In this guest post, Joanna Nijakowska, author of Dyslexia in the Foreign Language Classroom (2010), explores the difficulty of spelling among dyslexic learners of English, and how the use of the red pen only enforces incorrect spelling.
Spelling mistakes constitute a notorious feature of dyslexic writing. Teachers often highlight or circle the mistakes (especially with a red pen) bringing them to the surface of the text but in that way students focus their attention on and consolidate the erroneous forms instead of learning the correct spelling.
In similar vein, writing the words on the blackboard and asking students to compare them with their own spelling attempts does not work very well with learners with dyslexia.
The occurrence of mistakes is sometimes indicated on the margin in a given line of the text; however, if we do not specify where exactly the mistake is, we make the correcting task much harder for our students with dyslexia.
Another technique is to simply count down the mistakes and give the total at the bottom of the text, often with no indication of the exact position of the mistakes. Unfortunately, even very careful looking at words and searching for mistakes cannot guarantee identifying the misspelled ones, just the opposite, it happens that perfectly well-spelled words get ‘corrected’ mistakenly.
It proves much more effective and less time-consuming to cross the misspelled word and write the correct spelling above or next to it. In that way it is the correct form which is made visible and, hopefully, integrated.