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Volume 1 • #10 • July 2002


If you look at any foreign language text book, on the first page you will find the alphabet listed, together with the pronunciation of each letter. Farther down the page there will be several lines of vowel-consonant (VC) and consonant-vowel (CV) pairs for you to pr0nounce. This makes sense, since you must learn the new matches between letters and sounds. You also need to remember which shape goes with which noise (a real hoot in Russian) and to be able to pronounce them together. If you think you can skip this step, open up a book in an unfamiliar language and try to read it out loud.

Teachers of dyslectic students often make the mistake of thinking that you can skip this step with English speaking pupils because all kids know the alphabet and what sounds go with what letters don't they? Especially if they can read at all, however badly?

Big mistake.

Yes, even most dyslectic students can tell you the sounds of the commonest consonants like M, T, V, or B. But in thirty-odd years of teaching I have yet to find a dyslectic student who could rattle off the short vowel sounds or tell you that C, S and G each have two sounds, what X sounds like, or that Y (good grief) has four sounds! On top of that, when they put CV and VC letters together, they tend to have trouble starting with the one on the left or putting the two together without a pause between them.

These initial exercises with the plastic letters from the RfS package form the backbone of any therapeutic program for dyslexia because they cannot be done by the right hemisphere. So even before you get near the earplugs and tape recorder set up, you are already stimulating the left language area. This work is necessary for all pupils, no matter what age or stage. If your pupil thinks they are babyish, just tell him that they have nothing to do with age but are linguistic exercises that precede all reading. Then get out a foreign language book and show him.

Practically every website has a FAQ section for Frequently Asked Questions. We do, too, of course! I am tempted to put into the newsletters a new category: FMM, or Frequently Made Mistakes. The prime candidate for first place so far is not to begin at the beginning. I get e-mails from people who get the material, glance at it briefly, decide to start some time next week, and in the meantime, stick the workbook in front of the pupil to start him off. Or, after not reading ALL of the material per instructions, decide to "see where the child is now" and maybe start from there! The same people wouldn't dream of covering a wound without cleaning it first or of giving a child his first lesson behind the wheel of a car in midtown Manhattan at 5 P.M.


Teaching tip:

I have a nine-year-old jumping jack who doesn't like the glasses and can't keep the cardboard in place for more than fifteen seconds. He does use the glasses because he has to, but constantly lets them slip and has to be reminded. He is quite a baseball player and one day solved the problem himself. He always wears his baseball cap and one day put it on backwards and twisted it arouond until the visor came down over his left eye. Problem solved. Now we're both happy!



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