Dyslexia Friendly Schools


Dyslexia Friendly Schools: Improving Outcomes for Dyslexic Students in SchoolsDyslexia friendly tick from BDA

In the March 2012 newsletter, we included the first three sections of SPELD SA’s E-learning course, Improving Outcomes for Dyslexic Students in Schools: What is dyslexia? 2. An intensive intervention and 3. The value of technology.

In this, the final section of the course, we
1. examine the characteristics of dyslexia friendly schools
2. highlight the personal behaviours that dyslexic students most appreciate in their teachers
3. provide evidence of the effectiveness of dyslexia friendly practices, and
4. identify the classroom strategies and accommodations that can help to address the difficulties commonly experienced by students with dyslexia at different stages in their school career.

1. What does a dyslexia friendly school do?

Dyslexia friendly schools set whole school goals and targets. Dyslexia friendly schools expect all students to be successful learners.

These schools
• demand excellence from their students
• require students to be the best they can be
• have a zero tolerance of failure
• take action when whole school and individual student’s targets are not met
• promote staff awareness of the difficulties that some students experience
• adopt flexible approaches -"If students don't learn the way we teach, we will teach them the way they learn".
• have a member of the Senior Management Team who is responsible for whole school goals and targets

Dyslexia friendly schools actively "look for trouble".

These schools
• rigorously and regularly monitor students’ skill attainment on a term by term basis
• use existing data on students’ attainment levels eg from previous years’ test results, reports from allied health professionals, NAPLAN to identify areas of difficulty
• provide their teachers with training in how to

• interpret diagnostic test results and • use the information to develop interventions to address identified difficulties
• expect teachers to use diagnostic assessments students are not making expected progress despite good teaching. This ensures that the delay between identification and response is kept to a minimum

• do not need to wait for referrals to Educational Psychologists and their recommendations
• implement immediate classroom responses/ interventions to address identified difficulties

The practice of target setting effectively offers all learners the benefit of an educational plan. It also limits potential IEPs to those learners whose needs are "additional to" and/or "different from" those which are met through inclusive mainstream practice.

In Dyslexia friendly schools, the identification of learning issues results in action in the classroom in the first instance. Many learning difficulties respond well to classroom-based fine tuning delivered by dyslexia aware and well trained class and subject teachers.

Dyslexia friendly schools empower students to achieve success

Understanding the underlying difficulties and emotional responses experienced by students with dyslexia and other learning difficulties enables teachers to meet a wide range of individual needs without always needing to give individual help.

These schools
• monitor progress by achievement of "can do" statements and focus on strengths rather than weaknesses
• individual differences are recognised and celebrated
• everyone is important
• all students are empowered to "be the best they can"
• students can demonstrate their learning through a range of forms eg, mind map, essay, PowerPoint, digital recording, video
• the use of assistive technology is taught and supported to all students.

Dyslexia friendly schools prioritise learning goals.

These schools
• aim to teach the child rather than just cover the curriculum
• in consultation with parents and students, prioritise learning goals for individual children. For example,

• students may receive intensive intervention in basic skills at the expense of some
aspects of the curriculum
• weak basic skills are not a barrier to "top sets" e.g. being in the top stream for maths

A Primary student working one on one with a supporting teacher
A high school student being given one on one support with a teacher
An example of feedback when marking a students assignment
A google calendar allows you to create diffent colours for each subject, and you can link assignments and important info and resources

2. What do dyslexia friendly teachers do?
The following comments were made by students. Both primary and secondary students place most importance on a teacher's personal characteristics.

• At the start of the lesson, they are clear about what they want us to do;
• Show us as well as tell us;
• Give us time to listen and respond;
• Use pictures and structural material -these make it easier to understand;

• Show enthusiasm for the subject;
• Let us ask questions -check that we are doing - if not explain with pictures;
• Write things down clearly -preferably on a white board;

• Teach the basic information "without rambling on about other things";

• Smile when we ask for help -explain it again and do at least two examples with us; • Help when we get stuck;
• Are patient with our mistakes and when we need help; • Are nice to us -please do not shout when we get it wrong;

• Create a peaceful environment in the classroom.

• Get to know us and what we can do
• Understand us and spend time helping us;
• Prepared to repeat instructions;
• Happy to answer questions;
• Proactively check we are doing it right;
• Explain, check that we understand -if not, explain with pictures

When marking:
• Mark work tidily, in dark colours
• Make clear, helpful comments
• Find things to praise
• Grade us on our improvement
• Judge work on content, not spelling

 

Primary and secondary school students highlight the importance of quality support materials. In particular, they appreciate it when teachers:
• use a white board;
• number lines at both ends -different coloured lines can be helpful;
• leave instructions/spellings etc on the board for a long time; allow students to photograph the board
• provide summaries of lessons in electronic format to minimize copying from the board;
• put homework instructions on a digital recorder or an electronic document that can be loaded onto a USB stick or emailed;
• accept and encourage work to be presented in different forms – digital recording, web cam, oral responses etc. "You choose the best way to show me what you know for this task".

Finally, when asked, “If you could tell all teachers something, what would you say?

They responded:
• Explain better in the first place;
• Talk plainly, clearly and to the child;
• Watch over our shoulders every so often and write spellings in the margin for us;
• Concentrate on what we are saying – give us your full attention for that moment;
• Explain as many times as we need – at least twice the same way before trying a different approach

Also
• Please don’t shout;
• Be patient – don’t get in a stress when we get something wrong
• Give us time to finish

3. Are dyslexia friendly schools making a difference?
In the UK, Local Educational Authorities (LEAs) are beginning to report improvements in key
indicators of effectiveness such as:
• attendance;
• performance in public examinations;
• student confidence, self esteem and behaviour;
• parental confidence;
• teacher confidence following whole school training;
• use of in-class support;
• primary-secondary liaison and transfer arrangements;

LEAs are also beginning to report reductions in:
• exclusions;
• tribunals;
• appeals;
• number of IEPs as more needs are met in class.

4. What happens in dyslexia friendly classrooms?

There is growing recognition that classroom-based practices implemented on behalf of dyslexic learners have the potential to enhance the learning of a majority of students. Fundamental to success is the notion of responding to learning difficulties through changes in teaching. Consequently, dyslexia friendly practices are seen as being at the core of school-based responses to inclusion, differentiation, value-adding and general effectiveness. Recommended strategies and accommodations for supporting students in key areas of learning are listed in the following pages under three headings:

Pre-school - Junior Primary: What are the characteristics of a dyslexia friendly pre-school/junior primary classroom?
Middle Primary: What are the characteristics of a dyslexia friendly primary classroom (Years 3-5)?
Upper Primary - Secondary: What are the characteristics of a dyslexia friendly upper primary/ secondary classroom?

What are the characteristics of a dyslexia friendly pre-school/junior primary classroom? [top]

Children at this age quickly become aware that the skills other children seem to be developing easily are very difficult for them. Consequently, they often try to avoid them. Focusing on the pre-requisite skills for literacy; fine and gross motor skills and developing memory will give children a strong foundation. These skills will probably not come automatically and the children will need explicit teaching, modelling and much practice to develop them.

 

Phonic bottle tops revising first 6 sounds in Jolly Phonics Revising sight words to teacher
Key Areas
Teaching Strategies and Accommodations
Developing Phonological Awareness Skills
• sing/say nursery rhymes/poems to develop the concept of rhyme
• play “I Spy” with first/last sound of words
• talk about rhyming words in big books/story books
• quiz students on the ‘odd one out’ e.g. “sun, sea, ring”, “hat, cat, lend”, & ask what makes the word different
• clap out the beats in words (syllables)
Improving Short-Term Memory
• teach “Stop, look, listen” strategy in response to a cue e.g. teacher’s hand clap, before giving instructions
• teach memory strategies e.g. repetition for remembering instructions, learning the alphabet, counting
• give one short, simple instruction at a time, have students repeat instruction aloud, then to themselves
• play memory games eg, I went to the supermarket and I bought…
• play ‘Simon Says’ to help with following instructions and direction e.g. “2 steps forward and sit down”
• teach visualisation skills eg, for instructions; picturing what is happening in a story
Developing Speech and Language
• encourage speech with all activities
• teach students to pronounce words correctly
• talk about words, teach new meanings
• give students practice in giving instructions e.g. preparing breakfast, using a video
• work on categories: name 4 drinks, animals, sports, fruits
• practise descriptions e.g. events, objects, people
Developing Fine Motor Skills
The following activities may be used to develop fine motor skills:
• cutting, tracing, mazes, tearing, crumpling, threading
• using clothes pegs, child size chopsticks and tweezers
• using clay, playdough
• construction activities e.g. Duplo, octagons etc
Developing Handwriting Skills

teach and monitor correct sitting position, book/paper position, pencil grip
• practise writing patterns
• use a multisensory approach to teach correct letter formation
• teacher models correct formation on board and describes movements
• students watch and say sound
• students make shape in the air, trace over printed example, practise letter eg, in sand, on board
• reduce size only when correct formation is automatic

Developing Phonic Skills

Use a structured synthetic phonics program to teach the 5 basic skills

1. learning the 42 letter sounds

2. letter formation

3. blending

4. identifying sounds in words

5. tricky words Provide additional daily practice for those who need more repetition
Developing Written Language Skills

• start by dictating letter-sounds, then CVC words as new letter-sounds are taught

• dictate tricky words as they are taught • teach what a sentence is and is not

• teach grammar and punctuation For independent writing, children need to know:

• the 42 letter sounds

• how to hear the sounds in words

• one way of writing the letters for the sounds

• what they want to say
Developing Reading Skills

• as students are introduced to letter-sounds, at the rate of one a day, teach them to make words using known letter-sounds

• students take home weekly lists of words that include only the letter-sounds they have learnt

• students are gradually introduced to tricky words at a rate of two a week

• students are given phonic-based readers when they know and can read words with the 42 sounds

• when students can read phonic-based readers that include the 42 sounds, alternative spellings of the vowel sounds and two-and three-syllable words fluently, they are ready for a wider range of reading material. A book is too hard for a student to read independently, if they make more than 1 error per 10 words.

• when hearing a student read, ask questions, invite predictions and discuss the story/content as well as the meaning of new vocabulary
Encouragiing Confidence and Self-Esteem • praise/reward achievements, however small
• spotlight strengths and interests
• give opportunities to shine in front of peers
• explain and remind how different people are good at different things

What are the characteristics of a dyslexia friendly primary classroom (Years 3-5)? [top]

Students with dyslexia at this age may lose the motivation to try in response to repeated failure. They may be unjustly labelled as lazy or stupid. The challenge for their teachers is to differentiate work tasks so that they can manage them independently and achieve success. (Better to adapt the mode of response than the task.)

Key Areas
Teaching Strategies and Accommodations
Getting on with the task
• sit student near a helpful ‘buddy’
• ensure worksheets are written simply, in large print (e.g. Arial, Sassoon or Comic Sans, font 14 or 16pts) with clear spacing
• have emergency supply of equipment: pen, pencil, ruler, eraser
• print worksheets on pastel coloured paper
Engaging students
• think multi-sensory and design lessons that involve:
• the visual channel e.g. colour coding, writing key points on board, demonstrations
• the auditory channel e.g. explanations, have students repeat, use drama, discussion (use audio books, recorded information)
• the kinaesthetic channel e.g. writing, making things, doing things
• the thinking channel e.g. analysing, organising, proof-reading, evaluating, summarising, asking themselves questions
• encourage a range of responses
• visual: picture, chart, diagram, video
• auditory: oral, digital recording, play
• kinaesthetic: model, movement
Improving organization
• model, explain and provide a system for routine tasks e.g. setting up science experiments, clearing up, giving out homework instructions, collecting parent notices. Let students know ahead of time if there will be any changes
• List the day’s program on the board each day in large writing with pictures/ symbols, and list materials they need to have ready for particular tasks
• Dedicate time for students to get themselves organised
• teach students a system for e.g. tidying their desk/drawer, getting changed for PE, looking for something they’ve lost and encourage them to use it as part of a regular routine
• use electronic timers and attention trackers
Improving listening skills
• gain student’s attention e.g. use name, touch shoulder, gain eye contact, keep still
• teach student to ‘stop, look and listen’ when teacher speaks
• give one instruction at a time and allow time to process meaning
• keep instructions short and simple
• accompany verbal information with visuals, demonstrations, headings on the board • if possible, ask student/s to repeat instruction/s
• check student/s know what to do
Show Understanding

• acknowledge that students with dyslexia have to work harder than most of their peers and even then the results may be disappointing (both to the teacher and the student)

• appreciate that dyslexics have good days and bad days

• accept that progress is likely to be slow and praise small achievements

• recognise signs of fatigue & give a break, change activity

• appreciate dyslexics’ difficulty learning facts by heart – provide aids

• don’t ask a dyslexic to read to the class unless they want to

• they may lose and forget things however hard they try

• they may be very sensitive to their difficulties and go to extreme lengths to hide them

• be patient. If one approach doesn’t work, try something different, work on one step at a time, go back to a stage they can manage and build from there
Modifying the Task

• be prepared to modify tasks eg, accept dot points instead of sentences

• don’t ask dyslexics to copy from the board: they find it very difficult and may miss words/lines/whole chunks of information

• don’t ask students to finish work at recess and lunch or take it home; instead reduce the amount, modify the task
Building Confidence and Self-Esteem

• reward effort

• capitalize on special interests and talents

• give opportunities to shine

• help students set manageable goals and work out strategies to attain them

• look for opportunities to give descriptive praise
Developing Reading Skills

A book is too hard for a student to read independently if they make more than 1 error per 10 words. When reading with adult support, 2 errors per 10 words is acceptable. If a student makes more than 2 errors per 10 words, an adult would need to read it to them if they want to hear the story or gain the information

• for struggling readers, choose phonic-based texts with controlled vocabulary at an appropriate level. Series such as The Magic Belt, Totem and Talisman and the Fresh Start Anthologies have been written for students in Years 4-8

• When hearing a student read, help them to engage with the text by asking questions, inviting predictions, getting them to summarise passages/pages, discussing vocabulary, relating situations/knowledge to their own experience Whole class

• before reading to students, provide background so students can relate what they will hear to something known

• discuss word meanings, content, relevance to real life

• discuss characters, problems and events

• invite students to suggest solutions to problems, predict what will happen

• teach visualisation skills (creating a mental movie) to help with comprehension, remembering and visual imagination

• teach skimming, scanning skills

• frequently model how you would e.g.

• identify main point

• recognise supporting detail

• note sequence
Reading Irregular (tricky) Words • play games (using cards), Bingo and the Memory game, snap.
Developing Handwriting Skills

• teach correct sitting position, book/paper position, pencil grip; monitor correct behaviours

• teach correct letter formation, monitor; provide one-to-one guidance if necessary

• teach cursive; because pen stays on the page, motor memory helps with memorisation of letter combinations for spelling words

• practise writing patterns, letter formation in range of settings e.g. sand, white board, chalk

• provide printed guidelines
Developing Spelling Skills

Dyslexic students have great difficulty spelling correctly

• revise knowledge of names and sounds of the letters of the alphabet

• revise knowledge of the 46 sounds of English (ie basic and extended code), alternative vowel sounds and tricky words. Provide intensive intervention from beginning of Year 3 to address gaps in knowledge

• lead students through a structured spelling program

• work with word groups (e.g. meet, seem, leek etc) so students can ‘hear’ and ‘see’ how groups of words share a particular sound/letter pattern

• practise breaking words into syllables, e.g. win/dow

• highlight syllables and word endings/write them in cursive so a student sees them as a unit,

• teach students to ‘sound out’/segment words they want to spell and identify the number of sounds in the word. Ask them to check that they have a letter or letter combination for each sound. Ensure pronunciation is correct.

• when teaching spelling, engage as many senses as possible:

• write a word (or words) with the new spelling pattern on the board

• students read the word/s

• examine the word with the students and highlight the new spelling pattern

• erase the word/s from the board

• students write the word from memory, saying the word

• students check their own spelling immediately, tick each correct letter, make any corrections and copy correct version again

• apply to other words that contain the spelling pattern
Spelling Irregular (tricky) Words

A key strategy when teaching students to spell irregular words is to help them identify the regular ‘bits’ first and then the ‘tricky’ bits.

• As you examine each word with the student/s, ask them to tell you which sounds are spelt regularly first and then highlight and discuss ways to remember the tricky bit/s

• students practise writing the words over and over to reinforce spelling and writing patterns through motor memory

• develop mnemonics e.g. to remember the spelling of said, refer to the first letter of each word in the sentence, Small ants in danger and draw a picture to go with the sentence

• use a spelling computer program such as Wordshark
Developing Written Language Skills

• model how to write a sentence, paragraph and different genres
• allow student/s to use recording device so they can concentrate on what they want to say
• provide genre structures; model how to use them e.g. for narrative, procedure
• brainstorm vocabulary and write on the board; photograph and print the list language skills
• provide sentence starters, topic sentences for paragraphs
• encourage the use of a word processor
• encourage use of a text-to-speech program when editing

Developing Short-term Memory Skills

Intention

• students need to have a reason to remember
• establish an expectation to remember

Teach memory strategies

rehearsal/repetition
simple recitation is useful for learning facts e.g. multiplication tables, lists. (Items at the beginning and end of a list are most likely to be recalled so have several short lists rather than one long one.)

chunking -group information into sub-units e.g. the phone number 82164532 (8 bits) might be reduced to 3 bits (821 645 32); the word-ending e d (2 bits) could be reduced to ed (1 bit)

mental visualisation - create a mental picture of the content to be remembered e.g. details of a story; a process, directions. Close your eyes. Can you see it inside your eyes? For some students this may be difficult and require guided practice.

mnemonics
• talk about the memory ‘tricks’ you use e.g. to remember the spelling of stationary/stationery: cars are stationary; stationery paper
• make up a sentence using the letters of a word e.g. because – big elephants can always understand small elephants
• rhymes e.g. Thirty days has September, April, June and November

Practice -students with memory difficulties may know something one day and have forgotten it the next
• provide many opportunities for practice – consider also the value of computer programs with their immediate feedback, infinite patience, potential for variety
• review previous learning regularly e.g. spellings, maths concepts, routines

Memory Aids-Encourage the use of
• diaries, illustrations, charts, calendars, graphs, cue cards, concept maps, notes, flash cards, summaries, post-it stickers with reminders, copy of daily/weekly timetable, checklist of tasks to complete, calculator, multiplication tables chart, card with correct letter formation, indexed book with often mis-spelt words, business size cards with address, important telephone numbers etc
• how to get the most out of their smart phone, iPhone, tablet or iPad

Metamemory – knowing how to remember
• ask student: How are you going to remember this information?
• model strategies they might use
• student chooses their preferred strategy and talks themselves through the task
• give constructive feedback


What are the characteristics of a dyslexia friendly upper primary/secondary classroom? [top]

Students with dyslexia suffer from self doubt and may go to extreme lengths to hide their difficulties. By high school, they are often frustrated and demoralised. They are frustrated by the fact that they process information, read and write much more slowly than their peers and therefore become overwhelmed by the quantity of work expected. They become demoralized, because however hard they try, their work rarely reflects their ability. These students maybe quite talented in some areas e.g. oral discussion, problem solving, design, computing, mechanics, grasping mathematical concepts (despite difficulties with simple computation). It is important to acknowledge their strengths and not just focus on their weaknesses.

Key Areas
Teaching Strategies and Accommodations
Improving Listening Skills
• sit students near the front
• keep instructions simple and short • alert students using key phrases “This is important,” “Firstly, …”
• use visual aids, charts, pictures, overheads; write key points on the board
Improving Organisation
• set-up classroom routines e.g. for collecting homework, giving out notices
• create checklists to help students organize tasks
• use folders to organize materials – a different colour for each subject
• use electronic methods such as email, an online calendar
• use electronic organisers like OneNote Dyslexics may be personally disorganized and forgetful, despite their best efforts
Completing Work
• modify the task
• break the task into a series of steps, set time-lines and check each step on the due date
Marking Work
• expect high level intellectual content and reasonable written response
• advise students on how tasks will be marked. Where spelling/punctuation is part of the marking structure, give opportunity to draft and edit
• mark content, effort, presentation separately
• comment on the positives and provide constructive feedback for improvement
• ignore spelling mistakes; dyslexics are likely to have spent hours trying to improve their spelling
• mark what has been done, if the assignment isn’t finished
Building Confidence and Self Esteem
• reward effort
• show appreciation
• acknowledge frustrations, celebrate even small successes
• capitalize on special interests and talents
• provide opportunities to shine
• help students set manageable goals and work out strategies to attain them
• praise small achievements
• include student in decision making
Engaging Students

• think multi-sensory and design lessons that involve:

• the visual channel e.g. colour coding, writing key points on board, demonstrations, videos

• the auditory channel e.g. explanations, have students repeat, use drama, discussion, recorded information, audio books

• the kinaesthetic channel e.g. writing, making things, doing things

• the thinking channel e.g. analysing, organising, proof-reading, evaluating, summarising, asking themselves questions

• encourage a range of responses

• visual: picture, chart, diagram, video

• auditory: oral, digital recording, play

• kinaesthetic: model, movement
Developing Study Skills • explicitly teach, through modelling and guided practice, the skills required to approach different tasks:
• comprehension skills
• interpreting exam questions
• research skills
• study skills
• exam practice
• provide lots of opportunities for practice and transfer of skills
• check knowledge on an ongoing basis and re-teach if necessary
Accommadating Difficulties with Reading, Note Taking and Completing Assignments

• provide photocopied or electronic notes: teacher’s or another student’s: dyslexics can’t listen and write at the same time, neither can they copy from the board efficiently

• provide resources at student’s reading level

• give extended/unlimited time for tests

• reduce amount of reading

• teach short cuts eg, read the blurb, read concluding paragraphs and chapters first, focus on topic sentences: dyslexics read slowly & are always under pressure of time • don’t ask dyslexics to read aloud if reluctant

• encourage response in point form, on mind map, oral presentation or digital recording
Developing Written Language Skills

• Allow use of an electronic recording device so student can concentrate on their ideas

• provide genre structures and model how to use them e.g. for narrative, procedure

• brainstorm vocabulary and write on the board, photograph and print the list

• provide topic sentences for paragraphs

• encourage the use of a word processor
Developing IT Skills

• teach keyboard and word processing skills

• teach and encourage use of spellchecker

• encourage work on a word processor

• allow use of voice input and text-to-speech
Developing Short-term Memory Skills

Intention
• students need to have a reason to remember
• establish an expectation to remember

Support
• give student extra time if struggling
• provide scaffolding/cues
• divide learning task into small, achievable steps
• teach each step explicitly
• make sure one step is learned before moving to the next

Teach memory strategies
rehearsal/repetition Simple recitation is useful for learning facts e.g. multiplication tables, lists. (Items at the beginning and end of a list are most likely to be recalled so have several short lists rather than one long one.)
narrative chaining relate information to a theme or make up a story incorporating the information
chunking group information into sub-units e.g. the phone number 82164532 (8 bits) might be reduced to 3 bits (821 645 32); the word-ending /e/d (2 bits) could be reduced to / ed/ (1 bit)
mental visualisation -create a mental picture of the content to be remembered e.g. details of a story; a process, directions. Close your eyes. Can you see it inside your eyes? For some students this may be difficult and require guided practice.
mnemonics memory skills
• talk about the memory ‘tricks’ you use e.g. to remember the spelling of stationary/stationery: cars are stationary; stationery paper
• make up a sentence with the order of the points of the compass – Never Eat Soggy Weetbix

Practice -s tudents with memory difficulties may know something one day and have forgotten it the next
• provide many opportunities for practice – consider also the value of computer programs with their immediate feedback, infinite patience, potential for variety
• review knowledge regularly


Memory Aids - Encourage the use of
• diaries, illustrations, charts, calendars, graphs, cue cards, concept maps, notes, flash cards, summaries, post-it stickers with reminders, copy of daily/weekly timetable, checklist of tasks to complete, calculator, multiplication tables chart, indexed book with often mis-spelt words, business size cards with telephone numbers/important information

Metamemory – knowing how to remember
• Ask student: How are you going to remember this information/procedure?
• Model strategies they might use
• Student chooses their preferred strategy and talks themselves through the task
• Give constructive feedback

Adapted from the British Dyslexia Association’s Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pack. For more information and to access the complete Dyslexia Friendly Schools Pack Click Here.

SPELD (SA) would like to thank the students, parents and staff of Unity College, Murray Bridge, Bordertown Primary School and Salisbury Park Primary School, for allowing us to use their photographs to illustrate this article.

 

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