarten through about mid-third grade, students read aloud, all the time. Almost every literary activity is oral. They read to partners, read to stuffed animals, read to a teacher, segment sounds out loud. When students are learning to read, it is a noisy process.


When a student struggles, you can hear it. You hear that they mix up their b’s and d’s, or that they make the short i sound in the word hen. You ask them questions about what they are reading, and they answer out loud. You follow up to determine what specific comprehension skills they struggle with.


At home, students read out loud to their parents. If your child struggles with their reading, you know. You can identify if they are missing words or don’t understand the text. In short, the process of learning to read is a loud one. A beautiful, exciting, and noisy undertaking.


After my four years in the primary classroom, I moved up to 5th grade and then eventually to 7th and 8th grade reading. As I moved out of the primary classroom, I noticed a distinctive shift, reading became a silent, internal process. Students were very rarely asked to read out loud, and as a result, identifying reading difficulties became much more difficult.


Think about it, if you have a child in 4th grade or higher, when is the last time you had them read out loud to you? As students internalize the reading process, it becomes silent. While this is a natural progression, it can do a major disservice to older readers who struggle.


As I have moved on in my career to become an online reading clinician, I have noticed that many parents of older children don’t know why they struggle with reading or what their specific struggles are. Usually, I hear that they struggle with comprehension. However, when I have the student read a text out loud to me, I find that in reality, their reading level is low. They can comprehend texts at their instructional level, but their instructional level is below grade level.


When asked to read grade level text silently in class, they cannot answer comprehension questions correctly. In many cases, this may not be due to a comprehension issue necessarily but is due to the fact that they cannot accurately and fluently read the text. Without asking the student to read aloud, this can often go undetected for months or even years.


In order to serve the student and increase their reading skills, the correct diagnosis of the issue is essential. This is why the reading clinicians at RW&C give each student a variety of assessments to determine the underlying reading issue. Our online tutoring program is then adjusted to fit the needs of each student in order to ensure reading success.


Older students are given phonics assessments to determine if the issue is related to letter sounds. They are also given fluency and comprehension assessments as well as writing and phonemic awareness activities. Simply because a child is older does not mean that they have mastered all the basic skills necessary to become fluent and competent readers.


I have often heard that when it comes to reading, it is not the age, it’s the stage. This could not be more true. It does not matter how old a child is or even what their grade level in school is. If they have not mastered the basics of reading, they need direct instruction.


Coming from a classroom background, I know that often upper-grade teachers are not trained in early literacy and often do not have the resources that students need to master early reading skills. If your older child struggles with reading, they may not get the help they need in school.


With our one-on-one online tutoring program, we can help your child whatever their reading issue. Our clinicians are trained in all aspects of literacy instruction and can tailor their sessions to meet the needs of your child. Don’t wait and hope that they will catch up, get them the help they need today.


Contact us to get started and learn more about our online tutoring program.

Becky Welsch

Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

Reading Comprehension: Putting It All Together

girl-277719__340, CC0_pixabayIn previous blogs, we’ve discussed the importance of phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary (morphology), and fluency. Today, we’re going to examine how these components work together to develop the most important reading skill of all, comprehension. The ability to read words and sentences is a critical step to comprehension. However, years of research have demonstrated that accurately reading words and sentences does not automatically transfer to understanding the material read.

Reading comprehension, simply put, is the ability to understand and gain information from what you read. It is an important step in the reading process as children move beyond learning to read and start the invaluable skill of reading to learn.

As children reach about the third grade, they should have a solid reading foundation. The focus of their instruction will no longer be on sounding out words but rather on gaining meaning from text. Putting the pieces together to develop a deeper understanding of literature and non-fiction text. Some key elements for strong reading comprehension involve vocabulary development, both oral and written, inference, and text structure. These higher order thinking skills along with decoding are imperative in order to gain meaning from reading the text.

favicon_starfishAs a side note, but a very important one, if your child is still struggling with phonological awareness, phonics, or fluency in the third grade, it is essential that you get them help from trained reading clinicians. Without these skills, it is unlikely that they will be successful and will fall further behind in school.

Although comprehension becomes the main focus of reading instruction in the third grade, it is an important component beginning in preschool. Comprehension difficulties usually fall in one of two categories. The first category of inaccurate word decoding skills will limit a student’s ability to understand the meaning of what was read. The second category for poor comprehension is demonstrated by weak language skills, understanding our spoken language and its subtleties. A student may encounter challenges with word reading, understanding the vocabulary and subtleties of our spoken language, or a combination of both.

Here are a few ways that you can help support and enhance your child’s reading comprehension skills.

  1. Always ask your child about what they are reading. Ask who the characters are, what the setting is, what problem the characters face, and what the solution is in fiction text. If your child is reading nonfiction, ask them what the topic of the text is, what the main idea is, and have them prove it to you by showing you examples in the text. These skills are perhaps the simplest and most foundational reading comprehension skills. If your child struggles with these even as young as kindergarten and first grade, it is not too early to get them online reading tutoring. Intervention from a trained reading clinician can help them stay on track and ensure they do not struggle later. If your child is older, say second grade or higher and cannot answer these types of questions, you should absolutely contact a reading clinician to have their comprehension assessed.
  1. Help your child create mental images, when appropriate. One of the most important comprehension skills is the ability to create pictures while you read. When you read with your child, ask them about what they are picturing in their mind as you read. Always ground their mental images in the text by asking why they picture what they do. Have them point out specific words or lines of text that informed their mental imaging.
  1. Encourage your child to ask questions. Before, during, and after reading you can encourage your child to ask questions about the text. For example, if they are reading a fiction text, you could ask what they think will happen, why a character is behaving the way they are, or what the characters could have done differently. In nonfiction text, you can ask them what they may know about the topic, what information is the author focusing on, or about any unanswered questions they have about the topic. This can be a great way to encourage further research on a topic that interests them.

bef6b-mosaic2bbooks2bto2bideasAs your child gets older and moves into upper elementary and middle school, you can encourage them to use post it notes as they read to ask questions, record unknown vocabulary words, and note any surprising information. This can be a great way for them to interact with the text and for you to monitor their understanding. Plus almost all kids love getting to use post it notes so it may even motivate them to read more.

These are a few ways that you can encourage your child to use comprehension strategies before, during, and after reading. They are essential for helping students understand what they read and gain information from text.

As students get older, this is the most important and most emphasized skill in school. Nearly all standardized text reading questions directly related to reading comprehension. It is also the most important skill that adults use regularly to function in society.

dictionary-390055__340, CC0_pixabayOur online tutoring program at RW&C incorporates reading comprehension as soon as our students are reading. Each and every lesson includes a time for reading a passage and applying a clinician selected and modeled reading strategy. Students who need comprehension instruction are given explicit instruction in that strategy, and their practice is monitored.

We also employ comprehension strategies at the sentence level if students are not developmentally ready to read an entire passage. When your child works with one of our reading clinicians, they will get the comprehension instruction that they need.

Unlike a box program or pre-recorded program, our clinicians respond to your child in real time, clearing up any misunderstandings and ensuring that your child understands their passage as they are reading it. We also work with you to practice these skills at home in a meaningful way.

If your child struggles with reading comprehension, get them the help they need today. Contact us for a screening to determine if your child needs intervention.

Becky Welsch



Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.

Morphology: A Critical Component In Reading Development

Caribbean starfish over sand beachLearning to read is a complex process that requires children to perform multiple mental tasks simultaneously. One critical component of the reading process is morphological awareness. A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit of language. For example, in is a morpheme and the word jumping has two morphemes, .

In their article “Morphological Awareness Intervention for Students Who Struggle with Language and Literacy,” Julie A. Wolter and Ginger Collins examine the connection between reading performance and morphological interventions. The authors demonstrate that for students to be able to learn to read and comprehend text, they need to have an explicit awareness of morphological processes. That is, students need to be aware of word parts like base words, prefixes, and suffixes and have direct knowledge of their meaning. There is a direct link between morphological awareness and an increased ability to read and write proficiently.

The connect between morphological understanding, and reading skills were even more apparent in students with dyslexia and other specific learning disabilities. Students who received direct and explicit interventions related to morphological awareness had better reading skills and were more likely to be proficient readers. Direct morphological instruction has also been linked to an increased sight word reading speed as well as increased decoding abilities, both of which lead to increased reading fluency and comprehension.

dictionary-390055__340, CC0_pixabayIf a child struggles to understand and manipulate morphemes, their reading will become labored, and comprehension will suffer, especially as they get older and the complexity of the texts they are reading increases. It is imperative that any intervention program has an explicit morphology component introduced in the initial lesson to help struggling readers enhance their skills.

In our online tutoring program, each and every lesson includes a morphology component introduced in the first lesson. Wolter and Collins identified a few critical skills students need when it comes to morphology. The first key understanding each student must have is the ability to segment words into their respective morphemes. For example, when giving the word , they need to be able to identify that it is composed of and to form the new word coming.

In each and every lesson beginning with the first session, our trained reading clinicians explicitly show students how to break words apart into appropriate morphological segments. Using a graphic organizer to help categorize the material, students are asked to break words apart into prefixes, base words, and suffixes. Each morpheme is color coded to help organize the information in a meaningful manner that will lead to an increase in reading skills. This instruction starts from the initial lesson and continues through all lessons.

girl-277719__340, CC0_pixabayA second skill the authors identify is the ability to combine base words and various prefixes and suffixes to make new words. In our online tutoring program, clinicians and students examine different prefixes and suffixes with a variety of base words to create new combinations with a variety of meanings. For example, using the base words <struc, struct> students can build and determine the meaning of a plethora of words like construct, construction, instruct, instructor, destruct, and many, many more.

Finally, Wolter and Collins suggest that students must have explicit instruction in the meanings of a variety of base words and affixes. Once students know these meanings, they can use this knowledge as an anchor to learn new words. For example, knowing that <sect, sec, seg> means “to cut,” and means “two”, students can determine that the meaning of bisect is “to cut into two”. This has a clear link to increasing vocabulary skills which aid in comprehension of higher level texts and is crucial for advanced reading comprehension.

During our online sessions, our reading clinicians provide direct, explicit instruction on the meaning of a variety of base words and affixes. Each lesson contains a variety of morphemes that students learn and has multiple examples of these morphemes in words. For instance, during a lesson in our program, students work with the prefix and learn that it means “between, among.” They are then asked to apply this knowledge to understand the meaning of words like interrupt, interstate, and interpersonal. In doing so, they have the opportunity to practice manipulating morphemes which will increase their vocabulary and their reading abilities.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayIf your child struggles with new vocabulary words and morphological skills, it is not something they will learn on their own. They need direct, explicit reading tutoring from a trained professional. Here at RW&C, our clinicians are up to date on the latest reading research, and they apply these best practices in every one of their lessons. Our program has a strong morphological component, introduced in the first lesson, and our clinicians are trained in the best methods to explicitly teach this skill to students.

Don’t let your child fall further and further behind due to a gap in morphological understanding. Contact us today to set up online tutoring and get your child the help they need to be successful. With the right instruction and a program based on best practices in reading research, your child will acquire the tools necessary to succeed.

Timmie Murphy



(480) 213-4156


Timmie Murphy has dedicated most of her adult life to individuals with special needs. She has taught children with learning challenges in the classroom for over 11 years.
Timmie has experience working with individuals diagnosed with dyslexia, learning disabilities, cognitive and neurological disorders, Attention Deficit Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism.

Timmie Murphy is the founder and owner of RW&C, LLC. She is a graduate of St. Mary’s Dominican College with a B.A. in Elementary Education and Special Education

Fluency: Bridging The Gap Between Phonics And Comprehension

mosaic-catepillarIn our previous blogs, we discussed the importance of phonemic awareness and phonics development for pre-emergent, emergent, and beginning readers. While understanding and manipulating phonemes and decoding are both essential skills, children must move beyond them to become proficient readers. A critical development in the reading process is fluency.

Fluency is the ability to read words accurately with both speed and expression. When a child is able to read fluently, their reading should sound natural. The words should flow well, and the child will use appropriate expression and intonation when reading aloud.

If a child is not a fluent reader, their reading will sound choppy. They may get stuck on certain words or have to read parts of the text multiple times. Their reading will lack expression; questions, statements, and exclamations will be read with the same monotone intonation. They will disregard punctuation and pause at awkward spots in the text.

So, why is fluency an issue? Without fluency, it is tough to move from just decoding words to reading and understanding an entire passage. Fluency is the bridge between word recognition and comprehension. When children read with fluency, they do not spend mental energy on decoding words. Hence, they are able to focus on the passage meaning. If children do not develop reading fluency, comprehension will become difficult, and their ability to read at grade level will suffer.

mosaic-booksIf you are not sure if your child struggles with reading fluency, ask yourself a few key questions. First of all, does your child take a disproportionately long time to read a short passage both aloud and silently? Does your child’s reading sound labored and choppy? Does their reading lack expression? Does your child have trouble understanding what they read? Does your child self-correct many words read in the passage? If you answered yes, it is possible your child has difficulty with fluent reading.

If you suspect your child is having difficulty with reading fluently, there are a few things you can do at home to try to help. If your child seems to get lost in text easily, frequently having trouble keeping their place, have them try print tracking. Using a finger or some kind of pointer, have your child follow along with the words they are reading so they do not get lost.

Secondly, have your child read the text aloud more than once. The first time focus on decoding and then with repeated readings focus on fluency, particularly accuracy and expression. This activity is helpful because with repeated readings, the struggle to decode should diminish and your child can concentrate on reading fluently. While your child reads aloud, provide constructive feedback when errors are made.

learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPractice choral reading. Initially, read aloud to your child to model fluent reading while having them follow along in the book. Next, reread the book and invite your child to read any words he recognizes you are reading. Read the same book three to five times, however, not on the same day using this choral reading practice. Soon, your child should be able to read the story independently.

Use poetry or other books with clear rhythmic patterns. This can help your child hear the natural rhythm of the text, making it easier to read fluently. You can also try giving your child short phrases to read and asking them to read them as a statement, question, and exclamation to practice reading with expression.

mosaic-bird-of-paradiseIf you notice that these activities are not helping your child, the most important thing you can do as a parent is to get them professional assistance. Reading fluency is paramount to becoming a proficient reader and without it, it is unlikely that your child will make the progress necessary to go from learning to read versus reading to learn. With an escalating amount of reading each grade level, your child may quickly fall behind.

Our Structured Literacy online program incorporates reading fluency into each and every session. With repeated readings, sentence and phrase reading, and developing fluency in longer texts, we can help your child become the fluent reader they need to be.

Our trained Reading Clinicians understand how reading fluency develops and have multiple strategies to help nurture and expand this skill. They will help you make sure that your child develops the fluency needed to help them succeed in becoming a life-long reader.

If you have concerns about your child’s reading fluency or any other area, contact us today to find out how our online tutoring program can help your child flourish.

Becky Welsch



Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness

Helping Your Child With Reading: Phonemic Awareness


learn-921255__340-cc0_pixabayPhonemic awareness is the foundation of reading success; however, many parents have no idea what it even is. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in words without the association with specific letters. One way to think about phonemic awareness activities is that you should be able to do them in the dark. There is no need to read or use letters, just sounds.


Your child should begin to understand basic phonemic awareness concepts like rhyming and initial sounds around the age of three. As they advance in the understanding, most kids should master more complex skills like segmentation and substitution around the age of five or six.


Even older children will still need phonemic awareness skills like phoneme and syllable segmentation to read and spell more complex words. If your child struggles with phonemic awareness, it is very likely that they will have reading difficulties.


mosaic-booksHere are a few activities you can do to help your child develop phonemic awareness:


  • Rhyming games: ask your child to produce words that rhyme with ______. This is a great activity because you can do it anywhere. I often play this with my four-year-old while we drive to school. You can also increase the difficulty by making it a game for points where you take turns and whoever cannot come up with a rhyme loses.


  • Beginning, middle, and ending sounds: Knowing the first sound in a word is important to develop reading skills later. You can say a word and ask your child to repeat the first sound (important note, this is about sounds, NOT letters. If you say bird your child should say the /b/ sound, not the letter name b). You can repeat this activity with middle and ending sounds. If you are feeling ambitious you can also do initial sound sorts. You can purchase them online or you can create your own. Basically you find objects or pictures that have the same beginning sound. Your child would take two to four beginning sounds, mix them up, and sort them. You can also do this with middle and ending sounds for an extra challenge.


  • Segmenting and blending sounds: According to many experts, these are the most important phonemic awareness skills when it comes to reading development. Children must be able to stretch out sounds in words and put them back together. An easy way to do this is to say a word like cat and have your child tell you the sounds (important note, your child should say /k/ /a/ /t/ the sounds, not spell the word cat). You can also say the sounds in a word and ask your child to put it back together. Another way to practice is to use rubber bands. Have your child hold a rubber band on their thumbs and literally stretch the sounds in a word. Then they can put it back together by blending it into a word. You can also use blocks or other objects you have around the house. Line up the objects and say a word. Have your child pull down an object as they say each sound. The number of objects should match the number of sounds.


748fa-alphabet-1219546__340252c2bcc0_pixabayPracticing these phonemic awareness skills with your child will strengthen their understanding of the foundational elements of reading. If you have an older child who struggles with reading, you might try some of these activities to see if they are able to do them.


If you child struggles with these activities or other phonemic awareness skills, it is imperative that you get them help from a reading professional. Without phonemic awareness skills, your child will always struggle with reading.


Our online tutoring program offers phonemic awareness support with each and every session. Our trained clinicians understand this foundation concept and can use it to help with reading and spelling at every level. If you want to learn more or need to know more about phonemic awareness, contact our office today.




Becky Welsch



Becky Welsch has a Master’s degree in K-8 Education. She is certified to teach in the state of Arizona and has special endorsements in the areas of English Language Learners and Reading.

Becky has worked with struggling readers in the primary as well as secondary grades. Her experience also includes intensive reading intervention both in person as well as with online teletherapy.
Becky has experience with early literacy skills like phonics and phonemic awareness development. She has used several structured literacy programs including Language! and Spalding phonics. She is also trained to administer DIBELS tests and has worked with the DIBELS Next reading remediation program.
Lower Your Standards

Lower Your Standards

I am a member of a couple different parenting groups on Facebook and I have become pretty close friends with many of the ladies (and few rogue gentlemen) in them. Lately, I have noticed a pretty common theme among the posts: moms who feel like they are not good enough. As moms, we are so hard on ourselves. All. The. Time. We compare ourselves to every other mom and our child to every other peer. I have been there. You see that mom with the perfectly styled hair, boots, size 4 skinny jeans, and designer purse leisurely strolling through the mall with her Abercrombie model in training tot.


Your kid doesn’t look this stylish all the time? That’s ok…

.Meanwhile, there I am, unwashed hair, dirty flip flops, I am not even going to mention what size yoga pants, and target purse crammed full of cheerios and diapers. My cutest accessory by far is the smiling baby that is strapped onto my body by a baby carrier that cost more than my entire outfit. My son is trailing behind me, begging for ice cream with his insane, uncombed hair and Disney Cars shirt because he will literally only wear something with a Disney character on it. No cute seer sucker shorts and polos for him. He rolls with a Lightning shirt and putrid smelling Mickey Crocs (side note, how do crocs start smelling SO bad SO fast?).

Actually, if I am being honest this is what my toddler usually looks like. I put a Disney shirt on for public appearances.

Actually, if I am being honest this is what my toddler usually looks like. I put a Disney shirt on for public appearances.

It is hard not to feel inadequate. Why can’t I be so skinny and fashionable? Why aren’t my children so well behaved?

Here is the problem moms, our expectations are too high. Living in a cyber-world of mommy blogs with perfectly coiffed moms who make everything from scratch, can their own fruit, create elaborate child crafts and activities, build fucking chicken coops, and never, ever yell doesn’t help. I will admit, I had expectations that were way too high when I first started staying at home. I thought that my job was the reason I never got any housework done or had time to go the gym. Turns out, it’s not. I am no more likely to have a clean house or work out than I was when I worked outside of the home full time. Staying home with kids is just as hard as working a 40 plus hour week and I do not have any extra time like I thought I would. Working and staying at home are hard and don’t leave very much room for free time.

So, this leaves me with a dilemma. I can either work myself to the bone and get everything done, or neglect my children so I can clean my house and check some Pinterest projects off of my to do list. However, I choose option three. Lowering my standards. Here are just a few ways that I suggest every mom lowers her standards and gives herself a little break:

  1. The house: I really thought I would be able to not only clean but also organize my house. I would have all sorts of time during nap time to get things done. Ha! My kids haven’t taken more than 45 minutes of concurrent nap time since I have been home. I manage to vacuum once a week and do the laundry. I never have time to put laundry away. But you know what, we are just going to wear it again anyway, it’s fine in the basket. No one is going to die because I don’t put my clothes away. If you come over and go through my closets or drawers, you will be appalled by the amount of junk in there. But, here’s a thought, stop snooping through my stuff. Also, if you drop by unexpectedly, I will probably pretend we aren’t home. Unless I really like you and don’t care if you see the Hot Wheels vs. Legos war zone that is my living room.

    This is what the inside of your closet looks like? Who cares? It's a closet...

    This is what the inside of your closet looks like? Who cares? It’s a closet…

  2. Appearance: I really thought I was going to be that mom who always looks put together. I even went out and bought cute stay at home clothes. I would wear a maxi skirt, cute colorful shorts, tank tops, and always, always shower. I would never look like a hot mess. Um, yea…. That is not how life is. When you are up 5 times between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am, you are not going to get up at 5:00 so you can shower and get ready unless you have to. Instead, I usually wear yoga pants, sometimes shorts, and most of the time I rub some baby powder in my hair to make it look presentable (I read somewhere that it works like dry shampoo. Not sure if that is true but it makes me feel better about myself). I usually also put on a sports bra and running shoes so people will think that I am on my way to or from (probably from) a workout. I wear my wedding ring if I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. If I am particularly hot mess-like, I don’t wear my wedding ring so that people don’t feel sorry for my husband.

    My face usually also looks exactly this insane as well...

    My face usually also looks exactly this insane as well…

  3. Fitness: Although I always have on workout clothes, I rarely (ok, never) have been working out. I really thought I would have time for the gym. I don’t. When I do have a few minutes to myself the last thing I want to do is go for a run or get on an elliptical. I know there are those of you out there who will tell me all about ways to make time. Don’t. I don’t want to hear it. I have greatly lowered my expectations here and am fine with a brisk walk to the park being my only workout for the day (ok, week).
  4. Dinner: I was so certain that work was what was holding me back from having the energy to make a nutritious, home cooked meal for my family. Turns out, parenting is just as exhausting. I do cook more but that is for financial reasons more than wanting to provide nutritious food for my family. My toddler doesn’t eat anything I make anyway so it’s totally fine to have chili cheese tater tots for dinner.

Of all the things I don’t expend my time and energy on, I do play with my kids, a lot. I am on the floor most of the day playing cars, blocks. Puzzles, and helping my daughter stand up 50,000 times. We go out to the Children’s Museum or zoo almost weekly, not because I am an awesome mom but because it gives me a little bit of time to relax and watch my 2 year old burn off energy. And we get awesome naps afterwards.

I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Even that mom with the built from scratch chicken coop and all organic garden is not perfect. I am so much happier since I have stopped trying to be perfect. Pick one or two things you care about, and then let the rest go. Oh, and if a blog makes you feel bad about yourself, stop reading it. And come read mine. Because you are guaranteed to feel better about yourself after reading about how much of a mess I am. Oh, and if you happen to see me out and about looking like a slob, humor me and ask how my workout was, even though you know that’s grease, not sweat, in my hair.