Some Ideas about Teaching



Revision and Dyslexia


(this was posted in response to a teacher who was at her wit's end about how to help one of her pupils - who was dyslexic - revise.)


She - or, really, the SENCO - has to explain to you the nature of the dyslexia. 'Dyslexia' is a cover-all term for a range of specific learning difficulties (SpLD), and before you can give sensible advice on revision, you need to know the problem.

Some dyslexics are dysphonetic

Does she have difficulty decoding new words on the page that she doesn't sight-know? Does her spelling evidence phonological problems such as missing out syllables/ choosing clearly wrong letters when trying to spell phonetically a word she doesn't know? Did she have glue ear as a child? There are tests the SENCO can do to check out a problem with phonology. For a quick 'thumb-guide', give her 30 seconds and ask her to list all the words she can think of that start with the sound 'b'; then give her another 30 seconds to think of all the words that rhyme with 'whip' - if the total for the two together is less than 20, it is a sign if dysphonetic dyslexia.
If this is the case, tell her to experiment with visual (spidergrams/ annotated drawings/ mins maps) or kinaesthetic revision strategies (sticky labels in different places/ walk round as you revise).

Some Dyslexics are dyseidetic (visual processing problems)

Does she have a poor on-sight reading vocabulary? When she is reading, does she have to re-decode new words every time she meets them, even though she did so a little way before on the page? Does she 'lose her place' when reading? Does she get confused by visual information on, say, a crowded map? If so, she is probably dyseidetic.
If this is the case, tell her to experiment with auditory (mnemonics/ lists/ tapes) methods of revision.
Many dyslexics have problems with short-term/working memory

If this is the case, tell her to split up her revision into small, manageable chunks, write them onto postcards, and then - by any means she can find, rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. She has to get the information from temporary working memory into long-term memory, and this can only be done by frequent repetition until it becomes 'part of her'. If she is like this (and most dyslexics are) there is no use in cram-revising the night before. She has indeed to 'start early', and embed the information systematically over the long-term.

Many dyslexics have sequencing problems

Ask her to tell you the months of the year. If she does have a difficulty here, she will find it very difficult to learn lists of causes, or the narrative of a crisis etc. There is no use 'starting early' here, because even their long-term memory finds it hard to appropriate sequences. The best answer is association - get her to decide her best learning strategy (visual, auditory, kinaesthetic) and then, depending on that, to associate the list to be learned with another sequence that can be/ has been learned (e.g. the colours of the rainbow/ days of the week/ a sequence of rooms in the house etc).

Note that dyslexia often involves a co-morbidity of these problems, so she will need to take that into account.

Dyslexics are no different to everybody else - they need to find the revision strategy which suits them best. It's just that it needs more thought and is a little harder.

Posted on: Jan 22 2004, 08:12 PM





To cite this page, use:   CLARE, JOHN D. (2004/2006), 'Revision and Dyslexia',  at Greenfield History Site (