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Teaching Strategies for Dyslexia Reading

Author Justin Clark, Learning Difficulties and Dyslexia Tutor in Brisbane.

Overview – Dyslexia and Reading

Teaching students with dyslexia to read is at the very core of dyslexia.  The most apparent symptom of this reading disability is difficulty with word recognition.

Indeed, the very definition of dyslexia offered by the International Dyslexia Association focuses on word recognition and describes the disability as being primarily characterised by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities (IDA, 2002).

This problem leads to profound interferences with overall reading and writing fluency that pervade all areas of academic achievement and is one of the key elements to keep in mind as a dyslexic tutor.

For Dyslexic Students Word Identification Takes Time

For students with dyslexia and their reading, this means that attention expended on word identification leads to less time that is available for comprehension.  As a result, if dyslexic students have to spend significant amounts of attention in order to identify most of the words they encounter, they will have difficulty constructing meaning from the texts they are reading.

Reading Methods for Teaching Students with Dyslexia

If students with dyslexia are to develop automatic word recognition when reading texts, a great deal of practice has to take place in context using both supported oral, as well as silent reading.  This is a key component when teaching students with dyslexia to read.  In fact it is often the case that students experiencing difficulties applying their word recognition knowledge to connected text find themselves faced with increasing amounts of decoding instruction in isolation.

Instead, the focus should be on increasing opportunities for guided practice in context.  Unfortunately, by limiting struggling readers to this as their primary form of practice in the classroom, teachers can actually minimise rather than increase the likelihood that they will become skilled readers.

Reading Techniques

Prosody is a key element of reading fluency and consists of those elements of reading that, when taken together, form expressive reading.  This includes pitch, stress and parsing.  The readers also has to apply their knowledge of oral exchanges to develop the correct sense of the interaction.

The accurate use of these elements allows readers to determine shades and depth of meaning that might not immediately be apparent in written text.  Therefore, an interactive relationship exists in which prosody both contributes to and is reflective of a reader’s comprehension.

Also, by developing an awareness of the importance of appropriate expression and phrasing in students, it is possible to prevent them from developing the belief that fluent reading is simply fast reading.

Students with dyslexia need to be encouraged to understand that fluency consists of smooth, accurate and expressive reading at a rate that replicates oral language.

Fluency Instruction Used When Teaching Students With Dyslexia

One way to provide students with dyslexia the instruction they need is by integrating four fluency-oriented principles into oral reading instruction.

These principles are modelling, opportunities for practice such as silent reading, the provision of support and assistance and the demonstration of appropriate phrasing.  While these elements are the basis of a range of fluency strategies that are effective for teaching students with dyslexia, the integration of these principles into instruction for students with dyslexia is critical to their development as skilled readers.

Modelling As A Reading Strategy for Dyslexic Students

Not only is such modelling likely to instill a love of reading in students, it simultaneously provides them with a sense of what smooth, expressive oral reading should sound like.  While reading to students is a common practice in the primary grades, it tends to be a fairly rare occurrence in later year levels.  However, there are many texts, from poems to highly descriptive expository selections, such as speeches, that are ideal for older students.  Therefore when teaching children with dyslexia to read, it is essential that they regularly read in situations where some support is available.  Finally, by making selections from a range of genres, it increases the likelihood that dyslexic students will find a text that is engaging.

Importance of Providing Opportunities

Providing opportunities means that students with dyslexia have an opportunity to practice reading connected texts.  It is essential that all students with a reading difficulty have opportunities to read challenging texts in a supportive environment.  These opportunities should include scaffolded oral reading along with silent reading in exploring a range of different texts.  Comics along with magazines and books are useful as dyslexic students can use pictures as a means of deciphering more difficult words.  It also exposes readers to a range of figurative language.

Support is Essential When Teaching Children With Dyslexia

Providing support when teaching students with dyslexia is essential in consolidating what they have learned about word recognition.  As a result, it is crucial that they regularly read in situations where some support is available.  This support can involve reading aloud, silent reading or the repeated reading of a single text until the students have reached a predetermined level of reading mastery.

Learning to Read – Appropriate Phrasing

The final principal involves appropriate phrasing.  This can be especially helpful when leading an echo or choral reading of a text.  Echo reading is where the teacher or leader reads a line of the text with expression and appropriate phrasing.  The dyslexic students then follow by imitating the way that the teacher read the text.

Choral reading is when students read aloud in unison with a whole class or group of students. This helps build dyslexic students’ fluency, self-confidence, and motivation.  Reading aloud together helps struggling readers who may feel self-conscious or nervous.

Phrasing instruction involves helping students determine where the phrasal boundaries should occur in texts they are reading by having them identify which breaks sound like language and which ones don’t.

Example of Phrasing

For example, in this excerpt from ‘The Fellowship of the Ring’ (Tolkien, 1954), students discuss which sounds more appropriate: “Bilbo took out/ the envelope but/ just as he was/ about to set/ it by the clock/ his hand jerked/ back and the packet/ fell on the floor” or “Bilbo took out the envelope/but just as he was about to set it by the clock/his hand jerked back/ and the packet fell on the floor”.   By holding discussions around appropriate phrasing, it becomes possible to develop dyslexic students’ awareness of these elements and their importance in written text.

Therefore, using these reading methods is vital when teaching kids with dyslexia.  Reading disabilities such as dyslexia, manifest primarily through difficulty with word recognition and can be exacerbated when a mismatch of instruction occurs.

Summary – Teaching Students with Dyslexia to Read

By dyslexic specialised teaching, knowing when to teach what to whom, multiple connections can be formed that lead to more automatic word recognition, fluent reading and comprehension of word meanings.  Integrating the four fluency-orientated principles of modelling, opportunities for practice, the provision of support and assistance and phrasing into reading instruction for students with dyslexia is critical for their development as skilled readers.

Hope Tutoring in Brisbane

Teaching children with dyslexia to read can as you will have gathered from the above article be a challenge both for student and for teacher.  However it can also be highly rewarding if the tutoring strategies used are aligned with the specific dyslexic profile of the child – and most importantly the tutor is able to engage the child and build rapport so that small steps can turn into larger steps and really significant progress can be made over time.  If you would like further advice regarding teaching students with dyslexia to read or would like to discuss engaging my services as a dyslexia tutor please call me on 0404 407 233.

Teaching Students With Dyslexia

Justin Clark, Dyslexia Tutor in Brisbane