We gave a 6 hour work shop recently about Dyslexia Awareness and Teaching Strategies. It’s always interesting what some attendees will get focused on. We were talking about preschoolers and that we believe teaching a child who is already showing Dyslexic tendencies or a right brain learning style should be taught the alphabet very carefully. They will generally respond well to learning the uppercase letters first and later being taught the lower case in kindergarten or first grade. The reason for learning the uppercase first is the letters are more clearly defined from each other than the lower case.
Nine of the lower case letters contain circles (a, b, c, d, e, g, o, p, q). Four of the letters are the same symbol set in different directions (b, d, p, q). Four of the letters have a “u” shape in them (h, m, n, u). The letters “i”, “l” and “t” look very similar. All these similarities make letters hard to learn for Dyslexics as Dyslexics often have issues with directionality.
“A child with a directionality problem has difficulty dealing with directions of objects in relation to self, such as “to my right,” “to my left,” “above me,” “below me,” etc. Such a child has difficulty following directions on paper-pencil tasks such as “write your name in the top right-hand corner,” “draw a line under the word ______,” and the like. He may also confuse letters like b and d, numbers like 17 and 71, or write backward, from right to left, the letters appearing like ordinary writing seen in a mirror.” ~ Audioblox”
Also the alphabet is a type of abstract concept that Dyslexics have a frustrating time trying to learn because unless the letters are part of a word they don’t mean anything other than sounds. Dyslexics need concrete real images that can be connected to symbols such as words and numerals. “C – A – T” are sounds but do not bring up any images of real things. The word “CAT” however can be imagined.
We have found that if you start a Dyslexic child with the upper case alphabet, in colour and practiced in a modeling medium such as clay or playdoh they will be able to mentally connect to the letters. Check out Ron Davis’ The Gift of Dyslexia, Revised and Expanded: Why Some of the Smartest People Can’t Read…and How They Can Learn. The last part of the book uses a number of methods that make the alphabet real and shows how to memorize the sequence of letters more effectively for the Dyslexic. Sequences are very difficult for Dyslexics as the right brain learner thinks in the “big picture” and then the parts. The alphabet is learned by memorizing the “parts” or letters first.
So getting back to our workshop. We had a preschool teacher get upset with our suggestion of studying the uppercase alphabet first. She said all their teaching materials used the lower case letters first and she insisted the lower case was easier to learn. The reasons I listed above that make the lower case confusing for a Dyslexic are probably beneficial for left brain learners because they are similar and fewer shapes to learn. The preschool teacher was adamant we were wrong. This is unfortunately one of the viewpoints of teachers that make it so difficult to help Dyslexic students learn the alphabet, spelling and reading.
Founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online