Top Classroom Supports for Struggling Readers

Text readers are good for students with visual discrimination issues.

Text readers are good for students with visual discrimination issues.

Read on for a good general list of instructional supports for students with reading disabilities (read dyslexia).

by David Imrie -

Tens of millions of students have dyslexia, a print disability where students have difficulty reading and interpreting meaning. For them, though words are visible, they may swim or dance on the page and this can seriously affect their studies and performance. But with the right support from their teachers and the use of technology, simple changes can make a big difference.

Technology is an important tool that can be used to support students with dyslexia with reading and writing. Here are some resources and ideas that teachers can employ, however, you should note that dyslexia manifests itself differently amongst children so it’s important to try a combination of methods to find out what works best for them.

Lesson plan adaptations

When planning your lesson, take into consideration the following points to help students with dyslexia in their tasks:

• Layout

Teachers should ensure that documents given to students with dyslexia only contain instructions needed for the exercise without any unnecessary detail as these could be distracting. All materials for students with dyslexia should have a clear layout, short sentences and an uncomplicated structure.

• Illustrations

Images that exemplify sentences or unfamiliar words are really useful. By spacing out the instructions and adding a diagram, students can follow it without having to understand every word – this is called ‘reading for meaning’.

• Fonts and background colors

Software that is regularly used in schools, such as Microsoft Word, is a good resource for fonts and background colors. Changing the background color to green, for example, can help with reading as can wearing green glasses.

Fonts can also enable reading and understanding; teachers can download free specialist fonts, such as OpenDyslexic, which are free and can run on Microsoft software. This font adds gravity and weight to the document and is thicker at the bottom as shown in the image below. Students who find characters invert or swim should try using this font.

Open Dyslexic font

Again, one size does not fit all and you should test it with your students to see what works best for them. I personally use the Verdana but there are schools in Glasgow that use the ClearType font and Arial is a good all-rounder.

Text readers and additional support

There are a variety of text readers available including a free version developed by a teacher called WordTalk, which runs on Microsoft Word. You can set this to read one word at a time, one paragraph at a time or continuously. It can also convert text to MP3 so students can record their own voice as an audio comment which is great for capturing their ideas straight away to revise later. Similar to Word, when using text readers the background can be changed to the preferred colour for further help.

Read more at Supporting students with dyslexia: tips, tricks and tech for teachers.

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