Seeing Red

I am excited to be featured as a guest blogger on Teacher Mom of 3!  I met Lauren through a Google+ community I joined as I was building my Personal Learning Network and she has given me some great ideas.  Hopefully, this post will share some good ideas with all of you.

I teach in an elementary self-contained special education classroom and have been conducting an action research project on high-frequency word instruction for this past school year as part of my thesis for my Master’s Degree.  I have been studying the effectiveness of Orton-Gillingham’s Red Word Method.  This is a multi-sensory, structured, and sequential approach to learning “Red Words” or words that cannot be sounded out phonetically and do not follow phonemic rules.  We have our 15 minute “Red Word” lesson every day and I am happy to say my students have made significant gains using this method to learn their high-frequency words.

To get started you need a classroom set of your high-frequency words written in red, red crayons, and red canvas.

Red Word Materials

I teach two words a week and target both words each day using the following procedure:

  • Hold the word in your (non-writing) hand.
  • Slide your pointer finger (of your writing hand) under the word while you read it.  Repeat 3 times.
  • Take that same finger and trace the letters while you spell the word, then slide your finger under the word while you read it again.  Repeat 3 times.

finger point

  • Now, extend your non-writing arm out in front of you while holding the card in your hand.
  • Place your writing hand on your arm and slide it from your shoulder to your wrist as you read the word.  Repeat 3 times.
  • Spell the word, tapping once for each letter down your arm.  Then read the word again while sliding your hand from shoulder to wrist.  Do this 3 times.

Arm tap

  • Give each student a red canvas, a small blank piece of paper, and a red crayon.  Instruct them to write the word (saying the letters aloud as they write) and underline the word as they read it.  Do this on both sides of the small blank piece of paper.
  • When you collect all of the supplies, have the student read the word to you.
  • Repeat this for each word you teach during a lesson.

This is the basic framework of a “Red Words” lesson.  I also try to use the word in as many sentences as possible during the lesson.  I also spell and say the word as I hand out the writing supplies.  Aside from the multi-sensory approach (body movements and writing on the canvas) it is also extremely repetitive – which is so important for children with cognitive disabilities.  The repetitiveness also allows students to stand up and lead the lesson as well!

The final thought I will leave you with is that even though my students have made amazing gains, there are still some of the “red words” that are tricky.  So, we give the word a high 5 each time we leave the classroom!  If you try this method or already use it, let me know what kind of improvements you see!

extra support


About krummme

I have been working with children with special needs in some capacity or other for the last 9 years. I am currently in my third year teaching in a self-contained classroom for students with Intellectual Disabilities. In addition to my classroom responsibilities, I am also a wife and mother. While the jobs of wife and mother bring me the most joy, I get so much out of my work with my students. This blog is the musings of my life.
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