Visual ways to read

For most students we learn to read by sounding out each letter and learning how these go together to form words. This is the Phonics method.

At The Homework Club we work with many students who can’t ever learn to read by phonics. It might as well seem like rocket science. In fact with time and much effort they could learn about rockets long before they will ever develop an understanding for phonics. I know this because I’ve done it, learnt about rockets that is… In short due to the way dyslexics brain’s work this is an impossible task.

However I like many other dyselxics manage to read, write and study successfully. We may be slower, make the odd mistake and be lousy at proof reading but we can read somewhat. How do we do this?

My most common question to students is ” do you remember what the words look like?”. The answer is always yes and then they guess them in context to what they are trying to read. They look at the pictures to tell them what the story is about and they memorize the patterns of the words.

Big words are easier to learn than small words – they have more parts. We learn the “odd” words easier, these stand out to us.

So here are a few tips to help students rely on their talents to read in a way that suits them.

If a student is  struggling block out parts of the words and let them piece the words together like lego – this is reading by visualizing word patterns not letter sounds. It will also help with spelling. Pay special attention to word endings, tion, ed, ment, ness, ion, an, er, ing …. It is like applying a maths formula to read.

Pick out the small words, cat, ad, add, it, is, on, play, gest, gory, let, man, pic, gram, num,com, con, out, cont, tent, in, ark, as….


dark/ ness

light/ blub

add/ it/ ion

as/ sort/ ment

Great games to use in word visualization are word searches, hang-man, picture dictionary, Boggle, Scrabble cards. We will go through more examples of these in later blogs and show how they can be developed for all language classes. We will also post up how to create a colour system for reading. This then forms the basis to link reading and expression tasks as sequences and structure are also challenging for dyslexics but as they have supper visual memories we just need them to learn the patterns.

When reading encourage them to trace the words with their fingers or better still use a ruler and go down through the text line by line. There are also reading tools available link x-mark that are simply a slit cut in card that allow us to travel down the text.

When the amount of text increases we still only see we have a line to read not a whole paragraph and it prevents jumping or skipping lines. This reduces the noise element to text and stops it becoming overwhelming for students. We often find students suddenly develop reading problems between the transition of senior infants (aged 5-6) and 1st class (aged 6-7). This is not just because the reading gets a little harder – the text shirks, the sentences suddenly double and it just looks worse than it really is!

Above all else we have to have a reason to read – many of the books in school are plain boring. Aliens, cars, volcanoes, dinosaurs and snakes are so much more interesting. Find a good topic always to base the exercises on. We need to be able to read for a reason – to absorb interesting facts and knowledge about the things we like in “our” world. Follow these topics on for the expression exercises, the word searches, hang-man and the exciting picture books. You need to create the links between reading and writing.