How should spelling be taught?

From dyslexiahelp.umich.edu

Phonological awareness affects learning to spell

Given that many dyslexics have difficulty hearing the individual sounds in our language—a skill that underlies spelling—many dyslexics have difficulty learning to spell.

The English orthography is derived from many other languages: Greek, Latin, and French to name a few. As a result, many English sounds are spelled more than one way. This makes learning to spell in English more difficult than in other alphabetic orthographies where one sound is represented by only one letter.

Yet, English spelling is rule-governed. It is estimated by some that 90% of English spellings are predictable based on spelling rules and patterns. Yes, there are exceptions to those rules, but there are rules and patterns to teach spelling.

That said, teaching spelling can be challenging. It is helpful to become familiar with morphological structures, roots, affixes, prefixes, and suffixes.

Take a look at this Wikipedia page for a great look at the complex nature of English orthography.

he first step is an assessment of spelling to determine where the breakdown is — at the syllable level, the phonemic level, or the orthorgraphis level. After establishing baseline and goals, a good next step when teaching spelling rules and combinations is to heighten your client’s awareness of his or her spelling strengths and weaknesses. Explain that through teaching he or she will gain a better insight into spelling rules, combinations, and exceptions.

Spelling instruction follows a logical progression that starts with phonemic awareness. If the error analysis demonstrates intact phonological awareness skills, skip right to teaching letter and letter combinations that represent the sounds in our language. In the English language, 44 sounds (phonemes) are represented by 26 letters (graphemes) or letter combinations. It is important to teach your client that when we spell we manipulate the word (i.e. take it apart) into its individual sounds or morphological units and then encode or transform those sounds or units into the letter or letters representing each sound or unit. There is a lot to think about when teaching spelling: syllable structure, spelling rules, homophones, silent letters, suffixes and prefixes, to name a few.

The following is a list of guidelines for teaching spelling:

  • As with all therapy or teaching, sessions need to be structured, sequential, and have a logical progression from one target to the next. Lessons should be cumulative, ensuring that new information is introduced only when previously taught material has been fully absorbed.
  • In the first or early treatment sessions, make sure the client has a secure understanding of sound-symbol correspondence and letter name knowledge. You may need to begin with phonological awareness tasks – taking words apart at the syllable and sound level.
  • Dividing words into syllables can help students identify spelling patterns at the morphological level.
  • Limit the introduction of new information to reduce confusion.
  • An awareness of morphology should be incorporated into the teaching of spelling from the earliest stages.
  • Teaching should encompass the integration of
    • spoken and written language
    • word, sentence, and text-level learning
    • reading and writing skills.
  • Do not teach too many spelling patterns within a lesson. For example, you might decide to contrast –tion versus –sion in a lesson. This will require acute attention to the verbal production of “shun” (-tion) as in “production” versus “zhun” (-sion) as in “lesion.” And then, what do you do with “expansion” and “seizure?”

A bit about the exceptions to the rules—A person with dyslexia can be at a disadvantage, particularly when learning the exceptions, not only because of the phonological deficit that underlies the disability, but because of a lack of access to the printed word. One way we learn exceptions to spellings is by being exposed to these words when reading. Given that reading is difficult, the dyslexic will have less exposure to words through the printed form. And, they’ll have less exposure to sophisticated vocabulary.

Therefore, it behooves us to expose the dyslexic to as much sophisticated written text as possible. Text-to-speech programs are an excellent way for the dyslexic to follow along and have the text read out loud. When using books on tape, the individual should always read along with the text. This will give more exposure to spelling patterns, particularly important for learning those exceptions to the rule.

Additionally, seeing the word in print also helps one use Spellcheck. For some dyslexics with more severe spelling problems, the goal may be to become proficient enough that Spellcheck will pick up their errors. But, they still need to know which word from the choices is the one they want. Exposure to the word in print will facilitate this skill.

As noted above, we need to take a systematic approach to teaching spelling.

Although learning to spell (and teaching spelling) may be challenging, it helps to keep in mind that just as with any task (e.g., becoming a football player or learning an instrument), becoming proficient takes hard work and practice. With a systematic approach, the rules, patterns, and anomalies of English spelling can be learned. Success starts here!

Dyslexia Friendly Schools

“If a child does not learn in the way in which we teach then we must teach him in the way in which he learns. Let dyslexia be looked at from a different angle, not as a learning disability but a different learning ability.”  (Pollack, J.,Waller)

Dyslexia friendly schools are schools that recognize a specific learning difficulty as a learning difference. These schools make an effort to include and support dyslexic students. These schools recognize that a dyslexic student learns in a different manner, and places an effort in empowering the child to deal with his writing difficulties. In non-friendly dyslexia schools, dyslexic children are seen as having something “wrong” that requires special treatment.

A dyslexia friendly school invests in educating their staff regarding on how to identify a dyslexic child’s specific learning challenges, and how to empower such a child with a learning environment supportive of his learning capabilities. The staff is guided to demonstrate sensitivity to the emotional state and self-esteem of the dyslexic student. For example, if a dyslexic child demonstrates confidence in his oral capabilities, the teacher is guided to provide the dyslexic child opportunities to regularly demonstrate this strength. If a dyslexic child begins to fall behind, then the teacher is guided to recommend special tutoring to minimize the learning gap.

A dyslexia friendly school also invests in building a close channel of communication with the child’s parents, actively communicating to them the progress and difficulties encountered by the child. The staff guides the parents regarding how to receive additional support and help.

In a dyslexia friendly school, teachers are guided to adopt a set of practices that if observed on a regular basis will alleviate the day-to-day struggle of the dyslexia child. These include:

  • Always write things on the board early, as dyslexic are slower in copying assignments to their notebooks. This problem becomes more severe if the student is under stress.
  • Make sure the student was successful in copying all his assignments to his notebook.
  • Don’t force the student to read out loud, unless you are sure that he wants to.
  • Place the student near the front and next to a good sitting student “neighbor”, so that distractions are reduced to a minimum.
  • Allow and encourage dyslexic students to use computers, so that their can correct their writing with advanced writing assistive programs (such as Ghotit)
  • Make sure that the dyslexic student understands what his is reading. Constant discussion of the meaning of the text is important, and should be performed regularly.
  • If required give the dyslexic child additional exam time, as dyslexic children tend to read and write more slowly than their peers.
  • … And most importantly, never laugh at the mistakes of a dyslexic child, or allow other students to do so. On the contrary, make an effort to praise their efforts and successes.

Comments with additional recommendations for a dyslexic friendly school would be appreciated …

Ten Reasons Why It Is Difficult for a Person with Dyslexia to Spell Correctly

Spelling with dyslexia is not an easy play:

1)  It is difficult for a person with dyslexia to break words into phonemes/discrete sounds.

2)  The more phonemes/discrete sounds a word possesses, the bigger the challenge of deconstructing a word correctly to its phonemes.

3)  It is more difficult for a person with dyslexia to deconstruct the “middle” phonemes of a word, rather than the first and last phonemes.

4)  It is difficult for a person with dyslexia to associate sounds to letters that make up the sound.

5)  People with dyslexia tend to reverse letters in words (e.g. “on” instead of “no”).

6)  People with dyslexia tend to confuse letters that are visually similar (e.g. “bad” instead of “dad”).

7) People with dyslexia tend to confuse letters that sound similar. (e.g. “sity” instead of “city”).

8 ) People with dyslexia do not have strong visual memory for spelling. For example they will not be able to distinguish from memory the correct spelling of the word of “meet” versus the word “meat”.

9) People with dyslexia have difficulty to gain meaning from text.

10) Regular spell checkers are not “optimized” to understand and correct the spelling of a dyslexic.

For a solution, look at Ghotit Real Writer and Reader specifically designed for those with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

Albert Einstein Interviewed about Dyslexia

The following is an interview performed by Ofer Chermesh, the founder of Ghotit, the leading writing and reading assistive technology for dyslexics, and Mr. Albert Einstein that suffers from learning disability like many other famous people, the man synonymous with the word GENIUS and the world’s most famous dyslexic. All of Mr. Albert Einstein texts are exact quotes.

Ofer: Thank you, Mr. Albert Einstein, for joining this interview. And thank you also very much for being a dyslexic genius. One of the major misconceptions that people have is that people with dyslexia have a lower intelligence. That is ridiculous of course…

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe”.

Ofer: Your son Hans Einstein has be quoted as saying that your “ teachers reported that . . . you were mentally slow, unsociable, and adrift forever in his foolish dreams”. How do you describe your experiences at school and with your teachers?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Most teachers waste their time by asking questions which are intended to discover what a pupil does not know. Whereas the true art of questioning has for its purpose to discover what the pupil knows or is capable of knowing”.

Ofer: Any insights for dyslexics who are struggling with their studies at school?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school”. “The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

Ofer: You know, Ghotit, the company I have founded offers a unique spelling and grammar checker. It offers a solution that I as a heavy dyslexic have been dreaming about my whole life. What guidance can you provide for Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Ofer: Developing an intelligent spell checker that offers word suggestions based on the context of the sentence has taken a longer time then expected?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity!”

Ofer: So what do you see in the future of Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “I never think of the future. It comes soon enough.”

Ofer: Any business recommendations for Ghotit?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”

Ofer: Any final words?

Mr. Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”.

* Nobody really knows if Einstein was indeed dyslexic.

Since we published this blog, we have learned about its popularity. I wonder why so many dyslexics look with admiration at Einstein?

I believe that the following solution would have been appealing to Mr. Albert  Einstein.

 

Understanding how dyslexics write

 

7 Tips for Living Successfully with Dyslexia

I have read articles about people who were able to beat dyslexia. I cheer these people…

I, though diagnosed relatively early in my live, and having both my parents and myself invest a lot of time, effort and money in treating my dyslexia, was never able to beat my dyslexia. Rather, I learned to live with my Dyslexia.

Here are my seven tips of how you can live successfully with your dyslexia:

1)      Practice, practice & practice reading – till you can enjoy reading a good book, or read up on all required work materials. For some, audio reading solutions can help in improving their reading capabilities.

2)      Gain your reading and writing independence – find the right reading and writing assistive solutions. Solutions like Ghotit, enable even heavy dyslexics to independently produce correctly written text as well as read any text.

3)     Keep up to date of new technologies/inventions – the technological world is leapfrogging. Today having computer access is quite easy, and the internet provides a direct route to knowledge of all new findings and developments for dyslexics. Keep up to date of these changes/developments as you may one day find that these new innovations may dramatically change the quality of your life.

4)      Know when is the right time to “divulge” your dyslexia – Dyslexia is not a disease, but there are quite a few misconceptions that people have about dyslexia. Raising an “I Have Dyslexia Flag” it not always in your best interest. Fine-tune your detection capabilities to determine when is the best time to share with others your “dyslexic” condition.

5)      Re-gain your social confidence– many times dyslexics attending regular educational institutes lose their social confidence during their school years. Schools usually grade students based on the weaker aspects of a dyslexic – his reading and writing abilities. To succeed in life, you must regain your social confidence…

6)      Learn your strengths – People with dyslexia are not the worlds’ most accomplished readers and writers. In a world focused on the written word, dyslexics have a major disadvantage.  However, dyslexics usually boast of high intelligence and “big-picture” / strategic thinking. Learn your strengths, as these must be leveraged in your real-life struggles to compete with those common non-dyslexics :-).

7)      Never ever ever give up – You must always believe in your abilities and to quote the famous Charlie Brown – simply “Never ever ever give up”. The world is full of people who have lost because they simply gave up. But we the dyslexics, who have been struggling more or less from elementary school, are trained for the struggle. We have been trained for disappointments and the ability to overcome these disappointments. We are the ones who shall teach the others to “Never Ever Ever Give Up”.

I will be happy to hear  ideas for “How to Overcome Dyslexia”

Least and not least don’t feel sorry for yourself and smile – it really helps

A new insight I received form my daughter try again and again to convince the person you are working/studding to look at things differently.

How The Brain of a Person with Dyslexia Works Differently

I recently came across a short video that provides a simple description of how the brain of a person with dyslexia works differently. I was impressed with the simplicity of the explanation. Here is a short recap.

3 Key Areas of the in the left side of the Brain that work simultaneously:

1) Phoneme Recognizer: Area used to sounding words out loud in our brain and breaking down words to similar sounds, known as phonemes (Example: the sound of the letter “T”).

2) Word Analyzer: Area used for analyzing words even more, analyzing together word syllables and phonemes (Example: the sound of “Ti” and “ger”)

3) Word Detector: Area responsible for detecting word forms, allowing to instantly recognize words without having to sound them out

People with Dyslexia, have problem to get access to both the Word Analyzer and the Word Detector. This may cause them to compensate and rely more heavily on sounding out words. Dyslexics may compensate by using the right side of the brain that takes visual cues from story pictures  to decipher words.

Here is a link to my previous Ghotit Blog My Dyslexia and Phonological Processing

And for a relieve, look at Ghotit Real Writer and Reader designed for those with Dyslexia and Dysgraphia.

A Dyslexic Spell Checker – Holic

A few days ago I went to sort out some open bureaucracy issue. After an hour of presenting my case to the clerk, the clerk handed me a form and I was asked to write on the spot my request. Suddenly I felt sweat all over me – I had just encountered my worse fear – I must write a letter without any spell checker assistance.

I started writing the letter, and after a few minutes I looked at the paper and saw that my worst nightmare had come true. The paper looked graphically like it had suffered a tsunami… the lines were so crooked … the size of the letters uneven… the paper full of words that I had absolutely no idea if I had spelled correctly, but being familiar with my spelling track record, assumed were spelled completely wrong… The language too was really plain and dull as I tried to express myself in words which I had some confidence that I could spell right…

When I reread what I wrote, I felt that the overall presentation of my case was really poor, and that I would not get very far with such a written request… I quietly approached the clerk, and told him that I had to run and that I would return with the written request soon… Of course I was running off to my computer with my word processor and friendly spell checker…

I am not used to writing any more with a pen and paper. I believe that is true for many of us who perform most of their writing using a computer. As a heavy dyslexic, I have struggled my whole life with very poor spelling. My spelling is so poor, that I even found conventional spell checker not providing the assistance I required. I finally went and developed (with assistance of course) a spell checker optimized for people like me, for people with dyslexia. And today following this paper-writing exercise, I must admit that I have become a true Spell Checker – Holic – I just cannot write anymore without a friendly SpellChecker at my side…

Disabled – maybe… but the disability appears only in very rare occasions, and when I have my friendly spellchecker at my side I can write my case as well as anyone else…

Try the Ghotit SpellChecker at: www.ghotit.com

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Adult Dyslexics – Follow Technology Trends

I am an adult dyslexic in his early 40’s. Personal desktop computers made their household entrance during the 80’s, about the time I was in high-school. So from high school onwards, computers have accompanied my life. Younger adults in their 20’s and 30’s may have had computers introduced into their lives since elementary school.

There is no arguing the fact that computer technology has leaped forward in the past 30 years. Moore’s Law that predicted that computer power would double itself every 2 years or so has proven it correct since the early 1970s till this very day. Current Cloud Computing paradigms, enabling consumers to purchase computing and storage resources based on a utility consumption model (such as the consumption of electricity) from huge computer farms owned by the likes of Google and Amazon forebodes the next revolution in computing technology.

From the software side, dramatic advances are also continuously taking place. Open Source Code has enabled core infrastructure software components such as Operating Systems, Databases, Development Environments etc. to be widely available at low cost. Software trends such as the publishing of Application Programmer’s Interfaces (APIs) and developing Software Oriented Architecture (SOA) has made external software components suddenly interoperable and “meshed”-enabled with other software components.

So what does all this have to do with adult dyslexics and giving their writing another chance?

Well, I know many adult dyslexics that have struggled with their writing for years (myself included). They have worked with various built-in Word Processors’ spell-checkers. Usually at certain points in their education or careers they have even investigated and tried specialized dyslexia text correction solutions.

However, at a certain point, these adults have settled into a self-defined routine of working around their spelling and writing limitations. Their disappointments in finding a real working solution for their writing turn them off from continuing to seek a working solution. In a sense, they have given up hope in finding a truly effective solution.

But here is where the technological advances listed above come to play. The new technological innovations being introduced at a phenomenal pace bring with them new capabilities that may dramatically change the quality and effectiveness of assistive technologies, and writing assistive technologies in particular.

Ghotit develops innovative writing software for people with dyslexia. As a founder of Ghotit, I can confidently say that an offering like Ghotit could not have been delivered to the market 2 years earlier, without the dramatic technological leaps described above.

It is difficult to change ones’ habits, even more so for somebody that has tried so in the past and has been disappointed…

But the reward here is great…

The reward is acquiring the capabilities to dramatically improve ones’ communication skills and to convert ones’ poorly spelled writing to mainstream writing.

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