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Paul Schmitz

© 2002

Action Research:

Helping Students with Dyslexia in the High School English Classroom

What I Already Know
After thirteen years in the English classroom teaching students of all abilities, I have come to the conclusion that between five to ten percent of my students have at least a mild form of dyslexia. This makes it one of the primary challenges I face in the classroom. I strongly feel that if I was better trained in recognizing the symptoms of dyslexia, I could be more effective in helping students and parents get the expert support they need. Unfortunately, if a student has not been diagnosed by ninth grade, there is a lot of ingrained frustration and resistance in students to overcome. But if these students could learn coping strategies even at this late stage in their educational career, it would definitely make their post high school educational plans go more smoothly.

Why I Am Interested in This
As an English teacher who enjoys helping students improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills, it is frustrating for me to encounter students who have given up in the struggle to improve their communication skills. These are students who avoid oral reading, are extremely reluctant writers, and who have obvious trouble in comprehending the literature we are studying in class. By the time these students are in high school, many have stopped trying because they are past the frustration point and consider it a hopelesssituation. Some continue working hard but are very insecure when faced with the above situations.

What I Want to Know
How can I best identify these students? What resources are available to them at the high school level? Is there a diagnostic test that is effective with students at this age? What are some general coping strategies that I can easily communicate to them? How do I overcome their reluctance to face this situation that many have hidden for so long?

Plan for the Coming Year
My plan is to create a folder of informational articles and preliminary diagnostic exercises as a resource for students who display symptoms of dyslexia in my classroom. I also need to identify the best resources in my building for students who have remained undiagnosed until this late date. I also would like to provide information through English department meetings because I feel this an unrecognized problem in many high school English classrooms.

Richards, Regina G.; The Source for Dyslexia and Dysgraphia, 1999, Lingui Systems
An excellent resource for basic information about dyslexia and simple diagnostic techniques for identifying symptoms of dyslexia.

Lytle, Vicky; Edison, Rockefeller, Rodin, and the Reading Problem (Detecting Dyslexia in Students), Oct. 1985, NEA Today
An essay that tells the narrative of several students who discovered they had dyslexia in high school and discusses the Slingerland approach instructing students with dyslexia.

Wadlington, Elizabeth, Jacob, Shirley, and Bailey, Sandra; Teaching Students with Dyslexia in the Regular Classroom.; Fall, 1996, Childhood Education
An article that discusses the educational needs of dyslexic children and techniques for teaching them.

Thomson, Michael E.; Dyslexia, a Teaching Handbook; 1998, Whurr Publishers
A book on computer file that has chapters on the older student and appendixes that can be used for recognizing symptoms of dyslexia.


Creative writing:

The Wall

Fifty-eight thousand, one hundred and ninety-six names
Carved into my black granite face,
Not scratched, not etched,
Indelible as dark death
Are the names of your fallen American sons and daughters.
I am a National Shrine.
One hundred and forty panels
Each polished panel of stone
Longer than its brother,
Draws you downward,
Now you are in and of the earth.
Leave a piece of memory
To my darkness.
I am a repository for keepsakes of grief.
Nineteen fifty-nine to nineteen seventy-five.
Each single soldier listed chronologically
By date of death.
Make a rubbing off my dark skin with crayon.
Observe your reflection.
Let me work,
Uniting the images of the living
With the names of the dead.
Come with your burdens,
Lay them at my foot.
Let me work.
I am the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial.
I am the Wall.

The spiraling football eclipses October’s Hunter moon
as I glance over my shoulder while sprinting
into the empty half of the football field.
In a moment, I will stretch out my arms like the father
greeting his prodigal son and receive the wayward football
and gallop into the darkened endzone.
It is only intramural flag football
but it is a thing of beauty.
The discus thrower frozen in stone
Wordsworth on his couch dreaming of daffodils
and Keats listening to his nightingale
The new mother looking for the first time
into the face of her baby