I am an elementary special education resource teacher for 3rd-5th grades, and I estimate at least 80% of the students on my caseload are dyslexic. I did not attend University of Michigan, so I'm not sure if this resource is available to me or not. I am simply seeking guidance from those in the field.

I teach at a school that is not Title One, and all of my students this year will have their own laptops. I rotate groups in my room so part of the time that students will be there will be spent on computer software. I want to utilize their time effectively and give them programs that will help them learn how to better decode and encode words and build reading word and passage fluency. They need significant gains so they can close the gap between themselves and their regular classroom peers. In my case, I've taught my rising 5th graders now for two years and have been able to help all of them grow two grade levels since, yet most are not actually closing their achievement gap.

Could you please help me help them?

Dr. Pierson's Response: 

First of all, thank you for being such a mindful educator! I can tell your students are lucky to have you. Congratulations on those gains! Second of all, DyslexiaHelp is here for anyone, not just UM Wolverines! (Which I happen to be....) It is our founding donor's wish that people have access to state-of-the-art, research-based and evidenced-based practices no matter where they live.

Indeed, I am not surprised that 80% of your caseload in the school is dyslexic ā€“ that's what the research would predict. So ā€“ that said, you have asked a big question.

My first question is whether your students are using audiobooks or text-to-speech software to have access to grade-level text.

We know that students with reading disorders are at risk to have their vocabulary degrade over time when they are not exposed to (i.e., cannot read) the same text as their peers. This can start as early as 3rd grade and definitely by 4th grade (and beyond) when the curriculum has moved from learning to read and teacher-supported learning to using one's reading to learn. It will be very important that your students have access to the same texts as their peers and using a program that reads text aloud and, ideally, highlights the text as they read along.

On the flip side, so to speak, for writing, text-to-speech software/apps is particularly important for them as well. We have a number of software programs listed here.

Learning morphological roots and affixes is invaluable, beginning with inflectional endings (e.g., plurals, regular past tense marker -ed, -ing) as well as Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Relative to good apps that will reinforce skills you've taught them, you can trust Dr. Elaine Cheesman. Here is her link to one of her app chats on the International Dyslexia Association website that addresses morphology.

Here's another of her pieces on vocabulary.

Here is her spelling information ā€“ Iā€™m not sure how helpful these will be given that many are done by Preschool University, and may seem too young for your students.

I feel like you have opened Pandora's Box with your question. Please let me know if this is the type of information you are looking for and then maybe send specific questions and we can start a "dialogue."

I am happy to help! We need more educators like you!