When you know which students are dyslexic and recognise how they learn, that is a great first step. But for most teachers that means very little. They have neither the time, nor the resources, energy or training to really help these students.
If there were just a couple of strategies, tools and ideas that the whole class may benefit from as well, what would that look like?
I have met quite a few teachers who have introduced their young learners to creating the alphabet in plasticine. That is wonderful, but it is only a part of the puzzle. It’s often done when their students are not focused, have not learned how to create letters, get confused by learning the sounds at the same time (for a dyslexic learner, the name of each letter is all the sound they need to learn the alphabet, as well as spelling) and they don’t learn the alphabet visually.
So let’s start with Step 1: Being focused!
When students (children and adults) are anxious, stressed, overwhelmed or in any way distracted, they are having a hard time getting and remaining focused. For that reason I have created a visualisation that gives them the three major tools to bring their busy minds back to focus with ease and – with practice, that becomes their main study brain, their go-to zone.
I have made this video/audio available for free for all teachers that are following me in a free private facebook group (Teaching dyslexic students).
Step 2: How to create the letters:
Give your students a simple template of the alphabet, uppercase and lowercase to copy with plasticine snakes, the thickness of a pencil. Don’t use playdough or cheap substitutes, as they will need to create an alphabet that doesn’t fall apart and can be kept for the next six months, when it comes in very handy to spell tricky words. Make sure they smoothen the parts of each letter together, so they don’t fall apart, when picked up.
Get them to put the letters into four rows, with gaps between every two to three letters. That will help them to SEE and remember the letters, rather than a line of 26 letters.
(e.g.: a b c d e f g
h i j k l m n …)
Step 3: Learning the Alphabet, not sounding it out:
To start off, most of my students only know the alphabet song. When asked, what letter is after the ‘k’, for example, they need to sing the alphabet up to ‘k’ to tell me the next letter. Being mostly visual learners, my dyslexic students take a mental image of the alphabet letters that they have created themselves. Within a few practice rounds they can tell me the alphabet in the groups they created, first forwards, then backwards. They always amaze their parents with these new skills, as most adults wouldn’t know the alphabet backwards.
Some students may have put their alphabet letters in the wrong place or facing the wrong way, especially b/d or p/q. I always just ask them to check their alphabet against the template…they need to self-correct. I never touch their letters!
Letters may also have caused problems other than b/d confusion. Sometimes it’s the sound confusion g/j, or a connection to a trauma/memory or experience. These letters in particular need more attention and need to be mastered individually.
I usually ask my clients to only keep the lowercase alphabet. It is housed in a special box, maybe the size of a pizza box – and has to be handled carefully, always replacing each letter in the correct place and position.
When it comes to spelling later, they use their own letters, pick them from their alphabet box and replace them in the proper order afterwards. It reinforces the alphabet for them.
Teachers will be amazed how much focus and attention children have when creating something, even the alphabet. Later on they create models that help them add meaning to common words that often fail to bring up images, words like ‘the’ or ‘by’ or ‘if’…the famous sight words.
Parents are overwhelmed with helping their dyslexic students and often find it hard to work with their own child. Having a teacher understand their struggling child, support them and encourage them is their dream.
It has become my dream too and the reason why I am focusing so much on teachers and tutors. During the school holidays some of the teachers are training to become tutors and that is an amazing solution for everybody.
Imagine how many students don’t need to suffer any longer under the false image of being seen as slow, lazy, stupid or disruptive. They hold an amazing potential that needs someone to believe in them and help them realise it.
If you’d like to check it out, join:
You will find a lot more tips and strategies that many teachers and tutors all around Australia are starting to use and implement.
They are amazed how EVERY student can benefit from them, not just dyslexic learners.