Using Keywords As Memory Aids

We are thrilled to once again welcome Lorna Wooldridge to be our guest blogger. She brings a wealth of experience and first-hand knowledge about the time tested strategies and interventions to assist those with Dyslexia to be optimally successful. One such strategy is using keywords as memory aids during Orton Gillingham lessons. Whether we are teaching our students basic phonemes or advanced morphology, using keywords to assist with recall is very effective and promotes automaticity.

Lorna has a Bachelor of Education degree from Bath College of Higher Education in England, and holds a Certificate of Professional Practice from Roehampton Institute in London: Teaching Children with Reading and Writing Difficulties/Dyslexia. Lorna taught for many years in England, as both a classroom teacher and a special educational needs teacher working with small groups or individuals. Lorna is certified by the Dyslexia Training Institute, and is experienced in the Orton-Gillingham approach. She has completed the DTI Dyslexia Advocacy Certification Course, is currently training with the Orton-Gillingham Online Academy, and is working on her Level 1 Certification with Handwriting Without Tears®. She is also listed as a tutor on the Learning Ally Reader Tutor Network. Lorna is dyslexic herself, which gives her a unique perspective. Lorna can be reached through her Understanding Dyslexia Facebook page, her tutoring web site, or by e-mailing

Using Keywords As Memory Aids

I was introduced to keywords over twenty-five years ago in the UK. Back then, I was a young teacher embarking on a journey of discovery about myself and many of the students I was teaching, who, although bright, just weren’t making the progress they should have in reading, writing, and spelling.


I met the late Jean Augur, former education director of the British Dyslexia Association and author of “This Book Doesn’t Make Sense,” whilst beginning an 18-month certificate of Professional Practice – Teaching Children Reading and Writing Difficulties/Dyslexia. Jean, who had been trained by Kathleen Hickey, who herself had traveled to the USA to be trained by Anna Gillingham, was an amazing mentor from whom I learned a lot. I also discovered through her that I have dyslexia, which explained a great deal, but that’s another story.


One of the many things she introduced me to were using keywords as memory aids to help prompt a student to remember a particular letter/sound relationship. I’ve tweaked her list over the years, added words that I felt painted a better visual picture for a student; and, upon coming to the USA to live, I’ve changed some words to fit better here as a result of accent and dialect differences. My students build a reading and spelling pack during their time with me. The keywords are incorporated into the pack and the student can choose to illustrate the keywords to further aid memory.


The short vowel sounds for “a e i o u” are practiced using images of those keywords. The keyword pictures are finger-traced and the keyword is said whilst the tracing happens; for example, /ǎ ǎ ǎ ǎ ǎ….pl/ for apple. For students with short vowel sound discrimination issues this has been very helpful. The tracing of keyword pictures is something I have added in the last couple of years, as a result of further Orton-Gillingham training. I have redrawn and tweaked these images by adding starting points for the student with a small cross. Each keyword picture is traced three times in a lesson and practiced at home.

Below are some of the resources I use :

Keywords Long Vowels

Keywords End Blends

Initial Blends Keywords

Alphabet Vowels and Consonants Keywords

Vowel Keywords To Trace

Using keywords as memory aids during an Orton-Gillingham lesson

 I’ve included the keyword lists I have created for the alphabet, which cover the short vowels and consonants, the initial blends, the end blends and the long vowels. Marisa Bernard of the Orton-Gillingham Online Academy has created keywords for all the letters and letter combinations beyond that point, so why not check out her web site to discover more about her course offerings where these are included.


Thank-you, Lorna, for paving the way for us and sharing your tried and true strategies and resources to make teaching the English language to those with Dyslexia a little easier and more productive. I appreciate you taking the time to share with us & allowing us the privilege to learn from you.

Keep doing what you are doing because the world needs what only you have to offer…