Teaching approaches and strategies


All children and young people need support to help them learn and develop. The needs of the child or young person should always be central to the identification, planning and provision of support. Support should be appropriate, proportionate and timely.

Appropriate strategies to enable the effective learning and teaching of learners with dyslexia should be multi-sensory in nature, well-structured and interactive. A wide range of inclusive teaching approaches, strategies and resources are used across early learning and childcare settings and schools to help learners who are dyslexic.  It is important to appreciate that these can also support learners who are not dyslexic. These supports are provided within what is called  ‘Universal support’.  

Universal Support 

Universal support starts with the ethos, climate and relationships within every learning environment. It is the responsibility of all practitioners to take a child-centred approach which promotes and supports wellbeing, inclusion equality and fairness. The entitlement to universal support for all children and young people is provided from within the existing early years and school settings.

Some examples of universal supports are highlighted below within each of the purple boxes. Please note these lists are not exhaustive.

Supporting Health and Wellbeing

It is common for everyone at some point to experiences feelings of low mood, anxiety and stress. However when this is ongoing and has an impact on someone’s ability to do things then it can become a bigger problem. Some people whose dyslexia has not been recognised or supported may have feelings that cause them emotional and physical distress.

Providing a supportive child centred school ethos which nurtures positive relationships is extremely important for all learners. 

  • Ensure that all staff are aware of their learner’s profile. Understanding the learner’s profile, maximising their strengths and supporting areas of difficulties
  • Supporting the learner to understand their dyslexia – their strengths and areas of difficulties.
  • Allow a range of formats for the learner to demonstrate their learning
  • Mark on content – not only spelling
  • Set achievable targets
  • Encourage independent learning 
  • Peer support and buddying
  • Cooperative learning which enables the learners to demonstrate their skill set and develop confidence
  • Small group or individualised learning
  • Specialist input from support for learning staff

Click here to access further information on Health and Wellbeing across a learning community from Education Scotland 

Supporting Inclusive Practice
  • Supportive inclusive school ethos
  • Environmental literacy audit of classroom and school
  • Differentiation of materials, media, flexible means of response, individualised homework
  • Multi-sensory approaches and resources
  • Visual prompts, including alphabets, number lines, visual timetables
  • Extra time to complete tasks
  • Use of more accessible fonts on printed materials
  • SQA digital question papers
  • Coloured texts, paper and overlays
  • Help boxes in classrooms
Supporting the Development of Literacy Skills
  • Use of Toolkit literacy circles
  • Literacy games
  • Audio books
  • Animation techniques /apps/software
  • ICT to support reading and writing – (accessible digital formats)
  • Encourage talking, telling stories
  • Resources to support the Pre-Phonics stage
  • Phonological awareness and ‘fresh start phonics’
  • Graded, high-interest readers
  • Reading Recovery and Writing Recovery programmes
  • Cooperative learning
  • Adult support, including reading and scribing
  • Phonic dictionaries
  • Mastery-learning spelling programmes.
Supporting the Development of Numeracy Skills

Difficulties with numeracy is one of the associated characteristics within the Scottish working definition of dyslexia, but may not be experienced by all dyslexia individuals – for some it may be a strength.

Some problems with maths therefore may be related to dyslexia, however, these problems are different from, but may overlap with, difficulties caused by dyscalculia. Click here for further information on Dyscalculia.

Supports which may help. 

  • Help with reading the words in the question – the learner may understand the ‘how to’ of numeracy but is struggling reading the text or processing the steps of the question in the right order. 
  • Help with the vocabulary – an illustrated maths glossary can be very useful to show that several words can have the same meaning – for example subtract, takeaway and minus. 
  • Hands on learning helps learners understand the why behind concepts. The use of multi-sensory, concrete, active teaching and learning opportunities (visual, auditory and kinaesthetic) to support visualisation and working memory can support the acquisition of number bonds.
  • Times tables square (in class and assessments).
  • Drawing dots for sharing/division.
  • Addition/subtraction/time jumps etc on an empty number line.
  • Visual prompts e.g. graphics of fractions, number squares, number lines, visual timetables.
  • Use of memory techniques. Encouraging learners to record their working and thinking as they go will allow them to track their work and can support memory and focus. Additionally, allowing time for learners to communicate and share their thoughts/thinking is helpful as this can shift the focus onto understanding the process, and to identify if, and where, these are breaking down.
  • Make it fun! Use numeracy games, talk about numbers.
  • Establish if the learner understands the concept of time – do they know how to tell the time? 
  • Effective use of appropriate IT, for example calculators, talking calculators.  Click here to see more information from CALL Scotland. 
  • Provide key information – this may need to be in a digital format. 
  • Use Digital/Write-on worksheets where possible.
  • Appropriate film clips which provide a quick overview of the topic or process. 
  • SQA Assessment Arrangements for course work and exams. Please note that a ‘diagnosis’ or formal identification of, for example, dyslexia or dyscalculia, is not required for a learner to be provided with SQA Assessment Arrangements. Instead evidence from class teachers and support staff is used.

For example:

  • Extra time to support working memory/processing
  • Use of calculator, in a non calculator exam or course work (ensure learner is confident in how to use it)
  • Digital papers

Further information on SQA Assessment Arrangements is available on their website

Click here to download Dyslexia Scotland’s leaflet, ‘Ideas for supporting maths’, developed for learners, families and staff.

Supporting Organisational Skills

Difficulties with organisational skills is one of the associated characteristics within the Scottish working definition of dyslexia. Time management, structuring ideas and remembering things such as names, numbers and dates may require additional time and a range of strategies.  It is important to remember that we are all individual therefore not every dyslexic learner will use the same strategy as this may not work for them in the same way it works for someone else. 

  • Ask the learner what works for them – encourage them to explore a range of strategies. 
  • Provide clear step by step instructions.
  • Allow for processing time.
  • Provide an overview at the start of the lesson.
  • Mind mapping, use of key words.
  • Maximise the use of lists – written or audio.
  • Memory games.
  • Use of subject glossaries.
  • Scaffolding techniques to support writing.
  • Visual timetables.
  • Colour coding. 

Click here to see Dyslexia Scotland’s leaflet on Mind Mapping and here to see their leaflet on Study Skills.  

Supporting Positive Communication and Partnerships
  • Effective communication between school staff, the learner and their parent/carer.
  • School strategies and approaches shared with parent/carer for home use.
  • Families given the opportunity to share and approaches which work at home with the school.
  • Effective communication and partnership working between practitioners – ensure that all staff working with the learner has access to their profile so they understand the learner’s strengths and areas which may require some additional support. 

Click here to access the resource section of the toolkit.

Further information is available to download on Dyslexia Scotland’s website.