Technology to Support Struggling Readers with Dyslexia

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I am often asked how best to support struggling readers, especially those with reading disabilities. While it is important to identify and provide interventions early, all students, no matter their age, can continue to learn and develop literacy skills throughout their lifetime. When a child is diagnosed with dyslexia there are many questions from educators on what exactly that means and how best to support these struggling readers. Simply put, dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder that affects the development of basic reading skills and spelling skills. Just because a child has difficulty in both decoding (written word pronunciation) and encoding (spelling) does not mean they have difficulty in comprehending what they hear.

Students diagnosed with dyslexia should continue to receive interventions and support in the areas of reading and writing but the addition of assistive technology provides these students access to the same content and curriculum as their peers. This is essential and also the law. Students diagnosed with dyslexia are protected under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and have the right to participate in the general education curriculum.

As a student gets older, accessing content across discipline areas become a priority for students with dyslexia. Fortunately, widespread use of technology in education has made this possible for many. Equipping struggling readers diagnosed with dyslexia with compensatory tools helps them identify ways they can access information for school and in life. Text to Speech is one resource all educators should be familiar with to support students.

Chromebooks and Google

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 3.42.48 PMGoogle Chrome Extension Read and Write for Google by TextHelp – Read and Write for Google offers teachers and students many more options than just text to speech. It also has a text to picture dictionary, word prediction, voice notes option along with much, much more. This one extension provides struggling readers with dyslexia support in both reading and writing. It is definitely one of my favorites, check it out. 

Reader Add-onGoogle Doc Add-On ReaderThis add-on reads all text on a Google Doc. It was easy to use and is available in multiple languages and dialects. It is free. A bonus with using Google, if you upload a pdf into your Drive you can open it as a Google Doc making this perfect for those text to speech tools that do not read pdfs.

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 3.40.13 PMGoogle Chrome App TTS-ReaderAllows students to copy and paste any text to hear it spoken. Students can pause, stop, and start this app and it remembers the position where the student left off. It highlights the spoken text and uses no data once the page is loaded. Supports multilingual and English in different accents.

Screenshot 2017-05-05 at 3.41.18 PM

 

Google Chrome Extension Selection ReaderThis Chrome Extension allows you to simply highlight and play. It is easy to use and could handle a large amount of text selected. Paused naturally at commas and punctuation. Perfect for reading webpages a student may use.

 

 

Apple Devices 

Screen Shot 2017-05-05 at 3.24.18 PMMacbook – iOs accessibility features make text to speech on an Apple device a breeze. If you are on a Macbook, simply accesses the Accessibility Features under the System Preferences. Once you click on “Accessibility” simply choose desired rate and voice in the “Speech” option and enable “Speak selected text when the key is pressed”.

iPad – An iPad is similar to a Macbook in that you launch “Settings” and click on “General” to locate “Accessibility” options. Under “Accessibility” tap on “Speak Selection” and adjust the rate with the slider. For both the Macbook and iPad, text to speech works for websites, iBooks, PDFs, as well as many other apps you may have installed.

Accessible content for students who are struggling readers and are diagnosed with dyslexia is easy to do when a student simply needs to hear the text in order to comprehend it. Using an app like Tiny Scanner can help you turn any text into digital text that can then be read aloud using one of the Text to Speech apps above!

 

Resources Used – Nancy Mather and Barbara J. Wendling. Essentials of Dyslexia Assessment and Intervention.  New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2012.

4 Brain-Friendly Practices in a Student-Centered​ Classroom

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Adolescence is a vital time for our students. During the ages of 11 through 18, young people are making habits that last a lifetime. And since many of their waking hours are spent in school, it is important for educators to incorporate brain-friendly practices into their classrooms. These practices, when consistently incorporated, impact the whole child and help to develop habits of mind that will support students throughout their lifetime, using techniques that will help him develop the powers of their mind with resources as the www.subconsciousmindpowertechniques.com site.

4 Brain-Friendly Practices in a Student-Centered Classroom:

  1. Choice – Provide choice! This simple concept is one that research shows not only increases reading achievement when a child chooses what they read, but also engagement when the choice is theirs to make. Move from teacher-centered to student-centered through choice, for instance, provide choice in content. With a learning objective as a skill in the writing process, student choice can be given in paper content. Or choice can be given in end product; why limit the demonstration of understanding to just text? Multimedia products are a perfect way for students to demonstrate understanding.
  2. Task Design – In a student-centered classroom, brain research can be applied to task design. Chunking information, using graphic organizers or guiding questions, connecting learning experiences to a larger concept are all brain-friendly practices that educators can incorporate while designing lessons or units. Our brain naturally identifies patterns, groups, and organizes items.
  3. Peers – Teaching others is a highly effective, brain-friendly practice and during adolescence, nothing is more important to young people than their peers. When students teach each other it boosts understanding to both partners and is often taught in a different way than a teacher could explain.
  4. Authentic – Brain-friendly practice includes authenticity in learning. Read, write, and create for real purposes instead of doing school for school’s sake. In a student-centered classroom, an example of authentic writing is Blogging. Through blogging, students share their voice with a global audience, a shift from the traditional, lone teacher.

Sources:

Thomas Armstrong

BrainLady

Current Brain Research Tells Us…

File_000 (3)The traditional model of “School” was created to support the Industrial Age, pushing out workers into an economy that valued monotony and the algorithmic routines of assembly lines. Students learned the same thing, at the same time, and developed the same skills necessary for the type of work environment most would enter after graduation. Current brain research reveal 4 important truths that have been missed in the past. This understanding of the brain supports the current economy which places value on skills such as critical thinking, creativity, global connections, and heuristic means to create novel ideas.

This

Not This

#1   Intelligence is Variable

We think, learn, and create in different ways. Intelligence is multifaceted and students need a range of opportunities to discover varied intelligences.

Intelligence is Singular

Intelligence is developed and demonstrated in one way. There is only one right answer and one way to demonstrate understanding.

#2   The brain is Malleable

Intelligence can continue to grow and be strengthened. Intelligence is NOT fixed, the capacity to continue to learn is immeasurable. Provide students varied and rich learning experiences to strengthen multiple intelligences.

The brain is Fixed

Intelligence is fixed and determined at birth. Only the earliest years in a child’s life are important for brain strength and growth. Educators can not fill the gaps from home.

#3   The brain hungers for Meaning

Learners seek to make sense of information and recognize patterns, connections to prior knowledge and experiences, and organize their learning around larger concepts.

The brain recalls Information

Learners retain information best when imposed upon them. Teaching students important test-taking vocabulary and information in isolation ensures understanding.

#4   We learn best with moderate Challenge

Learners retreat to self-protection mode if faced with too tough of a challenge or have been allowed to continually fail. If the task is too easy, motivation and interest wane. A task that  is challenging for one learner may not be for another, therefore differentiating tasks is key.

We learn best through Success

Learners who succeed will continue to learn and push themselves. Tasks should be designed so all students experience immediate success. Any difficulty in learning  is met with resistance and the learner gives up.

(Information in part via Tomlinson)

As educators, this information helps to inform practice and remove outdated bias we hold on students, learning, and intelligence. With the understanding that the brain is malleable and intelligence is variable, differentiation in the classroom and rich learning experiences support all students. Tasks and units can be designed to support inquiry, provide choice, and are tied to conceptual thinking. Students grow and strengthen intelligence in multiple areas and leave our care with the ability to think, learn, and create differently.

 

Sources:

  • Carol Ann Tomlinson
  • Howard Gardner
  • Carol Dweck