Total teaching strategies
Dyslexia is not related to intelligence, but is caused by a difference in the way the brain processes information and for this reason, children with dyslexia learn differently.
There are many practical strategies that can help individuals, without always needing to provide inidivdual help (although sometimes one on one intervention is critical). By making your classroom dyslexia friendly you can make sure all students have the opportunity to engage with the curriculum with minimal additional effort from you.
Importantly, adjustments that benefit dyslexic students can produce great results for the whole class.
A teacher educated about dyslexia can be the one person who saves a child and his/her family from years of frustration and anxiety. That teacher can play a pivotal role in changing the whole culture of a school.”
Dr Kelli Sandman-Hurley
Disability Discrimination Act and Standards for Education
The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 requires educators to make changes or ‘reasonable adjustments’ if a person needs those changes to perform essential course work. This could include providing equipment, changing assessment procedures or making changes to course delivery.
Schools and Teachers also have an obligation to follow the Disability Standards for Education (DSE). The Standards aim to ensure that students with disability can access and participate in education on the same basis as other students. It also describes what “reasonable adjustments” can mean.
For more information on the standards, go to:
A practical guide for families can be found at:
What is a dyslexia friendly school?
A dyslexia-friendly school community welcomes, values and includes all students.
A dyslexia-friendly school will have appropriate policies and practices in place that will result in all students being able to participate on the same basis as their peers, and that will enable all staff members to feel confident and well prepared in their endeavours to successfully support students affected by learning differences.
recognise the impact of learning differences on student achievement and wellbeing;
actively improve the support of students with learning differences within the school;
value the professional knowlege of teachers and support staff through a commitment to ongoing professiona llearning oportunities in the areas of learning difference and literacy;
develop policies and practices to ensure that students with learning differences receive high quality teaching and appropriate intervention and accommodations;
implment and adhere to such policies;
recognise that, within the dyslexia-friendly school eveyone has a role and these roles must be resourced and supported appropriated.
8 things you can do to create a dyslexia-friendly classroom...
Here are eight tips that you can implement in your classroom to better accommodate the learning needs of the dyslexic students (while benefitting all of your students).
1. Provide one step directions at a time.
How it helps dyslexic students: Students with dyslexia often have a difficult time processing, prioritizing, and remembering long lists of directions at one time. By only providing one direction at a time, dyslexic students don’t have to process or prioritize multiple steps. This decreases frustration both for you and the student.
How it helps all students: Even without dyslexia, we are all prone to distractions and forgetfulness. By only giving one direction at a time, you eliminate the possibility of students forgetting what they need to do, and you won’t have to repeat directions nearly as often.
2. Provide visual representation of all oral instruction whenever possible.
How it helps dyslexic students: Dyslexic students’ need multi-sensory instruction that engages multiple areas of the brain. By connecting visual, auditory, and kinesthetic cues to each concept, multiple areas of the brain are activated – allowing dyslexic students to make new brain connections that help them strengthen connections and better remember information.
How it helps all students: Again, even without dyslexia, we are all prone to forgetfulness. By connecting multiple stimuli to a concept, students better remember and absorb new information.
3. Preview and review.
How it helps dyslexic students: By previewing each concept before instruction, dyslexic students can better organize, filter, and prioritize new information. Reviewing each concept helps dyslexic students connect, store, and categorize information that was just presented.
How it helps all students: One of the most effective ways we learn any concept is through repetition. The more we hear and practice a concept, the more natural and easy to remember it becomes.
4. Pre-warn students when activities are about to change.
How it helps dyslexic students: It can be difficult for some dyslexic students to switch their attention between activities. Many students need some prep time to know that an activity is about to end and they will be doing something different soon. This can also help students be patient when they want to move on to a new activity. Because reading tasks can strain dyslexic students, letting them know that they only have to exert themselves for 5 more minutes can help them keep trying. Give a time warning five minutes before an activity is going to change, then two minutes, then one minute (e.g., 5 more minutes of reading time, now two until we move to centers…one more minute).
How it helps all students: Some students, with or without dyslexia, can get so absorbed in an activity that when the class suddenly changes pace they can easily get upset. By helping all students prepare for what is coming, you can avoid upsetting and frustrating students – reducing conflict and creating a better classroom environment for everyone.
5. Avoid habituation* by keeping instruction between 10-15 minutes and provide a variety of activities for practice.
How it helps dyslexic students: Due to the challenges with switching attention and working memory students with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia are likely to habituate (stop responding to instruction) sooner that children without these characteristics. One way to avoid habituation is to vary activities frequently and avoid performing the same activity over and over for a long time.
How it helps all students: Habituation may occur sooner for dyslexic students, but with enough exposure to a certain stimulus – all students habituate. By keeping instruction novel you better keep the attention of all of your students so they stay engaged and focused on instruction.
6. Never expect dyslexic students to take notes without a visual outline or a friend to be a note-taker.
How it helps dyslexic students: Writing tasks are typically very difficult for dyslexic students. This, on top of their difficulties with prioritizing information can make note taking extremely difficult for these students. By providing an outline or assigning them a friend that they can compare notes with, you can help eliminate stress during lectures.
How it helps all students: Deciding what is important to note during instruction is difficult for many students – having a partner for each student to talk over a lecture with and decide what was important or see if they missed an important point is beneficial for every student.
7. Slow down instruction.
How it helps dyslexic students: Dyslexic students need additional time to process information. Take your time and be clear. Assess in small intervals if the students are getting what you are modeling/teaching. (Ask them questions and provide opportunities to have them tell you in their own words what you just told them).
How it helps all students: Taking time to assure student understanding and matching pacing to the needs of your classroom is helpful for every student. Undoubtedly you will have students at varying levels, but as you assess students in small intervals, you can use learning centers that allow students of varying levels to work at their own pace. Also… patience and empathy are arguably more valuable than lesson content.
8.Assume nothing…connect everything.
How it helps dyslexic students: To adjust to the needs of dyslexic students – it is helpful to teach one concept at a time while you draw connections to prior knowledge and previous instruction with ALL new material. This helps these students make new neural connections that will strengthen their brain.
How it helps all students: Some students naturally connect new information to what they already know – but many students need to be taught how to connect everything. Even some of your brightest students won’t always draw connections between new information.
Reference: Reading Horizons, Shantell Berrett, Dyslexia Specialist/Teacher Trainer
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