Supporting Dyslexic Learners in the General Education Classroom: 6 Tips and Strategies
It is widely acknowledged in the field of reading that dyslexic learners require a different type of instruction to learn how to read. Decades of evidence-based research points to multisensory structured literacy as the approach of choice to teaching reading. In most cases, while these students are taught through systematic, explicit, and cumulative instruction in an Orton-Gillingham-based program, this instruction often occurs outside of the general education classroom in specialized reading support or the resource room. So, how can general education teachers support their learners with a reading disability such as dyslexia?
Before we begin, let’s take a moment to understand the struggle that exists for individuals with dyslexia. Reading, writing, and spelling can be challenging and a source of frustration and avoidance. One can only imagine the effect on one’s self-esteem to be constantly immersed in reading and writing tasks throughout the day. How can we try to level the playing field? Here’s a look at some of the supports and strategies teachers can use to help students who struggle with reading, spelling, and writing.
Top 6 teaching strategies for supporting students with Dyslexia
1 . Get Curious
If your student is pulled out during the day for structured literacy instruction, take the time to communicate with the provider. Ask questions about the successful strategies used for decoding and spelling, so they can be applied and generalized in the classroom when engaged in reading tasks. Be aware of the word structure concepts they have mastered, so you can assist with strategy use at that level of your student’s sound/syllable awareness. Hold students accountable for these words and encourage strategy use when “stuck on a word.” Be aware of their potential struggles with decoding, spelling, and oral reading fluency, so adjustments can be made during classroom instruction across the content areas. For example, reading aloud in the classroom can be an arduous, painful task.
2. Classroom Routines and Instruction
Promote and provide a safe and comfortable learning experience for all students, including those with learning differences such as Dyslexia. Keeping consistent classroom routines and procedures that are repeated and practiced is essential. Keep in mind that a multisensory multi-modal approach to learning (visual, tactile, auditory, and kinesthetic) reaches all learners. Our voices, eyes, hands, and ears should be working together to cement concepts introduced. Small incremental steps delivered one at a time, with plenty of opportunity for repetition, allow learners to proceed at their own pace, and provide positive reinforcement as they learn. Instructions and directions should be read out loud with visuals.
Creating mnemonic devices for connections and recall of difficult sight vocabulary is also helpful. Provide larger text and bullet points for lists. Simplifying directions, highlighting essential information, and using applicable assistive technology (ie: reading pens, text-to-speech tools, Bookshare) when appropriate can make for a more positive learning experience.
3. Teach explicitly in a gradual release of responsibility (I, We, You)
Pre-teach new concepts and vocabulary. Provide advanced organizers that help students understand the progression of the lesson. Use audio and visual reinforcement to achieve this. Most importantly, model what you want your students to demonstrate. Provide guided practice with positive reinforcement and informative feedback. Remember that independent practice should be monitored and reviewed for adjustments, to make sure students are on the right track.
4. Be flexible and thoughtful during assessments and assignments
Focus on the content of what you want the student to demonstrate an understanding of.
Spelling does not need to count, unless it is a spelling test. On that note, spelling tests should be driven by the multisensory language program in which the students are receiving outside of the classroom. Offer options for assignments such as oral presentations, visual, or video presentations. Provide sentence starters for writing assignments and offer different ways to answer questions other than a short answer, such as circling the correct answer from multiple choices and responding orally. Extended time and material read aloud are often needed for those students who possess a reading disability as well as minimal distractions while taking tests.
5. Communicate with Parents
Keep an open line of communication with dyslexic students’ parents to discuss progress and update them on what strategies and accommodations you have provided in the classroom. Similarly, use parents as a resource as to what methods and strategies are implemented at home. A collaborative approach between all team members with ongoing parental communication is always beneficial.
6. Support Individual Strengths
While receiving science-driven reading instruction and providing strategies to support in the general education classroom is crucial for a dyslexic learner, accentuating strengths and discovering talents is just as important. There are so many immensely talented, successful individuals who share the diagnosis of dyslexia. Artists, athletes, actors, CEOs in the corporate world, etc… Let your student know that they can accomplish great things despite their struggles. Let your student shine in an unconventional way that supports a hobby, talent, or interest. An environment that values the whole individual and not just academic success or test scores will foster self-confidence and create a positive learning environment.
At Da Vinci Collaborative, our highly trained and experienced team members provide on-site direct service support for students and their families. We also partner with school districts for coaching, consulting, and professional development. If your child or student suffers from dyslexia and is having trouble making progress at school or at home, reach out to our team and see how they can help.