Friday, November 22, 2019

Week 5 More on Practical teaching approaches

Weeks 5 Summary: More on Practical teaching approaches


University of London, UCL Institute of Education & Dyslexia International

This week, Dr Goetry demonstrated the multisensory teaching of reading in classrooms, assessing phonological awareness via genration, substitution, concatination [and five others which are...], helping students with comprehension an d compostiong. His students appeared to be first graders, and the class ran through a number of exercises. First, they touched letters while blindfolded, trying to sound out the word presented with them. In the next lesson, they used legos or checkers or other counters to count out syllables: three for “kangaroo”, etc. Or, they put a hand below their jaws, and counted out the number of times that their jaws hit the top of their hands for “go ril la”. Then they clapped out “a lli ga tor. Next, they were given a list of words on paper, took a pencil, and drew a horizontal line after each syllable. For any student who had difficulty, Dr Goetry put down his thumb to hide the rest of the word after each syllable. 

In the following lesson, the children are given the 26 letters, which they arrange as an alphabetical rainbow. They put on blindfolds, and each child is given a letter from their arc. The children together need to put together their word. When they put away their letters, they are given special instructions: “put away every third letter.”

Dr Goetry demonstrated a puppet centric way of teaching onset and rime. His puppet's name was “Blap”, and he came with a story: “Blap comes from a planet far away, and he is very scared. Every word on that planet ends with the 'ap' rime, so let's see if we can help him feel more relaxed by giving him familiar words. What real or imaginary words end with /ap/?” When the children provided “sap, clap, nap, gap, map, tap, flap, fap, cap, tap,” Dr Goetry said Blap was feeling better, not trembling anymore.

Then, still with the hand puppet, and using the counters, Dr Goetry had the puppet try to speak English, and offered up the word “opet”. He asked how many counters, one for each sound, the kids counted – 4. Then the kids were advised to take away one of the counter/sounds to make a real English word. Blap added “flove”, and “fishay” to the list.

Next, moving on to substitution, Blap wanted the kids to correct “fex” (four sounds) and “gup” to be “fox” and “gap”.
Dr Goetry explained to the Coursera course followers the concept of “co-articulation”, emphasizing that the pauses between words are made in the mind of the listener trying to separate out the words, not in the mouth of the speaker.
Then he moved onto another puppet task, focused on concatenation. This time, the puppet, Ming, is very shy, and she says words bit by bit. The students are asked to put the words together. “Sis” “ter” – and the children say “sister”. The students do the same for “pi” “lot” and “con” “tact”. Then, moving on just to simple phonemes, Ming may say “mm” “oo” “n” for “moon”, or “s” “t” “ep”. Dr Goetry recommends that the teacher prerecords the prompts, preferably using someone else's voice, to allow for allophonic variation. If you manage to do this, you will say that this is Ming's voice, and that she was too shy to speak in person. During the Ming lesson, the students worked on segmentation, substitution, initialisms, and deletion.

The different methods of improving reading instruction that Dr Goetry demonstrated illustrated four modalities of multisensory teaching: auditory, visual, oral-kinaesthetic, and manual-kinaesthetic.

5.10
Reading or spelling should not happen unless the child has already been set up with multisensory grapheme to phoneme introductions. Phoneme-grapheme correspondences should all have been seen before with multisensory techniques. An important concern in reading, spelling, comprehension, and composition is to give children their own tools of self assessment and correction, rather than being the yourself the one to get out the red pen, saying, “No, this is wrong.” Instead of taking their work away, and then correcting it, there are alternatives. For example, with a spelling test, the teacher can give the correct spelling at the end, so the student can look at what she has done, then go back to compare and correct. “I can tell you that most dyslexic children are able to spot their mistakes, so this is a very powerful tool,” says Dr Goetry. It also prevents the student's being marked as a poor student. From my own experience, and that of my child's, I can say that fear of being the weakest link, stupider than others, figured large in our academics.

As Dr Goetry points out, reinforcing self-confidence can also improve internal, intrinsic motivation, while external correction in an already weak area only hinders the effectiveness of extrinsic motivation. Allowing the child to find and correct her own mistakes promotes autonomy.
An effective approach is in grouping words into families. Dyslexic children will often miss similarities, unless explicitly taught them. For example, in the I-G-H-T family are the members fight, right, flight, night, might, sight, knight, light, bright. The ideal approach is to use color coding for these families. The same approach can be used for onsets, such as “sp” of spell, spun, speech, spoke, and “ing” words such as spring, string, frowning.

Dr. Goetry recommends teaching children to cross out silent letters, and work with the remaining grapheme-phoneme correspondences. In the example “said”, there are still two regular phonemes: “s” and “d”.

5.11 Multisensory techniques for reading and spelling Dr Goetry

Cursive script is a discipline that goes in and out of favor for young children, but Dr Goetry emphasizes its usefulness for students with dyslexia. Every time the pencil is lifted from the paper, he says, is an opportunity for the brain to skip, or reorder, or lose track, while cursive writing is continuous. Dr Goetry demonstrates his way of teaching American D'Nealian cursive script, using four differently colored lines as guides for the words, with bottom being red for the center of the Earth, then brown for the soil, green for grass, and a blue line for sky above them all.

In the learning of new words, Dr Goetry proposes the following: teacher says the word, student repeats, student names the letters of the word, then names again the words as she writes the word in cursive. Then you show the word, and the pupil checks whether or not she is correct. This uses all four sensory modalities: oral- kinaesthetic, manual-kinaesthetic, auditory, and visual.

Any time we can, teachers are encouraged to record the student's voice for themselves, because this has been shown to be a powerful memorization tool. Other memorization methods include using acrostic mnemonics, such as Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants to remember how to spell “because”, or Silly Aiden Is Dancing for “said”. Or, in order to remember how many c's and s's in necessary: “It is necessary to have a shirt with one Collar and two Sleeves.”

5.12 and 5.13 Dr Jenny Thomson discussed Comprehension methods. She talked about prereading, using the KWL framework – the thing you Know, What you Want to know, and what have you Learned? 14 point font, and sans serif such as Arial and Open Dyslexic, increased letter spacing, and double lines can all help with easier reading. A way to test comprehension is to cut up chunks of text, and ask the child to put them back together. Another simple strategy is to ask the student: who is involved? What are they doing? Where are they? How did the story resolve?

For some people with dyslexia, it can help comprehension to try explicitly to visualize the who, the where, and the what. Try this first with very short scenes.

Mind maps, such as those on the Tony Buzan website, can be used to help comprehension. (A slightly overstated intro to mind mapping can be seen here and a very inspiring version with school children can be seen here ) “They come from families where they've learned not to pay attention, because paying attention can be quite painful.” - Tony Buzan

Dr Jenny Thomson addressed ways to assist people with dyslexia in their compositions. She reminds us that dysgraphia could be graphomotor issues that make composition physically a great effort.

The pre-composition scaffolding strategies she recommends include asking students about key words, asking them if they know what they are expected to produce. Do they need to explain something? Discuss something? The words “discuss” and “explain” sound similar to students, and they don't always know exactly what's expected. Individuals can be asked who they are addressing, to determine whether they need formal language, or if a more colloquial style is appropriate.

Dr Thomson directs us to Karen Harris and Steve Graham for research on self-regulation strategies, (book and article) such as MAPS: Meaning, Agreement (grammatical), Punctuation, Spelling.

Dr Thomson also offers up a critique that too many writing tasks are not authentic, which makes the amount of effort students are asked to expend on the work feel not worth it to individuals who have difficulty. Above all, we should ask ourselves if another mode of communication could be used, such as a presentation, illustration, video, or simply use a speech to text program.


One of the mechanical domains of writing is spelling, and here there are several strategies. SOS stands for: simultaneous oral spelling. LCWC is: Look Cover Write Check.

Weeks 4 Practical teaching approaches

Weeks 4 Summary
University of London, UCL Institute of Education & Dyslexia International

As Dr. Goetry laid out early in this week, the opacity of the language matters. In 2003, Seymour and research collaborators compared reading acquisition in European first graders across 15 different languages, and the results were as follows: 34% of English speaking children can read words and pseudowords correctly. In French, it was 79%, Italian 95%, and German 97%.

Not surprisingly, children taught with the phonics method did 20% better than those taught with the “whole word” method. He references the studies that show that “whole word”, or the global method, is more successful in higher socioeconomic strata, while no such difference in success rates exists for phonics methods.

Dr. Goetry spent a lot of this week discussing effective teaching of reading. He gave the following requirements for effective teaching: it must be structured, multisensory, phonics based, and metacognitive. In addition, repetition is mandatory, at every stage. “You say what you are going to say, you say it, and then you say what you just said three times in a different way.”

Dr. Goetry recommended something very similar to the Orton Gillingham method, and discussed the four modalities: [which are?] the oral-kinaesthetic modality (feeling what is happening in her throat and mouth when pronouncing the words and sounds); [next modality?] manual-kinaesthetic modality (feeling, muscular movement which the child makes when drawing, or tracing letters and words). I was motivated to bring a long box of lentils to the next tutoring session, for my student to write words into.

One of the primary goals is for the child to be conscious of, and able to manipulate, phonemes, rimes, onsets, and syllables, and able to break up a spoken word into those parts.

Stress and self doubt can make assessment more challenging. It's helpful to ask, “How did you reach the correct answer?”

Dr Thomson lectured on the distinct vocabulary challenges posed in other courses, such as science and history. She encourages teachers to be aware that students with dyslexia might need more repetition of those terms, more exposure to them – on walls, in other places. She recommends allowing students to submit visual journals and videos rather than written reports.

Dr Thomson addresses deficits in oral language in some children, so that they may not be understanding the meaning of the words in the phonics program, which depresses their ability to learn.

Dr Goetry proposes different ways to improve comprehension through visual presentation of information, including bigger fonts, and sans serif fonts. He reminds teachers that dyslexic children may reverse numbers and dates, and teachers should not penalize them for that. Simplified syntax helps, avoiding embedded sentences [what are those?] He recommends mind maps for history and other topics. Any time mathematics is required, allowing dyslexic learners to keep multiplication tables next to them is useful, because the multiplication table is very difficult for dyslexic learners to memorize.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Week 3 “Co-morbidity”, and psychological and social aspects

Summary of Week 3 of the Coursera Course Helping Students with Dyslexia
Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing
University of London, UCL Institute of Education & Dyslexia International

Dr. Jenny Thomson discussed auditory and visual issues, stressing the difference between pitch (frequency) and loudness (amplitude), and how that can affect dyslexic students. She mentioned that the visual stress of reading is an issue discussed in the UK and Europe, perhaps more than elsewhere.

The balance between attention issues and dyslexia can sometimes give contradictory recommendations. For example, a dyslexic child can often perform better in comprehension when read to, because he doesn't have to alott all of his attention to decoding. On the other hand, if the child has attention issues, she might need the reading to be in front of her, so she has someplace to anchor her comprehension. A child who is both dyslexic and has attention issues might do best with simultaneously the oral and the visual input, but individual differences should be considered. 

Areas of strength in dyslexic individuals often include spatial representation, often stronger relative to their peers. However, oral numeracy can sometimes be affected. For example, the word “thirteen” has to be converted into the concepts of “three” and “ten”, but “eleven” and “twelve” are even more distant from a transparent connection to “11” and “12”.

Dr. Goetry explained the concept of the “dys-constellation”. This is the comorbidity idea that dyspraxia (a difficulty with fine motor control) can often appear in the same individual as dysgraphia (difficulty in writing), dyscalculia (difficulty with number manipulation), and dyslexia (a reading specific difficulty). 

He recommends the use of the computer for dysgraphic and dyspraxic children to help preserve their self esteem, allowing others to be able to read their writing. He mentioned free software such as GeoGebra, found on Google, to teach algebra, geometry, statistics and calculus interactively.

Dr. Goetry discussed early diagnosis, citing French neurologist Michel Habib in saying that half of dyslexic learners showed spoken language delays. Heiki Lyttinen and his team used a test 6 months after birth that pretty accurately predicted future dyslexia.

The emotional fallout of academic stress was emphasized. French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik points to 40% or more of learners 10 to 24 years old think about death at school, because of anxiety or depression. The Belgian Fondation Dyslexie asserts that dyslexics are three times more likely to commit suicide, and six times more likely to drop out of school. 

Professor Linda Siegel of the University of British Columbia, in Canada, provided the course with a slide lecture that cited the relationship between illiteracy and incarceration. In addition, she gave the horrifying statistic she herself gathered in her studies: “All the adolescent suicides in a three year period in Ontario had undetected and unremediated learning disabilities.” 

Dr Goetry referred to a concept labeled “cognitive death”, where a learner who has lost all self-esteem can no longer learn anything academic, due to a complete loss of motivation. H points out that dyslexic learners' strengths need to be overtly, publicly valorized. 

Dr Jenny Thomson points out that some companies, such as architectural companies, go out of their way to recruit people with dyslexia and other learning differences, because of their interest in 3D representational skills. 

Professor Stein, reminding us that reading is an extremely recent acquisition for human development, talks about the differences between forms the brain is programmed to recognize, versus shapes that wouldn't normally matter. For example, the brain wouldn't need to remember if a branch or leaf poked out on the left or right, but it's critical for reading to know on which side you should see an “a” or “o”, or on which side the stalk of a “p” or “q” lies. The left hemisphere is normally where we train the brain to do all this required linear sequencing. In the normal brain, this forces the left hemisphere to lose holistic processing, whereas dyslexics retain the holistic processing – an advantage for visual-spatial processing for dyslexics, and a disadvantage for reading. 

Week 2 Definitions and identification of dyslexia

Below is a summary of information I found most useful from the University of London's Coursera course, 

Reading capabilities can be represented in simplified form by quadrants, where one axis represents language comprehension, and another represents decoding. 

This gives four general categories: 
  • children who have no difficulty at all
  • children with difficulty decoding, but not comprehending (“dyslexia”)
  • those with difficulty comprehending, but who can read the text on a mechanical level (“specific comprehension deficit”)
  • and those who struggle both with comprehension and with decoding.

Dr. Goetry talked about the importance of asking parents and grandparents about their own relationships with reading, because dyslexia and its diagnosis were less common than they are today.

How well does the child distinguish left from right? Is she ambidextrous? Are rhymes difficult to provide? Are multiple directions difficult to follow? Is time difficult to estimate? Does the child say “disonaur” instead of “dinosaur”?

Fatigability can allow primary children to begin with correct sentences, and slowly have their writing or reading fall into additions, ommissions, and substitutions.

70% of dyslexic children have difficulties manipulating the sounds of language.

Phonemic tasks for detection of dyslexia: generation, detection, blending, segmentation, deletion, substitution, fusion, inversion.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Week 1 An overview of Supporting children with difficulties in reading in writing

Week 1 An Overview

Dr. Vincent Goetry went through the Uta Frith model of reading development: the LOGOGRAPHIC stage, the ALPHABETIC stage, and the ORTHOGRAPHIC stage.

The logographic stage means children can recognize words as pictures, such as STOP on a red stop sign, or the shape of their name.

The alphabetic stage requires that children understand that words can be broken up into smaller phonemic units. The child also needs to understand that the language spoken relates to the language written, and that the link as from oral phonemes to written graphemes.

The orthographic stage [look up definition of orthographic stage] allows the child to see the written symbols (graphemes) and immediately and automatically, wholistically, recode them in her brain as sounds (phonemes). After maybe the 10th or 20th time seeing the word “school,” for example, she might know without going through the several step process of recognizing the letters, recognizing the grapheme groupings, turning them into phonemes, then grouping the phonemes accurately into a word.

One entire lecture focused on the importance of automatization, and the importance of speed and accuracy. The recognition of the word needs to access phonological and orthographic representations immediately for fluent reading, and this is the part that is missing for individuals with dyslexia. This, Dr. Goetry said, is called a “double task”.

Dr. Goetry spent some time with the unique issues around bilingualism. For example, in an interesting study on the rejection of pseudowords by English-German bilinguals, researchers noticed that these individuals had two distinct groupings of orthographic sequences that could slow down how quickly they rejected the pseudorword. Specifically, if they saw a word that would be allowed in German that began with the legal “pf” combination, or a word legal in English but not in German – “tw” combination, for example – they had to take a moment to eliminate two sets of rules, instead of only the time monolinguals had to use. The difference in time was linear, though, which makes me think bilinguals should simply be given another moment to sift through a greater deck of possibilities. 

Summary of the Coursera Course Helping Students with Dyslexia

University of London, UCL Institute of Education & Dyslexia International

This course, offered by Dr Jenny Thomson and Dr Vincent Goetry with the University of London, gave me a semester's worth of actionable information on dyslexia and learners with dyslexia. 

I encourage everyone to attend this course. But it can be a sizable commitment, so I am writing a series of blog posts summarizing the contents of each week.

Brief description of what it took to complete this course: It took me approximately four months to complete. I had several policy texts, and one or two academic texts, to read as pdfs, as well as a short film re-enacting the experiences of dyslexic children in school in Europe (including the UK), an hour long discourse about the neurology of reading by Dr Dahaene, and a couple dozen hours of informative lectures by Dr Jenny Thomson and Dr Vincent Goetry of the University of London, UCL Institute of Education & Dyslexia International.

The course was broken up into five weeks, each with a theme:





Week 6 Study skills, aids and accommodations

Monday, April 29, 2019

Apple Painting Lesson

Recently, I had an interview for an art teacher position at Upward Bound in Utah. I asked the internet for a lesson plan, and Mr. Matt Christenson supplied. Thank you, Matt! Here is my painting:




I used these materials:
  • 1 spray bottle
  • 3 brushes (1.5 inch boar hair student brush, .3 cm mink hair square brush, 1 cm acrylic chisel edged brush)
  • 1 flat metal palette knife
  • 1 gallon ziplock bag for my palette
  • 1 plastic picnic plate
  • 2 old socks
  • 1 glass jam jar
  • acrylic paints: cadmium red hue, cadmium orange hue, cadmium yellow hue, dark cobalt blue, titanium white, vivid lime green
  • Strathmore mixed media vellum finish paper notebook
  • 4 sturdy rubber bands
  • 1 apple
  • Ultramarine blue pastel crayon


A word about brushes: wipe them on the old sock in the direction of the brush – metal to tip, away from the handle – pretty thoroughly before cleaning them in water. Before you use them, put your brush in clean water (a drop of soap in the cup of water won't hurt) and then gently fold the cloth over the paintbrush, and wipe it slightly dry. This will give you just enough humidity to keep the acrylic happy, and just enough dryness to keep it from running. Never leave them for more than a couple (2) minutes dry while you are using them.

Step one: make a wash with 1 part ultramarine (or cobalt) and a hint of the red, 6 parts water. Mark off a rectangle on your paper, leaving a centimeter border on all sides. Secure pages to the rest of the notebook with rubber bands, to avoid too much buckling. With your boar hair brush, fill in the page with broad, linear strokes, letting the color pool and play. Let dry flat for a couple of hours.

Step two: cut the apple in thirds, arrange them on a plate or other surface. With your pastel, begin drawing.

Step three: with your .3 cm brush, go over the lines you liked with your blue acrylic paint.


Step four: mix blue and red to make a dark magenta, and, with your chisel edge, touch paint along the edges of your apple. Don't brush. Then mix a quarter teaspoon white, a nail clipping of vivid lime green, a hint of orange, and begin drawing your edging brush from the dark outer rim toward the center core. Don't forget to mist your palette every 5 – 15 minutes, depending on the air's humidity level.



Step five: work outward from the center. Consider every plane. Try to use only the original colors on your palette.



For a fantastic apple painting, here's something from (I kid you not) Linda Apple!

 Apple from Linda Apple


This lesson teaches value scales, unmediated artistic trust in your eyes, materials use, and understanding color interactions (how a blue background changes our perception of the colors we use).

Have fun! Point us to your results in the comments, if you like :)