Promoting inclusion daily in the classroom
Children with dyslexia who are not performing well in the classroom begin to think that they are stupid and useless. Because of this they will prefer not to give a wrong answer, only to be ridiculed. This means they will no longer take part in the class, which only serves to further increase their isolation. They can become good targets for bullying and mockery.
Children with dyslexia often need more time to respond to oral questions. They take longer to process the question and to understand exactly what it means. Others, even if they have quickly understood the question, will need more time to recall the answer.
Most children with dyslexia will have difficulties taking in what you say if you give them multiple instructions.
Mark confused by multiple instructions and mocked:
Although children with dyslexia may have a good understanding of the content of the lesson, their ability to produce a verbal or written answer does not always match their understanding. This is frustrating for them.
It is essential to find ways of breaking out of this vicious circle before despondency and bad behaviour set in.
Listen to Elena’s mother:
Elena’s mother talking about Elena’s feelings towards school
One way to promote mutual respect is to organize a classroom discussion at the beginning of the year on differences between people and on tolerance.
A fable that has become famous in the area of learning difficulties was written in the 1940’s by George Reavis, director of the Cincinnati Public Schools in the USA, called ‘The Animal School’. In the years that followed several versions of this fable have appeared but the message remains the same: we are all different and show different strengths and weaknesses, which the school system should work through rather than ignore. To download this fable and also some discussion points which could promote classroom exchanges, click here.
Start a debate about ‘external’ and ‘internal’ differences, such as dyslexia. You can use the written testimonies you have already met in this course (in Sections 1 and 2). Print them and give them out.
The message is that everybody has his/her strengths and weaknesses, and that where children with dyslexia are concerned, they may have weaknesses in written language but exceptional strengths in arts, sports, and technology.
This part asks for your own ideas about five aspects that are essential if you are to preserve the self-esteem of children with dyslexia.
With your course partner, and bearing in mind that children with dyslexia usually need more time, try to think up at least three approaches in order to:
- Encourage risk-taking in class, by persuading them to raise their hands even if they have doubts about their answers
- ‘Help’ them to give correct answers
- Avoid putting them in situations of failure in front of the others
- Reinforce self-esteem in class
- Preserve their self-esteem when marking their work
Compare your ideas with other researchers, including Susan van Alsenoy, member of Dyslexia International’s Consultancy e-Team.
- Discuss how we can learn from our mistakes and set up a classroom discussion around the theme: ‘What can be done in class so that people are not afraid of making mistakes?’
- You can thank those who made a ‘good’ mistake such as a logical error. ‘Thank you for that interesting idea. What I was really trying to ask was…’ Avoid the word ‘No’ and never use sarcasm.
- Explain that you prefer pupils to try to give an answer rather than not dare to speak up. Look out for the silent pupils who may not be taking in what you are saying.
- Do not hide your mistakes and lack of information, and encourage your pupils to do the same. For example, if you no longer remember whether there are one or two ‘b’s in ‘habit’ and ‘rabbit’, ask a child to look them up, adding that ‘English spelling is very complicated’.
- Encourage the pupils to make up questions about what you have just taught them. Then they ask you the questions.
- Be responsive to the child with dyslexia who wants to answer your questions.
- One technique which Rick Lavoie uses is to warn them in advance that they will get a question. This is because, in contrast to the other children, they have to process the question, which will take longer, before they can work out and provide the answer. So you could say, ‘John, I am going to ask you to say the names of the continents, but first, James, I want you to give me five capitals of Europe … now, John it is your turn.’ (From Rick’s film, How difficult can this be?)
- Always give children with dyslexia extra time without embarrassing them. Some children may need twice the time to reply.
- If you notice that a child with dyslexia has got the right answer, be sure to ask him or her for that answer in front of the class.
- When you set a task for solo work, check that the children with dyslexia are doing what was asked and signal discreetly to them non-verbally that they are on the wrong track if this is the case.
- Never ask a child with dyslexia to read aloud in front of the whole class unless he or she asks to.
- Never ask a child with dyslexia to go and write on the blackboard.
- Never ask a child with dyslexia to spell a word aloud unless he or she asks to.
- Children with dyslexia should not be encouraged to compete with others but learn how to raise their own standards. ‘Have I done better this week than last week?’
- Demonstrate progress with charts.
- Use positive reinforcement. Be aware that they will work much better when encouraged and when their good work is noted and mentioned.
- Avoid sarcasm and drawing attention to their needs in front of everybody.
- Ask everybody, working in pairs, to list the things they are good at.
- Be aware of the efforts children with dyslexia have to make in order to achieve their aims.
- Encourage success by setting sensible goals: state clearly exactly what you expect from them, how much time they must give to silent reading, how many questions to answer, how many words or paragraphs in the time given.
- Discreetly give shorter tasks to children with dyslexia, reading less of a passage or writing fewer words, so that they feel they can do what is expected and feel of equal value to the others.
- Take note of their good moments and congratulate them openly.
- Be aware of their frustrations.
- Banish the red pen!
- Don’t mark down for spelling, lay-out and composition, unless the test is specifically about these. Focus on content, not form.
- When you correct use two colours: one for content and one for spelling and presentation.
- When you mark spelling exercises, ask children with dyslexia only to spell the words they think they know. Then, calculate the number of words correctly spelt out of the words attempted rather than out of the total number of words you have given the whole class.
- Wherever possible, mark the work of children with dyslexia sitting beside them. Mark positively. Highlight the correct answers.
- Point out the skills mastered rather than simply ‘scoring’ the mistakes.
- Encourage them to ask for help when they are stuck, from their classmates, parents, or other mentors.
- Keep in mind that children with dyslexia have to make more effort and need more time than the others for the same amount of homework. Reduce their amount of homework. For example, ask them to do every other question. Or ask them to use a clock and allow them to draw a line under homework after 15 minutes of concentration. This will involve the support of the mentors from ‘home’.
- When you come to the final assessment always explain that their value as a person is not linked to their results or performance on a particular task.
Ask the children or parents to note how long each task takes in their homework book so that time management at home can be improved and ‘reasonable’ limits can be set.