We attended the IDA 2021 Annual Reading, Literacy & Learning Conference online on October 21, 2021 – October 23, 2021. The 2021 conference is packed with education sessions tailored specifically for professionals, families and those affected by dyslexia. Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the IDA organizing committee decided to conduct the conference as a HYBRID Conference, combining a live in-person event with a live virtual component, this is so the attendees can ‘Engage From Anywhere’.
The IDA International Conference 2021 was unique in providing a good mix of cutting-edge research on areas relevant to dyslexia and more practical, practitioner-led perspectives and research-based activities. On the whole, the topics covered were:
- Family and Community Engagement
- Educational Leadership and Policy
- Instructional Practices for Practitioners
Spoken Research Papers
While the keynotes were captivating, most of us also enjoyed some of the other sessions that were organized by the IDA. The other sessions were organized in the form of symposiums, spoken research papers and posters. We will describe some of the interesting sessions we have attended in the following paragraphs.
One of the most memorable paper sessions we have attended was one conducted by Dr Richard Gentry, Researcher, Author, Educational Consultant from The University of Virginia titled: “Understanding Phase Development and Its Contribution to Structured Literacy’’ IIn his session, the speaker provided us with some background literature on how we could see evidence of each kindergartner, first grader, and/or struggling reader’s reading circuitry developing or not developing as expected. This was done by observing outcomes of reading development through evidence-based changes in each child’s developmental spelling by using phase observation of development spelling that helps you target literacy instructions and contributes to early identification of students at risk of dyslexia and in need of intervention.
The phase observation takes a close look at writing assessments along with direct spelling instructions is a 5 steps approach. The steps goes by 1st : Reveal, where beginners reveal what they know about words, 2nd : Allow, which allow teachers to monitor progress 3rd : Show, which show you what to teach, 4th : Allow, allowing for early intervention and 5th : Help, which help you achieve student improved outcomes by teaching what each student needs to learn. This whole approach was similar to what we have in our MLP programme, however this approach was applied in a more detailed and targeted manner for each student.
As anticipated, difficulties with distance learning was a recurring theme seen throughout several sessions. Nanci Shepardson, Deardra Rosenberg from the Laurel Education Group in their session ‘ Remediating Dyslexia in a Virtual Environment—Bridging the Digital Divide’ gave a particularly illuminating talk about the several misconceptions and unknown variables that factor in the success of distance learning. They outlined the many other skills they noticed students needed apart from functional computer skills such as etiquette for an online classroom, emotional support, executive functioning skills and to learn how to create a learning space free of distractions. They also highlighted the struggles of having to teach these same skills to parents and emphasised on the high levels of emotional support they noticed the parents required which they provided through regular town halls, weekly parent notes and individual troubleshooting. The team also showed in the form of a humorous graphic what teachers expected would lead to successful distance learning sessions, namely good wifi, fun manipulatives and students having a good working space. In reality they realised these were overshadowed by executive functioning skills and attention span, particularly noting that children with ADHD had a tendency to be three years behind in social and emotional skills. They concluded with their best practices which included some strategies the DAS has been adopting for years such as explaining a detailed agenda of the session and explicit transitions. They also noted that it would be worthwhile to ensure best audio quality and movement breaks for the class. Most notably they suggested that to compensate for the social interaction portion that the students were missing out to give students an opportunity to show the class who they were. This was particularly insightful as a tool to allow students an opportunity to shine and a way to check in on quieter students in class or students who are frequently overshadowed by more enthusiastic classmates.
There were two of us who represented the DAS in the IDA 2021 Conference. Each of us presented individual poster research papers as indicated below.
Evaluating the longitudinal progress of a large sample of dyslexic children in reading, spelling and writing.
This presentation shares the importance of an in-house curriculum in the Dyslexia Association of Singapore (DAS). The program helps educators overcome the barriers and suggest practical strategies for teaching students with language-based learning. Sharyfah shares our very own curriculum-based assessment tools on how we assess students to monitor progression and regression in the transfer of knowledge throughout three years. Sharyfah will also share whether the reading and writing skills of 1343 students diagnosed with dyslexia in the DAS English Main literacy programme could be improved in a statistically significant manner using improved curriculum teaching methods.
The strategies share includes:
Integrating the new concept throughout the entire lesson
Establishing an understanding of how each student may tap on their own learning preferences and teachers to use that as a platform to teach the students
Importance of facilitating the PPP approach (presentation, practice, production)
Taking Structured Literacy Online: Inclusion, Accessibility, & E-Toolbox For Diverse Learners
Since the pandemic hit, schools worldwide were forced to go online without adequate preparation. Thus, teaching with inclusivity and accessibility were things teachers had to grasp on their own. In this presentation, the presenter demonstrated accessibility features and also shared how simple and easily accessible tools can be used in the components of structured literacy, such as writing, reading comprehension and, oracy activities. The presenter also shared examples and templates for hands-on activities to customise interactive lesson materials for lesson components such as spelling, reading, writing, reading comprehension, and oracy in the classroom that provides Structured Literacy Intervention.
The sessions were generally well received. Some of our sessions were of great interest to the audiences and we welcomed several questions and exchange of emails to discuss more on future research.
Participating and attending the IDA 2021 Conference was definitely beneficial to DAS in how we were exposed to research papers of various perspectives and ideas that were of different fields but yet related to dyslexia in many ways.
Sharyfah, RETA Fellow
Soofrina, RETA Fellow
Shakthi, RETA Associate Fellow