Brain Links

Vocabulary for the Dyslexic Learner


The size of a child's vocabulary is one of the best predictions of his reading comprehension. Children with the biggest vocabularies tend to be the strongest readers. How can we build a child's vocabulary? New words can be directly and explicitly taught, or the words can be acquired through everyday life experiences. A child's vocabulary can be expanded through repeated exposure to new words and by thinking about word meanings.

Reading is harder and slower for dyslexic students. Consequently, they typically read less. If they are to keep up with their peers academically, then it is imperative to find additional ways to expose them to as many words and ideas as possible. Illustrating a word or acting out a word can help to build vocabulary.


Chicktionary is a chicken themed spelling and vocabulary-building word game. Children create as many words as possible out of seven letters. Completed words can be tapped to view their definition. There are multiple levels and children can choose a timed or untimed mode. *Note: This is a noisy app – incorrect words receive scolding squawks.

(Compatible with iPad) Free

Montessori Crosswords helps kids develop literacy skills by dragging and dropping letters into a crossword grid to form words that correspond to the given pictures. Young children can drag letters around in the moveable alphabet and practice linking phonetic sounds to letters, while older kids can expand their vocabularies in the higher of three difficulty levels. Crossword levels include simple words with 1 sound, words with consonant blend, and words of any complexity. (Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad) $2.99

High Yield Strategy

Frayer Model

1. The Frayer Model is a visual organizer that helps students understand key words and concepts. The Frayer Model is a chart with four sections which can hold a definition, some characteristics/facts, examples and non-examples of the word/concept.

2. The purpose is to identify unfamiliar concepts and vocabulary and to create visual reference for concepts and vocabulary

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Math and Science Connections

Instruction in vocabulary depends on the word itself. Some words, such as democracy, require a discussion and examples. Other words, such as double helix, are best learned through images and explanations. Learning new words also benefits from repetition and reinforcement.


Myth : More boys than girls have dyslexia.

Fact: Longitudinal research shows that as many girls as boys are affected by dyslexia

(Shaywitz, Shaywitz, Fletcher, & Escobar, 1990). There are many possible reasons for the overidentification of males by schools, including greater behavioral acting out and a

smaller ability to compensate among boys. More research is needed to determine why.

For the Adventurous

For further reading on building vocabulary, please check out this article:

How Teachers Can Build a Word-Rich Life for Dyslexia by Kyle Redford


Redford, Kyle. "How Teachers Can Build a Word-Rich Life for Dyslexics." N.p., n.d. Web.

Shaywitz, Sally M. D. Overcoming Dyslexia. New York: Vintage, 2003. Print.