Young Learners And The Literacy Difficulties children encounter

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As Reid argues, "though definitions may share similarities it can be very confusing both for professionals and parents to try to comprehend these different definitions". The teacher has a responsibility to get to know the different characteristics in order to be able to demolish any learning barriers by applying appropriate strategies in the classroom.

Figure

Dyslexia and inclusion portrays a diagram with influential aspects in understanding dyslexia. The ear stands for the development of phonological awareness while the eye represents the children's difficulty when reading. On the other hand, the child on a bicycle represents dyslexic children displaying difficulties in fine motor skills. The pencils and books represent the core difficulties such as phonics, accuracy and sequencing. The teacher and students highlight the importance of interaction between them in order to provide important cues and structure. Lastly, the school and the bowl of fruit represent the child feeling comfortable when having a positive school environment and the role of a well-balanced diet in their learning.

As time progressed, multisensory teaching programmes, such as Beat Dyslexia, Orton Gillingham method, Herman Approach, Alpha to Omega and Lindamood Bell, are being used constantly to help novice readers and struggling dyslexic students in reading, writing and spelling. These multisensory programmes are applied in order to develop literary skills by using visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile exercises. This is also emphasised by Margaret Rawson: "a programme that is at once: structured, sequential, cumulative, and thorough... The skills are to be learned through all the avenues of learning open to the student - visual, auditory and tactile - kinaesthetic in interaction (our familiar multisensory approach)".

These multisensory teaching programmes can be used on a one-to-one basis or as a classroom approach since "what is good for the dyslexic child is good for the non-dyslexic child too". By providing an atmosphere conductive to learning for all pupils within the class, will create a positive and encouraging environment, thus helping a dyslexic child experience the feeling of success and self-value.

"The bonus of creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom is that it will facilitate learning for everyone in the school." Bernadette McLean

The following items should provide useful guidelines for teachers to follow and support:

In the classroom

Figure

Dyslexic students need structure in order to be able to help them to focus thus; identifying the main outcomes of the lesson would help the children to understand better what is expected of them. This is also highly specified by J. Pollock where he states that "ideally, every lesson should begin with an outline of what is going to be taught and end with a resume of what has been taught."

Organizing a literacy hour would be beneficial to help the child feel part of the class by dividing an hour of work into different short activities; some of which include shared reading, shared writing, and group work. This kind of activity would help the dyslexic child to participate in different short activities without losing focus and hence minimising the time allowed for disruption. It is important to keep in mind that the dyslexic child takes more time to produce written work and if possible, the teacher should accept more oral work as a substitute to written work.

Sitting at the back of a class, the dyslexic child might feel segregated and lost, making it difficult for him to concentrate on the lesson. The feeling of frustration would automatically result in wasting time and disrupting the rest of the class. Having an appropriate seating arrangement for the child can help to maintain his concentration. Being seated close to the teacher is the most suitable arrangement since the child's concentration could be quietly regained.

'I was extremely lonely, I didn't have many friends. I was dyslexic and a lot of kids made fun of me.' Tom Cruise

4.2.1 Demonstrate awareness of book conventions

4.2.4 Demonstrate gradual awareness and efficiency in using a variety of strategies

when encountering difficult text

English Syllabus

Reading

"The emphasis on the acquisition of literacy skills all too often leaves a child bearing the burden of feeling that he is, in fact stupid and inadequate." (Pollock, Waller, & Politt, 2004) It is in fact the teacher's responsibility to avoid making the dyslexic child feel frustrated by making him read in front of the whole class. An effective way is to provide the child with some private time, mainly dedicated to shared reading. During this private time, the teacher could emphasise on either pointing to the words when reading or the child points to the words while the teacher reads. Each child has a different level of performance; therefore assessing the child's level prior to reading would be beneficial in order to be able to adapt activities accordingly. These could be implemented through pictograms, memory games, describing an event in sequence, picture interpretation and various listening games.

Spelling

Figure

Learning how to spell is a very difficult process for dyslexic children, consequently the need for constant reinforcement is necessary. Dyslexic children learn through the use of writing patterns such as onset and rime spelling patterns, pictures or mnemonics. One of the most effective techniques is by using the look - say - cover - write - check method.

When correcting writing, it is essential that the teacher focuses on one particular area so as not to fill up the whole page with red ink which will definitely dishearten most children. Instead, focusing on a maximum of 4 mistakes with similar spelling or rhyme patterns would help the child to at least try his best to learn those words before attempting new ones. Day-to-day dyslexia clearly mentions that "children have to learn to read through learning to spell, they need a structured approach, and this approach should be multisensory."

4.1.3 Use symbols correctly, including less than (<), greater than (>), equals (=).

4.1.5 Recognise simple fractions that are several parts of a whole, and mixed numbers;

recognise the equivalence of simple fractions.

4.1.6 Know by heart: all addition and subtraction facts for each number to 20.

Maths Syllabus

Mathematics

+

Add

More than

Addition

Increase

Generally, for each and every child, the language of maths needs to be clearly understood before it can be used in calculations, e.g. add, plus, sum of. The use of cards can be useful. The following figure is an example taken from Supporting children with dyslexia P.42.

When coming to decimals, it will be easier for a dyslexic child to use different colour markers for place value and marking the decimal point to be able to identify them.

It is ideal to use multi-sensory approaches to tackle other related difficulties which could be visual skills, directional confusion, sequencing, word skills and memory. Dyslexic students may have special difficulties that require many steps or place a heavy load on the short-term memory, e.g. long division or algebra which could be tackled by writing out the process.

Discussing a written maths problem will be of assistance both to a dyslexic child and the other students in the classroom. The teacher should encourage his students to utter what they have understood from the question and put into words each step of the problem. The use of practical aids will help a lot to understand the mathematical concept.

Copying from the whiteboard

Figure

A dyslexic student might find it hard when copying from the whiteboard. Difficulties might be either because he doesn't have enough time to copy, can't see clearly, or make a lot of mistakes when copying. Some of these problems can be resolved by the teacher himself. When writing on the whiteboard, the teacher can use different colour markers for each line if there is a lot of written information while ensuring that it is well spaced. It is important to leave the writing on the board long enough to ensure the child doesn't rush and he finishes from copying. If some copying work can be given readily on a handout, it will give him time to read it while the others are copying because at times a dyslexic student might not understand what he is copying.

Marking of work

When marking the dyslexic student's work, the teacher should recognise the child's effort and examine the type of assessment whether it is the knowledge of concept or something else and grade accordingly. The teacher must know well the child's level so that when for ex: he pinpoints out the spelling mistakes, they will be appropriate to the child's level of spelling. Marking should also entail praise and positive comments while reducing the use of red pens as this might be discouraging to see their work covered in red ink especially when they have tried their best to do well.

Homework

By the end of a school day, a dyslexic child is generally more tired than his peers because everything requires more thought, tasks take longer and nothing comes easily. A teacher should help a child and not break him. In homework, the teacher must set only work that will be of real help to the child. Homework and exercises should be a little different than his peers. When doing so, it is important to use discretion since self-esteem is rapidly damaged if a teacher underlines the differences in the classroom. A dyslexic child will take longer to produce same work as his peers thus it will be of great help if the teacher will set a limit on time spent on homework and advise his parents.

Integration

It is important that each and every child is integrated in the classroom. Inclusion is one of the principles found in the National Minimum Curriculum.

Principle 8: An Inclusive Education

An inclusive education is based on a commitment, on the part of the learning community, to fully acknowledge individual difference and to professing as well as implementing inclusionary politics. This concept recognises the full range of educational interests, potential and needs of students.

Taken from National Minimum Curriculum: Creating the Future together, p. 28

For successful integration, a dyslexic child should be allowed to express himself verbally. A dyslexic child's ability to write down ideas is quite different from the level of information the child can give orally. When copying from the whiteboard, a dyslexic child must be given more time to complete his work. The child will need extra time to read, plan, rewrite and proof read his work.

4.3.1 Give importance to quality of handwriting

English Syllabus

Handwriting

Dyslexic students might feel more comfortable in using cursive writing as this would help them to eliminate any capital letters in the middle of the sentence. A small chart could be also very useful in class as this might serve as a reminder and thus make them feel more comfortable if they got stuck instead of having to ask someone else. Nowadays computers have many practical uses and some might even serve as scribes for the dyslexic child who finds it hard to write clearly especially under stressful conditions such as exams. However, this does not reduce the importance of learning and practicing how to write neatly and legibly.

Conclusion

Dyslexic children seldom get credit for the effort they put in, consequently, feelings of frustration and disappointment pile up. According to Supporting Literacy, the teacher has to remember the 3P's - Praise, Patience and Prompting in order to be able to provide the best possible learning. Making available five minutes of help per day would be beyond doubt beneficial for the dyslexic child. This would then result in providing continuous support in order to be able to help the child to start reading for pleasure. After all, when providing the dyslexic child with a challenge they can flourish as any other child.

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