The first step to creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom is to learn about dyslexia and understand the challenges a child with dyslexia faces during their time at school.
Why a dyslexia-friendly classroom is important
According to studies between 10% and 20% of people in the U.K have dyslexia. That’s potentially 13.33 million people in the U.K. alone.
Though each person with a special educational need such as dyslexia is unique and the way their dyslexia manifests varies, there are key themes that are common for dyslexic students. These include difficulties with memory, reading, writing, oral communication and processing information. All these difficulties are challenged during a school day, causing stress and potentially anxiety for a dyslexic student.
Without the necessary support in the classroom children with dyslexia are at a higher risk of falling behind and may suffer from long term negative impacts. Also, dyslexic students may suffer from emotional problems due to difficulties stemming from their dyslexia, such as anxiety and low self-esteem, making learning even more difficult.
By creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom, you help reduce the barriers to learning, providing students with dyslexia the opportunity to learn at faster rates and participate effectively with other students in the same classroom.
Creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom doesn’t take away from other students; in fact, our experience suggests that both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students benefit equally from just a few adjustments.
Dyslexia-friendly classroom checklist
Below we’ve put together a list of 10 tips for creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom with explanations on how it helps.
Use visual aids
By providing students with oral, pictorial and written activities around your lesson, you increase their ability to remember and engage. Students with dyslexia in particular will benefit from this approach.
By combining visual, audio, and written communication skills, you improve memory retention and build connections between the three communication methods they may struggle with when presented in isolation.
Speak more slowly and in simpler sentences
Listening and processing spoken words at speed is a challenge for dyslexic students, particularly if they need to remember what you are telling them.
By slowing down your speech and using simpler sentence structures, you can help children understand more and give dyslexic students time to process what you are saying.
Use dyslexia-friendly fonts
When providing resources to students use San Serif fonts like Arial and Open Sans or fonts specifically designed to support people with dyslexia such as Dyslexie and Open Dyslexic.
These fonts are easier to read and help prevent letters mirroring and swapping when read by a dyslexic person.
Make sure the letters in your resources aren’t too close together and avoid using italic and underlining words and sentences as doing so can make letters blend and become harder for a dyslexic person to read.
Avoid forcing children to read in front of the whole class
Reading aloud can be daunting and anxiety-producing for a dyslexic person, particularly when they haven’t had time to prepare. Reading aloud well requires linking sounds with words, which can be particularly difficult for dyslexic students.
Instead, encourage either silent reading or paired reading where there is less pressure and use a voluntary approach to public reading.
Provide a clear line of sight for non-verbal communication
Children with dyslexia will rely more heavily on non-verbal communication and visual clues to understand what they are being taught. Sit dyslexic students within the teacher’s peripheral vision so they can pick up on the non-verbal communication.
Provide memory clues like alphabet and numbers
Having an alphabet, numbers, the date or regularly used words in clear view will cut down on the memory work a dyslexic child has to do. Consider adding these types of information on the desk, walls or on a section of the whiteboard where students can clearly see them. By taking away this barrier, a dyslexic student is more likely to be able to focus on the lesson content.
Schedule natural breaks
Dyslexic students often have to work twice as hard in a lesson to cope with the challenges they face on top of learning. It can be tiring and even overwhelming. Build in natural breaks to your lesson plan where students can think or interact with the lesson in a creative way.
By taking time out, you not only help a dyslexic child process the information easier but reduce their stress levels.
Plan for inclusive homework
Avoid setting homework that focuses only on written work. For a dyslexic student homework on any subject can quickly turn into English homework as they struggle to read the resources and write their answers. Dyslexic students often spend longer on the same homework than non-dyslexic children due to the extra challenges they face.
Instead encourage alternative methods of communication including mind maps, Chatta boards and presentations. Such methods allow students to show their knowledge without being hindered by their reading and writing ability.
Mark based on content
For students with dyslexia losing marks based on their spelling and grammar skills is demoralising and frustrating. Consider marking the content of the work and their spelling and grammar separately. Praising students for their comprehension of the topic will help them build self-esteem.
Dyslexic people generally have slower word retrieval and take longer to name well-known objects. Slower retrieval often means they cannot offer speedy contributions in a classroom setting, even if they know the answers.
Avoid rote-learning exercises such as times tables that require students to connect oral communication skills and memory. Instead, focus on story-based activities that improve memory retention and encourage alternative communication methods like visual presentations and discussion.
Creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom can make a world of difference to a child, and it shouldn’t be hard. With dyslexia-friendly tools and approaches to learning, teachers can avoid isolating dyslexic children and help them thrive within the classroom.
Learn more about how Chatta helps children with dyslexia in the classroom and at home, or sign up to our free webinar on implementing Chatta in your classroom.
Dyslexia-friendly classroom checklist
Save our dyslexia-friendly classroom checklist as a reminder; maybe share it with a teacher you know and help create a more inclusive classroom for everyone.