Saturday, November 20, 2010

Un-sticking - strategies to help children with dyslexic type learning needs get over hurdles

Some children, no matter what methods their teachers try, find it incredibly hard to grasp the concept of breaking down words into parts. This can make the whole process of reading and spelling frustrating and demoralising for both student and teacher. 

Sometimes, no matter what, children get "stuck". They cannot seem to get past one of the first hurdles of reading and spelling - using onset (the first sound/letter in a word) and rime (the remaining letters that make up the final sound) to break down and build words. 

Sometimes something as simple as breaking down "cat" into "c" / "at" is too hard. For some children the letter shapes and letter sound correspondences do not come easily. So what do we do when a child that is on a par with their peers in many areas simply cannot get past this sticking point?

A strategy that I have been using with some of my students in this position is something called "The Trans-Atlantic Order of Sounds". This is an idea that I picked up recently from a Neil Mackay (UK Dyslexia expert) workshop. 

It is a strategy that I have introduced into my one on one Learning Support sessions across the age ranges. It is working really well to "un-stick" students whose confidence is at rock bottom around their reading and spelling skills.

I have put the grid (see below) together myself from the brief notes I took from the workshop and I think this is the general gist of the concept (click on grid to make it larger).
  The grid is made up of 7 onsets, 5 initial blends and 22 rimes. By putting letters together from the left column and top row we make simple words e.g p + it = pit.
By working through the grid (one colour coded column at a time) a child can gradually build up a bank of 94 words that they can confidently read and spell. 

The words are not taught in isolation but many different multi-sensory strategies are used in Learning Support sessions to help the child make sense of letter sounds, word structure and word meaning. 

I have so far only concentrated on one colour coded column over two or three thirty minute support sessions. For some students the Trans-Atlantic Order of Sounds strategy makes up a unit of work for a whole term during Learning Support sessions and can be extended into classroom programmes.

Although the words themselves are no more than 2,3,4 or 5 letters in length there has been plenty of scope to extend older students. Some words such as k + in = kin and 
sk + it = skit have provided many opportunities for a child to learn new vocabulary and to shine orally when using these newly discovered words in verbal sentence construction.

Here are some examples of strategies used around this concept to begin the process of "un-sticking".
Here the onset letter or blend is made with cards and the rime written on a whiteboard. A sentence is discussed and written with the teacher writing the majority and the student adding the relevant word and a supporting illustration.

Here letters are "hung" out on a washing line to create the word.
Here letter cards are attached to musical instruments. The different notes or sounds correspond to onsets and rimes. The children close their eyes and try to match an instrument sound to a letter sound. Playing the two sounds together is a kinaestheic way to bring the sounds together to create the word and commit the onset and rime patterns to memory.
The word was used here in conjunction with a picture part made from clay. This is so the child can match the a visual image to a word.
After using several multi-sensory methods the child steadily builds up confidence to read and spell the words that they are learning. Children often begin to use the process to add more words that do not appear on the list of 94 words (such as "thin" and "win" to the "in" column) because they are starting to make sense of the onset/rime concept.
Making the words from objects that are fun to manipulate such as buttons works really well.
Making the onset and rime words from plasticine (making sure the onset is one colour and the rime is another) and adding an illustration to explain the meaning of the word also works very well. 

These resources made with a child in one session can easily be used with a younger child in a subsequent session that may find making them too difficult.

Finally, taking quick snapshots like these during the sessions and compiling a scrapbook is a fantastic way of revisiting words and concepts and really gives the child a sense of achievement over time.

I use many different strategies and concepts in my Learning Support sessions but the Trans-Atlantic Order of Sounds is proving an effective way to "un-stick" those children who are not responding to many other methods.

1 comment:

  1. Your mind is a wellspring of creativity and fun activities. My little boys will definitely enjoy all these activities.