Effective instruction for persisting dyslexia in upper grades: Adding hope stories and computer coding to explicit literacy instruction

Abstract

Children in grades 4 to 6 (N = 14) who despite early intervention had persisting dyslexia (impaired word reading and spelling) were assessed before and after computerized reading and writing instruction aimed at subword, word, and syntax skills shown in four prior studies to be effective for treating dyslexia. During the 12 two-hour sessions once a week after school they first completed HAWK Letters in Motion© for manuscript and cursive handwriting, HAWK Words in Motion© for phonological, orthographic, and morphological coding for word reading and spelling, and HAWK Minds in Motion© for sentence reading comprehension and written sentence composing. A reading comprehension activity in which sentences were presented one word at a time or one added word at a time was introduced. Next, to instill hope they could overcome their struggles with reading and spelling, they read and discussed stories about struggles of Buckminister Fuller who overcame early disabilities to make important contributions to society. Finally, they engaged in the new Kokopelli’s World (KW)©, blocks-based online lessons, to learn computer coding in introductory programming by creating stories in sentence blocks (Thompson and Tanimoto 2016). Participants improved significantly in hallmark word decoding and spelling deficits of dyslexia, three syntax skills (oral construction, listening comprehension, and written composing), reading comprehension (with decoding as covariate), handwriting, orthographic and morphological coding, orthographic loop, and inhibition (focused attention). They answered more reading comprehension questions correctly when they had read sentences presented one word at a time (eliminating both regressions out and regressions in during saccades) than when presented one added word at a time (eliminating only regressions out during saccades). Indicators of improved self-efficacy that they could learn to read and write were observed. Reminders to pay attention and stay on task needed before adding computer coding were not needed after computer coding was added.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by HD P50HD071764 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and involved an interdisciplinary team. The first two authors developed the computer platform for HAWK™ and Kokopelli’s World™. The third, fourth, and fifth authors were the teachers who worked with students using the computerized learning activities in the afterschool program. The sixth author administered and scored the pretest and posttest assessments. The seventh author and tenth author developed the contents of the comprehension checks for the one word at a time and one added word at a time and modified the content of prior versions to create the version of HAWK™ used in the current study. The eighth author analyzed all the results. The ninth author advised on research on hope and motivation and user-computer interface, and obtained a distribution agreement with the UW for disseminating HAWK™, and the tenth author wrote the Hope Stories and supervised the acquisition of sample and afterschool program.

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Correspondence to Virginia Berninger.

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The last author is author of PAL II used for the oral sentence working memory task and the expressive coding (orthographic) task.

Appendix

Appendix

Survey on perspectives of students with dyslexia regarding preferred writing format

  • Student 1 prefers to write on paper, bad at typing.

  • Student 2 likes computer but likes paper format.

  • Student 3 prefers pencil and paper for writing a story but using computer for writing assignments.

  • Student 4 prefers paper for math to show work but computer for writing because of spell check and it goes faster.

  • Student 5 prefers doing math and drawing by hand on paper but writing by typing on computers.

  • Student 6 prefers paper because “I suck at typing.” But computer for studying because of its freedom and resources.

  • Student 7 prefers paper for math likes to use the computer for typing and games.

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Thompson, R., Tanimoto, S., Lyman, R.D. et al. Effective instruction for persisting dyslexia in upper grades: Adding hope stories and computer coding to explicit literacy instruction. Educ Inf Technol 23, 1043–1068 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-017-9647-5

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Keywords

  • Dyslexia
  • Computerized writing instruction
  • Hope themes
  • Mode of sentence presentation during reading comprehension
  • Computer coding instruction