Tips for teaching

Tips for Teaching Dyslexics

Everyone learns differently, including those with dyslexia, so it is important to be flexible and creative with teaching styles and also to teach to the strengths of each individual student. Have high expectations! Many dyslexic students are very bright!
If the student is not learning one way then think of another way to teach it! Be flexible and innovative.

Dyslexia affects memory. You need to use a multi-sensory approach which combines the visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic modalities to make learning stick. These things need to be done together, if you hear, see and do, you are more likely to remember.

Dyslexics have trouble holding words in their heads but can often imagine a picture. They learn better when you link learning to something they can imagine, e.g. a suffix is an abstract concept but if you refer to it as a ‘tail’ on a word the student will form an image in their heads and remember it.

What may seem illogical to a proficient speller will often make perfect sense to a dyslexic speller. “Look, say, cover, write” does not work for dyslexic spellers where as mnemonics can work really well, e.g. the word “diarrhoea” could be learnt by using a story that you get them to imagine:

dining ia rough restaurant hurry oexpect accidents!’

Make them laugh, have fun.

Many dyslexics experience a short attention span and limited concentration. If they are unable to concentrate for long then the information is unlikely to be stored in the long-term memory. Lots of short bursts (20 “60 minutes) of structured, fun lessons will keep students focused. Try to avoid intensive teaching at the end of the day.

Revise constantly, make lessons stick with plenty of repetition and revision. A bright dyslexic will grasp a new concept quickly, but just as fast as they have learned it they will forget it, so even if you think they have learnt it, reinforce again and again. To stop it becoming boring use a variety of games and lessons which cover the same lesson.

Teach in small chunks and stick to one main teaching point. Do not overload with too much information. Little and often is the most effective approach. The same topic should be continued over several sessions. During one main teaching point, the lesson is explained using one specific learning strategy such as a rule or mnemonic. A series of short and varied activities should follow the teaching point to reinforce the learning.

Subjects that a student enjoys may suggest their learning strengths. For instance, students who enjoy or are good at:

  • Art may learn new concepts more quickly when they are linked to images “a funny picture, or perhaps something they draw themselves.
  • Science and maths may prefer to start by learning the rules which govern the English language.
  • Writing/listening to stories, music and poetry may benefit from mnemonics and rhymes.
  • Sports are more likely to enjoy movement or action-based activities, which give time for processing, as well as card and board games.
  • Constructing models from lego etc are more likely to learn through card and board games as well as through computer-based learning.

Most of all, give praise. Dyslexic students are sensitive to criticism. Understand that breaking the code of written English is extremely difficult for them, be empathetic. They may use all sorts of avoidance tactics to avoid doing their work, if they know you understand how they are feeling they are more likely to take the risks required for learning. Don’t despair, dyslexics have good days and bad days. Sometimes a student may appear to have forgotten everything, but by the next lesson you might be encouraged by how much they recall. This can be frustrating and depressing for a teacher but imagine how much more frustrating and depressing it is for the student!