Friday, April 13, 2018

[329] MTSU conference helps teachers learn how to teach students to s-p-e-l-l

MURFREESBORO — MTSU, which began 107 years ago as a teacher’s college, is continuing that mission by advancing the craft of education through learned guest lecturers.

The Tennessee Center for the Study and Treatment of Dyslexia will present the Fox Reading Conference from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Saturday, March 17, at MTSU’s Keathley University Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Educators will be able to earn six hours of professional development credit for attending this free, informative event. Jennifer Cooper, director of the dyslexia center, said the theme of “Spelling Symposium” is designed to help improve the type of spelling instruction being offered in early grades.

“It doesn’t follow the frequency of letter patterns,” Cooper said. “It doesn’t follow the frequency of syllable patterns. It may use content area words that the teacher has pulled (from a textbook glossary) that will support another area.”

Cooper said that future teachers, such as students in MTSU’s College of Education, will benefit from the conference as well as experienced practitioners, regardless of whether they are concerned specifically with dyslexia.

“I would think that would increase their depth of knowledge as they prepare to transition into the field of teaching,” Cooper said. “I think that would be highly applicable to them.”

Three nationally known experts in their disciplines will address different aspects of the theme. 

• Marcia Henry, who has 58 years of experience in the fields of language acquisition and dyslexia, will deliver the keynote address on “The History and Structure of English Words.”

Henry’s speech will concentrate on building blocks of spelling called phonemes and morphemes. A phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in the language, one that can create an entirely different word, such as changing “sit” to “pit” by replacing the “s” with the “p.”

A morpheme is the smallest meaningful unit in language, one that can change the meaning of the word, such as changing “pit” to “pits” by pluralizing the word.

• Elsa Cardenas-Hagan, a bilingual speech language pathologist and certified dyslexia therapist, will speak about “Spelling Instruction for English Language Learners.”

• Suzanne Carreker, who has authored systematic literacy curricula and sits on the board of the International Dyslexia Association, will tackle the topic of “Spelling with Regular Words, Rule Words and Irregular Words.”

Cooper defined “regular words” as those that follow a normal letter-sound relationship. “Rule words” are those that are spelled the way they are because they conform to certain spelling rules, such as dropping the final “e” on a base word before adding a vowel suffix. “Irregular words” are those whose spellings cannot be explained with any type of rules.  

Cooper said such conferences are consistent with the center’s mission, and she would like to make them annual events.

“We want to increase teachers’ depth of knowledge of the best instructional practices for their classroom, whether that’s for the typically developing reader, for the dyslexic student, even for the student with comprehension deficits,” Cooper said.

The Fox Reading Conference is sponsored by the Tom and Elizabeth Fox Endowment for Reading. For more information, contact Cooper at 615-494-8880 or

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