In This Episode:
How does curriculum impact students with dyslexia? In this episode, we quickly look at the reading wars and how they impact the way reading is taught today.
Then we go deeper into the way curriculums often fail to teach students with dyslexia how to read, and rely on bad habits of guessing the correct answer. The we look at the way structured reading programs teach reading differently.
- Methodologies for Teaching Reading
- What Methods DON'T Work
- Teaching Methods That Work for Kids with Dyslexia
Connect with Lisa Parnello:
- Follow on Instagram @ParnelloEducation
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Hello and welcome to Dyslexia Devoted. The podcast dedicated to building awareness, understanding and strategies to help those with dyslexia. I'm your host Lisa Parnello, dyslexia therapist and founder of Parnello education services. This show features information stories, candid interviews and experiences with dyslexia at all ages. Join me as we dive into today's episode of dyslexia devoted.
Hello, and welcome back. So why have kids with dyslexia struggle so much with learning how to read in school, even when they have experienced teachers? Welcome to episode three of dyslexia devoted where we will be focusing on how the curriculum fails kids with dyslexia. For today's topics, we're going to be going over some of the common methodologies for teaching reading, which ones don't work, and what it is that really does work for kids with dyslexia.
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Jumping on in, let's talk about some of the common methodologies to teaching reading. And to better understand you have to understand the history of it all, which is the start of the reading wars. So the reading wars were going back and forth on which method was better to teach kids with reading. And the debate was between phonics instruction or whole language, phonics instruction being that you teach the letter patterns that help kids know which sounds to say as they're reading words, whole language was the idea that if you expose students to enough rich print, and rich text and show them stories, they will just naturally absorb the ability how to read, what came out of these breeding Wars was this idea of a balanced literacy approach, meaning that they thought that they were taking a kind of a mixture of the two methodologies and trying to find a compromise. And through that, we are starting to see the effects of this compromise, and how it does help some students. But for the majority of students, it is actually not the best strategy. And the latest movement is called The Science of reading. And that comes from the current research that we have that scientists have actually been able to use functional MRI machines and take pictures of kids brains, and be able to see how they're functioning and how learning to read actually works. And they actually have scientific evidence that using more of a phonics and structured literacy approach really does work better. But the problem is, even though we have this research, there's always that disconnect between research and the real world. So researchers live in a lab, they are not actually the ones creating the curriculum most of the time. And so that change can be really slow and trying to convince people to change the way that they've been doing something for years, can be quite difficult. The other big difference is that the publishers own the curriculum market. And if you go to buy any curriculum for an educational system, there's actually only a couple of publishers, I know each time I've tried to buy something for my school or for my private practice, I've gone in, I go to buy it and go oh, that's made by that publisher. And they've come to discover there's only about two or three really major education publishers. So there's this big monopoly on the market, that you don't actually end up with that many choices. So if a certain publisher goes with a certain methodology, all of their curriculum tends to follow somewhere within that general realm. Even if there are slight variances and differences as to how the curriculum looks or what it's called. A lot of times, there's that struggle to really make it different. Even though you think you're buying a different curriculum, a lot of times it follows the same general pattern, along with this monopoly and the publishers only having certain curriculums.
Additionally, there's a problem with the curriculum adoption cycle in most schools. So even if a teacher or school wants to make a change, a lot of times the district has a rule of how often they will replace the curriculum. So when you replace curriculum, it's actually really expensive thing to do. Because you have to buy all the curriculum, and you have to buy the workbooks and the teachers manuals, and you have to train the teachers on what is different about this curriculum than the old curriculum, and how are you supposed to use it, it becomes a really expensive thing. When you're trying to adopt a new curriculum. It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of money. And because of that, districts have often created some sort of rule that they follow, which is a cycle of how often they're going to replace curriculum. And typically, it's every three to five years. And sometimes it depends on what kind of curriculum it is. Sometimes reading math curriculum has a shorter cycle, because it's something that gets tested on state testing, versus things that are not tested on state testing sometimes have a longer cycle they only may replace that every five years. But each district is different and has different rules for how often they do that curriculum adoption. So you really Need to find out what that cycle is and communicate with those people on the committee who are helping select the curriculum, because a lot of times when they pick curriculum, they have a set committee of employees that work at the district or out of school that go through and they look at the different kinds of curriculum, and then they make a choice of which one they're going to adopt in the next adoption cycle. So if you want to advocate for change, that would be a really great option is to find out who's on that curriculum committee and try to advocate to them personally for change. Because if you are advocating to somebody who has nothing to do with a curriculum adoption, it's not really going to help you. What are you going to advocate for exactly, that jumps into our next point, is looking at what kind of curriculums do not work for kids with dyslexia. So what doesn't work for kids with dyslexia? reading curriculum that doesn't work for kids with dyslexia often will include three queueing systems. So what is a three cueing system? Generally, it's this idea of using these three questions to help a student when they get stuck on a word, which would be does it make sense? Does it sound right? And does it look right? And those cues are really helpful if you have a strategy to go attack a word if those questions don't make sense? And you say, Oh, nope, it doesn't make sense. It doesn't look right doesn't sound right. But when that is your only strategy, is to guess based on whether it sounds right looks right or making sense. It doesn't really help if the student doesn't have a strategy on how to attack that word. So what happens when there's no more pictures, a lot of times students will suddenly start to struggle as soon as they hit fourth grade. And it's that idea that in the elementary grades, you learn how to read, and then fourth grade and up, it's reading to learn new concepts. But in addition to that, there's also the fact that the books suddenly have a lot less pictures, chapter books sometimes have no pictures at all, or they might have one decorative picture, it's not really one that you can use to guess the words in the story. And if you're reading a science, or a history textbook, there's concepts that you know nothing about. So you can't actually guess what the word is based on the context clues of the sentence. And there aren't going to be any pictures to help you guess what that story is going to be about. Because it's not a story. It's nonfiction. And so it's full of facts and information. And if you don't know how to sound out those words, and how to attack those unfamiliar concepts, then what are you going to do then? What if we change the way students are taught to read, but let's look at some of those common ways that curriculum is used to teach kids to read in those elementary classrooms. Some of the most common curriculums used in classrooms use alphabetic levels to decide what level of a reader that student is. So it might say that a are a level A reader, a level B. They're now on level K, and using that alphabet to measure their levels, but you have to take a peek at what's inside those leveled readers. The way that they are leveled has nothing to do with the spelling patterns in them and the student's ability to sound out words. Within those books, a lot of it is based on how simple the sentences are. So I see the cat I see the dog, I see the gorilla, I see the snowplow, if you took away all of those pictures, could the student read any of those words, and how many spelling patterns are there. So if you had cat, there is a short vowel. If you have gorilla, there's our our control vowel. And if we have snow plow, then you've got some vowel teams in there. And so even though each of the sentences is really simple, it's not actually something that is easy thing for students to read. What happens when there's no more pictures? What happens when you're reading about topics you're not familiar with? That's when students hit a struggle point, they hit that point where they can't read it, because they were never taught how to read the words, they were taught how to guess the words instruct us strategies to figure out what the word probably says. And that's not going to be something that they can keep relying on. After they get out of those early elementary grades. They're expected to guess them and not sound them out. I know when I was teaching in a public school long ago, we had to do these running records using the leveled readers. And one of the teachers is like, yeah, go ahead and start on level D,
the level C book is harder than the level D book. Our kids always mess up on that one. But then they ended up passing the level D book. And that just seemed crazy to me. How is these benchmark books that are supposed to measure the kids progress, not even leveled in a way that makes sense. And part of it has to do with I was teaching at a title one school, and the kids were learning about unfamiliar topics in the level C book, it was something they had no experience with whatsoever. They were in a low income community and whatever what they were talking about in the book, had nothing to do with their real lives. I think there was something about a yacht and there's no way kids in a desert had ever seen a yacht before. It was something that we just jumped ahead to the level D book because a lot of times they could pass that book. And now that I've moved further along in my career, I'm starting to realize that some of those strategies I used it was because of the curriculum that I was handed it was because of the way I was taught to teach the kids how to read and the way that I was taught To help them, sound out the words and figure out what the words on the page said, I know I can make change now, so that maybe future teachers will be able to make better decisions. Even if they get handed a different kind of curriculum, maybe they can learn some new things, so that they can help kids learn how to read in a way that when I was early teaching, I wasn't really able to do. The other idea is that some of these balanced literacy programs teach some phonics, but when it's taught, it isn't taught enough. And it isn't taught to mastery. So mastery being the idea that when a student approaches that word, in any context, they can read it, not they were taught for a week, and then the next week, they were taught a new skill. And the next week, they were taught a new skill. It's the idea that they learn a skill, and they keep working on it until they get really good at it. And then you learn the new skill, it is not following a specific calendar, it is following student need. And that is something that often doesn't happen in a classroom, purely for logistics, because when you have 30 kids in a room, you can't go with the exact speed of every single child. But a lot of times you can attack it in that small group instruction, and keep targeting that skill with that child until they get it and then you move on to the next skill. So even if you're teaching the whole class as a particular skill, when you have that breakout into small groups time, you should really be teaching to mastery of skills. And that often isn't happening with a lot of the curriculums because teachers use the curriculum they're handed. So if they have that curriculum, and it doesn't give them an intervention program that matches it to try to fill in gaps where kids are lacking in skills, it really doesn't help them.
We've talked about a lot of things that don't work for kids with dyslexia. So what does work? Now this is the golden part of our conversation today is looking for programs that do work for our kids. And that is using a structured literacy approach. So structured literacy is a term coined by the International Dyslexia Association. And it's the idea that we need explicit instruction on the patterns within words, not memorization. And understanding that once you learn the pattern, you can apply it to any word, not just an arbitrary list of words, it is often referred to as the science of reading in a new movement. Because that science of reading is based on all of that new research that shows us teaching students more explicitly how to read is more effective in the long term. In the structure literacy approach, one of the things is using phonemic awareness activities. But in order to understand it, you have to understand that a phoneme is our smallest unit of sound. And so they learn how to manipulate sounds. So for example, a student would hear the word SAP and you would say, add a bowl after this sound, what do you get, and they would say, oh, slap, slap, and they will learn how to manipulate sounds within words. And for students with dyslexia, that can be incredibly difficult. So that's actually not the level you would start with, you would start with simple things like the initial sounds and changing the beginning letters, and then the end letters, then after the students get better, or sometimes in conjunction, they might do them in parallel, they will work on phonics, they will use a clear scope and sequence of all of the patterns that they want the students to learn. And they work on them until they develop a sense of mastery, and they know how to do them before they move on to the next one. Because that scope and sequence is relying on the idea that each pattern builds on the one before it so you don't go any faster. Because otherwise, if they're missing some of those basic patterns, when you get to the more complicated patterns, it doesn't make sense anymore. So you really have to slowly build up. And as they build up their skills, then they can develop mastery. It doesn't matter if their books don't have pictures anymore. Or if they're reading about unfamiliar topics, they will still know how to sound out those words. In that instruction. The students are not only following that clear scope and sequence and the patterns that build on themselves. They are also learning about sound in different directions.
So students will learn how to read based on the patterns of the letters they see on the page and what sounds those letters represent. And then they also shall learn how to do it in reverse. Have you ever seen a student as they're trying to write a story, they never go, I'm going to go, "camping, C A M P I N G." They go, I'm going to go cam and C am p Ng, and they say the sounds. And so it's really important that the students know how to go both directions. And they can go from speech to print as well so that when they hear a particular sound, they know what spelling options they have for what that sound looks like on paper. Additionally, students also need to know what sounds look like in the mouth. And so when a student is learning how to read some of the more common ones that you will often see is the difference between an F and a th and what sounds those represent. And the students need to be able to see and feel what those sounds look like. So even just this past week, I was working really hard with a student who only made the F sound he would always go and that would say for the same thing whether I was going to say the word fun or the word think when really he meant to say I think, and he didn't really understand that there were two different sounds, and that they look and feel different in your mouth. And so we had to do a lot of work together on what does that look like Haven held up my phone with a camera turn on facing him so that he could see what his mouth looked like because I couldn't find a mirror. So usually we use a mirror for that, so that students can see it. But if all else fails, use what you have around you, right? It took me three days to teach him what a T H looks like in your mouth. Because hearing those slightly different sounds becomes really challenging for students. Because they sound quite similar, you have to come at it at a different approach. There is one student I used to work with several years ago, who had terrible phonemic awareness, he couldn't hear the sounds within words to save his life. And it took me forever just to teach this group of kids a three letter words. And what finally got to them is really showing them the mouth patterns of what does that sound look like in your mouth? What should it look like, I kept working with that student. And then after he had gone and left our school, the parent asked me to work with him one summer, just to keep reinforcing the skills that he had learned with me several years before. And we were working together. And all of a sudden he goes, Do you know, I can actually read lips for a long time. I went, what? What are you talking about? He goes, because when you were teaching me, that's how you taught me how to read is by looking at the lips. And what they say. And you taught me when I went to go spell something is to look at the person's mouth, and look at what shapes their mouth is making. And then that would help me spell the words. But in addition to that, I also learned how to read lips. And so now I know what all those sounds look like on the mouth. And I can read lips. So I thought that was a really interesting thing, because I didn't really put the connection together because I was using the mouth shapes for a completely different purpose. I didn't think about using it for lip reading. But whatever works, right? Sometimes there are some added benefits to when you're teaching new skills. When we are working on this, it's also important to work on meaning and comprehension. So I go deeper into this into my new online course that will help you learn more about dyslexia and structured reading programs. So be sure to check it out at Parnelloeducation.com. And I'm putting the link for that in the show notes. In that online course it breaks it down into the different parts of structured literacy programs. So if you want to learn more about that, and how to help students, if they're already getting instruction for structured reading programs at school, it's something that's really hard to explain to parents because it's something that those of us who specialized in dyslexia it took us literal years to learn how to do it. And so it's not something I can just do on a podcast episode. So there's a whole online course for it. If you would like to learn a little bit more about how these structured reading programs work.
If you would like to see some lists of some structured literacy programs on the International Dyslexia Association website, you can not only find some approved programs to help kids with dyslexia. But you can also find a list of providers who are trained in it. So you can find dyslexia specialists in your area that can maybe help your students. So if your student is at a school, and they're not getting the support that they need, then you can at least find some approved curriculum or a train tutor that can help your child, even if perhaps the school that they're at isn't able to even better, you can advocate for change by working with your school, and their curriculum adoption committee to try to get them to adopt some curriculums that help kids with dyslexia, that is also going to be in the show notes. Alright, so let's take a moment to recap our big topics for today. So the first one is that curriculums can make a really big difference in what students learn and teach and balanced literacy approaches don't provide instruction for students with dyslexia in the way that they need. And students with dyslexia really need a structured reading program, and instruction that teaches them the actual phonics patterns as well as the phonemic awareness to better learn how to read and sound out words when it's unfamiliar topics, as well as going with a speech to print model where a student learns what the sounds are and what patterns make those sounds when you're trying to write them down of how do we represent those sounds on paper. If you want to learn more about dyslexia and the details about those structured reading programs, be sure to check out my online course that is linked in the show notes. Thank you for joining me in our latest episode of dyslexia devoted See you next time.
Thanks for listening to today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Join us for our next episode by subscribing to this podcast as we did about each episode to different aspects of dyslexia. See you next time.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai