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Balancing Content and Support: Using Technology to Teach Students with Dyslexia

Introduction to My Inquiry Project

 
In the eight years that I have taught for the New York City Department of Education, I have worked in 3 different schools. I began my career working in a South Bronx classroom with a 12:1 student-to-teacher ratio. For the past two years, I have been teaching at P.S. 183 on the Upper East Side. Throughout my time at the school, I have seen many changes in the way schools approach special education; moreover, my own vision of inclusion and integrated co-teaching (ICT) classrooms have changed as well. When I first began teaching, I struggled to understand the theories behind inclusion. However, after teaching at P.S. 183 in a well-run integrated program with tons of support and professional development, I finally understand the benefits of ICT classrooms and have become a firm believer in the idea of inclusion. WIth that said, each year brings upon new challenges and obstacles to tackle.

My Beliefs on Inclusion

 
 
Upon embarking on my second year teaching in a 4th grade ICT classroom at P.S. 183, I felt empowered, prepared and excited. Similar to how most years in schools begin, I was ready to delve into a busy year of planning, differentiating, growing, and most importantly getting to know the children in my class as students.

Inside My Classroom

 
In order to better describe my inquiry project, I would like to explain the dynamics of my classroom, located in room 4-503. Room 4-503 was composed of 27 students: 14 students with IEPs and 13 General Education Students.  
 
 
Although the ratio of IEP to General Education students seems disproportionate, we were assured that this was a great group with a flawless dynamic. For the most part, I felt confident that my roster was set up for a successful ICT class; however, I quickly noticed a few red flags and began to feel overwhelmed (which was typical for the months of September and October).
 
One student, Annabelle, stood out. While reviewing our early pre-assessments, I struggled to understand anything that she was writing and noticed that she was unable to decode grade level words.  I was intrigued because this student’s speaking and conversational skills seemed above average. After several outside evaluations, I later found out that this student has dyslexia, a disability that I knew very little about. 
 
It was clear from very early on that this student was able to access grade-level content curriculum; however, she was not able to read and write on grade level. And so my inquiry project began. I set out to answer or address my inquiry question:
 
How do I provide access to grade-level content curriculum alongside explicit instruction of reading and writing print text to students with dyslexia?