How to make your classroom dyslexia friendly

Dyslexia concept

Approximately one in ten of the population is estimated to have dyslexia. As many as one in five children leave primary school with below the national average levels in reading, writing and mathematics, according to the UK charity Dyslexia Action.

A survey of teachers, carried out by Dyslexia Action, found that as many as 60 per cent of teachers did not feel satisfied that their training had equipped them with sufficient skills to teach those who are struggling to read and write.

The British Dyslexia Association is campaigning to encourage schools to work towards becoming dyslexia-friendly. They recommend a multi-sensory approach to teaching and learning and are encouraging schools to join up to their programme for a Quality Mark Award. You can find the abridged version of their guide to good practice here.

Here are 11 ways you can start making your classroom dyslexia-friendly. With your help, dyslexic children don’t need to be afraid of books.

1. Give directions one step at a time – this helps reduce the processing time and helps to cater to memory deficits.
2. Preview and review – set out what you will be doing for the day to help pupils organise, filter and prioritise information. At the end of the day, review activities to help students remember and categorise what they have learned throughout the day.
3. Warn students when activities are about to change – let children know when an activity is coming to an end and what is expected of them. Try counting down; for example, there’s 5 more minutes of reading time, before we start our maths lesson, 2 more minutes etc.
4. Slow down instructions – make sure students have time to process information. Be clear and explicit when explaining tasks, and assess children in intervals to ensure they have understood what it is you have asked of them.
5. Assume nothing – never assume children understand connected concepts. Teach one concept at a time and draw connections with all new material presented.
6. Provide visuals wherever possible – children with dyslexia will likely have some processing issues. If they miss important details in their note taking, visual outlines will help them to recap and are more likely to secure ideas in the memory.
7. Use numbering instead of bullet points where possible – dyslexic children can easily lose their place.
8. Ensure that you use dyslexia-friendly fonts, such as Comic Sans, Sassoon or Arial. Avoid Time New Roman or other cursive scripts. Use double line spacing on homework sheets or notes.
9. Use a colour background on PowerPoint slides, and use off-white paper for handouts.
10. Teach key vocabulary and provide new vocabulary lists at the start of each new topic. Also explore different spelling techniques to make words more memorable.
11. Set suitable reading tasks for homework. Research resources about how to support reading for dyslexia.

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