Learning Differently


Teaching students with learning differences can be challenging. However, when accommodations are made within the classroom this can help them to learn and navigate the day-to-day routine of the classroom.

Remember – these accommodations work well for all students not only those with learning differences.


Repeat, write, and follow up on classroom instructions! Students who have difficulty following your instructions will need to have them repeated. Asking the student to repeat the instructions back to you will ensure that they have acknowledged what they need to do.  Always follow up with the student to ensure that they have understood your instructions. Write out sequential instructions to help them to remember what to next after completing one task or step. Knowing what they have to do next can be difficult without clear reminders or visual cues.

Important step-by-step instructions need to be provided in small sequential steps, especially where these steps are difficult or need to be completed in a particular way. Instructions should be provided in hand-outs with the steps numbered clearly and preferably with visual cues to identify clearly what is required with each step.

Tell students what is expected of their day. Write up a timetable on the board so that they have a concept of time throughout the day. Structured days will help students to stay on track and it gives them a cue on how they should manage their time during the day.

Important step-by-step instructions need to be provided in small sequential steps, especially where these steps are difficult or need to be completed in a particular way. Instructions should be provided in hand-outs with the steps numbered clearly and preferably with visual cues to identify clearly what is required with each step.

Students with learning differences can have problems with organisation. This means they can be forgetful and will not be prepared for a day of learning. Have extra stationery supplies available for them and before they go home each day remind them of the things they may need for the following day.  If it is important that they remember something – send home a note in their diary or email their parents so they can support you in making sure your student is prepared.

Provide students with visual and verbal information simultaneously. Students with dyslexia tend to use visual cues to understand information. Using visual cues within the classroom either on the board or in a hand out can help them to understand the verbal instruction you provide.


Prior to your teaching make sure that new vocabulary words are displayed in the room. When talking about key words display them in the classroom so that students can access them at later times when they need to use them. Words should also have visual representations with them where possible.

Find ways in which information can be taught using as many senses as possible. The more senses that are used while learning, the higher chance that information will be retained. The more interesting a lesson is the higher likelihood that a student is engaged in learning and enjoys their educational journey.

Encourage students to use an organiser to plan their time, projects, homework, activities etc. Have them use different colouring systems for different subjects.  Review their diaries regularly to ensure that they are using them effectively. Have a section where you can write notes to parents where necessary. Use a signature system to ensure that parents review the diary too.


Students can be in control of their own learning if they have the aids to support them. Calculators, electronic dictionaries, counters, word cards, spelling lists, number lines are all ways in which a student can be successful in a classroom. If the child is allowed a laptop, iPad or other electronic devices then utilise assistive technology to support their learning. 


Copying from the board is a difficult activity for a student with learning differences.  It is time consuming and jeopardises the students’ learning when they do not copy the information correctly or completely. Incomplete and inaccurate information hinders their review at a later date especially when studying for tests and exams. Create activities on handout sheets that includes information they need to have.


Avoid giving long spelling lists to students with dyslexia. Try to give them words in a word family eg, boil, coil, and spoil. Find a way that the child can learn words they have particular difficulty with. For example, make up a ‘sentence’ from the word:


  • becauseBig Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants
  • whichWhich House Is Charlie’s House?


For older learners – ensure that they are made aware of important curriculum words that they cannot spell incorrectly, provide them with a glossary of words so that they can refer to them during their lessons.

Reading is challenging for students with learning differences, it takes more time and they will not be reading as well as their peers which makes it difficult for them to be accommodated in reading groups. They are also not accessing the same books that their peers are reading for pleasure. Make sure the students are reading daily to increase their exposure to texts and to support their progress in reading. Having a parent volunteer read with students every day is a good way to ensure students have supervised reading practice.

Reading out aloud to the class is a difficult, sometimes embarrassing and can be a humiliating task for a student with learning differences. If they need to read in front of class prepare them beforehand and provide them with the text they will be reading so that they can practice the passage. This should be done with enough time for them to feel confident in reading in front of class, preferably the day before it is to happen. Otherwise do not call on them to read. Let them listen, so they can concentrate on the text they need to understand.


As reading is challenging for students with learning differences it also takes longer for them to gain meaning from texts.  Extra time to revise texts is important to ensure accurate comprehension. Providing extra time in exams as well as times when students need to extract information from texts is vital. Using text-to-speech software will help with the speed of reading and help with comprehension. Sometimes a student with dyslexia needs to read and hear the text to gain meaning from it.

Some students need to be told explicitly what information is important.  Work on a method to let them know important information that must be remembered. Use a specific highlighter, or stamp, or asterisk points where this information occurs.  Alternatively, create a revision sheet at the end of a lesson or subject to reinforce important points. Show students how to revise and study what they will be tested on.

Students with learning differences may find it difficult to participate in classroom discussions. This may be due to failures in the past, when trying to participate caused embarrassment. Allow them to be part of the classroom participation by preparing them beforehand. Tell them that they will never be called upon to answer questions without warning and allow them time to research answers they will need to give in class. Giving a student time to prepare answers will ensure success and make them more confident in putting up their hand to answer questions at other times.

Students with learning differences are NOT lazy or unable to perform. With additional support they will be valuable members of the classroom. Helping them to be organised, manage their time and show them ways in which they can make the best of information and learning time will help them to be confident learners. Teachers who have high expectations in learning for their students will bring out the best qualities of each student.

Students formally diagnosed with dyslexia typically have an official psychological report with a 3-year validity that details their profile of learning needs and recommendations on strategies or support for learning. Recommendations may also be made for access arrangements where necessary, by professionals such as psychologists, doctors, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists. They may give you advice on how to proceed with the application. If the access arrangements are approved, then it is beneficial to allow students to experience them in regular classroom situations before they sit for the actual examinations.  All access arrangements are required to be approved by the MOE SEAB—Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board.

As students fail, sometimes at easy things, they can be bullied and teased by their classmates. Do your best to dispel negative connotations associated with dyslexia and talk about how everyone has different learning styles – we all have strengths and weaknesses. 

Show students samples of expected output required from them. Modelling work to students with dyslexia provides them with your expectations of the output that is required for a piece of work. Taking away the unknown helps them to plan the time and effort required to complete their work. Where necessary, help your student to plan what is involved in producing a piece of work. Reduce anxiety that occurs with larger pieces of work by breaking it down into manageable chunks. 

Overlearning is essential! You can never assume that teaching something once or twice will ensure the student with dyslexia has remembered important information. Practice and repetition is vital for them to understand concepts and acquire the right information. Research tells us that a student with dyslexia needs ten times more practice than their classmates. Find ways in which information can be repeated in different ways to make this ‘practice’ interesting.

Take into account the content and effort that went into the work rather than how it looks and the mistakes present.  Do not correct every error.  No student likes their work to be covered in red marks showing the errors they have made. Choose words that must be learned and add them to a spelling list. Where errors are highlighted there should be equal positive comments made on a student’s work too!

Students who have learning differences can have many strengths in other academic and non-academic areas. Promotion and integration of these strengths into their learning will help them to be confident learners and will build their self-esteem.

Partner with parents in their child’s learning journey. Be open and honest about their child’s progress and gain their support for your teaching by having them support you in your efforts at home. To do this you need to stay in close contact with them, provide them with the aids they need to support their child at home. If you keep parents informed, then there will be a higher likelihood of the child being prepared for school and homework completed when required. Waiting to speak to the parents at the Parent-Teacher interview is too late. Get in contact with them early and stay in contact. Parents often hear a lot of the negative feedback – make sure you provide positive feedback to them too!

Students with learning differences need more time to complete activities. Be mindful of this and allow them to have more flexibility in completing tasks, ensure that the rest of the class is not waiting for the student to finish by differentiating work across the classroom. For those students who finish quickly have additional tasks that they can do while slower students are finishing their work.


Fairness in the classroom does not mean that each child receives equal amounts of your time. Students who have difficulty in learning need more of your time.  Teachers who want their students to be successful will provide the time necessary for each one to achieve their goals.


Teachers, you have a chance to make a difference in the life of a student with learning differences.  Many students with learning differences find school a challenging and difficult place to be, some hate it while others will persevere with their studies.  How a teacher supports them has a direct effect on their learning outcomes.  Make a difference in the life of a student with learning differences and believe in their educational journey.