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Effective Supports and Approaches Related to Dyslexia

 I have been using two main approaches to help  learners who struggle with de-coding in my class this year 2013.

  The Davis Approach is whole word learning.  It teaches the learner how to focus attention using a visual technique.  This approach uses the strengths of the learner.

 Multi-lit,which is a phonics, sound based learning approach.  It spends time building up the weakest area of the learner teaching them to hear and identify sounds in words.

 When I asked my 9 learners which method they preferred, seven choose the Davis Method and 2 the Multi-lit.  

 Details of the Davis Approach that I used in Class

 Firstly, I taught each child to gain attention through one of two methods.  Either “Hands on Shoulders” or “Minds eye on dot”  (both these are explained in the book).   Plus Release which is like deep breathing and Dial, which is like energy levels  up or down - being in control of being more awake and energized or the opposite - calm and slowed down.  These 3 things are called “Focus Tools”.

Secondly, we learnt the alphabet both lower and upper case by making each letter out of clay and mastering it.  To master a letter the student uses their focus tools.  They say the letter’s name plus something beginning with the letter.  Time is spent on letters which appear similar making sure that the learner can identify each one.

Thirdly, we started learning Trigger Words.  These are 219 words which are similar to the Essential Spelling Words.  They are all words which do not have pictures with them. For example,  if I say “House”  you will get a picture of a house in your brain.  If I say “the”  you probably do not have a picture.  The students make out of clay, a picture of the word they are learning.  They then make the word out of clay.  They then master it.

 So far this year, we have clayed (made) 90 Trigger words.  We clay one per day.  

This approach has helped the students who are over 8 years old the most.   

It takes time (15 mins?)  and it  helps the learner remember the word. All my over 8 year olds remember over 90% of the 90 words we have mastered this year.

It does not labor on phonics but on a visual and tactile learning method, although sound is included.  “The word says....”

It is fun and uses creativity.  

It does not produce stress for the student.

It is success based. 

It is dependent on the teacher being able to explain the method so the learner can understand and this does take skill.


For more information -  http://bit.ly/18O2yGn  

“The Gift of Learning”  by Ronald D. Davis and Eldon M. Braun or 

“The Gift of Dyslexia - Why some of the Smartest People Can’t Read... and How They Can Learn”  by Ronald D. Davis with Eldon M. Braun.   

 Details of the Multi-lit Approach that I used in Class

 Each student has a 10 - 15 min lesson each day.  They work through a workbook which has ordered certain sounds to be learnt.  They achieve mastery of the sound and work towards fluency where the sound becomes automatic.  They spend time practicing the sounds to achieve this alone and in words.  At the end of each Level, the student reads through a made up story to show their mastery of the sounds.  It also has a spelling component where the students learn to spell the word.

This approach is set up so it is easy for anyone to teach this method.  It is easy for the a teacher or teacher aide to use.

 For more information - http://www.multilit.com  

   I have found benefit from both approaches, although I am convinced that the Davis Focus Tools has helped each student significantly.  It has helped the Phonics approach be more easily absorbed.   It has given each student success without stress.  

Alongside these approaches, each student has an I Pad and are being taught to read using text to speech techniques and have access to other Apps to help them express their learning.



  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 21 Nov 2013 1:47pm ()

    Poem from Michael (Rm 17, age 12) (shared with Michael’s permission and his Mum’s and teacher’s)

    A Year 7 student shared his writing journal with me during a visit to a school yesterday. While students were creating digital stories using Story Creator, the teacher showed me the poem below, which was recently shared in the school newsletter. His teacher whispered to me “Don’t use the D word.” Michael and his mother are well aware of the implications of dyslexia but Michael had decided (albeit intuitively) not to be defined and constrained by the label.

    In the course of a wonderful conversation, I asked Michael about the challenges and benefits his way of thinking brings. He was articulate and enthusiastic in his response (and, interestingly, he was okay with using the D word in that context). The main point he made was that he doesn’t just see the outside of things; he sees inside in a way that others can’t – he sees the whole thing (his words). This idea is repeated time and time again when I have similar conversations with students. I told Michael about the Dyslexia Potential site and its focus on strengths, not weaknesses. Michael’s face lit up, especially when we talked about how he could use Book Creator and voice-to-text to publish his story (e.g iDictation) or simply use audio-visual media. Our conversation didn’t continue much past that point because he was so keen to get started with Book Creator. Michael has a story to tell and I know he will do so.

    As Michael wrote the poem (in his writing journal)


    Why does spllig hate me

    It is like words are being mest up in a bowl in my head (it hate a lot)

    Its is a bede suop gen reod but hest

    So why does spli heat me so mach it is because my bran is not nomel

    so haw is this brel going to were a slone dot ask

    the kid who does not haw to splliy

    It is like my bean has mest out splying

    It look word are spied all over the flood but I dot pek up the right one

    look in my bran it the but there is pes mass of the plazz

    As Michael translated the poem to his wonderful teacher


    Why does Spelling Hate Me?

    It is like words are being mixed up in my head (it hurts a lot)

    It’s like bad soup gone wrong but worse

    So why does spelling hate me so much? It is because my brain is not normal

    So how is the problem going to find a solution? Don’t ask the kid who doesn’t know how to spell.

    It is like my brain has missed out spelling.

    It is like words are spilled all over the floor but I don’t pick up the right one.

    Look in my brain but there is a piece missing of the puzzle.

    Coincidentally, a colleague shared information from magnocellular theory research that discusses the role of the parvocellular system’s ability to process static, large scale, visual scenes so efficiently and then extend them into cognitive domains to enable the ‘holistic big-picture’ thinking characteristic of the great artists, entrepreneurs and politicians (Stein, J. The Magnocellular Theory of Developmental Dyslexia. University Laboratory of Physiology, Oxford, UK DYSLEXIA 7: 12–36, 2001). I’m keen to learn more.

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 22 Nov 2013 12:53pm ()

    Here's another poem that was sent to me by a parent via the TKI GATE community, in response to posting Michael's poem. Antony had support with the spelling but the thoughts and structure are entirely his own and provide an interesting insight into his thinking. This video from Dr sally Shawitz, from the Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity, might be of interest: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxUn4ggvgKI

    What is inside my head?

    Inside my head is:

     a city with me as ruler

    Blue prints of failed inventions

    And Explosions of lots of TNT

     A town of Lego


    Never ending Libraries with

    Loads of books

     A raging storm of thoughts

    Trying to get out

     A pencil case of no ink

    Food in huge cellars

    A big ball of blue tack

    A war with my writing

     Radios with the penguin band rocking out

    Now that is what is inside my head.

                                                                                 by Antony, aged 11, Term 2 2013

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 14 Dec 2013 8:12am ()

    Tessa, you are so right about the number of highly gifted people who experience dyslexia. I have presented several workshops on the topic of Burden or Bonus?, looking at ways of teaching gifted learners who experience difficulties with some aspects of learning (especially print-related difficulties). I have included an extract below from a chapter entitled "Celebrating the Square Peg" (in Moltzen, R. (2012) Gifted and Talented: New Zealand Perspectives, 3rd ed). Although the context for this chapter was gifted & talented education, I believe that learning environments should be designed so that every child is able to continually move forward in his or her learning (UDL principles in action).

    "Historical evidence abounds of people with special talents who have had a significant impact on society who also experienced difficulty with one or more aspects of learning (Gallagher, 1997). Well-known examples are Winston Churchill, Count Tolstoy, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Helen Keller, Vincent van Gogh, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison. For every Einstein or Tolstoy whose talents are eventually recognised there are many more whose talents remain hidden. Failure to identify and nurture giftedness amongst those with learning difficulties is detrimental to the individual and counterproductive to the development of society."

    Chrissie, I passed on your suggestion and Michael is now working on developing an e-resource for teachers. Smile

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