Teaching dyslexic students

As #ELTchat  were just discussing ‘Teaching Dyslexic Students‘ and November is the month for National Dyslexia Week here in the UK , I have decided to share my experiences on the subject both as a literacy tutor and as a dyslexic.

*#ELTchat stands for English Language Teacher Chat. The chat happens every Weds at 9pm on Twitter and more information about this can be found on ELTchats website.

As #ELTchat discussed there are a number of different ways that an educator can adapt their practice in order to enhance the learning of dyslexic students. Over my next few blog posts I will discuss some of the alterations that you can make and how these could affect your students. My opinions are based on my personal experience as a dyslexic and my professional experience as a literacy tutor.

Use of Colour

SueAnn tweeted:


11:06 PM

We had a dyslexic student recently who was greatly helped by using coloured acetates over her work. #ELTchat

Coloured backgrounds can greatly help dyslexics as the colour helps the text to stay in one place thus preventing it from swimming around on the page. As well as using overlays coloured paper and coloured ppt backgrounds can also have a positive effect. Cream or pastel coloured backgrounds are the most effective colours for general use like card match activities and ppts, however, dyslexics are very much individuals so you need to find out what colours works best for your learners and then print their worksheets/handouts out on these colours.

Scoptopic sensitivity (colour sensitivity) doesn’t only effect dyslexics. 1 in 10 people in the UK are dyslexic where as 2 in 10 people suffer from scotoptic sensitivity. Therefore changing the colour of your resources could have a great impact on your students learning. Scoptopic sensitivity  is rarely diagnosed in people without dyslexia therefore there are a lot of suffers who don’t know that they have the condition. I had suffered with migraines since starting primary school and had regularly been to the opticians, however scotopic sensitivity was never mentioned until I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 26. Despite suffering from constant migraines throughout my compulsory education now I have tinted glasses and use green paper I rarely suffer from migraines.

Audio Recordings


11:10 PM

#eltchat using audio /voice recording for notes can help

As cerirhiannon mentioned audio and voice recordings can help dyslexics considerably with note taking. Dyslexics generally have weak short-term memories so copying notes from the board or from lectures is extremely difficult as by the time they have finished noting down part one down they have missed part two and the tutor is on to part three.  Since being diagnosed I have started recording all of my lectures and have a noticeable improvement in my knowledge retention and the quality of my work. I am able to listen to the recordings over and over again until I have noted down all of the information I need. Then I can turn the information into mind maps to help retain the knowledge. A series of podcasts with lesson recordings may be a useful resource, espescially as many students may not have access to a dictaphone.

ELT Chat

Below is a short selection of the tweets from #eltchat.


11:17 PM

RT @kalinagoenglish: As dyslexic learner – another thing that’s really hard are activities which require listening and writing at the same time #eltchat

11:16 PM

RT @kalinagoenglish: RT @reditho: – in truth, dyslexics r often high IQ 🙂 and visionary-out-of-box thinkers  #eltchat (wink) > 🙂

11:08 PM

We worked with a specialist in Greece-1st thing he told us, no clutter for sts on desk,board, nowhere #ELTChat

11:11 PM

RT @Marisa_C: Sharing a dyslexia checklist which I often give to my trainees http://t.co/EWLZ6vnh #eltchat #dyslexia

11:26 PM

@Marisa_C  #eltchat cloze activities if the words needed are written in a  box to guide the student – spelling wise..depends on ss

11:42 PM

RT @TES_SEN: Lots of support for managing dyslexia in the classroom on the TES – http://t.co/burG6RDP #eltchat

11:52 PM

RT @antoniaclare: @reditho I think it’s important to look at content, point out what is good, but note areas that need sep work to focus on #eltchat

Design Ideas

As part of the first module of the MMEL MSc  I am required to create a learning resource that integrates a range of ICT tools  into current teaching practice.

Below is a list of my ideas. I would appreciate it if you could vote on the idea that you feel would most benefit my basic skills learners.

Idea 1 – Wordle a-z activities

Like the activity above from Skills Workshop I am thinking of using Wordle to develop a series of A-Z worksheets for my adult literacy class. Each worksheet would be based on the differing themes from the live exams. The worksheets would then be used to prepare students for the end of course exam as there is quite often a question where the students must arrange a list of names or objects in alphabetical order. The students are generally ok with ordering things from a- z but struggle when they are faced with two words that start with the same letter, for example Peter and Paul. The worksheets could be used to address this problem.

As my learners can range from the age of 18 to 70  I often have a wide range of ability levels when it comes to using software on the PC. An advantage of using Wordle is the fact that I can make an online and paper based version of the resource so that my learners can have a choice over how they use it.

Idea 2 – Hot potato multiple choice worksheets

As the L1 and L2 numeracy exam consists of an on-line multiple choice test I think it would benefit my learners to be able to practice using this format of questioning as they learn different topics throughout the course. Therefore my second idea is to use Hot Potato to develop a series of interactive end of topic multiple choice quizzes

Idea 3 – Interactive Word documents

Although I teach on a basic literacy course a lot of my learners have English as an Additional Language and often have very low level English skills. A lot of the learners have higher level writing skills but struggle to understand the English language  when it is spoken. However my native English learners are often the other way round and are fine at understanding spoken English but struggle with their reading skills. Therefore I feel that it may be beneficial for both sets of these students to be able to hear as well as read the instructions on Word based worksheets. I would like to develop this resource further by creating a series of gap fill activities where the students use drop down boxes to choose the correct word.


Collabrotive, social learning – Lino It and Answer Garden

Today I attended a workshop session about free online software packages that can be used to enhance learning in the classroom.  Lino It and Answer Garden were two collaborative software packages that were presented. They are both suitable for the SFL classroom as the software can be used to encourage  learners to share their opinions and knowledge in a non-judgemental and anonymous way.

Lino It

Lino It is a sticky note based web page that can be used to post memos, ideas, and photos anywhere on an online web canvas.

Why do earthquakes happen?

You could use the software as a student focused starter or  plenary. One of the ways you could do this would be to post a question in the corner of the canvas and then hand the activity over to the students to post replies, for example you could ask the students in what situations have you wrote an email. The students might then reply, to complain about extra charges on a phone bill, to tell a friend some good news or to inform my tutor that I won’t be in for a few days due to sickness.

As you can change the colour of the post-it notes it’s easy to add an element of competition to the activity as you could assign a different colour per team, this means that you could also have girls (yellow post-it notes) vs boys (green post it-notes) competition. The team that comes up with the most replies could win a prize such as choosing the next question or activity.

The software is also useful as an assessment tool. It could be used at the start of a session to assess the learning and knowledge retention of previous lessons, it could be used at the end of the lesson to check understanding and if you asked the students questions such as did you enjoy this lesson, what did you think about the lesson materials it could also be used as an evaluation tool to assess how well the lesson has gone.

Although you can use the software without setting up an account I don’t recommend using the software with your learners without one. By setting up an account you can retain control of the activity once it has been passed onto your learners as you can remove any  post that you do not approve of. It is also a good idea to set up different groups for different classes as that way you can keep the canvases private and prevent different classes from cheating by copying the other groups notes.

Answer Garden

Answer Garden is similar to Lino though it is a lot simpler to use. Once you open up the software click on create, post a question, give your students the url address and once they open the web page they are able to post replies.

One of the ways that this could be used in the SFL classroom would be to teach about tallies. The students could post a question e.g what is your favourite mobile phone brand? Share the web page with their class mates and then once all of the responses are in, use the information for creating tallies of how many times each brand appears.

When promos go wrong

‘When promos go wrong’ is a fantastic resource from the Money Saving Expert.

The webpage contains a variety of photographs of incorrectly priced discounts such as Tesco’s Indian Meal Bags £2.81 each or 2 for £12 and Asda cakes reduced from 15p to 49p.

Here are a few ways that I thought the resource could be used in skills for life lessons:

  • As a way to contextualize multiplication and division in real life situations
  • As a way of highlight the importance of being able to carry out mental arithmetic
  • As a discussion starter about technical issues or human error
  • As a conversation starter about people’s spending habits

On your mark, get set, go!

On your mark, get set, go! is a reading comprehension game where the students compete against each other to be the fastest team to correctly answer a series of questions based on a short piece of text. This is a fast paced activity that can be used as an individual or small group game. I only had three students in my class when I tested this idea so the students competed as individuals which worked really well.

What you need to do is:

Choose a small piece of text, no longer than one side of A4.

Write a series of questions based on the text.

Print off one copy of the text and questions per group (colour coding each group saves a lot of time if you want to reuse the material)

Laminate and cut each question out individually.

Give each group a copy of the text and the first question.

Facilitate the game from your desk.

Rules for the students

Once the tutor says ‘Go’, one person from the each group runs to the question desk, takes a question and then runs back to their group with it.

Using the text that you have been provided with, as a group, find the answer to the question and then write this down on a separate piece of paper.

The next person in the group takes the answer to the tutor to mark. If the answer is correct you will be given the next question if not you will be have to go back to your group to try again until you have the right answer.

The winner is the first group to correctly complete all of the questions.



Quick Reads – Writing a book review

I’ve recently realised that my lessons and I are too exam focused. This has partially come from my last lesson observation where I was criticised for constantly reminding my students how the sessions fitted in with the exam for the Adult Certificate in Literacy and partially because I have always been very exam focused but have come to realise that my students may not be.

As the students only have six weeks to complete the course, for the last two months the reading lessons have purely focused on reading comprehension and skimming and scanning techniques as this is normally part of the end of course exam. After being inspired by Cathy Wint’s blog post on class reading I decided to change the focus of my lessons and encourage my students to start reading short stories. In order to do this I adapted one of my favourite lessons, the film review/planning your writing lesson that I blogged about in March. Instead of writing a film review I changed the lesson to focus on writing a book review.

Before the lesson I visited the local library and borrowed a selection of books from the Quick Reads series, a series of books written especially for low level adults. Each ss chose a book and read the first chapter. The ss then wrote a book review based on what they had just read. Although I’d provided a wide variety of books for the students to choose from most of the students didn’t enjoy reading and after writing their book review most decided to not continue reading their book. All was not lost though as one students loved the short story that he had chosen and decided to spend the rest of the session reading it and then decided to take it out of the library to finish reading at home 🙂

Here’s a quick overview of the lesson plan:

  1. Discuss what ss have read or written today – bus numbers, labels on pop bottles, the Metro, their timesheet etc.
  2. Discuss how reading and writing is a part of everday life
  3. Discuss todays lesson objectives and planning order and how the session will help them in their everyday tasks
  4. Explain that there are five stages in the writing process, write the first letter of each stage upon the board for the students to guess what each stage is.
  5. Split the ss into groups and give each ss a collection of title cards.
  6. As a class fill in the missing words from the writing process on the board.
  7. Ss arrange the titles in the order
  8. Ss match the description cards with the title cards
  9. Ss make a note of this information as a mind map or list
  10. Discuss the planning process – show ppt
  11. Ss plan what information could be included in a book review
  12. Ss pick a book and discuss what they think it’s going to be about
  13. Ss read the first chapter and write a review about it
  14.  Discuss what they thought about the first chapter of the book and what they think about the Quick Reads series
  15. Ss can then either continue reading the book or complete a series of reading comprehension worksheets
  16. Recap what the ss have learnt today