Using Red Ink on Yellow Paper for Memory Enhancement

Recently I was discussing with Karen Hope,  the co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online,  how colors help people, with dyslexic issues, retain the spelling of individual words. She said that research shows yellow paper with black text is an effective tool with helping memory. When she told me about this I remembered something I had learned about ten years ago.

I was enrolled in a local Technical College in a 2 year Civil Engineering Technology program. The entire program was extremely intense with lots of short duration courses. I can still remember how overwhelmed I was with all the new information I had to learn. One of the instructors insisted that we do all of our rough calculations and drawings for the multi-page engineering problems on yellow paper but with red ink. There were about 20 students in the class and none of us had heard of this method of recording our work. He told us that he had heard from a psychologist friend that the combination of red on yellow was helpful with memory.

My associate confirmed what I remembered was valid by finding some established research on the yellow on red topic and sure enough she found data that showed the combination of red on yellow was effective in assisting people with memorizing information. This doesn’t prove anything about yellow and black versus yellow and red but it does show that using colors can be an effective tool in helping with memory. I am not dyslexic but I know I process information in a very right brained fashion and remember that particular class was one of the least stressful classes in the Civil Engineering program. I got better marks on average and a lot of that information seems to have stuck with me to this day.

Happy Trails

Howie deGraaf
Editor for Dyslexia Victoria Online
Update: November 26, 2010
An article we found on research with red for memory.
Reinvent Wheel? Blue Room. Defusing a Bomb? Red Room.

and another study…..

Teaching Letters to Dyslexics

Recently I was blogging about how using an image of a “person, place, thing or animal”  to represent a letter of the alphabet was confusing for a dyslexic child trying to memorize and print letters.

Often you will notice in classrooms or workbooks that a picture of an animal or object is used to help the child learn what a letter stands for.  This can create a problem for a student because they can end up thinking  the picture with the letter represents what  the letter is.  Then when they are  trying to put the letters in a word together they are seeing a jumble of animals or objects in their minds connected to the letters.  This can completely confuse them when trying to understand that letters are symbols and when placed in a specific order represent a word in our language.

I came across this clipart above and found it to be a perfect example of how this teaching method can be so devastating to a dyslexic child trying to learn to spell.  If a dyslexic child memorizes this image and statement “F is for FROG who lives in a pond” then to them an “F” is a frog who is living in a pond.   Every time from that point forward when they see an “F” they will imagine a frog!

A better way to help them learn their letters is to have them print or “draw”  the images of the letters several times and say the name of the letter out loud as they print.  You should always have an image of the letters in front of them as they are practicing.  This helps to stimulate memory because you are using the visual, auditory and kinesthetic .  Dyslexics often have trouble with drawing the letters neatly so start with a practice sheet with dotted letters to trace.  Then use a sheet with a single letter printed on each line for them to copy and leaving room to draw them several times.   Take a look at a portion of an example:

You can download a free full set of copies in a pdf format for the Upper and Lower Case Letters at this link:

Alphabet Practice Sheets for Dyslexics

Then begin to introduce sight reading which is learning a whole word as an image for the word.   Have the student practice drawing the whole word and saying its name so they learn that a specific sequence of  letters  represents  a specific word.  For example, take the word “Frog” to practice with.  Print the word on a piece of paper in large black letters and then have the student practice printing it several times.  As they are printing it have them say the word out loud each time.  This process  of  using the three senses (visual, auditory and kinesthetic) again will help them memorize the image of the word so they are more able to spell the word on their own and identify it in a list of words or in a passage they are reading.

So a better version of the above image would be to have the word “FROG” instead of  “F” with the statement “FROG lives in a pond”.

One more consideration.  When teaching them their letters and using them in words it is always best to start with printing all capitals, then  small letters, continue on to capital letters with small letters and then finish with cursive writing.  This process should be gradual so they can make the adjustment from upper and lower case and then mixed such as capitalizing  names or the first word in a sentence. Learning these skills could take a few day or months depending on the student’s specific issues so don’t hurry.

Many dyslexics however, have a really difficult time trying to master cursive writing.  Connecting the letters together is very confusing since they learned them as separate images and joining them together is a significant departure from what they have learned initially.  If it is a real issue, rather than trying to force this form of writing on a dyslexic, let it go.  If they can learn to print and/or use a computer, that is all they need.

If you are interested in more information I have a blog entry that discusses the confusion of working  with upper and lower case letters.  Click here to check it out.  We also have lots of solutions and ideas for these issues with learning letters and spelling words on our website:  Dyslexia Victoria Online


Karen L Hope

The Traumatic Changes in Grade Three For Dyslexic and Right-brained Students Learning to Print and Write Letters and Words

Grade Three is the end of total kinesthetic and auditory learning. Reading, spelling, memorizing, printing answers and writing sentences and paragraphs now take over as the main teaching tools. Science, Geography, Social Studies and Arithmetic are now the learning areas and each requires all the recording skills of spelling, reading and writing answers.

For many right-brained children, learning to read stories was listening to and memorizing what they heard and looking at full pictures that presented the whole story when a parent or teacher read to them. They memorized what they heard and saw and gave the stories back word for word as their photographic memories memorized the whole story by hearing the sound of the words.

This becomes a disaster for many young boys and girls because suddenly they discover this is not the way to learn to read when they get into Grade One.  They start to have problems making this adjustment and   develop difficulties printing, writing and spelling all the vocabulary words of Grades One and Two and Three.

To make things even more difficult,  the recording skills of spelling and printing words and sentences are the most difficult for the right-brained students. From Kindergarten to Grade Three, three major changes in printing letters occurs.  Upper Case letters (Capitals) in Grade One, Lower Case letters in Grade Two and Cursive in Grade Three. These changes involve the size, height, shape, slant and direction of letters and finishing with combining these letters into words.

Take what they know and change it again.  It overrides the fact that the right brain must now have to change again and again when learning something.  The right brain tends to hold the the first image it receives of the letters which are capitals.  These are imprinted in their minds. It is difficult, therefore, for them to change to a lower case letter before they even understood what the capital letters represented.  Moving onto cursive is nearly impossible for these students because the image of each single letter is now merged with all the other letters in a word.

So to recap:  a dyslexic or right-brained student ends up with a lot of confusing information that is all broken down into steps.  And every step muddles the last as far as what they are supposed to write and which type of letter they should use and then finish with combining them into words! No wonder they have such a hard time!

Dyslexics Think in Whole Concrete Images

The right-brained learner takes in information about the world by seeing, listening, touching, tasting and smelling.  They are also affected by the emotional state they are feeling and experiencing from their current environment.  The right brain is concerned with the present only and turns this information into whole concrete picture images it can understand and visualize in the mind.   But to read, write and learn about those visual images the right brain must allow the left brain to process those images into language  that describes those images.   This includes words, the sounds of words, letters, numbers, etc.  The left brain thinks in the past and future to find context in the information so it can retain and use it for making decisions about what to do next.

A concrete image means it can be experienced by any or all of the five senses; it is real and actual.  For example, the word “tree” is a whole concrete image, it can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted if you want to and you can hear it creak and groan in the wind.  Always think of the right brain as having to be taught everything in concrete wholes that can be seen, heard, smelled or touched and understood: whole words, whole sentences, whole pictures, whole ideas, whole lessons, whole concepts, whole stories and so on.  If learning a lesson is not completed and understood at one sitting, the information taken in is not real to the brain and it discards what it has been picked up and deposited in short term memory. The information is lost.  Avoid those unfinished lessons and explanations.

The left brain thinks about the parts: letters, words, numbers, ideas and pieces of information that it can put together to read and analyze cause and effect (reasons for and/or the consequences of an action, event, or decision). This learning difference in the right brain creates difficulties when trying to work with the parts that make up the whole.  So when an individual has a right brain dominance they need to learn how to allow their left brain to handle the processing of abstract concepts such as language, letters and words.

Today there is more and more information and teaching systems becoming available to help the right and left brain operate in a more balanced way to benefit from both sides.

The list below comes from:   Hyper Text Webs: Brain Differences – Creativity and the Right Side of the Brain

Left Brain                               Right Brain

Words (Verbal) Images (Non-Verbal)
Logical Intuitive
Black & White Color
Numbers Rhythm
Sequence Imagination
Analysis Daydreaming
Lists Dimension
Critical Thinking Creative Thinking
Intellect Intuition
Rational Intuitive
Rational Holistic
Analytic Holistic
Analytic Relational
Analysis Synthesis
Parts Wholes
Sequential Intuitive
Objective Subjective
Logical Random
Logical Whimsical
Convergent Divergent
Abstract Concrete
Directed Free
Propositional Imaginative
Linear Nonlinear
Sequential Multiple
Successive Simultaneous
Reasoning Mystical
Mathematical Creative
Speaking Visual-Pictorial
Accuracy Aesthetics
Digital Analogic
Dominates Submits
Pattern User Pattern Seeker

Helping Dyslexics Learn to Play Music

Years ago I decided to have my three children take piano lessons.  I had one problem.  I had become aware that my kids were dyslexic through testing at their school and learning to play the piano could be difficult for them.  I went ahead anyway and in the process learned some fascinating aspects about being dyslexic and learning to play the piano or any instrument.

To begin here is a list of Dyslexia issues you might find with a student having difficulty learning music. If your student has many or all of these problems you might want to have the student assessed for Dyslexia:

“3. Commonly reported difficulties with music

  • Difficulties in the reading of music, particularly sight-reading without adequate
  • preparation.
  • Aural tests, particularly those involving memory, such as dictation.
  • The understanding and production of written material (text/language and music).
  • Work in music theory: understanding and de-coding information; organisation of
  • examination answers.
  • Analysis of music and the use of examples in written work.
  • The organisation of evaluative written work: evaluation of performances by self and
  • others.
  • Difficulties with the sequencing of material; decisions about what is
  • important/relevant; choice of wording for answers, both verbal and written.
  • Organisation of complex and non-regular timetables of lessons, rehearsals and
  • concerts and organisation of relevant material: music, strings, reeds etc.
  • Organisation of personal practice.”

from “Music and inclusive teaching: information from the
British Dyslexia Association Music Committee”

Each child had their own issues which I now know has to do with their particular learning strengths and weaknesses.

Gen, my oldest, was able to learn where the symbols of the notes on a specific line of music were on the piano  but she had problems with playing two hands at the same time.  She also had difficulty learning the names of the notes and chords (A,B,C,D,E,F,G, sharps and flats, etc.).

Casey, my middle son was not learning the notes at all but he could play with two hands.  We discovered he was watching his piano teacher play a tune and because he has a strong visual memory he was memorizing what his teacher was doing with her hands.  The way his teacher discovered his method was when she noticed he would often play one or two wrong notes every time for each song he played and they would be the same notes.  She started to realize he was watching and remembering her playing the music and would remember one or two notes incorrectly.

Wil, my youngest, was able to play with two hands and memorize where the notes on the sheet music were on the piano but he could not learn music theory and remember the names or meanings of the written language of music.

Fortunately, their music teacher was a kind person and very curious.  She wanted to help the kids overcome their problems as much as I.  So with Gen, she focused on finding music that played one hand at a time and eventually as her coordination improved she started to play with both hands.  Right-brained and dyslexic children often have some confusion with right and left in general and especially the coordination of their bodies.   Training with different exercises that improve coordination and body awareness and playing sports such as gymnastics, soccer and baseball coupled  with lots of patience and encouragement will help straighten out much of this body confusion dyslexic children tend to have.  My daughter is thirty-four now and she still has some problems with right and left.  In time she  learned many of the names of the notes, chords,  and music symbols because as she matured she was naturally developing the ability to understand abstract  concepts such as music.  Her knowledge  and comprehension  of music theory definitely improved.

Casey was a bit stubborn about learning to play by reading music instead of memorizing by visually watching his teacher but he eventually started to work with her.  She started to teach him where the music notes and symbols were on the piano (sight reading) and as he got older and more accustomed to reading music she started to introduce music theory and learning what all the symbols were named and what their purpose was.  He actually started to do quite well with the theory but it came more easily as he got older  (fifth or sixth grade in school).

Wil was also able to use this “sight reading” approach but was never comfortable learning music theory.  He also learned how to play a guitar but like the piano he did it by memorizing the symbols for chords and where they were on the guitar.  Good enough, right?  He was playing music which is what he wanted.

If you have a child or know one that is dyslexic and wants to learn to play an instrument, find a music teacher with an open mind and heart and maybe try some of the suggestions I’ve mentioned.  Also pay attention to the child and figure out how they figure things out.  Then go with their learning style, motivate them,  be supportive and encourage them to have patience with the process.

Being right-brained and dyslexic is a learning style that cannot be changed.  It’s who they are. They need information presented in a way that makes sense to them.  Dyslexic students trying to learn to read the language of music have the same problems as when they are learning to read and write.  I have always found that starting young dyslexic children off with “sight reading” when learning a new language of any kind  including music is very effective.

What was a real thrill for me was watching my children improve, being able to perform in their music teacher’s recitals successfully and having fun because the teacher and I encouraged them to learn how to play in a way that made sense them.

Here are some helpful resources for more Dyslexia friendly music programs to help your Dyslexic student:

“Music and Dyslexia – and How Dyslexia Helps”
by Jenny Macmillan

“How does dyslexia effect music reading?
Teaching and Pedagogy: How does dyslexia effect peoples ability to sight read music?”
by bob leebman
Posted May 9, 2006

Instrumental Music for Dyslexics

Help for Dyslexic music students


The Dyslexic Music Student Posted on June 29, 2011 Can People with Dyslexia Learn Music? Bright Star/Learn Better

The Dyslexic Music Student
Posted on June 29, 2011
Can People with Dyslexia Learn Music?
Bright Star/Learn Better

Music and Dyslexia – a positive approach



















Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online
Dyslexia Victoria Online

Dyslexics and Right-brained People Might be Interested in What Jill Bolte Taylor Says about the Right Brain

I was recently sent this incredible video on TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design), a website devoted to bringing new ideas from the world’s top thinkers and doers.  The video features brain researcher Jill Bolte Taylor and her experience with a severe stroke due to a blood clot in her left hemisphere which shut her left side down.  This resulted in her experiencing the right hemisphere on its own and it changed her life.

It is an uplifting, spiritual, eye-opening and educational view on the true purpose of our extraordinary right brain.  I highly recommend you watch this video and then check out her website.  And since I am a normal right-brained individual that always has to give way more information than necessary I am providing you with several links to  her.

I would love to hear feedback about what you think of her and her ideas!

1.  The video on TED:

2.  Her Bio on TED:

3.  Jane Bolte Taylor’s website:

4.  Her Bio on and her chat with Oprah.  Very Interesting!

Thanks for your time.

Karen L Hope

Dyslexia: How a Right-brained Learning Style can be a Strength

In most of our developing countries we teach learning skills that are easily processed by the left hemisphere of the brain. These skills make it easier for students to process the very abstract symbols of mathematics and written languages.  However these skills are inappropriate for students who mostly use the right side of the brain to process information. What many teachers and school officials see as learning disabilities or dysfunctions of the brain, with students labeled as “dyslexic” can actually be just differences in how a person interprets information. But it’s these very learning differences that can be used as powerful tools and personal strengths in all aspects of life.

It is this ability to see concepts in terms of “whole images” that allow these students to see “the forest before the trees”. In other words they solve problems and come up with new perspectives by seeing first what an idea, process, project, etc. is in its entirety and then picking out the individual parts and its relation to the overall view. When they see all of these parts and their purposes in connection to the “whole picture” then they can expand, add or fix anything. This can be applied to any situation including running a business, construction, mechanics, new inventions, marketing, new and improving products, time management solutions, entertainment ideas, artistic and architectural movements, scientific and medical breakthroughs and self-improvement programs.

People who predominantly use the right side of the brain to process information also have unique and powerful analytical skills. Many successful and dyslexic people are famous inventors, managers, CEOs, entertainers, artists, mathematicians, philosophers, scientists, sports figures and any other field you can think of.  They are able to use their creativity, curiosity, empathy, intuition, problem-solving, multi-tasking skills, to name a few, to think and process from a global point of view. They effortlessly see the “big picture” and consequently produce many ideas and solutions for any project. These gifted individuals are truly able to think “outside the box”!

We found this interesting and enlightening website about famous dyslexic people and interesting information about dyslexia.  Enjoy!

Interesting Information about Dyslexia

Blessed with Dyslexia

Also you can check our site for more information on teaching dyslexics at:  Dyslexia Victoria Online