The Studying With Dyslexia Blog welcomes back Dyslexia and Memory Specialist, Sarah Guest. Sarah shares how to prepare your dyslexic learner for their return back to school in September so that the change is lifestyle isn't such a painful process and that your child can hit the ground running.
The summer holidays are just around the corner now and I hope you have a relaxing break after all the hard work of the academic year. For some students, though, the summer break is a long time away from the routine of a learning environment and it can be hard for them to pick up where they left off when September arrives.
This can be particularly frustrating for dyslexic learners, who thrive on revisiting and reviewing information on a regular basis. So, I’ve put together a list of activities to give you some ideas for games and activities you can use to help keep your skills up-to-date over the summer.
I’ve broken them down into different areas; try to complete some from each group to get a good balance. These are only ideas to get you started - feel free to adapt them to your own interests and abilities/ add your own ideas.
Finally, the most important thing to remember is: have fun! We learn best when we’re relaxed and enjoying ourselves.
This isn’t just about learning how to spell words, it’s about having an understanding of the pattern, rhyme and rhythm of words. This confidence ‘playing around’ with sounds and words helps you break them down when trying to spell. Activities could include…
Playing word puzzles.
Any puzzle that involves words in some way, such as crosswords/ word searches/ word scrambles/ odd one out and so on is great for building spelling skills. Don’t automatically assume you won’t be any good at these puzzles – with a dyslexic’s ability to ‘think outside the box’ they can often find the answer quicker than some non-dyslexics! There are lots of free word puzzles online to download or alternatively, you can buy puzzle books from supermarkets/shops such as Wilko’s/ The Works.
· One person says a base word (e.g. house) and everyone else calls out other words that rhyme (e.g. mouse).
· Invent your own ‘couplets’ - one person invents the first line of the poem (e.g. we were sitting in the garden drinking tea…) and everyone else has to think of a second line to rhyme – the sillier the better! (e.g. ‘when a bird came down and sat on me!) Then what….
· Once you get good at couplets you could move onto limericks – there are lots of examples online to find. Try inventing one using the name of each member of your family? They are 5 lines long and lines 1,2 and 5 must rhyme together and lines 3&4 must be shorter and rhyme together. e.g.
There once was a boy in the Port,
who forgot all that he’d been taught.
But they both fell asleep and learnt naught!
Break words down into their ‘beats’ / syllables and play games with them, e.g. catch and pass a ball to each beat, so that ‘garden’ becomes 2 passes: ‘gar-den’.
Simply enjoying a good story is part of our human ‘make-up’ - we’ve been telling and sharing stories since the time language was first created. It helps feed our imaginations and widens our vocabulary. Activities could include…
Borrow an audiobook.
This could be from the library or downloaded from the internet – you could also borrow/ download a paper copy at the same time and read along with the CD.
Read a magazine.
It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you’re enjoying spending time looking at text. Treat yourself to a magazine, pour yourself a cold drink and sit in the sunshine while it lasts!
Listen to the radio.
It may sound strange but listening to language can help your reading fluency. When you listen to a story or a debate on the radio your brain picks out the rhythm of language – punctuation, vocab, sentence flow and so on. This can then be transferred across to help your reading.
Note that there is a wealth of electronic textbooks available for free from the RNIB Bookshare service that dyslexic students can use and read over the summer. Find out more here and ask your SENCO for more information.
Fine motor skills.
The act of writing is actually quite complicated. Think of it like trying to drive a car; it takes a collection of different skills to all work together, which most of us take for granted. ‘Fine motor skills’ include the finger/hand muscle strength to be able to accurately control the pressure, grip and movement of a pen across the page. Activities could include…
If you’re crafty/arty then put your skills to use by sewing/ crocheting/ cross-stitching - all of these crafts require strong fine motor skills. There are lots of kits available both online and from shops such as Wilko’s/ The Works that don’t need to cost a lot of money.
Lego/ Pegboard patterns.
These days Lego isn’t just for the kids, there are plenty of ‘grown-up kids kits’ available that test your dexterity and fine motor skills. There are also ‘peg boards’, which come in all sorts of formats, but essentially you use a plastic board and a range of coloured pegs to create pictures from templates.
Adult colouring and doodle books are also very ‘in’ at the minute, which is good news for anyone who wants to practice their fine motor skills and channel their creativity at the same time.
Any game that involves sorting/posting small items is good for strengthening fine motor skills. You could make your own by using an egg box and a bag of coloured buttons/tokens/mini-pompoms. Pick them up one at a time and put a different colour into each compartment either using fingers or tweezers (for added challenge). For a competitive element, time how long it takes you and then try to beat that score each time. See how much you can improve over the summer.
Another key aspect of handwriting is the hand-eye coordination it takes to place the letters/words accurately on the page. Activities could include…
Control games. Play games such as ‘Buzz’, Jenga, Pick up sticks or make towers from playing cards. These traditional family games are a great way to spend time together and develop good hand-eye coordination at the same time.
Puzzles. For example, mazes and dot-to-dots which can again either be downloaded from a range of websites online or bought in a puzzle book from supermarkets/shops such as Wilko’s/ The Works.
An essential skill that many students really struggle with. ‘Working’ memory is our ability to hold information in our minds for a short period of time while we complete another task (which could be to listen to another instruction or work out part of a sum), before then recalling the information again. Activities could include…
Traditional memory games.
Lots of traditional games rely on remembering what your opponent has just done, for example; Pairs, Kim’s Game, I spy, ‘I went to market and I bought….’
Apps/ computer games.
There are also many ‘brain training’ apps available that help challenge and develop your child’s memory.
Speed of processing.
This is how quickly we can respond to something, a bit like our ‘reaction time’. There are two key types of processing that we’re particularly interested in; visual and auditory/listening.
Sport and music.
Playing sport – especially team sports – is a great way to help improve mental processing skills; during a game, a player must process what’s going on, plan their next moves and respond in time. Similarly, playing a musical instrument is also great for mental processing skills; a musician must process the notes coming up and play them in time with the beat.
Any puzzle that requires abstract thought is great for improving speed of processing, such as crosswords/ Sudoku/ spot the difference/ odd one out. Again, puzzles can be found online or bought from supermarkets/shops such as Wilko’s/ The Works.
There are a few good games on the market that develop processing speeds, such as the Rubik cube/ Dobble/ Simon Says/ Bop-it. Traditional games such as Snap and jigsaw puzzles are also excellent for mental processing.
I hope you find some of the ideas here useful and, whatever you choose to do, I wish you a lovely summer.