A dyslexia friendly classroom begins with a dyslexia friendly teacher. The first step toward making your classroom a welcoming learning environment for students with dyslexia is to learn about it. Understand how dyslexia impacts a child's ability to learn and what the main symptoms are. Unfortunately, dyslexia is still misunderstood. Many people believe that dyslexia is when children reverse letters and while this can be a sign of dyslexia in young children, there is much more to this language based learning disabilities. The more you know about dyslexia, the better you can help your students.
As a teacher you may worry about neglecting the rest of your class as you institute changes for one or two students with dyslexia. It is estimated that 10 percent to 15 percent of students have dyslexia. That means you probably have at least one student with dyslexia and possibly there are additional students that have never been diagnosed. The strategies you implement in your classroom for students with dyslexia will benefit all of your students. When you makes changes to help students with dyslexia, you are making positive changes for the entire class.
Changes you can make in the physical environment:
- Have an area of the room designated as a quiet area. Carpeting this area will help keep down noise. Minimize distractions to allow students with dyslexia to have an area they can read or concentrate on class work. For students with dyslexia who are showing signs of anxiety, this can be a time-out area when they are feeling very nervous, upset or frustrated.
- Place analog and digital clocks on the wall, right next to each other. This will help students see both ways of showing time, connecting the digital time with how it looks on a clock.
- Set aside several areas of the board for daily information. Write down the day and date each morning and post the day's homework assignments each morning. Use the same spot each day and make your writing large enough for them to easily see it from their seats. Large writing helps students with dyslexia find their place when copying information into their notebooks.
- Post high frequency words and information that is used often around the room. For younger children this could be the alphabet, for elementary age children it could be the days of the week, for older children it could be word walls of vocabulary words. Strips with this information can be taped to the student's desk as well. This helps to reduce memory work and lets children with dyslexia focus on other skills. For younger children, add pictures to the words to help them connect the written word with the object.
- Have children with dyslexia sit near the teacher. This doesn't necessarily mean they must sit in the first seat but they should be able to easily see the teacher using peripheral vision. Students should also be seated away from talkative children to minimize distractions.
- Use slower speech and simple sentences. Students with dyslexia may need a longer time to process information, use pauses when speaking to give them time. Integrate examples and visual representations in lessons to help aid in comprehension.
- Provide worksheets for organizing information for writing assignments. Have templates with different types of writing frames and mind maps that students can choose from when preparing a writing assignment.
- Do not require a student with dyslexia to read aloud in class. If the student volunteers, let them read. You might want to offer a student the opportunity to read aloud and give them a few paragraphs to read and practice at home before speaking out loud.
- Integrate different ways for students to show their knowledge of a subject. Use visual presentations, power-point projects, poster boards and discussions to help a child participate without feeling embarrassed or fearing failure.
- Use multi-sensory lessons. Students with dyslexia have been found to learn better when more than one sense is activated. Use art projects, skits, and hands-on activities to reinforce lessons.
Assessments and Grading
- Allow students with dyslexia to use electronic helpers when completing class work or tests. Examples include an electronic dictionary, speller or thesaurus, computers and talking calculators.
- Do not take off points for spelling. If you mark spelling errors, do so separately and create a list of words frequently misspelled for students to refer to during writing assignments.
- Offer oral testing and extended time for formal assessments.
Working Individually with Students
- In the beginning of the school year, work closely with a student to assess their knowledge of phonics and set up a plan and specific practice sessions to help strengthen weak areas.
- Assess a student's strengths and weaknesses. Use teaching methods to help build on strengths. Children with dyslexia may have strong reasoning and problem solving skills. Use these as building blocks.
- Praise a child's achievements, no matter how small.
- Use positive reinforcement programs, instituting rewards and consequences to help a child learn to cope with symptoms of dyslexia.
- Supply a schedule of the school day. For younger children include pictures.
- Above all, remember that students with dyslexia are not stupid or lazy.
Creating a Dyslexia-Friendly Classroom, 2009, Bernadette McLean, BarringtonStoke, Helen Arke Dyslexia Center
The Dyslexia-Friendly Classroom, Date Unknown, Author Unknown, LearningMatters.co.uk