Volume 4 • #6 • June 2005


Awareness, awareness, awareness. It’s the name of the game when you are teaching a dyslectic person. Comprehension requires awareness of grammar, which is why you teach grammar early and often. After you have taught your student to identify both mental and physical nouns, mental and physical verbs and verb tenses, adjectives and adverbs, you have not only laid the groundwork for comprehension, but in the process you are stimulating that poky left hemisphere. Understanding grammar and syntax occurs in an area next to the left angular gyrus. When a person has a stroke that knocks out that area, called the Broca area after the man who found it, the person can pronounce words, but they are strung together meaninglessly, like the words in spill and spell.

The other reason you teach grammar is so that when you come to prefixes and suffixes, you can explain that a prefix usually changes the meaning of the root word to which it is hitched, but the suffix switches the part of speech. You demonstrate with something like happy, which is an adjective. If you stick on a prefix and turn it into unhappy, you have changed the meaning. But if you add a suffix, like –ness, it turns into happiness, which is a noun. Or you can add the suffix, -ly to it and turn it into happily, which is an adverb.

Parts of speech can help with spelling, too. If the word to be spelled is extension, and you know that the related v erb (I call them first cousin words) is extend, you know you will use -sion and not -tion, because verbs that end in the sound, /d/, like extend, pretend, decide, conclude will have their related nouns use -sion. Confused? Don’t be. It is all explained in the phonics book and, in fact, also at the end of the web site,

There are so many tricks, facts, and rules that a dyslexic person has to know that I try to do a little triage and only stress the ones that are absolutely necessary to keep a person from looking stupid. In this country of lousy spellers, you can end something with -ent instead of -ant without having the reader turn a hair. But if you write cklok, people look at you funny. So I eschew such unnecessary things as open and c losed syllables which are only useful for separating a word at the end of a sentence. In today’s world of computers, nobody does that any more. The computer just puts the whole word on the next line.

Teaching Tip:

It is much easier to write down a word in a spelling exercise than it is to spell it outloud without writing. Spelling it out loud involves the left hemisphere without help from the right, which can’t see the shape of the word as you write. It often helps, especially in the more advanced spelling exercises, to say each word to the pupil and make him spell it aloud before he does the exercise in the earphones. This also gives you a chance to remind him of spelling rules like the ones mentioned above.

You: The word is extension. What part of speech it is?
Pupil: A noun.
You: Right. And what is its first cousin verb?
Pupil: Extend
You: Right. So do you use -tion or -sion ?
Pupil: -sion because the verb ends in /d/.




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