Teaching English to Dyslexics

Gyorgyi Gabor


If a child is dyslexic it does not mean he has to give up on learning English. There are many ways how teachers can help. And remember, what is good for the dyslexic is good for all. Below are a series of practical teaching tips focusing on the four language skill areas of listening, speaking, reading and writing.


1. Listening

A dyslexic child may struggle to process incoming auditory information efficiently in his/her first language.

·        If possible, explain important things in the child’s first language.

·        Try to use a small tape recorder to record new vocabulary, stories, homework instruction so the child can listen to it as many times as necessary.

·        Using visuals and pictures along with the listening task will aid the child’s understanding.

·        The following exercises might be useful if they have difficulties differentiating between certain sounds, for example e-i, a-e…etc.


You will need a range of cards showing pictures of objects with the problem sounds, and two boxes. First, the teacher names the object, the student picks the correct card. Second, the student repeats the word, and places in the right box that is labeled for the sound.

Odd one out

This can be played with the same cards. First, the teacher shows four pictures. For example, hat, pen, cat, map. Next, the pictures are named and the student has to point out the odd one out.


2. Speaking

In foreign/second language acquisition understanding, reading and writing usually precedes speaking, therefore we have to be very patient with our students.

·        Never force a dyslexic child to speak, always wait until they volunteer.

·        If necessary, ask them to speak when the question is easy and you are sure they know the answer.

·        Encourage them with lots of positive feedback.


3. Reading

Reading in English must be a pleasant experience regardless of the age and ability of the child.

·        Always have the child read with a purpose.

·        Discuss vocabulary before reading, as this will aid prediction and understanding.

·        Dyslexic children benefit from cloze exercises as they are useful to develop predictive skills.

·        Have the child dictate his own stories to you. It will provide the student with relevant and motivating reading material that can be further exploited.


4. Writing

Dyslexic children may have the most difficulties with learning to spell English words.

·        Pointing out the difference between the letter-sound correspondence of their first language, and English can often be a very helpful start. For example, in Hungarian each letter has its corresponding sound, whereas in English there are 26 letters referring to 44 sounds.

·        Build a structured, systematic, spelling program focusing on one rule at a time.

·        Repeat and reinforce stimulating the use of all the pathways (eyes, ears, hands, and lips) to the brain simultaneously. For example, have them vocalize the words as they write them. Younger children enjoy building words using plastic, wooden, or rubber letters.

·        Don’t forget to teach the irregular words on a whole word basis. These words are frequently used and the dyslexic child needs a great deal of exposure to them.

·        Teach the words in context as well.

·        When writing to communicate, teach them different planning techniques, such as mind mapping, and break up the process into small, manageable steps.


Always set a realistic goal to the dyslexic and commend their effort and improvement no matter how small.