Teachers need to be well informed about dyslexia given that on average there will be at least three students in each classroom who have dyslexia. All teachers are responsible for catering for the diverse learning needs of their students.
Understanding and empathy will help teachers to make their classroom more inclusive. Dyslexia affects everyone differently, so don’t hesitate to ask each student, and their parents, what you can do to help.
The first line of support for a student with dyslexia is the class teacher. The class teacher or subject teacher has an essential role to play in being aware and considerate of each student’s strengths and weaknesses. Even if students attend learning support, they still spend the majority of their school week in the general classroom.
Classroom and subject teachers are expected to differentiate their teaching to accommodate the varying needs of the pupils in their classroom. Reasonable accommodations in the classroom can also be negotiated, for example a reduced number of spellings to be learned, or advance notice of reading passages.
Teachers also need to be aware of the individual profiles and specific needs of each student with dyslexia in their class, as each child will be different.
Training & Development
Teachers wishing to learn more may want to do a course on dyslexia, such as one of the Teachers’ Courses run by DAI. Tickets for upcoming courses are available at: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/dyslexiaireland/.
Schools are also encouraged to avail of whole-school in-service training provided by the NCSE, the National Council for Special Education (www.ncse.ie), and to avail of CPD in their local Teacher Education Centre.
For those seeking more in-depth training, DCU now offer a Masters in SLD/Dyslexia.
NCSE Resources for teachers: www.ncse.ie/teacher-resources
NEPS Resources for teachers and schools: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/National-Educational-Psychological-Service-NEPS-/Resources-Publications.html
The Factsheets for Teachers on Dyslexia at Second Level contain a wealth of relevant information and advice. The complete set of Factsheets is downloadable here: https://www.sess.ie/sites/default/files/inline-files/factsheets1to18.pdf
General Advice Continued
- Be as understanding as possible.
- A structured, multi-sensory programme should be used to teach reading and spelling.
- Multi-sensory learning techniques should be used whenever possible, which involves using visual, aural, oral and kinaesthetic senses. The classroom should be interactive and involve lots of discussion, and opportunities for active learning.
- Avoid asking a pupil with dyslexia to read aloud in front of the class. However, if you really need to get the pupil to read, discreetly let them know the previous day what section they will be asked to read so they can prepare it.
- Make learning achievable! Don’t give a dyslexic student a long list of words to learn every week. Give them a short list of words from a word family, e.g. boil, coil, and spoil.
- If giving students sequential information to learn off, be understanding. Some pupils with dyslexia find rote learning very challenging.
- Remember that over-learning is essential. You can never assume that the pupil will remember a topic covered only once or twice. Build in lots of opportunities for repetition and consolidation of knowledge.
- Take time to correct written work and focus on content rather than presentation. Do not correct every error, but instead concentrate on a small number of errors and set manageable targets.
- Don’t ask a dyslexic student to copy out corrections/mis-spellings. This will be of no use.
- Some students will need to use a computer.
- Note-taking can be difficult, so provide worksheets or arrange for notes to be photocopied. Avoid tasks where students are asked to copy from the blackboard, including homework assignments.
- Any worksheets given should be carefully presented, with large clear text, bold headings and diagrams to aid visual learning.
- Ask the pupil to repeat back instructions given. This can be a useful memory aid. Instructions given should be clear and concise. It can also be useful to ask students to summarise what has been learnt at the end of the class.
- Careful consideration needs to be given to lesson planning to ensure that the interest level is high, but the literacy levels are adapted to suit the students’ needs. Differentiated teaching is very important (must, should, could): first the basics, what every student must know; then what they should know to get a good grade; and finally, what they could know if they are aiming for a high grade.
- The student with dyslexia should sit near the teacher, so that the teacher can monitor progress and be available to provide any necessary assistance.
- Never compare the work of a student with dyslexia to the rest of the class or a sibling. The work presented will often not be indicative of the effort put into producing it. Ability should not be judged solely on written answers, but on oral, recorded, computer and project work.
- If the student is likely to receive reasonable accommodations in state exams, then allow the same accommodations for homework, end-of-term and mock exams.
- Rewarding effort is as important as rewarding accuracy. Students with dyslexia can become very disheartened if their effort is not acknowledged.
- Encourage students to build up their stronger abilities in sports, technology, drama, science, maths, etc. This is an important way to build self-esteem.
- Work closely with parents. They are a valuable source of help and information.