First Grade Teachers’ Support of Students with Dyslexia in Developing Foundational Literacy Skills



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Background: Dyslexia is a disorder that is estimated to affect approximately 10% of the global population of children and is characterized by difficulties in sounding out words, reading efficiently, spelling words correctly, and comprehending the definitions of the words being read. These adverse effects of dyslexia create additional barriers and challenges to the academic success of children and consequently could impede their chances of obtaining effective educational and career opportunities. Despite the prevalence of dyslexia among children, teachers and educators often lack adequate knowledge of the required instructional skills needed to deliver instruction. Purpose: The purpose of this qualitative case study was to identify the strategies first grade teachers use to support students with dyslexia in acquiring early foundational literacy skills. Research Question: How do first grade teachers support students with dyslexia in acquiring early foundational literacy skills? Method: A case study research design was selected to understand the potential experiences of first grade students with dyslexia through the perceptions of teachers that support and manage their instruction. Five first grade teachers with at least one year of teaching experience and who have taught at least one student with dyslexia were selected using convenience sampling from the researcher’s social/professional network. The researcher conducted one semi-structured individual interview using questions designed by the researcher and reviewed by a dyslexia specialist to gain information regarding how they incorporate early foundational literacy skills instruction to support students with dyslexia. The individual interview was followed by a member check to seek clarification, add additional information, and ensure validity and accuracy of content. Finally, participants took part in a focus group where they answered additional questions and were encouraged to discuss their opinions and engage in discourse using each other’s thoughts. Transcribed data from the interviews and the focus group data were analyzed using NVivo 12 and the six-step protocol as described by Braun to establish emerging themes found in evidence from the interviews. Findings: The three themes that emerged during data analysis to address the research question were: (Theme 1) student skill deficits are addressed through extra support for foundational skills, (Theme 2) teacher training deficits are addressed through experience and self-directed learning, and (Theme 3) the barrier of insufficient access to the dyslexia specialist is addressed through communication and collaboration. Overall, the findings indicated that participants provided significant extra support to their students with dyslexia, particularly through repetition and reinforcement of foundational skills during small group time. However, participants encountered barriers in supporting students with dyslexia associated with inadequate education and training in that specific area and with the limited availability of the dyslexia specialist. Participants partly overcame education and training gaps through self-directed learning and on-the-job experience, and they partly overcame support gaps through collaboration with other teachers and initiating as much contact as possible with the dyslexia specialist to seek guidance and resources. Conclusion: Teachers of students with dyslexia try to provide adequate instruction. However, teachers of students with dyslexia could benefit from additional support and collaboration from supporting staff members.



phonics, phonemic awareness, dyslexia