Supporting Dyslexia with Early Literacy Instruction

January 31, 2024

As schools across the nation face the astounding need to support and test for dyslexia, many states are moving toward mandating dyslexia screening. Now is an important time to understand the basics of dyslexia and uncover some common struggles identified. 

Let's start by understanding what dyslexia is and is not. Dyslexia is not a representation of a child’s intelligence but rather is looked at as “a gap between a student’s ability and achievement,” Child Mind explains. “Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities (International Dyslexia Association - IDA).” One of the biggest causes of dyslexia is rooted in assembling phonemes, which make up single units of sound. This ultimately impacts the phonological module, the part of the language that requires the use and assembly of phonemes. 

It is reported that about 15–20% of people have some characteristics of dyslexia; such as trouble with accurate reading, fluent word recognition, spelling, or decoding. A common trend among all grades is that all students have a high feeling of frustration. In K-12, about 85% of students with a learning disability face difficulty with reading and processing language, according to IDA.

 A Focus on K-2

Although dyslexia impacts all ages, the development of language is typically happening in grades K-2. 

Some common struggles seen in early elementary ages are:

  • Inability to identify rhyming patterns 
  • Trouble learning and remembering names of letters
  • An obstacle of associating letters with sounds 
  • Difficulty breaking words into individual sounds
  • Struggle to separate words into syllables

The good news is screeners can often catch the concern early and in the past several years, 48 states passed legislation mandating dyslexia screening (NWEA). 

Early Literacy Indicators

The Classworks Universal Screener measures student performance with key domains that are indicative of future reading performance:

  • Phonological Awareness
  • Letter-sound Correspondence
  • Decoding
  • Reading Comprehension

Each of these strands has been identified as early predictors for further screening for learning disabilities, specifically dyslexia. An additional benefit of the Classworks Universal Screener is that it limits the number of tests for students to take and can identify the students needing additional testing.

When looking to implement a screener that includes dyslexia indicators, ensure the reports and data provide recommendations for clear next steps (see sample report). 

Support Students Identified as Having Dyslexia

Dyslexia makes individuals unique. Several of the most successful and groundbreaking individuals struggled in some capacity with school - notably Albert Einstein and Robin Williams! Understand that these groups of students are not “at-risk” of potentially getting or catching dyslexia, rather it is a condition of language, 40-60% are more likely to inherit it. Students either have it or they don’t–and it’s up to us to help them overcome it. 

Time is of the essence! The earlier it’s identified, the better and the quicker we can assist students. With the right instruction, many students with dyslexia become competent readers  (Scientific American)

Early Literacy Instruction

Evidence-based reading programs like Classworks include Early Literacy instruction that explicitly addresses the areas of concern readily identified in dyslexia. Classworks reading instruction is aligned with the Science of Reading with a focus on repetition, explicit instruction of sound structures, comprehension, and the rules of English.

You can use instructional programs like Classworks to support students in multiple ways, such as small groups and 1:1, as recommended by Scientific American

Try this: Create small focus groups based on each early literacy indicator. The Classworks Dynamic Grouping Feature automatically suggests small groups based on performance. Utilize this feature to see which students are working on the same level. Then, assign the Early Literacy instruction easily to those who have been identified, focusing on Phonemic Awareness, Concepts of Print, Vocabulary, and Reading Comprehension. 

We suggest working with these groups of students in stations and during intervention times three times a week. These are also great opportunities for tutoring sessions and after-school programs. 

In addition to working in groups, students need to have individualized opportunities to strengthen their literacy skills. In Classworks, students’ individualized learning paths are automatically adapted by their early literacy assessment results. Any early literacy skills identified in their assessments as At Risk will turn on the corresponding skills in the student’s learning path. 

Valid and Reliable Progress Monitoring

The best way to see if intensive intervention is impacting students is with weekly formal Progress Monitoring. Choose a valid and reliable Progress Monitoring program from the National Center On Intensive Intervention (NCII) Tools Chart.  

Use a Global Indicators Progress Monitoring Tool, like Classworks, to assign skill-based weekly probes based on the biggest domain deficit identified by their Reading screener assessment. Classworks will automatically assign the correct Progress Monitoring level based on the student’s screener results, making it super easy for teachers! 

In addition to scheduling consistent time each week for students to complete their Progress Monitoring probes, you will need time to review the data. Provide frequent and supportive feedback to students about their progress, sharing their scores regularly. Ideally, your Progress Monitoring program gives students insight into their scores, like Classworks does. If you feel changes to the instruction are warranted, consider NCII’s recommendations on making data-based adaptations.

Dyslexia is one of the most common literacy-related disabilities, affecting nearly one in every five individuals. It is critical to have the right processes and resources in place to intervene quickly for students and give them the best chance for reading success! 

Districts across the nation use Classworks assessments to determine the need for dyslexia evaluation and support. Chat with us on the bottom right of your screen to get the conversation started.

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