Classroom Resources


We are interested in how the cognitive differences of those with learning difficulties affect the learning processes involved in art and design and music and our resources reflect this interest.

Dyslexia/Dyspraxia Checklist – 21 Questions

If you think one of your students may have dyslexia and or dyspraxia try this quick questionnaire. Six or more ‘yes’ answers will indicate further action could be desirable.

You can download the questionnaire as a PDF file or a DOCX file.

Art & Design Resources

This section has ideas for drawing exercises for children to try out. As young children we draw instinctively, we enjoy the feeling of moving the pencil or crayon around the paper and the physical act of mark making. We tend not to criticise our drawings but as we get older we may begin to lose confidence, perhaps someone tells us we’re not very good at it or even gives us advice on how to improve, which we interpret as criticism.

People will give you different advice and it can be confusing, who should you listen to? It is important that you decide what is right and works for you. Read everything you can and try out various techniques then pick out what you can use. There is no set way of learning to draw, we are all so different. You have to do what works for you.

Here are a few ideas for you to try out.

Most of them have been taken from Betty Edwards’s book, “Drawing on the right side of the Brain”; Nathan Bowers’s Self-taught art and Sketch exercises; and the Guardian step-by-step-guide to drawing.

Have a go and see what works best for you.

Copying a favourite artist is a method that works for many, but there are different ways of copying; tracing, using a light box, using a grid, copying the negative shapes, or copying a drawing upside down, being some of the methods you can try.


Tracing will help you to “see” what you are drawing.
Once you train your brain to draw what you see and not what you think you know, you will be able to draw anything. Anyone can trace. Use it only as a learning tool to improve your freehand drawing.

Try out the exercise on this web page

Then find an artist whose work you really like and have a go at tracing some of their images. One of my favourite artists is Quentin Blake. Have a look at these videos and see how Quentin draws using a light box to help him.

Using a grid

Likewise using a grid is something that Leonardo Da Vinci found hugely helpful back in the 14 hundreds.

Read about how it works and what you need to begin.

Or alternatively watch a demonstration video here.

Negative-space drawing

Negative space drawing is another technique that has been taught at art school for many years. In negative space drawing you concentrate on drawing the empty space around an object rather than the object itself.

There are some exercises for you to practice with here

And a video here

Upside-down drawing

In the Betty Edwards book “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain,” Betty provides an upside down Pablo Picasso sketch. It is the “Portrait of Igor Stravinsky. The idea is that drawing upside-down prevents you from using all your habitual drawing shortcuts.

There are some exercises for you to try and a video to watch.

Drawing what you feel

Apart from copying there are other ways of practicing drawing in the

There are lots of excellent exercises. I’ve copied one of them out here for you to try. It is an exercise where instead of drawing what you see you draw what you feel.

Place your pencil in the centre of the lower third of your piece of paper. Close your eyes. It’s important to keep them closed while you do this drawing. With your non-drawing hand explore your mouth and describe with your pencil the marks and shapes that your touching hand is feeling. Move up to your nose and do the same thing simultaneously feeling and drawing what you feel. Move across to each eye, your brow and up to the top of your head, your hair. Find your way to an ear, across to the other ear and finally down to the chin. Make dots, dashes, smudges whatever you feel is appropriate.

Drawing with Scissors

Henri Matisse used scissors as a drawing tool. He said: “The paper cut-out allows me to draw in the colour … Instead of drawing the outline and putting the colour inside it …I draw straight into the colour”. Matisse also tore shapes too. Try combining cut and torn shapes to create a self-portrait.


Is about simplifying and exaggerating aspects of your subject. Try copying some of the cartoons on these links. Then try doing a cartoon of yourself or a close friend

Music Resources

Paula Bishop-Liebler is one of several researchers who has been examining the cognitive differences of musicians with dyslexia and dyspraxia and looking at how they navigate their way through difficulties. These difficulties can affect various key skills such as: reading notation especially sight-reading, (“deciphering the significance of open or closed notes with tails going up or down, arranged on a mystifying set of five lines” and spaces”) Sheila Oglethorpe (1996) – learning new music quickly; gaining rhythmic accuracy (especially from notation); memorising music; scanning music or following a conductor and then finding the right place in the score. (Bishop-Liebler 2008).

There are four key books on music and dyslexia that are well worth accessing:

  • Miles and Westcombe’s Music and Dyslexia: Opening New Doors. (2001),
  • Shelia Oglethorpe’s Instrumental Music for Dyslexics: Teaching Handbook. (2002),
  • Miles, Westcombe and Ditchfield’s, Music and Dyslexia: A Positive Approach (2008),
  • and Music, other Performing Arts and Dyslexia, edited by Sally Daunt and published by the British Dyslexia Association in 2012.

There is a very useful page on the Patoss website which describes teaching strategies designed to reduce difficulties presented by a pupil with dyslexia.

You can find out about accessing accommodations for exam arrangements from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (2012a), Special Needs (online).

Bandplayer-is an online resource accessed via the Internet. Basically it is an audio and video music player that facilitates seeing and hearing musicians playing a pre-recorded track. It can be accessed free by students and tutors.

Dyslexia and Music Teaching is available (online)

Guidelines for candidates with dyslexia or other learning difficulties,

The British Dyslexia Association has ten tips for musicians with dyslexia.  BDA music dyslexia tips [PDF]

One of our mentees wrote a musical component poem. Emma Music components poem [DOC]

Four of our mentors came up with a list of tips to help students study more successfully.  Tips from the creative mentors 2014_A3 [PDF]

The Incorporated Society of Musicians has put an excellent link to some of the BDA information on its website. Please see: British Dyslexia Association – Music Teaching Resources.