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Field Report One

The January newsletter contained the news that Cindy was returning to the classroom

for a semester. Knowing the class she would be teaching had three children identified

as dyslexic, Cindy was interested in using hands-on methods she frequently suggests

to teachers during professional development sessions. Teachers are perplexed about

how to best create classrooms that are friendly to dyslexic learners, yet challenging to

all learners. The opportunity to both help out a small school by filling a co-teaching

vacancy and test out her methods for the good of all students in the room was too

good to pass up. Field Report One tells you how Cindy's first weeks in the classroom

have gone.

Making Science Vocabulary Words Meaningful

The Science chapter on light included the words opaque, translucent, and transparent.

These are tough words for third graders to read, let alone grasp and apply the meaning

of. A worksheet activity invited students to list items from the classroom in each of the

light categories. Turning the worksheet into a countertop activity was simple, and

students found it more engaging than paper and pencil work.

Items were gathered from my home and put into the fancy “Mystery Bag.” A whole

group practice sort with an item or two per category clarified the oral directions and left

a “go by” item next to each of the three terms. Throughout the day students took turns

going to the bag and sorting out the items inside into categories, saying quietly,

“Opaque, translucent and transparent,” as they placed items by the tent card bearing

that word. A one-minute teacher check gave students an opportunity to verbalize why

they placed items where they did and allowed for corrective feedback where

necessary. A daily work grade for correct sorting replaced the original worksheet


Making some terms for lunar landforms more memorable for students was

accomplished by assigning a project. Students and their families were assigned four of

the landforms to build models of with salt clay and label with toothpick flags. A

grading rubric, sent home at the beginning of the project helped parents guide the

students’ efforts. The Science textbook provided definitions and descriptions, which

students brought to life with their models. Students reinforced the vocabulary as they

described to classmates the process by which they produced their landforms. The

project was equal to one test grade.

Studying the eye was fascinating to elementary students. Many new vocabulary words

populated the chapter, so another day-long station was set up for independent, hands-

on practice of both placing the correct term flag on the part of the eye chart to which it

corresponded and correctly ordering the structures through which light passes as it

enters the eye and travels to the optic nerve. Making this activity self-checking

allowed it to be easily reset by each student, requiring no teacher time once it was set

up and explained to the group.

Making Daily Classwork Manageable

In addition to these specific Science class tweaks, small changes have been

incorporated into the daily rhythm of the classroom.

When a dyslexic child has a lot of activity book writing to do, Cindy can quietly pull a

chair alongside the child and act as a scribe by writing what the child dictates for a bit.

This allows the child a break from writing while continuing to move classwork forward.

When reading still needs to be completed near the end of a big learning day, Cindy will

pull her rolling desk near the struggling students, and as they follow, she reads the text

aloud. This gives the students a break from decoding and allows their strong oral

comprehension to shine as they complete the last assignments of the day without

needing to take unfinished work home as homework.

Reminding students of the glossary and index in the back of their textbooks can make

finding vocabulary word definitions easier by narrowing the search down to one page.

Using tools already built into their textbooks is great for all students, but essential for

students with dyslexia.

Building multiplication fact helps with all the students and gives each of them their

personal set of practice tools, and can be tailored to whichever fact families are most

challenging for each student. Strings with wings were made last week, and fact

families are already stronger for all students, not just those with dyslexia.

Each student now has a drill ring for English, History and Science vocabulary cards.

Writing out the cards helps each student by thinking through the definition as it is

written. Ways to further utilize the drill ring need to be implemented in the classroom

during the next month.

So far, so good!

When embarking on this semester-long adventure, Cindy was taking an honest look at

the methods she had been suggesting to teachers. It was a goal to see if

implementing methods known to help dyslexic students would be beneficial and

engaging to all learners. The answer so far is a resounding yes! Check back next

month for specifics of small but indispensable classroom changes to help students

with dyslexia.

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