Because dyslexia impacts both reading and writing, teachers need to be prepared with specific strategies to help students improve writing skills. The following are 20 tips for teachers when working on writing assignments with students with dyslexia:
- Use motivational techniques. Because writing is hard work for students with dyslexia, set up a reward program for taking steps and improving writing. For example, you can award students with a homework pass for other work if the writing assignment was completed and handed in on time.
- Allow a student to use a tape recorder, at least during the planning and research sections of an assignment. Once he has the writing assignment planned out, he may be more motivated and ready to finish up by writing his thoughts on paper.
- Be sure the topic is emotionally engaging. Students who have a difficult time writing will be more motivated to complete an assignment if the topic is interesting. Research is more focused if he already has an interest in the topic and wants to learn.
- Ignore grammar, spelling, sentence structure and punctuation in the first draft of an assignment. Teaching these skills independent of writing is more effective. Work with your student individually to make corrections before he completes the final draft.
- When writing a fictitious story about a character, have the student look through magazines and choose a picture of a person to be used as the main character. Having a visual representation helps him to focus on the story rather than trying to come up with a description of the character.
- Observe the student and their frustration level. If a student is tired or ready to shut down, the writing project will go downhill. Have them complete another portion of the project, such as looking at pictures to help with descriptions or finding music that he can incorporate into the story.
- Allow students to illustrate their assignments or prepare a presentation based on their skills. Students with dyslexia have strong skills outside of writing and having them incorporate other strengths helps them to feel proud of their work.
- Pair students for some assignments. The student with dyslexia might be great at orally explaining his story concept or describing people or places but have a hard time putting his thoughts on paper. Another student may be great at translating situations and events on paper. Having students work together on some projects can help both develop weak skills.
- Provide students with a writing prompt or a planning guide to help them organize their thoughts and develop a logical sequence for their writing.
- Use multi-sensory approaches to writing. For example, start students writing descriptive paragraphs about an object in the classroom. Let them hold it, touch it, see it while they are writing.
- Have students type their assignment on the computer, using spell and grammar checkers before handing in a final draft. Remind students that these tools will not find every error and they will still need to proof-read and edit assignments.
- Use misspelled words to add to your student's personal word bank when editing writing assignments. He can refer to words he commonly misspells when making corrections to his paper.
- When grading, give students with dyslexia credit for their effort as well as the actual work. If grading spontaneous writing assignments, don't take off for spelling or grammar. For final projects provide a grading rubric to show students explicitly what is expected.
- When correcting a child's written work, don't use a red pen. It is very discouraging to get a paper back with red marks all over, especially because your student probably worked harder than many of the other students.
- Don't ask a student to rewrite a paper because of neatness unless you plan on displaying the work. If so, work with the student on having his work typed. Rewriting, especially for neatness, can take a student with dyslexia and dysgraphia much longer than it takes other students. Having to rewrite something that took great effort to complete is disheartening.
- Discuss the writing project with the student before beginning. Students with dyslexia sometimes have trouble connecting information previously learned with the current situation. Discussion helps students think about what they already know and use this as background information for the project.
- Show students how to brainstorm ideas. Use a general topic and have your student list all the ideas he has on the topic, whether he feels they are relevant or not. You can do this as a group activity, have students pair up with one another or work with the student individually.
- Have students talk aloud as they write or read their first draft out loud before completing the revised draft. The student can also ask another student, parent or teacher to read it out loud. Because students with dyslexia have strong verbal and oral abilities, this lets them hear how it sounds and make corrections.
- Have students practice writing skills through fun, interactive ways, such as sending a friend an email, writing a letter to a pen-pal or writing about topics they choose.
- Give students positive feedback whenever possible. Students with dyslexia often don't see their errors but they may also not know what they did right. Point out their successes frequently.
Dyslexia for Students of English as a Foreign Language
Dyslexia for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language