Stop and think for a moment about what your brain has to do in order to read. Have you thought about it? In order to read and understand a text, your brain has to decode words, understand the meaning of words and sentences, and retain the information that you just read. While this might sound like a “quick” process it’s not. For students who have dyslexia, each step can seem like a mile. So, what can we do to shorten that mile up for your students? Here are five tips for helping dyslexic students.
Tip #1: Dyslexic Students Need Sight Words
Sight words are an important part of elementary education. In general, a sight word is a word that when reading a student show know on sight. These are typically common words that you would see when reading an article such as “the” or “you.” When helping dyslexic students learn to be better readers, it’s important for them to have these sight words memorized because it takes out one step of reading: decoding. There are several ways you can practice sight words including:
Sometimes going back to the basics is a good place to go. Going through flashcards and simply practicing sight words can be fun for students especially if you make a game out of. For example, you could set up a hop scotch like course in your classroom or home and each time your student gets a word right, they get to advance. In the end, maybe they get a prize of some kind or simply a lot of praise for practicing. Dyslexic students are going to thrive not only on the praise, but also on the muscle memory exercise.
If you’re looking for your child to do some independent work, you can have them work on worksheets as well that focus on one word. In this way, you can chunk your sight words. Chunking is an incredibly helpful strategy for all students but especially students who are dyslexic because it isn’t as overwhelming for them. You can find great sight word practice worksheets for pre-primer, primer, first, second, and third grade that use a variety of strategies to help your student learn their sight words. Or, if you want to have it all, you can find the worksheets in a great bundle format! For teachers, these worksheets can easily be used in learning centers throughout the school year.
Tip # 2: Practice the Basics
One of the best things you can do for a dyslexic student is to practice the basic phonic skills. You can do this by playing a game like “Squares Your Brain” or by simply sitting down and talking about unknown or troubling words. You can also learn a sound like “at” and come up with a fun list of words that have that sound in it. I would always suggest adding a “challenge” word even for your dyslexic students because it will help them see how little sounds like “at” can be a part of “big words.” When you come up with all these fantastic words, add them to your word wall so they can be referenced again and again.
Tip #3: Make it Fun
When you are working with students who have dyslexia, it’s going to be frustrating for them because it’s a skill they struggle with. No one likes to struggle, even though there can be benefits in struggling, it gets draining. Therefore, you want to make sure you are having a good time while learning and working on reading skills. One way to make it fun is by choosing topics that interest your student. Now I know we can’t do this all the time, but if you have student who really loves superheroes, challenge them to read an article about toxic waste. So many superheroes got their powers by falling into a vat of something toxic. Thinking outside the box and making connections for your readers can be incredibly beneficial for their reading growth.
Tip #4: Use a Read Aloud for Dyslexic Students
Another way to help a dyslexic student is to practice read-alouds with him/her. When you sit down and read with a student who has dyslexia, use a pointer (like a pencil) and have the student follow along while you read. In this way, the student can hear what the text is supposed to sound like and hopefully pick up some words along the way. To help a student focus, you can challenge them to find a sound, like “at”, throughout the text and put a tally on a sticky note every time they hear it. When you get to a good stopping point, talk about the words they noticed as well as what the text is about so far. Guiding students through the reading process and demonstrating strategies to retain the information can be incredibly beneficial.
Tip #5: Dyslexic Students Should Write it Out
Reading is a huge part of dyslexia, but it can trickle into the world of writing too. Therefore, it’s important for you not to let writing be pushed to the side. There are a few ways to incorporate simple writing into your classroom or homes. One way is to allow your dyslexic student to label important things in your home. This can be things in the kitchen like the oven, refrigerator (there’s 10-dollar word!), dishwasher, and more. Practicing writing these words and then seeing them over and over will help put the word into their memory making it easier for them to read in the future. You can also have your dyslexic student help you create a grocery list or compose a text to a family member or friend. Any way you can get your dyslexic student to write will be beneficial for them in the future.
Reading no matter who you are can be quite difficult. There are many steps that a person has to take to be a “good” reader and when dyslexia gets put into the mix the task can seem impossible. However, follow these five tips to help your students out and reading will become a fearless adventure.