It’s Dyslexia Awareness Week, so we want to highlight the different ways children can use their senses when learning to read. An estimated 10% of the population live with some form of dyslexia, which is described as a ‘persistent difficulty with reading or spelling’. Dyslexia varies from person to person, it’s often hereditary and lifelong, but can it be managed with the right tools, support, teaching and knowledge.

Children and adults with dyslexia are often creative thinkers who learn better through visual or tactile lessons. After thirty years in the classroom, I know what a difference it makes to a child when a different technique unlocks their learning blocks. That is my passion and what drives The Reading Mountain! Here are a few activities I like using to engage the senses.

Using multiple senses at the same time when learning letters and their sounds, is a good place to start:


Focus on rhyme. Use the senses (try to mix it up and use more than one sense at once), when exploring letters and sounds. Make it fun! Have a double up day when you say rhyming words as part of everyday language. E.g. ‘Can I go to the park/dark?’ Will you pick up the mess/impress you just made on the floor/door?’ Rhyme helps kids to manipulate sounds in words. Knowing rhyme prepares a child for reading.

Touch and taste: Use sandpaper or fabric to trace and cut out letters or words. Say the sounds or words as you feel them with your hands and feet.  Roll biscuit dough and make letters and words. Bake a ‘ch’ and then ask them to say the sound ‘ch’ before they eat.  Make hot buttered toast and spread vegemite on it with a knife, making a letter they need to learn. Say ‘s’ as you spread an ‘s’ on the bread. Then go outside after eating the toast and place a skipping rope on the group in an ‘s’ formation. Ask them to balance/walk on it, saying the sound/’s’ and think of a word with s in it. Remember, focus sounds can be in the middle of a word, (kissing) and at the end of a word, e.g. ‘trees’.

Hearing and seeing: Go to the park or the beach and write letters with large sticks in the sand. Make up songs with the sound and sing the alphabet, stopping at the focus sound. Mix it up and paint the letter with water and a paintbrush, or giant chalk, on the concrete. Have fun spraying it off with a hose! Again, sing the alphabet and stop at the correct letter written on the concrete.

See letters in the environment and go on a word/letter hunt. E.g. S-T-O-P is a decodable word where one sound is represented by one letter. There are plenty of stop signs about, find them and look for other signs too. Point out a ‘split vowel’ team on a ‘Give Way’ and say that there can be long sounds for a vowel if an ‘e’ is at the end. Sing rhymes on YouTube and look for nursery rhyme books in book shops.  Try thrift shops, there are many good quality, classic books with rhyme, waiting to be read and enjoyed!

The Reading Mountain will be exhibiting at the Square Pegs conference on Dyslexia and Dyscalculia, in Tasmania on October 6 and 7. 

Susan Spelic

Experienced Educator | Reading Advocate | Author | Director


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