How Treating Literacy as an Art Can Help Motivate Children with Dyslexia

Our specialist SEN tutor argues for the importance of Literacy:

How treating literacy as an art can help motivate children with dyslexia

In the Oxford Dictionaries the definition of art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination … producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” Literature has always been defined as one of the arts, yet this is rarely replicated in the way it is taught.

While some schemes such as Ros Wilson’s Big Write and Young Writers, have been aimed at addressing the issues with the literacy curriculum in the UK, SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) has become an increasingly scrutinised part of the curriculum. Since the introduction of statutory testing, time spent teaching SPAG has ‘increased significantly’ (Kimberley Stafford, Teaching grammar and testing grammar in the English primary school,2014). For children with dyslexia this is often the most challenging aspect of the literacy curriculum, therefore giving them a negative perception of literacy as a whole.

There are however ways to teach the SPAG curriculum and preserve the confidence and enthusiasm of children with dyslexia. When teaching explicit lessons of SPAG, this can often instil fear and a negative mental approach. However, by teaching in a subtler way, we can maintain a positive perception and thirst for learning.

By treating literacy as an art, we are able to maintain the creative aspects of literacy while implementing the mechanical features necessary for correct interpretation. This begins by children producing a piece of writing based on visual images, with very few instructions. This creative writing piece will form the basis for the teaching of SPAG and writing features throughout the topic. Having ownership of a literacy piece will further engage students, and allow them to feel a sense of pride in the work they create.

After the initial write, we are now able to introduce the aspects of SPAG through the writing features of the particular literacy focus. Having children highlight, count and edit these features, can provide an alternative to providing a structured SPAG lesson. Children can then select the different features in their writing to create a collage or game using art or technology.

Creating suggestions on how they can improve their own work, children can then edit and produce their final piece, sharing their passion for literacy with their classmates, friends and family. Therefore, supporting the theory that we should appreciate their work based on its ‘beauty or emotive power’ rather than judging based on the amount of mechanical errors.

The teaching of students with dyslexia will always depend on the individual, however by keeping innovation and creativeness at the forefront of our minds, at Cardiff & Vale Tutors we are able to foster a constructive, enjoyable environment from where we can appreciate the skills and challenges of students.

By: Daniel McGough, A Cardiff & Vale Specialist Dyslexia Tutor

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