How to Teach Alternative Spellings

As the school year progresses, students start to fly through the basic phonics code – until they come up against the alternative spellings and it hurts even your head! How do you teach and embed the alternative spellings so that students’ spelling becomes more accurate? Teacher Shirley Houston explains.

Read more »

Developing Automaticity in Reading

As you read this, you are not sounding out each word – you are automatically reading the words. This is automaticity; it frees up your working memory to comprehend what’s written and is our end goal for the children we teach to read. Teacher Shirley Houston explains how to systematically teach phonics to ensure every child achieves automaticity and becomes a skilled reader.

Read more »

Cognitive Load Theory and Reading Instruction


Cognitive Load Theory helps explain why the reading progress of some students is slower than expected. Once the theory ‘clicks’ for you, your teaching will change – for the better! Teacher Shirley Houston takes teachers through the theory and practical applications of Cognitive Load. A must-read for every teacher.

Read more »

Catching Up on Phonics After Lockdown


What a strange time to be teaching in! Somewhere across the planet there is a teacher taking stock of the effect of school closures on their student’s literacy. Many who would be ordinarily would be reaching benchmarks are sadly not. Shirley Houston shares her top five tips for catching up on phonics – quickly!

Read more »

How to Teach Tricky Words



Tricky words, like ‘the’ and ‘was’, often trip up teachers and students with their rare spelling choices. Shirley Houston explains tricky words, the steps to teach them systematically and explicitly, and offers ideas and free resources to put this into practice.


tricky words summary picture

Read more »

Oral Blending and Segmenting – Before Letters, There Were Sounds!


The best teachers of reading start by teaching oral blending and segmenting skills first: lessening the cognitive load on children and making the leap to reading and spelling with letters all the easier! 

Learning support teacher, Shirley Houston, explains oral blending and segmenting and gives you the step-by-step ‘how to’.  Plus, you’ll find heaps of free resources included! 


oral blending summary picture

Read more »

How to Teach Vowel Teams


Vowel teams are probably the most common source of reading and spelling errors as one vowel sound may be represented by as many as 6 different vowel teams. Teacher Shirley Houston breaks down the vowel teams and how to teach them!

vowel teams summary picture

Read more »

What is a Schwa and How to Teach It



The schwa can be a cause of confusion and frustration in spelling and reading for a student. Teacher Shirley Houston will give you a simple way to explain it and some tips for helping students to decode and encode words containing a schwa.


schwa summary picture

Read more »