10 Tips For Dyslexic Friendly Classrooms

Reading time: 3

Lynn How

Lynn is the Editor at Teacher Toolkit. With 20 years of primary teaching and SLT experience, she has been an Assistant Head, Lead Mentor for ITT and SENCO. She loves to write and also has her own SEMH and staff mental health blog: www.positiveyoungmind.com. Lynn...
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Is your classroom set up to be as inclusive as possible?

Dyslexia, and associated persistent literacy difficulties, affect at least ten percent of the population.

Inclusive practices

Why are so many of our classrooms not set up to support learners with these difficulties?

Good practice for dyslexia is good practice for everyone. Only last week I heard from a friend, that the coloured overlays I sent him had made a world of difference and he could now read important documents. A single overlay costs less than £1.

I also have the tale of eight-year-old Charlie, who had a reading age of 4:10. This was until I gave him an overlay which in his words, ‘stopped the letters from wobbling’. He then accelerated his reading age rapidly!

There are so many people walking around who could be supported by resources and practices that cost practically nothing to implement. Early Intervention and whole school expectations nationally would support these learners.

If you suspect a pupil may have dyslexic tendencies, discuss this with your SENCO and access this useful checklist from the British Dyslexia Association.

10 Dyslexic fixes

  1. Backgrounds – Change your smartboard backgrounds to another colour to make it easier for everyone. If you have a child who already has a preference, use that, otherwise, opt for a whole school colour. Light blue is a popular choice.
  2. Books and overlays – Some pupils may find it easier to write in books with coloured backgrounds and have a coloured overlay. The costs are so little and it makes a massive difference!
  3. Dyslexic friendly fonts – There are fonts specifically designed for dyslexia that everyone can read. All of your school’s writing could be like this? https://opendyslexic.org/
  4. Visuals – All children benefit from visual processing. It improves retention and supports retrieval.
  5. Speaking – In a former life, I have been guilty of providing too much information and not breaking it down well. The introduction of the mini-plenary helped with this. Chunking the lesson into smaller parts helps everyone.
  6. Don’t ‘pick’ on them to read – This is seriously demotivating and traumatic in a whole class situation and may be detrimental to their reading progress. They can read to you on their own or with a trusted peer any time. There really is no need to ask struggling readers to put themselves in this position.
  7. The usual strategies – Such as natural brain breaks to avoid cognitive overload, memory aids such as word mats, a clear line of sight to the teacher and a seat close to the front to aid non-verbal communication.
  8. Mark positively – Hopefully your school is veering more towards a feedback model. Start with what they can do and build on that. You don’t want to stifle amazing ideas on account of worrying about grammar and punctuation.
  9. Inclusive homework – This goes for all additional needs. Allow pupils to do homework that is useful for their development. The amount of homework that I see set, that is not appropriate, blows my mind regularly. If the pupil can’t access it without a parent doing it for them, there is no point in completing it. Set better homework!
  10. Technology – Explore advances in technology with your dyslexic learners. Is there a budget for a reading pen, a smartpen or some text to speech software? Microsoft accessibility has many free features to explore. Pupils with dyslexia also have skills such as a strong memory for stories, a wonderful imagination, great spatial reasoning and can think outside the box! You can find more details at Dyslexia Help.

With these simple changes, dyslexic pupils and all learners will be more confident and motivated in their learning, which in turn, will enable them to make better progress.

It’s a win for everyone!

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