speldsa's blog

Supporting people with specific learning difficulties such as dyslexia since 1969

Spelling City – Jolly Grammar spelling lists

Posted by speldsa on February 4, 2015

Jan Polkinghorne has updated her Jolly Grammar spelling lists in Spelling City. The following information gives you easy access to the lists so that your students can practice their spelling at home and/or school.

Spelling City has recently changed the way you search for lists.  The easiest way to now get to Jolly Grammar lists is use the URL below.

Spelling City www.spellingcity is a great free way for students to work on their spelling words at home or at school.

Spelling lists for of Jolly Grammar 1- 5 been created. URLs below.







Just give students or parents the URL for their child’s Jolly Grammar level and provide them with the number of the list each week.  There are some advantages to parents to register at Spelling City.  It is free and takes very little time.

Spelling City does not stop at just teaching spelling.  Check out the free vocab and grammar games at http://www.vocabulary.co.il/ .

Posted in Jolly Phonics - tips and tricks | Leave a Comment »

Spelling City Jolly Grammar Wordlists

Posted by speldsa on January 16, 2013

Jan Polkinghorne has kindly created spelling lists for Schools using Jolly Grammar.
Spelling City lists are now available for Jolly Grammar 3. …

Go to www.spellingcity.com/Find-A-Spelling-List.html

Search by username for jollygrammar3 (lowercase and no spaces)
Jolly Grammar 1 lists search for jollygrammar  ( lowercase no spaces)
Jolly Grammar 2 lists search for 2jollygrammar ( lowercase no spaces)


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Ginger proofreading software

Posted by speldsa on November 26, 2012

Ginger is free software that will help you pick up spelling errors and grammatical mistakes in many applications including MS Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and more and it has text-to-speech features. You need to be connected to the internet for it to work. Definitely worth giving the product a try. Download from their website http://www.gingersoftware.com/grammar-and-spell-checker-2/?affId=1382&net=ho

An example of free Ginger in action.

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WordQ app

Posted by speldsa on September 9, 2012

For those who ask me if you can get Word Q 3 for the iPad, you will be excited to know that they released an in September.

The version you will need for UK English is the iwordq UK, it can be downloaded here https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/iwordq-uk/id561048461?mt=8. The current price is $24.99.

I have had a play and it is easy to use.  Unlike the PC and Mac versions you can only use it within the iWordQ’s word processor, but it is a great tool for the iPad and I believe it is going to be a very useful and popular app. There are some lovely new features to explore in the settings of the reading tab and the writing tab. It won’t replace the usefulness of the PC and Mac versions, but it will make iPads more useful for students having writing difficulties.

If you download the app, please leave a comment about how you or your students find it’s use in everyday iPad writing activities.

Posted in Assistive software | 1 Comment »


Posted by speldsa on September 3, 2012

Here is the start to a small collection of templates that help students plan their work.

6 box templates help students organise and collect data that can help them create good paragraphs. 6 box template provided in a docx file so that students can use it on a computer 6 box template in a PDF format that can be printed.

Simple mindmap template.  simple mindmap in a PDF format that can be printed.

Developing a paragraph. Developing a paragraph provided in a docx file so that students can use it on a computer.  Developing a paragraph in a PDF format that can be printed. Don’t forget to ask students to edit the Paragraph once it is written.

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Free Natural Reader Version 11

Posted by speldsa on August 28, 2012

For those who love Free Natural Reader, you will love this newer version. The floating tool bar now grabs the text that is highlighted in an email, on a web page, from any document and it highlights each word as it is spoken. Don’t forget to slow it down, all text to speech needs to be slowed so that it can be understood easily. Don’t forget all students in you class can benefit from text to speech technology so teach everyone. This program works well on both PC and Mac, there is a different version for each platform. http://www.naturalreaders.com/download.php

Enjoy, Sandy

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Free 7 Sticky Notes

Posted by speldsa on June 3, 2012

For those that find sticky notes are a great way to help students plan, stay on task, remember things and more, then the “7 Sticky Notes” may come in useful. The program can be installed on a computer desktop or a USB stick so that it can be mobile. With an alarm,  a choice of background colours, font colours, fonts,  highlighting and a Notes Manager http://www.7stickynotes.com/screenshots.php the program offers much more than the sticky notes that come with your computer. You can download the program for free from http://www.7stickynotes.com/download.php

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Speak Selection tool and Voice Over in the latest iOS5 operating system for iPhones, iPads and iPods

Posted by speldsa on November 2, 2011

For those using the latest iOS5 operating system for iPhones, iPads and iPods, try the Speak Selection tool in the accessibility area. The pathway is Settings/General/Accessibility/Speak Selection, once this feature is turned on it can speak text on applications that allow you to copy text, e.g. information on web pages. Make sure you slow the speed of the text to speech down, as it speaks very fast.

Once turned on, hold your finger on the text you want read, adjust the active copy box if necessary by dragging out the edges of the highlighted area, you will then have a choice of Copy or Speak, tap speak and hear the text.

Its been a hit with the students and people I have shown and is easier than the voice over for some students.

There are a few new accessibility features for those with different learning difficulties, have a play and see if they suit any of your students or family members.

There is also a voice over tool in that section, that some of my students find a little harder to use, but works over different kinds of text. This link gives instruction in how to use the voice over http://www.apple.com/voiceover/info/guide/_1128.html

Posted in Useful apps | Leave a Comment »

Technology in SPecial Education

Posted by speldsa on November 2, 2011

To all those that have purchased an iPad and don’t know where to start with aps, the Technology in (Sp) Education blog is a great starting point. The following link gives the top free or discounted aps that they have currently recommended for students with learning disabilities and disabilties.


The site has also divided aps into different goals and skills you wish your students to achieve. http://techinspecialed.com/2011/08/04/technology-in-education-apps-by-goal/

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Maths Apps for iOS devices

Posted by speldsa on August 8, 2011

Often asked for apps that are educationally useful for maths I am happy to thank Jill Ozols for alerting me to the following apps.

With the motto of Play, Explore and Understand MathTapper apps currently have 7 different mathematical apps that are currently free to download for your i-phone, i-pod and i-pads and four more on the way. To read more about these apps go to http://www.mathtappers.com/ Tim has told us that there are 3 more apps that will be available shortly, so keep watching their site!

Posted in Useful apps | 1 Comment »

abc PocketPhonics

Posted by speldsa on May 19, 2011

The abc PocketPhonic app is available in two versions through the i-tunes stores.

The light version is free and gives full access to activities, but only 6 of the letter sounds and 20 words.

The full version is currently available from the i-tunes store for $3.99 and it provides practice with letter sounds and the correct formation of those letters when writing. The app also introduces students to 170 words. We  like this app. abc PocketPhonics provides a fun way for students to learn something that can be very challenging for some students, especially those with specific learning difficulties.

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Things to know about syllables

Posted by speldsa on May 19, 2011

Things to know about syllables

Many teachers, tutors, parents and students are unaware or unsure of the rules of syllabication, but knowing those rules and some tips and tricks to help students identify the sounds within words is very important for students with specific learning difficulties. Below is a chart that was published in our SPELD SA SPRING 2010 newsletter that you may find useful.

Things to know about syllables Every syllable has at least one vowel 

  • When you say a word every time you drop your chin you are saying a syllable
  • Syllables are in types that follow rules
  • Syllables help you spell especially long words
  • Syllables help you read especially long words  
There are seven types of syllables, six that fit a pattern and an extra group that is differentType 1 the open syllable (o) 

  • me no o/pen cry/ing fi/nal
  • In these syllables the vowel is open at the end of the syllable and it often says its name.

Type 2 closed syllable (c)

  • in lost pest o/pen cry/ing
  • These syllables have a short vowel, spelled with a single vowel letter, and end in one or more consonants.

Type 3 the magic e syllable (vce) – vowel-consonant-e

  • Kate  ice  mine  scrape  re/bate  dis/place   bit/ing
  • This is the one where you drop the e to add ing eg, bite > biting
  • The vowel has been opened and is long and says its name.

Type 4 consonant+le syllables (c-le)

  • ble, cle, kle, fle, gle, ple, stle, tle and zle
  • ta/ble  pad/dle  stee/ple
  • The preceding vowel can be short or long. If it is short, the middle letter is doubled, eg, pad/dle, and you drop the ‘e’ to add ‘ing’ – pad/dling

Type 5 syllable

The diphthong (dippy) syllable when two vowels or a vowel and a consonant make one sound (dip)

Wait  snow Au/gust main/tain de/stroy/ing

Type 6 syllable the vowel-r syllable (rc)

This has combinations of ar er ir or ur

A vowel combined with r when the vowel always comes first.

Ho/garth  ford  bird  de/ter/mine

The type 7 syllable is the suffix syllable

These are usually final, unaccented syllables with odd spellings.

Eg,  tion,  sion,  cion,  ing,  ed,  ly, ive

The ‘sion’ syllable has two pronunciations.

The ‘s’ can be pronounced ‘ʒ’ (eg, confusion) or, if it follows l, n, r, s, it sounds like a ‘sh’ (mansion)

When ‘ss’ comes before ‘ion’, it sounds like ‘sh’ eg, per/miss/ion

Posted in Teaching Tips | Leave a Comment »

Wordweb English thesaurus and dictionary

Posted by speldsa on April 20, 2011

When students with learning difficulties start using text to speech programs they are often confronted with a lot of words they normally would have skipped over in their normal reading activities.

I usually encourage students to use their text to speech program to read and explore the meaning of any unknown words with a digital dictionary. Wordweb is a very good program that is available in a free version.

Wordweb a free Dictionary and Thesaurus

Features of the free version include:

  Definitions and synonyms
Related words
5000 audio pronunciations
65 000 text pronunciations
150 000 root words
120 000 synonym sets
Look up words in almost any program


Students who tend to use safe words in their writing can also highlight any repeated words and use the thesaurus feature to make their writing more interesting.

The program starts in your computer’s start up process which makes it available at any time, and can be used in almost any program.

Wordweb is available for download from the following link  http://wordweb.info/free/

Posted in Free assistive technologies | 1 Comment »

Making the most of your Jolly Phonics Budget

Posted by speldsa on December 16, 2010

Making the most of your Jolly Phonics Budget

A list of resources in our recommended order of importance/value/usefulness

 1. The Phonics Handbook 

Jolly Phonics can be taught with just one resource: The Phonics Handbook.

It includes everything you need to know and/or photocopy to get the program up and running.

If the budget will stretch to visuals for the classroom, next on our list is

2.  The Wall frieze of 42 sounds







3. SPELD SA Letter Sound Booklets

 These are photocopiable materials that provide practice with the formation and sounding of each grapho-phoneme and additional opportunities to trace and copy the correct formation of the graphemes.

4. Flash Cards – of letter sounds and words

We recommend you make your own flash cards, using the words in the Word Boxes on pp 137-148 of the handbook, enlarging them to a suitable size and laminating them. 

Lists of words can also be taken from the Jolly Phonics Word Book.

 5.  SPELD SA Phonic Books

The Jolly Phonics program recommends the teaching of letter sounds and blending techniques before students are asked to read books for themselves. This approach helps children understand that there is a code to reading and that most words can be worked out.

The SPELD SA Phonic Books contain short texts to consolidate the learning of the sounds following the order used in Jolly Phonics. There are 57 texts available free on the SPELD SA website at speld-sa.org.au. We recommend creating, or purchasing, hard copies of the readers to give students the experience of holding a book in their hands, and reading the words without help as they turn the pages.

Posted in Jolly Phonics - tips and tricks | 2 Comments »

Fx Toolbar

Posted by speldsa on November 2, 2010

The Fx Toolbar was created by the same software developer (FX Software) that has tools such as the Vu Bar (some of my clients are finding extremely useful), which are included in the Mystudybar ( previous post below).  There is a new website for this product http://www.fx-software.co.uk/assistive.htm Its worth looking at some of the other free assistive technology apps that are there e.g. you can download a standalone version of the Vu-Bar screen ruler that is included in the MyStudyBar Toolbar.

This tool was created to work in an add on tab in MS Word 2007 and is definelty worth a trial with your students. The Fx toolbar gives you options to highlight and collect parts of the text from one MS Word document into a new document, it will speak highlighted text, identify confusables(honomyns), change the case of the selected text and identify if your sentences are overly long. A must for anyone studying if they are using Word 2007. Give it a go and let us know if you like it. Please explicitly teach all students, not just those with learning difficulties how to use the toolbar.

Below is an example of the Fx Toolbar idenftifying confusables (in red) and long sentences (in blue) from a section of my daughter’s year 12 essay for art.

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Visual Search Engines

Posted by speldsa on October 5, 2010

Visual search engines can enable students, both learning disabled or not, to quickly  judge if a web site will have information that is useful for their project. A visual search engine allows one to get past misleading meta data, or meta tags that are used to describe the keywords and content of webpages for search engines.

A visual search engine also makes it easy for teachers who are trying to teach their students which websites are more likely to have the information they need.

The visual search engine content will be governed by the parent controls and filters you use in your home or school. For instance if your school blocks YouTube the students will not be able to see content from YouTube.

Below is a link to a visual search engine I regularly recommend in consultations.



SpaceTime3D a visual search engine

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Posted by speldsa on August 4, 2010

Both the Orato and Vu-Bar tools are available from http://www.fx-software.co.uk/assistive.htm

Orato: A straight forward text to speech application.  All text input is carried out through the clipboard.  Settings allow Orato to read either on demand or automatically when new text is added to the clipboard.  Other options will display the text if required, with highlighting of the word or sentence being spoken.  Orato can either be installed to the hard disk or copied onto a pen drive for portable use.

Vu-Bar Screen Ruler: A unique piece of software, provides an on-screen, slotted ruler. Useful with dyslexia, when the user skips lines or drops from one line to the next.  This version allows the user to select the bar width, 25%, 50%, 75% or 100% of screen width and set the slot height to the required font size. This version adds the option to lock the bar onto the mouse pointer for movement, as well as improved keyboard movement options.

X-Mind Map: A free mindmapping program that can be used to plan and organise your work, as a presentation tool, the limits are your imagination http://www.xmind.net/download/win/

Excerpt taken straight from the RSCs website where you can download this fantastic toolbar for free.


Please be aware there are different versions for XP uses and Vista/Windows 7 users

For specific advice as to which assistive technologies will suit your specific learning difficulties

please contact Sandy Russo at SPELD SA 8431 1655

“MyStudyBar is a tool which helps overcome problems that students commonly experience with studying, reading and writing. The tool consists of a set of portable open source and freeware applications, assembled into one convenient package. Easy to install, simple to use, handy and effective, MyStudyBar provides comprehensive learning support at the desktop, where it is needed. And if this is not already attractive enough, a further eye-catching feature of MyStudyBar is that it is completely FREE to download and free to use.

MyStudyBar has been produced by the same team at RSC Scotland North & East which created the award-winning AccessApps software suite. Although MyStudyBar is designed to support learners with literacy-related difficulties such as dyslexia, the toolbar can offer potential benefits to all learners.

Features of MyStudyBar

 MyStudyBar puts a whole range of individual and essential tools at your fingertips. Together, these have been designed to support the complete study cycle from research, planning and structuring to getting across a written or spoken message. MyStudyBar has 6 sections; each has a drop down menu offering personal choice, flexibility and independent learning, particularly for those learners who require additional strategies to support their learning. With over 15 apps to choose from, MyStudyBar is the perfect study aid.

The webpage provides step-by-step tutorials to get you started with the applications on MyStudyBar

Examples include: Xmind for planning and organization; T-Bar for customising font and colour backgrounds; Lingoes for when you need a talking dictionary; LetMeType for help with text input, and Balabolka for converting text to audio. And if all that’s not enough, there’s even a speech-to-text app which allows you to talk to your computer.

You can use MyStudyBar straight from a USB stick (if, for example, you are using a machine that is not your own) or you can install it directly to the desktop. (Technical staff in colleges or universities also have the choice of installing it on the network for everyone to use). “

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Posted by speldsa on August 4, 2010

Audacity is a sound recording/ mixing program that allows people to create sound files.  The created files are easily edited and can be used in many different applications on your computer, MP3 Player and online with Web 2 applications.  Audacity can be used for educational purposes and save you time in your classroom.

Many computers already have Audacity loaded their computer,  if not you can download it free for both Macintosh and PC computers by using the following link http://audacity.sourceforge.net/.

For training manuals on how to use Audacity can be sourced at the following link http://audacity.sourceforge.net/manual-1.2/

Watch the SPELD SA SPRING 2010 Newsletter for an article on how the program can be used for educational purposes and save you time in your classroom.

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Interactive Websites

Posted by speldsa on February 12, 2010

http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/interactive/literacy.html#3  Sites like this one have a great number of interactive games which can be used as class activitites if you have an IWB with web access, but don’t stop there.  They can be used as an additional activity when the class are doing group activities – have a small group on the IWB or use a laptop or computer in the back of the room.  They are also great for publishing via  a newsletter or a Jolly Phonics corner on the school website to enable students to play them at home for additional practise.   If you have found a great website post it here to share with others. Woodlands site is great because it has activities for all levels and abilities.  A brief comment next to the web address indicating level and focus is very helpful to those reading it.

Posted in Jolly Phonics - tips and tricks | 1 Comment »

Flash Cards

Posted by speldsa on February 12, 2010


Make your own flashcards. You choose the size, style, and words or letter sounds.  If you have a friendly printer nearby ask them for their card offcuts so you can paste the words onto card to make them more durable.  If you smile really sweetly at them they may even cut the board to size for you.  Don’t forget to cut off 1 corner ( usually top right) to make it quick and easy to get the words all up the right way/  Labelling them into sets with a code like S1 for set 1 also helps.  If you run a felt pen over the edge of 1 end of the card with a different colour for each set it also makes them very easy to sort. This is also a very easy way to get sets of words for card games as well if you print them in a smaller size.

Make your own flashcards

Click on the picture to see full view.

Posted in Useful educational tools - online | Leave a Comment »

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