Have you ever wondered: "Why does this student read so slowly?" "Why can't I understand his handwriting?" "Why does he have so many spelling mistakes?" "Why can't he finish the activities at the same time the others do?" Well, there's a slight chance this student might have Dyslexia, or some kind of Specific Learning Difference (SpLD).
A few years ago, there was this particular Dyslexic student at school who did everything he could and even more to improve his performance. He would rewrite his notes over and over again, in a desperate attempt to make his handwriting a little bit legible. He just couldn’t make it. It was useless…
Whenever I invited any of my Dyslexic students to read aloud, they did it – all of them made great efforts to please me. However, you could easily see how self-conscious and exposed they felt… I thought I was helping them! Eventually, a lady in her late thirties asked me – in private – not to call her for reading aloud in front of the others, for she realized this made her more nervous, and as a consequence, she read even worse. I understood then I hadn’t been helping her, because I hadn’t considered the fact that I was only reinforcing her feeling of low self-esteem. I think the problem might be that we EFL teachers are always trying to treat our students equally; therefore we don’t respect the differences that make them unique. How unfair! Shame on us!
I’ve always identified severe Dyslexic students easily, but I just didn’t know how to help them overcome their obstacles.
Only almost a year ago, while attending the English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar held at Exeter College, Oxford, did I find some insight on the subject. One of the incredible tutors there, Mr. Jon Hird, gave us an inspiring lecture on Dyslexia (available here, thanks, Jon!). Most of the things he pointed out during that presentation came as complete revelations to me. It all made sense now!
Last April, I attended the on-line course “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching”, organized by Lancaster University. During four weeks I finally got to understand a lot more about the amazing variety of difficulties Dyslexic students may have when learning a foreign language.
As part of the activities for completing the course, I had to design a special lesson plan for Dyslexic students.
I hope you find it useful and most of all, your students benefit from it.
Please do write a comment if you use it and it works for you!