As a Key Stage Two teacher, it can feel like dyslexia is immutable i.e. unchangeable. This is especially true when the child has not been given any strategies, it is much easier to support dyslexia in EYFS or Key Stage One because their needs are more in line with teaching.
It might feel like there is such a massive mountain to climb, that you do not know where to start. By Key Stage Two, those incorrect spelling patterns have become embedded and dyslexic children tend only to use phonics as a strategy, unless taught otherwise.
My belief is always that a class teacher can have a powerful impact. Start by focusing on something small and persist. The key is to involve the student in metacognition: thinking about thinking – why did you choose that particular spelling? What were you thinking when…
They will need to practice the same procedural skills: handwriting, spelling (see Nicolson and Fawcett) for longer than other children; give them lots of praise and see them shine.
Spelling, I feel, is the key to writing for dyslexic children. Studies show that whilst they may have a broad vocabulary and good understanding, they will limit writing to what they can spell (or what they think they can spell!).
If letter formation is very poor and productivity unusually low, it could be that letter formation is not automatic ie has not gone into long term memory. If this is the case, see the witing 8 demo:
Top Ten Tips:
1) Start by focusing on High Frequency Words, use the words which are active in their writing, rather than working systematically through the lists. Where there are phonics patterns, teach those. Otherwise, make up stories and draw pictures e.g. would, could and should – o, u, lucky, duck or even better ask the child to make one up (o, u, lovely, dancer).
Have the child engage with these target words and self-check their work during editing time.
2) Look for patterns/analyse spelling errors: do they transpose letters e.g.alos for also (I think they get scrambled in working memory, or perhaps a weakness in visual recall). Do they confuse particular sounds? /f/ and /th/ or /c/ and /g/ if so, draw attention to these sounds by showing the child in a mirror or by feeling the throat. Do they miss syllables out? Again have them feel the movement of the jaw, a vowel creates a syllable. Syllable division shown here, the division is made where the vowel is long (open):
3) Teach spelling ‘rules’ – whilst there are often exceptions, students are relieved to find that there are general rules which work MOST of the time! Teach the split digraph rule properly – one of the biggest mistakes I see is ‘e’ on words where there shouldn’t be one but NEVER on the split digraph words!
4) As with vocabulary, teach affixes and root words, also etymology (history of words), spelling is about meaning more than sounds.
5) Try and give them regular dictation so that a layer of processing is removed – this way they don’t have to compose writing, but have to remember it (the phonological loop) and then focus on spelling.
6) Give them cloze sentences where they only have to insert a word and then perhaps copy the sentence out.
7) Give them writing frames, support for writing: again this reduces the amount of processing and allows them to absorb the language and structure of sentences.
8) Give them plenty of oral rehearsal opportunities – with one counter for every word – or record the sentence and play it back; use props or draw a picture to aid memory retention.
9) Have them write less and give them more editing time.
10) Interleave spelling with vocabulary and handwriting practice.
The teaching of grammar and spelling is best done in a systematic, cumulative way, programmes like ‘Conquering Dyslexia’, (Kathleen Kelly and Sylvia Phillips) can provide an excellent framework for this.
Plus, there are fabulous resources to download from their website to accompany this.
See my previous posts on spelling: