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14 października 2022

NR 31 (Październik 2022)

The Art Of Teaching Grammar to Dyslexic Students

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Each language has its own set of grammar rules. These rules tell us how the language “works”, how to use different types of words and in which order. Syntax, tenses, nouns, verbs, questions and conditionals are very difficult when you learn a foreign language. For students with special educational needs, it is even more complicated.

Although dyslexia is a learning difficulty that mainly affects skills involved in fluent and accurate reading and writing, it also affects other language skills. Dyslexic students have serious difficulties applying grammar regulations in speaking, building complex sentences or writing grammar tests correctly.

POLECAMY

Grammar is the foundation of good communication, reading, comprehension, writing and storytelling, so it can’t be ignored while learning a foreign language.

Over the years many methods have been developed for teaching grammar, and each of them has its pros and cons. We can teach grammar by explaining rules, giving examples through context or just making students discover grammar rules. Among different approaches, the most popular are deductive and inductive methods of teaching grammar. 

The deductive method is sometimes called the “traditional” one. It is based on the theory from generalization to example. It’s an approach that focuses on instruction before practice. Teacher first explains rules or definitions giving examples. Students should memorize them, then they are given a set of exercises to apply the rules. In this method, the grammar is taught with the help of grammar books and a lot of exercises. It’s generally considered that the more exercises students do, the better they remember the rules. But in fact, teaching grammar this way can be dull and boring. Students aren’t active during such a classroom activity as this method is teacher-centred, not student-centred. 

The inductive method, contrary to the deductive one, is based on the theory from example to generalization. It is student-centred because they learn particular grammar points through use. Firstly, they have to deduce the meaning and later they generalize a grammar structure. 

This method implies teaching grammar not by rules, but by usage. Grammar is used here while speaking, reading and writing. This method seems to be better for those with learning difficulties. It’s like discovering grammar and visualizing how these rules work in sentences. 

 

There are some grammar topics that can be especially difficult for dyslexic students:
  • parts of speech and how to use them,
  • correct use of pronouns or prepositions,
  • verb tenses,
  • punctuation and capitalisation,
  • word order in questions,
  • building complex and grammatically correct sentences,
  • irregular plurals and irregular verbs.

 

In teaching grammar to dyslexic students, teachers should try to use different strategies to highlight grammar rules. One of them is the multisensory teaching technique which has always been a great way to teach children with special needs. The learners are given more than one way to make connections and learn concepts (the brain is stimulated when we use more than one sense at a time).

Using flashcards, graphs, videos, gestures, movements or language games not only engages students, but also helps them to remember or visualize what they have learned. Sometimes linguists call that method of teaching grammar a “play-way” method. They believe that grammar is taught more efficiently when language games are used. We can make learning grammar fun, especially when teaching can involve a language play/game as a part of developing children’s awareness of and interest in how language works. By using games, children get to practice their grammar skills in a fun way. 

Educating a child with a learning difference is challenging, especially for young inexperienced teachers. 
 

Below are some pieces of advice that educators can introduce to the art of teaching grammar to dyslexic students:
  • present new language in small and relevant chunks, so that you don’t overload dyslexic learners,
  • give students time to master specific skills before moving on to others,
  • divide material from easier and more simple structures to more difficult ones, you should also make sure that they are well-integrated,
  • teach grammar in context,
  • provide oral practice before moving on to writing activities,
  • provide clear explanation and reduce the use of complicated terminology,
  • offer lots of opportunities for learners to revise and create situations for multiple repetition and reproduction of grammatical material,
  • incorporate games, crafts, surveys, and multisensory techniques into grammar practice activities,
  • differ materials, tasks and activities according to students’ abilities,
  • reduce copying from the board, instead, prepare handouts with well-organized notes, summaries, graphs, or grammar boxes which are helpful and handy,
  • let students use technology such as grammar checkers for self-correction (grammarly.com/grammar-check).
(Based on The Handy Little Guide To Dyslexia. A practice guide to supporting dyslexic students in a foreign language classroom. by Joanna Nijakowska)

 

Below you can find 7 techniques that you can adopt while teaching grammar to students with special educational needs.

Technique 1 grammar rhymes

Present Simple tense is not as simple as we think, especially for dyslexic students. They omit do or does in questions, they often forget -s/-es ending in the third person singular. For Polish learners, the grammar rhymes such as:

 

 

can be really helpful to build correct forms of the Present Simple tense.

A short rhyming poem from Fanfare 1 Longman coursebook can help students memorize the modal verb can.

 

Can you climb a tree? 
Can you count one, two, three?
Can you swim very far?
Can you play the guitar?
Can you dance?
Can you sing?
I can do EVERYTHING.

We can add clipart to make comprehension easier, learn it by heart, and even extend this activity by letting students change the rhyme into question forms and negations. 

 

Can you climb a tree?
Can you count one, two, three?
Can you swim very far?
Can you play the guitar?
Can you dance?
Can you sing?
Can you do anything?
I can’t climb a tree,
I can’t count one, two, three.
I can’t swim very far,
I can’t play the guitar.
I can’t dance.
I can’t sing.
I can’t do anything!

 

The Internet pages are full of grammar rhymes that can be used by teachers if they want to make teaching grammar more enjoyable.

 

I am small.
You are tall.
He is fat.
It is bad.
She is late.
It's not great.
We are old.
They are cold.
You say.
I play.
We learn.
They turn.
He works.
She talks.
It rains.
He trains.
She's got a cat. 
He's got a pet.
I've got a ball.
You've got a doll.
We've got a house.
They've got a mouse.
Sue's got a parrot.
It's got a carrot.

 

Some of the rhymes can inspire students to write similar ones: 

 

Model from the Internet:
Have you ever been to England?
Have you ever been to Spain?
Have you ever ridden a camel?
Have you ever run in the rain?
Students’ rhymes:
Have you ever sung a song?
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Have you ever written a letter?
Have you ever felt better?
Students’ rhymes:
Have you ever eaten a steak?
Have you ever made a cake?
Have you ever drunk champagne?
Have you ever danced in the rain?

 

Technique 2 graphic notes or sketchnoting 

Dyslexic students not only have weaknesses but also strengths, such as: a high level of creativity, lively imagination, and a unique visual process. So, if we encourage them to “draw” rather than write grammar notes, they will remember more and memorize more quickly. 

They are able to visualize almost anything in their minds from a 3-dimensional perspective.

 

 

The drawing below can help dyslexic students build Present Continuous sentences correctly.

Instead of a written description of rules of comparison of adjectives, it would be advisable to draw a simplified, but unforgettable version.

 

 

Sketchnoting is really dyslexic-friendly because visuals are more easily remembered while words are difficult to retain. Such notes are a mixture of linguistic and non-linguistic representations, mixing words and pictures together. Maybe it was the reason why, in 2006, the designer and author Michael Rohde created the sketchnote method. Rohde found tra...

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