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"You're off to great places; today is your day. Your mountain is waiting; so get on your way.
Dr Zeuss
Reader Assist​

Students that struggle with reading may have difficulty decoding words or have difficulty comprehending what they have read, or both. 


Scientific research shows that a structured synthetic phonic program produces best results for those students who struggle to get words off the page, i.e. have difficulty decoding words. This can sometimes be attributed to the fact that the students have poor phonic knowledge, and this, in turn, may be as the result of a student not being taught the 'phonemic way' in the Early Years. Nevertheless, there are a small percentage of individual students with inherent processing difficulties that hinder their ability to learn to read, spell and write. Their difficulties persist despite good teaching and extra one-on-one assistance. Students with learning difficulties that are severe are oftentimes diagnosed with a Specific Learning Disability / Disorder in reading, spelling and / or writing. They may have one or more of the following processing difficulties impairing their ability to master foundation letter-sound relationships and other base reading, spelling and writing skills:

1. difficulty processing speech sounds (phonological),

2. difficulty processing written symbols (orthographic) and / or

3. difficulty processing information in the short-term memory (working memory).

Decoding the written word:

Students with reading difficulties more than often struggle to identify and match the individual sounds (phonemes) in the English Language to the letters or letter clusters (graphemes) that represent them on a page to read words. Blending the individual sounds together to form a word may be hard for such a student. They could also experience difficulty recognising the actual visual representation of the letters themselves. Reading follows a see to sound pathway. (To spell a word a student will need to identify in his / her memory single letters or letter clusters that represent the sounds making up a word to write that word. Spelling follows a sound to see pathway.) 


Some students struggle to achieve the decoding process described above at the correct speed. They are not yet reading whole words automatically and in a fluent fashion. This may be due to processing speed difficulties unique to an individual's cognitive profile. Students experiencing difficulty with reading fluency (accuracy, rate and prosody) may require intensive assistance in improving their fluency, as a speed processing difficulty is persistent and for some students extremely difficult to overcome. Our comprehension of what we read is very much reduced if we are struggling to decode and fluency is compromised. 


For students with a Specific Learning Disability but also for those who require only some improvement in their reading and / or spelling skills, explicit reading and spelling instruction that keeps its focus unerringly on addressing phonemic awareness, phonological awareness and phonic knowledge is crucial. An extensive body of research supports this approach. 'Evidence-based' produces the best results! Learner Assist promotes the use of scientifically proven teaching methods for teaching reading and spelling by using the structured synthetic phonic approach.

Links to investigate for further information


DEFINITIONS: (See also the separate page Rocket 'Phuel'.)

Phonemic Awareness:  The ability to recognise and manipulate the individual sounds in words (the phonemes). Dr Kilpatrick's phonemic awareness activities are used in lessons.

Phonological Awareness: The ability to tune in to or attend to the separate sounds that form spoken words.

Phonic Knowledge: Knowledge of the letter-sound relationships underpinning our alphabetic system. Students must match letter sounds (phonemes) to the letters or letter clusters (graphemes) representing them. This allows readers to identify words by matching sounds with corresponding letters or letter clusters, rather than memorising whole words. This process is known as decoding.

Morphemic Knowledge: A knowledge of morphemes (root words, affixes, parts of speech), morphemic processes and different forms and combinations of morphemes, eg the word 'unhappily' is formed from the root word 'happy', the adjective forming suffix -ly and the negative-forming prefix -un.

Blending: Combining separate sounds / sound chunks together to form a word, eg p-ea-ch = peach.

All of the above phonic concepts are incorporated into students' decoding and spelling lessons as is relevant to each student's age, measured ability and learning profile. The activities used to teach decoding and spelling are engaging and matched to each individual student's learning strengths and weaknesses, their particular interests and to their age. Multi-sensory activities are used to imprint phonic knowledge and the 'sounding' processes. At Learner Assist the systematic, direct teaching of the alphabetic sound system and decoding skills using sounding and blending strategies that incorporate the visual, auditory, kinaesthetic and tactile modalities is used. The teaching process involves teacher scaffolding, combined with intensive review and always with an eye on mastery.



Reading Monitoring strategies:

a. using punctuation cues,

b. re-reading the sentence if it doesn't sound right to detect reading errors and after correcting an error, re-reading the sentence for meaning,

c. correcting reading errors (with the use of word decoding strategies such as: the individual sounding of phonemes, syllabification, morphology).

The systematic, direct teaching of monitoring strategies is employed, accompanied by teacher scaffolding, review and with a gradual release of responsibility until the student is able to use the strategy / ies independently and consistently.

Reading fluency: 

Reading fluency is the ability to read unfamiliar texts accurately, at a normal rate and with expression. Fluent readers are able to decode words automatically and with ease. They pay attention to punctuation cues and are able to focus on comprehending what they read. Poor reading fluency often interferes with an understanding of the text.

A range of fun and engaging reading fluency activities that involve repeated, shared, aloud-reading approaches together with teacher scaffolding are employed to assist students to decode with greater automaticity and read fluently and for meaning. These activities may include: choral reading, echo reading, fluency cards, repeated and timed reading, reading theatre etc.


An adequate working vocabulary is essential for students to understand what they are reading. Comprehension is the purpose for reading. Good readers understand that a word can have a standard meaning and a true meaning developed over time and in a variety of contexts. To develop a really deep understanding of words a student must become a voracious reader, ie one that has an appetite for reading!


Attention is given to building vocabulary with the use of games and activities that teach new words directly, intensively and with review, until meanings are mastered and the words are used correctly in context. New words are defined and used in verbal or written sentences. Dictionaries or dictionary apps are used to look up word meanings. Dictionary games are played and context clues discussed whilst reading a text to determine word meanings. Synonyms, antonyms and parts of speech such as adjectives and adverbs, are all included in vocabulary language activities and taught explicitly until the student has achieved mastery in understanding and application.

Reading Comprehension (Oral Language Comprehension):

Comprehension is the goal of reading. With efficient decoding skills, the reader should also be gaining meaning from the text. Reading comprehension is relating what we know to the text. It begins with oral language competency. It is questioning, picturing, predicting, determining the main idea, summarizing and comparing and contrasting between texts. All of these reading actions, also referred to as strategies, are taught systematically and explicitly and with teacher scaffolding and intensive review until the reader uses them automatically.

The Reading / Language Comprehension Strategies taught at Learner Assist:

a. picturing what one has read,

b. asking questions about what one has read,

c. paraphrasing what one has read, especially sentences and short paragraphs, 

d. connecting what one has read to what one knows (personal life, books and world),

e. inferring (reading between the lines), and

f. evaluating and responding to what one has read (getting the main idea).

g. summarisation of what one has read in one's own words or taking notes; in writing for secondary school students. (understanding sequence)

Designer Wear:

At Learner Assist the tutor will assess which of the above components of reading require intervention and to what extent each component should form a part of a Reading Intervention Program designed for individual students. It stands to reason that with multiple causations for reading and spelling difficulties and the individual nature of each student's learning profile, that one size will not fit all.         

Learner Assist values the fun factor ! All phonic and reading activities are taught using engaging activities. 

​Speller Assist

Enjoyable, multi-sensory activities are designed to teach spelling words ... and in their phonic or morphemic families. For example: All the spellings for the /oy/ sound may be taught together ... In this case, the vowel digraphs oi and oy. Students will learn that both vowel digraphs represent the 'oy' sound but that they are used in the spelling of different words. Groups of similarly spelt words (similar end rimes, similar vowel digraphs, similar prefixes, roots or suffixes etc) are used to make up spelling lists to facilitate the mastery of spelling the words via patterns. A variety of multi-sensory, especially simultaneous visual, tracing and sounding activities, are used in spelling lessons to teach  the spelling of words. There is weekly review of taught phonic and phonemic concepts, spelling rules and previously taught spelling lists. Written spelling and dictation tests inform the tutor which words have been mastered by the student and which require review. Editing skills also receive attention in lessons.

Writer Assist


A variety of writing skills are remediated: grammar, punctuation and the construction of simple, compound and complex sentences.  Parts of speech are taught and their 'jobs' discussed when sentences are investigated or constructed. Short paragraphs and longer texts are constructed and editing skills practised. All aspects receive ongoing attention and a level of mastery is determined via the age and ability of each individual student. Whilst lessons are not ordinarily of a length to facilitate creating ​imaginative, informative, explanatory, recounted and persuasive texts of the length produced at school; planning, paragraph and sentence work, editing and the use of grammar constructs and writing techniques (tools) to produce writing of a more sophisticated quality of writing receives focus. Pie Corbett's 'Talk for Writing' program with its story maps, toolboxes, boxed structures and year level writing models are most often used in lessons. The William Van Cleave 'Writing Matters' resource is regularly used when syntax work is covered in lessons.

Number Assist

Learner Assist offers individual specialist assistance to students in the Primary Years with difficulties in numeracy. A variety of multisensory games and learning activities that use manipulatives and build understanding, fluency, problem solving and reasoning with regard to: number and place value, fractions and decimals, measurement, time, pattern and chance and money are taught in lessons, depending on the needs of individual students. Emphasis is placed on enhancing conceptual knowledge, fostering deep understanding (with application) and the mastery of facts. Learning tasks are broken down to their smallest components and there is review of simpler skills before moving on to more difficult skills. The multisensory approach is used that requires the use of hands-on manipulatives. The Singapore Maths resource is often employed. Rhonda Farkota's Maths' Mastery program, also. Marilyn Zecher's use of beads to group numbers is often utilized in lessons regarding multiplication. Cuisenaire rods are also frequently implemented and place value charts.

Language and Communication Assist (ASD students)


ASD students require a highly structured teaching approach with the use of visual aids to teach language concepts, thinking, organisation and self regulation. At Learner Assist the tutor uses communication pictures, pictorial procedural representations and visual, kinaesthetic, auditory and tactile methods to facilitate learning. Teaching sessions have predictable structures and explicit, direct instruction teaching methodologies are used. Visual schedules are implemented.

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