Lately I've seen a lot of teachers asking about teaching to students with dyslexia, so when I had the chance to host this guest post from Nick Davison I was really excited. These are some simple tips you can keep in mind when teaching dyslexic students.
Dyslexia means that those with the condition have difficulty reading and comprehending language. It is not a disability and is not a sign of impaired intelligence either; it is a cognitive anomaly, which can cause frustration and distress in those who have it. However, there are several strategies that dyslexic people and those helping them to improve their language comprehension can use to deal with and ameliorate the effects of dyslexia.
Phonics is one of the most widely used techniques for coping with dyslexia. Rather than focusing on the word as a complete unit, phonics separates words into their component speech sounds. It associates the sounds of spoken language with graphical letters or groupings of letters. The English language has 44 different audio sounds, and breaking words down into these parts is a method of decoding a word that, taken as a whole, can be intimidating.
The ability of the eye to smoothly follow text is another symptom of dyslexia. This can be improved be deliberately focusing on one word at a time. Covering the text with a piece of paper and uncovering one word at a time focuses the mind on each word in turn, rather than long lines or large blocks of text, which can be confusing. In classrooms it is recommended that teachers of dyslexic students use different coloured chalk for each line of text written on a blackboard. This helps the student differentiate between lines.
Dyslexics can be intimidated and put off by a large amount of unbroken text. Whenever possible, it is recommended that information is presented in a variety of ways. For instance, the use of graphics, tables and diagrams can help to break up the text and offer a number of ways of learning. In classrooms, learning language by speaking and audio, as well as reading, is a common strategy to aid dyslexic students.
As with non-dyslexic readers, those with the condition know a substantial number of words from memory. For dyslexics, these tend to be shorter words with obvious referents, such as simple nouns. Where dyslexics differ is usually in understanding more complex words. To improve reading it is important that readers do not guess these 'unknown' words, but take the time to decode them phonetically. With practice, the dyslexic can learn to read more fluently by changing gears between words from memory and those that require decoding. Reading slowly allows the dyslexic to identify the words they don't understand and decode them, rather than guess. Over time, this helps them approach text more confidently.
Reading aloud can be a particular fear for those with dyslexia. It adds another dimension to reading and they often feel worried that they will appear foolish. However, reading aloud is a common strategy for learning language for all readers, not just those with dyslexia. Reading aloud forces the dyslexic to focus on one word at a time and helps prevent them making guesses at unfamiliar words, which commonly happens when reading in their head. Reading text out loud is useful for developing decoding skills and for gaining confidence with language. If you suffer with dyslexia and are a full time student in the UK, it may be worth you while to book a DSA Needs Assessment, you may be elligible for a government grant to cover the cost of a non-medical helper who can read course materials for you.
They key for comprehension is time. Dyslexics need to take time when reading to analyse not just words, but sentences and paragraphs. Common tactics to increase comprehension include breaking sentences down into their constituent clauses, pausing at each full stop to reflect on what information has been relayed in the sentence and how it relates to the text before it, and doing the same at the end of a paragraph.
With time and practice, these strategies will help you cope with your dyslexia in whatever situation you find yourself in.
This guest post was written by Nick Davison, Nick writes about a number of disability related issues, including assisted access software and technology.
All photos are his property.