Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Institute of Education, University of London, 5-8 September 2007
Neuroscience, neural circuits, brain wave activity, dyslexia, attention and focus
This paper describes the findings of a small research project run in the summer term 2007 at a primary school in North Hampshire, during which time the Raviv Method was introduced to a group of 12 students from Year 1 to Year 6 who have a history of significant attention difficulties, or difficulty in gaining literacy and numeracy skills.
The writer has a background in special needs education as SENCO at a mixed comprehensive secondary school in the London Borough of Richmond. Her interest in neuroscience results from a desire to understand more about the apparent impairment of the neural circuits of the brain in students who are dyslexic or who experience difficulty in attention and focus. This has led her to take seriously the claims made for the Raviv Programme, that regular daily practice of the exercises in the programme can create the specific neural structure required for learning, and provide focused strategies for controlling the brain activity necessary for attention and concentration. The writer has trained in the Raviv Method, and is a licensed practitioner.
The Raviv Method makes substantial claims for learning in three particular areas:
Pre-school learning, where the purpose of the programme is to develop the neural infrastructure that is required for efficient learning, and prevent later learning difficulties from occurring
Managing AD(H)D, where the programme is based on teaching the individual to control the brain wave activity needed for attention and focus
Improving academic performance, and teaching individuals to deal with the stress and anxieties that accompany studying and taking exams
In order to learn more about the effects of the Raviv Method, the writer set up a small-scale one term research project at a primary school in Hampshire. This enabled her to introduce the Raviv Method to a group of pupils and their families, and to deliver the programme on at least a weekly basis over one term in a supportive environment. The pupils invited to receive this input were selected because they have significant difficulty in gaining literacy and numeracy skills, and families who agreed to meet the time demands of the programme. It was intended that the pupils would be tested at the start and finish of the programme, to identify gains made, such as increases in reading accuracy, ability to concentrate, and other improvements (for instance, increased confidence in tackling classwork) which may be identified by teachers or parents. However, the paper explains the difficulties the researcher experienced with collecting measurable data both for the group undergoing the programme, and also for a control group to provide a comparison of progress made.
The paper to be presented to the SIG examines the pupils’ learning achievements identified in the context of the normal expectations of the teachers and parents, and what conclusions can be drawn from the experience of running the Raviv programme for a period of time at the school.
This paper covers the following areas:
The background to this investigation
An outline of the theory underlying the Raviv Method
A brief discussion of the role of teachers as researchers, an account of the research methods I used and a reflection on the function of evaluation in innovative practice
A summary of my findings from my investigation, and detailed individual reflections on the progress of the pupil involved in the investigation
The background to this investigation
I am currently a literacy teacher at a mixed secondary comprehensive school in SW London. Until Easter of this year, I was SENCO, but my increasing desire to be more proactive in developing new approaches in teaching young people with learning difficulties, and less trapped in a role where my time was spent responding to a mountain of paperwork generated by the School Improvement Plan and the Code of Practice, led me to step down from my full-time role at the school. I currently work part-time at the school and have a twilight visiting lecturer role at St Mary’s University College, teaching on the CPD MA for teachers researching in the area of school improvement.
I became interested in the claims made by Raviv practitioners when I had the opportunity to meet a representative from the Raviv Method at the Islington Special Needs Exhibition in October 2006. Having been working with young people with reading and attention difficulties since 1994, I had been interested in the new knowledge about dyslexia to be gained from neuro-imaging through the work of Goswami, and I was ready to experiment with new approaches that I might use to extend my ‘toolkit’ as a teacher. Goswami opens her article with the words:
‘Both educationalists and neuroscientists are interested in learning and how to optimise learning.’ (Goswami 2004),
and this exactly my own intention with respect to my interest in the Raviv Method.
I attended the four training weekends in London run by Nili Raviv between November and February, and I was fascinated to hear the accounts credited to the Raviv Method of the way in which many young people had been helped to overcome their learning difficulties. I wanted to set up a means of testing for myself the claims made for the Method.
I was given an opportunity to carry out a small-scale research programme at a Church of England primary school in Hampshire. I ran a project for 12 children, starting the first week after Easter and continuing until the end of the summer term. This paper analyses and reflects on the results I obtained during the summer term, and outlines the conclusions I have drawn from my investigation
The Raviv Method
The Raviv Method was developed by Israeli mother and son, Nili Raviv and Barak Ben Shimchon, to develop and correct learning and attention skills in children and adults. They draw their neuro-cognitive approach from research published by two researchers at the US National Academy of Sciences, Sally Shaywitz MD and Bennett Shaywitz MD, using imaging techniques to analyse the reading process.
The Method requires the subject to walk for 20 minutes each day in a figure-of-eight pattern, which is referred to in this paper as the ‘8-walk’, with a visual and auditory stimulus source (this might be a TV or DVD player) at the central point of the crossover. The practitioner establishes that the subject can manage to cross-walk (ie to touch the opposite hand and leg whilst marching) before the subject is asked to undertake the walk. During the walk, the subject has to keep their eyes – and thus also their ears – exactly on the visual and auditory stimulus. The subject is asked to maintain their walk at an even pace. The practitioner will use this time to give the subject a range of mental sequencing, rhyming and numerical games and exercises, designed. to develop sequencing and memory skills. These exercises are supported by ball catching and throwing. At the start of each day, and at the start of each walking session, the subject is also trained to carry out a breathing technique and a ‘clockface’ focusing exercise. There are other stand-alone exercises available as part of the package, including exercises to correct spelling, develop a ‘photographic memory’, correct letter and number directionality, dysgraphia and exam nerves. These exercises can be given as a focussed intervention when a developmental gap is found, and the plasticity of the brain will create new, more efficient structures for the learner to use.
The Raviv Method makes a number of claims to change the working of the brain. Nili Raviv believes passionately (a view shared by a number of primary school teachers of my acquaintance in England) that English children start their formal schooling far too early, and the basis of many so-called learning difficulties are the result of children whose brains are still operating solely three-dimensionally at a time when reading and spelling requires them to shift their understanding of the universe into two dimensions. The most telling example of this is that a chair is a chair whichever way up you hold it, whereas the letter ‘b’ or ‘d’ or ‘p’ or ‘q’ takes on a new identity at each rotation. She feels that the directionality and spelling exercises created for the Raviv Method are a very effective method of controlling the functioning of the neural circuitry in the brain, enabling the brain to set up new structures to compensate learning deficits which may be affecting reading and spelling.
The Raviv Method is also claimed to be an effective method to enable learners to learn to focus their brain’s mental activity. The Raviv Method theory associates high frequency brain activity with efficient learning and low frequency brain waves with poor concentration, judgement and organisational skills, lack of control of impulses and ineffective cognitive functioning. The purpose of the 8-walk is to establish the correct high frequency brain waves for attention and learning. Ultimately, it is expected that the subject will learn to focus the brain for high frequency brain wave activity for controlling the learning process, and reduce brain activity for the purpose of relieving stress, managing test anxiety and general relaxation.
My experience of the Raviv Method in action
At the first training weekend I attended, I was able to meet a number of practitioners who had come back for refresher sessions, and to hear the keynote lectures by Professor John Stein, Professor of Physiology at Oxford University, and Dr Duncan Milne, neuropsychologist and educational resources designer at ‘Smart Kids UK’. The majority of the practitioners I spoke to had been using the Raviv Method privately, with one practitioner working in a primary school. There were many accounts of children experiencing a breakthrough in learning following use of the Raviv Method, and teachers had come from as far as Australia to be trained in its method.
A particular experience of my own led me to take very seriously the effectiveness and potential of the Raviv Method in use. Whilst we were in training, we were all encouraged to carry out the 8-walk daily, and Nili explained to us that it was important to avoid doing the walk too late in the evening because of the stimulation to the brain that follows from the walk. I carried out the walk diligently each evening, and was able to recognise that during the day at school I was seeing and understanding issues in my work in a more holistic way. On one occasion, when I had arrived home late and carried out the walk just before midnight, I was still awake at 4am the following morning, and my mind was tackling weighty issues such as the reorganisation of the Special Needs Sections of my own and the contiguous Local Authority, in order to provide a more efficient service to our pupils.
Later in the paper, I will outline the results I obtained during my investigation, but at this point I will share one other example of the effect of the Raviv Method on one person connected with the project. Before I launched the project at the primary school which I will refer to as St Margaret’s C of E, I had the opportunity to meet the parents who were interested in joining the project to explain a little of the background and answer questions. Once the project was under way, I was happy for parents to be present at their children’s sessions, so that they were more confident to follow up the exercises at home. The mothers of several of the children in Years 1 to 4 often attended, and I got to know them quite well.
On my final day at St Margaret’s, I met individually with as many parents as possible, to gather their own reflections of the progress of their children. One mother with mobility problems (walking with difficulty, using a stick) had previously commented to me that she thought she might try it herself. This particular mother, who has agreed that I can mention her in this paper, was keen to tell me of her own experience. She explained to me that she has MS, which affects and weakens the right side of her body. She started to carry out the 8-walk at home by herself shortly after I introduced it to her daughter, and found that at the start it made her feel very nauseous. However, she persisted over an eight week period, and found that the right side of her body was regaining some strength, and she described herself as feeling more evenly balanced. She was able to walk without having to watch the ground to see where her right foot was going, and when she was using the computer, which she uses regularly for her work, her right hand was stronger and consequently the action of her typing felt ‘more even’. She was very pleased with this improvement in her condition, and was intending to continue to use the 8-walk as she felt it was of great benefit to her. I feel that this is an important unexpected by-product of the programme which I should record, and which should be followed up by her consultant.
My experience of combining teaching and researching
In his 1996 Teacher Training Agency lecture, David Hargreaves called upon teachers in schools as a matter of urgency to research their educational practice and move towards establishing an agreed knowledge base. His concern was that teachers are relying heavily on their own experience, ‘private trial and error’, whilst at the same time, millions of pounds are spent on university-based educational research which is not improving the quality of education provided in schools. By 2000, David Frost was able to describe the model of support for teacher-researchers where schools enter into partnerships with higher education institutions, such as the CANTARNET programme. For a brief period, teacher-researchers had the opportunity to support their research with small but useful Best Practice Research Scholarships awarded by the DfES. Many schools have used programmes such as research MAs to encourage their teachers to investigate aspects of school practice and incorporate their findings into school policy or the School Improvement Plan. Teachers are most likely to be able to see their research findings taken up by their Senior Leadership when schools are aware of the potential value of teachers researching practice in situ and reporting back. However, teachers who are working full-time and carrying out a research project are likely to be over-stretched and very tired, which is not the best way for effective research to be carried out.
My own desire to investigate the Raviv Method led directly to my leaving full-time work, with consequent loss of income. On the other hand, I have been able to explore aspects of my practice and this is likely to lead to me making significant changes in my future work. The drawback for me in carrying out the Raviv investigation is that I do not have a classroom or sponsoring Senior Leadership Team through which I can feed back my results, and this is likely to lessen the impact of what I have learned.
St Margaret’s school and the setting up of the programme
I was fortunate that my strong connection with St Margaret’s School enabled me to establish myself in the very short time I had to set up the project. At the end of the Spring term, I wrote to St Margaret’s parents to explain the intentions of the Raviv Method; this was circulated generally to the parents at the school and directed specifically to parents of children who were considered by the school to have difficulties with literacy or attention and focus in the classroom. The school itself is small – only 100 children altogether on roll – and the children are taught in vertically grouped classes. St Margaret’s is a very nurturing school, achieves well, and the children are well known and understood by the teachers. It is a country school, and the relationship between teachers, parents and governors is very close.
I held a meeting for interested parents at the start of the summer term, and was pleasantly surprised that about 14 parents showed an interest. The Head made it clear to parents that the school was housing but not sponsoring the programme, and benefits could not be guaranteed. I explained carefully that parents would have to agree to support their child to carry out all the Raviv exercises for the whole term, which would include the 8-walk for 20 minutes each day. In the event, 12 parents agreed to go forward with the programme. Over the following few weeks, an additional two parents asked for their children to join, but they dropped out fairly quickly.
My research methods
I had been expecting to follow a case-study method of close study of a small number of participating children. Once I understood that the number was much larger than I expected, I had to bring in my husband to help me by sharing the sessions under my direction. I could see the benefit of larger numbers, which not only gave me a wider research base, but also meant that my input could have a noticeable effect on the whole school, since I was working with 12% of the whole school population spread from Year 1 to Year 6. The school staff were enormously helpful, and arranged for me to work in a comfortably-appointed barn in the farm across the road. This enabled me to take children completely away from the environment of the school, and provided opportunities to admire several clutches of ducklings during the course of the summer term! But it did mean that either my husband or I had to escort the children across the road between each session, for collection and return to the school.
I started by requesting information by questionnaire to be completed by both SENCO/class teacher and parents about the difficulties experienced by each child in advance of the start of the programme, and the parents’ aim for their child. On each questionnaire, I requested details of the most up-to-date literacy or other relevant tests, as I knew I would not have time to collect my own data. I précised this information to compile my own record for each child, outlining my plan week-by-week and noting my interventions and what was achieved, together with any important additional data.
Towards the end of the programme, I circulated a second questionnaire, reminding teachers and parents of the original aim for each child, requesting observations on any changes noted and for updated test results. On the last day, I spoke to all the parents and children individually except two, and I also spent some time with the SENCO. The day was a little chaotic, as I was vying with last-minute preparations for the school summer fete!
The difficulties affecting the running of the investigation
There were significant drawbacks to working with 12 children in a school day of less than 3 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the afternoon. Specifically, these difficulties were:
No time or opportunity to carry out any of my own baseline testing or end of programme testing, making me reliant on the school and the SENCO’s records
The need to share sessions, which made it a little more difficult for me to monitor the children and ensure that the children were all receiving comparable input
Lack of time between sessions for record-keeping, exacerbated by the need to escort the children between each session
Sessions which were generally too short for me to go through all of the Raviv exercises with each child each session, which made the success of the programme more reliant on parents supervising children at home
Another problem for me was lack of access to some parents and the class teachers. Parents of the older children did not come to the sessions, and often did not return the weekly contact sheets. My breaks and lunchtimes were spent reviewing the children and trying to get records written up, and my long journey home on the M4 meant that I could not stay to talk to teachers after school. The SENCO did not work on the day I attended St Margaret’s, although several times he made the effort to come in so that he could catch up with me. We had to contend with School Journey and Activity Week in the middle of June, which affected my access to the children. And following that, the school had a snap OfSTED and Section 48 Inspection (as a Church of England school). Of course, it passed with flying colours, but it meant that the teachers were all very preoccupied at the time when I was trying to get feed back on individual children’s development. However, the children were, without exception, completely delightful, and it was an enormous pleasure working with them.
Evaluating the intervention
I had hoped to provide data which would show beyond doubt that my cohort of children had made significant progress as a result of my intervention – nothing is ever that simple! The OfSTED and Section 48 inspections at the end of June affected the teachers’ opportunity to write their end-of-term reports, and this had a knock-on effect on the opportunity for the SENCO to retest my cohort and to gather observations from class teachers. My concern about the effect of this on the evaluation of my project was somewhat alleviated by reading Timmins and Miller (2007) on the work of Pawson and Tilley in 1997 on ‘Realistic Evaluation’ of initiatives or innovations in professional practice. Their reflection on traditional forms of evaluation, where measurements are made before and after an intervention as a yardstick of success, is that this approach is predicated on a belief that a programme will have equal impact on all participants in the experimental group, and fails to take into consideration the different outlooks, perceptions and skills that participants will bring to a study. In Realistic Evaluation, the premise is ‘to discover whether programmes work’ (They quote Pawson, 2003, p 472), and to identify the resources and approaches supporting change embodied in a particular programme. My own evaluation draws to some extent on the task in Realistic Evaluation, ‘to determine which contexts are most effective in triggering the mechanisms that result in the desired programme outcomes’ (Timmins and Miller 2007).
Summary of findings – proviso
One proviso I must make with regard to my delivery of the programme is that the claims for success made for the Raviv Method are based on its delivery over a minimum12 to 14 week period. This was simply not possible for me. The children carried out the Raviv exercises from Friday 27th April and I recommended that they continued until at least the start of the summer holidays which gave a maximum of 12 weeks. I was able to visit the school and give focused input on 8 occasions, but for two of those weeks I saw alternate groups of children, so each child only received 7 sessions. During the whole of the term, only two children missed one session each through illness. It is important that my results are viewed in the context of the shortness of the programme, as the feedback I received on the progress of the children reflected only 10 or 11 weeks, one week of which was affected by the school residential.
Summary of findings – overview of emerging themes
Going through the evaluation questionnaires, I was struck by the number of children who were late spring/summer births. All except two of the children participating in the programme (one in Year 5 and the other in Year 6) were born in the second half of the school year, which appears to be impinging on their learning difficulties as they move up through school. This evidence underlines the argument that many children’s learning difficulties are at least exacerbated, if not brought about, by their starting school too early.
Almost all of the children put forward for the programme had attention and focusing difficulties, and in every case, teachers and parents noted that the there appeared to be a significant lessening of these difficulties whilst the children were participating on the programme. Two parents whose children had only completed the 8-walk sporadically noted a correlation between good focus on work and behaviour during the weeks when their child was carrying out the walk.
Increase in reading and spelling levels
Teachers or parents recorded some increase in reading accuracy in 8 pupils, and underlined the increase in motivation to read with the majority of these children. Generally, the children I was working with already had competent reading and writing skills, and I was not expecting dramatic improvements in reading scores. There was little increase in overall spelling scores, which contrasted with the remarkable results I was able to achieve with pupils learning individual words through the ‘photographic memory’ technique. This suggests that some of the children may benefit in the longer term from using the wider range of techniques included in the Raviv Method to learn spellings.
During the programme, I worked with all the children on a range of memory development exercises, including digit recall, and was pleased that for 10 children tested, seven showed a significant increase in their Digit recall tests, with some increase in a further two. It is not possible to tabulate increases, because they were tested by the school at different times.
Overall effectiveness of the programme
I was struck by the number of parents and teachers who noted an increase of confidence in their children, which they attributed to the Raviv programme. ‘More focused’, ‘less easily distracted’, ‘happier’, ‘confident to tackle his homework by himself’ are some of the comments I have included in the detailed analysis. The question must be posed whether this would have been achieved through 7 weekly sessions of individual tutoring using more traditional methods, or whether the unique approach of the Raviv Method has actually released the brain to find more efficient neural pathways to support the learning of these children. I believe there is evidence to support these claims made for the Method.
The positive nature of the evaluations I have received indicates to me that the Raviv intervention has had a noticeable effect on each of the participants in my investigation. Generally, I was working with children with reasonably competent literacy, who had been referred to the programme because of attention difficulties which, in the school’s opinion, needed correction in order to ensure the efficiency of their current and future learning.
Raviv practitioners working with children in other settings have recorded significant increases in reading ages. I was not able to achieve a significant increase in reading age for the one severely dyslexic boy in my cohort, but both teacher and parental evaluations indicated that the boy showed an increased motivation to learn. I have to keep an open mind regarding the effectiveness of the programme in increasing reading age, as I do not have adequate data of my own to make a judgement. I was, however, able to achieve remarkable spelling recall with my cohort, which I demonstrated to interested parents and the SENCO, and I hope that the children will use the Raviv spelling technique in the future for themselves.
I believe that my results overall are evidence that the Raviv exercises have significantly improved the focus of all the children with whom I worked. Parents have identified the breathing and clockface exercises as valuable tools for their children to use at school and at home to help them to calm themselves and focus on the task they are about to undertake. Several parents described their children using the clockface before a sports grading or musical activity.
It is more difficult to assess the effect of the regular repetition of the 8-walk. Clearly, the 8-walk is intended to strengthen the brain’s ability to connect the neural messages across the corpus callosum, and requires the brain to receive and process auditory and visual stimulation at all angles from a single point. This is a whole-body extension of the theory behind ‘brain gym’, which has been regularly employed in primary schools in England over the last decade. Short-term memory has been strengthened in all of the children in my cohort through the exercises undertaken during the 8-walk, and this can be demonstrated in the general improvements in the Digit recall test results.
I do not know what effect the 8-walk has on the brain itself, and I hope that my investigation will encourage neuroscientists to take this up as a relevant area of educational research. It clearly is having some effect – my own experience of the stimulation of my brain through the 8-walk led me to take the Raviv Method further.
The experience of the mother with MS described earlier in my paper should be taken seriously, as it may have a useful function to perform where part of the brain has been damaged by illness or accident. I understand from Nili Raviv that Haifa Hospital in Israel has become interested in the success her clinic has achieved by using the 8-walk with brain-damaged adults who have been caught up in the effects of war there.
It is possible to use some the Raviv exercises with children as part of a traditional tutoring package to support their learning, but I hope that my investigation has demonstrated that when these exercises are combined with regular practice of the 8-walk, there is a significant increase in children’s capacity to focus on their work, and an increased confidence in their ability to tackle independently the work they have to do.
Detailed analysis of individual results
The names of all the children have been altered, but all other data is as collected or observed.
Lisa Year 1
Lisa is very young for her year group (late August birthday) and is clearly an able child, but she has a very short attention span and poor focus. Her behaviour is difficult and attention-seeking, and she has some traits of oppositional behaviour. Before the programme, her mother noted that Lisa lacked confidence with reading, and with whole-word recall. She commonly reversed some numbers and letters. By the end of the programme, I was able to get Lisa to co-operate for longer periods than at the start, and she was really quick at the clockface exercise right from the start. Lisa was barely prepared to carry out the 8-walk for me, but her mother’s weekly records indicate that Lisa had quickly built up from 5 to 20 minutes walking each night. Lisa’s mother was strongly supportive of the programme from the beginning, and has attended most of the sessions.
More confident, focused and motivated generally
Accepts criticism and willing to learn from mistakes
Now using the phonic skills that she has learned
Confident about ‘having a go’ and motivated to write greater quantities
Only reversing ‘b’ and ‘d’
Digit recall improved from 5.08 to 6.10 between April and July
Reading and writing steadily improved
Willingness to read and write have improved considerably
Lisa now says she ‘loves spelling’ (her spelling is accurate on words she knows)
Kim Year 2
Kim is another child who is young for his year group (late July birthday), and is a very hard-working boy who is anxious to succeed who lacks confidence particularly because of poor reading and spelling. Working with Kim was a great pleasure because he tries very hard to follow instructions, and clearly enjoyed his Raviv sessions. Kim’s mother has been strongly supportive of the Raviv sessions and has attended most of them.
Definitely more focused and motivated in all areas – ‘like switching the light on…’ – ‘enthusiasm abounds!’ ‘Kim wrote 4 pages for his last story as opposed to the usual half page!’
Kim achieved 2B for his SAT Reading comprehension, which exceeded his expected target of 2C
Improvement in Digit recall test, from 2 to 9 between March and July
Kim does the clockface exercise before tackling school tasks, as feels that he then performs the tasks better.
He is more enthusiastic and motivated about his work, and will now go off by himself at weekends to do his homework.
Lana Year 3
Lana is new to the school, and it was noted that she can lack confidence in social situations. Her birthday is the end of April. Areas of concern for Lana included slow processing and retention of information, and a poor visual memory for spelling. Lana clearly enjoyed her Raviv sessions, although it was difficult holding her focus at times on the exercises. Lana’s mother sometimes attended the sessions, and if she could not be present, she would send in a note to keep me up-to-date with Lana’s progress.
Improvement in reading accuracy and comprehension – reading more fluent, and comprehension improved by 4 sub-levels in end of year test
Better organised in class – attention, focus and motivation all improved
Seems generally more confident and happy at school
Quicker and more positive to respond in class
Far fewer reversals in her writing of letters, although end of year spelling test result still low (my experience with Lana was that she still liked to ‘illustrate’ the words she was learning to spell, so she was still operating in a 3-dimensional mode)
Agrees fully with the feedback that Lana is more confident and organised
Her writing and spelling seem to have really improved
Lana herself is happy to feel more confident, and feels that people like her more
Annie Year 4
Annie has a mid-April birthday. Her NFER verbal reasoning score places her as a high average student, but she struggles to process mental maths and remember tables and spellings. She sometimes reverses ‘b’ and ‘d’. Annie’s attention and focus have always been good. I worked with Annie on strengthening her visual memory and helping her with strategies for mental maths and learning spellings.
Improvement of one year on digit recall
Some improvement in reading comprehension
No discernible improvement in spelling
Overall impression that Annie is more confident and happier as a result of attending the Raviv sessions
More confidence in her own ability
Huge improvement in spelling tests – but still needs support with spellings
Definite improvement in memory
Annie feels that she can concentrate better, especially in class, and can ‘figure things out better’
Annie loved Raviv, and would like continued support to deal with self-esteem issues relating to her learning difficulties
Tom Year 4
Tom is bi-lingual in Dutch, has an April birthday, and his slow processing has affected his reading accuracy and comprehension. He has a tendency to ‘dive in’ to work without thinking. My experience with Tom was that I had to spend a noticeable amount of time correcting his pace on the 8-walk, to achieve a more even pace and measured speed.
4 months improvement on Digit recall test
Considerable improvement on reading accuracy (10 months increase) and comprehension (18 months increase), and now reading with more confidence
Steady improvement in spelling, although not reflected in his end-of-year test
A significant improvement in Tom’s handwriting between April and the end of June
Tom did not like doing the 8-walk, although he enjoyed the Raviv sessions
He is now tackling his homework by himself with more confidence
Tom believes he is now better at everything!
Tom used the breathing and clock exercises to calm and focus himself before a ‘very nerve-wracking Tai Kwon Do’ grading and achieved success
Jenny Year 5
Jenny, July birthday, is easily distracted, processes slowly and struggles with reading, and has a poor visual memory for spellings. Jenny was the only student out of the whole cohort who ‘took ownership’ of the programme by making her own record sheets of her daily progress with the Raviv exercises at home.
12 months improvement in Digit recall
10 months improvement in reading accuracy and reading rate, and this has increased her confidence with reading
Jenny has been very keen to do the exercises, and has been able to do them without a reminder
Significant increase in Jenny’s ability and willingness to read. She now readily picks up new books which she did not before starting the Raviv programme
Jenny feels that she is more confident with her reading, and can understand more words more quickly. She also finds long words easier now
Jenny wants to continue with the exercises and feels they have helped her to concentrate on her schoolwork
Jim Year 5
Jim (November birthday) has significant problems with dyslexia, has a tutor and has been to schools in both the maintained and independent sectors. Jim struggles with reading and spelling, as he has great difficulty making phoneme-grapheme correlations. It was very interesting working with Jim, as he has a vivid imagination and original approach. I had considerable success with helping Jim to practise directionality and to learn spellings using the Raviv Method’s ‘photographic memory’ approach. Jim showed quite remarkable focus when he was doing the 8-walk, although I do not think he practised it very often at home.
Slight increase in Digit recall score
Motivation to work has increased noticeably this term, particularly on the residential trip and his most recent Iron Age project
Jim can now identify component sounds for spelling simple words
Whilst there has not been a marked change in Jim’s general classroom attitude, his diary work on the residential trip showed ‘two wonderfully focussed occasions during which he achieved far beyond what is normally seen in class, eg focus on task, prolonged concentration, sentence construction, letter sounding and word formation/ordering.’
He seems more prepared to ‘have a go’
Jim feels he is able to use the 8-walk and clockface exercise to help him to focus
Wayland Year 5
Wayland has a March birthday, and he has a very short attention span, is distractible and ‘jumps from thing to thing’. He has a good memory, but processes too quickly, with the effect that he is always ahead of himself. I found that I had to remind Wayland to slow himself down on the walk and the breathing and focusing exercises. Wayland is easily wound up by other pupils, and I have tried to help him to use the Raviv focusing techniques as a strategy to help calm himself and to manage his outbursts.
Some improvement on digit recall
Generally better focused, but a greater incidence of one-off outbursts
Wayland’s reading and spelling have always been good – comprehension slightly behind accuracy
An acknowledgement that Wayland has not kept up with the 8-walk, although he has regularly completed the breathing and clockface exercises
He is finding it marginally easier to concentrate, and has tried harder with his writing
Wayland is slightly less inclined to mis-read questions, but when bored will still jump from one thing to another, particularly when working without supervision
Wayland does not feel he has progressed much, although he feels he now finds it easier to concentrate, and is using the calming exercises ‘quite a lot’ at school to help him concentrate on his work
He has found the sessions ‘really fun’ and worthwhile
Alice Year 5
Alice, who is a late June birth, is a bubbly girl with a short attention span and is easily distractible. Her poor short-term working memory affects her spelling and she has great difficulty with remembering numbers. Alice has an Educational Psychologist’s report for dyslexia, and she has a private tutor.
3 year 4 month improvement in digit recall
‘Vast improvement in short-term working memory – not expected!’
Alice has shown improvement in levels of attention, focus and motivation. She settles to work more easily and her concentration is better. She is more involved in discussion and is eager to answer questions.
Alice’s confidence and motivation are better. She is keen to read and re-tell stories. Her reading accuracy has shown a 10 month improvement during the Raviv programme.
Alice’s handwriting is much neater and more carefully presented. There has been a slight improvement in her spelling.
Alice has improved by 3 SAT levels in her end of year test
Alice is much happier and more content at school
Alice has been willing to do the exercises without nagging
She is a lot more positive and confident – more willing to try things out
Her reading has improved immensely, with a great increase in reading accuracy
She has a sunnier outlook on school life
Alice feels she is concentrating and listening better, and can use the clockface exercise to help her to focus and manage her distractions
Callum Year 5
Callum is a July birth, and has a short attention span, is distractible and has a poor visual memory with little retention for spellings. He processes slowly. Whilst working with him, I noticed that Callum’s 8-walk was very fast, and at several points over the summer term I spent some time establishing a slower rhythm. Callum has carried out the walk at home irregularly, and was suffering from ill health for part of the term.
Some improvement in reading accuracy
Focus has improved, but this was improving steadily throughout the year
No noticeable improvement in spelling, but written work is generally neater
2 sub-levels of improvement in end of year tests
The weeks when Callum has done the exercises have been significantly better weeks (no indication to denote in what way the weeks were ‘better’)
Callum has shown a new confidence and desire to read and write, which has gone hand-in-hand with a marked improvement in concentration
Callum feels that his work has not improved, but he does feel that he is concentrating better and for longer
Imogen Year 6
Imogen is a December birth, and has had a dyslexia assessment. She is of above average ability, but suffers the difficulties that go along with dyslexia; an inconsistent attention span, slow processing, poor sequencing, poor visual memory and problems with word retrieval. Imogen gets frustrated at her own slowness. Imogen plays the flute and is a keen dancer (since January, she has been dancing for 6 hours every Saturday). In working with Imogen, I discovered that she can hold quite complicated words in her visual memory and achieve perfect spelling recall both forwards and backwards. We worked on strategies for developing her word retrieval, using her ability to make mental pictures.
No evident change in the pace of Imogen’s work
No increase in Digit recall
No evident increase in spelling accuracy
Since starting the Raviv exercises, Imogen has done several things which are different from the norm; in one week on the flute, she worked out 3 new tunes by herself, and on another occasion, she started to read a book for research, reading aloud from the book ‘beautifully’, and talking lucidly about what she had been reading – described by her mother as ‘jaw-dropping’ in its significance
She has maintained concentration with her flute practice, and it generally seems to be easier for her
Imogen says that the Raviv programme has not benefited her, and has not found that any of her work is easier
Adam Year 6
Adam, a mid-June birth, is above average ability, dyslexic, and has an inconsistent attention span, poor visual memory, slow processing and poor sequencing. Adam’s mother explained that he did all the Raviv exercises ‘rock solid’ for the first 4 weeks of the programme leading up to SATs, and he was calm and focused for his exams.
8 months improvement in reading accuracy and more than a year in comprehension during the course of the programme
Achieved level 4a for SAT reading test, which was higher than expected
Adam has become more focused and less distracted during the Raviv programme
Adam is aware that he was calm and focused, and could concentrate better when he was doing the Raviv exercises daily, and wishes to restart the exercises when he moves up to his next school
In a letter to me, his mother has written: ‘Thank you for introducing us to this useful life-tool that each child can own for him or herself, and, as in Adam’s case, apparently judge and feel the benefits for themselves’
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