Published 4th January 2019
As English as a Foreign Language teachers, we usually can’t choose our students. Our learners may be any age, come from a range of backgrounds and have differing learning styles, interests and personalities. While this should only add to the fun of teaching, it can also add elements of difficulty. This is because you can never be sure of the characteristics of your students, including any learning difficulties. Considering that 1 in 10 people of any given population is dyslexic, there is a chance you will have at least one dyslexic learner in your EFL class.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a language-based disorder which manifests in poor word reading, word decoding, oral reading fluency and spelling. As you can imagine, this would be problematic in a learner’s first language but it would make learning a foreign language much more complicated. However, it is most certainly not impossible and there are a number of strategies you can implement in the classroom to help your dyslexic students.
How you can help dyslexic learners in the EFL classroom
Firstly, be compassionate and patient. Having dyslexia can be frustrating for a language learner and it can affect their motivation and interest levels. The classroom can be a very stressful environment for a dyslexic learner. The teacher needs to encourage and motivate the learners as much as possible to ensure their stress levels are controlled.
For class activities, the teacher should pair students with different abilities together. In this way the students will be able to learn from each other and help one another. In the same way, two learners with learning difficulties should not be paired together for, say, a reading task, as they would not be able to help each other as much as other students would.
Provide your learner with a copy of any notes on the lesson. This will save them the stress of having to take copious notes and instead allow them to focus on the content of the lesson. They can then spend time at home going over the notes and consolidating the lesson at their own pace.
During reading tasks, try to make sure the classroom environment is quiet. If necessary, allow the learner to wear earplugs to block out any noise and allow them to focus their full concentration on reading. Bear in mind that a dyslexic learner may get frustrated if they are expected to read too much so break the reading task down for them as much as possible.
At the beginning of the lesson, provide an overview of the aims of the lesson and what the lesson will involve. Similarly, at the end of the lesson recap what was done during the lesson and what was learnt. This helps dyslexic learners focus on the bigger picture, which helps them to learn.
It can be tricky having a dyslexic learner in your classroom but always bear in mind that it is more difficult for them than it is for you. Try to identify any learners with dyslexia in your classes so you can be sure to make learning as easy as possible for them.