Back in 2012, did a dyslexia assessment on a young man who I shall call John. John was in his second year of sixth form and applying to university to study history. John’s exam grades the previous year were below his predicted ones. As a result of the assessment, John had extra time in his module exams (and subsequenctly went to university!).
John’s reading profile is interesting. He came out above average for word recognition and comprehension (using WIAT-II-UK-T) but his reading speed of 127 words per minute (wpm) is below average for his age. His scores in CTOPP were all average, as was his reading of non-words (TOWRE-2). I concluded that he did not have any significant problems with phonological processing, though he did show some signs of challenge with focus and attention (his speed of writing was also adversely affected by having to think abut what to write, rather than because of any difficulty with manual dexterity).
What was also notable was that John invariably chose to read aloud (to the annoyance of some of his classmates). I was intrigued about why he had got into this habit and volunteered a few hours of support during half term to look into this more.
Between the feedback on the assessment and our support session, John actually decided to go for reading silently and was happy with the result! Issue sorted? Maybe yes, maybe no. I carried on.
I decided to use an experimental method with a pre-test, post-test format, even with just 3 hours of intervention between. Using passages deemed to be A level standard (one from Klein 2003 and one of my own devising, measured to be of similar readability), John read at 153 wpm – already an improvement from reading silently – but his comprehension and recall was limited (I predicted this might be a spin off of not getting the auditory feedback loop to hold attention).
In the post-test, three hours later John achieved a reading speed of 182 wpm,and his recall covered a wider range of the passage… so what did I do in between? What would you have done? Press “read more” after you have had a think!
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- The idea of this technique is to encourage fluency and confidence when reading.
- The idea is to stop the disruption to flow caused by a learner struggling to decode words or waiting to be corrected.
- This approach can bring back the pleasure in reading for pleasure.
- Choose a text that the learner is interested in reading (for pleasure or information).
- Although it is best if the text is at a level appropriate to the learner’s assessed needs, this method can be used to assist reading a harder text that the reader urgently needs to access.
- Make sure that you can both see the text comfortably, or have two copies.
- Start reading aloud together.
- Make sure you match your speed to what the learner can cope with so you don’t leave them behind or leave them frustrated.
- Model fluency and good expression.
- If the learner stumbles over a word, keep reading and encourage them to continue without pause. If they lose their place, wait for them to catch up.
- If you sense that the learner is reading confidently and accurately, fade your voice to a quieter volume, but be prepared to fade back in if they falter.
- Warn your learner that you may fade out altogether if they continue to read well.
- With a beginner reader, be prepared to pair read the same text several times so they also gain fluency from repetition and familiarity.
This is the first of a number of discussion topics I am going to share with you, taken from the archive of my blog on Unravelling Reading (see also the Unravelling Reading section of this website for other articles.)
These topics are still relevant and I hope will attract some new comments.
I was reminded, when assessing a Dip ADDS (Adult Dyslexia Diagnosis and Support) Unit 2 module, of an interesting link between reading and punctuation. The ADDS candidate K (she knew I was writing this post) submitted a DVD where she had a really interesting conversation with her learner about how punctuation can be the key to good expression and intonation when reading (they were discussing exclamation marks and question marks). We know from Ivanic (1996) that “while reading probably doesn’t help students to learn to spell, it does seem to help some to punctuate.” Adult writers can improve their punctuation by reading their work aloud and listening for a complex mix of sound, structure and meaning in the words. However, perhaps reading with a greater awareness of punctuation also helps fluency and comprehension.
In my research I had one learner who never noticed sentence breaks when she was reading a text out loud. Though she read fluently and with reasonable accuracy, she could rarely recall more than the surface detail of what she had read. Somehow her style of reading was not giving her access to the meaning for full comprehension.
One of the interventions I tried with her was asking her to use a highlighter pen with one colour to mark up sentence breaks and another for commas. We did this a couple of times before reading the text together (we were reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, as she had a passionate interest in horror stories!), as part of a series of directed activities related to texts (DARTs). It is possible she had some visual processing difficulties that meant punctuation marks did not stand out well for her. She certainly read with better expression after this activity.
In the re-assessment after 6 sessions of interventions, this learner dipped slightly in her reading accuracy and was one of the subjects who significantly slowed down her reading speed (half speeded up, half slowed down – which is an interesting finding to be discussed later). However she improved her comprehension score by 18%! Was she improving her access to the meaning of texts?
Clearly lots of other factors come into play, so it is impossible to tell if or how the work on punctuation worked; it was only one of the strategies we tried.
Ivanic, R (1996) Linguistics and non-standard punctuation, in Hall, N. and Robinson, A., eds. Learning about Punctuation, Portsmouth, NH, Heinemann.2 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »
Recent research at Princeton University suggests that if new information is presented in a font which is harder to read then the extra effort expended in reading the text leads to greater retention of the subject matter. Details of this research can be found at the link below:
These research findings contradict the widely held view that easy to read fonts assist dyslexic learners both with speed of reading and comprehension. Ariel and Verdana fonts are generally adopted as dyslexia friendly options but in this research Haettenschweiler, Monotype Corsiva and Comic Sans Italicized were used.
The Princeton researchers acknowledge that if the texts are too difficult to read then this may discourage some learners from continuing to read the information. Interestingly they also suggest that the adoption of harder to read fonts would be a cost effective means of raising attainment!
I am sure this research will arouse strong opinions amongst fellow dyslexia practitioners. Please use our discussion area to share your views.3 Comments so far: leave a comment or ask a question »