1.7.2 Literacy and dyslexia
What are the building blocks of literacy development?
Phonological awareness and phonics can often be misunderstood and mistakenly thought to be different terms for the same skill. However they are two distinct skills, one building on the other. They, along with a range of skills, form the foundation of language and literacy development.
Phonological Awareness - Phonological awareness is widely recognised as the strongest predictor of literacy success. It is the ability to manipulate speech sounds.
Phonics - Teaching reading by training beginners to associate letters with their sound(s) and how they are blended to form words.
Phoneme - Awareness that a phoneme is the smallest unit of spoken sound. This can be either a single letter or combination of letters.
Listening to a spoken word and breaking it down into component sounds is fundamental for effective language learning. Learners need to segment and identify:
• Single words in a sentence
• Syllables within words
• The initial sound and other phonemes within words
Learners then need to be able to blend the sounds together in order to make words. Many learners come to school with well-developed phonological awareness and they are able to deduce the links between sound patterns they hear and the written patterns they see. However, some learners do not easily make the phonological links and will need a wide variety of phonological activities such as stories, rhymes, listening activities and/or games to help them develop phonological awareness. This can be true of learners of any age. Children significantly increase their language comprehension and expression when listening to stories read aloud, either at home or at school.
Planning, organising and saying what we want to say involves many different skills. Talking skills develop from infancy and can be encouraged with activities incorporating sounds, songs, repetition and stories. A planned approach to developing listening and talking skills in the early years will lay the foundations for reading and writing, as well as, developing social and communication skills.
Children need to develop an understanding of using the right words in the correct order to express themselves clearly. They also require exposure to a rich language environment in their early years to develop a wide range of vocabulary to enable them to communicate effectively and achieve positive outcomes.
Listening skills develop from infancy and can be encouraged with activities incorporating sounds, songs, repetition and stories. A planned approach to developing listening and talking skills in the early years will lay the foundations for reading and writing, as well as, developing social and communication skills.
If learners are encouraged and supported to read a wide range of texts for enjoyment, they will become more confident in making independent choices in their reading material. Developing as a reader is linked to positive attitudes and experiences, as well as, skills. Curriculum for Excellence recognises the fundamental importance of reading for enjoyment within the reading experiences and outcomes.
If the sound cannot be matched to a letter, the successful introduction of phonics is compromised. Struggling readers of all ages may benefit from revisiting early skills and breaking them down. A range of support approaches and strategies are available for teachers to help children develop their reading skills.
Writing skills – mark making begins in a child’s early years and should be supported and encouraged. If learners are to become successful and confident writers, then writing has to be viewed as an essential part of the learning environment and across curriculum areas. Learners should have regular opportunities to write, to develop and demonstrate knowledge and understanding and to make sense of their learning.
They should experience an environment which is rich in language and which sets high expectations for literacy and the use of language. It is important that writing tasks are engaging and relevant with an explicit focus on the skills and knowledge being developed.
Writing skills are dependent on reading skills and should be taught alongside each other. Children significantly increase their language comprehension and expression when listening to stories read aloud, either at home or at school.
Children who experience difficulties with the acquisition of literacy skills will require a range of approaches to support their reading skills, for example a child who has auditory processing difficulty or has glue ear will find it very hard to hear the phonological sounds and transfer them to the graphic images of text. If this is the only approach used in their class, they may experience additional barriers to their literacy development.
All areas of literacy can have an impact on how children and young people access the wider curriculum. It is recognised that good teaching and learning approaches which support children and young people with dyslexia also supports all children and young people to acquire fluency and competency in literacy.
Learning English as an Additional Language (EAL) and Dyslexia.
Speakers of any language can have dyslexic difficulties but these may be different in the ways they manifest themselves. It will be more obvious in some languages than others depending on the spelling rules and writing structures.
For children who speak languages other than English at home, the assessment process will require very careful consideration. Consideration will require to be given to the child’s first language, as well as, English and this may require assistance from a professional who shares the same language as the child. It must be remembered that the phonology of the child’s first language is likely to be different from English and scripts too, may be different. As an example, Polish children who have wholly developed literacy skills will have experience of decoding in alphabetic script but in the case of children exposed to logographic scripts, the relationship between sounds and symbols will be markedly different. Even though children may not have learned to read in their first language they will have been exposed to environmental print. The issue for teachers is to consider whether the child’s difficulties with language extend beyond them having English as another language.
Cline and Hall (1995) advise avoiding the use of standardised assessments, particularly with those new to English as the English and cultural content may give false information. It is more useful to build a profile of the learner’s strengths, including what they can do in their first language, as well as, information about their educational background. To support EAL learners with possible dyslexia, focus on support for the first language involving parents. Many of the strategies that support dyslexic learners will work well with EAL learners but in addition it is important to focus on building vocabulary in a meaningful context, taking account of cultural factors.
Research (Ganschow and Sparks, 2000) confirms that strengths and weaknesses in the linguistic codes of
phonology/orthography (sounds/letter patterns), syntax and semantics are transferred between languages. So learning a second language challenges dyslexic students because it requires those skills that are frequently compromised in dyslexia - sequencing ability, phonological knowledge and both short and long-term memory (Wolf, 2008). The processing differences associated with the specific learning difficulty (SpLD)/dyslexia can also cause listening difficulties (Crombie & McColl, 2001), making a second language as complex, inconsistent and challenging as English and more difficult for dyslexic children to acquire (Ziegler et al, 2003).
Further information on literacy and research can be found in the.
In Module 1 you accessed the Reading and Writing Literacy Circles and downloaded the summary PDF.
The full interactive versions of the literacy circles can be found on the Addressing Dyslexia Toolkit in the resources section.
Download the summary files again if needed below
In your reflective log use one of circle’s planning tool, which has been adapted from the summary files to establish the literacy needs of a learner you are working with and develop a plan to support the learner’s literacy needs.
Share this approach and any impact it has with your colleagues and line manager.