Visual Thinking 101_16 How not to teach word recognition

p49_dinasaurWord recognition is essential for fluent reading.  But with an emphasis on phonics ONLY, word recognition is left either left to chance or not being taught in school, as few educationalists have ever discovered how a child develops word recognition. Empowering Learning knows exactly how this transition takes place, by developing your Word \Form Area. One of the first words you can be expected to read or write is your name and the easy way to do that is through word recognition. See my video about scaffolding easy literacy.

There are at least 7 ways that are poor strategies for developing word recognition, that can be improved, by the work done by Empowering Learning with the aid of neuroscience:

  1. Being stressed –  when you are stressed it is very difficult to do anything and that includes reading and writing. Grounding, breathing and being relaxed will improve this.
  2. 3 positions for reading – try reading looking down at the desk, then with the book slightly tipped up then with the book right up in front of your eyes.  Which is the best position for you? Flat on the table is normally more difficult and if you have any visual stress with the letters moving around on the page, don’t look down it puts you into negative emotions or nasty self-talk.
  3. Expecting that decoding words through phonics will lead to word recognition. This works for some but others drop into mild or severe learning difficulties. It is a poor strategy as neuroscience tells us that word recognition and decoding words work in different parts of the brain and it relies on luck to make this migration. Read on and see how this can be improved.
  4. Techniques where you look at the word, cover it and then attempt to write it.  When students are looking down at a desk they are not in the best position for getting their brain to access their word form area that is part of their internal mental imagery.  When students look up they will have better access to mental imagery, vital for word recognition.  For example, think of a dog; looking up will give you the best picture, looking down will get you into your emotions (maybe frightened) and self-talk (thinking he will bite me). The series that works best is lookup, see an image, capture a word image and write it down (without looking down at the paper).
  5. Focusing on high-frequency words does not encourage word recognition, most don’t have mental images.  Start with object words until the student is confident of visualising words.
  6. Modelling in plasticine is a useful technique, especially for the very young, but is slow and repetitive for older children and it does not encourage the student to look up and see their own mental images
  7. Nonsense words focus on phonics and we certainly don’t want students creating mental images of nonsense words.

Join our The Secrets of Dyslexia and ADHD,  and find out how to do word recognition easily and effectively in minutes, whether or not you are Dyslexic.  This work is all based on how people who do word recognition successfully do it, it is just a skill to learn.

#dyslexia #wordrecognition #nonsensewords #highfrequencywords #lookcoverwrite #decoding #empoweringlearning

If you would like to improve creativity and abilities to visualise do come and join one of my free group coaching sessions to explore mental images.

For all available resources, look up When building on skills and encouraging creativity you will find their strengths increase and learning difficulties reduce.

Click above to book your place now at one of the free coaching sessions.

My name is Olive Hickmott, I am a health and learning coach, specialising in working with neurodivergent students. I would be pleased to support you in any way I can.
You are welcome to contact me
Here you will find my learning platform for some of my training programmes and free live webinars
You will find other useful information and Practitioner Training at
Here is my YouTube channel for more free resources:
My latest books are:
The Elephants in the Classroom: using every student’s natural power of Mental Imagery to enhance learning: Neurodiversity through the lens of mental Imagery.
Bridges to Success – How to transform Learning Difficulties

#olivehickmott #visualthinking #empoweringlearning #neurodivergent #mentalimagery #creativity #mindseye #highfrequencywords #Dyslexia #ADHD #nonsencewords #wordrecognition


About olivehickmott

I am a Forensic Learning coach, showing people how they can improve their own learning and change their health. Working with creative neurodivergent students is a joy, as they learn new skills to overcome many of their learning challenges.
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