Strategies for Teachers - Dyslexia

Strategies for Teachers

For dyslexics in school, it is often the way information is relayed rather than the difficulties most dyslexics have with basic skills that is the main issue to consider when teaching to the dyslexic. Key points for teachers include:

Focus on strengths while working on weaknesses.

Provide a clear subject overview.

Match teaching approach with learning style (ask the student how they feel they learn best).

Link key concepts and constantly revisit previously covered areas of work, applying new knowledge when appropriate.

Provide clear and concise visual handouts using plenty of diagrams, mind maps and even pictures. Use large text, preferably on colored paper.

Build confidence by enabling the student to present work in a format that they feel confident with, i.e., verbally, through a mind map or even as a drawing. All of these forms of relaying information can prove to be at an equal level of understanding to that of a long essay and in many situations showing an even higher level of understanding.

Promote good practice relating to the organization of students’ work. A dyslexic might have a weakness in this area. Files with color-coded subject areas for example will enable the individual to develop their organization skills (Juggins).

Varied Teaching Approaches Work Best

Using varied teaching approaches benefits all students but is essential when working with a dyslexic. Traditional teaching techniques are designed for the learning style of sequential learners. Concepts are introduced in a step-by-step fashion, practiced with drill and repetition, assessed under timed conditions, and then reviewed. This process works for sequential learners whose learning progresses in a step-by-step manner from easy to difficult material. By way of contrast, dyslexic learners are global thinkers. They need to see the whole picture before they can understand the parts (Evans).

The use of visual aids, such as video and other forms of visual representation, are of key importance to the dyslexic’s understanding. Visual diagrams and bullet points enable the dyslexic to see and understand the information being relayed more effectively and in a far shorter time. Plowing through truckloads of text is time consuming and often tiring. Short-term memory difficulties means that usually what is read never fully gets remembered or understood. Using diagrams, models and charts as notes are a useful tool in linking concepts and revising subject areas at speed. Unlike heavy blocks of swaying text, images are usually pleasurable to look at for the dyslexic. The diagrams that promote learning and itemize key points should be plain and to the point to be most effective (Juggins).

Phonics is Key to Reading

he said he learned to read through phonics. Like Percy F. and a large number of dyslexics throughout, there exists a specific language-based disorder of constitutional origin characterized by single-word decoding. This usually reflects insufficient phonological processing abilities (IDA).

In an English alphabetic system, individual letters are abstract and meaningless, and must be linked to sounds called phonemes, blended together and pronounced as words, at which point meaning is finally realized. To learn to read English, children must learn the connections between the approximately 44 sounds of spoken English (the phonemes), and the 26 letters of the alphabet (Lyon).

Research shows that in order for a beginning reader to learn how to connect or translate printed symbols, letters and letter patterns, into sound, the reader must understand that speech can be broken into small sounds and that the segmented units of speech can be represented by printed forms – phonics. This information is absolutely necessary for the development of accurate and rapid word reading skills (Lyon).

Phoneme awareness and the development of the alphabetic principle is critical for beginning readers because if they can’t perceive the sounds in spoken words, they will have difficulty decoding or “sounding out” words in a rapid and accurate fashion. The development of phoneme awareness, the development of an understanding of the alphabetic principle, and the translation of these skills to the application of phonics in reading and spelling words are non-negotiable beginning reading skills that all children must master in order to understand what they read and to learn from their reading (Lyon).

McCormick echoes those sentiments: “For students to gain control of word identification strategies – particularly, learning letter-sound relations and how to use these to identify unknown words – they must have developed sufficient phonemic awareness.

Most emergent literacy programs and beginning reading programs build instruction in phonemic awareness from easiest to more complex, for instance: 1. rhyming activities, including those that require learners to produce rhymes themselves; 2. hearing individual syllables in words; 3. hearing initial sounds of words; and 4. hearing sounds within words (McCormick).

Exercises Developed by Researchers

The following are a variety of exercises used by researchers:

For rhyme production activities – explicitly point out that rhymes sound alike at the ends of words. Read to students daily from rhyming texts. Students can use poetry as springboards to orally create their own rhymes.

To help students recognize that words may be made up of separate syllables, the teacher can pretend to be a troll with an unusual manner of speaking in which words were said syllable by syllable. The troll has presents to give to the children, but to receive these, the students have to figure out what item was being named – for example when the troll said “lo-co-mo-tive” or “pen-cil.” A nice addition to this strategy would be for the teacher to precede the activity by reading the story “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” to the children to ensure they understand what a troll is.

An example of promoting awareness of likenesses and differences of sounds would be to have students match pictures by alliteration (i.e., all those beginning with the same sound).

A variation of the troll activity can be used to develop sensitivity to the principle that words are made up of a sequence of sounds. This modification would require the students to mentally blend sounds to produce words. The troll’s speaking pattern in this case would consist of pronunciations of the individual phonemes in a word (i.e. /m/ - /o/ - /p/, which the learners must combine to identify the word mop).

To practice segmenting words into phonemes, students can use a pencil to tap out the number of sounds a word contains (Lyon).

These are but a few strategies used to bolster phonemic awareness and phonological processing skills for dyslexics. The key is to implement the strategies and continue to use those that work best for the individual.

Multi-sensory Teaching Approach a Must

Studies from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development have shown that children with difficulties learning to read benefit most effectively from a multi-sensory teaching method (Bradford).

This approach uses more than one of the senses to help a child learn. Although all children benefit from this approach, it is especially effective for dyslexic children who may have difficulties with either or both of the commonly used senses in learning – sight or hearing. As stated earlier, the dyslexic child’s vision may be affected by difficulties with tracking, visual processing or seeing the words become fuzzy or move around. The child may have auditory memory or auditory processing skills that are weak.

Involving the use of more of the child’s senses, especially the use of touch and movement will give the child’s brain tactile and kinetic memories to hang on to, as well as the visual and auditory ones (Bradford).

Some examples of multi-sensory teaching methods follow:

To help clear up the confusion many dyslexic children have with the letters “b” and “d,” a tactile experience of the letter “b” would be to get the child to draw the letter really large on the carpet. This involves the child using his/her arms, his/her sense of balance, his/her whole body. The child will remember the day his/her teacher had him/her write on the carpet making this big shape and can use that memory the next time he/she has to write the letter (Bradford).

Letters “b” and “d” can be made out of sand paper for children to run their fingers over to give them a strong tactile memory (Bradford).

Have children make the letter “b” out of play-dough or clay (Bradford).

Place sand or flour on cookie sheets and have children practice drawing the letters.

The result of these activities will be that a child has a visual memory from seeing the letter, an auditory memory from hearing the sound it makes, a tactile memory from writing the letter in cursive handwriting, in the air, in the sand, and from touching the sandpaper letter, and a kinetic memory from having drawn the letter really large on the carpet (Bradford).

In Conclusion …

Knowing what dyslexia is and isn’t is essential before any teaching, or learning, will take place. Early detection is crucial, but those who slip through the cracks need not be dismissed. Each individual has the ability to process information in any number of ways. Those responsible for educating these individuals must understand the difficulties, always treat the individual with respect, offer the individual HOPE, and untiringly search for the procedures that will assist in fulfilling that individual’s academic potential.He is quoted as saying earlier, he had to find his own way. dyslexia. Over 100 years of research gives educators the opportunity to assist dyslexics in finding their own way. Understanding the life-long disability he/she must overcome is the first step. Learning his/her strengths and weaknesses in order to capitalize on the strengths and manipulate, target, turn around the weaknesses may constitute a long, hard road. But it is a road that needs to be traveled. The dyslexic will travel the road, regardless. He/she has no choice. However, an educator who chooses to travel that road with him/her, and believe in him/her, and strive to make the road less bumpy through perseverance and HOPE will experience the success his/her pupil experiences.


ABCs of Dyslexia: Common Signs (2000). [On-line] Retrieved November 11, 2001.Available:

Barr, R., Blachowicz, C. & Kaufman, B. (2002). Reading Diagnosis for Teachers: An Instructional Approach (4th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Bradford, J. Using Multi-Sensory Teaching Methods, Dyslexia Online Magazine [On-line] Retrieved November 11, 2001. Available:

British Dyslexia Association (2001). Dyslexia in Context. (BDA Publication No. X02) London.

Davis, R. with Braun M. (1997) The Gift of Dyslexia (Revised Edition). Perigee Books, New York.

Direct Learning. Dyslexia Testing for Children and Adults: Home Dyslexia Assessments. [On-line] Retrieved Novembr 30, 2001. Available:

Drew, C., Egan, M., & Hardman, M. (2002). Human Exceptionality: Society, School, and Family (7th ed.) Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

The Dyslexia Syndrome (2001). Dyslexia On-Line Magazine. [On-line] Retrieved November 11, 2001. Available:

Dyslexia Teacher. Recognizing Dyslexia [On-line] Retrieved November 11, 2001. Available:

Evans, R. Learning Disabilities: Dyslexia. [On-line] Retrieved November 23, 2001. Available:

Good, T. Finding My Own Solutions, Dyslexia Online Magazine [On-line] Retrieved November 25, 2001. Available:

Home Dyslexia Assessments. Direct Learning. [On-line] Retrieved November 30, 2001. Available:

The International Dyslexia Association Article – Just the Facts … Dyslexia Basics (1996) [On-line] Available:

Garfield, G. (1980) Dyslexia: To Read or Not To Read. Essays of an Information Scientist Vol. 4, p. 409-413.

Juggins, M. Enabling the Dyslexic Student to De-code Information, Dyslexia Online Magazine [On-line] Retrieved November 11, 2001. Available:


Learning Disabilities: What is Dyslexia? Retrieved November 23, 2001 from the World Wide Web. Available:

Lennon, J. & Slesinski, C. (1999). Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing (CTOPP: Cognitive-linguistic Assessment of Severe Reading Problems. [On-line] Retrieved November 29, 2001. Available:

Lerner, J. (2000) Learning Disabilities: Theories, Diagnosis, and Teaching Strategies (8th ed.) Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

McCormick, S. (1999). Instructing Students Who Have Literacy Problems (3rd ed.). Prentice-Hall, Inc. New Jersey.

National Center for Learning Disabilities (1999). About LD: Dyslexia. [On-line] Available:

Richards, R. (2000). Our Fast Food Culture and Dyslexia. LD Online. Retrieived November 11, 2001 from the World Wide Web. Available:

He. What is Dyslexia: Dyslexia, What You Need to Know. Dyslexia My Life. Retrieved November 11, 2001 from the World Wide Web. Available:

Shaywitz, S. (1996). Dyslexia. Scientific American. Retrieved November 11, 2001 from the World Wide Web. Available: issue/1196shaywitz.html/

Torgesen, J. (1998) Catch Them Before They Fall: Identification and Assessment to Prevent Reading Failure in Young Children. American Educator/American Federation of Teachers Spring/Summer 1998.

What Causes Dyslexia? Dyslexia Online Magazine. [On-line] Retrieved November 11, 2001. Available:

Glossary of Terms

Auditory Input – Language that is heard.

Cognition – All the mental activities associated with thinking, knowing, and remembering.

Distractibility – The tendency to attend to irrelevant external stimuli, a practice which detracts from attending to the task at hand.

Fine-Motor Coordination – Eye-hand coordination

Hyperactivity – A condition characterized by uncontrollable, haphazard, and poorly organized motor behavior. In young children, excessive gross-motor activity makes them appear to be on the go, and they have difficulty sitting still. Older children may be extremely restless or fidgety, may talk too much in class, or may constantly fight with friends, siblings, classmates.

Motility – Being capable of or exhibiting movement.

Neuropathologist – A person who studies the pathology of the nervous system.

Phonemes – A language’s smallest distinctive sound units.

Pre-Reading Skills – The knowledge that visual clues (letters) have specific sounds that they represent.

Psychosomatics – Of, relating to, involving, or concerned with bodily symptoms caused by mental or emotional disturbance.

Refractive Error – Visual disorders that occur when the refractive structures of the eye fail to properly focus light rays on the retina.

Sequencing Problems – Difficulties with remembering or acting on linked information, such as a set of instructions, cataloguing, map-reading or telephone numbers. It can be linked to left/right confusion. To the dyslexic person there seems to be no logic to the sequence and therefore, often the dyslexic gets them in the wrong order.

Tunnel Vision – The field of vision is limited at its widest angle to 20 degrees or less. Also referred to as pinhole vision or tubular vision. Severely limits a person’s ability to participate in athletics, read, or drive a car.

Visual Acuity – Determined by the use of an index that refers to the distance from which an object can be recognized. Normal eyesight is defined as having 20/20 vision.

© Copyright DML- The Gifted Learning Project,2020 All rights reserved.