Learning Support for Reluctant Learners and Additional Needs

These are summary notes from a series of workshops from our school. 

Sensory resources & accommodations to support reading and writing at home

Table work:

Independent work:

  • Provide quiet area with less auditory and visual distractions
  • Repeat instructions and ask them to repeat
  • Break down task into smaller steps.
  • Cover tasks so only a couple are showing at one time.


  • Use bookmarks and overlays
  • Allow for movement breaks
  • Use Paired reading strategy to build confidence


  • Pencil grip that suits child
  • Slope writing board
  • Lined or raised lined paper
  • Visual instructions and check lists
  • Assist with getting ideas onto a planning sheet by providing idea planner templates (Tony Buzan)
  • Common words list on table
  • Allow for occasions of scribing and dictation
  • Allow recording of ideas using other modes
  • Before writing, warm hands up with some fine motor activities

Tony Buzan: How to make a mind map

Sensory breaks:

Sensory activities

Image Source: Brainworks

Sensory Activities


Tips for general sensory success:

  • Provide quiet and calm space/time
  • Allow noise cancelling headphones
  • Allow fidget toys
  • Using weighted toys
  • Consider sensory needs of your child – consider a sensory audit
  • Keep visual distractions to a minimum or at least provide an area of less visuals
  • Play calming music in background
  • Consider the student’s learning style

Supporting your left-handed child with writing and cutting:

Roughly 13% of the population are left-handed. Unfortunately, many things aren’t made with left-handed people in mind so children who are left-handed require extra support when learning. This is especially true for learning to write and cut.

When assisting left-handed children, always consider the position of the body, the hand, and the paper.

Pen/pencil hold and hand position:

  • Does the child complain that it hurts to write for any length of time?
  • Do they have to stop frequently when writing?
  • Would they like to write faster?
  • Does the way they hold their pen restrict the movement of their hand and arm, or result in their letters being distorted?

If  your children experiences any of the above, they may need to experiment with different ways of holding their pen to find a way that works best for them to avoid these problems from occurring.

Image Source: Penskills

Encourage your left-handed writer to hold the pencil or pen in a tripod grip (pinch pencil with index finger and thumb, rest it on the middle finger).

Left handers often find it easier to hold the pencil 2.5-3.5 CM from the tip of the pencil. If the child tends to hold the pencil too close to the point, you can make a mark on the pencil at the right distance (use a sticker or a pencil grip), to remind the child where to grip the pencil.

When left handers move their fingers up the pencil a little higher, it allows them to see what they’re writing so they are less likely to have to hook their wrist in order to have a good view. This should also help them smudge their writing less.

Left-handers often adopt the ‘hooked’ posture because they are trying to see what they are writing and not smear what they have just written with their hand, while maintaining a right-slant to their letters. These problems can be overcome by paper positioning and pencil grip. The earlier the support with this the better.

If the hand is hooked over the top of the writing, the writing can be smudged and the hand will tire quickly. Also, if the hand covers what has been written, the left-handed writer will have to stop more frequently to review the content of what they have written. Stopping the overall flow of their thoughts and ideas.

The hand should be positioned so that it always below or to the left of the writing line as they write from left to right across the page.

Some left handed children may mirror write from right to left. You can help them to overcome this by making sure they always begin writing on the left side of the page. This can be done by placing a mark on the left side of the writer’s paper showing which side to start writing from.

Paper Position:

The most significant factor in helping left handed writers, is to look at the position of the paper. As your left-handed writer gets older and starts to write more, it is helpful to encourage them to angle their paper with the left corner pointed up.

Encourage the child to place their paper to the left of their body and slanted so the left side, parallel to the children forearm as the child writes across the line.This can help them to see what they’re writing.

Teach your child to utilize the right hand as the “helper hand”. Teaching left handed children to stabilize their paper with their non-dominant hand will mean that the paper is less likely it is to slide around and cause frustration while writing.

Writing on a sloped surface can also help.

Top tip from an Occupational Therapist:

If a left handed child puts their book on a sloped surface like a lever arch folder so that the top of their book is raised slightly, it keeps the wrist bent back and teaches them how to write with their hand in a more comfortable position.

Learning to Write

Image Source: ABC Teach

Most worksheets place the model letter or word on the left side and then leave a blank space on the right for the child to write the letter or word. This is difficult for left-handed writers because their left arm automatically covers up the model, so it may take them longer to complete or may lead to more mistakes.

When teaching left-handed writers to copy letters and words, make sure their model is either above where they are writing or directly to the right side of where they are writing so they can actually see it.


It is important for left-handed children to use left-handed scissors because of the way the blade is oriented; it allows them to see where they are cutting and left handed scissors cut cleanly rather than folding or bending the paper.

Don’t have access to lefty scissors? Just flip your right-handed scissors upside down in order to switch the blade orientation. This isn’t ideal as far as finger placement goes (thumb will then go in the large hole and the fingers will cram in the little hole), but it’s a quick fix if a left handed child needs it.

Encourage left-handers to cut in clockwise direction. If they are unsure of the direction put directional arrows to show them the correct way to cut.

If you are right handed and teaching a left-hander how to use left-handed scissors, either sit opposite them for them to ‘mirror’ you or use your left hand!

“Paired Reading” at home to encourage reluctant or less confident readers:

  • Always start by reading together. Your child should choose what to read. Read together at the same pace. They can set this pace by tracking with their finger.
  • If your child makes a mistake, allow 4 seconds for them to correct themselves. If they try to segment, jump in with the word.
  • If they are unable to read the word, you say it and then they repeat it after you.
  • Use loads of praise throughout. Ask questions at natural pauses, talking about what you are reading and making any possible links to personal experiences.
  • Your child will give you an agreed signal when they want to read alone. Normally a double tap. Praise your child for taking the initiative to read alone.

Multisensory approaches and activity ideas to learning high frequency ‘tricky’ words

Sensory Processing Disorders in the Child that Can’t Stop…