Matthew Burns

TEACHING THE WAY THEY LEARN: DYSLEXIA AWARENESS WEEK

What do Sir Richard Branson, Scott Quinnell, Kiera Knightly and Benjamin Zephaniah have in common? All highly successful in their various fields of business, sport, drama and literature true, but there’s more to it – each have Dyslexia – a specific learning difficulty that impacts on reading, writing, spelling and memory, and often perceived as something negative and restrictive.

In my role as the Head of Learning Support I am keen to highlight examples of famous people with Dyslexia at the start of every new school year to the pupils I work most closely with. They need to see that their diagnosis is not something to fear or be ashamed of, but that, with the right support and understanding, they too can go on to achieve great things.
 
This is the second year that we have actively supported the British Dyslexia Association’s awareness week. I invite colleagues to commit to implementing a different Dyslexia friendly strategy into lessons each day and once again we have had a very positive response.

My aim is that it quickly becomes apparent that making small changes to existing good practice can make a huge difference, not only to pupils with Dyslexia, but all learners. The BDA has produced guidance for classrooms with a range of practical strategies – as we teach 6 days a week we had a great opportunity to implement some of these ideas in a focussed way that should continue once the week is over. 
 
We have installed a new font onto all the computers in school, specifically designed to be easier for people with Dyslexia to read and I’ve encouraged colleagues to start creating and amending resources created in school with this, as well as considering the size and layout of the print, and paper colour.

We are enhancing pupils’ understanding by using images alongside and, in some cases, instead of words. We are also adopting greater use of learning methods such as mind maps, flow charts and class discussion. We can also have some fun in the process – kinaesthetic learning anyone? Saturday morning’s strategy of using humour to aid recall and creating mnemonics and rhymes was an interesting one to observe!
 
There will always be barriers to learning that Dyslexia presents and that we, as educators, need to empower and enable our pupils to overcome. I believe that as well as adopting Dyslexia friendly strategies in our lessons, we should take the time to seek the perspectives of pupils with Dyslexia, so we can develop a much greater understanding of both the needs and strengths of the pupils we teach and respond to them as individuals.
 
I love a quote by Ignacio Estrada “If a child can’t learn the way we teach…we should teach the way they learn.” I hope that Dyslexia Awareness Week has gone some way to advocating the greater use of differentiated and inclusive approaches in our school.

Kate Sarginson, Head of Learning Support

Follow Matthew: