Saturday, 4 October 2014

Coursera - Supporting children with difficulties in reading and writing Week 1

I signed up for the Coursera Supporting Children with Difficulties in Reading and Writing course many months ago because I felt that it was an area I didn't know enough about. I must confess that I had almost forgotten about it but it has finally started! I won't be going for certification (it is simply too much to take on at the moment) but I will be doing some "blog notes" so that my brain doesn't totally forget what I hope will be useful content. Let the blogging begin!

Week 1

Writing Systems

  • English has an added layer of "messiness". Aural language changes, written language takes time to adjust.
  • Great vowel shift in the Middle Ages - English is an old language so these changes are more noticeable.
  • Children learning English take longer than in more "transparent" language such as Finnsh.
  • Sound (phonological) awareness key predictor of success in alphabetic languages.
  • Think about reading direction (left to right vs. right to left).

Models of Reading

  • No pre-programmed module in the brain for the acquisition of written language.
  • Logographic stage - recognises some words as pictures or logos.
  • Alphabetic stage - child needs to be aware words can be divided into smaller parts called phonemes. Also they need to understand how oral language links to written language.
  • Autographic stage - have direct access to the word without relying on phonological route. Comes with repetition.
  • Child has to establish millions of new connections in the brain to learn to read, especially between the visual and auditory areas.
  • Fluent reader nearly always uses direct path. Experience!

Importance of Automatisation

  • Two parts - speed and accuracy
  • Dyslexic readers don't have this automaticity so a lot of more work.
  • Fluent readers do not use the context to identify a word because the process of word recognition is too quick.
  • Only poor readers rely on context.
  • Rapid automatising test - dyslexic people are slower than others
  • The child with dyslexia is spending so much brainpower on putting letters into sounds that he/she has little left over to think about the meaning.


  • Very few studies relating bilingualism and dyslexia.
  • Many different variables.
  • Diversity of pairs of languages put together.
  • Some mistakes result from the contrasts between the languages while other relate to generalisations and simplifications specific to second language.
  • Eg "L" and "R" sounds difficult for Japanese speakers.
  • Difficulties where one language alphabetical and one not eg English and Chinese. Where both languages are alphabetical, children seem to be able to transfer knowledge.
  • Bilingual adults and children activate both languages even when they don't need to.
  • "In the bilingual reader, words that look similar in both languages interfere with each even when the person is trying to work mostly in one language. There is cross-interference from the other language. The brain is trying to work out which word or meaning is intended. So the response is slowed down." 
  • Dyslexia in biligualism - makes language learning difficult, memorisation difficult.
  • Dyslexic or not, some children find oral language acquisition easier than others.
  • When acquiring the writing system for a second language dyslexic learner have to learn a new set of grapheme/phoneme correspondences, some which may conflict with native language.
  • English is the most opaque language in the world.
  • If one of the languages of the dyslexic learner is transparent, then there can be benefits for the less transparent learner.

No comments:

Post a Comment