Literacy Tuition

Specialist literacy tuition is:

1. Phonic.
2. Structured.
3. Cumulative.
4. Multisensory.
5. Withdrawal or Inclusion?.
6. The Alphabet.

For helpful information on ways in which this can be achieved, see Resources to Support Dyslexic Pupils.

1. Phonics.

Ofsted have produced guidelines for inspectors: Getting them ready early. This publication focuses on early reading, including systematic phonics, and inspection methodology. (Oct.2011)

2. Structured.

Those who learn easily learn by rote, by visual memory, by analogy, by experience. Dyslexic learners have to be taught all the rules and conventions and exceptions of English reading and spelling in an organised way. English is not as phonetically regular as many other languages.


English words have 43 phonemes (speech-sounds) which are expressed by 26 letters as graphemes, singly or in groups. Groups may be blends in which you can perceive the single sounds, e.g. [bl, cr, spl] or consonant digraphs, in which the sounds of single letters are changed, e.g. [th, sh, ph] or vowel digraphs e.g. [ea, ow, air].

There are several ways of reading some letter patterns, e.g. [ea] as in [meat, bread, steak] and several ways of writing some phonemes, e.g. the long /e/ sound in [be, see, real, these, piece, receive, people, elite, key].

The structure needs to start with the most frequently used ways of reading each grapheme and spelling each phoneme, and gradually add the dominant alternatives, the rules for doubling consonants and adding suffixes, and multi-syllabic words, the less frequent alternatives and the exceptions. Take nothing for granted. Check everything.

3. Cumulative.

Each step of progression must build up on what has previously been securely taught, e.g. "How do you spell the long /a/ sound in a word? That's right, [acorn a] or [cake a-e] with magic e. Today we have two more ways of spelling it: [rain ai] in the middle of a word and as [day ay] at the end of a word."

Reading and spelling work, e.g. dictation, needs to include earlier phonics for reinforcement, but never anything not yet taught.

This is why worksheets, games and computer program options must be selected very carefully to fit the chosen structure and progression. You can rarely mix and match from different schemes, because they progress in different orders.

An oft-repeated myth.

"When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." It sounds so good. If only it were true!

These say the first vowel name:

ai train, ea eat, ee tree, ei receive, ie lie, oa road, oe foe, ou though. ue due (depending on how you pronounce that). ui suit (depending on how you pronounce that).

These do not say the first vowel name:

ae: aeroplane, aesthetic air: chair (is not really long/a/+r) ao: chaos (it says its name, but the 'o' has a sound as well) au: caught ea: bread, great (only 3 words) ear: hear (is not really long /e/+r) ear: earth ei: eight eu: Europe ia: diary (it says its name, but the 'a' has a sound as well.) ie: chief io: violent (it says its name, but the 'o' has a sound as well.) oi: coin oo: moon, book ou: through, thought. ua: dual (it says its name, but the 'a' has a sound as well.) ue: blue is ‘oo’, duel (the 'e' has a sound as well) ui: fruit is ‘oo’

You would not count 'y' as a vowel for the purpose of this misleading rhyme: OK: ay, ey, Not OK: ey they, oy boy.

Nor 'w' in its function as a semi-vowel or vowel-modifier. Not OK: aw jaw, ew few, grew, ow blow, down.

4. Multisensory.

This is the hallmark of dyslexia tuition. "See it, say it, hear it, write it" involves visual, aural, oral and kinaesthetic senses. This is utilised in the well-known "Look, (Say/Hear), Cover, Write and Check" routine. In that, the learner should say the word being practised and the letter-names as well. Writing of words from recall (not copying) reinforces them for reading as well as for spelling.

5. Withdrawal or Inclusion.?

Dyslexic learners do not pick up these literacy skills. They have to be taught deliberately. This is best done in a one-to-one or very small group situation. In-class support is also necessary to enable learners to access the curriculum while these literacy skills are being mastered.

6. Learning the Alphabet.

Parents and teachers are often very keen to teach the alphabet. Being able to recite or arrange the letters of the alphabet is not as important as being able to use it, i.e. knowing the names and sounds of each letter.

Plastic, magnetic or wooden letters for wordmaking are the equivalent of counters for numeracy. They are used by most specialist teachers. At the stage of finding words in a dictionary, a chart or alphabet strip for reference is useful. A dictionary with a cut-out letter index is helpful.