Dyslexia in the Classroom

Differentiating appropriately to accommodate for those with Dyslexia in the classroom is best teaching practices. Here are some of the ways a teacher can enhance the teaching/learning venue for those with Dyslexia. 

Test Taking Accommodations:

  1. Allow mastery of content to be demonstrated via a variety of different options, such as oral, class presentation, pictorial display, video…
  2. Create multiple choice tests & allow the student to simply circle his answer choice.
  3. Allow extra time to complete assessments.
  4. Provide prompts for the student during writing tasks.
  5. Allow the use of text to speech software during tasks or assessments that involve a lot of reading.

Reading Accommodations:

  1. Orton Gillingham Approach
  2. Provide an additional set of textbooks for use at home
  3. Provide audio recordings of books, including textbooks – Reading for students with Dyslexia is a cognitive task and because we can only do one cognitive activity at a time, they are working so hard decoding text that they are not comprehending what they are reading. Learning Ally is a wonderful resource that provides students with books via digital format, downloadable to iPad and Android Apps, or playable with their LINK software.
  4. Text-to-Speech Technology – Learning Ally is a valuable resource for this accommodation.
  5. Provide pre-exposures of reading materials – Allow the student with Dyslexia to take reading materials home before the reading block occurs at school, along with any vocabulary words that will be covered in the text. This allows the student to practice the passage with a parent and learn key vocabulary words ahead of time to set him up for success at school.
  6. Provide the student notice in advance of larger reading assignments – This allows her ample time to successfully complete this assignment

Written Expression Accommodations:

  1. Orton Gillingham Approach
  2. Allow speech-to-text software – Dragon Naturally Speaking software is an excellent resource for written expression accommodations.
  3. Allow student to verbally express himself – Perhaps an audio-taped version of a written assignment would allow the student to display mastery of the content he is learning. It is important to give the student ample time to complete this assignment to organize his thoughts and accurately present.
  4. Allow student to utilize a scribe – The student can say what he would like to express on paper to a scribe. He can also work with a team of students to complete a written assignment and assign a non-dyslexic team member to write the report.
  5. Allow use of a laptop computer or an iPad (or any tablet)

Spelling Accommodations:

  1. Orton Gillingham Approach
  2. Allow use of spelling devices
  3. Do not grade hand written assignments based upon spelling errors – These assignments should be graded on quality of the content and not on encoding ability.
  4. Reduce number of spelling words for assessments – If spelling assessments are given for a grade, it is best to work toward an attainable goal and do not deduct points for handwriting mechanics, such as letter size and formation.

Handwriting Accommodations:

  1. Provide student with an outline of teacher’s direct instruction – It is very difficult for a student with Dyslexia to focus on a lecture as well as take sufficient notes. It is important to provide the student with the main points of the instruction.
  2. Allow student to tape record lectures
  3. Provide student with wide-ruled paper if necessary
  4. Provide a classmate with carbonless notebook paper – A classmate can provide the student with Dyslexia lecture notes by using carbonless notebook paper. Mayer-Johnson is a supplier of carbonless notebook paper.
  5. Do not deduct points from an assignment that appears sloppy – Dr. Sally Shaywitz, in her book Overcoming Dyslexia, stated that “children who are Dyslexic frequently have abominable handwriting – a problem that continues into adulthood.” (p. 114-115)
  6. Allow use of a keyboard for handwriting tasks – An AlphaSmart portable keyboard, iPad (or any tablet), or a laptop computer are excellent resources to use in the classroom.
  7. Do not ask the student to copy information – Copying information from a textbook, overhead projector, chalkboard, or Smart Board is a difficult task for students with Dyslexia. It is important to provide this information for the student.

Math Accommodations:

  1. Allow use of a calculator
  2. Allow use of multiplication chart
  3. Allow use of math manipulatives – A 504 plan for those with Dyslexia should include multisensory learning. Tangibly working through math problems with hands-on manipulatives promotes mastery of the concepts.
  4. Allow use of iPad (or any tablet)

 Homework Accommodations:

  • Allow additional time to complete assignments
  • Reduce the amount of homework – Elect a certain amount of time to be spent on homework each night.
  • Check for student understanding prior to assigning homework – Homework should be a time for students to practice what they have learned in the classroom and not a time for parents to reteach concepts to their children. It is important for the teacher to check the student for understanding of the concepts taught in the classroom prior to assigning homework.

Student Assessment Accommodations: A 504 plan for students with Dyslexia should include…

  • Additional time to complete the assessment
  • Assessments given in a small group setting
  • Assessments given away from distractions – This is especially important for students with ADD.
  • Additional breaks during assessments
  • Allow open-book/notes assessments
  • Allow student to demonstrate mastery of content by answering questions orally
  • Shortened assessments
  • Provide plenty of pre-exposure to the concepts covered on an assessment – It is important to adequately cover the concepts to be tested, as well as do frequent checks for understanding prior to administering the assessment.
  • Modify assessment format – Administering assessments that contain short answer or essay questions will be very difficult for your students with Dyslexia. A better format might be fill-in-the-blank questions with a word bank, matching the question with the correct answer by drawing a line from one to the other, or multiple choice type questions IF there are no more than 2 choices.
  • Visual Processing Accommodations: A 504 plan for students with Dyslexia should include:
    1. Enlarge print
    2. Use of colored overlays – The glare that often results from white school paper causes visual strain for some students. Using light colored overlays for classroom assignments and assessments may be helpful to reduce processing strain.
    3. Use of highlighters to color code assignments and assessments – Using highlighters to organize assignments and tests may be helpful for some students to categorize content and minimize visual distractions.