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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

Teaching Vocabulary to Dyslexic Learners!

There are various aspects of learning that need to be nurtured from an early age. Building vocabulary and its effective application are one of them. ‘According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), not only does the amount of reading “for fun” outside of school directly correlate to academic achievement but there are numerous other studies to demonstrate that there is no better way to increase vocabulary than independent reading.’ (source)

There are mostly 2 major types of vocabulary lessons-

- Receptive vocabulary- Reading and Listening

- Expressive vocabulary- Speaking and Writing

Reading might be a challenge for many dyslexic learners. It is harder and slower for dyslexic students. So, they typically read less. Dyslexics often encounter a gap between their reading level and their intellectual level. They take time to understand, interpret and comprehend any type of language lesson. Moreover, the traditional approach of teaching might not be helpful for them.

Hence, let us look at some of the different methods that can be helpful while teaching vocabulary to dyslexic learners.

Go step by step: Teaching a whole lot of words together might be the right idea. Rather go slow like introducing 4 to 6 words in a lesson.

Use multisensory methods to teach words: Simply, telling or spelling the word out will be difficult for them to grasp. Rather, try to engage all their senses to understand the word like touch.

Reading aloud: Reading aloud helps to develop the building blocks of reading comprehension. Kids are able to discover new vocabulary, and make connections. When children are read to they usually come up with questions.

Teach in word-groups: Start using simple methods like show then how changing one letter can create new words like cat, mat, bat, sat. At one level up, they can be introduced to variations of a single word like fresh, refresh, freshen, freshly, etc.

Illustrating New words: Vocabulary can be learned best when it involves having students draw a symbolic or realistic representation of the word. It requires them to understand the meaning and then draw and one can’t fake a picture. This also helps them to remember the word better.

Acting Out a Word: Dyslexic learners will probably remember what they see and enjoy more than any other method. So try to act to words. This is like playing charades which is both fun and interesting. This is a great way to review vocabulary words in a group of students.

Writing a story using vocabulary words: Dyslexic learners remember things much better when the information has a context or a narrative attached. So, when kids are asked to use all the words on their vocabulary list to write a story, they come up with their own imaginative ideas and also understand the context.

Teach in the context: Context matters a lot for dyslexic students to understand and remember information by relating facts to larger ideas. In order for information to be understood and remembered, it needs to be attached to an idea. And this is true for vocabulary as well.

Talk about synonyms: This can be at the next level after they have grasped a few words. Explain how different words can have the same meaning and can be used in different contexts.

This is a level-wise classification of how vocabulary can be taught to dyslexic learners. (source)

Level One- These should be words that are used in daily language, spoken repeatedly, and are used in different ways in our daily lives. They are basic words such as sight words, words for early readers, and others. For example- sad, funny.

Level Two- These words can be taught as vocabulary or you could pick it up from reading. They are mostly of high frequency and for more mature users. They can also have multiple meanings. For example- consider, inseparable

Level Three- These words consist of vocabulary from specialized disciplines or occupations. This could include business or academic vocabulary.

Level Four- These words are infrequently used and are generally obscure.


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