LANGUAGE! Live offers more for struggling readers than any other product. Proven foundational and advanced reading intervention. Peer-to-peer instruction. Literacy brain science. A captivating modern, digital platform for grades 5–12. All
in one affordable solution. More is possible
Grades K-5 blended literacy intervention
Grades K-5 independent, online reading practice
Grades 4-12 print literacy program
Grades K-12 writing program
Grades 4-12 literacy intervention
TransMath® Third Edition is a comprehensive math intervention curriculum that targets middle and high school students who lack the foundational skills necessary for entry into algebra and/or who are two or more years below grade level in
A targeted math intervention program for struggling students in grades 2–8 that provides additional opportunities to master critical math concepts and skills.
Empowers students in grades K–8 to master math content at their own pace in a motivating online environment.
Inside Algebra engages at-risk students in grades 8–12 through explicit, conceptually based instruction to ensure mastery of algebraic skills.
Developed by renowned literacy experts Dr. Louisa Moats and Dr. Carol Tolman,
LETRS® is a flexible literacy professional development solution for preK–12 educators. LETRS earned the International Dyslexia Association's Accreditation and provides teachers with the skills they need to master the fundamentals
of reading instruction—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, writing, and language.
Online professional development event is designed for preK to college educators interested in improving student success in reading and writing
Literacy solutions guided by LETRS’ science of reading pedagogy, the Structured Literacy approach, and explicit teaching of sound-letter relationships for effective reading instruction.
NUMBERS is an interactive, hands-on mathematics professional development offering for elementary and middle school math teachers.
Best Behavior Features Elements to Create a Happy, Healthy School Environment
Look to ClearSight to measure student mastery of state standards with items previously used on state high-stakes assessments. ClearSight Interim and Checkpoint Assessments include multiple forms of tests for grades K–high school.
Reliable, Research-Based Assessment Solutions to Support Literacy and Math
Enhance early reading success and identify students experiencing difficulty acquiring foundational literacy skills.
A companion tool for use with Acadience Reading K–6 to determine instructional level and progress monitoring.
Assess critical reading skills for students in grades K–6 and older students with very low skills.
Assess essential pre-literacy and oral language skills needed for kindergarten.
Predict early mathematics success and identify students experiencing difficulty acquiring foundational math skills.
Give educators a fast and accurate way to enter results online and receive a variety of reports that facilitate instructional decision making.
A brief assessment that can be used with Acadience Reading K–6 to screen students for reading difficulties such as dyslexia.
A new, online touch-enabled test administration and data system that allows educators to assess students and immediately see results, providing robust reporting at the student, class, school, and district levels.
Unparalleled support for our educator partners
We work with schools and districts to customize an implementation and ongoing support plan.
Grades 5-12 blended literacy intervention
Flexible literacy professional development solution for preK–12 educators.
Focused on engaging students with age-appropriate instruction and content that supports and enhances instruction.
Reading intervention for grades K–5.
At Voyager Sopris Learning®, our mission is to work with educators to help them meet and surpass their goals for student achievement.
Step Up to Writing®
Mary DahlgrenLiteracy expert and President, Tools 4 Reading
Mary Ellis Dahlgren, Ed.D., is president of Tools 4 Reading. She is an experienced educator with more than 25 years in the field of education having served as a dyslexia therapist, elementary classroom teacher, international literacy consultant, and author. She is the author of a highly successful phonics tool kit which includes Kid Lips and Phoneme-Grapheme Instructional Cards for elementary, special education, and English language learner teachers. She also is a national trainer for the distinguished teacher curriculum LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling). She is the former executive director of Payne Education Center, a nonprofit teacher training center in Oklahoma. Dr. Dahlgren is a founding board member of a school for adjudicated youth, SeeWorth Academy, organized by the late Chief Justice Alma Wilson. Dr. Dahlgren’s passion is to help everyone involved with reading instruction to feel equipped and confident in providing the highest-quality instruction possible. She also is president of The Reading League Oklahoma Chapter.
According to the science of reading, students need to master phonemic awareness skills before they match the sounds to print, and phonics instruction is needed before students begin decoding text. We know this information, yet A–Z alphabetical
word walls are still used in many classrooms, requiring students to match print to speech instead of sound. In this podcast, literacy and sound wall expert Dr. Mary Dahlgren will share why it is so important to implement a sound wall in the classroom
and how it benefits reading development.
During this podcast, you will learn:
Learn why you should retire your word wall and how to implement an effective sound wall during this informative podcast.
LETRSMore Resources to Support the Science of ReadingBLOG: Implementing a Sound Wall
Narrator: Welcome to EDVIEW360.
Mary Dahlgren: We rarely acknowledge the sounds of our language in general education classrooms. We were great at talking about the prints and syllable types and teaching kids about that decoding piece but we'd left out the phonology. Setting up sound walls has to do with the 44 speech sounds of the language not just the 26 letters of the alphabet. Teaching them about the 44 speech sounds of the language it’s like teaching the multiplication tables. We know we have this area in our brain we want to build those neural networks. The more rapidly we can build those networks, the more rapidly students can begin reading independently.
Narrator: You just heard Dr. Mary Dahlgren, president of tools 4 reading and author of Kid Lips® and Phoneme/Grapheme instructional cards for elementary, special education, and English language learner teachers. Dr. Dahlgren is a national LETRS® trainer and our guest today on EDVIEW360. Here's your host, Pam Austin.
Pam Austin: This is Pam Austin. Welcome back to the EDVIEW360 podcast series. We are so excited to have you back with us. I'm conducting today's podcast for my native New Orleans, channeling the heart of Voyager Sopris Learning® in Dallas, TX. Today, we are honored to have with us Dr. Mary Dahlgren, president of tools 4 reading, author of Kid Lips, national LETRS trainer, and sound wall expert. Welcome, Dr. Dahlgren. Thank you for joining us today, we're so pleased to have you with us. You have quite a distinguished career in education. Tell us a little bit about how you started.
Mary Dahlgren: Hi, Pam. Thank you so much for inviting me to join you for this podcast. And, yes, I started my career in education about 37 years ago, first as a sixth grade teacher working in a small rural district in Oklahoma. And, I was so shocked in my first year of teaching that I had sixth grade students who truly could not decode words. And, the reality was I didn't know how to teach them. So, I began searching for answers and I went through a training that was an Orton-Gillingham based training out of the Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas. And, then, I studied a lot of Louisa's (Dr. Louisa Moats) work, which was just really kind of providential because I read that Louisa had classes at Greenwood Institute in Putney, VT.
And, in 1998, I went to Putney, VT, and studied with her at The Greenwood Institute. And, that's when I first began to truly understand, in spite of the fact that I'd had an Orton-Gillingham training, but there was this deeper layer to language and understanding the phonology of language. Which is what really took me into my study with sound walls and, of course, becoming a LETRS trainer, that happened 16 years ago. So, it's been quite a journey from the beginning with sixth grade students who didn't know how to read to actually getting to the point where now I'm teaching teachers how to teach kids to read. And, it’s so gratifying because I never want a teacher to feel the way I felt that first year.
PA: Well, you’ve talked about that deep layer of language, right?
PA: … and of oral language. That probably leads into the next question, how did you become focused on sound walls? And, for educators who may not know what a sound wall is, please give us a quick definition.
MD: OK. So, a sound wall is...it's about the phonology of our language, and a sound wall is built around the 44 speech sounds of the English language. And, a sound wall is set up around those speech sounds, our consonant sounds and our vowel sounds. So, those are things that educators frequently have not considered, they certainly haven't been taught that information in undergraduate trainings. And, as I said, even in my Orton-Gillingham training years ago we didn’t speak, we didn’t talk in depth about this layer of phonology. We were great at talking about the prints and syllable types and teaching kids about that decoding piece but we’d left out the phonology.
And, that's where sound walls really play a role. It's not just about the print, it's about the sound comes first, where we're learning more and more about how children move from speech to print. They learn to speak first and then they begin to read. So, it's that continuum of the layers, the language that we're getting at when we're learning about sound walls, setting up sound walls. It has to do with the 44 speech sounds of the language not just the 26 letters of the alphabet.
PA: Fellow educators may be more familiar with a word wall. What are the main differences between a sound wall and a word wall?
MD: So, with the sound wall we have, again, the 44 speech sounds and with the word wall we use 26 letters. A word wall is typically organized in alphabetical order, starting A through Z. So, that's a limitation when we know that there's 44 speech sounds. If I only have 26 letters, I'm not truly representing the sounds. So, when we talk about a sound wall, obviously we have to talk about consonants and vowels. But I'm going to say the consonants, when I'm thinking about the consonants in our language we have to think about the place of articulation.
And, when I talk about the place of articulation, I'm asking my students to think about what's happening with your lips when you make a sound? What's happening with your teeth and your lips? And, possibly, what's happening with your tongue? Is your tongue between your teeth or is your tongue behind your teeth when you're making a sound? Is your tongue drawn back, lifting up to the roof of your mouth or lifting in the back of your mouth? So, those are the things we call the place of articulation.
When I say a sound like the /t/ sound that's represented by the letter T, I can find that on a word wall. But how about the word ‘the?’ We have ‘th,’ now that's a sound that's not represented on a word wall. And, that's a word that we know all children are taught to read by sight, as we consider it a sight word but it's a word that you have to learn how to decode, how to read. But it's very difficult for kids if they're thinking, "My gosh, my teacher keeps putting that word, ‘the,’ that I'm supposed to know. Every time I see T-H-E I'm supposed to say the, but it's posted on this letter T and I know T says the /t/ sound."
So, you can imagine that's confusing if I'm thinking about a 6-year-old perspective of reading versus an adult perspective of reading. So, we've organized word walls about what makes sense to us as adults and also with our limited understanding of alphabetical order of A through Z versus a deeper understanding of the phonology of our language, the 44 speech sounds. So, we place a sound wall, we build that from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth. And that's a completely different perspective for a teacher. So, a teacher really needs to know about the 44 speech sounds of the language, what are they?
And, it's not just for the speech pathologist to know. The speech pathologists in the buildings, they're a gold mine so make sure...I always say you just make sure to know your speech pathologist well because they can support you as you're trying to put up a sound wall. But just shifting from alphabetical order to putting up a sound wall that starts with the sounds in the front of your mouth, the /p/ and the /b/ sound. The /m/ sound that's made with your lips together. And, I move to the middle of my mouth, the /t/ and the /d/ sound. And, then finally, the back of my throat, the /c/ and the /g/ sound.
So, that’s, it’s a completely different perspective for teachers to think about, “Oh my gosh, you want me to put these sounds up that are in an order that I’m not clear about because I’ve never had an explanation of the language?” But I get A through Z order because that’s how typically we were all taught when we were in school and now we’re making the shift. And, this is based on what we know about the science of reading. We're making this shift because we're understanding kids again, approach the reading from speech to print. They know the sounds and the more clearer we are about the sounds of our language, the easier it is to then attach the print.
PA: Educators are probably thinking, "Hey, this sounds like a very good idea." And they're probably starting to think, "I might want to retire these word walls." Why should educators retire their word walls in favor of a sound wall? You began to answer that, tell us a little bit more.
MD: Yeah. I'll go a little bit deeper on that. So, again, there's limitations of the 26 letters. Those 26 letters they're insufficient to truly represent the structure of our language, the phonology of our language. And, so, I'll give you another example, another sound in our language, common word that you tend to read in first grade is the word ‘she,’ right? The first sound in the word she is the ‘sh’ sound. And thinking about, again the sound, it's represented with your lips, they're curved, they're almost in a circle. Your tongue is pulled back a little bit, the lifting up towards the top of your mouth as you say the ‘sh’ sound and your airflow is continuous.
So, describing what that sound feels like using mirrors to look at your mouth what does that look like? Noticing that my breath continues when I make the ‘sh’ sound. Now, I've given my student a template for thinking about a sound which they've thought about many times. Again, as teachers we often just think about the print, we don't think about these sounds. But now I have, as a child I'm thinking, "Yeah, I recognize that ‘sh,’ but what does that mean for spelling? Well, then I start to explain to them. The ‘sh’ sound is spelled with these letters and they're called a diagraph, S-H, and that's what I attached to my sound wall.
I use pictures, we call them Kid Lips that Dr. Antonio Fierro and I created together, these little pictures of children’s mouths so that they can see the picture of what it might look like when you’re making that ‘sh’ sound. We ask children and teachers to use mirrors, look at your mouth when you’re making the ‘sh’ sound, describe what’s happening. And, then, notice here's that spelling for that sound, it's the S-H it's not just an S and then an H, but it's actually the S-H that represents that sound.
And, Pam, I have to tell you interestingly I was teaching a LETRS class last week virtually on Zoom. And, I had some third grade teachers in the class. They were from Horseheads, NY, and they've implemented sound walls in their third grade classrooms. And, they shared with me that the third grade students said, "Thank you for putting up the sound wall." This makes sense, because think about all the letters and the strings of letters that we teach children but we never acknowledge the sounds.
But if kids think about sound first and then they're there trying to figure out what's the print to match that sound, but I don't know how to spell, once we created the template by putting up a sound wall, now I understand I do have these 44 sounds and now I can make sense of what's my choice for spelling the ‘sh’ sound, S-H, and at the beginning of a word, especially. But I oftentimes, once I start teaching especially by third grade, I might notice that T-I in the middle of the word like, ‘nation.’ the T-I says that ‘sh’ sound too. That would be something I'd want my students to notice and to draw attention to that spelling pattern as we're making more and more sense to language. It is really setting up a template to map from speech to print.
PA: And, it helps students grow smarter about the language, right? I like to say we help our students become linguistic geniuses, don’t we?
MD: Yes, that’s right. And, this is that stepping stone to becoming a linguistic genius. And, you're right, it's demystifying so much of the language because now that I...and Louisa, one day I was having a conversation with her about sound walls. And she said, "Mary, really teaching them about the 44 speech sounds of the language means that it's like teaching the multiplication tables, or understanding the chemistry chart." Now, I have this template that everything's been organized in so I can make sense of it. It's not just random bits of information that I'm trying to figure out on my own. We've removed that demystification by putting it out there right away, even in kindergarten classrooms.
PA: Oh yeah, definitely, yeah. Science of reading. We've heard that phrase quite a bit lately. How do sound walls support the science of reading? And, I'm not done yet. I've got another question I’ll latch on to that one. Why is the science of reading even more important based on the current education environment with students returning to the classroom after COVID-19?
MD: The science of reading, that term has just become ubiquitous in reading instruction. Well, in education, especially lots of Facebook posts about the science of reading, I've seen so many new websites around that. But here's my plug for LETRS, this is where talking about the science of reading. LETRS was written based on the convergence of evidence over the last 40 years of research. Much of that research which was funded through the National Institutes of Health and over 40,000 students have been in the research studies. So, large-scale studies, that were longitudinal studies that have proven the best methods for teaching reading, which is explained in all of our LETRS classes, and definitely how Louisa designed the LETRS information so that everyone could easily walk away with this information and apply it in practice.
But we've really become very clear about what happens in the brain through all the functional MRIs that are available. In understanding the science of reading, we know that reading occurs on the left side of our brain, we know that phonology is in the frontal lobe. And, so, I have teachers point to just above the temple on the left side of their head to...well, that's where sound's activated. So, we know that with confidence and that's because of the science we know that. And, then, back behind the ear in the occipital lobe, that's where we recognize the print.
And, we have these synapses, these neuronal traces, memory traces, that are built from the speech to the print that meet somewhere midway above the ear, another scientific term here, the angular gyrus area, where that speech to print is matched up. But we have to educate all areas of the brain. So, that's part of the science of reading, is understanding these different pieces that need to be taught in order for children to become proficient readers.
And, again, I'm going to say we rarely acknowledge the sounds of our language in general education classrooms, we tend to focus solely on the print. But we know we have this area in our brain and especially the left side of the brain where reading occurs and that that phonological processor needs to be stimulated, it must be activated. And, we have lots of good phonemic awareness programs that teachers are using pretty successfully in their classrooms now, I'm hearing that all over.
But the idea that...it's one thing to do exercises, like say "Map." Change the ‘m’ to ‘o,’ where we have “lap.” And, that's exercising that phonological processor, but let's talk about the /m/ sound, so that's back to sound walls. Let me create an awareness of those articulatory gestures. What's happening with my lips when I make that /m/ sound? Hold your nose and try to say the /m/ sound.
And, Pam, just an interesting thing to think about. If we remain virtual in our teaching, I can do this. I'm describing this to you without seeing each other, we're doing this on a podcast. But I can imagine, and I've had many discussions with teachers about this on a camera, whether it's a Google classroom or it's a Zoom classroom, the teachers can describe this, watch the students and say, "Look at my mouth, make your mouth look like my mouth." They can watch the students and then attach the print as they're ready to attach the print once they understand the sounds.
But I kind of jumped around there from the science of reading, explaining what's happening in the brain, even why is this even more important based on COVID-19 and the loss of classroom instructional time? Well, we want to build those neural networks and we want to build those...the more rapidly we can build those networks, the more rapidly students can begin reading, with the goal to be reading independently.
And, obviously, moving into reading comprehension now I have to think about and understand what I read. But it's this beginning reading task that our children I worry about if they stopped in March of kindergarten, March of first grade, even March of second grade, and they weren't proficient readers at that point. The importance of bringing in these underlying structures of language is for teachers to understand, "If I make this shift I'm able to build those neural networks even more rapidly."
And, I say that Pam, because of my work that I've done with teachers. There's a group of teachers in Alabama I have to give a shout out to, the teachers down there who've really worked hard to implement sound walls in their classrooms. And they learned...well, I went to visit them in February right before everything was shut down. And, they told me building sound walls in their classrooms reviewing the 44 speech sounds daily, just pointing at the sounds and asking them questions. "What sounds do you make with the air coming through your nose?" The kids could say, "Those are nasal sounds. And here they are. Let’s hold our nose and say them.” But these classroom teachers said, "We were able to move kids that we thought we're going to put in interventions out of interventions. By creating this template, we were able to do that. And, we have kids that are starting to read that we honestly did not think would even be reading by the end of the year. And we've had this shift by acknowledging the sounds and moving that forward, explaining that, practicing that.” But I say that to also come back to those teachers having that knowledge, being able to explain that, they can move what they were doing in their classrooms to a virtual environment as long as it's the understanding and knowing about our language, this one layer that typically hasn't been introduced to us as teachers. It was a lot for me.
PA: Yeah. It's news for me as well when I first learned about the science of reading. And, what I love in hearing you speak of, Mary, is it's that solid foundation, that underlying the structure of language for kids and the idea that what you're doing is you're landing them on solid ground. And, I love the idea of virtual modeling. This can be done virtually through the description, through actually visually talking about what it looks like, watch my lips. It's just amazing to see how we can transition in that virtual world as well.
MD: I think it's definitely possible. It just takes some thinking and definitely some explicit instruction on the teacher's end.
PA: Awesome. How do educators get started with creating sound walls? Give us some details, maybe step-by-step so we don't miss any important parts here.
MD: So, starting with a sound wall, first of all, I'm thinking of a regular classroom, a brick-and-mortar classroom, but I also think if I'm teaching virtually, I have to set up the sound wall. So, do I have some space to do this? And, truly, I need a space where I can put the consonant sounds. So, we have our 25 consonant sounds that need to be arranged by the articulatory features from the front of the mouth to the back of the mouth. And, then, I also need space for my vowel valley. So, I have these 18 vowel sounds that we put together in a V shape, and starting with your lips in a tight smile. So, thinking about, I'm going to go to a tight smile E all the way to that open doctor sound /a/ and then we're going to go back up to a rounded /o/ sound.
But there has to be space to do that. And, is that space readily available? When I'm teaching I want to be able to reference these things and point to either pictures of the mouth cards. What are your lips doing when you're making that sound on your teeth, your tongue? Or I have, for example, those third grade teachers, they use their phoneme and grapheme with their sound spelling cards from the reading program that they have in their building and they arrange their vowel valley by those articulatory gestures.
Spacing is important. Two, do I have sound cards or something to represent all the sounds, the language? Will you want to label the categories? So, for the consonant charts we have what we call stop sounds, for the breath stops. It's one push of air, nasal sounds, which I described, the sounds coming through your nose. We have a category of sounds called fricatives, where there's friction in the air flow. And, again, that's that ‘sh’ sound, there's friction as you're producing that sound continuously.
One category of speech sounds is known as affricates. And an affricate is a speech sound that has friction but it stops, it doesn't have a continuous air flow. The pair of affricates are the ‘ch’ sound as in chocolate and the ‘j’ sound as in jump. We have liquids and we have glides. Those are all labels that teachers need to learn about and we can easily teach kids those labels because they make sense to them. When I'm thinking about what am I doing when I'm making that sound with my airflow? So, that manner of articulation, how we're articulating those sounds, and then also once I start teaching the sounds, what print? What do I have to represent the print or what we call the orthography of our language?
Am I going to place all the print on the wall right away? Do I have key words to match with my sound? So, if I need to unlock a sound, I haven't learned how to spell with a sound like /m/, I'll use that sound that's not typically taught in kindergarten. How about the /o/ sound as in book? I might have the /o/ sound, my lips are very rounded, they're pursed pretty tightly together for the /o/ sound or we can say ‘o.’ But I have a picture of a book to remind my students of that's what sound that mouth card's representing. But I wouldn't put the ‘O-O’ spelling on a sound wall until probably first grade when I introduce that sound.
Do I have something to represent the sounds like the keywords, mouth cards? And, then, I have to think about what is my reading program? When do we introduce the spellings that go with those sounds? So, teachers get confused by sounds and spellings, but I really want them to think about the sounds. I'm going to teach my students the sounds, well, they already know the sounds, but I'm going to help them find those sounds, organize those sounds by setting up the consonants and the vowel charts. And, then, we're going to start adding the print. So, now, we're learning to read with long ‘a,’ the ‘a’ sound, and now guess what? We're going to learn about cake and bake, and I've got this a consonant-e, and I have words like grape and cape.
So, once I've learned a consonant-e spells that long a sound and I know ‘a’, and I can look at that a and notice, "Oh yeah, a constant-e is one of my spelling patterns. Oh, then we have ‘ai’ in ‘ay,’" those are usually taught together in first grade. I want to make sure my teachers have that print to represent those sounds. And, how are they going to? They have to think about in their core reading program, when am I going to begin introducing the print that goes with those sounds? Having all those resources in place, thinking about when they're going to put up the print to go with the sounds and then the introduction of sounds is really important. Introducing things pretty rapidly. I usually say in kindergarten and first grade you introduce all the sounds, but then having daily review.
So, that’s the other thing, is having an established instructional routine for the sound wall, which should be anywhere between five to 10 minutes a day. That’s the other thing I think teachers get hung up on is thinking, “Oh, this is going to eat up so much of my time.” But it’s really having a good routine to say, “We’re going to review the consonant sounds and we’re going to review the vowel sounds.” And, then, I might ask my students questions such as, "Someone tell me, what nasal sound is made with your tongue behind your teeth, the tip of your tongue behind your teeth?"
That's the /n/ sound. Another example might be in my instructional routine. I have these two sounds, they're fricatives. One is the /s/ sound. My voice has turned off that /s/ as in ‘sun.’ What happens when you make that sound but you turn your voice on? And, hopefully, my kids respond with ‘z,’ it's a /z/ sound as in ‘zebra.’ The /s/ and the /z/ sound are made in the same place. But that's a daily review, daily routine questions that you want to ask. It's not just putting up a sound wall, but now I've got a practice with it.
PA: Right, right. That ongoing cumulative practice. And, again, that's going back to speech to print. There seems to be a theme here, Mary.
MD: Yeah, there's a theme. The other thing that you'll notice that I always tell teachers is, this is an I do and a we do. And, that's one of the things I've had lots of people ask, "Can you send me pictures virtually? I need to send them home with my students." And, it's not really a you do as much as the I do, we do. It's a you do once you've learned that sound and I can use that as a reference tool, but it really requires the teaching and the practice with the students. So, I think that that's an important piece to keep in mind too.
PA: Right, awesome. You've given us a lot of information. Are there any other tips, something you may have forgotten, I doubt if you have, that educators need to know to create an effective sound wall?
MD: Here's another tip that I haven't said. Don't be afraid to start. I feel like teachers think, "This doesn't make sense to me. I'm not sure about the 44 speech sounds, I've seen pictures of sound walls." And, yes, I will give you a resource of where people can go and look at sound walls. But don't be afraid to start. Jump in, learn along with your students because it is a little bit intimidating. It's not something that we've typically been taught or thought about. So, don't be afraid because it makes a lot of sense once you begin to work with sound walls.
PA: Awesome. So, I know when you think about sound walls, that's a shift from word walls and we've talked about that in great detail here. Are there any other challenges or shifts when we think about reading pedagogy as a whole that an educator might have to face while creating a sound wall? What if they're the only one in the building doing the sound wall thing? What are some challenges in pedagogy?
MD: Yeah. The shift I think is really moving towards that more explicit, systematic instruction that we talk about in the science of reading and that hasn't always been supported in education and by all of our administrators in buildings. So, I think that that's going to be...that might be a challenge that teachers think and face, and they'll really have to understand why they want to make this shift of explaining the layers of language and helping students to make sense of the language in a more systematic and explicit way. So, I think that that's going to be one of the...might be a shift. I'm seeing it happen more and more all across the United States, but not everywhere.
Teachers are probably wondering what resources are out there. You've mentioned a few things. What would you recommend to educators to learn more about sound walls?
MD: Well, first of all I would say, take LETRS, the LETRS training. Because Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling, a professional development designed by Dr. Louisa Moats and Dr. Carol Tolman, is really where I began to understand the speech sounds in language. As I said, I began to study with Louisa in '98, but teaching LETRS for the last 16 years. Understanding that when we teach LETRS we have the vowel and consonant charts and those are the sound walls. So, we teach that in LETRS, so we begin to teach that understanding of this layer of language, the phonetics of language is what it truly is. So, that's one resource. Another resource I would say is Louisa has just released the latest edition of Speech to Print, her book. Imagine that, Pam, the name is Speech to Print. Isn't that brilliant?
MD: Louisa explains this information in Speech to Print. And, then as I said, my colleague Antonio Fierro and I have created materials called Kid Lips, and we have a manual that we’ve written to explain the speech sounds and really how to begin posting a sound wall. Teachers can look to those resources to support that in their classrooms.
PA: Excellent. Well, we’re getting to the end of our podcast, it happens so very, very quickly. Tell us what’s next for you Dr. Dahlgren? What’s your next educational project?
MD: Well, right now, I’m actually working with Dr. Fierro on creating some more diversified pictures for our Kid Lips manual and our Kid Lips picture card. There’s been a huge request for that so we’re updating those things. And, we’re really updating more of our instructional manual to include not just how to set up a sound wall but what are some of the daily routines. So, I feel like that that's the need and the request for understanding how to do this is great.
And, Pam, we're learning along with teachers too. We're just a step ahead in explaining these things and really understanding, "Oh my goodness, it's so helpful to have some of these daily routines." Fun questions written out and different activities that they can do with their kids to help them understand this is Tier One instruction, this is not just for Tier Two or Tier Three. Get into Tier one so that we reduce Tier Two and Tier Three instruction. That's really, I'm continuing to do this work and refine it.
PA: Right, definitely. Finally, one more question.
MD: All right.
PA: If you could wave a magic wand and change anything in the world of education, what would you change and why?
MD: Oh, if I could change anything, I'd wave the wand and I would magically have all of our college professors trained in the phonology of language and all the structures of language, so they could turn around and provide that to preservice teachers. I'd also say that magic wand would include a district's understanding that quality professional development is an investment and it's not just a cost to consider every year in how do we manipulate our budget? Do we actually leave that in there because it's just, you can't just learn this on your own, you need good quality professional development to learn this.
PA: I love your magic wand wish, investment in the future of current educators, I just love that idea. It's been a pleasure speaking with you. Please tell our listeners how they can learn more about you and how they can follow you on social media.
MD: Well, Pam, I want to say thank you for inviting me to speak to you about this. I was nervous about describing a sound wall just through a podcast, but I hope it's been helpful for teachers. And, for people who want to get more information, they can go to tools, T-O-O-L-S, the number four, reading.com, so tools4reading.com. And, they can follow, I have a Facebook page, @tools4reading Facebook page, also the same handle for Twitter. So, T-O-O-L-S, the number four, reading. So, that’s a place that they can find lots of materials, pictures, and get ideas and see some videos. And, the blog post that I did for Voyager is also posted there on my webpage, so people can access and see that, it has some pictures in it, or on the Voyager website.
PA: All right. Thank you, Dr. Dahlgren. This is Pam Austin, bringing the best thought leaders in education directly to you.
Narrator: This has been an EDVIEW360 podcast produced by Voyager Sopris Learning. For additional thought-provoking discussions, sign up for our blog, webinar, and podcast series at voyagersopris.com/podcast. If you enjoyed the show, we'd love a five-star review wherever you listen to podcasts, and to help other people like you find our show. Thank you.