How to organise and prepare for dissertation

How to organise and prepare for dissertation is no longer a nightmare! not now we have the octopus!
our friend and dyslexic academic Davey Curnow-Garland has produced this excellent video

How to organise and prepare for dissertation
head over to Daveys youtube channel for more 

Dancing Octopuses: recalling words and their spellings – Super-Memory

One of the greatest problems I find with many dyslexics and others for that matter coming from non-traditional student backgrounds is not having a wide vocabulary in dealing with the everyday tribulations of academic tasks. For some then their normal day to day vocabulary might be limited or confused, but it is the inability to excel in their course that disturbs them most of all, and this is reflected usually in their first essay coming back or feeling uncomfortable in speaking in class.

Some years ago, I considered on this, aware of my own narrow vocabulary and limited memory, and the anxiety and embarrassment it would cause me on many occasions, saying it wrong, the classic day to day words might be saying Quishy for Quiche – which would invariably leave me red faced as I was promptly corrected with hails of ridicule. Also in my mind at this time was a discussion I had with a parent who was concerned about their 12 year old dyslexic son who was having serious trouble spelling and confusion over their words and their confidence was as high about themselves as a monkey driving a bus against traffic.  I decided to experiment with Tony Buzan’s method of remembering data, the old using key words in story, i.e.: Cat, mat, budgie, Maurice, banana, policeman. So, I recall those words by laying out the story: the cat lay on the mat with a budgie called Maurice throwing banana skins at a policeman.  Words into lists become stories that can familiarise yourself with the meaning and context of the word in every day usage.  That’s great if you are learning to read and building your memory generally with everyday word. What if you are going into FE or HE and the word range goes up tenfold, and you don’t know how to even pronounce the word, or how to spell it, and don’t go there on what it might even mean. This is when we run away from the task, and do the ostrich in the sand routine, as we don’t know how to approach this hurdle.

octopus image

What good for children is good for adults, and using the same theory of connection applies, but just a little more creative. So firstly I began to get students to bring their subject dictionary to the session, so be it a history, geography, medical or whatever, get the student to know their onion, and once you know your onions as the greengrocer says, you will know where your celery and other vegetables are. You are building up confidence in your subject, with an emphasis as we said above on building memory, vocabulary and greater understanding of topic.  But as most of us dyslexics hate text (horrible nasty smelly things!!) then we need to find a way to carry them visually, like a suitcase carrying your sandwiches, you know where they are, and you just have to open it to get at them. So with this idea in my mind, I drew an octopus (Ollie) and numbered the legs from one to eight (see upload of article above). I would then take a bag of scrabble letter tiles, and put them on the table, as I would wish the student to spell them out, so they are able to break down the word into syllables if necessary and again to visualise the word.

With the student, I would take their dictionary from them, and would start at the letter A, reading it out aloud, slowly, and two or three times if necessary (having plenty of fun saying it in different accents or speeds) The student would have to then form the word on the table, and of course at times with coaxing they would eventually get it right.  Once they had spelt it, and written it down I would then ask what it meant, and the meaning they would also have to recall as well as the word, and put together a story, working from a sociology dictionary, we see it as thus: An altruistic, androgynous anarchist…etc… of course it could make complete nonsense, but it can still be rooted in its meaning. By building up each week from 5 to 10, to 15 and so on, the student became more confident in spelling, greatly more knowledgeable in their subject, and of course more able to pronounce at times tongue twisters that you would never attempt in a month of Sundays.

The octopus would grow each week adding balloons above the octopus, or adding another one beside it. For most students, they couldn’t spell the words the first week, but the following week they were much better, if not perfect, and after a few weeks, they just preferred to use lists. Also, after a few months, student would take random words from the dictionary, so spreading the alphabet more and making naturally a little less easy.  Most students were able to recall 30 to 40 words plus, with one student up to 70 a week and this particular student I must say had the most trouble spelling first time off. In fact this student migrated from a 2.2 to a 1st over two years by using this method (amongst others) to enhance memory and of course comprehension in her subject.  As we have constantly said, it is not just vocabulary, but these techniques sharpen the mind for all forms of academic purposes. Bless Ollie’s little cotton tentacles!!!


from Creative Study Skills and Educational Support: Dancing Octopuses: recalling wordsand their spelling