I love all the emails and messages that I get through the blog. However, sometimes the questions are more detailed than an email can handle so I’ll do my best to bring those questions over here to the blog. I recently corresponded with a wonderful mom who is homeschooling her dyslexic children overseas where buying (and sometimes returning) curricula for her homeschool can be time-consuming and expensive. On the Resource Pages of this site, I list many of my favorite curricula for using with the student with dyslexia. These curricula utilize methods that fit the general way that dyslexics learn. But what if circumstances, such as finances or location, are such that buying more curricula is not an option?
How to Modify Curriculum for Students With Dyslexia
Remember when we talked about How Dyslexics Learn? You will want to read that post so that you can better understand how to teach in ways that your child will learn. In that post, we learned a little about brain structure and how dyslexics tend to favor the right-brain and therefore learn with visual, creative and auditory methods.
Prepare them to learn
Start by giving them the big-picture. Because people with dyslexia are big picture-oriented rather than detail-oriented, begin by previewing the subject that you are about to teach. Give them a hook on which to hang all of those pesky details. For example, before you begin a study of Ancient Egypt, hit the library and check out some of the fantastic illustrated DK books. Flip through the pages and talk about the location, look through artifacts from the era and get a bit of the big-picture about Egypt. Take time to review what you are learning as you go and put the new information into context of the big picture.
It isn’t cheating to read texts aloud.
Read out loud if no audio version is available: If a curriculum that you are using is heavily reading based, read it aloud or have one of your kids who is able, read the selection. Remember that remediation of weak reading ability should not be consuming every moment of your kids day. It will only make all of you frustrated and resistant to doing schoolwork. Do remediate reading with research-based methods but allow your kids the freedom to learn and enjoy their other subjects without the pressure of having every lesson be a reading comprehension and spelling test.
Discuss rather than write. For many dyslexics, writing is painstaking experience. Difficulty spelling and forming letters results in answers that are far below a student’s intellectual ability. Take those review questions at the end of a chapter and discuss them out loud with your students. If time is an issue, pick only a few of the questions. You will be amazed at how much learning and connecting is going on in your student’s mind. Another alternative, especially for middle and high school-aged students is to use a speech-to-text app that can convert their spoken responses into text on a computer or tablet. See our Resources Page for links to some of this type of technology.
Testing comprehension. Another fantastic way to gauge comprehension is to use the gentle art of narration. After reading a passage, have kids tell back what they learned. Ask a few questions here and there to lord their memory if necessary. Narration is and excellent precursor to wiring as it requires the narrator to organize their thoughts and put them into words much like they would do in a written composition. If your kids struggle with recalling specifics, ask questions to guide their thoughts.
If attention is an issue, consider shortening lesson times and stretch a chapter out to fit your child’s attention and interest level. To learn more about the connection between dyslexia and ADD/ADHD, read this post. Checking out related DVDs from the library or finding free videos on subjects that you are studying on line with sources like Kahn Academy, YouTube or BrainPop are great ways to supplement learning in the visual method that dyslexics love. Check out this great, free site for high school biology, Interactive Biology.
Be creative: Because the dyslexic mind prefers feelings and imagination rather over logic and facts, you will need to be creative. If you have been teaching kids with dyslexia for any amount of time, you already know that they don’t do well with rote memorization. Math facts anyone? Creating stories to help memorize math facts or illustrating spelling or vocabulary words will help these ideas to stick. Utilize anything visual that you can to help fact to stick.
Another excellent way to memorize anything from math facts to Bible verses is to put it to song. With a decent Internet connection, you can access You Tube which has lots of FREE educational songs such as this math facts channel.
Think multi-sensory: Using more than one sense while learning helps information to stick. Consider actually doing a science experiment as opposed to reading about it. Which one would provide a more memorable learning experience? Examples of multi sensory techniques are using math manipulatives for building math problems, letter tiles for building and touching words, electronic flashcard apps such as Quizlet for multi-sensory review of terms. Many hands on teaching aids can be made at home very inexpensively.