duffy remedial reading

Duffy method
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The Duffy remedial method for teaching the reading and spelling of English was devised by renowned Sydney cleric Cornelius J. Duffy, D.D., Ph.D, F.A.C.E., O.A. (1902-1986).

This website explains the Duffy method and provides resources for teachers wishing to improve their remedial skills in the reading and spelling of English, and for teachers of English as a second language.

duffy remedial reading While working as an inspector of Catholic schools in the Australian State of New South Wales in the 1950s, Dr Duffy became aware of some upper primary children of average ability or better who were unable to read, let alone spell.    

He was puzzled by this as most children gain literacy skills using visual memory and to a lesser degree auditory memory, frequently incorporating some phonic word attack skills and, in the past, rote learning. 

Note: We read chiefly to gain knowledge or for entertainment. It is possible to read - that is, to gain the meaning of a word such as sabre - without being able to pronounce the words properly.

With a university education in Latin and Greek, as well as knowledge of French, German, Spanish and Italian, Dr Duffy was over many years able to develop his unique understanding of the development and structure of English based on its history.

Through word consciousness he was able to show English is a rich language that is both logical and consistent in structure, based on four main streams.

In a series of 12 charts he was able to present these streams as well as factors such as changes in pronunciation of some words that have occurred over the centuries - e.g. the ci in social and precious is now usually pronounced as sh and is often spelled that way, and the slurring of the letter a in words such as medical and secondary.

Euphony is the reason for grief becoming grievous rather than griefous, and innigate becoming irrigate.

duffy remedial method

The Duffy method is essentially a cognitive, thinking approach which does not rely on visual memory for every word.

It incorporates going from the known to the unknown and time is not wasted on what is already known. It enables use of texts which are of interest and possible use to the students rather than graded readers.

Click here for The Four Main Streams that make up the English language

Dr Duffy provided examples of the different groups in two booklets - Traffic Lights Reading and Spelling (published by E.J. Dwyer Pty Ltd) at the primary school level and Spelling Vertically for secondary students.

These books are now out of print. However, Words by Design - Making Sense of English by Judith Gleeson provides examples at all levels.

Note: For a full understanding of the Duffy method, evidence to indicate its efficacy and how the Duffy charts must be used to be effective, consult The Manual compiled by Judith Gleeson.

 About the author          

Judith Gleeson was born and educated in Albany, Western Australia in 1933. Judith was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship and obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Western Australia. After completing her teacher training she taught English and Social Studies for three years at secondary level in that state. Following the death of her husband she returned to Albany from Melbourne with her son and daughter and gained a position as School Psychologist at the local high school. In 1964 she traveled to England with her children to gain experience in working with children with special needs. After a term teaching English she gained a post as Educational Psychologist in the Child Guidance Clinic in Romford, Essex.

It was here that she developed a particular interest in learning disabilities and was able to attend courses at the Word Blind Centre and at the Tavistock Clinic in London. In 1967 she went to Toronto and worked there as a school psychologist. Among her new colleagues there was great interest in the diagnosis and treatment of learning disabilities enabling her to acquire considerable skills in this area.

On return to Perth, Western Australia in 1969 she worked with the Education Department’s Guidance Branch and then as inaugural school counselor at Guildford Grammar School and Perth College. Here she was able to put into practice many of the skills she had learned overseas. It was in 1971 that she met Dr C. J. Duffy and subsequently became involved in teaching the Duffy Method of teaching Reading and Spelling. So committed to this method she set up the Duffy Remedial Centre which ran during the school holidays, training teachers in the method and running intensive weekly classes for children.

Following a year as a senior lecturer at Claremont Teachers’ College in Remedial and Special Education 1976, Judith rejoined the Education Department of WA as a Senior Psychologist. She later took up a District Guidance Officer position located in Geraldton and later at Kewdale.  During these postings  she noted that the Duffy Remedial method could be successfully employed to children and adults from Indigenous and CALD backgrounds.  In 1979 she was awarded a Master’s Degree in special education. In 1989 Judith assisted with the establishment of the Royal Society of Arts diploma course in Perth to teach teachers how to teach the learning disabled.  She retired in 1990 and then undertook post-graduate research into the causes of learning difficulties. Judith made a study of the links between food intolerances and learning difficulties in children and she undertook PhD research.

Judith was passionately committed to the Duffy Method and made many attempts to write these manuals on Duffy’s important contribution to literacy over several years. They are now available to students and teachers to have access to the original work of Monsignor Duffy. Sadly Judith passed away several  months after completing this important work in 2007, she has left this legacy for all. This site is not a business and by purchasing the materials you allow this site to remain open for all to have access to the method.  



This website presented by
Judith Gleeson's family

remedial reading and writing
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