While we patiently wait for directives on matters related to IN SB 217, a good plan would be for all educators to use the 2018-19 school year designing best practices for a dyslexia-friendly classroom. Which after all, is simply a student-friendly classroom.
Following are a few ideas to get your wheels turning. These suggestions are based on what we know after more than 100 years of research.
- Addressing the learning needs of students with dyslexia is the responsibility of all teachers, not just those who teach reading. Communicate with other teachers to be sure you are reinforcing effective classroom strategies.
- Teaching strategies used with students who have dyslexia will benefit all students.
- Get in the habit of keeping classroom notes on students. If a child makes errors on the same tasks time after time, write it down. Whenever you notice areas of academic and/or behavioral struggle, make a note of it: who, what, when, why? This will help you determine how to help students. Expect some trial and error.
- Allow the use of assistive technology for reading, writing and math.
- Allow extra time. Students with dyslexia use 5 times the effort to decode words than typical readers, and often re-reading is necessary. They may also experience delayed word retrieval. Make time allowances during in-class assignments.
- Do not over-correct written work. For instance, if there are multiple misspellings, mark only the most important to learn, such as high-frequency words. Too many x’s and circled words feel like so much ridicule to an overwhelmed student.
- When you want students to read aloud, ask for volunteers. Please do not force anyone to read, or recite facts, or write on the board in front of the class.
- Do not have students trade papers for grading.
- In early grades, have a number and alphabet strip taped on each desk. This will cut down on memory work for those who need it, and the ones who do not need it will ignore.
- Have a digital and analogue clock in your classroom, set together. Whenever you need to point out the time, use both clocks. Students with dyslexia will be able to tell time with the digital; they will need the analogue to understand.
- To accommodate differences in language processing speeds, slow down your speech, use basic sentence structures, and pause to allow students time to think. There is a difference between lecturing and providing plenty of opportunities for students to practice listening.
- When you notice learning differences, look for the gifts. What tasks are he or she especially good at? Be sure they have opportunities to show what they know. Are they artistically or musically or physically talented? Nourish that. Students with dyslexia are fully aware of their reading deficits, you won’t need to point out those.
- Encourage them to demonstrate their knowledge in ways other than as you typically require. Universal Design for Learning is something worth striving for. So is a student-friendly classroom.
Please contact PATINS/ICAM for further assistance with classroom strategies, creating universally designed lesson plans, using digital and audio formats of textbooks and popular fiction, and information about dyslexia resources. Thanks so much!