Evidence-based strategies for specific learning difficulty

Evidence-based strategies are those that have been evaluated by researchers within school settings, and found to be effective.
Strategies that require training or access to specific programs or resources have not been included, such as targeted interventions designed for students with dyslexia, dysgraphia or dyscalculia.

Directly tackle underlying skills

Target phonological awareness and phonics

Consider teaching students phonemes (speech sounds), graphemes (letters that make up a sound such as ‘ph’), morphemes (smallest part of a word that means something, such as ‘cut’ in ‘cutting’), and orthography. For example, ask students to rearrange syllables to form a word, or write different word endings. 

Resources to support the systematic and explicit instruction of phonological awareness and phonics can be found on the Literacy and Numeracy Digital Resources Hub.

Break target skills down

Sometimes a student may need a task broken down into smaller tasks. For example, when writing an essay, ask students who experience reading or writing difficulties to identify the key parts of the essay question before they plan or write their essay.

Consider how you give instructions

Provide clear and explicit instructions

Consider giving clear and specific information to students. Break down target skills (for example, help them identify key parts of an essay question) and identify the components of a problem (for example, break down the steps needed to solve a maths problem).

Model tasks and the underlying strategies or thinking

Students may learn more effectively if shown how to do a task. Consider talking out loud to demonstrate the strategies you use to problem solve when working on the task.

Monitor and check understanding

Check if students have understood what they are learning. Consider checking student understanding and progress regularly.

Use visual supports

Students can be supported to develop competency in numeracy through the use of concrete materials and visual objects in demonstrations. Asking students to create semantic maps or graphic organisers may support students with writing and reading.

Provide lots of opportunities to practise

Provide opportunities for students to practise a task lots of times

When programming, plan for repeated opportunities for students to practise and consolidate their learning. Accuracy and fluency can be increased through providing students with repeated opportunities to solve familiar mathematics problems or to read a familiar text. For students who experience difficulties with reading, it is recommended that decodable texts are utilised to reinforce decoding skills  

When a task is new, students will learn best with scaffolded support

When possible, offer them help (such as prompts, demonstrations, encouragement) and gradually reduce this support. 

Choose computer programs or apps with care

Programs or apps for tablets that target skills such as handwriting, decoding words, spelling, reading rhythm and phonemes may help a student learn these skills. 

Programs which ‘do the work’ for the student (for example, programs which read the story to the student) are helpful for activities where the focus is not on their reading (for example, science) but may not be a helpful learning-to-read tool. When a student who experiences reading difficulties is practising reading, they will get better results trying to read words for themselves.

Provide students with extra supports and strategies

Teach students to self-monitor

Students can be taught to assess their own work. For example, give students who experience writing difficulties a list of things to include in their work (for example, five adjectives) and ask them to plan how they will do so. They can then assess whether they have successfully included that list of things in their work. Storyboards (drawings of the storyline) may help students plan.

Actively use and teach meta-cognitive strategies

Meta-cognitive strategies help students to understand the way they best learn. Teaching students how to use strategies such as rehearsal (repeating), elaboration (paraphrasing and summarising), reading aloud, using mnemonics, visual supports or organisers (such as concept maps; taking notes), reading comprehension strategies such as self-questioning, and opportunities for learning reflections, can all help students identify strategies to support their learning.