Dyslexia and Memory


Dyslexia and Memory

Dyslexia – Can it be helped by learning memory strategies?

Teachers often tell me that their dyslexic students have memory
problems. In my research I have found that teaching children a variety of
memory strategies is useful because they will be able to try them out
individually or in combination and note for themselves the effect.

I train teachers in Special Education and as part of the training include in the Methods Course – The History of Memory Strategies.

What I have found is that people don’t know about the origins of the strategies, are not aware that many exist, and don’t know how to teach them effectively.

There are seven basic memory strategies that I have found useful for students with special needs including dyslexia. The strategies are as follows:

1. The Metacognitive Strategy – When learning a list of words for example, asking yourself and then noting down how you remembered the words.

2. The First Letter Strategy – Using the first letter of each word to try to
make a real or nonsense word.

Example of making a real word –  The names of the Great Lakes in the United States are:  Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior
The first letter of each of the lakes makes the word  HOMES

Example of making a nonsense word – The names of each of the colors of the rainbow follow:

red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet

The first letter of each of the colors makes the nonsense word  ROYGBIV

3. The Story Strategy – Write a real or nonsense story that incorporates all the words you want to remember.

Example of a nonsense story – The following is a nonsense story to remember this list of words (emu, dog, eel, tiger, cat, toad, owl, rat, snake).

Australian Farmer

The Australian farmer had seen an emu, owl, rat, toad and snake outside.  He had a dog, cat and eel in his house.   However, he had to visit a zoo to see a tiger.

Example of a real story  – The following is a short poem that includes all the months in a year:

Thirty days hath September
April, June and November,
All the rest have thirty-one
Excepting February alone

4. The Grouping Strategy – Grouping words together that belong to the same category.

Example of using the grouping strategy –

Make a list of all things that belong to the same family e.g. animals

dog, tiger, cat, horse, lion, zebra, wolf

Make a list from a larger list of all things in one group e.g.


palm railway snake
eye underground elephant
arm motorway tiger

5. The Imagery Strategy – Making a list of all things in a list by picturing them together or separately.

Example of using the imagery strategy –

Make a list of all things in one group, which are the same color by
picturing several animals all brown in the same picture e.g.

a brown horse, a brown wolf, a brown cat, a brown lion, a brown snake, a
brown dog, a brown cat

Or make a nonsense picture to help you remember e.g. a brown dog with a brown snake twisted around its neck looking like a scarf.

6. The Location Strategy – This is the ability to remember locations and assign faces to each.

Example of using the location strategy

Think of your school and conduct a mental walk from the principal’s office
to your classroom. Pay particular attention to the rooms you are passing
noting the details, noticing any imperfections, like desks not lined up:
anything that makes your mental images more vivid.   Make sure you can move easily from one room to another.

Along your route create a list of the most outstanding feature of each room.
These will be the images you remember as you go from one room to another until you reach your final destination, the principal’s office.

7. The Pegword Strategy – First learn a rhymed pegword list and then learn to associate each of these words with the members of the list to be learned.

Example of using the pegword strategy

This is a strategy to remember sequences of ten unrelated items in the
appropriate order.   You first have to remember ten key words, which follow:

one = bun  two = shoe  three = tree  four = door  five = hive  six = sticks
seven = heaven  eight = gate  nine =  wine  ten = hen

After learning these you have to memorize ten unrelated items:

battleship, pig, chair, sheep, castle, rug, grass, beach, milkmaid,

Take the first pegword  (bun rhyming with one) and form an image of a bun interacting in some way with a battleship; you might imagine a battleship sailing into an enormous floating bun.

Children all have to take tests and remember facts throughout their school years. Learning how to apply effective memory strategies can ease this burden.

These strategies will become the tools and techniques used to
understand and learn new material or skills.   It should also be emphasized to pupils and their teachers that these strategies have to be practiced and applied to the subject area being taught, in some cases repeatedly in order to achieve success.

Exercises to help with learning difficulties and concentration. Eye Tracking


Exercises to help with learning difficulties and concentration.
Eye Tracking

Materials: Hidden picture magazines and games like where’s Waldo? also, Highlights, magazine offers a lot of hidden picture activities.

Method: Have the child do the activities below.

Levels 1 to 2: Use the Highlight, magazines or where’s Waldo? Books.

Levels 3 to 5: Use normal reading material. Designate a letter (for example, R) and ask the child to look at the page of print and circle as many R’s as he can. Vary the letters he is to find. Time him and see how fast he can find the designated letter. You can vary this and ask him to find blends or circle all the words with “tion” in them or that end with “ing).

Letter Search

Materials: Normal reading material.

Method: Have the child do the following activity.

Levels 2 to 5: The child is to circle all words where a letter appears twice. This can be varied by finding words with three letters or words where there are no letters that appear more than once. For younger children, use large print books. The child is to scan to a left to right direction on each line of print. He is not to randomly search or use his finger as a marker to keep his place.

Words in Words

Materials: Reading material.

Method: Have the child do the following activity.

Levels 3 to 5: Have the child find as many words as he can that are hidden in other words. For example many = man; other = the.

One Foot Hop

Materials: None.

Method: Have the child do the following activities.

Level 1:

Have the child hop in place on one leg, hop four steps forward, four steps backward, hop to the left, hop to the right, hop in place and turn around.
Repeat with opposite foot.

Level 2:

Hop while grasping the ankle with the opposite hand behind the back.
Hop while grasping the leg in front of the body with both hands.
The child should try to do at least 10 hops across the room on each foot.

Coordination between left and right.
Stepping Stones:

Materials: Different coloured tile or carpet cut into 4 inch squares (have 20 squares – 10 of one colour and 10 of another colour).

Method: The child is to walk on the squares. He is to keep his body straight and have good posture.

Level 1: Put the squares in a straight line. The child is to walk on them and keep his balance.

Level 2:

Arrange the squares slightly off centre with one colour on the right of centre and the other on the left of centre. For example:


Have the child walk on the squares and call out the side that is stepping on the square. For example, each time he steps on the blue square, he calls out “right” and each time he steps on the red square, he calls out “left”.

Put the squares in various patterns that make up letters or numbers. Have the child walk on the patterns and tell you which letter or number it is.

Pattern Hopping

Materials: None.

Method: The child will do the following activities.

Level 1:

The child stands in front of you, arms at his side. Have him hop up and down. Make sure both is feet leave and touch the floor at the same time.
Have him hop across the room on one foot. Have him do it first with his right foot and then hop back on his left foot.

Level 2:

Clap a pattern and have him hop to the pattern. For example, one clap, pause and two quick claps would be one hop, pause and two quick hops. Have him do this first on both feet, then on one foot.
Do #1, but have the child facing away from you as so he cannot see you clapping.

Level 3: Have the child facing you. Clap a pattern. He is to alternate feet as he hops to the pattern. For example, clap, clap, pause, clap, and clap, clap would be right, left, pause, and right, left, right.

Level 4: Have the child facing away from you. Clap a pattern. He is to alternate feet and call out which foot he is hopping on as he hops to the pattern. For example, clap, pause, clap, clap, he would hop and call out “right”, pause, “left”, “right”.