If you are the parent of a child with Dyslexia, chances are you’ve probably witnessed time and again the struggle of learning spellings; even the most common of words can be really difficult for them to remember. Dyslexic children have a harder time learning the common high frequency words (HFW – these are the common sight words that they will come across frequently in reading and writing), especially those that are the exception to spelling rules. These can be such a problem to them. By remembering that children with dyslexia learn differently, we can help by teaching them differently.
1) Break it down, down, down…
Look at the spelling of words by breaking them down into really small details. When you are teaching a dyslexic child a new word, read it aloud and get them to repeat it. Look at each letter in the word.
Ask your child to point out the vowels they see. What is the first letter of the word? What is at the end? Which letters are in the middle? If we help the child to look in this detail, we help them to process it and internalise it with more success.
2) Little and Often
Introduce one or two words at a time to your child. One a day is a good rate, but no more than 10 at a time. Look at them in detail. When you are confident they know a word, introduce a new one. This will make sure they are not overwhelmed and will give them a better chance to succeed.
3) Mnemonics – memory tricks
You’ve probably heard of some little memory aids used to help with spellings. For example, look at the word ‘because’ - big elephants can’t always use small exits. It also has the word use at the end, as well as within the silly saying. Remember when we discussed small details?!
4) Seek out sensory spelling
Dyslexic children learn better through a multi-sensory approach. Use the senses to help them. Write the word in a tray or box of sand/ sugar/ salt. Write the word in the air with their finger. Roll it out in playdough. Get them to ‘write’ the letters with their finger on your back. Get them to say the letters in the word as they write it.
5) Throw some shapes
Not on the dance floor, but around the word!
Ask the child to look for tall letters, long letters. Where do they appear in the word? Can they match words to their shapes, like a type of ‘outline jigsaw’?
6) Paint a picture
Some people find it helps to draw a picture where the word is incorporated into the image. Again, the child will visualise the shape when remembering the spelling of the word.
7) Wipe it out and start again…
Use a whiteboard and pens, or chalk and a blackboard. Have your child practice writing each word after they have had the opportunity to ‘rehearse’ them by writing them in the air, looking at shapes etc. Check it against the correct spelling. Can they see which letters they have remembered? Where are any mistakes? Rub out the errors and correct them. Have the child trace over the top of the correct spelling and say the letters aloud. Rub it out and repeat!
8) Be a book detective
Grab a book that your child is currently working on from school. Can they find their high frequency words in the book? This will help them see how often these words will appear in everyday reading and writing. Read the book together and praise them when they read the target words correctly – a little praise goes a long way in building their confidence.
9) Tap into Technology
Kids are almost always interested when computers are involved, so make use of them and use their enthusiasm to your advantage. There are plenty of good free apps and websites to help with spelling. A favourite of mine are the Prim-Ed Spelling Workbooks, downloaded from http://www.prim-ed.com/webshop/downloads.