Urgent need for donations to support Deaf people in Nepal following the earthquake – www.deafway.org.uk

Nepal is such a beautiful country with such gentle and respectful people, a wonderful culture. The Nepali deaf children, adults and elderly people whom Deafway has been supporting for 15 years, are particularly vulnerable in the aftermath of the earthquake, when without interpreters and support workers they won’t be able to access any aid available. Please help us fund deaf support workers in Nepal as they look after these vulnerable people, by reblogging, sharing or donating….thank you….


All of the information about the ways in which you can support our work in Nepal following the recent earthquake is at http://www.deafway.org.uk please, if you can, help us.


We’ve been working in partnership with Deaf people in Nepal for the past 15 years. We’ve built and supported schools for Deaf children, projects which teach Nepali Sign Language and basic numeracy and literacy to deaf children and adults, and an amazing project in the Kathmandu Valley for older deaf people who’ve never been to school.

Over the last couple of years it’s become increasingly difficult to raise funds to maintain these projects and to establish the many more that we know are so needed.

And now the earthquake.

We’ve spent the last two days since the earthquake hit trying to find out whether our schools, our projects and our Deaf friends are still standing/running/alive.


So far what we know is:-

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Volume 6, Issue 2

The Molotov Cocktail

Issue 6.2

With Issue 6.2 comes out with guns blazing. 

Our first regular issue of Volume 6 features creatures made from sea grime, gunk you can put on anything, and a pair of twins that really tie the room together.

The Flash Fury Contest is in full swing, so get cracking on those aggression-oriented entries for a shot at over $300 in prize money. 

Keep the change, you filthy animal.

– The Editor 


by Abi Hynes

The Zukurski Twins

by Melissa Brooks

One Hundred Uses

by Ginger Beck

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“Every Day” – A short true-life story of dyslexia

True-life story from a Dyslexia Teacher:

1. “Every Day”.

A little girl, aged eight, had begun to get into trouble in school. She struggled with reading and spelling and, because she was such a bright little girl, she became frustrated easily. She had a lot of knowledge and understanding, but could never show this as her writing was so poor.

After many arguments and battles with her school, her Mom began to despair of ever getting any effective help for her there. She then heard about our Dyslexia tuition from a friend and brought her daughter to us.

When we assessed her, we found that she liked a dark green background, which helped make reading more comfortable. She learned to touch-type, which helped her support her visual and auditory memory with tactile memory – making spellings easier to remember.

As she worked through a multi-sensory support programme, her confidence grew and she began to read and spell more fluently. After a few weeks, her Mom told us that she’d said to her: “Mom, I wish I could go to the Centre every day”. When her Mom asked why, she replied: “Because I can do the work there, but I can’t do it in school!”.

We understood what she meant! This was 5 years ago and, sadly, we know that many other children are still finding that they “can’t do the work in school” because support for dyslexia is often not effective there. But, if they are provided with multi-sensory, structured support from a specialist programme, they find theycan do”!

Ros Hynes

B.A.(Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS




Taking the Pressure Off! Encouraging Children with Reading and Spelling Difficulties.

Feeling Bad is a Special Educational Need.

I want to focus today on ways to support children who are suffering from low self confidence and disengagement, both of which can be effects of dyslexia or other reading and spelling difficulties.

The most effective teaching and support will be delivered by those who have good relationships with their students.  When working with students who have already experienced stress and ‘failure’ with literacy, this can be even more important. I want to have a brief look today at how we relate to students – children and adults – with these learning needs.

Teaching in the Way They Can Learn

Using appropriate methods and resources to support these students is also essential, of course.  We need to ensure that we’re teaching in the way they can learn For dyslexia and related reading and spelling difficulties, this is likely to mean using multi-sensory, structured, sequenced, cumulative and repetitious programmes.

Working with a specialist, multi-sensory learning programme for an hour or two a week will support literacy progress and retention of information.

Even the most effective, proven programmes won’t work unless they’re used, regularly, of course!  We know that lack of effective support can have a detrimental effect on children with dyslexia. Many of them will lose confidence and develop a fear of failure; this can lead to them trying to avoid tasks involving reading and writing.

“I’ll Never Be Able to Read and Spell”

We may find that, despite our own confidence in the effectiveness of our specialist support provision, we are dealing with students who simply have lost belief in themselves as being able to learn to read and spell.

They may approach all literacy tasks with reluctance. Having already tried repeatedly, and failed, to retain words for reading and spelling – in some cases for many years – the experience of failure is so negative that they may prefer to avoid even trying, preferring to simply avoid the stress as far as possible.

They may also be struggling with tiredness: dyslexic difficulties with processing information can lead to fatigue as well as frustration.

In these challenging circumstances it is our job to encourage, reassure and motivate these students.  We know that they will need to persevere with use of a multi-sensory literacy programme, over several months at least, to build up their skills. Their faith and trust in us – especially in how we make them feel – can be crucial and can make the difference between success and failure.

Helping Students Who are Afraid to Try

So, how do we encourage and motivate our students to persevere?

Firstly, of course, we need to gain their trust.  They’re going to be working with us on areas of learning they find difficult; they need to know we’re not going to make them feel worse about it! One of the most important qualities I look for, in tutors working with these learners, is their ability to establish a relaxed, friendly and welcoming atmosphere and to help students feel better.

Often, before we can help a student with dyslexic difficulties tackle the challenges of improving literacy, we’ll need to let them offload some of their stresses and negative experiences. This often applies even more when working with adults, who may have had a lifetime of underachievement, struggle with and concealment of their literacy difficulties.

In other words, helping students improve their reading and spelling involves making them feel better about themselves; happier, more confident and with restored self-belief.  This is one of the reasons that supporting students with an effective multi-sensory program is so rewarding – it can be life-changing.

Making Life Happier for Your Students

We may only be able to work with our students on intervention programmes once or twice a week, so we have to make sure they have a positive experience with us, from the start.

Here are some approaches which seem to help:

  1. Respect the individuality of every student
  • Sensitivity and responsiveness is key – be ready to adapt and change your approach, depending on your student’s needs and state of mind
  • Be aware of feelings underlying their behaviour – they may be embarrassed, anxious, stressed, or all three!
  • Acknowledge their problems; be ready to listen.
  1. Respect the intelligence, experience and knowledge of every student
  • Many students with dyslexic difficulties have high levels of cognitive ability 
  • They may already be experiencing the humiliation and frustration of being judged by their literacy levels
  • Some may have been streamed in low level classes based on their literacy levels, NOT on their IQ or other abilities and feel misunderstood in school
  • It’s important to let them know that YOU understand they are not “stupid”.
  1. Get to know them
  • Assume they will have many abilities and competencies outside of literacy – many will show their abilities and be highly talented e.g. in sports, in creative pursuits, in practical or vocational activities or careers
  • Ask questions about their interests
  • Listen to them – give them time.
  1. Let them get to know you
  • Be honest, open and ‘real’
  • Share some of your interests, anecdotes etc with them – but keep it brief: don’t exhaust them with too much talk!
  • Admit your own failings/weaknesses – evens things up a bit!
  1. Keep a light touch
  • Keep things relaxed and informal
  • Use open-ended questions e.g. “how was your day?”
  • Allow them to express negativity if that’s how they’re feeling – they may have had to bottle up feeling humiliated, embarrassed or frustrated, all day!
  • Use humour – especially good if you can laugh at yourself!
  • When they are confident enough with their work – step back and allow them some independence and privacy.
  1. Motivate and encourage
  • Praise frequently – look for things to praise such as improved accuracy/fluency in reading/noticing and correcting their own mistakes/good concentration, etc
  • Take the pressure off – some students hate to make mistakes: tell them it’s fine and it’s a great way to learn
  • Reassure them: it’s a learning process; they’re bound to make errors but the app will help them improve, gradually
  • Explain that they’ll learn more from correcting their own mistakes than by being told
  • Be alert to when they may feel tired or frustrated – let them take a break or have a quick chat
  • Be ready to step in when they need a little help.
  1. Make sure they feel safe with you
  • Support with you needs to feel comfortable, relaxed and enjoyable
  • Even if the rest of the world doesn’t seem to understand their difficulties, it’s great that you do!
  • Avoid teasing or any negative remarks – they have probably had enough of that in school…
  • They will look forward to working with you on a specialist multi-sensory programme: for once, this is reading & spelling they can do!
  • Your confidence in the effectiveness of the multi-sensory learning method will encourage them to keep going.

In short, be the person who ‘gets who they are’ and makes them feel good about themselves!

Ros Hynes

BA (Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS




Make Your Classroom a Happier Place for Children with Dyslexia

Are Children in Your Class Suffering Needlessly?

Today I want to talk about what we can do, as teachers, to improve the school experience for our students with reading and/or spelling difficulties.

I talked in a previous bog about the unhappiness and stress caused to many children with dyslexic difficulties by our school system. Today: some ideas for how we can try to reduce this stress.

Before I begin, it’s important to acknowledge that, however effective we may become in making learning environments more accessible for these children, many of them will still need specialist support to bring up their reading and spelling levels.

Specialist teachers and specialist intervention programmes can be hard to find – we know that many schools do not have access to a specialist teacher.

Do We Know Enough?

As a primary school teacher, I became aware that in every one of my classes, there were children struggling with literacy.  At the end of each year, I felt frustrated and guilty that I hadn’t found a way to help them as effectively as I wished to.

Later, teaching adults with learning difficulties and teenagers who hadn’t achieved their potential in school, I found the same problems arising. Gaining a specialist teaching qualification in dyslexia and working with multi-sensory, structured literacy programmes led to a fuller understanding of why these problems are so widespread.

I’ve discussed dyslexia; its causes and effects in previous blogs, but one of the most helpful things we can do, as educators, is to understand why children are struggling – so here’s a quick recap:

What is Dyslexia?

  1. A biological condition, thought to be based in structural differences in the brain, which can affect:
    • short term memory
    • visual and auditory information processing
    • phonological processing: especially in hearing the smallest sounds in words
    • speed of processing information
    • organisation and sequencing
  1. It is unrelated to cognitive ability/intelligence
  1. It is different in every individual: in both effects and severity
  1. It is often combined with other Specific Learning Difficulties, such as: ADHD, dyspraxia, dyscalculia
  1. As many as 20% of the population may be affected: e.g. potentially several pupils in every class
  1. It need not be a barrier to achievement, if appropriate support is given early enough

We might take particular notice of point 6, however: this seems to me to be one of the many interesting aspects of working with people with dyslexic difficulties. They may very often be highly intelligent, highly talented individuals, frustrated by our current education system because it doesn’t teach them in the way they can learn.

How Do I Spot Dyslexia In My Students?

We’re not talking about assessments or diagnoses here – simply being aware of the types of difficulties which could indicate dyslexic learning needs. We simply want teachers to be able to identify a child who may need this type of support and empower them to begin effective intervention as early as possible.

Do you teach some children who:

  • Forget instructions, belongings; information given verbally? 
  • Learn, then forget, words for reading and spelling?
  • Skip words or sentences when reading?
  • Struggle with copying from the board; write very slowly?
  • Struggle with sequencing, telling time, mastering days of the week and times tables?
  • May be labeled lazy, not bothered, inattentive?
  • Spell phonetically, reverse letter or number order, confuse b/d/p?
  • May feel frustration, low self-esteem, stress of failing at school; behaviour problems may ensue?
  • May have high ability in areas not reliant on literacy skills?

If students in your class show several of these issues, it could be dyslexia you’re dealing with – if so, standard teaching methods could be ineffective for them.

How Can I Be Sure It’s Dyslexia?

Without a diagnostic assessment, you can’t.  But, the great thing about using a multi-sensory, structured literacy intervention is that, whether or not a child is diagnosed with dyslexia, these methods will be effective.

“Dyslexia-Friendly = Learning-Friendly”

In short: programmes proved effective for dyslexia are quite simply effective, for most learners, period. In other words, if you teach in the way a child with dyslexia can learn, ALL your students will benefit.

So, How Can My Classroom Be More “Dyslexia-Friendly”?

As briefly as I can – because dyslexia is complex – here are some things to be aware of and to try:

  • Don’t wait for diagnosis: intervene with specialist support – as early as possible – if you suspect dyslexic difficulties
  • Adapt all your teaching activities to be as multi-sensory as possible: use eyes, ears, hands and voice to support each other and improve retention of information
  • “Taught is NOT Caught” – just because we’ve “covered” a learning aim, doesn’t mean they’ve learnt and retained it
  • Children with dyslexia need lots – and lots – of repetition, ‘over-learning’ and revision opportunities. Remember the ‘Square Rule’: if it takes 5 times to learn a new skill, it may take 25 times for a child with dyslexia
  • An effective remediation lesson for dyslexia needs to be 80% revision, with only 20% new learning – don’t go too fast: it won’t be retained!
  • Teach all your students to record their learning in different ways: mind-maps, story-boards, lists, videos – so they can all demonstrate knowledge and understanding, even if they can’t write well yet. Then allow them to choose their media
  • Use coloured background on interactive boards, computer screens and paper – this reduces visual stress
  • Use coloured, not black, pens on whiteboards; use alternating colours for each line of writing for tracking. Avoid red text though – this can be very difficult to see for some students!
  • Avoid asking the child to copy from the board: print it out on coloured paper instead – don’t squander their vulnerable short term memory and mental energy with non-essential tasks
  • Avoid enforced reading aloud: give the option for everyone to ‘pass’, so you’re not singling out the dyslexic child. Give them opportunities to present to the class but with plenty of practice time ahead
  • Find opportunities for them to excel; give plenty of praise and encouragement. These children may be working very hard indeed to try to keep up…perhaps using 10 times as much effort as their peers…
  • Understand that school, where there is so much emphasis on literacy skills, can be a very stressful and tiring experience for a child with dyslexia
  • Talk to the parents about ways you can all support the child – extra notes or reminders going both ways in the home/school diary, for example – remember they may struggle with organisation!
  • Many individuals will need multi-sensory, structured support with a specialist programme

A rather long blog – but I hope a useful one!

Next blog: Encouragement For Children with Reading and Spelling Difficulties – Taking the Pressure Off!


Ros Hynes

BA (Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS




How Happy is Your Child in School?

Is Your Child Stressed at School?

Today I’d like to talk a bit about the effect that reading and spelling difficulties can have on our children’s wellbeing and happiness.  It’s a sensitive area, but one which I’ve encountered over and over again.

I’ll quote some of our students – aged between 6 and 14 – and their parents, who have worked with us over the past 7 years.

  • “He wakes crying in the night” – age 7
  • “She’s losing confidence” – age 10
  • “I get shouted at for not listening” – age 12
  • “He’s getting a reputation for being disruptive” – age 8
  • “She’s getting bullied” – age 13
  • “Will I always be this stupid?” – age 6
  • “He bottles it all up in school then gets upset at home” – age 9
  • “It’s a battle every night to get homework done: it’s stressful for all of us” – age 14
  • “The teachers say he’s naughty but he’s a lovely boy with us” – age 8
  • “I wish I could come to the Centre every day – I can do the work here but I can’t do it at school” – age 7

It’s Not Working

In Blog 8 I wrote about the common situation in schools, where teaching and support staff haven’t been provided with enough training, or resources, to be able to give effective support to children with literacy difficulties.

An unfortunate result of this lack – of both knowledge and effective tuition – can be to leave the children feeling that they are ‘failing’.  As the children become increasingly aware of their difficulties, so their stress can increase.  Children as young as 6 may notice that, while their friends are learning words for reading and spelling, they can’t remember them.

Many children become discouraged; some will begin to avoid reading and writing because the sense of failure is so negative. All kinds of avoidance tactics may be employed, including acting up.

One adult student described how he’d do anything to avoid having to write when he was at school, because he just couldn’t express his knowledge in writing and it always looked dreadful.  He’d rather not try than fail, over and over again.

For some children, school days are spent struggling to take in and retain information and being put in a failing situation.  Because so much of the curriculum is accessed via reading, they know that almost every lesson, every day, will involve struggle and difficulty

Ineffective Support

Non-specialist, ineffective support, though well-meaning, can add to the sense of failure.  A child may think: “Even though Mrs Smith helps me every day, I still can’t remember. I must be really stupid”.

What Can We Do?

One answer is to provide effective, specialist help A multi-sensory, structured, specialist intervention programme will be of real help to these children.  Having access to really effective literacy support can make a huge difference, not only to reading and spelling but, crucially, to confidence.

Once a child realises that here is a way they CAN learn and remember, their belief in their own ability is often restored.  They will often then regain enthusiasm for school and feel ready to “have a go” at other challenges which they had been reluctant to attempt previously.

Schools may vary in how receptive they are to suggestions from you as parents, but many will want to provide Dyslexia Awareness training for their staff to improve understanding and effectiveness of support.


Time to Succeed

An important de-stressor for these children is, of course, to provide opportunities for them to excel.  It may be in sports, or art, or other activities that don’t involve high literacy levels – but whatever your child loves to do, make sure they get to do it.  They need huge amounts of praise and encouragement to help them cope with the pressures and stresses of school.

Time to Relax

Another thing to be aware of is that many children with dyslexic difficulties may get very tired. Their processing difficulties mean they may be working up to 10 times as hard as other children, in their efforts to keep up.

Out of school, they may need lots of rest and relaxation – be careful not to over-schedule their leisure time, or to put too much pressure on them with homework.

Learning more about dyslexic difficulties yourself may also be helpful. Once you understand more about why your child may be struggling, you’ll be better able to support and reassure them. My previous blogs may be helpful with this.


Ros Hynes

B.A.(Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS




Why Doesn’t My Child Get Effective Literacy Remediation in School?

Remediation for Reading and Spelling in Schools.

In today’s blog I want to talk about an issue I encounter, every day.  Many parents say their children are not getting effective literacy remediation in schools – this applies equally in primary, middle and high schools.

Here are some examples of situations families are coping with:

  • Scenario 1 – School doesn’t acknowledge that the child needs additional help or remediation, often saying that he/she is “coping”
  • Scenario 2 – School acknowledges a concern about the child’s progress but has no specialist support to offer
  • Scenario 3 – School acknowledges concern and promises to offer appropriate support but, in practice, this can be one or more of the following:
    • Ineffective
    • Not sustained
    • Delivered by non-specialists
    • Not appropriate to the child’s needs

Each of these scenarios, however, can have similar outcomes, such as:

  • the children become aware that they are falling behind their peers
  • the children become disheartened and lose confidence
  • the children begin to avoid reading and writing
  • the children become disengaged
  • the family is under stress

Why Do So Many Schools Struggle to Provide Effective Support for Literacy Difficulties?

The answer seems to be quite straightforward.  Inclusion of children with special needs in mainstream schools is widespread and expected, but teachers say that they do not receive enough specialist training, for special educational needs in general and for Specific Learning Difficulties, such as dyslexia. This applies to both initial teaching training and in-service training.

Teachers say that they do not know enough about dyslexia and therefore are unable to:

  • Identify children who may have dyslexia
  • Assess or screen for dyslexic difficulties
  • Identify appropriate intervention methods
  • Access resources
  • Provide effective remediation

Teachers have expressed their own frustration that they feel ill-equipped to provide satisfactory support for these children.  They feel at a disadvantage because parents assume school staff will have this expertise and assume that appropriate help can and will be provided.

Other Factors that Affect Provision of Effective Intervention

In addition to lack of staff expertise, there are other contributory factors:

  • Not all local education authorities recognise dyslexia (some prefer to use the term Specific Learning Difficulties).  This can contribute to difficulties in gaining funding for assessment and support.
  • The assessment and diagnostic process for Specific Learning Difficulties – including dyslexia – is unwieldy.  Children may wait many months – or more – for an Educational Psychologist assessment.
  • Funds for Special Educational Needs are limited and schools may be forced to prioritise.  This means that ‘more severe’ difficulties will be targeted for additional support, whilst many children with dyslexic difficulties may not.
  • Specialist teachers are in short supply and are expensive – therefore cannot support dyslexia in sufficient numbers.
  • Dyslexic difficulties are often under-diagnosed and therefore not targeted for remediation.

Why Multi-Sensory, Structured Intervention Programmes can Make a Difference

As we’ve seen in previous blogs, effective remediation for dyslexia needs to address short-term memory, visual and auditory processing difficulties.  This is done via multi-sensory, structured, sequenced learning programmes, which are responsive to individual needs for example in pace, level and visual preferences.

The principle behind multi-sensory programmes, put simply, is that: by accessing information via several sensory channels simultaneously, information has an increased opportunity to be absorbed and retained.

This means that we need to make sure that the information is seen, heard, touched/handled and vocalised, to provide this multi-sensory experience.

Within a structured, sequenced programme – and with a very high level of repetition and ‘overlearning’ – these methods have been shown to make lasting improvements and to boost confidence and self-belief.

Ros Hynes

B.A.(Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS






About Ros Hynes


Trained initially as an Early Years teacher, Ros taught children aged 4-11  in mainstream primary schools, before moving to Further Education to teach young people and adults with a wide range of disabilities and learning difficulties.  Developing an interest in dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties, Ros opened and ran a Dyslexia Tuition Centre for an education charity and gained a specialist dyslexia teaching qualification.

Literacy Support for Disadvantaged Adults and Children

We know that having a low reading and spelling level is a huge disadvantage.  It affects access to the curriculum in school and access to employment later on. It has a profound affect on self-confidence, well-being and achievement.

Ros works with children, teenagers and adults who have not had access to effective literacy support during their education: providing highly successful private tuition, using multi-sensory intervention techniques.  Multi-sensory, structured, specialist programmes make reading and spelling accessible for adults and children with dyslexic difficulties.  They can also work very well for those with other causes for their low literacy levels.

“We found your work fascinating – and your experience and confidence inspiring – I can’t imagine ever being as knowledgeable or informative! We were hugely impressed with the students – they were wonderful!” – Visitor to the Dyslexia Centre, March 2014.

Dyslexia Support in Schools and Workplaces

Currently based in North West UK, Ros provides Dyslexia Awareness training to teachers and employers. Schools generally are aware when they do not have the expertise or resources to support dyslexic difficulties effectively; they often have insufficient funding to acquire specialist support; employers will also be aware that many of their staff struggle with literacy.

Ros’ Dyslexia Awareness training sessions provide accessibly presented information on:

  • what dyslexia is
  • how it affects learning
  • why standard interventions may not be effective
  • how to support young people or adults with dyslexia in the classroom/workplace
  • how specialist intervention works.

“The training day was fantastic! Found myself again at work today responding to students in a different way because of what I heard yesterday.”Counsellor, Blackburn High School, Feb 2014

“Clearest information of Dyslexia received so far – thank you” – Headteacher, Preston Primary school, Feb 2014

“Excellent knowledge demonstrated by the presenter, delivered in a very accessible way” Dyslexia Co-ordinator, Leyland College, Feb 2014.

“Fantastic course. Going away with many ideas ”SENCo, Preston Primary school, June 2013.

Ros Hynes

BA (Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS





Literacy Intervention Programmes with Structured Learning.

Structured Learning Program.

In this blog, I’m going to talk a little about the structured, sequenced learning content in specialist literacy support programmes.

Spelling Rules

As we know, the English language is not only based on phonics but also on rules.  Spelling rules can be complex and difficult to learn, particularly if you have difficulties with short-term memory, visual and auditory processing.

Knowing spelling rules can be particularly helpful for students with vulnerable short-term memory. If they need to spell an unfamiliar word, a ‘bank’ of memorised rules to call on will give them a better chance of selecting the correct letter sequences.

Introduce, Demonstrate, Practise, Apply, Check

In an effective, multi-sensory programme for literacy, rules need to be introduced, demonstrated and the student given plenty of opportunities to practise using them, in different contexts.

It’s also good to have frequent checks to make sure a student is learning and progressing at each stage.

Structured Programme Example

Here’s an example of the structure which a dyslexia specialist teacher may use in intervention sessions:

  1. Introduce spelling rule, or letter pattern
  2. Demonstrate examples of the rule or pattern
  3. Practice and apply the rule/pattern, in different contexts, with lots of repetition opportunities.
  4. Revisit learning points to consolidate and revise.
  5. Check the learning so far, e.g. with a dictation lesson – words unseen.
  6. Introduce next rule/pattern
  7. Continue with sequence as in 2-4, above, with varying activities.
  8. Bring in examples of PREVIOUS rules/patterns learned to further consolidate learning, as you move forward.

Keep in Sequence

Students follow through lessons in sequence, ensuring that no rules or spelling patterns are missed out.  The sequence is important because the learning points are built, gradually, on to previous learning.

Learning Programme, not a Teaching Programme

The aim of such literacy/dyslexia intervention programmes is to allow the student to develop independent learning skills – noticing their own errors and able to correct them – without always having to ask for help.

Children may benefit from some support as they begin, of course, depending on their individual needs.  We find that our role at our Literacy Tuition Centre is very much that of facilitator – we encourage and listen, but allow the children time to spot their own mistakes and work out how to put it right. They learn much more effectively this way!


Next blog: Why do so many schools struggle to provide effective support for literacy difficulties?


Ros Hynes

B.A.(Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS




Repetition and Overlearning for Short-Term Memory Difficulties

Specialist Tuition for Spelling & Reading Difficulties.

We know that effective support for spelling and reading difficulties usually includes the following elements:

  1. Multi-sensory learning methods
  2. Structured content
  3. Sequenced learning
  4. Cumulative skill building
  5. ‘Overlearning’ opportunities – revision and consolidation of previously learnt material
  6. Flexibility to adapt to learner’s individual needs: e.g. pace of work; comfortable colours etc.

Today I’ll discuss point 5.


It is essential that students with reading/spelling difficulties are given enough opportunities to ‘overlearn’.  This means that they need not only a high level of repetition – e.g in learning new words for reading and spelling – but also to consolidate, apply and use the new learning in other contexts. 

If sufficient opportunity is given for this ‘overlearning’, information can then be transferred from the short-term memory, or ‘working’ memory, to the long-term memory.  Once this is achieved, the improvement in reading and spelling levels is then permanent.

Repetition – the ‘Square Rule’

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of overlearning and revision some students may need.  For dyslexic difficulties, it’s been estimated that individuals may need 5 times as much repetition to master new learning.

For example: if a non-dyslexic child might take, say, 5 repetitions to master a new word for spelling – then a dyslexic child may need 25 repetitions, before that word is secured in long-term memory.

We can understand, straight away, that providing this level of repetition poses a significant challenge for the busy class teacher with 30 children to support.  This is one of the reasons children with reading and spelling problems may often need withdrawal from class for one-on-one support.

The ’80/20 Rule’

Another important figure to remember is that, for most literacy remediation, it’s appropriate to ensure that 80% of each lesson is revision/overlearning.

This balance, of 80% revision with only 20% new learning introduced, has been found to be the most effective.  If we try to hasten improvement by moving at a faster pace, this is likely to be counter-productive and will only confuse the student and undermine confidence.

We are trying to build fluency in reading and spelling – and this will only happen when the student feels that they ‘can do’ the work.  In other words, the level of challenge needs to be just enough to stretch them a little, without undermining confidence with too much challenge at once.

Using 80% of specialist intervention session time for ‘overlearning’ will provide enough consolidation opportunities to allow learning to be transferred to long-term memory – and thus retained.


Ros Hynes

B.A.(Hons), PGCE (Early Years), AEP Cert (Dyslexia), BDA ATS