How it works

The specialist approach which can be used by non-specialists!

Steps is unique because it works on many levels.


Literacy approaches often do not work with learners with difficulties because they do not have the skills needed to process the information itself. See the examples below:

  • There is no point teaching a learner which letters go with which sounds if they can’t process (identify, blend and sequence) the sounds in the first place.
  • It is of limited use to present the learner with word after word to learn, if he/she has major difficulties with visual perception or visual memory.

The most effective approach is to develop all of the underlying processing and cognitive skills at the same time as teaching the literacy knowledge.

This is done by ensuring that the learner sees and uses the word in a wide variety of contexts. The learner will do a whole series of activities in the order specified to make sure that he/she can:

  • Read the word confidently and without hesitation
  • Recognise the word instantaneously
  • Put the word into context
  • Spell the word
  • Break the word into individual sounds
  • Blend the word together (from sounds or chunks)
  • Define the word
  • Type or write the word

The carefully designed structure means that a non-specialist teacher/teacher-aide or parent can use the program effectively, even if they don’t have an indepth theoretical knowledge of this field.

Automatic revision is built into the program. Steps will analyse the learner’s errors and produce individualised units for that learner.

The learner can also play a range of adaptive games, which provide extra reinforcement in an enjoyable, varied way.

See an example of individual progress using Steps

The example below is from a student at Whangaparoa Primary school, who received two term’s teaching as part of a group (Terms 2 and 3 of 2011). The graph shows the improvement this student made in 20 weeks of teaching. This was in groups of up to 5 pupils at a time for 4 x 40 minutes per week. Pre and post testing was done using Lucid assessment software and the Schonell Spelling Test.

click the image above to enlarge


This pupil had significant learning needs. He initially scored at below the 20th percentile for every aspect and was over 2 years behind in both reading and spelling. He had done Reading Recovery and had several years of remedial literacy teaching with no significant improvement before starting on Steps.

Notes: Cave = visual-spatial memory, Mobile = auditory memory, Nonwords = decoding ability, Segments = phonological awareness