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Monday, November 08, 2004


Mona Berg

I am a literacy volunteer with a dyslexic student.
I went through a training program as a volunteer.
I have no training in teaching a student with learning disabilities.
Any program that can give me help seems to be too costly
Any suggestions.


Here's the email I sent to Mona

readers might want to know more about the content of Orton-Gillingham programs. I have a sort of canned description:

Here's Susan Barton on what dyslexia is, and how to remediate it.

One shouldn't regard a dyslexia program as "tutoring".   Parents should select a program that has been shown to work, that has the following features:Effective Teaching to Remediate Dyslexia--These steps must be mastered in order!

Phonemic Awareness is the first step. You must teach the student how to listen to a single word or syllable and break it into individual phonemes--the individual sounds.

Phoneme/Grapheme Correspondence is the next step. Here you teach which sounds are represented by which letter(s), and how to blend those letters into single-syllable words.

The Six Types of Syllables that compose English words are taught next.

Probabilities and Rules are then taught. The English language provides several ways to spell the same sounds. For example, the sound /SHUN/ can be spelled either TION, SION, or CION. The sound of /J/ at the end of a word can be spelled GE or DGE. Dyslexic students need to be taught these rules and probabilities.

Morphology and Roots and Affixes--Morphology is the study of how morphemes are combined from words. A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in the language. The curriculum must include the study of base words, roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

How it is taught: Simultaneous Multisensory Instruction: Sometimes we rattle this off and don't really explain what it means or why it is important

This can be confusing to parents Sight or seeing, using the eyes = VISUAL Hearing or listening, using the ears = AUDITORY Feeling or touching, using the skin = TACTILE Moving through space and time, using the whole body = KINESTHETIC

Reading and writing go together; writing is a kinesthetic task--(can you feel how all the muscles in your hand and arm work to form letters as you write a sentence?).

Dyslexic people who use all of their senses when they learn (visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic) are better able to store and retrieve the information. So a beginning dyslexic student might see the letter A, say its name and sound, and write it in the air -- all at the same time. 

Excellent instruction includes:

Intense Instruction with Ample Practice: The dyslexic brain benefits from overlearning--having a very precise focus with lots and lots of correct practice.

Direct, Explicit Instruction: dyslexic students do not automatically "get" anything about the reading task, and may not generalize well. Therefore, each detail of every rule that governs written language needs to be taught directly, one rule at a time. Then the rule needs to be practiced until the student has demonstrated that she has mastered the rule in both receptive (reading) and productive (writing and spelling) aspects. Only then should the instructor introduce the next rule.

Systematic and Cumulative Many dyslexic students are not identified until later in their academic careers. They have developed mental "structures" of how English works that are completely wrong. To develop good written language skills--reading and writing--the tutor must go back to the very beginning and rebuild the student's mastery with a solid foundation that has no holes or cracks.

Synthetic and Analytic: dyslexic students must be taught both how to take the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form a word (synthetic), as well as how to look at a long word and break it into smaller pieces (analytic). Both synthetic and analytic phonics must be taught all the time.

Diagnostic Teaching the teacher must continuously assess their student's understanding of, and ability to apply, the rules. The teacher must ensure the student isn't simply recognizing a pattern and blindly applying it. And when confusion of a previously-taught rule is discovered, it must be retaught.

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