Designing learning materials for dyslexic students

Updated Monday, 16th June 2014
Find out how to design face-to face and online teaching materials for dyslexic students 


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  • Active learning: Avoid a 'lecturing' style. Use a series of tasks to introduce, explain and practise language structures and vocabulary. These include: role plays, problem solving, information gaps, discussions, matching and games.
  • Discovery learning: Give students the opportunity to analyse short written or spoken texts in order to identify patterns for themselves before offering a rule or explanation. This also promotes learner autonomy.
  • Explicit teaching of phonology, orthography and grammar: Clearly include language patterns and structures in the objectives of the session and explicitly refer and explain all rules.
  • Overlearning: Give students opportunities to continue studying and practising structure and vocabulary that have already been mastered. Reinforcement will help students who have short term memory and may forget what they previously learnt.
  • Multisensory approach: Plan for multisensory input. Include plenty of audio and audio-visual material so that students can hear the target language while reading it and/or seeing visual representations of it. Alternatively, students can be advised to use a free text-to-speech software which supports foreign languages (such as Thunder if using Windows or Apple’s built-in assistive technology if using iPad, iPhone and Mac) to see and hear words at the same time and make up their own visual representations.
  • Multisensory teaching of pronunciation: Pronunciation would benefit from being learned in a multisensory way at all stages (presentation, discrimination, production, consolidation and additional activities such as paired reading and/or listening and speaking for pleasure small poems or songs). Activities could be online or on a DVD. The relationship grapheme-phoneme could also be presented and practised at the end of each pronunciation learning sequence.
  • Kinaesthetic activities: Include kinaesthetic elements to provide a different approach. This might include asking students to move, mime, create something, sort cards and use props/realia.
  • Audio-visual content: Maximise the use of the taught language through audio, video clips, realia and images.
  • Short texts: Learning materials for tutorials and lessons should contain short texts but encourage oral utterances through a careful mix of text and images. If text is used, it ought to be subdivided in shorter, meaningful passages which can easily be identified. Different parts of texts should be clearly and logically sequenced and can be distinguished from each other through colour coding.
  • Short audio clips: Avoid long audio clips, use a collection of shorter clips and encourage listening for gist. Reuse familiar vocabulary repeatedly and avoid introducing a large number of new words. Students with dyslexia need to be shown how to listen for different things in different ways (just like other students) so pre and post-listening activities are essential, whether they are picture based (e.g. a map to fill in, a photo to label, a sequence of drawings to re-order), language-based (e.g. vocabulary brainstorming, filling a table, matching target language to English equivalent...) or situation-based.

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