7. HOW TO TEACH A DYSLEXIC PUPIL TO READ

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1 7. HOW TO TEACH A DYSLEXIC PUPIL TO READ OVERVIEW Extract In this module, we will cover the following topics: Introduction Reading ages How to choose appropriate reading materials Teaching a dyslexic child to read Individual letter shapes Study skills / building self confidence How to test a child s reading Standardised reading tests Teaching reading using a multisensory approach INTRODUCTION This module focuses on how to teach a dyslexic child to read. You will learn about reading ages what they are, why they can be useful to know, and how they are assessed. You will also consider how to choose appropriate reading materials, which are set at the right level. 35% - 40% of dyslexic children also experience visual disturbances or discomfort when reading. You will learn about various methods used to teach reading in schools synthetic phonics, whole word approaches, systematic approaches to teaching letter shapes, improving study skills to build confidence reading, and multisensory approaches to teaching reading skills. How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 1

2 By the end of this module you should understand that all these methods are combined in successful reading schemes; and that a structured, multisensory approach with direct teaching is considered to be most effective in teaching children with dyslexia to read. READING AGES A child s reading age is a measure of how well their reading skills are developed for their age. Knowing a child s reading age can be useful: to inform teachers and parents on a child s attainment to monitor a child s progress to help identify concerns to understand and support pupils to help choose appropriate reading material for a child Reading age is determined using standardised reading tests. Many different types of tests are available and used in schools. There is a section on these tests later in the module. Reading tests enable teachers to assess the reading age of pupils. However, it s important to understand that in any group of children there will always be a natural range of reading ability. Just like characteristics such as height vary among a peer group, so will reading ability. A 9 year old child with a reading age of 9 is performing at the national average for their age. Some 9 year olds will have a higher reading age, and some will have a lower reading age and this is perfectly normal. Concerns may be raised when a child has a reading age considerably lower than the range of reading ages in their peer group. Most reading tests provide data to help teachers assess whether there is a need for further investigation in these cases. How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 2

3 HOW TO CHOOSE APPROPRIATE READING MATERIALS It is very important to choose reading materials at an appropriate level for a child: If the reading material is too difficult, the child will spend too much time trying to read each word and will not be able to maintain a good reading pace. As a result the child will struggle to understand what they are reading. If the reading material is too easy, the child will miss the opportunities for learning and development of reading skills. There is also the risk the child may become bored with the material. When reading material is the set at an appropriate level, the child should be able to read words fairly fluently. Reading pace will enable understanding of the text, and allow the child to deduce logical and inferred meanings. LABELLING READING MATERIAL To help parents, teaching professionals, and children choose appropriate reading materials, many publishers, booksellers, schools and libraries label children s books with reading ages. Some reading schemes have their own systems to help you choose appropriate books. For example, Oxford Reading Tree books are labelled with a Stage from 1-16 that corresponds to a fairly specific recommended reading age. Many reading schemes today use the Book Bands system, where the spine of the book has a certain colour depending on the recommended reading age. Oxford Reading Tree, Collins Big Cat, Rigby Star, Bug Club, Project X, Alphakids and Usborne Early Readers all now use the Book Band System. This system enables books with certain text characteristics and learning opportunities to be easily identified. How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 3

4 When books are not labelled with a specific reading age and even when they are common sense and a good knowledge of the child s current reading skills is needed to choose appropriate reading materials. Important points to consider when choosing reading materials include: Will the story be relevant, interesting and engaging to the child? Is the number of pages in the book / in each chapter appropriate? Is the number of words per page suitable? Are sentences and paragraphs a suitable length? Is the difficulty of individual words appropriate for the child? Are there useful illustrations for younger readers? Is the readability of text suitable? Is the layout of text dyslexia friendly? - e.g. wide margins, plenty of space, unjustified margins (these are useful as they help a child remember which lines have been already read).) Is the text printed in a dyslexia friendly way? For example, in a clear font of a suitable size, on good quality paper (cream or tinted paper is often preferable to white for dyslexics, and matt preferable to glossy). If you have a good knowledge of a child s ability, and consider the above points, you should be able to make an informed judgement on whether you think a book is appropriate. You will find that many children s books have been designed with dyslexic readers in mind, and are particularly suitable. Oxford Reading Tree Books are often useful with dyslexic learners. Barrington Stoke also specialise in books for reluctant, struggling or dyslexic readers aged How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 4

5 EXERCISE 7.1 Complete some research on the Book Bands System. Try to answer the following questions: 1. What is the recommended reading age of the books in each band? 2. What are the text characteristics of the books in each band? 3. What learning opportunities are there when reading the books in each band? Some suggested answers can be found at the end of the module TEACHING A DYSLEXIC CHILD TO READ To effectively teach a dyslexic child to read you need to have a good understanding of dyslexia. It is especially important to understand that dyslexic children: are likely to experience difficulties learning to read are likely to learn differently to non-dyslexic children may suffer from frustration or anger relating to finding reading difficult, or to feeling they are different may have poor auditory and short-term memory, and this can cause difficulty following simple instructions and retaining information from the teacher. How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 5

6 USEFUL METHODS It is the responsibility of teaching professionals to understand the issues dyslexic children face and create an environment of positive encouragement where these children can develop confidence and self-esteem. Children at school are generally taught to read using a mixture of: synthetic phonics - identifying the sounds (phonemes) within spoken words, and relating these sounds to the letters / letter combinations (graphemes) in written words whole word / look and say - memorising high frequency words using repetitive texts and flash cards Dyslexic children can also be successfully taught to read using these methods, but it is important to realise they are likely to need additional support from teaching professionals. For example, most children develop phonological awareness (the ability to break words into phonemes) and alphabetic awareness (the ability to represent phonemes with graphemes) fairly easily. But children with dyslexia often have difficulty learning these skills, and benefit from additional support. There are several methods that are widely considered useful in helping children with dyslexia develop their reading skills: Use structured reading schemes that teach reading skills such as phonological and alphabetic awareness in an organised, systematic way, with direct teaching. For example Jolly Phonics, Letters and Sounds. Use books with plenty of repetition of high frequency words, as they can help dyslexic children memorise words as whole shapes. For example Oxford Reading Tree books. Introduce new words slowly. Ensure that pupils are not asked to read books above their current skill level. Allow the child plenty of opportunities to develop confidence and self-esteem in their reading skills, by reading and repeated reading of How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 6

7 texts at an appropriate level. Provide suitable support and encouragement. Provide the child with various reading experiences and opportunities for example being read to, shared reading, supported reading, silent reading, and using audio books. Use a structured, multisensory approach (there is a section on this later in this module). Use markers (e.g. a finger or reading ruler) to help the child keep their place when reading text. Dyslexics often have tracking problems and lose their place easily when reading. Ensure that reading activities are part of a regular routine, and are fun and enjoyable. INDIVIDUAL LETTER SHAPES In structured reading schemes the shapes of letters are taught early on. When letters are introduced: Link the sound to the letter shape (the grapheme linked to the phoneme) Use mnemonics (memory aids) to link graphemes to phonemes -e.g. s for snake, s looks like a snake, s makes a sound like a snake, and you make a snaky movement when writing the s shape. Encourage children to think about the shapes that build the letter. For example, long straight lines / curly c shapes / curved shapes as found in r. Teach letters in a clearly defined, systematic order Encourage regular daily practice and reinforcement As soon as possible, use the letters taught to blend sounds and read words How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 7

8 LETTERS THAT LOOK SIMILAR Dyslexic children often have difficulty recognising and remembering individual letter shapes. This can make it very difficult for a dyslexic child to link graphemes to phonemes. In particular, dyslexic children can experience directional confusion (confusion with left and right, and up and down). This can cause difficulty differentiating between letters that are similar or look alike for example: Reversals (b and d, p and q) Inversals (u and n, b and p, m and w, f and t). Letters like these that can cause confusion, so you should teach these separately. The order that letters are taught in most structured reading schemes has been carefully planned to minimise confusion between letter shapes, and to gradually introduce more complex letters and graphemes. If a child has developed confusion between particular letters, there are strategies that can be used to help fix the letters in the memory. For example, when you hold up both hands making an ok sign the left hand makes a b shape and the right hand makes a d shape, as in the word bed. Learning letters should of course be fun. Many reading schemes use cartoon like characters to help teach the letters, and games and fun activities feature heavily in most schemes. EXERCISE What is a structured phonics programme? 2. Give an example of a structured phonics programme used in schools, and describe the order that individual letters and graphemes are introduced in the programme. Some suggested answers can be found at the end of the module How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 8

9 REMINDER Have you completed the following exercises? Exercise 7.1 Exercise 7.2 Exercise 7.3 Tick each box when you have completed the exercises. Then you can move on to the assignment that follows. SUMMARY 1. You know what reading age is, and understand why it can be useful to know a child s reading age. 2. You understand why it is important to choose reading materials set at an appropriate level. 3. You know what the Book Bands System is, and understand how it can be useful in choosing appropriate reading materials. 4. You can list key points to consider when choosing appropriate reading materials. 5. You have an understanding of what dyslexia friendly text is. 6. You know what synthetics phonics and whole word approaches to teaching reading involve. 7. You know which letter shapes can cause confusion in dyslexic children. How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 9

10 TUTOR MARKED ASSIGNMENT Explain why multisensory approaches to teaching reading are widely used in schools, and generally considered to be successful with dyslexic children. Your essay should answer the following questions: What is a multisensory approach to teaching reading? What are the benefits of a multisensory approach to teaching reading? Why is a multisensory approach to teaching reading often effective with dyslexic children? It would also be useful to: Describe some multisensory activities used to help teach reading. Research and describe a commercial multisensory programme to teach reading commonly used in schools. When you have completed this assignment, send it to your tutor for marking. If you your assignment, make sure you include your name and assignment number at the top of your work. If you send the assignment by post, attach the cover sheet, which is on the following page. Well, that s the end of the extract. If you want to know more, you ll have to register! We look forward to welcoming you on to the course, and helping you learn more about dyslexia. How to Teach a Dyslexic Pupil to Read Extract Page 10

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