DYSLEXIA IN THE EFL CLASSROOM

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Being an English as a Foreign Language teacher means we have to deal with numerous classroom management issues in order to facilitate the optimal learning environment. However, sometimes there are factors which are outside of our control which can impact on our classroom.

Learning difficulties are one such example, dyslexia being a very common issue in classrooms around the world. Unfortunately, not many schools provide training to deal with these learner issues and not many teachers know how to identify and cope with this and other conditions.

Firstly, then, what is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a condition of the brain which results in the student having difficulty processing graphic symbols such as letters. This will cause the student to have problems reading and writing.

Dyslexia is not immediately obvious and the student may not even realise they have the condition. One telltale sign that they do is the reversal of certain letters and numbers. Often this will happen with symbols which are mirror images of each other, such as b and d. It can also be manifest in illegible handwriting.

Besides writing, if a student has difficulty reading this could be a sign of dyslexia. If, when reading, the student skips words or lines, this too could be a sign. Be on the lookout for students who have problems with reading comprehension or who show no interest in reading.

If you do have a dyslexic student in your class, what can you do about it?

The first obvious thing is to make the school and the parents aware of your perception, if they are not already. Hopefully this can lead to proper professional help.

In the classroom, there are a few simple things you can do to try to make learning as easy as possible for your learner. You can make sure your writing on the board is clear (not cursive) and that any font on worksheets is big and bold.

Always keep an eye on your dyslexic students when it comes to instructions and activities and make sure they understand what is required of them. This may mean giving them a verbal explanation.

If a classroom activity involves reading and writing, your students may need to be given more time than other students. This may mean giving your students adapted activities or allowing them to use laptops or smartphones.

One thing to bear in mind is that dyslexia is in no way related to intelligence. It is simply a reflection of learning abilities and preferences, so we need to ensure we treat our dyslexic students just as we would any others while maintaining a supportive and accepting environment for them.

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