These are phonics resources and activities in line with the UK curriculum. They can help parents when home schooling and are dyslexia friendly. There are opportunities to learn in a multi-sensory way and to use repetition to embed learning. And they are fund: the best way to make learning secure.
Phonics is the system of mapping letters onto sounds to read and vice versa to spell. Children learn “Letter-Sound Links” in early education – the relationships between letters and sounds, in order to be able to read and spell. Phonics shows learners what sounds individual letters make in different circumstances, when combined with other letters, for example.
Dyslexic children can find it difficult to identify and differentiate between sounds. They can confuse some of the sounds they hear. Mispronounce them. Jumble sounds in some words. This is clearly going to make it harder to acquire phonics.
Children can learn to read words by sight, recalling what each word looks like, in order to identify it. They can learn to remember the visual shape of words and to visually recognise patterns of letters when spelling. But it would be impossible to know all of the individual words you would need when you are reading and spelling at an advanced level. That would be too many words. That is where phonics comes in. Understanding the rules for how letters and combinations of letters translate into sounds, is what enables good readers to read fluently and to read words they have never seen before. Children with secure phonic skills can recognise patterns quickly and can automatically move from what they hear to what they see or write.
Why can dyslexic children struggle with phonics?
Dyslexia usually involves weaknesses in the type of processing required to manipulate sounds in words. That is an underlying weakness in exactly the skills being learned.
But dyslexia can also involve slow processing of sound information, which means that if teachers cover new concepts very quickly, they may miss bits. And when there are gaps in knowledge, that will clearly cause problems. And dyslexia can also involve difficulty remembering sound information, so if teachers move swiftly on from teaching one letter-sound link to another, a dyslexic student may not have practised it enough, to have secured that knowledge in their long term memory.
Can dyslexic children learn phonic skills?
Just because dyslexic children may find it more difficult than others to learn phonics, does not mean they cannot do it. They may need longer to learn. They may need to learn in a different way.
Multi-sensory teaching and learning, often offered by specialist dyslexia teachers, can include seeing, doing or touching at the same time as saying or hearing. Learning something in more than one way at the same time is the same as multiple repetitions. It is like doing it more than once. It can even be better than that, as using visual ways to learn, or incorporating touch or music even, is more interesting or fun, which makes information memorable and likely to stick (see page on Memory Strategies)
There are also several simple activities you can do at home to make it easier for young dyslexic children to be responsive to phonic learning at school, despite any underlying processing weaknesses which could otherwise mean that they could struggle more. These can be described as Pre-Literacy Skills.
1) RHYME Rhyme is one of the most basic pre-literacy skills. Recognising rhyming words makes reading much more efficient. So re-learning nursery rhymes and teaching them to your child will help them when they start to read. If they want to make up their own, however silly, and even with pretend words, that is also useful.
2) LETTER SOUND LINKS Another basic phonic skill is knowing what sound each letter of the alphabet makes. Parents can help teach this with wooden or plastic letters set out in an arc in the alphabet sequence, and talking to their child about the “names” of the letters and the basic “sounds” they make.
Knowing what sounds words begin with is also an essential skill. Therefore word games at home which focus on initial letters, such as “I Spy” set your child up better for learning literacy skills.
3) ALPHABET SONG Reciting the alphabet in order, as the well known “song” will also help your child. Sequencing can be difficult for those with dyslexia and knowing where letters come in the alphabet, will play a part in making literacy skills easier for them. So playing an alphabet game can be very useful at the same time as enjoyable: trying to think of animals or foods with each letter of the alphabet in turn for example.
4) MEMORY STRATEGIES Learning memory strategies, even when very young, will help your child retain phonics input they are taught at school. There are lots of memory games for small children, and they encourage children to work out their own ways to remember things. Kims game is always fun (putting six to a dozen different items on a tray, giving the children a minute to look at them and try it remember them, then putting a tea towel over the tray and seeing how many items there can recite. You can repeat to see how many more they remember the second time. They will eventually learn strategies, such as saying to themselves “You use this in the bathroom” or “small and blue” or “begins with “k”. “. Another game is: I went to the market and I bought …..”: children remember the list of items already bought by the players before them and add an item each time.
5) FAMILIARITY WITH BOOKS Reading time with parents, to allow children to develop favourite picture books, is an opportunity for children to deliver other pre-reading skills: Which way up do books go? Which direction do you read in? What is a title? They don’t have to be able to read any words to learn reading skills this way.
And when your child does start to read…….
When your child is ready to start learning to read, and is on a reading scheme at school, but you would like to help them at home, there are phonics based reading books designed for dyslexic children that you may find useful and fun to share with your child. This is one example of a website offering such books:
This is a great resource by a music company celebrating what Neurodiverse employees (whether they have dyslexia, ASD orADHD or a combination) bring to teams and organisations,which would all be the poorer without them.
That is why it is so helpful to have a diagnostic report: not to put a label on it, although that can be helpful to access support in educational or work settings but mainly to understand any relative strengths and weaknesses. Diagnostic Reports will always include recommendations of learning strategie and approaches designed to exploit a student’s strengths, in order to compensate for their weaknesses.
Given that dyslexic processing strengths and weaknesses can be different for each student, it makes sense that effective solutions and interventions will vary for different types of processing profile and individual personalities. Diagnostic assessment identifies strengths as well as weaknesses. That is very reassuring. A Student can feel reassured about their skills and abilities and can quantify the specific areas they need to compensate for. Identifying the problem means they don’t have to worry about everything all at once any more. It also means their parents or tutors understand the reasons for specific things they may find difficult, so they in turn find it easier to be supportive rather than frustrated. Finally, identifying the specific issues and how they are affecting someone means it is possible to identify the most effective ways to combat those issues. It means that if a student decides to follow a suggested strategy, they can be confident that it is likely to work for them. This is much better than not knowing why something is difficult and randomly trying all sorts of suggestions that may have worked for other people with a completely different profile. Students are far more likely to persevere with a strategy, if they know it is good use of their time and will make things easier for them.
Teach number bonds to ten using basic square Lego pieces of two colours (Say yellow and red). With your child, build columns of ten pieces of Lego, showing all the combinations of two numbers adding up to ten. So you will end up with a column of ten yellow; nine yellow and one red; eight yellow and two red, seven yellow and three red; six yellow and four red, five of each; four yellow and six red; three yellow and seven red; two yellow and eight red; one yellow and nine red; and ten red.
Building the Lego columns provides time and physical, tactile activity to help the concept sink in and be trusted.
Get a tin to store a collection of pencils, crayons, buttons or counters in. Use these to help your child understand simple multiplication language and concepts in a fun and tangible way. When you demonstrate concepts using objects, the child can see with their own eyes that they are true. In addition, using Coloured pencils or pretty buttons, even counters in the shape of cars or dinosaurs, whatever is of interest at the time, will be more memorable.
You can practise language such as “groups of”, “lots of” and “times”. You can demonstrate that 3 x 8 really is the same as 8 x 3 (which really helps if you know your 3 times table but not your 8 times table) by asking them to put out three groups of eight, and then eight groups of three, and counting the total (or noticing that the same number of counters has been used.) Even teenagers are happy to use pencils to fully understand this concept.
Similarly you provide give 12 counters and ask your child to split or share them into four equal groups, noticing how many are in each group and then do the same for three groups. This is a good way to demonstrate concepts that they can later trust: if 3 x 4 = 12 and 4 x 3 = 12, then 12 divide by 4 is 3 and 12 divide by three is 4. This can be replicated for much bigger numbers without the counters. You can start to use fraction terminology in these practical sessions too.
Consolidating times tables knowledge
Automatic times table recall really helps children when doing lots of different kinds of maths problems at school but it is often difficult for dyslexic children (or those with other SpLDs) to learn times tables . There are some fun ways to address speed of recall of the types of times tables facts you could have initially practised trusting with buttons as above. Here are a few:
1) Reciting to a tune. There are various commercial versions of times tables songs available.
2) Getting quicker and quicker at filling in a 10 x 10 times table square. Initially, you can work with your child to fill in the easy bits as hey learn them: the first horizontal and 1st vertical will be x1, so you I just copy the number in the margin/ at the top of the table. The last row and last column is x10, which is add a “0”. The 2nd row and 2nd column will be 2 x tables, so you I can work on that easily usually. X3 may come next with painstaking practise, but eventually, the order will become automatic. X 4 you can teach them is the same as x2 and x2 again – double then double. x5 is often easy – answers end in “0” or “5”. There are clever games to work out x 9, including that the first digit always goes up by one and the 2nd digit always goes down by one (9, 18, 27, 36…) That leaves 6, 7 and 8 which are the tricky ones. But you will see on the square that the inverse relationships are already in place: 2×6 =6×2, 3×7=7×3 etc). So he only tricky ones left to learn are 6×6, 6×7, 7×7, 7×8 and 8×8. There are rhymes that can be learned for these (e.g. I ate and ate until I was sick on the floor, which reminds you of 8×8 is 64)
Once you have worked out how to work them out, you practice regularly and get quicker and quicker until you can recall them more fluently when doing maths problems.
3) Alternatively, you can play dice games with your child to help them become more automatic in their recall of times tables facts. If you play a big version of Snakes and Ladders using 2 dice, you can incorporate a step where the child tries to multiply the two dice numbers showing before adding them to take their go. (Or even using the multiplied answers as their go! The game will finish much quicker!) You can buy foam dice and put your own numbers on so you can practice 7, 8 and 9 times tables this way.
4) Card games: you can make simple card games, just as you do with word cards. Make cards with times tables facts on one side and the answer on the other to use each go in a board game. Make cards with the question on one card and the answer on the other to play pairs with (wither cards upturned or face down). Or make cards with just the question on and make simple bingo boards with the answers on. Of course some of the answers are the same for different questions, so the game could get competitive and funny!
Classrooms are often too noisy, fast paced and written-word based for dyslexic students, who need more time to process new information, more repetitions to secure new learning, and more practical and visual ways to understand what they are being taught.
So why not make use of this bonus time to help them learn different ways to acquire new skills and knowledge?
Think outside the box. They don’t have to be sitting at a table:
For young learners:
– Play verbal rhyming games, learn some new nursery rhymes and adapt them to be funny, or make up rhyme cards with pictures for words at their level of reading, to play pairs or snap (eg bat, cat, hat/ pen, hen, den or clock, dock, lock/ pray, play, tray).
For KS2 learners:
– Play Kim’s game (put 9 or 10 objects on a tray, give them a minute to try to memorise them, hide the objects with a tea towel and ask them to remember as many as possible. You can discuss ways of remembering as you play (eg for items like hairbrush, pepper pot, keys – 1) picture yourself brushing your hair, seasoning your dinner, opening your front door OR 2) picture the items themselves in your head OR 3) notice what letter they begin with (H, P, K) or 4) Make up a story using all the items. The more you play, the quicker you learn to use memory strategies that will support all learning in class too.
For KS3/ KS4 Learners:
When reading, get into the habit of translating word for word for key words into similar, simpler words as you go, even if you think you know what the original words mean, or even if you think your new word is not very precisely the same. This is a memory strategy to retain the meaning of text, which can be difficult for those with dyslexia. You get better and quicker at it the more you practice. It is a technique which will prepare students for formulating language in their heads when they want to organise their ideas in writing but struggle to do so.
There is always a way to shape the environment and translate the content into a state your students can understand and retain, keep searching for it and when you find what works stick to it. Our best is all we can ask for and what we should search for, as ever patience is a virtue and effort will pay its dividend.