With 1 in 10 of the UK population being dyslexic, according to the British Dyslexia Association, it is important to consider which strategies will enable all children to be able to learn effectively and to feel successful and go on to reach their full potential in life. Most dyslexic people are either of average or above average ability, so it is important to allow them to access learning in a way that gives them time and strategies to understand, process, practise and then be able to recall and communicate both new information and their own creative ideas.
There are so many famous, successful people that are dyslexic, who have had a real struggle at school and have often felt restricted by their condition. But by finding their own strengths and discovering their own ways to learn and communicate information, they have learned to live with dyslexia and become experts in their fields. Albert Einstein, Agatha Christie, Tom Cruise, Keira Knightley, Bill Gates, Channing Tatum, Will Smith, Steven Spielberg and Richard Branson are to name but a few!
What is Dyslexia?
According to the NHS
“Dyslexia is a common learning difficulty that can cause problems with reading, writing and spelling. It’s a specific learning difficulty, which means it causes problems with certain abilities used for learning, such as reading and writing. Unlike a learning disability, intelligence isn’t affected.”
Dyslexic people have many strengths and it is important for dyslexic children to find and develop them.
Here at Schoolscapes we always aim to create inclusive playground designs with a variety of equipment that can be enjoyed and accessed by all children. Here are a few ways that our designers support dyslexic children’s learning all in the wonderful great outdoors!
We feel it is important to understand some of the following strategies that will help dyslexic children to fulfil their potential, whilst at school:
Many of these ideas are just as relevant in the outdoor learning environment too. It is important that the strategies below are also understood by teaching practitioners and incorporated into the children’s lives:
Here are Schoolscapes 9 favourite ways of supporting dyslexic pupils on their journeys to success, whilst enjoying the outdoors.
1. Get Arty
Use paint, coloured chalk and other interesting art mediums to practice recognising, forming and writing letters and to practise spellings. Dyslexic children often remember stories well, so why not let them paint a ‘spelling picture’ that tells a story and links words with a similar pattern? For example, they could paint a goat in a coat on a boat under an oak to remember that all these words contain the ‘oa’ spelling pattern. Remember to use coloured paper to paint on, as colours like pale green, pale blue and pale red often help the words to appear more clearly than on a white background.
2. Get Moving
Use actions to reinforce the meaning of words and to improve comprehension skills. Children love to use an outdoor storyteller’s chair to retell stories and stages to perform to others. By putting actions to words, children will stand more chance of remembering both the shape of the word and its meaning. Why not hide some interesting, relevant nouns, adjectives or verbs in a colourful feely bag and let the children pull out a word, draw around the words shape on a large outside board and read it together out loud and then come up with their own actions.
3. Get Multisensory
Children love to draw shapes, patterns, letters and numbers in the sand or to fish them out of the water with a net. Children could match letters or words to an object dug up in the sand or fished out of the water and then practise copying the letters or words in the sand or by brushing or squirting water on the playground surface. For children suffering from dyscalculia, who find number work difficult, the same activity can be used for numbers.
4. Get Listening
Using a stimulating range of outdoor musical instruments can support children in learning a sense of rhythm and to follow patterns. It also helps children to feel successful, as most children are good at making noise! Often dyslexic children find the letters ‘d’ and ‘b’ and ‘p’ difficult to distinguish between and to recognise. Children could use the instruments to create a pattern for each letter and when they see a word or picture with the letter in or see the letter they can play the rhythm! For example, ‘d’ could be a dinosaur dancing or stomping loudly, ‘b’ could be a bee buzzing around and up and down, ‘p’ could be a quiet polar bear plodding.
5. Get Messy
Children can enjoy mixing up a thick mud and water concoction at their Mud Kitchen and then write gloopy words, letters or numbers with the mud, using a stick. Or they could pour thick mud into a tray and write within the mud, or even leave it to dry with their message for all to see. What a great way to make a mud brick word wall using the latest vocabulary linked to a topic?!
6. Get Involved
Playground markings can be a good way to reinforce both letters and numbers whilst children play. An A-Z Caterpillar, 100 Square or Phonics Frog playground design can provide vital opportunities to link letters to sounds and numbers to spoken language whilst being physically active. Involvement and repetition all help children to build up memorable links between visual and auditory language.
7. Get Competitive
Games are a real winner for developing language and comprehension and number knowledge and understanding. There are so many ways to incorporate ball skills into learning across the curriculum. Why not place words, letters or numbers around a basketball net, goal, Target Panel or a Multi-Ball Wall and let children try to hit the words and read the words to score points? Use an outdoors whiteboard or blackboard to copy the words/numbers and to keep a score. Games also help to develop the skills of following directions and instructions.
8. Get Curious
Interesting Table Top Games are a great way of reinforcing vocabulary and even provide a word list for topics such as mini-beasts or trees. It provides children with a safety net, so they can check a spelling when working outdoors. When sitting resting at a table, children will also read the vocabulary subconsciously and remember the visual layout of the words and the pictures, when recalling the words in later learning. Using giant, colourful chalks to create temporary vocab lists or number lines on the playground floor can be a helpful tool to support children’s learning outdoors.
9. Get Active
Use a Climbing Wall to reinforce learning by using the letter and number Climbing Holds to challenge children to spell out words or number sentences by manoeuvring between the letters and stopping on the relevant ones and shouting out the letter or number names. For example, to spell ‘dragon’, the child would select a word card with a matching image and then scamper from letter to letter shouting out the letters “d-r-a-g-o-n” as they reach them. Alternatively, they could spell out a number sentence such as 6+4= 10. They’d clamber from 6 to 4 to 10 and shout out the numbers when they are on them.
We hope you have fun trying out these active, outdoor playground ideas and that all your children are developing their strengths and gaining in confidence and knowledge every day. We hope they go onto becoming happy and successful adults in their future lives. For more advice on making your playground a fun and stimulating outside learning space for all children, please contact our knowledgeable playground experts here at Schoolscapes.
Useful websites with more information and advice about Dyslexia:
British Dyslexia Association https://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/
Learning Ally https://1in5.learningally.org
Beating Dyslexia https://www.beatingdyslexia.com/dyslexic-resources.html