Developmental dyslexia is one of the most significant problems of contemporary schooling. Difficulties such as dyslexia influence learning outcomes and the learner’s place at school. But what does dyslexia mean?
any people think that dyslexia is just a reading or spelling problem. They don’t realize that it can also affect speaking, recalling, understanding, processing, organizing and even motor skills.
Being the mother of a dyslexic son, I used to say that dyslexia was only a tiny island of difficulties in a huge ocean of skills and possibilities.
My son’s dyslexia has given me the ability to understand my students better and to comprehend their learning difficulties. It was easier for me to encourage them to keep trying and focus on the things they were good at. I concentrated more on their strengths rather than their weaknesses and did my best to improve their strengths and reduce their weaknesses, wherever possible.
For me, dyslexia has never meant disability. I believe that appropriate teaching methods can provide dyslexic students with tools to overcome barriers and obstacles and help them achieve educational success.
In this article I would like to share my working experience with other teachers and present strategies, solutions and practical techniques to help teachers improve the performance of dyslexic students in class, overcome their learning barriers and unlock their potential.
The Art Of Teaching Reading to Dyslexic Students
Children all over the world start learning English as a foreign language at an early age. They learn reading and writing at the same time, which is not easy. Reading in a non-native language is a complex task which requires more competencies i.e. decoding, understanding vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. It is why teachers must remain patient and make the learning process enjoyable and engaging, even for struggling readers.
Children with dyslexia often have writing and reading difficulties which co-occur in multiple areas:
- poor spelling,
- poor legibility,
- confusing letters that look similar: b:d, u:n, m:n,
- confusing letters that sound similar: f, th,
- confusing prepositions: for, from,
- reversing words or even phrases: dog – god, was – saw, car park –park car,
- misreading words,
- poor comprehension of texts.
While reading, dyslexics even have difficulties in keeping their place in the text and very often lose it. It is advisable to use a finger, a pen or a pencil, a piece of paper, a bookmark or other handmade aids to enable them to stay focused on the lines they are reading and move onwards easily.
Teaching young learners how to read and write in a foreign language is a challenge. Some traditional methods can fail when it comes to dyslexic learners and, as a result, teachers are expected to change their way of teaching. They should bear in mind that difficulties in reading aren’t the results of laziness, stubbornness or lower levels of intelligence. Dyslexics just need more time, more effort and more self-confidence to be able to succeed in reading.
Teachers should be personal tutors in the child’s learning process. They should also be flexible, friendly, enthusiastic, supportive and aware of any dyslexia problems. These qualities are crucial.
What can teachers do to help overcome reading difficulties?
- Firstly, they should learn as much as possible about dyslexia.
- They should shorten texts.
- Divide them into smaller sections.
- Deal with the texts in more than one lesson.
- Use pictures and illustrations.
- Prepare vocabulary banks.
- Use comprehension questions to check understanding.
- Read the same stories several times.
- Choose a friendly font and size of letters.
- Select the grammar appropriately to the learners’ level.
- Practice pair-reading or choral-reading.
- Reading-while-listening (to reader, CDs or audiobooks).
- Make reading fun.
There are many reading strategies that can help dyslexic learners to become better readers.
The basis for all of these strategies is instructional scaffolding – a process in which a teacher supports a students in order to help them achieve and master new skills. Similar to scaffolding in building constructions, these supports are temporary and adjustable. As students master new skills, the supports are gradually removed.
Providing support, or scaffolding, is very important in teaching new tasks to students with learning disabilities.
In the methodology of teaching students a foreign language we can meet some more terms connected with the scaffolding strategy: content scaffolding, task and material scaffolding.
In content scaffolding the teacher selects a chosen content which is not too difficult for students learning a new skill. The content should be not only familiar and highly interesting but also easy.
Task scaffolding is connected with passing on more responsibilities to students. At the beginning, students are guided by the teacher demonstrating how to read and pronounce the text correctly, helping with intonation and providing useful vocabulary necessary for comprehension reading. When progress is visible, students start checking meaning and pronunciation in their dictionaries themselves, listening to the texts on CDs at home to master reading skills on their own, reading-while-listening etc.
Material scaffolding involves the use of written prompts or clues to help the students perform a task or use a strategy.
Below you can find ten techniques used with elementary and pre-intermediate students. All of them led students to master the ability to read.
With younger learners we should start with sight words, phonic books, nursery rhymes or fluency trian-gles.
FLUENCY TRIANGLES (From Reading Fluency Activity Triangles®)
The aim of using these triangles is to build reading fluency and confidence. They are simply beginner reading comprehension passages, mostly with sight words.
The best strategy for developing reading fluency is to provide students with many opportunities to read the same passage orally several times. We can start with easy sentences and gradually make the text more complex. It will allow us to practice speed, accuracy, correct expression/intonation and, of course, comprehension.
Fluency triangles can be made by the students themselves, presented and read to...
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