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Neil MacKay
Dyslexia Friendly Strategies & Support

Happy Teachers 22014

  • Proposed Course Contents for English Thematic Course —Secondary Schools April 2015




Practical tasks/activities

Lecture 1

(6 hours)

  • SpLD/Dyslexia defined and de-mystified
  • SpLD and the “Chinese way” – using research into issues for language acquisition of Chinese students to identifying strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and costs.
  • SpLD and intellectual disability (ID) – definitions and issues for learning.
  • Presentation of strategies to identify divergent needs and the common ground. Identifying the implications of assessment findings for students with ID in the context of the new secondary curriculum.
  • Introduction to identifying the needs of non-Chinese speaking students (NCS) -especially the potential for high levels of English competence among some students


  • Begin to design assessments appropriate to their class level- that is the level at which they will be teaching – which identify SpLD and ID students and indicate areas of strength and weakness

Lecture 2

(6 hours)

  • Theory into action for SpLD and ID. Analysis of current research to present an overview of effective interventions in Hong Kong, UK and USA
  • Reading - key issues for distinguishing between SpLD and ID.
  • Gifted and talented – going beyond basic skills to identify higher level thinking.
  • The theory of reading – how it works and where it falls down for vulnerable students.
  • Capitalizing on well-motivated NCS students and building on their desire to be “active in learning”


  • Work with individuals and small group, to create assessments and design training

Lecture 3

(6 hours)

  • Theory into action –assessing and responding to developmental dyslexia and ID, designing lessons which meet the differing needs of SpLD, ID and NCS students in ways which support all in the class. SpLD, ID and NCS in the classroom – establishing the principles of “reasonable adjustments” in the context of the new secondary curriculum which meet a range of needs, including those of the gifted and talented
  • Introduction to screening (1) – tasks for Practicum 1.


  • Use cognitive profiles of SpLD and ID students to identify learning issues and prepare lessons to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses. Identifying opportunities to apply these approaches to NCS students

Lecture 4

(6 hours)

  • Profiles into action – looking for differences in assessment patterns between SpLD and ID – spotting a gifted and talented profile within a context of weak basic skills.
  • Developing strategies to meet identified needs.
  • Introduction to screening (2) – fine tuning European assessment tools for use the Hong Kong situation – fine tuning language, context and activity.
  • Applying core principles to provision for NCS students Identifying and responding to social emotional issues of NCS students and those native Chinese speakers who are operating at academic levels which are several years behind their peers


  • Taking aspects of English language assessment tools and modifying them to suit the Hong Kong situation – creating formative assessments validated by observation and experience



Lecture 5

(6 hours)

  • Making strength assessments, interpreting results and turning results into personalized teaching in the classroom.
  • Using profiles to make judgments regarding SpLD/ID learning needs. Sharing effective support strategies and intervention programs for students with SpLD, ID and also those who are NCS pursuing the new secondary curriculum.  Stretching gifted and talented



  • Examine a range of assessment evidence form students with SpLD and ID to identify learning needs. Sharing proven classroom strategies which participants already use include NCS students

Lecture 6

(6 hours)

  • SWOT analysis of student performance. Building a strengths profile, making “next steps” judgments
  • Introduction to phonological awareness – current research into synthetic phonics – the EDB position and local materials.
  • Using EDB web guidance on identifying and meeting the needs of NCS students to include working with parents.
  • NGO support/translation opportunities and grant aid
  • Teaching the brain to read – the psychology of reading applied to SpLD and ID students – identifying common ground and recognizing and responding to divergence.


  • 1.Present the results of assessment of the practicum assessment individual and prepare IEPs for vulnerable students
  • 2. Prepare guidance materials for colleagues based on EDB’s NCS materials







Lecture 7

(6 hours)

  • Pure sounds – the importance of clear pronunciation.
  • Useful websites. Assessing the development of phonological awareness using a variety of web and program based resources.
  • Planning “phonic catch-up” sessions for SpLD and ID students. Differentiating for NCS and SpLD students who may already have a good grasp of English.
  • Applying the psychology of learning to the different learning needs to ensure appropriate combinations of repetition, overlearning, pace and challenge.
  • Introducing Practicum 2


  • Work with a range of programs to identify those best suited to individual schools

Lecture 8

(6 hours)

  • Analyzing the structure of language – identifying barriers to English language acquisition in the Hong Kong setting.
  • Utilizing previous school try out reports to identify what has been put in place by local teachers and what is working in local schools.
  • EAL case studies – identifying and responding to issues for SpLD and ID students. Looking for common ground to support busy teachers in challenging circumstances.
  • Skimming school try out projects to identify best practice solutions to common problems.










Lecture 9

(6 hours)


  • Phonological deficit theory re-visited. Spelling rules – introduction, application and differentiation for a range of learning needs. Turning issues into action for Practicum 2 and also the school setting.
  • Providing advice for colleagues regarding effective responses to common problems.
  • Presentation of strategies that work for entire classes, small groups and individuals.
  • More planning for Practicum, 2


  • Prepare a report on the child and children assigned when working in a group

Lecture 10


  • The Dyslexia Friendly Classroom – characteristics, methods and materials.
  • Discussion of strategies to lead colleagues to more inclusive ways of working – informed by previous school try-out projects from the thematic courses.
  • Examination of subject specific issues for SpLD, ID and NCS students leading to the preparation of professional development materials for colleagues back in school to examine their practice.
  • Identifying resources for students with SpLD/ID/NCS which will be effective at appropriate levels and so be useful with other students in the school. Acknowledging the potential among some NCS students for being gifted and talented and making appropriate adjustments which will benefit other students in the school


-          Plan continuing professional development in leadership skills as a SpLD coordinator and a resource person in the school.


Lecture 11

(6 hours)

  • Practical activities to develop leadership skills as a team player and a coordinator for SpLD and/or ID and/or NCS to help plan, develop, implement and evaluate intervention programs and policy on SpLD, ID and NCS for the school.
  • Create an action plan to report on progress monitoring for these students and creating steering group in the school


  • Continuation of activity in Lecture 10

Lecture 12

(6 hours)

  • Meeting the needs of students with complex learning needs, especially those with AD(H)D, Asperger’s Syndrome, Speech and Language and Dyspraxia/Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD)
  • Managing behavior for learning in a context of meeting the social and emotional needs of vulnerable students.
  • Examining the psychology of attention and applying best practice principles to the preparation and delivery of lessons. Preparing for Practicum 3.


  • Prepare a list of “Hot tips” for school colleagues on managing the behavior of students with complex needs
  • Lecture 13
  • (6 hours)
  • Developing an understanding of how to teach reading.
  • Strategies for text level work on developing comprehension.
  • Making best use of context – how to support students of widely differing abilities to utilize a range of clues to maximize comprehension while minimizing issues with reading accuracy.
  • The psychology of metacognition – supporting students to identify their best ways of working and supporting colleagues to adopt appropriately flexible responses.
  • Preparation for Practicum 3.
  • Differentiating for students with wide ranging English language competencies and experiences


  • Selecting materials for “practicum students” to develop required aspects of reading. Begin to prepare a teaching program to develop required skills.

Lecture 14

(6 hours)

  • Bloom’s Taxonomy revisited.
  • Achieving evidence of higher level thinking from students with weak basic skills – strategies to close the thinking gap.
  • Using programs to support the development of reading supported by modeling of a range of reading approaches – shared, guided, paired etc. together with strategies to select appropriate methods for students with SpLD, ID and also NCS.
  • Further activities to develop the school try out project.
  • More preparation for Practicum 3
  • Prepare activities which will enable students with weak reading skills to demonstrate their thinking in English










Lecture 15

(6 hours)

  • Differentiation – identifying appropriate levels for individuals and groups and preparing materials which both stretch and confirm strengths at all levels of abilities.
  • Group tasks to identify ways to work with colleagues to fine tune their practice in order to become more inclusive.
  • Presentation of simple differentiation strategies known to work in the Hong Kong setting.
  • Introduction of school try out project


  • Using “practicum students” as the benchmark, differentiate a range of materials to include them in lesson

Lecture 16

(6 hours)

  • Feedback on Practicum 3
  • Writing skills for reluctant writers – building from sentence level to paragraphs.
  • Examining issues of information processing, planning and presentation for students with SpLD, ID and also NCS individuals– identifying specific issues for each group and identifying common ground as the basis for whole class approaches.
  • Identifying value added strategies for students – use of connectives, powerful sentence starters etc.
  • Preparation for practicum 4


  • Prepare a short discussion paper for a Panel Meeting which sets out how to support students to add value to their writing through the use of scaffolds and frameworks

Lecture 17

(6 hours)


  • Paragraphing – principles and practice. Practical, kinesthetic approaches to develop and extend the concept of paragraphs for students with a range of skills, abilities, experience and understanding.
  • Using mind maps to plan and remember and also to extract key information from text.


  • “Paragraphs into mind maps” multisensory activity

Lecture 18

(6 hours)

  • Learning how to learn – applying the psychology of working memory to classroom issues for students with SpLD and ID.
  • Identifying differences in memory capacity within the two groups and formulating strategies which develop and extend working memory and also minimize weaknesses and build on strengths.
  • Creating advice sheets for colleagues which exemplify best practice for both vulnerable groups.
  • Final preparation for Practicum 4


  • The Learning challenge – applying learnt techniques to processing and learning information – simulating the revision pressures of the public exam.


  • Practicum
  • Contents
  • ·         Assignments
  • Practicum 1
  • Assessment
  • Work with individuals and small groups of students on the identification and assessments of complex needs.


  • ·         Implementing education intervention programmes and engaging resources for students with SpLD/ID
  • Practicum 2
  • Intervention I
  • Work with individuals and small groups of students to implement intervention programs for the specific teaching of English language skills


  • ·         Implementing education intervention programmes and engaging resources for students with SpLD/ID
  • Practicum 3
  • Intervention II
  • Work with individuals and small groups of students to develop reading comprehension skills at appropriate levels


  • ·         Implementing education intervention programmes and engaging resources for students with SpLD/ID
  • Practicum 4
  • Intervention II
  • Work with individuals and small groups of students to develop writing skills at appropriate levels


  • ·         Implementing education intervention programmes and engaging resources for students with SpLD/ID



  • Responding to Intellectual Disability (ID) in the inclusive classroom in Hong Kong


  • Although students with ID will learn more slowly than their more able peers there is no doubt that, given appropriate teaching, they can and do achieve their potential. Appropriate teaching includes “reasonable adjustments” which are little more than fine tuning of current practice for many teachers in Hong Kong. For this reason the programme outlined above seeks, where appropriate, to integrate accommodations for ID students within the normal class by modeling differentiation and personalization strategies. There is also recognition that ID students have additional and discrete learning needs and these are also addressed in the programme through the presentation of reasonable adjustments which can easily be delivered by all teachers. These reasonable adjustments include speaking more slowly, (especially when speaking in English) previewing language and activities before a lesson, ensuring that concepts and processes are explained thoroughly before work starts and requesting that students repeat instructions. Reducing memory demands by leaving information on the board for longer is another example of “ID friendly” best practice. When these adjustments are made in a positive social-emotional climate, vulnerable students are able to fulfill their potential.


  • The exciting aspect from the perspective of professional development and teacher training is that, every time a teacher personalizes method, materials or approaches for a student with ID, it will benefit others in the class who are not intellectually disabled but who will function better in this more individualized learning environment. For every student with a label of ID there are many others with limited attention spans and weak language skills who are especially vulnerable when the cognitive demands of a lesson move too quickly from concrete to abstract. Therefore the same principles which underpin best practice for ID are actually exemplary practice in many classroom settings. By paying slightly more attention to the accessibility of methods and materials teachers are finding that lessons are far easier to manage now that the students with ID are engaged and successful. To suggest that, when teachers get it right for students with ID, they actually get it right for all may be rather fanciful. But it is certainly true that, when the pace and materials are personalized just a little, there are real opportunities for helping more and more individuals without always needing to give individual help. This philosophy underpins the programme outlined above


Neil MacKay

April 2015


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