5 Tips for Teaching Students Who Don’t Read Well

Students with print issues could be English Language Learners (ELLs), students learning English as an Additional Language (EALs), have dyslexia, have poor reading comprehension skills, or perhaps be visually impaired in some way. 

  1. post visual schedules Decades of research supports the use of visual schedules. Color-coding these is also useful. Every day, the student with print issues can find the item that they’re supposed to do that day. In my experience, some parents print these out and stick them on the refrigerator, while others export the LMS calendar to their personal digital calendars and use that for scheduling.
  2. Use OCR-capable text. OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition, and it is what lets computers recognize text in documents. Have you ever tried to use your mouse to copy something from a PDF, only to realize that someone had scanned a photo and inserted it instead? If you’re a dyslexic student or have visual impairments and you need to make the text bigger or have your device read the text to you, photos of text are disastrous. Text to speech technology only works for OCR text. Therefore, when teachers scan files for students to read, they should always scan as text.
  3. Allow students to use speech-to-text software. Most students can listen and speak many grade levels above their reading level. Allow them to use Siri, Cortana, or whatever they have to dictate assignments. They still have to use correct punctuation and grammar, but teachers will find that they get far more out of their students when they facilitate their writing. Learn what devices your students are using and figure out how to turn on the accessibility features.
  4. Provide the slide deck to students before class. This is helpful for all students—students who have the slide deck score higher than students who do not. Counterintuitively, having the slide deck ahead of time leads to better attendance and participation. The slide deck should contain slides with vocabulary highlighted, their definitions prominent, with an example (visual, wherever appropriate). A good rule of thumb is no more than five words per line, and no more than five lines per slide. A good slide deck is a linear outline of the lesson—and so when teachers provide that slide deck to their students, they are providing students with typed notes that students can easily transform into flash cards for retrieval practice.
  5. Train students to complete assignments. Give step-by-step instructions, and visually share the videoconferencing screen, using a student view of the material, to review the written instructions during a live lecture. If this isn’t possible, make a recording students can watch. If recordings aren’t possible, make a phone call and go over the steps together, checking that the student is looking at the same thing during the conversation. Even a voice mail is better than handing off written instructions.

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