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Classroom changes to improve the learning environment

Having identified students who may have dyslexic learning preferences, personalized or individualized learning can be introduced through a wide range of simple classroom adjustment. Our latest 4D Schools Guide V2 outlines almost 100 simple changes that can be made in the classroom to improve the learning environment. A small sample of these is provided below. Go to the Guide for the full list.


Click below to reveal.


Students with dyslexia can become overloaded when receiving instructions, finding long or complicated lists difficult to process and recall. The following adjustments can make instructions easier for them to understand and retain:

  • Break instructions into small, logical ‘chunks’ and say things in the order they should be done, ie “Fold the paper then put it in the box”, not “Put the paper in the box after you have folded it”

  • Avoid passive phrases, sarcasm or double meanings, ie “You need to lift your game”

  • Praise dyslexic students when they ask questions

  • Check in with students soon after they commence work to ensure they’ve ‘got it right’ – if they haven’t, this will ensure you put them on the right track sooner


The additional time it takes for a dyslexic student to access basic skills like reading and writing can leave insufficient time to demonstrate ability in other areas (eg story telling, problem solving, comprehension). This is because the dyslexic brain is wired differently, meaning there is a neurobiological reason why extra time is an important accommodation. The following adjustments can therefore help dyslexic students to succeed:

  • Find ways to provide increased processing time for students, eg deliberately pausing after you ask a question

  • Use digital clocks as well as analogue

  • During tests, a short break in the middle, or breaking the test into two parts to be sat on different days, can be highly beneficial


Dyslexic students can find blackboard and whiteboards difficult to read from, and can easily become exhausted or fall behind if asked to copy a lot of text as part of a lesson. The following adjustments can ease or remove difficulties around notetaking:

  • Minimise board copying and dictation

  • Use handouts with gaps for students to fill in key ideas and draw their explanations and utilise ‘Thin Notes’ – handouts containing text down the centre of the page with large margins: plenty of room for ‘picture thinkers’ to draw diagrams and for ‘word thinkers’ to note or summarise main points

  • Avoid black text on white background – buff or coloured paper is easier to read

  • Use at least 14pt font Arial, Sasson or Comic Sans, 1.5 line spacing for handouts

  Creative and multi-sensory approaches

Dyslexic students are often ‘picture thinkers’, so may find information more interesting and easier to understand when it is supported by visual and creative material:

  • Multi-sensory approaches work best – including visuals and colours
  • Do quick drawings to illustrate concepts
  • Use pictures, diagrams and charts and use coloured highlighters for emphasis
  • Use real objects as props
  • Have keywords around the classroom that relate to the topics being taught – this makes it easier for students to access common words and maintain their train of thought
  Classwork and the classroom environment

There are a number of adjustments that will improve the learning environment, such as:

  • Relocate dyslexic students to well lit areas near visual aids, but not directly under fluoro lights as these cause visual disturbance

  • Ensure noise is not a distraction

  • A well organised structured learning environment will also, among other benefits, help reduce distractions

  • Accept work in different formats, for example mind maps, videos, photos, diagrams, powerpoint. Use oral assessments and phonetic spelling

  • Group children based on learning ability, not based on reading/spelling ability

  • Catch them doing it right - praise and encourage strengths, being specific about what a student has done right


  Reading, writing and spelling

Difficulties and frustrations around reading, writing and spelling are often the biggest challenge for dyslexic pupils, and can unnecessarily affect their work in other areas where they should be excelling. The following suggestions can relieve the intense pressure around reading and writing skills, freeing dyslexic learners up to show what they can achieve:

  • Always explain the ‘three parts of a word’ – what it looks like, what is sounds like and what it means

  • Relax – interesting words spelt wrongly are of more value than boring words spelt right

  • Don’t overly focus on handwriting – neat handwriting can be difficult for dyslexic students and an obsession with neatness can detract from strengths in equally or more important areas


Marking is another area where simple adjustments can significantly assist dyslexic students. Consider the following:

  • Mark ‘target’ spellings only – avoid death by deep marking! Apply an 80% accuracy standard, allowing students to ‘pass’ where they have made a good attempt

  • Focus on big picture success, rather than word or spelling accuracy ie encourage ‘thinking’, not just ‘reading’ accuracy – in the right context ‘butifull’ is much better than ‘nice’



Even more debilitating than having difficulty with basic skills can be an accompanying feeling of failure or low-self worth. The following can help:

  • Remember dyslexia’s greatest difficulty is self-esteem – be aware of potential issues around emotional and behavioural needs as well as self-esteem

  • Emphasise strengths of student’s work, with specific praise

  • Develop pupils’ knowledge of their own language abilities and needs, and of what to do when things go wrong



Dyslexic pupils often find homework intimidating – forgetting or not comprehending what is expected of them. Make the following adjustments around homework to improve outcomes for dyslexic students:

  • Include the family in the communication loop. If the student and their parents are comfortable, discuss openly with the student that you are aware they are dyslexic or think differently – and ask how best you can support them

  • Set homework at start of lesson and remind again at the end

  • Provide an extra text book – one for home and one for school


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