Study Skills

Two kinds of applications are generally included in Study Skills. There are programs that you may use all your life, like Mindmaps, Planning as in the Free Resources page and planning and organisation as in the Apps page.

The other type are programs which you only use until you have learned that skill. Touch-typing is one such and here are some more.

Contributions by several NTC members.

1. Memory Support.
     Cogmed, Jungle Memory,
     Memory Booster, Mastering Memory, Lumosity.
2. Reading development after phonics.
     Oxford Owls, Literacy Toolbox, Fluency Tutor, Rapid Reading.
3. Languages.
     Clicker, Penfriend, StarFrench.
4. Revision.
     ActiVise, Quizlets, GCSEPod, Think-a-link.
5. Strategies before and during examinations.
     To Do Notes, Timely Reminders.

1. Memory support.

Note independent research says that skills improve on similar tasks, but do not transfer to other short-term memory tasks, and question the methodology of papers making claims.
Is working memory training effective? A meta-analytic review, and
Do computerised training programmes designed to improve working memory work?

Cogmed is a complete online system to help working memory suitable for all ages from pre-school to adult. This was originally developed in USA and there is a complete supporting network with training and chances to trying before signing up.

Jungle Memory.
Jungle memory is another American program accessible online and via subscription. It is designed to help students between the ages of 7 and 16 years.

Both the above systems can become rather expensive over time so it may be worth considering the purchase of a one off download program or CD version such as offered by Lucid Memory Booster.

Memory Booster.
Lucid Memory Booster is designed for children age 4 to 11 or older. It has a series of games based on an adventure offering plenty of repetition and a chance to build on skills at the user’s own speed and ability.

Mastering Memory

Mastering Memory

Mastering Memory.
CALSC have developed specialist software that has been available for many years. Timely Reminders is for revision and learning to build knowledge in steps prior to examinations. Mastering Memory is suitable for all ages and has memory games that are produced incrementally depending on the user’s ability. See a few items on the screen then remember what has flashed up , and an increasing number in a shorter time. The value is in identifying one’ strategies for remembering.

Lumosity is free if you only play three games a day. It adjusts to your strengths and weaknesses.

Planning, organisation and time management all depend on memory and it is important to discover where individual strengths and difficulties lie so that the right software is used when thinking of the strategies that might be helpful. Lucid Research has provided a useful explanation of the two main types of memory difficulties encountered by those with dyslexia and how they impact on study skills and daily living.

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2. Reading development after phonics.

Oxford Owls.
Oxford Owls has over 260 free e-books, for reading ages 3 to 11 years, for Windows and tablets. They are from several series: the Oxford Reading Trees; Project X; Project X Code; Biff, Chip & Kipper; Read, Write Inc; Read Write Phonics; Songbirds Phonics; Traditional Tales; Treetops.

Oxford Owls

Oxford Owls

The text is spoken by a human reader. The advantage is good expression and accurate pronunciation. The disadvantage is that there is no synchronised high-lighting, so the learner must be able to follow the words, perhaps with the cursor. The text is read from the beginning of the double page. If you ‘pause’, and ‘resume’, it carries on from where you paused. There are no options for colour or font style changes.

By default, the whole page being spoken is visible, so there is no scrolling down, unless you use the zooming. It is best to view the pages in full screen or bits disappear. Most of the books have related activities and comprehension questions. Some books, available for purchase, show only an extract of the text. A few, for older pupils, are audio books just for listening.

A useful way to make the e-books an active experience, is to ask the learner to listen and follow in the text as often as he likes; turn off the sound and read it to himself, until he feels he can read it perfectly to an adult or a buddy.

Electronic-ToolkitLiteracy Toolbox.
The Literacy Toolbox, developed by Eddie Carron, is an amazing free resource of hundreds of short texts (50 to 150 words graded in difficulty). The texts are nearly all non-fiction with a few traditional tales, for interactive reading (click on a word to hear it), comprehension and dictation practice, with audio support but no adult intervention. Then users should read a printout to an mentor. It is intended for use as Perceptual Learning after phonic tuition. There are suggestions for which of the 9 sections to use with target groups in years 2 to 6.

Fluency Tutor

Fluency Tutor

Fluency Tutor.
Text Help Fluency Tutor records and helps to track pupil progress from recordings. This works in a similar way to an online version of a running record or miscue analysis and is useful for encouraging readers to improve their reading speeds and accuracy by providing immediate audio feedback when reading from chosen texts on screen. For school use, perhaps with assignments for home use. See the video tour.

Rapid Reading.
Rapid Reading for Key Stage 2 learners, and Rapid Plus for Key Stage 3, offer the opportunity to read in a supported environment, digitally record their reading and have this analysed for accuracy in a very motivating way. Pupil progress is recorded.

There are interesting, age appropriate and attractive booklets. The pupil initially reads through the book, with the help of an adult. The computer version of the book looks the same as the printed version and the pupil can then practise reading it with the help of the included speech recognition software.

The software prompts and supports pupils as they read aloud; provides a simple glossary to identify unfamiliar and difficult words; includes interactive quizzes to check comprehension; records and rewards each child’s reading performance.

Other titles in the Rapid range address Phonics, Writing and Maths, all intended for school use rather than home use.

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3. Languages.

Penfriend XL.
Penfriend XL provides prediction and onscreen keyboards with appropriate characters for European languages.

Clicker MFL.
Clicker FrenchClicker has two sets of applications for teaching French and Spanish. They are intended for use in a primary classroom with a whiteboard, for class use by a non specialist linguist, as there are so few of them in primary schools. They can also offer good support for private reinforcement and revisiting lessons learned in secondary school. They are really well structured, with images appropriate for any age and the really useful part is the native speaker exemplars, with the opportunity for speaking into the computer and repeating phrases until they sound correct.

Clicker SpanishThey also include good text to speech voices in the relevant language.

They would be useful for silver surfers who want to learn or brush up on their French or Spanish, to keep up with their grandchildren or to use on holiday. Older users could use the application with headphones so they can work at their own pace and level. There would be a lot of mileage for dyslexic pupils to use it in this way, either with another pupil or T.A., or at home, to build up their skills and confidence.

The applications need Clicker to run them.

StarFrench, 3500 French sentences, written, spoken, practised and played with. Pupils hear how French is spoken, compare pronunciation with a native speaker, see how sentences are sequenced and improve their vocabulary. Topic by topic they learn to use the words that matter. StarFrench has five activities for each sentence: Listen and record your own voice; Re-order the words within a sentence; Order the letters of a word; Guess the word; Spell a word.

Other programs, such as Kurzweil 3000, Texthelp Read & Write, ClaroRead and Dragon Naturally Speaking, have facilities for writing, text to speech and speech recognition in other languages. Microsoft has “proofing packs” that add spell checkers etc., in other languages to Office.

The British Dyslexia Association has a comprehensive web page about Modern Foreign Languages in general, which includes a reference to the Dyslang project with other European countries.

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4. Revision.

B Active Brain Solutions ActiVise software, for creating revision quizzes, now has a choice of font, colour and size, and easier handling of images. They are also producing banks of topics that can be loaded and amended or added to as required. Contents can be heard with Read & Write Gold. It requires screens of 14 inches or bigger.



Quizlet is free for Windows and app for mobiles. There are many sample sets of questions and answers (or terms and definitions) and it is easy to create your own. There is integral text to speech for some aspects of the five activities and you can hear others with free TTS, e.g. Natural Reader.

Teachers can use with classes of pupils. (One teacher sends access by Twitter). In the learning and practice activities, you have to get items right in order to progress. In the games, you can try to beat your own score for speed with accuracy, or become champion of your group.

The expectation seems to be for teachers to make quizlets, but, as Activise suggests, students will remember more if they create the sets.

GCSEPod: Buy and download learning and revision podcasts with text and images. Hear human voice audio files on Android, Blackberry and Apple devices, or in computers. On-line and downloadable samples.

If you like mnemonics, have a look at Think-a-link lists of facts and ways of remembering them. The best mnemonics are those you think up yourself, perhaps with personal references. Think-a-link may give you ideas for your own, e.g.

Wow, that’s ‘one L’ of an acceleration you’ve got on that 1000cc motorbike!!

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5. Strategies before and during examinations.

  • Contact your advisor in plenty of time to check whether extra time is available for examinations. Use a computer based diary, electronic organiser or mobile phone to put in the appointment date with an alarm.
  • Check timetabling of examinations and location. Use the same technologies as above to make notes of these details. Set up a mind map or outline with To Do notes that can be ticked off.
  • Keep the key points in your pocket, or short voice notes on your recorder. Notes can also be held on a mobile phone. Use the program ‘Timely Reminders’.
  • Make a checklist of all the items required in the examinations such as spare pens, batteries for calculators and coloured overlays etc.
  • Check the computer being made available, if this is an option. Make sure the desktop settings are appropriately set-up to suit your needs, with background colour and font settings ready for when you begin writing.
  • Once in the examination room, check the table and chair are comfortable, make sure you have a timing device that you can see clearly and try to relax.
  • Having read the paper through, check times for each section, allowing sufficient time to check over work at the end. Some mobile phones and electronic organisers have stopwatches and timers but these may not be allowed in examinations, so a watch is preferable.
  • If you are stuck, think of the mind maps you have created, the colours you have used for highlighting and the pictures that went with certain topics. Mind maps may also help for generating ideas and planning in a hurry.
  • Finish well in time in order to proof-read, which may take longer without text to speech.
© B.D.A. New Technologies Committee. June 2015.
Copies of this page may be made providing it is unchanged and the source is acknowledged.

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