Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dyslexia - Why kids shut down


Teachers teach us the sounds/phonemes of the alphabet as: A apple, B bed, C cat, D dog E elephant and so on. Everyone will and can learn this with no problem at all.

Then when they start teaching us to read, the NIGHTMARE begins for the 20% of kids who are later considered stupid or lazy. These kids are neither stupid nor are they lazy. These are the kids who need to be instructed explicitly on anything different from what they have been taught. These are the kids who ‘shut down’ when they are confused.

The nightmare:
Let’s take the alphabet ‘E’ which the teacher had said is represented by  the beginning sound of the word elephant. Then, the kid is taught words that have no relation to the sound the letter ‘E’ makes in elephant:

Each, eagle, equal, eel, ear, easy, east,
Earn, early, earth,
Eight, eighteen, eighty
Either (The Americans pronounce this word one way whilst the British pronounce it another way).

The 20% of the kids who like to be taught explicitly, shut down as none of the words above have the same initial sound as the sound of the alphabet ‘e’ in elephant. In other words there are 5 different sounds that 'e' makes other than the sound in words like elephant, ebony, echo etc.

All that these kids need to be told is that all vowels and many of the consonants have more than one sound. These are smart kids and they disengage when things are confusing. 

Schools do not teach grapheme/phonemes relation properly and then call these kids dyslexic and that they have a 'phonological awareness deficit'. 

Trust me, address this problem in all kindergartens and primary schools and the failure rate in English will decrease.


Anonymous said...

I too teach children with reading difficulties. I agree with you that phonological awareness is learned as a child learns to read, if they are taught properly. We identify those who are struggling after a year in school aged 5 and give additional individual phonics teaching. However there is a small minority of children whose constraints of memory and speed of recall are so severe that they can truly be described as 'dyslexic'. They do learn to read slowly and eventually but never achieve real fluency although their understanding may be excellent.

Luqman Michel said...

Hi, It would be preferable if all anonymous comments are accompanied by a nickname. That way I have a name to write to. "Hi Anonymous" does not sound friendly.

I will write as to what is phonological awareness and what is phonemic awareness sometime next week. Please bear with me until then. I have written many articles on this in 2010 but I did not explain what is phonemic and phonological awareness.

The term dyslexia is also not consistent. Many different bodies define it differently. I have an article on this in my blog too.

Anyway, if a child had phonological awareness problem then he should not be classified under dyslexia. Refer to the definition by Stanovich in my blog.

I believe , the small minority of kids that you say are truly to be described as dyslexic are the kids who should be excluded from the dyslexic category.

Please hold on for a few more days and I'll try and write an article summarising those I had written in 2010 and 2011.

Thank you for your comment. Wish you well in your teaching.