What is Heuristics? How is it used in Problem-Solving Heuristics are simple problem-solving strategies that can be applied to Math questions. These are often tried-and-tested strategies that many Mathematicians before our time had invented to solve new Math problems that they encountered. As Singapore’s Math curriculum framework focuses on problem solving, it is then important for us to equip learners with relevant strategies to do so. 

These are some common heuristics used at Primary Level;

To give a representation

To go through a process

To make a calculated guess

Draw a diagram

Act it out

Guess and Check

Use equations

Work backwards

Make suppositions

Make a list


Look for patterns


Making supposition can be quite a challenging question if students are not able to understand estimates. Below is one way to guide learners;

Alan paid $184 for 48 pens and markers. A pen cost $3 and a marker cost $1 more than a pen. Find the number of pens he bought. 


Step 1

Always assume the OPPOSITE

Step 2

Find the BIG GAP (Difference between actual and reality)

Step 3

Find the SMALL GAP (Difference between prices of each item)

Step 4



Assume that all are markers

Total cost

By Rebecca Shalinah, Lecturer p>Clever cluttered


Support Your Child in Language Development

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
Ludwig Wittgenstein

When children have language weaknesses, they may find it challenging to understand what is spoken or written, and also have difficulty expressing their ideas and emotions in spoken and written words. This can cause misunderstandings as well as frustrations in their daily lives.

To support your child’s language development:

  • Build a thematic vocabulary. If you build your child’s topical or thematic vocabulary, he will find it easier to understand conversations around certain topics, and to talk contribute to conversations, too.

  • Use visuals. Use pictures, objects, gestures or actions, videos and concrete (real) experiences to make words “come alive” for your child, and it will help him to understand and remember new vocabulary. 

  • Talk together often. Research has shown that the conversational turns a child experience has a positive impact on his language processing ability. Make sure that your conversations with your child are socially and emotionally positive and engaging. 


To learn more about supporting your child’s language needs, join us at the ‘Supporting Learners with Language Needs” Workshop at the DAS Academy!


By Kong Yun Rui, Associate Lecturer

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assistive tech

Get to Know Your Child's Interests to Help Them Develop Social Skills

“The point of learning language and interacting socially, then, is…to make connections with other people …” - Gordon Wells

When children have social communication weaknesses, they face challenges in understanding what is expected of them in different social situations when it is not made known to them. They may also encounter difficulty following rules of conversations and adapting the way they speak to different people in different social contexts. 

To support your child’s social communication development:

  • Play games – indoor and outdoor. If your child knows how to play a variety of games, other children are more likely to hang out and play with him, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. 

  • Cultivate a variety of interests, but go deep with one or two hobbies. Children naturally want to spend time with others who have similar interests to them. If your child has a variety of interests, he may be more adaptable in conversation, but if he develops deep interest in a hobby or two, he can share his expertise with friends, too.

  • Teach social behaviours for different contexts.            

Not all children spontaneously observe and notice that there are unspoken “rules” of behaviours for different situations. Teaching children appropriate social behaviours for different situations prevents them making unnecessary social mistakes and sets them up to have successful social encounters.



To learn more about supporting your child’s social communication needs, join us at the ‘Supporting Learners with Social Communication Needs” Workshop at the DAS Academy!

By June Siew, Head of DAS Academy

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English Exam Skills


By Rebecca Shalinah, Associate Lecturer and Lead Educational Therapist

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The aim of the 55th Regional Learning Centre (RELC) Conference is to provide academics, classroom practitioners and education leaders with a forum for sharing current research and practice on the influence of new technologies and learning systems on language education, and to promote a dialogue on effective strategies and systemic approaches that will bring about sustainable learning outcomes in language education. Many delegates took part and presented in this conference, and 1 particularly inspired me. It was a workshop conducted by Will Laschet from National Geographic Learning, Singapore, on Developing a reading habit through authentic cross-curricular materials.


He started by making an interesting comparison between the importance of language learning and the authenticity that people expect from a news story, a wood-fired pizza, or a designer bag. He emphasised that language learning should be no different from those. Authentic reading texts motivate learners and instil genuine interest which paves the way for a lifelong, sustainable and enjoyable reading habit. Cross-curricular topics engage students with themes from the arts and the sciences, so they learn about the world as they are learning English. Reading skills and strategies should encourage critical thinking and other soft skills, which are necessary for success in both academia and the workplace.


In his workshop, he shared how English learners could be inspired to go beyond superficial glance at a passage in the textbook and explore fiction and non-fiction texts. One example that he shared is on the story on the ‘Monkey king’ which originated from China but it drew lasting global interest from several parts of the world; Australia, Japan, Singapore, New Zealand and Britain. This story has deep roots in Chinese culture and history. It has a compelling story that hooks the reader. He shared the text from National Geographic Learning and the intent of the text is to motivate learners to read and explore further. This also helps them to learn about cultures around the world and expand their general knowledge.



By Rebecca Shalinah

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Comprehension Skills

What Are Pre-Literacy Skills?

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Pre-literacy skills refer to children’s early behaviours and skills that are associated with later successful literacy development. There are prerequisites before a young child can learn to read and write. These include phonological awareness (awareness of sounds in spoken language), vocabulary, visual discrimination, and interest in books.

Here are 3 games you can play to support your child’s pre-literacy development:

  • Word Count! Say a short sentence (about 5-6 words) and say to your child, “How many words did you hear? Line up the same number of stones for me.” Gradually increase the number of words. This builds phonological awareness at word level.

  • Batty About Sounds! Play this game with your child blindfolded. Tell your child that you are going to say some words. Tell your child to listen for words which begin with a certain letter sound, such as /f/. Say, “Every time you hear a word that starts with /ffffff/, raise your hand.” Then say a list of 10 words which mostly begin with different letter sounds, but which include 3-4 words beginning with the same letter sound, eg. Fish, fan, fun. This builds phonological awareness at the sounds-in-words level.

  • Find My Twin! Find the picture that is the same as the picture in the first block. Activities like this build visual discrimination skills, important for letter, numeral and word recognition.



To find out how to help your child develop pre-literacy skills, join us at the ‘Supporting Your Child in Pre-Literacy Skills’ workshop at the DAS A?


By Siti Mariam, Lecturer

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Maths Heuristics

>Here are 3 games you can play with your child

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What will your child remember? Moments spent listening, talking, playing and sharing together may be the most important times of all. – Gloria Gaither


Oral language skills are the prime contributor to children’svocabulary development andthe foundation for acquiring literacy. Talking isthe result of a combination of a person’s inborn communication and thinking abilities, how sociable one’s personality is, as well as one’s environment.

Here are 3 games you can play to support your child’s oral language development:

  • Who or What Am I? Say to your child, “Listen to my clues. Then guess who / what I am:I’m white in colour. I look fluffy. You can find me in the sky. I can become anything you imagine. What am I?” This builds listening and thinking skills.

  • Mystery Bag… Put a variety of objects of different shapes, colours, sizes and textures into a Mystery Bag. Take turns with your child to take one object out of the bag and to name, then describe it by appearance and function. This builds noun, verb and adjectival vocabulary.

  • I SPY… Describe familiar objects for your child to identify that can be found at home. Then play this game in other settings, such as the park, on the bus or MRT train, and in the shopping mall. After that, at other times, get your child to “test” your powers of observation in the same setting. This gives your child opportunities to practice using the vocabulary he has already heard you use previously. 

Activities like these build listening comprehension, vocabulary and descriptive skills which are important building blocks for confident communication.

To find out how to help your child develop oral language skills, join us at the ‘Talk4Success’ Oral Language Workshop at the DAS Academy!

By Elizabeth Lim, Lecturer

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talk for success

By Kong Yun Rui, Lecturer

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Spelling words can take a long time for one with a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia which is a language learning difficulty. Not to mention the spelling mistakes that do run aplenty. 

There are now voice dictation tools that would make texting, writing and note-taking a breeze. These are some tools that you can consider using! 

Whether you are an iOS or Android user, click on the microphone button right next to the spacebar to start saying what you want to type out and it will appear right on the screen. You can also punctuate your sentences. For example, for “Hello!” to appear, you would say “Hello exclamation mark.”

When working on writing tasks, you could explore using the ‘Voice Typing’ function (Ctrl + Shift + S) on Google Docs or ‘Dictate’ (microphone on the Home tab) in Microsoft Office 365 or online. This function on Microsoft Word even allows you to bold text by the command of your voice. The web version even offers a transcribing function, turning your voice recordings into text. 

When taking notes, I found that the ‘Dictate’ function in OneNote transcribes what the lecturer said with a high level of accuracy. But do ensure that you are literally sitting under the lecturer’s voice or in a pretty close proximity to do that. 

With the increasing integration of technology into our daily lives, the playing field can be levelled better for learners with some form of learning difficulty or challenges. 

Sign up for the “Assistive Technology for SpLD Learners” workshop and learn how you could use assistive technology to make learning more effective for your child. 

By Siti Mariam, DAS Academy


Ways to Count by Age

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Learning to count, identify numbers, and compare and manipulate quantities are key early numeracy skills. These are powerful predictors of school-age mathematical learning and performance. Children begin to develop numeracy skills from a very young age. These numeracy skills include counting, cardinality, subitizing and one-to-one correspondence. Here's how these skills typically develop as children get older.



  • Uses language to compare the number of objects in 2 groups (eg. more, less, same) 

Photo credit

  • Uses 1-to-1 correspondence for small groups of objects 

photo credit


AGE 4 

  • Begins to visually or conceptualise subitise up to 5 objects (eg. seeing that 2 and 3 make 5)

    Credit: Learn to Play Preschool

  • Understands that the last number recited when counting a group of objects equals the total number 

    Credit: I See Maths



AGE 5 

  • Uses chunking for numbers 6-10, by first forming a group of 5.
  • Recites numbers to 40 with occasional errors most likely in the teens

    Credit: Toy Theatre



  • Identifies whether the number of objects in one group is greater than, less than or equal to another group of objects. Compares two written numbers.

    Credit: Twimg.com

  • Reads and writes numerals 0 - 20; Counts to 100 in ones and tens

    Credit: Sciencing.com 


It’s never too early to introduce children to concepts of numeracy; early childhood is a crucial time for brain development, so it’s important to think about how you can support young children to acquire numeracy skills. To find out more about the activities you can do to develop early numeracy skills in young children, do attend the workshop 'Building Your Child's Pre-requisite Skills for Learning Math' at the DAS Academy! 


By Siti Mariam, Lecturer


What are Phonetic-Semantic Compounds?

By Rebecca Shalinah, Lecturer

understanding phonics


By Siti Asjamiah Asmuri / Associate Lecturer and Senior Educational Therapist

Spelling is a challenge for learners with dyslexia.  Although many of them gradually learn to read fairly well, spelling difficulties tend to persist throughout life, requiring specialised instruction and understanding from those who teach or work with the learner.  

Although about 87% of English words are predictable and phonetically regular, they can be rather complex because one sound can be spelled using different letter combinations.  For example, the sound /j/ can be spelled as [j] in “jam”, [dge] in “bridge” or [g] in “gym”.  How can we make spelling more interesting than merely a pen-and-paper activity?

1. Finger trace / Air trace words


Have your child sit next to you (or on your lap if he/she is young).  Have his / her index and middle fingers extended, and eyes closed.  Take his/her hand and finger trace the word on the palm / arm or any part of his/her/your body (even your back!)

2. Finger-spelling

This technique is used to help the learner segment a phonetic word into its individual phonemes or sounds in order to spell.  Let your child use his / her non-writing hand to segment a word into its component sounds before writing down the letters.  Your child will sound as he segments the word.

3. Use Elkonin boxes / Lego blocks

This technique helps your child to distinguish and isolate individual sounds in each word.

4. I ‘SPY’ a wrongly spelled word!

Write a short sentence for your child. Tell him/her that there is one word spelled incorrectly. Ask him/her to see if he /she can find it. To begin, make it a rather obviously misspelled word. Leave a letter out, or add an extra letter to a word. Ask him/her to first read the sentence, circle the misspelled word and write the word with the correct spelling in brackets on top.  Let him/her earn a reward for identifying all the errors!

5. Play Teacher!

Let your child play teacher. Let him/her teach you the words he / she is learning to spell. Spell them orally and let him / her correct you. Then, have him/her dictate to you and you write them. Have him / her score your paper.  Make it a fun game for you and your child to play together!

To find out more, join us at the ‘Coping with Spelling’ workshop at the DAS Academy on 27th February 2021!




By Rebecca Shalinah, Associate Lecturer

Spelling can be a task that many students avoid as they find it challenging to cope with due to the several errors that they make.

One of the reasons why students make errors in their spelling is due to the fact that some letters may sound alike but the students have to make the right choice of letter to spell the word accurately. One such example is the /s/ sound. There are 2 ways to make the /s/ sound; letter ‘s’ and letter ‘c’. So when a child is asked to spell the word ‘city’ for instance, they may end up spelling it as ‘sity’ since both are pronounced exactly the same way. This is where students need to know the spelling rules in order to make the right choice of letters and spell independently not just by guessing or memorising but rather through logical reasoning. The soft ‘c’ rule applies for the above example.

Soft ‘c’ rule 

Letter ‘c’ makes the /s/ sound when it is followed by letters ‘e, i or y’. In order for students to remember this rule, ‘Elephant In Yellow’ is introduced to them!eiy

Using an image to represent a rule would allow students to better visualise it and retain it in their memory. There are many other spelling rules that can be taught to students explicitly which will help them to spell more confidently and accurately not just by guessing or memorizing but through logical reasoning. To find out more, join us at the ‘Coping with Spelling’ workshop conducted by DAS Academy.

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< summary>By Kong Yun Rui, Lecturer

Executive function is like the computer processor we have with its own sound card, graphic card, memory etc. Each brand of computer functions a little differently and when it is overworked, it hangs.

Similarly, there are also individual differences in our brain and when a task proves to be too overwhelming, we malfunction and show task avoidance behaviour or even experience meltdowns. By working within these limitations, it allows us to do what we are supposed to do without a glitch.  

The next time your child tries to “escape” homework or has a meltdown, consider breaking down the task based on the following factors. 

  1. Duration
    If your child has an attention span of only five minutes, break the task down into sections that can be completed within that time. Allocate a short movement break such as going to the toilet, getting a drink or a minute to do something else. Help your child increase the duration of focus by gradually increasing the time taken to complete the task. 

  1. Difficulty
    When something is perceived as being too difficult, there is some resistance to get started on it. Pick out the easier questions for them to start working on first and then the more challenging ones. End with questions that are of moderate difficulty to keep their confidence level up. This can be built into the duration for each task. 


  1. Quantity
    For children that takes a long amount of time to finish even a question, a break or reward can be given with the completion of each question to help foster a sense of achievement. You can also progress from doing each question being supervised by you to eventually requiring your child to finish questions independently. This helps them to gradually become independent learners. 


To learn more about executive function, you can sign up for the “Clever but Cluttered: Developing Your Child’s Executive Function” workshop. 

By Siti Mariam, Lecturer

Vocabulary Building Article

What is Executive Function?


Does the above sound familiar to you? Does the description resonate with you?  

Executive function consists of several mental skills that help the brain organize and act on information. These skills enable people to plan, organize, remember things, prioritize, pay attention and get started on tasks. However, when children have issues with EF, any task that requires planning, organization, memory, time management and flexible thinking becomes a challenge. If you have poor EF, people might mistake you for being disorganized, lazy, incompetent, sloppy, or just plain not very bright. 










TIP 1:

Sustaining Attention: 

Be mindful of your child's attention span. A normal attention span is 3 to 5 minutes per year of a child's age. Break bigger tasks into smaller ones. 

Adjust the level of difficulty of task progressively. Give a break after completion of each smaller task.


TIP 2: 

Improving Planning & Organisation Skills: 

Using different graphic organizers for different purposes Following a visual schedule 

Breaking down instructions into bite-sized information Improving Self-Monitoring Skills: 


TIP 3: Programming reminders to go off at certain times Using a homework time-sheet 

Breaking a long-term goal into short-term steps. 


For more details on how you can work on these tips, do attend the workshop 'Clever but Cluttered: Developing Executive Function Skills' at the DAS Academy. 

54th RELC International Conference and 5th Asia-Pacific LSP & PC Association Conference

RELCInternationalConference 02


By Kong Yun Rui, Lecturer


Poor memory recall is a key characteristic of the dyslexic brain. This means that they have more difficulty recalling things. As a result, they can sometimes wrongly assuming that they have gotten it right. Common examples are them showing confusion with similar-looking characters or between characters with similar strokes.


Classifying characters that they have learnt by semantic radicals with each unit taught can help them to organise the information better in their heads. By including vocabulary words with the characters, especially from the texts learnt, can facilitate recall later on as well.








Repeated exposure or reviews provide opportunities for learners to practice recall and strengthen the neural connections in the brain. An automatic or quick recall is a result of consistent reviews so that the information is kept fresh in the memory. Flashcards grouped according to semantic radicals are useful to help them review what they have learnt. Apart from recognising the character, you can also get the learner to provide a vocabulary word so as to ensure lesser confusion between similar-looking characters. 
 Sign up for the workshop “Chinese Support for Struggling Learners” to learn strategies to guide learners to read and write in Chinese better!



By Kong Yun Rui, Lecturer


One of the underlying skills for reading comprehension is sight recognition of familiar words. Being able to be increasingly automatic in recognition of words will help a child to become a skilled reader by reducing the effort needed to decode. Automaticity in word recognition has to do with speed and accuracy and is a key part of reading fluency, which is one of the five pillars of effective reading instruction.


If your child struggles with recognising sight words, you can start by teaching the sight words and carry out speed drills. In a speed drill, give your child one minute to see how many words in the list he/she can read accurately. Create the list with up to ten different words (you can refer to the Dolch Sight Word List or Fry Sight Word List) and repeat them at different intervals. Based on the ability of the child, you can have a list of fifty or a hundred words. Challenge your child to beat his/her own timing with each try. You can also pit yourself against your kids or siblings with one another for a fun challenge.


Sample Speed Drill List 



























Sign up for the workshop “Educator Series: Developing Reading Comprehension Skills” to gain insights and strategies to help your learners understand what they read!


The dyslexia-friendly index for Parents

Take this quiz to find out how dyslexia-friendly your home is:

1 I talk to my child about dyslexia and about people who have dyslexia.    
2 I have attended at least one dyslexia talk/course for parents.    
3 I practice reading with my child at home.    
4 I help my child find ways to work around his or her weakness caused by dyslexia.    
5 As far as possible, I supplement verbal and written information with pictures, diagrams or manipulatives.    
6 I break down the school's weekly spelling list into bite-sized components, with revision spread across the week, instead of expecting the child to master the entire list in one day.    
7 I break down words in the weekly spelling list into chunks and point out unique features in the words.    
8 I help to ensure that worksheets (especially reading comprehension tasks) are printed only on one side.    
9 I provide clear and direct instructions in a bite-sized manner.    
10 I have routines to help my child get his work done.    
11 I inform and communicate with my child’s teachers about his or her learning needs.    
12 While I am sensitive to my child's weaknesses, I am also keenly aware of his or her strengths and I provide support to develop those strengths    

 Total up your scores and check how dyslexia-friendly your home is!

'Yes' Responses -General indication 
9 - 12 [Your child is well supported to maximise their potential]
5 - 8 [Your child is generally supported but will benefit from more support]
0 - 4 [Your child may find it challenging to cope with an SEN. eg. Dyslexia]
7 Steps to Problem-Solving

The moment students hear ‘problem-solving’ or ‘word problems’, they often relate it to finding the numbers and performing the operations. Although nothing is wrong with that, it is important that learners see beyond ‘performing number operations’ and motivate and guide them to understand the problem and solve it. POLYA framework identifies four basic principles of problem-solving; Understand the problem, Devise a plan, Carry out the plan and check the answer.  These principles are essential in guiding the learners to have an in-depth understanding of the problems. Below are few strategies to help learners develop the first and most important principle; to understand the problem


1) Get learners to read the entire problem. Teachers/Parents to read together with the learner 

2) Ask the following questions in this order;

- Who are the subjects (people/objects) in this problem?

- What does the question want me to find?

3) Use a problem-solving grid to organize information

A screenshot of a cell phone

Description automatically generated

4) Read the problem again, 1 sentence at a time and help them to systematically act it out. 

5) Discuss the meaning of each statement 

6) Annotate – Highlight/underline/use symbols to sieve out important information from the problem

7) Teach students how to construct bar models after they have acted out the problem


With step by step guided practice, students will now be able to understand the question before they straight jump into solving them. To learn more essential strategies to support lower primary learners in maths, join us at the upcoming workshop on Problem-solving for Lower Primary Learners conducted by DAS Academy. 

Take a short and simple quiz to learn about how dyslexia-friendly your school is!
For Educators, use the checklist below or click here for the interactive form.

The dyslexia-friendly index for Educators

Take this quiz to find out how dyslexia-friendly your practices are for students with Special Educational Needs.

Overall School Environment  
1 The stall vendors use clear fonts and pictures in their food menu.    
2 There are clear signages for the main venues in my school. e.g. general office, canteen, toilets, school hall.    
3 My school organises regular SEN awareness training for the staff.    
4 There is a special needs department in my school.    
5 There are planned sessions in the yearly school calendar to discuss SEN matters.    
6 My school is supportive of access arrangements during examinations.    
7 My school is supportive of day-to-day accommodations whenever the need arises e.g. availability of disco seat, high tables for students who focus better while standing    
8 The learning support personnel and his/her role in the school is made known to all new teaching staff during the staff induction day    
9 Heavy subject periods are placed in the morning, whenever possible    
Classroom Environment  
10 As far as possible, I supplement verbal instructions and explanations with pictures, diagrams and/or manipulatives.    
11 I ensure variety (visual, verbal, kinaesthetic) and levels (Bloom’s Taxonomy) in my learning objectives.    
12 I use figurative language selectively and follow up with an explicit explanation.    
13 I simplify instructions and avoid unnecessary information overload.    
14 I make it a point to check for understanding after giving instructions.    
15 I leave important information on the board long enough for students.    
16 I make a point to ensure worksheets/ slides are not cluttered.    
17 I print comprehension text and questions such that students do not need to flip over to refer.    
18 I highlight challenging key curriculum words, break them into parts/ syllables and provide strategies to remember them.    
19 I practice having a group read aloud to the class, instead of having a single student read.    
20 I take steps to make spelling tests more friendly for students    
21 I offer students personal choice in the demonstration of their knowledge, through a variety of questions, a variety of platforms etc.    
22 I have the learning support personnel present in periods which require support    
23 I highlight students who might have SEN to the learning support personnel in a timely manner    
24 I work together with the learning support personnel to support students with SEN in my class    
25 I allow time for movement between activities.    
26 I use specific colours for specific information on the board.    
27 I use a font of at least size 12 and ensure that it does not have extending features called “serifs” at the end of strokes e.g. Calibri instead of Times New Roman.    

Total up your scores and check how SEN-friendly your practices are!

'Yes' Responses - General Indication
19 - 27 [Learners with SEN in your school are well supported to maximise their potential.]
10 - 18 [Learners with SEN in your school are generally supported but will benefit from more support.]
0 - 9 [Learners with SEN in your school may find school life challenging.]
What is Reading comprehension?

Reading comprehension is the understanding of what a particular text means and the ideas the author is attempting to convey, both textual and subtextual. In order to read any text, your brain must process not only the literal words of the piece, but also their relationship with one another, the context behind the words, how subtle language and vocabulary usage can impact emotion and meaning behind the text, and how the text comes together as a larger, coherent whole. There are several skills that a learner must possess in order to comprehend what they are reading. One important skill is making inferences. This requires the learner to make links between their prior knowledge and clues from the text. One way to develop this skill is to start using images;



1) Give this picture to the learner.

2) Ask them to read the following statements;

  • Jill is in a bad mood

  • Jack like to cook and has his best spoon with him

  • Wanda is looking for her homework

  • Tess needs to get to the bathroom very soon

  • Bill likes food too much

  • Sam is on his way to the swimming pool. He has hurt his foot.

  • Molly has her boots on because she is going fishing in the brook

  • Ben is a carpenter and has all his tools with him

  • Ann thinks she looks good

  • Tom’s mum took him to the fair and he has a big balloon

  • Jim is on his way to school.

  • May has a pain in her tooth and must go to the dentist. 

  • Harry has been for a run and needs a cool drink

  • John is always reading a book. He had better look out or he may fall over

  • The man in the moon is called Nick. 

3) Use the information provided in the statements to find out the names of the people shown in the picture above. 

4) Get the learner to verbalise the reason for their choice. For example, if they feel that the person on the left is Jill, ask them why they would think so and what clues and prior knowledge did they use to derive at that decision. 

Once students have a better understanding of making inferences from pictures, you can then move on to making inferences at the sentence level, paragraph level and lastly to text level. 

To get your hands on more strategies, do join us at our Developing Comprehension Skills workshop at DAS ACADEMY. 

By Sylvia Foo

It is often said that you can tell which era a person grew up in from the music he/she listened to or the shows and movies he watched. I remember telling my student about my favourite television series, Little House on the Prairie when I was in secondary school.

My student wrinkled up her nose in disgust that I actually enjoyed watching the adventures of three sisters growing up on a farm in the American Midwest in the 1870s and 1880s. Some of her comments included, “Where got fun running around on a farm and countryside?”, “You mean they had to make their own games? No computer, right?” and the mother of all comments, “Wah, if I have to play like that, I will go mad. Better study instead.” My student’s comments about the nature of play a long, long time ago are perhaps typical of the modern era where digital games play a prominent role in the play or leisure diet of our children and students. Even adults in public transport are hooked on their small screens, pressing furiously away to get higher scores on the latest Candy Crush or Minecraft instalment.

Don’t get me wrong. There are benefits of playing online and mobile games. Digital games have the power to stimulate curiosity, imagination and encourage the use of logic to solve problems through puzzles and riddles. But like any other diet, it is good to vary our children’s menu of games so they get a balanced intellectual, physical and social development. A diet of predominantly fast food is not healthy even if that fast food has less salt and sugar or is fried in olive oil.

Adding traditional games to your child’s diet of play is one way to increase the variety and promote the development of important skills. I consider traditional games to be those that do not involve computers or high-tech gadgets. They can be simple and inexpensive such as Hopscotch, Five Stones, Pick-Up Sticks and Cat’s Cradle (The Patterned String Game). Traditional games can include board or word games such as Monopoly, Chess, Scrabble, and Cluedo as well as card games like Happy Families, Old Maid and Snap. There are today newer versions of traditional games in toy stores such as Uno, Rush Hour, Jenga, Twister, Pictionary and Hedbanz.


Firstly, some traditional games require physical movement, unlike digital games which are primarily sedentary in nature. A common concern of parents is that children are not getting enough physical activity because they already spend a lot of their time at the table doing homework and studying for tests and examinations. Moreover, some dyslexic children may have problems with their physical dexterity and coordination or they may have ADHD.

Traditional games that require physical movement provide increased opportunities for dyslexic children to jump or stretch and even improve their hand-eye coordination. They also give the ADHD child a chance to train his focus and decisionmaking while having fun. A game like Pick-Up sticks requires an ADHD child to learn to concentrate and control his impulsivity as he decides which is the better stick to pick up. This is unlike playing a digital game which can overstimulate his senses.

Secondly, traditional games can stimulate your child’s brain through logical thinking and strategy the same way that digital games can, but without him being exposed to scenarios that are excessively violent. Games like Rush Hour can help your child to visualize how he can move the red car forward in as few moves as possible. Monopoly teaches your child to be careful with how he spends his money and to make good decisions. Cluedo helps your child to look for clues to make deductions. Looking at context clues is an important part of inference, a higher-level reading comprehension skill.

Finally, traditional games can help your child to improve his communication and social interaction skills. Digital games often require the player to interact only with the game itself. There is little need to connect with others. Playing traditional games requires children to spend time with their parents, siblings or friends without a virtual medium. They develop the intangibles such as learning to ask questions politely, taking turns, following the rules of the games, showing empathy to players who lose and control their temper when they themselves lose. Most of all, happy memories are created as children with a bond with their parents, siblings, and friends over traditional games. Satisfaction is gained from being together in the spirit of fun and during the lively banter. There is no need to keep increasing one’s score on a game to have a sense of enjoyment or achievement.

There is room for both digital and traditional games in our children’s play diet. How is the balance to be achieved? A good way to look at it is to first consider how much family time we have given the nature of life in a fast-moving and stressful society. It then becomes important to ditch the small and big screens regularly and return to playing traditional games with our children during family time. This will make the limited time we have with them more emotionally fulfilling as relationships are built and strengthened.

References: Michael G. Rayel, MD. Parenting 101: How Can Traditional Games Benefit Your Child?
Simple as That Blog - The Benefits of Simple Play Traditional Children's Games
Read it in FACETS: Let Your Child Play

By Siti Asjamiah Asmuri / Associate Lecturer and Senior Educational Therapist


Other than language skills, students with dyslexia also struggle to manage their time in English Exams and often lose marks unnecessarily due to ‘careless mistakes.’  Below are some tips on how you can better prepare and support your child in these areas:

1. Develop awareness of the structure of the paper in terms of the different components, sections, questions and time duration. Look through the paper together with your child and identify them.  For example:

a. the difference between Booklet A (MCQ) and Booklet B (Open-ended / semi-structured questions)

b. the different sections – Grammar, Editing, Cloze Passage, Synthesis & Transformation, Comprehension, how many questions and marks allocated for each, as well as the question types.

2. Have a good sense of how much time is given and determine the duration to be spent on each section and question.  Work with your child and conduct simulation exercises, beginning at question level and then gradually moving on to section and eventually, the whole paper. 

3. Conduct an error analysis exercise together with your child to identify the top three most common errors.  Focus on these three errors and formulate a strategy to help your child remember to check on them during the exams.  The errors need to be highly specific (e.g. full stops or subject-verb agreement) rather than generic terms like “grammatical errors” or “careless mistakes” because that can include too many kinds of mistakes that your child may not be able to remember. 

3. Teach your child to use extra time granted as part of access arrangements. If you are unsure of the extra time given, do check with the relevant school authority.  Generally, the extra time of 25% of the whole paper duration is provided. i.e. 15 mins extra for a one-hour paper.  Below are some recommendations:

a. Change pens to shift the mindset from test taker to test checker 

b. Focus on Top 3 Hits (5 mins) 

    Example:    C – Capitalisation (Did I begin my answer with a capital letter?)

  O – Organisation (Did I copy or write words/numbers correctly?)

   P – Punctuation (Did I put a full stop at the end of my sentence?  

c. Return to questions that have not been answered (10 mins)


Find out more about the demands of the PSLE English Paper 2 and how you can better support your child or students by joining us at the ‘Supporting your Child in English Examination Skills’ workshop at the DAS Academy on 20th February 2021.

By Associate Lecturer Siti Mariam

.....with Reading Comprehension?

Students, both with learning difficulties and without, who have yet to develop automaticity and fluency in reading are likely to struggle with reading comprehension. This is especially so for students with dyslexia. These studentshave difficulty focusing on the meaning of a text when most or all their mental energies are directed at sounding out the words in the text. Besides that, students with learning difficulties may struggle to hold the information that they have just read, long enough in their memory in order to act on it.

One way to help these students remember what they have just read is by getting them to create mental images in their mind as the text is read. This helps to clarify the text in order to aid understanding as well as promote active engagement with the text. Visualization is in fact, one of the strategies shared in the DAS Academy’s ‘Developing Comprehension Skills’ workshop, and is a technique that has been found to improve reading comprehension. Keen to find out more? Sign up for the ‘Developing Comprehension Skills’ workshop to explore other strategies to help your child/student with their reading comprehension.

.....with the Basic Operations in Mathematics?

math operation
Not understanding the concept of regrouping? Forgetting to add the ‘0’ when doing long multiplication? Long division a nightmare? Do all these scenarios sound familiar to you? How can you help your child/student comprehend why regrouping is necessary? How can you ease the long multiplication process for your child/student? How can you help them remember the steps to the long division? The ‘Supporting Your Child in Mathematics’ workshop by the DAS Academy will give you an insight on why students with learning difficulties struggle to understand certain mathematical concepts as well as equip you with alternative strategies to help students with the four basic operations.
.....with Spelling?

Spelling can be difficult for some, but it is particularly a challenge for students with learning differences, especially those with dyslexia. In spite of being capable in other areas, and having the same amount, if not more, of classroom instruction as their peers, students with dyslexia still have trouble remembering the letters in words due to their inability to analyse and remember individual sounds that represent them. Not only that, considering that words can sound alike but spelt differently, these students also have difficulty picking the right letters to spell such words. Through the ‘Understanding Phonics Instruction’ workshop and the ‘Coping with Spelling’ workshop, participants will pick up strategies to help these students with letter-sound correspondence as well as rules to guide them in their spelling. For example, recognizing that the letters [dge] makes the /j/ sound and that the word ‘badge’ should be spelled as such and not ‘baj’, due to the spelling rule for the letter [j].

What is Universal Design for Learning?

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a set of principles for curriculum development that give all individuals equal opportunities to learn. UDL guides the creation of learning outcomes, resources and assessments that work for everyone. This approach is underpinned by research in the field of neuroscience and is designed to improve the learning experience and outcomes for all students, including students with disabilities, students from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, mature students and international students.

One of the principles of UDL is to provide multiple modes of student engagement that tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn. Teachers should offer flexible ways to present what we teach to create knowledgeable learners. Below is an example of how you can do so;


Teaching your students subtraction 
Question: 234 – 132 = ______
Represent the question using; 

Concrete Materials 

Free printable place value chart (plus activities to try!) - Math, Kids and  Chaos

Pictorial Representation of the question

Top: 234
Bottom: 132

Abstract representation – include the numbers and operations 
234 – 132 = 102

By Senior Lecturer, Sylvia Foo

I was a Secondary Two student when the first Star Wars movie was screened in 1977. George Lucas unleashed a phenomenon when he introduced movie audiences to Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, Darth Vader and that almost pseudo-religious Jedi knight benediction, "May the Force be with you".

Won over by this genre of movie, I waited with bated breath for the next two installments in the then Star Wars trilogy. I was aghast when Darth Vader revealed he was Luke Skywalker’s daddy turned bad and like everyone else, I cheered when the bad daddy overcame the dark side in him to destroy the evil Emperor and rescue Luke.

Many years have passed and the initial Star Wars trilogy has expanded to include prequels and sequels to the delight or dismay of hardcore fans. Nevertheless, it is the original movie that is the inspiration for my present article because it left such an impression when I was a teenager who was struggling with puberty and self-doubt.

At the beginning of the movie, the ship transporting rebel alliance leader, Princess Leia, is captured by a much larger Imperial ship. As the rebel fighters prepare to defend the princess against capture by the superior imperial soldiers, you can almost sense that they are going to fail miserably. They were slaughtered but their resistance managed to buy precious time for Princess Leia to hide the plans of the Death Star and a holographic recording in R2-D2, the droid.

So some good did come out of this failure. We need to try to find the positive when things go wrong so that we can move forward and try again.

On route to the planet Alderaan, Obi-wan Kenobi teaches Luke Skywalker how to use the lightsaber, the galactic version of a sword. Luke is mocked by Han Solo for his clumsy attempts at swordplay. Han Solo is also highly sceptical about the power of the Force. Obi-wan Kenobi encourages Luke to persevere and he manages to learn to wield the lightsaber effectively even with his eyes covered by the visor of a helmet.

Success comes with perseverance and practice. Not everyone will be on board with what you are doing but like Luke Skywalker, having a supportive mentor or teacher can help speed the learning journey.

On the Death Star, Luke, Han set and Chewbacca set out to rescue Princess Leia while Obiwan Kenobi goes to disable the tractor beam so that the Millennium Falcon can escape. Both tasks are accomplished and the motley band manages to get away from the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon to the rebel base on the planet Yavin.

Success comes more easily with some planning and consideration of one's strengths and weaknesses. Obi-wan was a much better choice to disable the tractor beam because of his superior Jedi powers. Imagine Chewbacca trying to lend into the shadows while sneaking around the heavily patrolled Death Star.

However, the escape from the Death Star has its price. Obi-wan allowed himself to be killed by Darth Vader to ensure the rest could getaway. 

Success often comes at some kind of cost of sacrifice. That sacrifice can be in terms of working harder and longer at something you are not good at and giving up the time to have fun.

In the final battle, the rebel alliance wages a desperate attempt to destroy the Death Star. They have to make an assault to knock out the main reactor of the powerful space station before it obliterates the planet Yavin. The rebel assault squadron consists of a small force of x-wing fighters, one of which is piloted by Luke Skywalker. It is Luke who eventually fires the proton torpedo that triggers the destruction of the Death Star. If we look at Luke’s profile, he is very far from being the professional battle-scarred pilot. He is a young farmhand and relatively new to fighting in the galactic civil war.

It is interesting to note that George Lucas, the director, and writer of Star Wars faced challenges in 1973 when trying to find a Hollywood studio to fund the writing and production of his initial storyline. He approached several Hollywood studios but they rejected his project because they found the storyline unconventional. It seemed to be in the science fiction genre but it also had elements of fantasy and adventure. Eventually, Lucas managed to get the head of 20th Century Fox to support the writing and production of the film. The rest is history. According to the Guinness World Records, Star Wars remains the third-highest-grossing movie of all time.

Being different from having a different idea can lead to success.

A person with dyslexia is different in the way he or she learns but that difference can be positive too and lead to much success. Maybe among our man learners with dyslexia is an original and creative thinker who will one day produce a worldwide phenomenon to top the success of Star Wars. I look forward to that.

Read it in FACETS: What Star Wars Taught Me About Success and Failure


 This workshop aims to help parents and teachers acquire strategies to support the development of writing skills in their primary school-going SpLD learners. One such strategy is using a system of diagramming to visualize the structure of a sentence. 


Visually arranging the components of sentence structure and different parts of speech 

(Credit: Projectread)


(Credit: TWIMG)

The multi-sensory nature of it helps learners to visualize the structure of the sentence as they are working with something more concrete. 


(Credit: SeekPNG)


Instruction moves from barebone sentences through five kinds of paragraph development taught in sequential order.


1.Begin by asking your learners to write a simple story with 4 Subject Predicate sentences. (e.g. Sam ran. He screamed. He jumped. He fell.) 2.Add predicate expanders, subject describers to the sentences. 3.Read and edit the completed short story. 



(Credit: Projectread) The kitten sleeps on the sofa. 


By Sylvia Foo

One of my dyslexic students was an avid doodler. His worksheets were often filled with spontaneous drawings of whatever caught his imagination or fancy at that point in time. I am sure parents (and other teachers) would identify with the horror I felt when I discovered that margins and empty spaces of learning materials became an artist’s canvas. In my opinion, doodling was simply a distraction. That student has since graduated and I have begun to see doodling in a more positive light, especially if it helps reluctant writers. We just need to channel the doodler’s energy and artistic works into meaningful creativity. Learners with dyslexia can be reluctant writers but otherwise take to art and drawing with enthusiasm. Why not harness what dyslexic learners prefer doing to help them see that writing can be fun and creative too? When you catch your child doodling, do not berate him for being distracted. Instead, ask him what that doodle means and see if it can be a springboard for writing.

Doodles can be an expression of imagination; a story may be in the making. Even if the doodle has no potential to be a narrative, you may want to get your child, when he is free, to transfer that doodle to an empty exercise book. That exercise book can become the doodler’s special notebook and canvas where he not only doodles but he can also write one or two sentences on his drawing. Encourage your child to use that notebook when he has the urge to doodle. A story may be woven in time. Another way doodling can help with writing is when your child is stuck and he cannot seem to get his creative juices going. Getting him to doodle may remove that writer’s block and start him thinking about possible storylines. It is worth noting that some research has indicated that doodling, contrary to popular belief, can also be an aid to increased memory and focus. Doodling is a common strategy employed to counter daydreaming. In 2009, psychologist Andrade asked 40 people to monitor a 2½ minute voice mail message that was dull and rambling. Half of the group doodled as they did this while the other half did not. There was a surprise memory test after the call. The doodlers recalled 29% more details from the call compared to the non-doodlers. The science here seems to indicate that doodling requires enough mental energy to help the brain to focus. There is clearly more to doodling than meets the eye. The next time you catch your child doodling, rather than reprimanding him, look at the circumstances in which he was spontaneously drawing. You might see an opening for encouraging creative writing or even better learning for your child.

References: Andrade, J. What does doodling do? Applied Cognitive Psychology.2010; 24(1), 100-106.

8 General Guidelines

1.   Help the learner to be aware of the length of paper in terms of sections, questions and duration of the paper.

2.   Help the learner to plan time-use for examinations using the examples below as a reference.

3.   Practice full paper for each subject with the learner at least thrice before the actual examination.

4.   Work out the recommended time for each section or adopt the examples below if relevant.

5.   Record actual time needed and then adjust the recommended time to suit each learner’s needs.

6.   Teach learner how to use extra time granted to them as part of access arrangements. If you are unsure of the extra time given, please check with relevant school authority. Generally, the extra time of 25% of the whole paper duration is provided. i.e. 15 mins extra for a one-hour paper.

7.   Through error analysis and together with the learner, agree on the top three most common errors/ most “waste-marks” errors and focus on these three errors during the checking process. It helps to be very specific about the errors and we should avoid using generic terms like “grammatical errors” or “careless mistakes” because that can include too many kinds of mistakes. Instead, be specific about which grammatical error you are referring to e.g subject-verb agreement/ irregular verbs. Always remember, if you want the learner to spot everything, they will spot nothing.

8.   Some learners might have difficulties staying on task even during examinations. For these learners, it also helps to associate task progress with a concrete image. For example, in the Primary 4 Maths Booklet A, a student can keep track of his progress by drawing one part of any figure with 4 parts. At the end of the paper, he/she would have a completed rectangle. For a paper with 6 sections, the learner can keep track of his progress by drawing one part of any figure with six parts e.g. a stick man. At the end of the paper, he/she would have a completed stick man. Some learners find it especially beneficial when task completion is made more concrete this way.

Download the Complimentary Exam Time-use Guide (PDF 773KB)

View all DAS Handbooks here

The DAS Handbook is a collection of articles, essays, research, case studies and practical information for people with dyslexia, their families and for the professionals who work with them to help them embrace dyslexia. For more information about the book, please contact us at 6444 5700 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.