Teaching to Mastery with the Dyslexic Student

11/29/2022

What is Mastery? How do students get to it? And how does it help interventionists to ensure the academic success of our dyslexic students?

When I started my therapy program I remember hearing a phrase multiple times over the course of those two first weeks: “We teach to mastery”. As someone who had been in a classroom for several years, I was having a hard time with that concept. I was used to following the curriculum guide that was provided to us and teaching my students as that guide indicated. If my students were showing gaps, those would be addressed doing small group instruction, but as we kept progressing through the curriculum the gaps only got bigger. At the end of those two first weeks, I was excited to see the effect that teaching to mastery would have on my dyslexic students.

Mastery is defined as having an expert skill or knowledge of a subject. Every time we see a student for dyslexia intervention, we are constantly looking at mastery. Mastery is important in dyslexia intervention because it shows that our students have a deep understanding of a specific skill, for example knowing when to use the letter “c” or “k” at the beginning of a word, by being able to apply what they have learned in reading and spelling. When talking about mastery in dyslexia intervention, we look to see if the student is able to apply what they have learned with 90% accuracy. 

It is important to note that mastery still allows for mistakes to be made. Mistakes are part of the learning process and research has shown that they are helpful to students – as long as feedback is being provided by the teacher. 

Teaching to Mastery with the Dyslexic Student

Mastery helps guide the way intervention is delivered and provides interventionists with the information they need to make data-driven decisions

Students get to mastery through repetition by constantly reviewing what they have learned. This includes the following:

  • Daily review of what has been learned: In the book “Multisensory Teaching of Basic Language Skills” Judith R. Birsh states that consistent daily review of learned information and guided practice of new concepts gradually leads to students’ mastery and independent application of what has been learned. 
  • Reading and spelling practices: In Orton-Gillingham curriculums like MTA (Multisensory Teaching Approach), students get the opportunity to apply what they have learned with daily reading and spelling practices. In MTA, there are several practices that can be done for each reading and spelling concept that’s been learned. If a student scores below 90%, the dyslexia interventionist is able to review with the student using the other practices available. If a student achieves mastery, they’re able to move on to the next practice, as long as that concept has already been taught in dyslexia class. 
  • Mastery checks: In MTA, students get to demonstrate if they have mastered the content in that particular kit with mastery checks. If a student demonstrates mastery, they’re able to move on to the next kit. If not, the interventionist will analyze the mistakes that were made in the check and continue reviewing with the student. 

In summary, mastery is an essential component of dyslexia intervention. It helps guide the way intervention is delivered and provides interventionists with the information they need to make data-driven decisions that will ensure the academic success of our dyslexic students. I invite you to share this blog with parents, administrators, and educators who can benefit from knowing the role of mastery in dyslexia intervention.

Carla Moriel

Carla Moriel

Carla Moriel is a Subject Matter Expert for Reading Interventionist and District Relations Executive at Amplio. She has 15 years of experience in public education in Texas, 6 of those years were spent providing Dyslexia therapy to English and Spanish-speaking students. She received her CALT (Certified Academic Language Therapist) certification in 2018 from Southern Methodist University. Carla is trained in multiple dyslexia curricula.

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