Multi-sensory learning: Not all in the dyslexic mind (19/52)

Given a busier than normal schedule over the next couple of weeks, I decided to tackle weeks 3 and 4 of “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching” MOOC in one go. To be honest, the course is also getting more specifically for teachers and harder for me to engage with – a criticism of me not the course!

The two weeks focused on learning spelling, grammar and reading with the common theme of using multi-sensory teaching techniques. In a moment, I will explore this in a little more detail but before doing so I wanted to share my feelings on getting to the end of the course. I was overwhelmed by the application of research in practice and how little must have been known by teachers when I started learning English some 50 years ago! So, perhaps I need to learn to forgive Mrs W and all that followed her. I do hope that teacher training and CPD fully utilises the good work that has been done on supporting dyslexic learners.

In week 4, Professor Joanna Nijakowska discussed how phonological and orthographic awareness learning can be multi-sensory. But, interestingly for me, she also explains why English is a difficult language for dyslexics to learn (5:27).

Multi-sensory teaching provides opportunities for learners to hear, see, say and write and includes structured small steps, practice and revision. Ultimately, learners need to develop techniques they can use in different environments to help extract meaning. These techniques can include discussing meaning (active construction), asking questions (reciprocal teaching) and visualising meaning (mental images).

Interviews with adult dyslexic learners and English language teachers highlighted several specific supporting techniques, including: i) informal interactive sessions, ii) small group learning, iii) flash cards (in CAPITALS) , iv) reading introduction and conclusions before skimming the middle of articles, v) using diagrams and images, vi) knowing the lesson plan, vii) avoiding rote learning and viii) using mind maps.

I will come back to using mind maps in a future blog (more specifically, the use of rich picture) but the session usefully provided links to software packages to support mind mapping:

In summary, the last three weekends engaging with the “Dyslexia and Foreign Language Teaching” course have been very informative. I’ve gone from Dr Judit Kormos‘ insightful metaphor of a hurdles race with invisible hurdles (Nuts, bolts and hurdles of Dyslexia) through Building the dyslexic classroom to appreciating that multi-sensory teaching (and other techniques) can support dsylexics in learning languages.

A heartfelt thank you to Dr Kormos and colleagues. There are now simply no excuses for not supporting dyslexic learners in moving through understanding the difficulties, differences and then advantages of dyslexia.

Nigel Lockett – The Dyslexic Professor
University dyslexia support