Monday, June 24, 2013

Tips 1-5 To Help You & Your Students With Dyslexia

This past Friday, I posted about “What's It Like Being Dyslexic”.  If you missed it, I'd love for you to click on over to watch both videos and read the tips!

Today, I’m going to go through tips #1-5, to more deeply explain how I use these “rules” in my classroom.  While some may seem simple, I’ll simply explain how they help and/or work in my room, and by any means, if you have any thoughts or ways to improve, please do tell!  J

Number One: Do not ask on a dyslexic student to read aloud. 
Yes, I completely agree—under NO circumstances should a student with dyslexia be “surprised” with you calling on them to read.  Let’s be honest…I’m not really a huge fan of “popcorn reading” in the classroom anyways.  Research has shown there are various other ways more effective to teach; but let’s face it, there are just SOMEtimes that we, as teachers, need to do this.  I begin the year not calling on any of my students with dyslexia, in fact, I only call on students who are sure of themselves to read.  Over the first few months, I make sure to have the conversation (one-on-one, in private) with each student about their thoughts and feelings of reading aloud.  It’s actually pretty interesting to get their take on it!  After a few months, here’s how I work it, if I HAVE to have a “popcorn reading” in my class—I either A) let my students raise their hands to volunteer when/if they feel comfortable OR B) I “assign” the very first paragraph or sentence or chunk to one of my students with dyslexia.  I tell them AHEAD of time (like 5 minutes or so) that this is what I’d like them to read aloud, then they can practice independently and make sure they’re comfortable with the part.  This way, they’re not stressed during the reading, wondering whether or not I’ll call on them, or practicing their part to come, thus NOT paying attention to what everyone else is reading! 

Number Two:  Don’t punish students with dyslexia for forgetting books and/or supplies.
It happens.  Let’s face it, even as adults, we forget things all the time.  For a child, it’s easy to “just forget” something.  Students with dyslexia are more prone to being disorganized (and even have a higher percentage of ADHD diagnosis), therefore they are going to be your ones to forget things more often.  In my class, it is really no big deal.  Personally, there are so many other things to stress about with you students.  If they start forgetting something regularly, then I work together WITH the student to come up with a system to help.  For example, this past year, I had a student with dyslexia who constantly would forget to bring his yellow “homework folder” or write down his reading in this folder each night.  I knew he was doing it, therefore punishment would do no good.  Instead, we came up with the idea of a reminder bracelet.  Each afternoon, he would cut a piece of yarn and bring it to me.  We would tie it around his wrist (very loosely, of course), with a small “tag” reading “homework” on it, as a reminder for him to record his homework and bring his yellow folder to school the next day.  After her wrote it down and placed his folder BACK in his bag each evening, he would cut it off.  As the year progressed, we didn’t need the tag on the bracelet, and later on, we barely ever needed the bracelet at all!

Number Three: Don’t call dyslexics lazy.
MY PET PEEVE!  Students with dyslexia work 184058104875 times harder than your “average” student.  Think about what all their brains have to go through to end up at the same place as their classmates.  Just remember—they’re trying…they’re trying HARD.  If you feel yourself getting frustrated (which I will admit, WILL happen), take a breath, and instead, give praise and ask how you can help that student.  Chances are, if you’re frustrated, so are they.  So remind yourself of that!  (This one took a lot of effort for me at the beginning of the year, but once you start “training your brain”, it almost becomes an automatic response!

Number Four: Expect less written work.
Now I know as students progress through school, there is simply more and more written work required.  It’s just the “facts” of life.  This rule doesn’t mean make things easier for your dyslexic students—simply “tweak” assignments!  Instead of 10 sentences, have them write 3-5 WELL developed ones.  This takes some communication and modeling, but in time I promise it works.  Also, think of how else a student with dyslexia could complete the assignment?  Could they use a computer?  Could they use an app such as “Educreation” to create a visual tutorial where they verbally explain what originally would be written? (My kiddos LOVE working with Educreation!)  There are many, many ways out there to hold your dyslexic students to the same standards and accountability, just with various methods-- and remember, just because you're expecting less writing does NOT mean you're expecting less!

Number Five: Prepare a printout of homework with step by step directions and stick it in their book.
In 2nd grade, our homework is very student driven—20 minutes a night of reading their book of choice and 10 minutes a night of math fact practice, in their “method” of choice.  So this “rule” doesn’t fit completely.  I do use the step by step direction part, though, on a regular basis!  It not only helps students with dyslexia, but ALL students.  Have a math page with multi-step directions?  Of course you’re going to explain them and go over them verbally, but now, as you go over them, LABEL each one!  BOTH you and the students can write a “1” next to the first part and even draw a mini picture!  Then, a “2” by the second step, and so on.  Remember, students with dyslexia need visuals…visuals that work well with ALL students (and adults!).  I’ll have to admit, since beginning to write out/draw/label step by step directions, my WHOLE class performs better on assignments, and rarely forgets any steps!

So, here's a quick pic of all the "rules" combined (because let's face it, plenty of us love visuals, too!).  Feel free to share it, Pin it, use it, love it, etc. etc., AND be sure to come back by soon for tips 6-10, 11-15, and 16-20. 

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