In an education system that focuses on the basics of reading and writing and rote learning, a dyslexic student’s strengths and abilities can often be suppressed and self-esteem lowered. But if that student can be recognised and supported in a multi-sensory and sympathetic teaching environment, basic literacy skills can flourish and creativity and confidence can soar. Read on to hear of our 10 strategies to help motivate dyslexic students.
Ten Tips & Techniques To Support Students With Dyslexia
1. Be organised
Have a practical approach to helping students with organisation skills. Make sure a student’s study space is clear of clutter and help them to organise their worksheets into folders with dividers. Students may need additional support with strategies for remembering kit or equipment for school, so making lists, using graphic organisers and creating posters with things to remember can all be useful.
2. Support Spelling
If poor spelling is proving an obstruction to the learning and writing process, provide subject spelling lists that can be stuck at the front of a subject file so as to easily reference and check key words. Sometimes students are reluctant to commit their ideas to paper for fear of making mistakes and feeling stupid. Try using a mini-whiteboard with board markers so students can easily correct and rub out ideas. Some students greatly benefit from using a laptop.
3. Use a multi-sensory approach
Teaching in a multi-sensory way is good for all pupils. Dyslexic students often respond well to visual teaching aids, in the form of pictures, colour and creating mind maps, for example. Be as creative as possible. Help the student extrapolate key information by making clear, concise notes. Use coloured cards, underline or highlight keywords in colour, draw pictures in the margin and so on. Other students may benefit from a ‘hands-on’ approach, so incorporating movement and action into a lesson may be helpful to the learning process. Some students may learn better using audiobooks. On a deeper level, if an emotion can also be attached to a learning experience, such as happiness, love, excitement and so on (preferably not a negative emotion!), then the more powerful the learning experience is. So injecting humour, storytelling, role play and a touch of drama to lessons can work well.
4. Engage your student in the lesson
Avoid personal barriers to learning. If a student struggles with reading, starting a lesson by asking them to read will obviously be counter-intuitive! Be creative about introducing topics: use open questions, make use of pictorial representations of ideas, asking which is the odd one out or how the images are connected for example. When introducing a new topic, have the student generate questions about it before providing them with much information. Give the ‘big picture’ as to why the learning is useful. Explaining why they need to learn the content of the lesson in the context of the world and their life, will validate the effort they are about to put in.
5. Be careful when using ‘growth mindset’ language
We often talk about how students can improve if they ‘try harder’ and ‘put more effort’ into their learning. For students with dyslexia and other SpLDs, they are often working twice as hard as their peers so this kind of discussion will only add to their frustration. This is where individual assessment can be so important: measure the performance of your student against their own previous performances, not against their peers, which can be so damaging to their self- esteem.
6. Encourage intrinsic motivation
We encourage intrinsic motivation by improving proficiency and ability, but it is all too easy to fall into the trap of spoon-feeding our students information. Allow students freedom of choice and autonomy where possible and encourage them to take ownership of a task.
7. Use SMART targets
Discuss together to define clear, achievable, short-term goals to give students the tools to learn independently. Try using SMART targets, making sure that some targets can be achieved within the lesson. As tutors we can build the skills for independent learning and ‘scaffold’ their study to help them achieve their goals. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.
8. Give comments in a feedback sandwich (+ / – / +)
Start and end with a positive comment, with constructive advice in the middle.
9. Be aware of slower auditory processing speeds
Wait at least 3 seconds for an answer! On average teachers ask 3 to 4 questions a minute and wait less than a second for an answer…
10. Maintain focus
Allow for short breaks to aid focus and attention. Encourage students to stand up and move around for a couple of moments during a break and encourage them to drink water.
Bespoke Tuition has Dyslexia Specialist tutors as well as other SEN tutors who are either trained in the area or have suffered themselves from dyslexia and can offer learning strategies, techniques and customised toolkits to help students overcome their learning challenges, depending on how dyslexia affects them individually.