MindPlay Shows Web-Based Reading Program Helping K-12 Students with Special Needs Increase Reading Levels

Endorsed by CASE and winner of a 2014 BESSIE Award MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach Provides special needs students with the explicit instruction they need to learn how to read

SAN DIEGO, CA, April 9, 2015 – During the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) conference, literacy publisher MindPlay showcased its CASE-endorsed reading solution for
K-12 students with special needs, MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach (MVRC). The Common Core State Standards-aligned program recently won a 2014 BESSIE Award. Students who qualify as special needs such as those with dyslexia benefit from extended and individualized instruction to help them learn to read. MindPlay’s web-based program uses personalized, adaptive technology, and direct, explicit instruction to help teach students with dyslexia and other special education students to read. Explicit instruction is explained and demonstrated by a coach, one language and print concept at a time. Video coaches provide direct and explicit instruction, modeling, and immediate feedback adapted to every student’s individualized curriculum. MindPlay’s key to learning is to keep students’ attention by making each experience a new engaging lesson, using differentiated instruction and targeted feedback. Educators can see MVRC and all of MindPlay’s reading programs at CEC in the MindPlay booth #1329.

Schools that use MindPlay’s program have achieved significant gains in students’ reading levels, notably including students with special needs. MindPlay even gives schools a guarantee that 90 percent of students will gain at least two grade levels in reading after using MVRC for at least 40 hours with fidelity, or MindPlay will refund their purchase. During the 2011-2012 school year, Sandra Hudson, Assistant Superintendent of the South Madison School District in Pendleton, IN, implemented MindPlay’s MVRC for an intervention over two weeks of summer school session. Twenty two third-grade students who did not pass their “IREAD-3” test participated, including 14 with an IEP. After using MVRC, 100% of the general education students passed the test and 86% of the Special Education students passed.

After that successful summer session, the district implemented MVRC during the regular school year in 2012-2013 as an intervention. This time, 64 third-grade students, including 26 with IEP participated in the MVRC program. At spring testing, 61% of the at-risk group passed “IREAD-3” and one student earned a perfect score. However, 29 students who didn’t pass were assigned summer remediation using MVRC. Of those, 76.9% of the Special Education students passed and 98.9% of the General Education passed by the end of the summer program.

Another success came from Bonduel School District in WI. Special needs students often have larger reading deficits to begin with. Once the online coaches can work with them, they can catch up quickly and gain confidence, which will help them in life. After using MVRC for one school year, Bonduel School District documented a dramatic decrease from 73% of special needs students labeled “critical” in reading at the beginning of the year, to only 9% by the end of the year. Many of the students’ letter grades also increased by one grade in all areas as their reading improved and they were better able to advance in other subjects.

“There is no better way to differentiate instruction in such a detailed way,” said Brandie Genske, former program support teacher and RTI implementation manager at Bonduel School District. “MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach is differentiated instruction at its best! All of the reading components you need are in one program, which is convenient and time saving. It was a delight when one of our students who is cognitively disabled and was reading at the first-grade level grew seven grade levels in reading after using the program.”

MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach helps teachers and special education teachers extend their class time and resources to give every student hours of engaging, one-step-at-a time reading instruction that is direct, personalized, self-paced and adapts to their performance,” said Lisa Garcia, M.Ed., MindPlay Director of Educational Services and Customer Support. “Our program is proven successful by research and case studies including general and special needs students and is endorsed by CEC’s affiliate, CASE. MindPlay confidently includes a guarantee to schools of overall class success with our product.”

Components of Dyslexia Instruction

MVRC is correlated to “The Dyslexia Handbook,” 2014, published by the Texas Education Agency, which identifies critical components of teaching dyslexic students to read. Dyslexia is a reading disability affecting up to 10% of the population that inhibits the ability of otherwise intelligent students to learn to read, causing students to need targeted reading instruction and sometimes disability accommodations. Some of the critical components listed in the book and addressed by MVRC include:

  • Phonological Awareness – In MVRC a speech-language coach provides instruction on every English language phoneme, focusing on one sound at a time.  Students learn how to produce each sound, and how it differs from other sounds.
  • Sound-symbol association – MVRC provides direct, systematic, and adaptive instruction in the sound-symbol correspondences of the English language. Phonics lessons include multiple levels of instruction on sound-letter associations, letter recognition, and spelling rules.
  • Syllabication – Instruction about the six basic types of syllables is embedded within MVRC and taught sequentially within the 62 lessons of the Phonics module.
  • Spelling Patterns and Rules – MVRC teaches spelling patterns and spelling rules for suffix addition. Students complete practice and mastery activities to demonstrate these skills.
  • Study of Base Words and How Words are Formed – After students in MVRC have mastered basic sound-symbol relationships they learn the forms and meanings of common Latin and Greek roots, suffixes, and both regular and “chameleon” prefixes.
  • Syntax – In the Grammar for Meaning module of MVRC, students learn the eight parts of speech and their function within sentences, as well as basic sentence structure, punctuation, and basic paragraph structure.
  • Reading Comprehension – MVRC includes comprehension instruction within several modules. In the Grammar for Meaning module students learn to visualize and chunk sentences into meaningful phrases as they read. For students who have difficulty in demonstrating mastery of comprehension questions during fluency practice, explicit instruction is provided in lessons.
  • Reading Fluency – MVRC provides fluency practice through visual scanning activities; word-match activities, using words from the Dolch reading list and over 1,000 authentic reading passages; single-line reading practice; and multi-line reading practice.

MVRC presents a developmentally-based progression of lessons, beginning with basic sound-letter correspondences and advancing to more complex rules, skills, and concepts.  Instruction builds on previously acquired knowledge and skill, and is periodically assessed and reviewed. Students interact with the MVRC curriculum in a multisensory way with over 35 different kinds of practice activities.  Each instructional component consists of activities that include listening (auditory), reading (visual), and writing (kinesthetic).

Because effective instruction begins with an accurate diagnostic assessment, MVRC begins with a unique diagnostic for each student, providing adaptive and differentiated assessments. An individualized lesson plan is generated for the student and progress against the plan is monitored. When the student enters into the curriculum of MVRC, the assessments ensure that only needed lessons will be presented. The range of available lessons starts with phonemic awareness and extends all the way through fluency, covering all of the National Reading Panel’s recommendations for reading instruction and more.


MindPlay Virtual Reading Coach is available online now to schools and school districts on subscription by connection or by student.


Founder Judith Bliss started the MindPlay Company more than 30 years ago to create a solution to overcome the challenges that students face when learning how to read. MindPlay’s mission is to develop, publish, and distribute cost-effective learning tools that support individual reading growth and skill development. MindPlay educational software programs appeal to multiple learning styles, identify individual student needs, and provide differentiated reading instruction to all students.