Inclusive Language Teaching

Including dyslexic learners in a large language class may seem very challenging, but a few simple strategies can make learning more accessible for all.

Sometimes it is suggested that students who have a SpLD should not have to learn another language, but should instead use the time to work on their first language skills. While this policy may be well-intentioned, there are some strong arguments for everybody having the opportunity to learn another language:

  • it seems wrong to disadvantage some students like this by insisting they remain monolingual in our increasingly global culture;
  • for EAL/ESOL learners there is little choice but to learn English, if they are to have any independence;
  • research suggests there are many benefits in learning another language, from improving phonological processing to facilitating a broader world view and greater tolerance of diversity and unpredictability.

The arguments for excluding learners from language classes do not really stack up in comparison.

Classroom Activities

Although learners with SpLDs undoubtedly face greater challenges in learning languages, they do not have to be insurmountable, and with the right kind of input and support all learners can succeed in acquiring a new language. The most important things to keep in mind are that the input should:

  • be multi-sensory
  • afford many opportunities for recapping and reviewing
  • be presented in small manageable chunks, and
  • include explicit instruction in grammar, study skills and phonological systems.

If you would like to explore these issues further, have a look at the training and public events to see when your nearest session is running, or go to the page on bespoke training to find out how to set up an in-house session for your team.

Activities that embody these characteristics are not only most helpful for dyslexic learners, all the learners in a class will benefit – indeed, many of the techniques that are usually suggested represent good general teaching practice. As well as supporting language development, ELT well activities focus on the development of memory and processing skills, and aim to facilitate appropriate social interaction. The latest collection of activities from ELT well, designed to address issues identified through the assessment materials, is now available. Here some example activities that are free to download:

  1. ‘Cuisenaire Question’ Activity (PDF) [new window]
  2. ‘Don’t answer this’ Activity (PDF) [new window]
  3. ‘And – so – although’ Activity (PDF) [new window]
  4. ‘Building the Ark’ Activity (PDF) [new window]

These and other activities can be found in the book ‘Including Dyslexic Language Learners‘ which is available to purchase from the ELT well shop. Every ELT well activity comes with a full explanation of how the activity might work in a group, how to adjust the level of challenge to make them harder or easier and how to differentiate in a mixed ability group. They can also be adapted to be used in 1:1 contexts and the materials are available as word documents so that they can be tailored to suit the exact needs of the target learner/s.

Raising Awareness of SpLDs

One important aspect of a truly inclusive learning environment is mutual respect and understanding among all members of the group – learners and teaching staff. When people appreciate what others can do and what they find more difficult, and when they recognise that these difficulties are not of their own making but due to a different cognitive profile, there is much more chance that they will help and support each other.

In order to facilitate this, sometimes it is necessary to help the group members to experience for themselves the kinds of difficulties that their peers or students are facing.

If you are looking for inspiration for CPD sessions or assemblies, or perhaps you would like to raise the issue of SpLD or disability as a discussion topic in class, this collection of activities is ideal. Here is an example activity: Dyslexic Dictation (PDF) [new window] This activity and many others can be found in the book ‘Including Dyslexic Language Learners‘ which is available to purchase from the ELT well shop.