+ Teaching Grammar To Dyslexic Students

by Marisa Bernard, ortongillinghamonlinetutor.com

[O-G Tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Those with Dyslexia have difficulty with decoding & encoding… They also seem to have difficulty with grammar and identifying parts of speech. Teaching grammar to those with Dyslexia should include a structured, systematic, & sequential approach, similar to the approach we use to teach them the logical connections between the sounds and symbols in the English language.

There tends to be a school of thought that when we present grammar to our students in such a detailed and methodical manner, they lose the creative side of writing. The cognitive effort spent to make certain their sentence structure is grammatically correct stifles any of the student’s efforts at being creative with their written expression. The problem with this school of thought, as I see it, is that until the student with Dyslexia is able to form a sentence with accuracy and automaticity, s/he will not be able to display the creativity in written expression that is so often innately an attribute in those with Dyslexia.

A teacher should teach grammar using the same format to teach the Orton Gillingham Basic Language curriculum. Teaching one part of speech at a time (beginning with nouns), while applying the same structured, sequential, and cumulative nature of the Orton Gillingham Approach, will allow students to master the various grammatical concepts. Students with Dyslexia tend to be cluttered cognitively; therefore, it is important to assist them with creating a “mental file cabinet” to house all of their learned materials. When teaching grammar to those with Dyslexia, it essential that you connect the new concepts with the already mastered concepts and help them to “file” them accordingly for easy retrieval. This method of teaching grammar to those with Dyslexia should be continued until all grammatical concepts have been mastered.

Teaching grammar to those with Dyslexia explicitly is important because:

  • It assists with comprehension skills
  • It improves written expression
  • It helps with cognitive organization & structure

The order of presentation of grammatical concepts I would recommend is as follows:

  1. Nouns – Person, place, thing, or idea (a magazine is a wonderful resource a student can use to begin naming nouns)… Ask student to categorize nouns. Have an assortment of noun cards mixed and have student sort & categorize the nouns.
  2. Pronouns – Pronouns take the place of nouns (PRO = for, pronouns are FOR nouns)
  3. Simple Plurals – The spelling rule of simply adding /s/ to a word
  4. Action Verbs – A word that shows action. What is the noun DOING? Create a word list using magazines or books. Use noun & verb word lists to create sentences. MAKE THIS AN ORAL TASK INITIALLY.
  5. Your student can then draw pictures that illustrate their new sentences. *NOTE: Drawing is a very laborious task for some students with fine motor deficits, so this activity may be omitted for them. Perhaps mental imagery would work better for these students.
  6. Sentences – Every sentence contains a noun and a verb that expresses a complete thought. It is important to ask your student to speak in complete sentences & assist when necessary. Make certain your student has ample practice reading two-word sentences at this point. When performing sentence analysis, your student will label the parts of speech within a sentence. When looking at functional analysis, your student will identify the purpose in a sentence. Finally, sentence diagrams are a wonderful visual aid to enhance understanding.
  7. Adjectives – Adjectives paint images in our minds that describe the nouns in sentences. When teaching adjectives, ask your student to first write down his or her thoughts in simple form with words s/he is able to spell. S/he can then go back to the sentence and add adjectives to enhance creativity.
  8. Adverbs – Words that describe or modify verbs
  9. Prepositions/Prepositional Phrases -A preposition shows the following relationships among other words in a sentence:
    — direction (to – “He walked to the store.”)
    — time (at, on, in – “He will arrive at 2 o’clock.”)
    –agent (with – “He chopped the wood with an axe.”)
    –place (between, near, across)
    –manner (by – “By going the short route, you will save time.”)
    –measure (for – “She ran for two miles.”)
  10. Miscellaneous – Interjections, Conjunctions, Articles

Once again, when teaching grammar to those with Dyslexia it important to understand they need to be taught using the following approach:

  • From PARTS to the WHOLE
  • All pathways of the brain should be accessed simultaneously.
  • Constant review of the materials is important while adding one new concept at a time. This helps the child with Dyslexia to see how the new concept fits in with the old concept to understand the big picture.

The following is a Grammar Checklist download for you to use with your students:


I hope these suggestions are helpful while teaching grammar to those with Dyslexia. They can certainly be used as a whole group instruction, as all students would benefit from a structured, systematic, & sequential approach to teaching the grammatical concepts.

Again, thank-you for what you do because the world needs what only you can offer…

Marisa Bernard is Executive Director at Orton-Gillingham Online Tutor visit http://www.ortongillinghamonlinetutor.com/teaching-grammar-to-those-with-dyslexia/

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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