Symbol mastery

What follows are some tips learned while symbol mastering the trigger words: How to motivate yourself, how to get inspiration and how to minimize the claying.

It's based on mastery, which means that the child will fully understand a particular idea or concept before it moves on, whether it is an aspect of reading, math, or any other area of study. Once mastered, there is no need for repetition or drill.

To do Symbol Mastery you will need the following items:

  • Non-hardening plasticene clay.
  • Printed samples of letters, numerals, and punctuation arks.
  • An illustrated children's dictionary
  • A Grammar Book.
  • The book "The Gift of Dyslexia" explains the steps to "symbol mastery".

You can find all this material and more information, a manual and instructional video, not the book in the "Symbol mastery kit" (for age 9 and up) and the "The davis young learner kit for home-use" (for age of 5-8). You can buy these articles online at the Davis Dyslexia Association.

A great help is a dictionary on the PC: one that provides not only the definition but also the pronunciation and the history of the words. Especially the pronunciation is a big help if you work alone. Furthermore, you can repeat it as often as you want without annoying somebody. For example Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia at Amazon.com or the free online dictionary Answers.com.

How to stay motivated

After following the program, I was very motivated to attack the list. I took the words at random depending on the mood I was in. After a few words, my motivation was gone. It’s so stupid, those common little words that you use all the time and yet they are sometimes so difficult to express. In addition, claying can be fun, but when you have to do all the trigger words, the fun is gone.

  • To motivate yourself you can read aloud, if necessary on one foot, so you feel when you disorientate. Alternatively, tap your reading to a recorder; afterwards you will hear when you disorientate. It gives you again the confirmation, that the little common words cause the disorientation.
  • Schedule symbol mastery on your agenda. For example: each day or each Monday and Thursday at the same hour.
  • Try not to procrastinate a session. When you start to procrastinate, it’s difficult to get back on track.
  • Symbol mastery per session minimum two trigger words or more when you are in the mood.
  • If the word is a verb, make all its other forms in the same session.
  • When there is more than one definition, it’s not necessary to symbol master them all at once; start with the most used forms or those of which you have a clear picture. You can symbol master the other forms later. Sometimes the definitions are so related to each other that it’s difficult to make clear pictures of them. I experienced some confusion while trying to do them all in one session and became de-motivated about it.
  • After a decade or more, you can lose some motivation. Keep going you will become more experienced; the more you do, the easier it will be and the shorter the list becomes.

Stay orientated

Make sure you are orientated and check often while you do symbol mastery, otherwise it has no point. I did experience it myself; when disorientated you don’t even notice your mistakes. Luckily I did make a picture of each trigger word I clayed, by overlooking them I saw there were some letters reversed or I saw a picture whitout a meaning to me. Don’t forget when reading the definition of a word, the sentences can contain words that trigger you and therefore cause disorientation. So, check often while working.

How to stay motivated

  • To motivate yourself you can read aloud, if necessary on one foot, so you feel when you disorientate. Alternatively, tap your reading to a recorder; afterwards you will hear when you disorientate. It gives you again the confirmation, that the little common words cause the disorientation.
  • Schedule symbol mastery on your agenda. For example: each day or each Monday and Thursday at the same hour.
  • Try not to procrastinate a session. When you start to procrastinate, it’s difficult to get back on track.
  • Symbol mastery per session minimum two trigger words or more when you are in the mood.
  • If the word is a verb, make all its other forms in the same session.
  • When there is more than one definition, it’s not necessary to symbol master them all at once; start with the most used forms or those of which you have a clear picture. You can symbol master the other forms later. Sometimes the definitions are so related to each other that it’s difficult to make clear pictures of them. I experienced some confusion while trying to do them all in one session and became de-motivated about it.
  • After a decade or more, you can lose some motivation. Keep going you will become more experienced; the more you do, the easier it will be and the shorter the list becomes.

Minimize the claying

  • Minimize the claying by keeping the letters, the dolls, and the objects you clayed, use those to symbol master other words.
  • After symbol master a few words, you will have a whole alphabet, which contains some letters in double or triple to spell words.
  • You will also have a fine collection of dolls and objects. They can give you inspiration, to make sentences and express definitions. All you need to do is to add some little extras when needed.
  • Make your dolls with good solid and visible arms and legs. They need to be flexible so we can move them in different directions to express a certain action.

Inspiration

• Your different dolls and object will give you also inspiration for expressing definitions.

Symbol master verbs

After Symbol mastering a few verbs, you will receive a better understanding and become familiar with the principles of the conjunctions. A much clearer understanding, why verbs have to change and how they change.

  • There is no need to think of completely new sentences or expressions for each conjunction of the verb.
  • Symbol master all the forms of one verb in one session.
  • Start with the definition of the word (verb). The definition of the verb is the same even when it’s presented in its different forms, it just tells something extra about the verb, but the basic meaning or definition stays the same.
  • When feeling comfortable with the definition of the word (verb) itself, we can use this basic picture for all its different forms of the conjunctions.
  • Find a clear expression for each of the different tenses and of the persons (pronoun forms). You have to be very comfortable with the symbols you use, having a clear picture of what they represent.
  • Add those symbols, to the basic picture (the definition) of the verb when expressing the conjunctions of a verb.

Examples of different tenses and persons

What follows are examples of symbols I used for the different tenses and persons. However, each person has to find his own expressions to symbolize the different tenses and persons:

  • Present tense: a doll in action.
  • Past tense: you keep the same picture, add a symbol that, to you, represent the past to the picture: ex. add an arrow that points to the left, it points to the past or a pyramid that can be a symbol of the past.
  • Future tense: an arrow that points to the right, points to the future or a spaceship to make clear that it happens in the future.
  • First person single, I: a doll that indicates itself. A doll with good visible arms which points one arm back to itself.
  • Third person single, she – he: add an extra doll that points to the doll in action.
  • First person plural, we: add more dolls to the picture of first person single. One of them points to itself and the others (one arm to itself and the other arm to the others) or add a circle around the group of dolls to indicate that we include them all.
  • Third person plural, they – them: add an extra doll which is in action to the picture of the third person single, so they are two or more in action.

Symbol Master different languages

It’s possible to use pictures of trigger words for different languages. I started with Dutch, because this is my mother language, and used some of the pictures for certain English trigger words as well.

Having your own dictionary of the trigger words

I made a photo of every word I clayed with a digital camera, having my own dictionary on my PC. This is very useful in the beginning, to check or overlook the trigger words. Thanks to the photos, I discovered that I was disorientated when symbol mastering some words.

It’s useful to leave the clay, dictionary, and a word list accessible at all times. To encouraging but not requiring the child to do Symbol Mastery at any given time or when it’s encounter some difficulties with letters, words, grammar, punctuation, math ….

Tips on reading

Have a dictionary at hand; however, try to find the definition from the context and look it up later. When you have to interrupt the reading often, as looking for the definition of a certain word, there is a chance that you lose the context of the writing or the feeling with the author.

When there is a specific word that keeps you triggering, you have no choice but to look for the definition and/or symbol master the word.

When it’s happen to me: I first check my orientation point, make a mental picture of the definition of the word, spell the word mentally with the letters of my own clayed alphabet and say the letters aloud from left to right and from right to left.