Tag Archives: spelling

Dyslexia and Multi Sensory Language Teaching

Multi sensory language teaching for children with Dyslexia

In an earlier post I wrote that dyslexia is a learning difference that leads to difficulties in reading and writing – which is often most noticeable in spelling. The latest scientific research suggests that the dyslexic brain works differently. Dyslexia is often associated with memory problems but it can affect people across the range of intelligence. Dyslexia is a spectrum of difficulties – with any individual likely to have his or her own strengths and weaknesses.

A multi sensory teaching approach addresses problems people have in visual and auditory memory (interpreting what they see and hear). It also encourages the building of neural- pathways (pathways in the brain) that connect the speech with print. You could call this ‘rewiring the brain’.

Using a multi sensory method teaches children how sounds are made and how they are written. They learn the sounds and the letters that represent them – how they are put together and how they are taken apart. As they write and say the sounds their hands, eyes, ears and voices are working together to make the connections.

Learning language for a child (or adult) with dyslexia is a time consuming and intense undertaking.  The teacher is always needing to assess the needs of the individual learner. The teacher needs to be an expert with time to work with the child.

The pace of learning should be as fast as possible, but as slow as necessary.

Phonics need to be taught in a logical, sequential and organized manner alongside language rules. Despite its irregularities English is 85% predictable and children can be taught to think through language problems.

What works

Most language programmes that work for dyslexic learners include

  • multi sensory practice for symbol learning
  • explicit teaching of letter-sound relationships, syllable patterns and meaningful word parts
  • a lot of successful practice of skills learned
  • fluency building exercises
  • vocabulary instruction
  • spelling skills that are applied in meaningful reading and writing of sentences
  • immediate feedback on mistakes

There are programmes that use the ‘Orton-Gillingham approach’ – incorporating methods described by Dr Orton, Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman in the ‘thirties – and encompassing structured, sequential, multi sensory techniques for teaching written English.

  • Children are discouraged from guessing and skipping words, instead they learn how to analyze and read unknown words.
  • Don’t expect that a dyslexic learner will infer a language concept – direct teaching is needed
  • The teacher needs to continually assess the needs of the individual learner
  • The content must be mastered step-by-step for the student to progress
Conclusion

A dyslexic learner will need a structured, step-by step and multi sensory approach to the learning of language. Their teacher will need to constantly assess progress and adjust the content. With the right support a dyslexic learner can succeed with language.

Source: Multisensory Structured Language Teaching fact sheet. The International Dyslexia Association. Baltimore. Website: http://www.interdys.org

 

What is dyslexia? A simple introduction.

A simple introduction to Dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a learning difference that  leads to difficulties  in reading and writing (often especially noticeable in spelling). Dyslexia is a spectrum of difficulties,without clear-cut boundaries or with a single cause.  Many intelligent people are dyslexic, including some very creative and successful people.

The latest scientific research indicates that the dyslexic brain works differently. Scientists are now able to study the living human brain (for example by using MRI and EEG scanning). They can see that the whole of the brain is used in language activities. How the brain makes its own internal connections will affect how we are able to process language. New connections are made as we learn how to do things and a dyslexic person can create new pathways as they learn how to process language.

It would seem that there are genetic links in dyslexia. If you have a family history of dyslexia you are more likely to be dyslexic yourself. What causes dyslexia and what causes the differences in the brain is far from clear, and open to debate.

Traditionally education values reading and writing . Talented children may be overlooked if they cannot express themselves through writing and they will not get far without reading.

Writing is not a natural process, it is the most complex thing that your brain will ever need to learn. In human development terms we have only been writing for 4000 years – out of tens of thousands of years of communicating.  It takes us many years to learn to read.

The importance of phonics (matching sounds to their written form).

Phonological processing involves the processing of speech sounds and not just hearing. We need to be able to process the sounds correctly and to be able to match them to the letters that represent them. If you can’t process the sounds it is difficult to relate them to their written form. All languages have a phonetic element.

Memory difficulties often found with dyslexia.

Weaknesses in short term or working memory may be a part of dyslexia. Most people have difficulties with remembering the name of someone they have just met – because this information is held in short term memory, which is quickly ‘overwritten’. Once the name is added to your long term memory you are less likely to forget it (you’ve met someone twice and talked to your best friend about them – you remember their name! Most of the time…)

The speed of processing information may be effected. A dyslexic person may need longer to work on a problem and they are likely to need frequent breaks. These problems can become more apparent when there are time pressures and stress (during a timed test for example).

Other memory difficulties may include:

  • Difficulties with organisational skills, such as time management.
  • Difficulties with common sequences such as days of the week, months, the alphabet, times tables.
  • Difficulties in following instructions – not being able to remember and follow a set of instructions.
Self Esteem

A young person with dyslexia may suffer from low self esteem. They may feel that they are stupid and they may think that they are having difficulties that other people are not (such as remembering the name of someone that they have just met). Someone who thinks they a dumb is less likely to keep trying in school.

However, with early intervention and good teaching there is no reason why a child with dyslexia should not be successful at school and in later life.

Conclusion

Dyslexia can be viewed as a spectrum of difficulties that impact on reading and writing as well as everyday activities such as following directions and timekeeping. Recent studies show that there are differences in the brains of dyslexic people, although the causes of these differences are still open to argument. Traditionally children with dyslexia have been disadvantaged at school but with the right support they should be able to succeed and excel at school and in later life.

Source: Developed from notes taken at a Dyslexia workshop presented by Dr Sheena Bell of Northampton University, in conjunction with The Village International Education Center, Bangkok October 2014

Next: Dyslexia and Multi sensory language teaching

Do you keep losing your spelling list?

Being able to refer to a list of high frequency words (sight words) while editing writing is a  good way for children to improve the quality of their written work. Unfortunately word lists can be a bit cumbersome and may add an extra layer of difficulty for children with attention or executive function issues.

One way to ensure that the words are always available is to stick them in the child’s book. But you still have the problem of having to turn a page to look at the word list and then return to the writing or editing.

Spelling words stuck in an exercise book
The spelling words list folds out from the inside cover of the book – allowing the words to be read while the child is writing on any page

One way to overcome this problem by using another piece of paper to make a ‘gatefold’ sleeve ( like you sometimes got on an old vinyl record sleeve). The genius of this is that when the flap is folded out, the spelling words can be seen, and either page of the book can be written on. In this case the words are on the left hand side (inside the front cover) because the child is right-handed. For a left-handed child the list would fold out from the inside of the back cover.

Exercise Book
A list is folded inside the cover and stuck in

 

 

 

 

Fun ways to learn spelling words

Here are a couple of fun ways to learn those all important sight words.

1. Using ‘wiki sticks’ – these coloured, malleable and slightly sticky objects can easily be bent into letter shapes and words. Then they can be reused!

 

Modelling spelling words with Wiki Stiks
Wiki Stiks can be used to make spelling words

The tactile properties of the sticks and the mental effort required to form the shapes may help children learn the words.

2. Coloured chalk out in the school yard.

Using coloured chalk to practise spelling words
Children using coloured chalk to practise spelling words
Spelling with coloured chalks
A child uses coloured chalk to practise sight words on the concrete

Learning High Frequency words is a part of learning to spell. It is useful for those odd words that don’t follow the rules.