Practical Strategies for Dyslexic Students

I cannot state strongly enough that Dyslexia is a learning difficulty but not an impairment of a students ability to achieve.  There are many talented people who have dyslexia who achieve remarkable things.  It is important for teachers to remember this and ensure they set high standards for thier students with dyslexia.
Following are some simple strategies for supporting students with dyslexia
  • Dyslexic students need to be in a positive environment where their efforts are understood and supported.  Teachers need to understand that messy or below standard work is not due to carelessness or lack of effort. 
  • Dyslexic students will have difficulty following simple instructions.  Once you have given an instruction to the class walk around and check to see that the student understands what is required. Remember it is not enough to just ask ‘do you understand’ you should ask the student to tell you what is required.
  • Keep instructions short and only give one at a time.  So many teachers will walk into a lesson and start by saying ‘class get your books out and write todays heading and the list of spelling words’.  A dyslexic student will have lost what was required after ‘class get your books out’
  • Chunk information by covering up or cutting up a page of writing. Many students with dyslexia will have forgotten what they read in the previous paragraph so will need to re- read a number of times for understanding.  This does not mean they are being slow or lazy.
  • Students with dyslexia should not be made to read in front of peers until they are comfortable.
  • Students with dyslexia have problems processing short term memory.  This in turn makes it difficult for them to commit and draw things from thier long term memories.  To overcome this repitition of key points is the key. This is good teaching practice for even students who do not have dyslexia.  Outlining at the begninng and end of the lesson the key points is important for retantion of information.
  • The more ways the student can use the information presented the greater the chance of retention. Incorporating visual and kinesthetic tasks such as sorting facts or matching exercises aid in students learning.  The greater the number of times the student has to apply the knowledge the increase in chance of the students retaining and being able to draw on the knowledge. Try to monitor and reduce the amount of teacher talk time in your lessons.
  • Teaching and encouraging proof reading skills is also important.  This is a skill that needs to be taught and will come with practice.  There are a range of activities that can assist with this.
  • Copying of infomation should be kept to a minimum.  If copying is needed then it is good practice to give the student a photocopy to paste into their books.  Short term memory difficulties mean that for the student they are copying a random string of words that hold little or no meaning. Best practice is to give the infomation have the student read through it, test for understanding and apply it in some fashion (this should apply for all students).
  • A frustrating trait of many dyslexic students is their complete lack of organisation. They will loose books and forget to complete homework.  I have known teachers who have their students keep two books one that they can take home and one that remains in the classroom. Punishing a student for failing to bring homework or losing a book does nothing but create stress for you.  Remove this stress by putting measures in place such as checking or writing in homework set and having close contact with parents to ensure homework is completed and packed into their bags the night before. 
  • There are so many resources for students with dyslexia but I would recommend resources that build upon phonological awareness.  There are two ways students can learn how to read.  One is they learn how words are produced through sound combinations or phonics and the other is through sight recognition.  The latter is much more difficult and requires more training.  So I recommend getting hold of a program like Toe by Toe that builds up the students phonological skills. 
  • Although students will not like reading as it put strain on them it is important or maybe I should say essential that the student read regularly. Tthey should read books that are at their level and that support thier progress.  In secondary school this can be difficult as students will not want to be reading ‘kids’ books and will want to read what their peers are reading.  I have used comics to help with this but it is important that these are pitched at an appropriate level.
  • Spelling strategies for dyslexic students should focus on conventions and phonics.  Instead of giving a list of random words it is far benificial to give a list of words that sounds the same or share the same spelling conventions (e.g. walk, talk, stalk, chalk). 
  • Dyslexic student will sometimes have excellent verbal skills and class discussion is a great way of testing understanding.  Group or pair tasks are excellent for students with with dyslexia if the task and roles are properly structured.  These also do wonders for the student self esteem.
These are just a number of strategies that will assist in supporting a student with dyslexia.  Please feel free to comment or add suggestions below.