Volume 4 • #10 • October 2005


Those of you who have used the Reading from Scratch program will know that Chapter 8 of the Tutor’s Guide discusses the need for teaching syntax and grammar to a dyslectic student. The main reason you start so early in the program to teach how to recognize nouns and verbs is that there is a spelling rule attached: If the last sound in a word is /t/ or /d/ the word may be the past tense of a verb. If that is the case, the sound must be spelled with the letters -ed.

When you have gotten farther along in the material you will be explaining about adding prefixes and suffixes , dropping silent e’s, doubling final consonants to protect short vowels, etc. More spelling rules. So you make sure the student can distinguish nouns from verbs, sometimes using them in two sentences, once as a noun and once as a verb. (Many words like ring, hope, plant, etc. can be either noun or verb.) At this point you will also have added adjectives and adverbs to your collection of parts-of-speech making sure that the student can identify each kind.

Why? Because prefixes and suffixes have two different roles to play. A prefix changes the meaning of the word, often giving the opposite one: tie, untie, or close, disclose. A suffix, on the other hand, doesn’t change the general meaning, but does change the part of speech. Happy is an adjective. Add the suffix, -ness, and you have happiness, which is a noun. Colorful is an adjective. Color is a noun. There are exercises in all this in the workbook, and you should be giving a lot of it orally. It gives you some variety when you have been going flat out on phonics for awhile. Put suffixes on a lot of words and have the student tell you which parts of speech are interchanged.

There is another reason why this kind of exercise is critical. You have already explained, months ago when you first started, about how the student’s problem is that he is not using the left side of his brain for processing language, and that is why he is in trouble. You have stressed that his reading problem has nothing to do with intelligence. You have often congratulated his left side for doing something brilliant when it remembers and uses a spelling rule! You have reminded him that pronouncing syllables in isolation is not baby stuff, but is a sound-symbol exercise that only his left side can do, so it gets a lot of exercise that way. Now you tell him that understanding parts-of-speech is also strictly a left hemisphere activity, so doing these exercises gives you another way besides phonics to give it a shove. And once again, you have implied that the student is NOT the problem. It is his lazy left side that needs the poke because it is getting him in trouble. Always, always, always, remind your student that the fault is in his left hemisphere, not him.

Or to mangle Shakespeare, “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in our left hemispheres.” Or something like that.

Teaching Tip: You just read it.



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