Welcome to 2018

Strategies for Struggling Learners

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Words with Spelling Connections Have Meaning Connections

This presentation begins with many definitions and explanations of critical words. It is appropriate for all levels of parents and teachers/Ed therapists.

Words with spelling connections have meaning connections. Although the pronunciation of morphemes may vary from word to word, the spelling of these morphemes does not change: define→definition, wildwilderness, signsignature. We never know the pronunciation of a morpheme until it lands in a word (Real Spelling), but the spelling of morphemes is significantly more predictable.

Good readers notice meaningful parts of words (morphemes), both spoken and written. This morphological awareness helps them to make connections between words related in meaning—and spelling. Pattern recognition reduces the load on memory and supports retrieval of linguistic information—for speaking, reading, and writing [Berninger, Carlisle, Moats, Nagy]. Related words are activated in memory when they have meaningful connections and when they share structural elements at the morpheme level, especially when spelling reveals those connections [Nagy]: relate→relative→relation→relationship→interrelate. 80% of derived words mean what their parts suggest, as long as multiple meanings of elements are taken into account [Nagy].


Objectives – Participants will:

  1. Define phonology, morphology, and etymology. Explain the contribution that each one makes to reading and spelling instruction.


  1. Use your knowledge of the difference between function words and content (or lexical) words to explain the spelling of <inn> and  <bee>.
  1. Explain the difference between the effects of inflectional and derivational suffixes on word meanings.


  1. Explain how Venezky’s “Homophone Principle” is related to the spelling of the following groups of words:  <oar><ore>     <meet><meat>><mete>     <grown><groan>.
  1. Use etymology to explain the spelling of <they>. 


Nancy’s bio ---

Nancy Cushen White, Ed.D. is a Clinical Professor in the Department of Pediatrics-Adolescent & Young Adult Medicine-University of CA-San Francisco and a member of the UCSF Dyslexia Research Team. She has 40+ years of experience in public schools as classroom teacher, special education teacher, and program specialist in special education curriculum with San Francisco Unified School District; she piloted a special day class for 2e students diagnosed with dyslexia and intellectually gifted. She works as a certified academic language therapist, a board certified educational therapist, a certified Slingerland teacher training course director, and dyslexia consultant in her private practice, Dyslexia Evaluation & Remediation Clinic. She has been working as a Literacy Intervention Consultant and Case Manager for Lexicon Reading Center in Dubai--United Arab Emirates since 2010.

Nancy has taught literacy skills classes to young adults (ages 19-24) in the Pre-Trial Diversion Project through the Mentor Court Division of San Francisco Superior Court.

As a past member of The International Dyslexia Association Board of Directors, she served as program chair and co-chair for the annual conference several times. She has represented IDA on the National Joint Committee on Learning Disabilities (NJCLD) from 2003-2012 and 2015-Present. Currently, she is the editor of the Examiner, IDA’s monthly on-line newsletter. In addition, she is a past president and current advisory board member of the Northern California Branch of IDA. She is a member of the board of directors for the International Multisensory Structured Language Council (IMSLEC) and the Alliance for Certification and Accreditation.
She was a member of the AB 1369 Work Group (California Department of Education-CDE) charged with drafting public school dyslexia guidelines required under the new law.  In addition, she has served on several content review and advisory panels under the auspices of the CA Commission on Teacher Credentialing, CA Curriculum Commission, CA State Board of Education, and CA Department of Education.

Nancy lives in San Francisco with her husband Bebo and is the very humble mother of two adult sons, aged 36 and 40; she has two grandsons, 5 years old and 3 years old.