Monday, March 12, 2018

Tools for Empowering Dyslexic Students

Note: This post is the last in a three-part installment that describes a problem I faced in designing curriculum for dyslexic students and the solution I discovered. In the first post, I explained my role, introduced my students, and described the problem and my idea for combating it. The second post explained my rationale for that solution. Here, I’ll share my procedure and the resources I’ll use to implement this project in my classroom. The links for the tools and worksheets are embedded in this post and also appear at the end.

I always like to show models when teaching writing, and I wanted to do the same for this project. However, I had difficulty finding a self-advocacy letter I liked, so I wrote my own Sample Letter. The first step will be explaining the purpose of the letter and reading through it with my students. We’ll talk about what points the writer included, and I’ll guide them to determining the purpose of each.

Next, we’ll do some self-reflection. I want my students to think about themselves as people, not only as learners, so the Reflection sheet  I made will guide them through that line of thinking. Before and after they complete it, we’ll talk about how their thoughts will inform their letter.

Such a complex document has to be heavily scaffolded for any group of young students, and this is particularly true of my class. So I made a very thorough Organizer for them to use. It follows the order of the ideas in the Sample Letter so that students can hold one up to the other to orient themselves. Writing is a tremendously demanding process for dyslexic learners, and the Organizer will guide them to devote their attention to each task (crafting topic and concluding sentences, listing points, and justifying each point) separately. Once they have written down their ideas, I’ll help them check their spelling on so that when they draft their letters from their Organizers, they won’t have to think about that tricky aspect of writing. Writing, in this case, will be the easy part; their ideas will already be documented and partially edited and all they have to do is put the pieces together.

I’m excited to use this project in the spring as a way to review our year and preview next year. I’m certain that I’ll make some tweaks after seeing how this plays out in the messy, real world of my classroom, but I hope these materials and ideas help other educators create similar opportunities for their students to learn, reflect, and self-advocate.

Sample Letter
Reflection sheet

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