After serving as a Texas FFA state officer in 2018, Josh Witherspoon joined the iCEV team as a part-time employee for 3 years before taking on the role of content development specialist in 2022. Witherspoon holds a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University, in which his experience and proficiency in writing, marketing and CTE allow him to effectively communicate the successes of CTE educators and students and the value iCEV has to offer.
Reading is far more complex than we might initially think. It requires the human brain to connect letters to sounds, put those sounds in the correct order and pull words together into the sentences and paragraphs we read every day. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability affecting 15% of the U.S. population according to the International Dyslexia Association . Individuals with dyslexia have difficulties with language skills, particularly reading, however, symptoms can include challenges when spelling, writing and even pronouncing words.
Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. As a learning disability, dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, thus calling for educators to provide their dyslexic students with the environment and tools they need to access the same learning as their peers. In this blog, iCEV will explore the top 3 strategies for supporting students with dyslexia in your CTE classroom and ways to empower them in their learning to unlock their potential.
Create an Inclusive Classroom
An inclusive classroom is a critical component of ensuring a healthy and safe learning environment for all students regardless of their special population status. By creating a dyslexia-friendly classroom, you help reduce the barriers to learning, providing students with dyslexia the opportunity to learn at the same rate as their peers. To get started think about visual aids and how you might incorporate them into everyday learning. Both dyslexic and non-dyslexic students benefit from visual aids, leading to improved retention and engagement in your classroom. Tip: When creating graphics or signs for your classroom use fonts that support dyslexic students including Arial or Open Sans.
An important factor in creating a healthier learning environment for your dyslexic students also includes communication in the classroom. When giving directions to students, keep instructions simple and concise and speak slowly as you explain procedures to follow. In addition, avoid forcing dyslexic students to read aloud as it can be daunting and anxiety-producing for a dyslexic person, particularly when they haven’t had time to prepare. By implementing these simple strategies educators are not only making learning more accessible for their dyslexic students but are also unlocking students’ potential beyond their learning struggles.
Accommodations, provided for both testing and instruction, change the way students access information and demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities. This type of differentiation is made to allow a student to demonstrate knowledge and skills without lowering learning or performance expectations and without changing what is being measured. For students with dyslexia, accommodations might include extended exam time, receiving the audio version of text instead of a traditional book or even using a larger font size and having fewer items per page. Accommodations can even extend into students’ study practices including the use of highlighters or technology to better focus on and consume information more easily.
Two famous educators named Orton and Gillingham developed an approach to teaching dyslexic students that has since been found to benefit all learning styles. The Orton-Gillingham Approach stresses instructional methods include:
Multisensory — since dyslexia affects the way the brain processes visual information, engaging the other senses like touch and sound works around this deficit
Direct— it’s helpful for the students to know what they are to learn, why they need to understand it, and how it will be taught to best engage in their learning
Systematic and sequential — instruction should be step by step, building upon mastered skills
Positive and reinforcing— focus on the successes, the work that was done well, and the individual skill strength, rather than overall performance
Emotionally sound— focusing on the positive and on each student’s success concerning their prior skillsets creates a learning environment that fosters positive mental attitudes and self-esteem
There are many ways to implement these strategies into your teaching methods, no matter what subject or age you teach. Whether it’s a lesson on how to spell three-letter words or Einstein’s theory of relativity — implementing the Orton-Gillingham Approach offers immense value to today’s CTE classrooms and students.
Have High Expectations
As a CTE educator, you know your expectations of students are often self-fulfilling. When imagining what they are capable of accomplishing, students commonly take their cues from teachers and parents. It might be distressing or humbling to realize you possess this kind of unearned power, but you do. Handled well, your expectations can positively influence students as they develop an internalized sense of possibility. However, if this power is mismanaged, educators can unintentionally reinforce student fears about their intellectual potential, keeping them from reaching their full academic potential.
All teachers need to understand that dyslexia is a mechanical disability, not an intellectual one. Many dyslexics are gifted when it comes to processing information, formulating ideas, and making connections. Without that understanding, teachers can’t engage in clarifying and hopeful conversations with their students regarding their ability to learn and achieve in school. By simply increasing their awareness of the condition and the accommodations that can help dyslexics access information and express themselves, many students will be able to better understand, contain and work around their challenges. In order to do the extra work necessary to overcome their academic hurdles, dyslexics need to believe in their potential which is where teacher expectations can make a pivotal difference.
In this blog, we shared the top 3 strategies for supporting students with dyslexia as well as tips for better engaging dyslexic students in your CTE classroom.
To learn more about how to better support your dyslexic students or any special populations student in your classroom, download our free guide: