There's something exciting about being a teacher-- especially if you’re teaching the 1st grade. Kids typically learn how to read between the ages of 6-7, and it can be very rewarding to witness them unfold into literary novices. That being said, teaching kids can also be disheartening when one of them is not up to par with the rest of the class. What do you do then? After all, you’ve followed every step and it’s seemed to work on all your other students. If you’ve tried everything and, upon the middle of the semester, the situation remains unchanged; try testing him/her for dyslexia
Before you start getting stressed out, it’s noteworthy to mention that dyslexia isn’t that uncommon. In fact, 1 in 5 students of the population have a language-based learning disability. So how does one help these kids excel in the classroom? Luckily, there is a significant amount of literature on the subject, and we’ve curated the best advice into a list of 6 tips to help you navigate through this experience.
6 Ways to Support Your Students with Dyslexia
1) Constructive Feedback
Emphasis on the ‘constructive’ part. Children who suffer from dyslexia -more often than not- are used to failing, which is exactly why it’s so important to cultivate their self-confidence at these early stages of their life. When grading/reviewing their work, it’s often best to use the following process:
1. Start off by focusing on what you like – talk about the strengths of the item in question
2. Provide criticism on areas that you feel might need improvement
You round off the feedback with a) reiteration of positive feedback b) the positive results to be expected if feedback is acted upon
2) No Reading Out Loud
Remember in elementary school, when you were forced to read out loud? Wasn’t that embarrassing? Well, it’s even more embarrassing if you have dyslexia, as you are naturally prone to making more mistakes. For this reason, you should never force your students with dyslexia to read out loud. Being put on the spot will only exacerbate their anxiety and further discourage them from reading. If you really need to get them to read, discreetly let them know the day before what section they will be asked to read so that they can prepare accordingly. This will help ensure that your student does well reading out loud around other children.
Because everything requires more thought for someone with dyslexia, tasks tend to take longer, and nothing comes easily. Thus, it’s a good idea to set different customized standards when it comes to homework, as well as a time limit. Above all, care is required when revising, as self-esteem is rapidly undermined if a teacher is underlining the differences between those with learning disabilities and their peers. It should also be remembered that far more effort may be needed for a dyslexic child to complete the same tasks as their peers so you should only set assignments or projects that will truly benefit them.
4) Cursive Writing
Cursive joined style might be losing its popularity, but it remains the most effective way to teach kids with dyslexia how to write. Encourage your student to be self-critical about their writing, as opposed to pointing out faults that might generate resentment down the line. It’s also worth putting some guiding materials up on the board to reduce the learning curve. Analyze general common faults by writing a few select words on the board and make sure to include a chart for the cursive script in upper and lower case. If handwriting practice is needed, it's essential to use words that don't present any problems for them in terms of meaning or spelling.
Dyslexic children don’t do well with traditional techniques of learning when it comes to spelling, however the entire class can benefit from a structured exposure to rules and patterns inherent in the language. Weekly quizzes are good to incorporate in your regimen but make sure to include a short list of words before each quiz. However, always include 3 or 4 words on the quiz that aren’t on the list – this will help them to eventually improve their writing skills as well. Also, all children should be encouraged to proofread, which can be useful for initial corrections of spelling.
Students with dyslexia often feel self-conscious about needing special help to compete literary and mathematical tasks, which is why it’s a good idea to incorporate some techniques at a classroom-wide level, so as to not shed further light to the student’s disability. For example, more time should be allocated for completion of tasks when a dyslexic student is present due to the extra time it takes him/her to write, read, and planning. Moreover, their verbal abilities often tend to be better than their reading and writing abilities, thus it is often advised to accept verbal answers in place of written ones. There are also various ways to facilitate this process, for example, using computers for word processing, recording student’s verbal account for later transcription, and voice-activated software.
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