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Supporting and Empowering Students with Dyslexia: Tools for Teachers

Author // Emily Fitch Wednesday, 24 May 2023

Ohio’s Plan to Raise Literacy Achievement addresses the need to support educators to recognize and plan instruction for students with dyslexia. Because dyslexia affects between 11 and 17 percent of the population, all educators must have access to instructional approaches that are explicit, systematic, and structured. This quality instruction will impact not only students with dyslexia, but also their classmates who are not. Equipping educators with knowledge and skills from the Science of Reading is essential for reading proficiency for all students.

Raising literacy achievement is no small task. As teachers know, every student is different with unique challenges and characteristics to consider. Students with dyslexia are a unique group of learners who have specific needs and strengths. While using research-based, structured literacy instructional approaches is the first step, dyslexia is more than a deficit or something that we need to fix. In fact, research shows that people with dyslexia often have strengths in areas such as creativity and invention (Taylor and Vestergard). Recognizing these strengths and providing students with dyslexia opportunities to excel in these areas is an important part of supporting them.

Supporting creativity and innovation in students who struggle with reading can be life changing. My first positive moment in school I remember was with my fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Brown, a former graphic designer. Mr. Brown never made me feel less than others or that I was lacking in some way because I struggled to read. Instead, Mr. Brown made me feel special and unique. He kept a few students in from recess and taught us advanced lessons in art like perspective and figure drawing. He focused on what we were good at, and in return, I started to develop a love of learning and exploring. From that point forward, I knew that I struggled as a reader, but that I had so much more to offer. Mr. Brown believed in me and now so did I. It was the empowerment and confidence I needed to keep up the hard work of learning how to read and finding books that sparked my interests and passions.

It is important to support students with dyslexia using research-based strategies to help them learn to read. It is also important to support them with other tools. INFOhio provides quality digital content to support students with dyslexia, both for reading and building on strengths such as creativity and innovation.

INFOhio Resources to Support Creativity and Innovation

Consider using the following resources to encourage and support creative thinking, hands-on projects, and inventive problem solving.

Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center

This resource provides full-text magazine articles, eBooks, and videos to support creative and artistic talents. Students with dyslexia will benefit from materials to support hobbies such as crafting, model building, and collecting. In addition, the content in Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center supports hands-on activities including gardening, performing arts, and science projects.

This article found in Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center, Ephemera and Your Family History, discusses the importance of ephemera in the genealogy files of a family. These files can provide a glimpse into the lives of those from our past including what they collected and what was important to them. An explanation is offered on how ephemera items may provide information on family history and historical events. It also explores various ephemera items that have been replaced by modern technology, such as sheet music, telegrams, and postcards including suggestions on the care of these items.

collecting article

Ask students to identify a hobby or topic they are interested in, and tailor a lesson or project around it. Encourage students to learn more and start a collection. Educators can support students by using the Collecting tab in Hobbies and Crafts Reference Center to research. This connects a passion for reading and research, strengthening their skills and desire to read.

Learn360 STEM & Career Video Collections

The Learn360 STEM & Career Video Collections include streaming educational videos supporting careers, science, and technology. Using videos can give students with dyslexia a break from reading and help them to absorb information and pique their curiosity, potentially giving them more passion for learning and a drive to read.

This video, A Taste Of Honey (Hexagons in the natural world), could open the door to a slew of creativity. Students can focus on how they can take elements from the natural world and incorporate them into new ideas about science or art. 


These videos can support students who tire of reading quickly by piquing their curiosity, allowing them to watch a video and follow along with the text on the side. Exposing students to the mysteries of nature and design can open new interests for them, motivating them to search for information on their own.

Sanborn Insurance Maps

Find more than 40,000 detailed maps of Ohio cities drawn between 1882 and 1962 in the Sanborn Insurance Maps collection. Consider using these primary sources to inspire deeper investigation and research and to empower students to choose. Allowing students to explore, see patterns, and make analogies from a visual image such as a map can be a powerful experience. Capitalize on students’ curiosity and use these maps as a catalyst for larger hands-on activities and research projects.

Consider assigning an address from a map such as a place they would like to visit, a building that no longer exists, or even their own address in their hometown to each student. Then ask them to research that establishment and create a project based on their findings. Projects could range from dioramas and 3D models to architectural drawings, industry research, product research, or writing a fictional story. Students could research the address that is assigned to them and then choose which aspect they would like to investigate and how they want to communicate their findings.

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Book Nook

This web tool supports educators in facilitating creativity. Educators can bring digital storytelling and creativity into the classroom with lesson plans and resources to support students as they create book trailers. Book trailers offer an alternative to the traditional book report or essay, maximizing student creativity and digital skills. Because Book Nook combines reading with content creation, this is a wonderful strategy to engage struggling readers. They can be motivated to read knowing that they can have a culminating project involving creation and innovation.

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Small Business Reference Center

With Small Business Reference Center encourage students who are passionate about starting their own business and becoming entrepreneurs with full-text articles, reference books, and videos. Many students with dyslexia are drawn to entrepreneurship with roughly 35% of entrepreneurs in the U.S. diagnosed with dyslexia (Taylor and Vestergard). Help students create a business plan, design a logo and brand, and work through potential legal issues with this resource.

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Create, Lead, Empower Ohio

Find new inspiration in the classroom by empowering teachers and students to work creatively together with the engaging collection of resources in INFOhio's Create, Lead, Empower Ohio (CLEO) toolkit. The CLEO toolkit is a curated collection of supplemental instructional materials, digital content, websites, lesson plans, and instructional units for educators. In CLEO, teachers will discover challenging content designed to develop leadership skills, creative problem solving, self-directed learning, career exploration, technology skills, and employability skills.

For example, you can find Craft in America under the Creativity category in CLEO. Here you will find lessons that will inspire students with dyslexia to communicate in different ways. One of the units found here is JEWELRY: PURPOSE, PRESENCE, AND MEANING.

Through investigating various artists' approaches to jewelry making and the processes and techniques they employ, students will understand and discuss how these artists select materials based on personal choices, life experiences, and things they care about in the natural environment. Students will create their own jewelry that has personal meaning and communicates a message that may go beyond the confines of traditional jewelry.

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GenYES Ohio

GenYES Ohio is a program that prepares Ohio students to become Student Technology Leaders (STLs) through a rigorous, technology-infused leadership curriculum and project-tracking platform. Schools typically implement GenYES as a class or club.

This type of work can empower students with dyslexia with a variety of experiences that incorporate reading and writing as well as self-directed learning, service learning, and creativity. For example, students in the GenYES program have worked in senior citizen centers helping with computers and cell phones. They also contribute to their school community by photographing sporting events, creating t-shirts, and marketing campaigns for various clubs and activities.

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By addressing the whole child and capitalizing on strengths while building reading skills, students will find success and feel encouraged. Start by implementing just one of these resources in your classroom to support the whole child. Building up motivation and self-esteem is an important part of helping students with dyslexia progress as readers and learners.

Be sure to stay tuned for the final blog in this series focusing on supporting students with dyslexia.

About the Author

Posted by: Emily Fitch

Emily Fitch is a Professional Instructional Specialist with INFOhio. She has 13 years of teaching experience, grades 4-12, visual arts and career tech. She also has two years of experience as the Director of Education for a non-profit art center. She has a Bachelor of Science in Art Education and a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. Her primary focus on the instructional team centers around developing the Create-Lead-Empower Ohio toolkit and providing support to the education community on student empowerment through student-driven tech support, self-directed learning, service learning, and career exploration in alignment to Ohio's Strategic Plan for Education.

Emily Fitch
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