Inspired. Humbled. Determined. Three words that describe my first experience with dyslexia.
After years of teaching English and reading to high school students, I made a horrendous error, leading to a river of tears. What was my mistake? I randomly asked this young lady to read aloud. As I would learn later, she had dyslexia. She had been through every program available to her and spent years in a school for students with dyslexia. Her experiences were futile and memories of such were heart-breaking. I was just another teacher promising that I had what it took to make her read.
In my defense, I was newly armed with knowledge from my Masters coursework. After all (as I was taught) reading fluency was tied closely with reading aloud. I was determined and ALL of my students were going to read aloud – in the safety of my small group during Reading Lab. This singular moment led to a whirlwind four years, where our team worked diligently to support this young lady to help her reach her goals. We read tests, obtained audiobooks, changed fonts, read coursework and assignments, edited papers, helped her fight for her place in AP classes, and assisted in typing; all while working on reading daily. By junior year, our lady had progressed to a level where she felt comfortable reading a menu on a date. Our hearts were full and she was blooming!
Our time together ended when our amazing young lady graduated with honors, was accepted to a major university, and earned a four year scholarship. I wish I could say that she left us reading at grade level, but I cannot. She did, however, make strides in reading and used strategies that helped her overcome her debilitating fear of reading. Years later, I am still inspired by my experiences with her and found a program that would train me to assist other dyslexics. That program is Phonics First, provided to me by Brainspring.
Strategies for assisting students with dyslexia
- Make instruction multi-sensory
- Facilitate the use of ‘wait time’. Often our students have the answer, but
need more processing time. This allows for equity in the classroom.
- Use an accredited Orton-Gillingham program, which provides explicit, phonics instruction
- Try highlighting main ideas and color coding
- Give your student sticky notes to help stay organized
- Allow extra time for assignments and tests
- Offer student teacher notes
- Let student give answers verbally
- Use a scribe if necessary
- Utilize audiobooks
- Use speech-to-text technology (this can be done within a classroom
quietly with use of a headphone/mic combo)
- Teach other students strategies like speech-to-text; it is a skill used by
- If allowable, record major components of class instruction for the student
to review later.
- Use graphic organizers while reading to support reading comprehension
Strategies to use if a student needs to read aloud
- Assign the reading section to the student the day before and allow
time for independent practice
- Use a partner, or small group
- Allow student to record reading in advance
Written by Marguerite Foshee, M.Ed
Marguerite is a tutor at Brainspring Learning Center in Clarkston, Michigan