Skip to content
Skip to main content

Delivering tutorials for dyslexic students

Updated Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Key principles for effective tutorial delivery for dyslexic and, in particular, SpLD students

This page was published over 6 years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see how we deal with older content.

Protesting Comic Sans Although Comic Sans might irk the purists, it has a clear design which can help dyslexic students


  • Overview: Give a clear content overview of the session highlighting its structure and its key objectives. At the end of the session, ask the students which of these outcomes they have achieved and then summarise the key points in a clear and simple way.
  • Focus: If possible, limit the number of objectives to be covered in each session. Also, concentrate on just one area or point at the time (e.g. when talking about the past, practise only one tense or practise two tenses consecutively) to avoid confusion.
  • Scaffolding: Scaffold activities using a staged approach. Each learning outcome should be achieved through a number of clearly linked stages.
  • Sequencing: Activities need to be logically sequenced and ideally move from simple, brief close-ended activities (e.g. pairing words and pictures or underlining target structures in a text) to longer more open-ended activities. The pattern: ‘guided discovery of language structures- controlled practice – freer practice’ works well and provides a structure that dyslexic students can follow well.

Mode of delivery

  • Group work: Ask students to work in groups before eliciting their answers. Working in a small group is reassuring for students with dyslexia who may dislike speaking in front of the whole class. If possible, use groups of three instead of pair work – a small group provides a more supportive context and plenty of opportunities to listen to helpful models.
  • Plenary: Make sure plenary stages follow group work so students are more likely to answer. When asking questions, select the simplest for the dyslexic student to answer and avoid asking them to read out loud unless they volunteer to do so. If students with dyslexia are asked to read, ensure that the text has been modelled, i.e. read out before. Consider giving students thinking time before you ask them to speak.
  • Questions: Let the students ask you questions, too: in taking part you are providing further opportunities to listen to a native speaker, as well as good models reinforcing and consolidating vocabulary and structures.


  • Clarity of instructions: Instructions which are given orally and written on worksheets, PowerPoint slides and whiteboards ought to be kept very brief and simple. Get students used to specific phrases in instructions, which they can easily identify and recognise. Use meaningful examples Instead of long instructions. It is advisable to provide an example and, or ask one student to repeat the instruction before the group starts working on an activity.
  • Clarity of explanations and examples: use simple examples and clarify complex points in a clear, systematic way and by breaking the learning outcomes down into small steps.
  • Maintain focus: Use pointers constantly to show where you are in a text and the specific word on which you are focusing.

Use of time

  • Thinking time: Give students ample time to understand a concept or to carry out a task. Have some short tasks ready for those who finish early.
  • Patience: If some students need more time, be patient and encouraging to help motivation and boost confidence. It will also promote good group dynamics and atmosphere.


  • Error correction: Approach error corrections sensitively but do correct pronunciation as incorrect pronunciation could lead to incorrect spelling. To reduce errors, provide plenty of different opportunities for repetition and over-learning to promote automaticity (e.g. cover the same learning points in different ways: role plays, information gaps, games, acting, miming).

Layout and appearance of hand-outs and screens

  • Background: Background of hand-outs and screens should be off-white, but it is best to check with the student for particular preferences.
  • Signposting: Consider introducing each group of activities about the same teaching point with a slide that introduces the teaching point. This will allow the students to clearly see when a new topic starts.
  • Clarity: The layout should be clear and uncluttered. Instead of using one screen/side to present all the information, present it in clear sections. Avoid using too many different colours and illustrations and too many tables, charts and graphs.
  • Word processing: Text and sentences should start at the beginning of a line. Use left-justified, ragged right format. Increase font size to 12 or 14 in hand-outs and 36 in screens. Avoid underlining and italicising. A simple, sans-serif typeface should be used for easy distinguishing of letters. There should be sufficient spacing between “r” and “n”, to avoid confusion with “m”; capital “I” and the digit 1 should be two separate symbols. Arial, Verdana, Trebuchet, Comic sans are good options.
  • Colour coding: Use colour-coding meaningfully and consistently throughout your teaching in a given module, (i.e. one particular colour for verb endings, masculine nouns, etc.). For example, use colour coding to differentiate different parts of speech, gender.
  • Visuals: Supply visual representations of new vocabulary, where possible. Use graphic organisers such as concept maps or mind maps and teach students to use them too. Limit the amount of text and include images used meaningfully.

Find out more about supporting dyslexic students through feedback


Become an OU student

Ratings & Comments

Share this free course

Copyright information

Skip Rate and Review

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?