Many see dyslexia as a barrier to attainment in Year 6 Sats. But, as a parent and a teacher to dyslexic children, I am certain this does not have to be the case.
From a young age, my son displayed dyslexic tendencies and, sure enough, his diagnosis followed shortly after his eighth birthday.
I knew from experience how difficult this could make life for him in primary school. But I also knew that it didn’t make him a write-off, and that with a few, relatively simple tweaks to his classroom set up and the attitude from the adults around him, he could and would succeed in all areas of the curriculum.
I knew this because the dyslexic children in my class had done just that.
Sats support tips
Children with dyslexia face daily struggles with reading, writing, fine motor control and organisational skills. They often have to work harder to tackle simple tasks that others do without a second thought.
They are constantly asked to edit, improve and adjust their work when others around them have long since finished and moved on.
How can we better support them and children with other literacy difficulties? These five things make a huge difference.
1. One question at a time
Sats can feel like an unwinnable battle for these students. The amount of information they need to read and remember to formulate their answers is a daunting task for most.
So covering each page and revealing one question at a time takes away feelings of panic. Students can only see the question they are currently working on and their minds remain focused on only this.
Self-esteem can often be a barrier to learning for these children. They feel they cannot achieve, therefore they give up before they have even started.
Lots of praise and reassurance building up to, and throughout the Sats, is of utmost importance.
Never underestimate the power of a break. If these children are allowed time to relax, regroup and start afresh, this can make all the difference.
If you do this as part of your normal classroom practice, this validates the reason to do it themselves during Sats papers.
Always apply for extra time, but be prepared that it may not be granted.
4. Classroom environment
The lead up to Sats is far more important than the assessments themselves. For these children, independence is key, so make resources readily available and easily accessible at all times.
Suggested resources include: phonetic dictionaries, spellcheckers, word maps displaying high-frequency and topic-related words, bookmarks to hold their place when reading, sentence start ideas and laptops.
Allow time for partner talk and ensure children are sat in mixed-ability groups for reading and writing tasks. Be prepared to repeat instructions to individual children and/or provide a step-by-step written format. Whenever teaching a new genre, display a visual map of its layout and structure.
Read, read and then read some more to your class. Constant exposure to all text types improves reading and writing skills. Reading for pleasure really is the secret to success for dyslexic children.
These children can and do write at expected Year 6 levels, despite their difficulties with spelling and handwriting. Build up a portfolio of written examples across the year to support your judgements. Write in smaller chunks, a paragraph at a time before encouraging children to make amendments.
Children can be working at expected levels and still display an area of particular weakness, such as spelling or handwriting. Keep records of spelling or handwriting interventions as proof of your input.
Remember that the content and creative writing shown by your students is the vital ingredient to successful writing. Sometimes giving a dyslexic child the power to write, with no pressure to make any improvements, give the best results.
Sandra Prewer is a Year 6 teacher and writing moderator