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Foreign Language Instruction
I would like to know your methods and materials used to teach Spanish to English speaking students with Dyslexia. Are the students who study Spanish, already proficient in reading English or do you help with English language arts and Spanish foreign language instruction at the same time? Please share information about your outcomes for conversation, reading and spelling/writing.
Response: Between 1998-2001 Landmark College and the School for International Training collaborated on a 3- year FIPSE (Funds to Improve Post-Secondary Education) grant to identify what kind of instruction empowers students with learning disabilities to succeed in the world language classes.
The Landmark College world language best practices emerged from that study and became the core of our programs today. (see below). Outcomes for our Spanish programs emphasize oral proficiency over reading and writing. As a rough rule of thumb, we find it takes one year to cover what many college Spanish courses cover in a semester. We encourage students to participate in Study Abroad programs where they can use their language in a natural setting, and offer a crash course, Survival Spanish, to students not taking Spanish who plan to do Study Abroad in Spanish-speaking countries.
In general, students who study Spanish at Landmark College are at least moderately proficient readers of English (above 6th grade level decoding), so they are not taught English-language decoding as part of Spanish class. However, there is a strong emphasis on explicitly teaching the sound structure (phonology) of Spanish, and focus on Spanish phonemes and word patterns which are distinct from English. We also Orton-Gillingham adapt multi-sensory techniques such as tapping sounds and scooping syllables to emphasize the sound structure of Spanish words.
If you’d like to learn more details about our approach to teaching foreign language, consider requesting professional development at your school or taking part in a webinar.
Landmark College best practices for teaching foreign language, based on FIPSE grant:
- Make careful choices in curriculum & materials: our Spanish instructors create their own textbooks which limit the number of new concepts in each lesson.
- Build in individualized instruction: individual conferencing and work in the language lab are built into courses
- Teach multi-modally: employ seeing, hearing, speaking, writing, visuals and realia simultaneously to reinforce concepts
- Structure activities for success: micro-unit assignments and activities so students are managing appropriate amounts of material at each step
- Teach to mastery: give students repeated exposures and opportunities to improve test scores and assignment grades
- Support students w/ phonological weaknesses: explicitly teach the sound structure of Spanish, including pronunciation drills and mnemonics to remember key sounds, based on an Orton-Gillingham approach to instruction. This includes O-G techniques such as tapping sounds and scooping syllables.
- Use written language to support and reinforce spoken language: provide lots of visual support and cueing; don’t rely on oral/aural instruction
- Incorporate memory strategies and development of metacognition: explicitly teach learning strategies, such as deluxe flash cards which incorporate visuals, friendly sentences and hints for pronunciation
- Test both orally & in writing: value oral proficiency and test for it more than for written proficiency
- Encourage students to use technology: text-to-speech for pronunciation support; online flash cards and vocabulary study; the SONY Virtuoso language lab software.
- Make language learning fun! use games, songs, special events
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