Have you noticed students who have trouble touching lines, closing letters or spelling words correctly. What about students that seem to have the mechanics of reading but cannot stay on task to read. When students have been bombarded with phonics but don’t seem to be able to apply what they learned, i.e. they know the sounds for letters and phonemes on flash cards but seem to forget them when reading a full page, something must be amiss.
Demonstrate: Pencil push-ups, tracking and doing mazes visually/timed
Show audience the website. Have them try the activities if they have their own computer. Do ball activity.
Demonstrate formation of figure 8s on white board or mirror. Arms length. Eye level. Large figures.
(4 nights per wk, Sept - Dec.; 2 nights per wk Jan - May)
move decoding from the neo-cortex to the brain stem,
ProfConf2016Developing VMSystem for Reading.
Visual Motor Skills
Scaffolding Students to Reading
You gotta see it to read it.
Teaching reading is relatively simple for about 50 to 75%
It can become very confusing when undetermined factors
play a part.
When a student’s visual motor skills are not functioning as
well as they should be, problems with reading can be
As classroom teachers we can help students overcome
these problems IF we recognize the problem and teach
students strategies to improve visual skills.
Several factors led me to investigate this issue:
I am a strong teacher of reading but some students made little
progress no matter how much effort they put in to applying
decoding and comprehension strategies.
My dad was a 7th grade Reading Lab teacher in the 70’s. He
was unusually successful getting kids to read at grade level in
one year. Among other techniques, he used eye exercises and
developing writing skills.
Kelsey (my daughter) could not learn to read despite loving
being read to from the time she was little. She could track 2
directions simultaneously. After one year of vision therapy (eye
exercises) her reading improved 4 grade levels that year.
What the Vision Therapist Did
Pencil pulls and push ups
Mazes and word finds
Develop correct cursive formation
Left to right awareness activities
Calling out letters on a ball while hitting it
back and forth with a partner
Following moving objects with eyes
Near to far point reading
Activities involving specialized equipment
JAMES HINSELWOOD, in 1895, investigated why people could
not learn to read. He coined the phrase “word blindness”. He
also documented reversals and word & line skipping.
A.M. SKEFFINGTON an Optometrist in the 1920s, developed
eye exercises which improved peoples’ ability to learn to read.
SAMUEL ORTON, in 1925, built on Hinselwood’s work. He
renamed “word blindness” “strephosymbolia” (later renamed
dyslexia). He developed a structured, sequential, multi-sensory
approach to teaching reading, including meticulous attention to
left to right letter formation and sound association. He teamed
with Anne Gillingham to implement the Orton-Gillingham system
for teaching reading. Orton’s method has been successful in
correcting not only visual, but auditory and neuro processing
problems as well.
Using eye exercises to help prepare people to read is not
Current Research Studies
Research shows:Research shows:
A clear relationship between visual motor skills dyslexiaA clear relationship between visual motor skills dyslexia
and reading test scoresand reading test scores.. Zaba, 2003; Taylor, 2006; Getman, 2001;Zaba, 2003; Taylor, 2006; Getman, 2001;
Kulp, 1996; Solan, 2003; Maples, 2003; Facoetti, 2000; Marzola, 2000;Kulp, 1996; Solan, 2003; Maples, 2003; Facoetti, 2000; Marzola, 2000;
Atzmon, 1993; Eden, Stein, Wood, 1995.Atzmon, 1993; Eden, Stein, Wood, 1995.
Eye exercises improve visual skills.Eye exercises improve visual skills. Zaba, 2003; Brodney et al,Zaba, 2003; Brodney et al,
25% of students tested at random have poor visual motor25% of students tested at random have poor visual motor
skillsskills (Gillespie, 2001; Maples, 2003)(Gillespie, 2001; Maples, 2003)
In high poverty areas as high as 50% of students haveIn high poverty areas as high as 50% of students have
been shown to have poor visual motor skillsbeen shown to have poor visual motor skills (Gillespie, 2001)(Gillespie, 2001)
70% of juvenile delinquent populations have poor visual70% of juvenile delinquent populations have poor visual
motor skillsmotor skills (Gillespie, 2001)(Gillespie, 2001)
Poor visual motor skills are 7 times more accuratePoor visual motor skills are 7 times more accurate
predictor of poor reading scores than poverty or race.predictor of poor reading scores than poverty or race.
(Maples, 2003)(Maples, 2003)
Even when visual motor problems are detected, parentsEven when visual motor problems are detected, parents
in high poverty areas do not follow through to get theirin high poverty areas do not follow through to get their
children the help neededchildren the help needed.. (Gillespie, 2001)(Gillespie, 2001)
Visual Skills Needed to Read
accomodationaccomodation: focus near to far point: focus near to far point (requires(requires
lense flexibility.)lense flexibility.)
teamingteaming: both eyes working together (: both eyes working together (Seeing theSeeing the
same thing at the same time.)same thing at the same time.)
trackingtracking: following a line of print smoothly: following a line of print smoothly
convergenceconvergence: both eyes moving to the center: both eyes moving to the center
sacaadssacaads: jumps from one chunk of print to the: jumps from one chunk of print to the
next without getting confusednext without getting confused
foreground and backgroundforeground and background: pick out figures: pick out figures
from background or foregroundfrom background or foreground
visual memory:visual memory: ability to remember thingsability to remember things
seen such as symbols for letter soundsseen such as symbols for letter sounds
Signs of Poor Visual Skills
Have you ever noticed students who…
… lose their place or skip words or letters?
… use a finger to track?
… use sounds that are not in the word?
… reverse similar letters or words?
… know letters individually but seem to forget them in
… start out reading smoothly but increase miscues after
a few minutes of reading?
… have poor writing and letter formation?
… have trouble keeping writing on the lines and trouble
… fatigue easily when reading (yawn a lot)?
… cover one eye while reading or turn their face to
occlude one eye?
… move their body or book to see the page better?
… look ADHD when engaged in reading or writing tasks
but not at other times?
… get headaches while reading?
… complain that the page looks funny?
… are successful readers but cannot sustain reading for
more than 10 or 20 minutes (get off task frequently
due to being “tired”)?
… One CAUSE of these symptoms can be poor
visual motor skills
Careful left to right letter formation with attention toCareful left to right letter formation with attention to
hitting lines and closing letters in manuscript (k-2) &hitting lines and closing letters in manuscript (k-2) &
cursive (3+) (tracking & teaming)cursive (3+) (tracking & teaming)
Students who struggle to apply phonics whileStudents who struggle to apply phonics while
decoding should be saying the sounds of thedecoding should be saying the sounds of the
phonemes out loud while they form the letters (Letterphonemes out loud while they form the letters (Letter
sound association) This strengthens Visual Memorysound association) This strengthens Visual Memory
(Edwards, 2003; James&Atwood, 2009; James &(Edwards, 2003; James&Atwood, 2009; James &
Engelhardt, 2013)Engelhardt, 2013)
Far to near point copying (board to paper)Far to near point copying (board to paper)
Eye exercises such as pencil tracking and pencil pull.Eye exercises such as pencil tracking and pencil pull.
(See(See www.eyecanlearn.comwww.eyecanlearn.com for other activities thatfor other activities that
What can reading teachers do?
Mazes, word finds, writing large figure 8s at eye levelMazes, word finds, writing large figure 8s at eye level
on a white board or mirror (tracking & teaming)on a white board or mirror (tracking & teaming)
Activity books with hidden pictures (visual memory &Activity books with hidden pictures (visual memory &
Developing drawing skills (tracking & teaming)Developing drawing skills (tracking & teaming)
Balancing activitiesBalancing activities
Left to right awareness activitiesLeft to right awareness activities
Copying from book to page accurately (lenseCopying from book to page accurately (lense
Playing catch while calling out letter on a ball forPlaying catch while calling out letter on a ball for
Kindergarten and first grade and even older (lenseKindergarten and first grade and even older (lense
I came to realize when I was helping students read, they were
not always seeing what I thought they were seeing. Therefore
handwriting can be a critical piece to make sure the eyes and
brain are working together; seeing what you as the teacher and
they as the learner actually think they are seeing. The hand acts
as a clear target connecting the eyes with the brain. If students
cannot touch the lines with their handwriting, cannot close their
letters, cannot form their letters evenly, they may be having a
hard time actually seeing the lines accurately. Developing their
handwriting will help them see the lines more accurately and
help improve their tracking and teaming. The latest research is
showing a strong connection between actually physically
forming the letters and words and learning them.
2014 - 2015
Developing phonemic awareness
and fluency through developing
cursive with attention to phonics
7 students, 30 minutes per day, Guided practice
using correct left to right letter formation while saying
the sounds of the phonemes formed
All students, 20 min. per day whole class cursive
instruction, required cursive on written assignments,
4 months of 5th
All students. Small group in class instruction on
comprehension and decoding strategies.
ResultsStudent 1: Miscues dropped from 40/100 to 3/100
Fluency increased from 13 wpm to 121 wpm
Reading level increased from 5.0 to 6.0
Letter/Sound Correspondence increase: 13 - 43
Student 2: Miscues dropped from 50/100 to 10/100
Fluency increased from 45wpm(due to miscues ) to 98wpm
Reading level increased from 2.3 to 3.4
Letter/Sound Correspondence increase 25 - 43
Student 3: Miscues dropped from 30/100 to 5/100
Fluency increased from 72wpm to 108wpm
Reading level increased from 2.0 to 4.5
Letter/Sound Correspondence increase 3 - 30
Student 4: Miscues decreased from 50/100 to 15/100
Fluency increased from 12wpm to 127wpm
Reading level increased from Level 2.0 to level 3.5
Letter/Sound Correspondence increase 1 – 37(I concluded the study
in early may, by June he was reading 5th
Student 5: Miscues decreased from 30/100 to 7/100
Fluency increased from 58wpm to 69wpm
Reading level increased from Level 2.0 to level 3.1
Letter/Sound Correspondence increase 16 - 34
Student 6: Miscues decreased from 50/100 to 20/100
Fluency increased from 18wpm to 54wpm
Reading level increased from Level PP to level 3
Letter/Sound Correspondence increase 13 - 43
Current Work in My Classroom
Skip count while tossing tennis balls. All students should throw
and catch a ball each day.
Develop cursive to automaticity with guided & independent
practice. (Whole class)
For students with severe decoding difficulties, use of eye
exercises and particular attention to correct left to right letter
formation with sound association, developing cursive.
Test students in Sept for phonemic awareness(MONDO test
works) Students who are doing poorly, are put in a special
group(green folder group in my class) They get 1 – 4 to one
work on correct letter formation with sound association 3-5
days per week.
2016 Green folder group in my classroom, 5 days per w from
January – June. five students in group 1. Three students in
9 Students in 2 classes were given specific phonetic
instruction using correct letter formation with sound
association 4 – 5 days per week 10 minutes per day.
The average gain on their MCAs was 11 points. The
highest gain was 29 points the lowest was -1 by 2
The gains were: 29, 9, 18, 15 20 -1, -1, 0, 15 points
gain on the MCA.
1 student moved up 3 years in class IRL. 6 of the
nine students moved up 2 years and 2 students
moved up one year.
Research to Support
Development of Cursive Skills
Automatic production of letters is one of the most
important predictors of compositional skills and academic
success. (Berninger et al., 2006)
Writing activates neural specialization for letters. (James &
Forming letters by hand improved pre-literate children’s
ability to learn the letters. (James & Engelhardt, 2013)
Regular direct instruction in handwriting results in stronger
academic skills. (Baker, 2003; Berninger, 2007)
When students struggle to remember letters, having them
name the sounds as they form the letters helped with later
retrieval. (Edwards, 2003)
Even at the college level, handwriting skills predict the level
of academic success. (Peverly, 2006)
Writing to Reading Research
RESEARCH SUPPORTING THE IMPORTANCE OF TEACHING CORRECT LEFT TO
RIGHT LETTER FORMATION
Karin James/Thea Atwood 2006: The Role of Sensorimotor Learning in the Perception of
Letter-like Forms: Tracking the causes of neural specialization for letters. Karin James
and Thea Atwood 2008; Psychology Press
“The functional specialization for letters may be caused by the way that we learn to
recognize letters and, more specifically that specialization for letters may reflect the
sensorimotor integration that is required when we learn to write letters” (James & Gauthier,
2006; Longcamp et al, 2003)
Sensorimotor experience in the form of learning to print and write letters allows the interplay
between motor production and visual perception to broaden the stored representation of
letters. That is, motor construction of forms may lead to motor programs that are stored
with visual information.
p. 4 “ Babock & Freyd 1988, Freyd 1983 found that the way a subject is taught to write a
letter-like symbol directly affects their subsequent recognition of that symbol. In addition,
writing experience can alter the perception of movement illusion in written symbols. (Tse &
Cavenagh. 2000) and knowledge of cursive stroke direction affects anticipated letter
identity* (Orleaguet, Kandel & Bois 1997) Longcamp et al (2005b) demonstrated that
children recognize letters more efficiently after being trained to print letters versus being
trained to type them. Forming the letters by hand creates the visual recognition.
(*I found this to be significant when teaching students letter sound association. Students
would start to say the sound correctly when they formed it, at times suddenly recognizing
the sound which was triggered by the letter formation.)
Writing and learning to form letters correctly helps children to recognize letters
more efficiently. When teaching students to correctly form their letters, left to
right, teach them to say the sounds as they form the letters. The research is
showing that correct left to right letter formation develops more efficiency with
knowing the sounds. Orton and Gillingham knew this in the 1930s when they
developed methods for teaching dyslexics to read. They discovered that a
meticulous left to right letter and phoneme formation with sound association
improves efficiency of recognizing letters on a page of print.
Eye exercises were invented by an optometrist in the 1920s. Pencil tracking and
pencil pushups are the basic beginning for doing eye exercises: Skeffington,
Left to right movement with awareness of left and right side of the body to
develop a sense of left and right will help students differentiate b, d, p, q, g
(printed g is very similar to q) and other similar letters. All movement helps.
Balancing and cross body exercises help light up the brain.
Catching balls develops visual skills and eye hand coordination.
Writing a large figure 8 on the board or on a window or mirror will help develop
correct eye movement. Word finds and mazes as well. Do the mazes visually
with an eraser show your partner the solution. Race your partner.
Copying from the board to the paper or a book to the paper develops lense
Teachers should know the signs
Train teachers and other professionals to recognize and
ameliorate poor visual motor skills
Train first through fifth grade teachers how to teach students
correct letter formation. Also train teachers the amount of
follow through needed to insure students gain automaticity in
Develop printing and handwriting skills to automaticity with
correct left to right letter formation
Far to near point copying (from board to paper to develop
Mazes, word finds, drawing
Pencil tracking and pencil push-ups
For those who want to ensure
future success for all students
Contact your representatives
3 states have visual motor
25%-50% of students will continue
to struggle with correctable
difficulties until we find a way to
Mary Joachim Huber
grade at Farnsworth Aerospace Magnet