Dyslexia friendly techniques teachers can weave into lessons

(N.b. Look at the main page “How do Teachers Support Dyslexic Students at School for broader information on school support.)

There a few effective ways teachers can adapt delivery of lessons in small ways to help dyslexic students access learning more easily.

N.b. Because these adaptations address slow processing, weak memory or concentration and gaps in learning caused by such processing difficulties, they are also good ways to support students with other Specific Learning Difficulties too.

1) Leave short gaps or pauses between points when speaking: this can help those with slow processing keep up. Sometimes, students process what they hear a fraction slower than others, and a second or two pause regularly can make all the difference. Maths in particular, in which it is difficult for students to find their own “hooks” back into what they missed, is where speed of delivery of new input can be the key to understanding, especially at college, when volume and intensity of work increases.

2) Try to provide more time and more repetitions to embed understanding for students with slow processing or weak memory, before moving on. At primary school, some students may be on the verge of learning a phonic rule, then the class moves on to the next rule just before this is fully secure, and the knowledge can be lost. The same could go for maths concepts in year 7. Finding a way not to move on too fast may be all some students need.

3) Provide visual prompts or reminders of instructions on the white-board, to help those with weak memory retain information more easily.

4) Consider classroom seating position. Sometimes, asking the student how they need to work is required to address attention issues.

5) Some dyslexic students will struggle more than others with reading aloud and enforced reading aloud can have a greater impact on confidence and motivation in the classroom than might be imagined. Teachers can think about when and how to ask such students to read in front of the class.

6) If handouts can be made available or presentations/ lessons are online, it is helpful to allow students who process slowly, to produce class notes in a different way. Trying to write everything down may result in it not being taken in. Better to suggest they highlight key words and focus more on understanding what they are hearing.

7) Slow processing or weak memory may mean that students have not retained information about grammar and sentence structure, as well as spellings. Sometimes a recap on complex sentence structure and how to build a paragraph in particular can help secondary students realise that there is a system they can follow.

8) Similarly, some dyslexic students may not have developed their language skills as much as their peers have, as a result of not reading very much for pleasure. Take time occasionally to practice or model complex language verbally, to help them learn how to write effectively. LSAs working 1-2-1 with students who struggle a lot with writing may find this particularly helpful.

9) Dyslexic students who do not reread often may also struggle to read or spell complicated vocabulary as they progress through secondary school, limiting their ability to access the curriculum or demonstrate their understanding. Provide topic vocabulary lists or help students build their own can make a big difference.

10) When teaching students how to plan written work, show how to ask themselves questions to come up with ideas. It can be as simple as practising the five types of questions beginning with “W”: Who, What,Where, When,Why? This starts an internal dialogue and increases confidence that there is not just one right way of doing it. It particularly helps students who struggle to think of how to start.

These are all simple ways that can help students with dyslexia thrive in class. If some of these suit your child, you may want to mention them at parents evening with subject teachers.

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