Tips for Teaching Vocabulary to Students with Dyslexia

Multisensory Strategies to Build Reading Vocabulary

Students reading in a school library.
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Building reading vocabulary is a challenge for students with dyslexia, who have a hard time learning new words in print and in word recognition. They often have a discrepancy between their spoken vocabulary, which may be strong, and their reading vocabulary. Typical vocabulary lessons may include writing a word sometimes 10 times, looking it up in a dictionary and writing a sentence with the word. All of these passive approaches to vocabulary will not by themselves help students with dyslexia very much. Multisensory approaches to learning have been found effective in teaching children with dyslexia and there are many ways this can be applied to teaching. The following list provides tips and suggestions for teaching vocabulary to students with dyslexia.

Assign each student one or two vocabulary words. Depending on the number of students in the class and the number of vocabulary words, there may be several children with the same word. During class or for homework, students must come up with a way of presenting the word to the class. For example, a student could write a list of synonyms, draw a picture to represent the word, write a sentence using the word or the write the word in different colors on a large paper. Each student comes up with their own way to explain and present the word to the class. All the students with one word stand up and present their word, giving the class a multi-dimensional view of the word and its meaning.

Begin with multisensory information on each vocabulary word. Use pictures or demonstrations to help the students see the meaning of a word as each word is presented. Later, as the students are reading, they can recall the illustration or the demonstration to help remember what the word means.

Create a word bank where vocabulary words can have a permanent home in the classroom. When words are seen often, students are more likely to remember them and use them in their writing and speech. You can also create customized flash cards for each student to practice vocabulary words.

Talk about synonyms and how these words are both the same and different than the vocabulary words. For example, if your vocabulary word is terrified, a synonym might be frightened. Explain how terrified and frightened both mean you are scared of something but that being terrified is being very frightened. Have students demonstrate the varying degrees of being scared to make the lesson more interactive.

Play charades. This is a great way to review vocabulary words. Write each vocabulary word on a paper and place in a hat or jar. Each student draws one paper and acts out the word.

Give points when a student uses a vocabulary word while talking. You can also give points if a student notices someone, in or out of school, use a vocabulary word. If outside of the class, the student must write down where and when they heard the word and who said it in their conversation.

Include vocabulary words in your classroom discussions. If you keep a word bank in the classroom, continue to review it so you can use these words when teaching to the whole class or when speaking individually with a student.

Create a classroom story with the vocabulary words. Write each word on a piece of paper and have each student pick out one word. Start a story off with one sentence and have students take turns adding a sentence to the story, using their vocabulary word.

Have students choose vocabulary words. When beginning a new story or book, have students glance through the story to find words they are unfamiliar with and write them down. Once you have collected the lists, you can compare to see which words turned up most frequently to create a custom vocabulary lesson for your class.

Students will have more motivation to learn words if they help to pick out the words.
Use multisensory activities when learning new words. Have students write the word using sand, finger paint or pudding paint. Have them trace the word with their fingers, say the word out loud, listen as you say the word, draw a picture to represent the word and use it in a sentence. The more senses you include in your teaching and the more often you include and see vocabulary words, the more the students will remember the lesson.

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Your Citation
Bailey, Eileen. "Tips for Teaching Vocabulary to Students with Dyslexia." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Bailey, Eileen. (2020, August 26). Tips for Teaching Vocabulary to Students with Dyslexia. Retrieved from Bailey, Eileen. "Tips for Teaching Vocabulary to Students with Dyslexia." ThoughtCo. (accessed January 30, 2023).