Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) to Learners with Learning Disabilities (LD)

English is the leading international language. In many countries, the knowledge of English is mandatory for academic success from the early grades. Success in learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) seems to be closely connected to learner self-esteem and to the belief in oneself as a successful learner in the future.
Students with learning disabilities often have considerable difficulty mastering the various aspects of English language learning, namely, reading, vocabulary building, spelling, and written as well as oral expression. EFL teachers are often given the responsibility of including these learners in their classrooms successfully, and of helping them achieve grade-appropriate skills. In order to do so, it is necessary to understand what a learning disability is and why learning English can be so challenging. In addition, it is important to know how to approach the learner, and help him or her acquire the necessary skills for language learning success. The EFL teacher can play a vital role in helping the learner develop language skills both within the classroom setting as well as through intensive individual instruction.
The purpose of this introductory online course is fourfold:
  • To increase awareness through knowledge of what it means to have a learning disability. This will occur by means of exposure to a variety of texts and films.
  • To empower EFL teachers as regards the teaching of students with learning disabilities. This will be accomplished by developing and expanding the knowledge pertaining to teaching students with learning disabilities, by grasping what it is about the English language that makes it particularly difficult to learn.
  • To develop teaching skills that can enhance learning for students with learning disabilities. Emphasis will be placed on teaching the basic skills of reading- and reading comprehension, writing and spelling.
  • To introduce the importance of developing skills for metacognition in learners, and to enhance their abilities for reading comprehension and learning abilities.
UNIT 1: Learning Abilities and Disabilities: A changing definition – a deeper understanding
  • Identification and assessment of learners with learning difficulties in the EFL classroom
  • Distinguishing between difficulties and disabilities – is intervention necessary?
  • Shame and self-image.
UNIT 2: Why is English such a difficult language to learn – or is it?
  • Understanding and recognizing similarities and differences between mother tongue and English
  • The development of the English language
  • Complications and confusion with regard to English orthography
  • Developing language skills
UNIT 3: Motivation
  • The connection between motivation and learning
  • Creating success-oriented tasks that create and trigger motivation
  • The 6 “P”s of motivation (Lavoie)
UNIT 4: Making it work!
  • Perception
  • Processing
  • Working memory
  • Executive functioning
UNIT 5: Metacognition
  • From decoding to comprehension and vice versa
  • Creating semantic knowledge = vocabulary and language
  • Developing writing skills
UNIT 6: Positive inclusion in the regular EFL classroom
  • Developing intervention programs
  • Creating navigation cards for intervention
  • Becoming a successful EFL learner
  • Children of the Code (2007)
  • Fink, R, (2006). Why Jane and John Couldn’t Read – and How They Learned (Chapters 1, 2, 4, 5). International Reading Association. New York, NY.
  • Ganschow, L., & Sparks, R. (2001). Learning difficulties and foreign language learning: A review of research and instruction. Language Teaching 34 (1), 79-88.
  • Goldfus, C. (2012). Intervention through metacognitive development: A case study of a student with dyslexia and co morbid. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Journal of Language and Culture, 3 (3), 56-66.
  • Lavoie, Richard. (2008) The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets for turning on the turned off child. New York, NY: Touchstone Publishing.
  • Richards, R. (2008). Helping children with learning disabilities understand what they read
  • Shaywitz, S. (2005). Overcoming Dyslexia. New York, NY: Random House.
  • Smalridge, D. (2008). Delving into Dyslexia. New Zealand Ministry of Education Publication.
  • Smith-Deutsch, D., & Chowdhuri-Tyler, N. (2010). Introduction to Special Education: Making a Difference (7th ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Publishers. ​
This course is recommended for EFL teachers, Special Education teachers who teach EFL, EFL coordinators, principals, and private EFL tutors.
A working knowledge of English and an interest in the field of learning abilities and disabilities.
Aharona Korman-Gvaryahu
​Korman Gvaryahu has been working in the fields of Learning Disabilities and Teaching English as a Foreign Language for many years. She is the National Counselor for EFL/LD for the Israel Ministry of Education and assists teachers all over the country with issues associated with the teaching of English to people with special educational needs of all ages. In addition, she works with the branch of the Ministry that is responsible for pupils at risk from first through twelfth grades. As a teacher educator, she is particularly interested in developing ways to help teachers include all learners in their classrooms, at the same time placing the emphasis on understanding the learners’ abilities as well as the reasons for their challenges.
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