"...regardless of the content we teach, we are all reading instructors."*
Indiana Senate Enrolled Act 217, a.k.a. Indiana's Dyslexia Law provides a strong backbone to reading instruction for Indiana schools. For instance, this bill provides that:
Since we know from 100 years of research that 1 in 5 students have dyslexia, the one lone Reading Specialist is going to be very, very busy, particularly in very large districts. How can this be expected? What is the solution to this very tall, broad, and heavy order?
- screening for dyslexia is to occur at grades K, 1, 2, 3 and after that as necessary, as instructed in the bill
- Schools are to use the Response to Intervention (RTI) tiers before identifying the reading deficit as dyslexia
- Educators are to use an instructional approach that is explicit, direct, systematic, multisensory and phonetic
- Every Indiana school corporation is to employ at least one (1) Reading Specialist trained for teaching students with dyslexia
Teachers in all content areas must help fill gaps by embedding literacy in their instruction. Our students are not just learning to read, but learning to learn. All subject content areas require and will naturally accommodate literacy. Following are some thoughts on weaving intentional literacy into your content classes.
Since a textbook is not the only tool, a classroom library built around your content area can be a wonderful addition to learning. Think puzzles, games, models, art supplies, as well as books and worksheets. Math was always my worst subject. Every year I disliked the drab-looking textbook, the formidable-sounding units of study: Fractions. Multiplication. Division. I know I would have benefitted from The Grapes of Math by Greg Tang. Math strategies presented in rhyme? Yes, Please.
But reading is not just about paper books. Plan to use as much technology as is appropriate and possible. PATINS Specialists can suggest, explain and demonstrate if you need help.
- Ear-reading is an authentic reading experience. So is using closed captions while watching tv and online programs. Encourage every interaction with print to be what it is: time spent reading.
- Provide extra everything: Space, time, patience.
- Provide information verbally and visually, find multisensory methods for learning.
- Grade on content, not on spelling or neatness. Don't use a red pen to grade papers, don't have students trade papers to grade in class.
- Instead of returning assignments during class; use homework folders or another more discreet method.
- Provide class notes, and/or announce that you are about to tell or show something important.
- Allow keyboarding as well as handwritten assignments, not one or the other.
- Ask for help to decipher written work, privately.
- Identify strengths and call attention to those, not to deficits.
- Some students will not require a structured, systematic approach to reading, or to learning algebra. It certainly will not be harmful and may enhance learning for them as well. If they don't need extra supports, they'll move on.
- If a student shows 3 or more of these warning signs in your class, talk to the reading specialist, other teachers, principal, related service providers, parents and the student.
Learn about helping students with dyslexia:
- Relationships are the glue of instruction. Model and require acceptance, helpfulness, kindness, respect. This last point will make anyone's journey more rewarding and much easier.
Yale Center International Dyslexia Association
Thanks so much!
* title quote: Rebecca Alber
About the author
Martha Wells Hammond, MA.Ed has taught LD, MSD and EBD students grades K – 8, and holds a certification in Screening for Dyslexia. Since 2010, she has been the ICAM DRM Services Specialist for the PATINS Project. Martha trains and supports DRMs as they acquire AEM for Indiana students, and provides guidance for helping schools meet the NIMAS Regulations of the IDEA 2004. She presents to groups about ICAM Services at state and national conventions.
Ms. Martha...your last line is YOUR very model in life... acceptance, helpfulness, kindness, respect. Your writing is easy reading for me. Thorough and interesting...I always learn much and can apply it to my interactions with people in my circles. Thank you!
Some things I've learned to help the elementary children in which I work is to use multisensory reading activities with them. Activities that use sight, sound and touch to connect letters and their sounds. Try:
1 - writing words in shaving cream, sand or flour on a baking sheet. Even the squeak that the finger makes on the baking sheet is memorable.
2 - air writing words which reinforces the sound letters make through muscle memory. My grandson would mix up writing "b" and "d". This exercise helped him master those two letters.
3 - cut out letters in sand paper. Some kids appreciate running their finger over a letter in sandpaper retaining a tactile (touch) memory of the letter and it's sound.
Happy Reading everyone!
Thank you Glenda, for your kind words and great examples of multisensory teaching strategies. Your examples are lined up with the Orton-Gillingham approach. The children you work with are SO lucky to have your positive spirit to help guide them. They will not forget you. Nor will I.