Top tips to help dyslexic students

Obviously every pupil  is different so these ideas will work with some but not necessarily all, the best thing to do is try them out and see what works, once you get to know your student it’s easier to know what will be most effective, and if you’re not sure, ask them!

I have found that most of these ideas help ALL my students, dyslexic or not.

Try and start the school year and even the lesson with something easy to get everyone in the mood for learning English, remember “nothing succeeds like success”.

Give more time to those who need it, this might simply mean alerting the students that their turn is coming – “John, when I’ve asked Claire and Mike about their weekend, I’ll be asking you”. This gives John time to prepare, but also Claire and Mike!

Give instructions one at a time, be sure to stand still and get the student’s attention by calling their name, be sure you have their attention before starting, be clear, model the activity with another student, write the instructions on the board. Chunk your instructions, dyslexic students can have difficulty using their working memory so a long string of things to do will be hard to remember.

Place the students who need most support in your “action zone”, most teachers have an area of the class they tend to give more attention to, usually this is the first few rows, centre or centre-right of the classroom.

Avoid lots of copying off the board, give handouts in dyslexia friendly fonts (Comic sans, Times New Roman, or even special downloadable dyslexia fonts) and use pastel coloured or recycled paper which doesn’t have so much of a glare as new white paper. Make sure you don’t cram too much onto one page, leave plenty of space between paragraphs.

Scaffold, explain, don’t expect them to “notice” grammar rules.

Dyslexic students have less sight words (words that we recognize by sight, rather than having to phonetically decipher) so why not print and laminate a chart of frequently used words?

Read out reading texts so the students can hear the pronunciation of unfamiliar words.

If necessary, record yourself reading a text (on their phone for example) so they can listen to it as often as possible.

Think-Pair-Share – give students time to collect their thoughts before they talk to their partner, then in groups choose someone (else) to be scribe, timekeeper, devil’s advocate, idea bank, etc. If you think carefully about your groups you have peer tutoring going on as well.

Encourage students to come up with mnemonic devices and acronyms to help remember key words.

Use KWL grids – created by Donna Ogle in 1986, students complete grids, firstly noting what K – what they already KNOW, W – what they WANT to know, and lastly, L- what they have learnt, thinking about what you’ve learnt is an important way of reaffirming learning.

Tests & Evaluations – start with easy questions, you don’t want anyone getting zero, so start with something less challenging so students don’t block or panic at the first step.

Use multiple choice, crosswords, matching images etc. to avoid writing where possible.

Wherever possible let students use computers or tablets, finished work can be produced using videos or oral recordings, comic strips, posters, drama productions, anything that the students feel comfortable with.

These are just a few ideas, many more can be found on the internet, in relevant literature, or by just spending time with yours students.

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About fabenglishteacher

I've been teaching English for a few years now and this blog is part of my never-ending quest to make learning English more fun, and easier for my students.
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