In the article I would like to present the strategies, solutions and practical techniques to help teachers improve the performance of dyslexic students in class, overcome their learning barriers and unlock their potential.
These techniques and strategies are good for working with individuals, small groups and the whole class. They can also be adapted depending on the age group.
As dyslexic learners depend on us – teachers, they hope we are their supporters, helpers, advisors. And we really are!
We can help them if we manage to build atmosphere in class, if we give some opportunities to be successful and if they manage to build good relationship with teachers and classmates. Then, with good teaching, most dyslexics learn to read and write.
They are not less intelligent than non-dyslexics. They just need more time, more effort and more self-confidence to be able to success.
To help dyslexic students master the mechanics of writing and increase writing speed and comprehension, I will present 10 techniques.
The art of teaching writing to young dyslexic learners
Writing is a skill students must learn at school, but it is one of the most difficult skills for students who learn English as a foreign language.
First of all, the writing must be clear for readers but, as a process, it requires inventing ideas and expressing and organizing them into logical sentences with grammatical accuracy. Not easy, especially for those who struggle with productive skills. What should we start with?
Firstly, we should help with spelling correction and then with the proper organization of written works, building more complex sentences and using more sophisticated, varied vocabulary. Controlled writing seems to be the best solution here.
|Using different controlled writing strategies we can make writing an enjoyable activity. The most frequently used examples of controlled writing are:
The first ten techniques presented below are how to teach writing – words and phrases, and how to teach spelling, while the last five show different ideas to prepare students for writing longer passages/paragraphs (descriptions, short stories, summaries, dialogues, emails or letters). However, both these stages of writing require different techniques carefully chosen and selected to be dyslexic-friendly.
Workbooks for young learners are full of tracing exercises, but you can customize handouts for your students using the Internet webpage: Amazing Handwriting Worksheet Maker, which is free, or you can use more sophisticated activities, as presented below.
Tracing words or short text with tracing paper
When youngsters simultaneously look at a word, say its name and trace its letters, it is certainly possible that they are improving their word memory.
Tracing is an effective way to remember the graphic shapes of words. For this kind of exercise a teacher prepares a set of words written in capital letters and students copy them using tracing paper.
The idea of tracing words to improve literacy has been around for a century. This method was first described by Grace Fernald and Helen Keller in 1921. Fernald, a clinical psychologist, with practice focused on reading improvement, applied the method with severely disabled readers and it worked well (Timothy Shanahan, blog about reading, www.shanahanonliteracy.com). Young dyslexic learners, while working with tracing, both air tracing and with the tracing paper, must keep their eyes on words longer and it is possible that they will improve word memory.
An alternative technique can be highlighter tracing when youngsters trace words written previously with a highlighter pen by a teacher.
The first step of air-writing is to say a word, then students should spell it out loud and finally try to use their index finger (of his/her writing hand) to “air-write” each letter. This kind of exercise will help students remember words, especially the ones with difficult and confusing spelling.
NOTE: If a teacher is standing in front of students, he/she should remember to “write” letters backwards, so that the letters will appear the right way to the class.
The same steps should be followed when students use writing on sand or salt or when they write on a graphics tablet or writing notepad for kids.
PLASTICINE WORDS OR WOOL/YARN AND STRING TRACING WORDS
Moulding words using clay or plasticine will teach not only how to write words correctly but also promote fine-motor skills and concentration. While using yarn or string in this kind of exercise you should first cut it into various lengths, trace the words on paper or cardboard using glue and then go over the words using the yarn.
MAKING WORDS FROM SCRABBLE, STAMPERS AND ALPHABET STICKERS
Scrabble may be the most popular word game around. It’s not only a fun game but also a great educational tool. Students can make words, read them out, thus memorizing both meaning and spelling.
The same can be done with alphabet stampers or stickers. They are fantastic tools for working with sight words (words that are both recognized and understood as soon as they are seen) and spelling practice.
Very often dyslexic and dysgraphic students are made to rewrite the same words repeatedly in order to memorize their spelling. Why not try less boring activity of disappearing letters as presented below.
In many cases dyslexia and dysgraphia go together. A dyslexic learner’s handwriting is messy and illegible. They are confused with upper and lower cases, letters – even in one word, as they are of different shapes and sizes. To help them overcome that problem we can prepare handouts with special spaces, which make the positioning of letters easier. Below is an example of a worksheet.
Find the word shape for the following words.Find the word shape for the following words.
You can use the word shape worksheet maker to customize the list of words
or use the word shapes worksheets with ready-made handouts.
BUILDING WORDS WITH LEGO BLOCKS
Every dyslexic learner battles with spelling. They omit letters, put them in the wrong order or add more. They very often spell words as they sound and it’s a nightmare for teachers to check their work because it sometimes occurs that the spelling is just utter nonsense. Teachers can introduce spelling using all the senses. For kinesthetic learners Lego blocks can be a fantastic tool to help with correct spelling.
We need two types of blocks:
for small lowercase letters such as a, e, n, o, s, etc.
for tall lowercase letters such as b, d, k, l, t, etc. and descending lowercase letters such as j, y, q, g, etc.
Students build words and write them on the blocks. It helps with the correct positioning of the letters in words.
HOLDING A PENCIL CORRECTLY
Dysgraphic students don’t like writing for long periods of time as their writing hand gets tired very quickly and hurts when they write. Sometimes it is caused by gripping their pen incorrectly.
Many dysgraphic students have problems with holding a pen correctly, so we can use rubber pencil grips which are available from the stationer’s in order to help them hold their pens and pencils properly.
THE APPLE TREE GAME (A VARIATION OF HANGMAN)
The objective of the game is to guess the word or phrase in the time limit specified, which is indicated by the number of apples drawn on the apple tree.
The rules of the game:
One player (the host) makes up a secret word, while the other player tries to guess the word by asking what letters it contains.
Draw blank dashes for each letter in the word but do not tell anyone else the secret word.
Write the letters in the blanks if the players guess correctly. It means that whenever the players guess a letter that is in the secret word, the host writes it into the blank where it occurs. If the player guesses a letter that is repeated, fill in both letters or more.
If the player guesses a letter that is not in the secret word, one apple on the apple tree is crossed out.
When all the apples are crossed out before the player guesses the secret word it means that he/she has lost the game.
HELPING WITH b/d LETTERS
Dyslexic students very often have difficulties distinguishing left from right. It can influence the confusion of the letters b and d. In learning writing they reverse the symbols of b or d. They often appear in their notebooks written in mirror writing.
We can help students in many ways with gestures, drawings and visualizing.
English is a particularly difficult language when it comes to spelling. There are 26 letters in the alphabet (21 consonants and 5 vowels) but there are more than 40 consonants and vowel sounds. In some words (e.g. best) the number of letters and sounds is the same. In other words, however, (e.g. green) the number of letters and sounds is different. In addition...