The quest for dyslexia-friendly resources

A few years ago, I became increasingly aware of the number of pupils being diagnosed with dylexia, or dyslexic-type traits, in my classes and was concerned with a couple of things: Firstly, some of these pupils were being removed to concentrate on other subjects, and secondly, some of these pupils were using their dyslexia as a reason for not even trying with their homework! I knew dyslexic pupils could succeed in Modern Languages – my sister had got a B at GSCE French – so what could I do to make learning in my classroom less challenging for these pupils?
This question was what led me to completing the freeĀ Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching course through FutureLearn. While at the time I was mildly miffed it was taking me considerably longer than the specified three hours a week to complete the reading and activities*, it wasn’t long before I was building a bank of ideas to help my dyslexic pupils and I continue to use many of these ideas when creating my resources.

Black on white isn't great

The contrast of these colours is not helpful for dyslexic learners. Printing worksheets and other activities that require reading onto pastel shades is beneficial and you will notice all my PowerPoints have a pale blue background and the Smartboard activities are pale yellow. Ask your dyslexic pupils if there is a specific colour they prefer – my PowerPoints and Smartboard activities can be changed if it helps the pupils.

Cut down what they can see

Sometimes a whole page of text can be overwhelming but you don’t need to create separate worksheets for your dyslexic pupils. Using two L-shaped pieces of card can block out any additional text that might be causing problems. These can then be moved around the text as needed. I used to use the covers of old exercise books and keep a box of them at the back of my classroom for pupils to take as they needed.

Use a dyslexia-friendly font

Dyslexia-friendly fonts tend to be large and sans serif. I chose to use SF Cartoonist Hand. This is a free font downloaded from the internet. After chatting with my sister about it, she said she still found it a little confusing. Increasing the spacing between the letters to “loose” solved the problem. It’s a good idea to get your dyslexic students together and ask them which font they like and then adapt the resources to suit them.

Problems with Writing? Use sentence Builders

By providing pupils with sentence builders the individual words are created for them but they are still creating their own piece of writing. Giving them options of different verb endings and adjectival endings means they are having to work with their linguistic knowledge to create grammatically correct sentences just as they would have to do if they were writing pen to paper. All of my units of work come with sentence builders for this purpose.
But the clearest message from this course was that while these techniques can help many dyslexic pupils, just like everyone else, no two dyslexic pupils are the same and what might work for one might not for another. They all have their individual strengths and weaknesses but by implementing these techniques, I would not be hindering anyone, not even those without dyslexia. Far from it, they might benefit too.
UPDATE: If you’re keen to find out more about dyslexia and the resourcesĀ available, please have a look at Hampstead and Frognal Tutors’ very informative guide here. It provides a good overview of the condition, a list of indicators at various ages, the technology currently available to support learners and many more ideas and resources. Definitely one to check out!
* It can’t just have been me struggling with the reading: the course now states it’s four hours per week. Give it a go!