Dyslexia in the English Language Classroom

Checklist 1 taken from Dyslexia Action 

If the answer to most of the following questions is ‘Yes’ it would be wise to seek advice:

All ages

1. Is he bright in some ways with a ‘block’ in others?
2. Is there anyone else in the family with similar difficulties?
3. Does he have difficulty carrying out three instructions in sequence?
4. Was he late in learning to talk, or with speaking clearly?

Ages 7-11

1. Does he have particular difficulty with reading or spelling?
2. Does he put figures or letters the wrong way e.g. 15 for 51, 6 for 9, b for d, was for saw?
3. Does he read a word then fail to recognise it further down the page?
4. Does he spell a word several different ways without recognising the correct version?
5. Does he have a poor concentration span for reading and writing?
6. Does he have difficulty understanding time and tense?
7. Does he confuse left and right?
8. Does he answer questions orally but have difficulty writing the answer?
9. Is he unusually clumsy?
10. Does he have trouble with sounds in words, e.g. poor sense of rhyme?

Ages 12 – adult

1. Is he sometimes inaccurate in reading?
2. Is his spelling poor?
3. Does he have difficulty taking notes or copying?
4. Does he have difficulty with planning and writing essays, letters or reports?

Some common problems

You may think:

• He’s not listening
• He may have difficulty in remembering a list of instructions.
• He may have problems getting his thoughts together coherently for story or essay writing.
• He may have sequencing problems and may need to be taught strategies to cope/alternative ways of remembering.
• He’s lazy
• He may have difficulty in organising his work and need specific teaching to help him.
• He may be able to answer the questions orally but he can’t write them down.
• The child may have found that the less he writes, the less trouble he gets into for making mistakes
• He’s not concentrating
• He may have difficulty in copying accurately. This is often because he cannot remember chunks but needs to look at each letter, write it, then look at the board again, find the place, and so on…
• He’s careless
• He may have very poor handwriting as he hasn’t sufficient hand skills to control the pencil.
• He’s not checking his work
• He may spell the same word several different ways if he doesn’t have the visual memory to know what is right or the kinaesthetic memory for it to feel right as he is writing.
• He doesn’t look carefully
• He may have a visual memory deficiency and therefore experience difficulty when interpreting symbols.
• He’s being awkward / impossible on purpose
• He may be able to produce very good work one day and the next “trip up over every word”. “Off days” are quite common and require extra encouragement and understanding.

Some common strengths

You may be surprised that:

• He has a good visual eye
• He may be able to arrange the furniture in the classroom very effectively.
• He’s very imaginative and skilful with his hands
• He may be able to make the best models.
• He’s practical
• He may be able to work the computer before the others – even perhaps repair it. He may be able to start the car when others have failed.
• He’s mad on sport
• He may excel at individual sports.
• He’s got a fantastic imagination
• He may be able to tell wonderful stories if his long term memory is good

General comments

“If a child cannot learn the way we teach we must teach him the way he can learn.”

The teacher needs to recognise that the dyslexic child in the classroom has a different way of learning and therefore needs a different way of teaching.

The main problems are:

• poor sequencing skills;
• poor auditory discrimination and memory;
• poor visual discrimination and memory;
• poor short term memory;
• poor self confidence.


There are many types of learning disability of which dyslexia is only one. In some cases of disability, diagnosis can
be difficult. Only a full psychological assessment will determine if any child or adult is dyslexic – but there are

Checklist 2 (reference below) 

Clinical Characteristics of Dyslexia


  1. Difficulty with fastening coat, shoe laces etc
  2. Clumsiness
  3. Difficulty with following a simple rhythm
  4. Problems understanding directional prepositions (in/out, up/down, under/over, etc.)
  5. Confusion between right and left
  6. Excessive spoonerisms, e.g. ‘par cark’, ‘beg and acon’
  7. Difficulty carrying out more than one instruction
  8. Difficulty naming objects
  9. Difficulty remembering what day it is, their birthday, their address, telephone number
  10. Difficulty learning the months, days and time


  1. Missing out word(s) on a line or reading the same word(s) or line twice
  2. Failure to recognise familiar words
  3. Confusion between similar looking words (on/nofor/of/off/from, ever/even/every)
  4. Inability to blend letters together
  5. Difficulty breaking down long words into syllables and putting the syllables back into correct order (e.g. “frantic’ for ‘fantastic’, ‘suspectible’ for ‘susceptible’ , ‘affectedly’ for ‘affectionately’ )


Writing & Spelling

  1. Poor handwriting with many reversals and badly formed letters
  2. Inability to copy accurately, particularly from the blackboard
  3. Messy work with many crossings out and words tried several times (e.g.sens, cens, sns, scens, sense)
  4. Persistent confusion with similar looking letters (b/d, p/g, n/u, m/w, s/z)
  5. Letters, syllables and words omitted, inserted ir ub tge wrong order
  6. Lack of  or indiscriminate use of punctuation
  7. Indiscriminate use of capital letters ( e.g. raBBit )
  8. Inability to stay close to the margin

Guidelines for teachers

(From Augur, 1985)

  1. Let the child sit near you so that you can observe him/her and give him/her as much help as possible
  2. Appreciate that s/he will have persistent difficulty learning anything in sequential order (e.g. multiplication tables). Allow him/her to use table charts.
  3. Appreciate that the standard of his/her work will be erratic
  4. Never indicate that s/he is lazy or stupid or compare his/her written work with that of other class members. Do not ask him/her to read aloud in class, unless s/he wants to do so.
  5. Write very well and clearly on the blackboard. Check his/her copying or appoint someone to do so.
  6. Make sure s/he is taught all the alphabet letters for name, sound and shape – upper case A, lower a, hand a
  7. Does s/he know the blends st, gr, spl and can s/he blend sounds together?
  8. Don’t mark every wrong spelling – it is too disheartening.
  9. Don’t give him/her long lists of mixed words to learn weekly.
  10. Give him/her some guidelines ( e.g. No English word ends with a –v, you must use –ve; -q is never written alone but always –qu; the past tense suffix –ed has three different sounds: /id) as in patted, /d/ as in filled, /t/ as in jumped
Checklist 3   Click here for another useful checklist 
Augur, J. (1985). Guidelines for teachers, parents and learners. In M. Snowling (Ed.). Children’s written language difficulties. Windsor: NFER Nelson


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