Today, there are many students with dyslexia. Also, some are undiagnosed. Moreover, some do not want to reveal that they have dyslexia. I know some teachers who have dyslexia or other disorders. They keep it a secret because they fear losing their job. Another reason is that trainers might not accept them when they sign up for a course.
I’m not only a foreign language teacher but also a certified neurological speech therapist. At a Spanish university, I studied neurological therapy and speech-language pathology at a Ukrainian university.
Now, I would like to share my knowledge and a series of practical tips that you can use today (without any investments).
Before a lesson or workshop
1. Outline a plan for your session or lesson. Your learners will know what to expect. It will help your learners build and organize ideas sequentially and thoughtfully.
2. If we talk about lessons regularly, try to maintain daily routines. Dyslexic learners need it because it may be hard to maintain concentration for a long time, and they might become exhausted fast. The routine will also help them in understanding and executing the tasks assigned.
3. Make visual keywords or points, e.g., include them in your presentation or write them on a whiteboard.
NB: However, if your learner has visual dyslexia, this tip will not help because key symptoms are
- visual discrimination difficulties (e.g., mixing up “n” with “m,” “b” with “p”/”q,” etc.),
- slow rate of perception (it takes a long time to think about letters/words before understanding them),
- visual memory disorders, visual sequencing difficulties (they may have problems with left-to-right directional tracking with the eyes, i.e., the word “saw” can be read as “was”),
- visual memory disorders, etc.
4. Reduce visual distractions in your handouts. Make sure that they are not “busy” or ”overcrowded.” The handouts should be as simple as possible. Also, think about the font and its size. My adult students thank me when they see bigger letters. I use Canva for designing handouts. There is a free plan, so it won’t cost you anything.
5. It is a good idea to design worksheets with the tasks from easiest to hardest.
6. Moreover, sitting closer to a teacher or trainer will help the students understand the information better and not feel too stressed.
During a lesson or workshop
7. Use step-by-step instructions and ICQs (Instruction-checking questions). ICQs are questions that you ask to make sure that learners do understand instructions. For example, the instruction is “In pairs, ask and answer questions about what you did yesterday. You have 4 minutes.” Possible ICQs are “Do you work in pairs or individually?”, “do you ask questions about yesterday or everyday routine?”, “how much time do you have?”. This will help learners with limited prior knowledge who need explicit or part-to-whole instructions. You should give new or complex information in small chunks.
8. You could balance your presentations and activities — visual info and participatory activities. Also, there should be a balance between large, small, and individual activities.
9. Show samples of exercises, i.e., examples of completed assignments that can help the learner realize expectations and plan accordingly.
10. Offer learners choices. It will help them engage with tasks and make them more inclusive. For example, they can record a video with the answers instead of writing and vice versa.
11. Encourage asking questions. Make sure that no one is ashamed if they ask any questions.
12. Motivate learners to share notes. It will help those with difficulty taking notes concentrate on their perception.
13. Provide additional time and practice for doing tasks. Very often, people with dyslexia need a bit more time to think.
After a lesson or workshop
14. Give a copy of the workshop/class notes or the recording.
15. Use assignment substitutions or adjustments. You could allow a learner with dyslexia to do the projects instead of oral reports and vice versa. For example, if there is a writing problem, the trainer can let her/him summarize the information and give an oral presentation instead of writing it.
To sum up,
I use these strategies with all of my students in class and when presenting in workshops for teachers, even if I am not sure if they have dyslexia.
Download these free teacher guides that Cambridge designed. They will help you to support learners with dyslexia as they prepare for their exams:
English, C., & Hamilton, M. (n.d.). Cambridge English. Ten ways to support learners with dyslexia | Cambridge English. https://www.cambridgeenglish.org/blog/ten-ways-to-support-learners-with-dyslexia/
FutureLearn. (n.d.). Dyslexia and foreign language teaching – online course. FutureLearn. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/dyslexia
Plessis, S. du. (2023, May 30). Visual dyslexia: What it is and how to treat IT – edublox online tutor. Edublox Online Tutor | Development, Reading, Writing, and Math Solutions. https://www.edubloxtutor.com/visual-dyslexia/#Symptoms