Volume 4 #6 June
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
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, www.dyslexia.org.
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
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
You: Right. So do you use -tion or
Pupil: -sion because the verb ends in