Questions & Support

Need help?  For parents, teachers, homeschoolers — or students working independently.  If you have questions, problems, or need suggestions or tips for Davis Symbol Mastery, please post here.

  11 comments for “Questions

  1. RC Vid
    July 22, 2019 at 12:06 pm

    Looking at the alphabet index pictures, seems the trigger word is created in whole to help remember the word. We were taught to look up the word and create a symbol for each word in the definition. Is that not correct?

    For example, in, creating a box with something inside seem easier to master than creating a symbol for each word- “contained” “by”

    Appreciate the help, I dont want to make this hard on my daughter.

    • July 22, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      I am not sure I understand your question – but with Davis Symbol Mastery, you would look up the definition before modeling the word, but the model would be of the word’s definition, not the separate words within the definition.

      Because the definition will almost always contain trigger words, you might have to also model those trigger words separately.

      So for example, looking at the word “to” defined as “in the direction of” — as seen here:

      Your daughter would look up and read the definition; she would think of some example sentences; and then she would make a model that depicts the meaning of the word “to”.

      But the definition contains three additional trigger words — “in”, “the”, and “of”. Each of those words needs to be modeled. The order in which they are modeled usually doesn’t matter. But the goal is to eliminate confusion about word meaning — so if a person couldn’t understand the definition of the word “to” because of confusion over the meaning of “in” — then they might have to put “to” aside and model “in” first.

      If a word has multiple meanings (separate numbered definitions in the dictionary), then ideally each definition should be modeled, but typically only the most common definitions are modeled. When there are more than one definition of the same word, they do not have to be modeled at the same time or in sequence.

      As to your example — if we look at the word “in” with the definition “contained by” – as shown at — it would NOT be correct to do a model of “contained” and “by” — but you need to do a model of “in” that incorporates the full meaning of the words in the definition. I actually don’t think that the model we have posted is the best illustration of that – it seems to be modeling a different meaning — “within a certain place” — so I think I will update the caption on that picture so the model better matches the meaning.

      If we go back to the “to” model, you will see that with the arrow, it very clearly shows the meaning of “in the direction of”. If you worked with a facilitator, your confusion might be stemming from a misunderstanding of the instructions, as the facilitator would have told you to check to see that each model includes all the elements of the definition.

  2. Rebecca Cable
    March 19, 2018 at 7:02 am

    Apologies if this is basic. I am just starting, day 1 with using this method to teach my 6 year old the letters of the alphabet. She knows the song inside out but hasn’t retained the information to be used outside of the song. Once she has made her letters are we supposed to keep them all or start afresh with making them until she has mastered it. I don’t want her to think I didn’t value her artistic skills by binning anything, however there’s not an infinite amount of storage space at home?

    • March 19, 2018 at 9:52 pm

      Rebecca, generally with a younger child like yours we would recommend keeping the letters, so that as you move onto Symbol Mastery with words she has a collection already molded letters to use rather than having to remold letters for each new word. However, some of that depends on how easily and quickly the letter molding process is. Also, for the most part you only need lower case letters for word mastery.

      I’m a little confused by the question “start afresh with making them until she has mastered it” — with Davis, the intent is that the process itself leads to mastery. So for a 6 year old you might start with the upper case alphabet, taking as much time as needed and saving the letters so you will have them all together at the end for the alphabet mastery process. After the letter Z is modeled you will be able to lay all the letters out along side an alphabet strip and use suggested Davis exercises until mastery has been achieved. Mastery means that she understands and can point out differences between similar letters — such as I and J, or O and Q — and she understands letter order without having to think if the alphabet song. So for example, if you asked, “what letter comes after J” she would answer “K” without hesitation. After uppper case you would repeate the process with lower case.

      Alphabet Strip and Letters

      With a 6 year old, I would very highly recommend the Davis Young Learner’s Kit for Home Use – — the instruction manual that comes with the kid is full of wonderful ideas for different activities and ways to keep the learning process fun and engaging for a young child.

  3. Barb
    July 26, 2017 at 2:40 am

    For symbol mastery, is it necessary to have the letters flat on the table when writing the word to go with the picture? If a student has the letters standing up is that a concern? What about shape and size of letters — what if they are not uniform height or not properly formed? If the student is satisfied, do you still question them and push them to see those errors?

    • July 26, 2017 at 4:50 am

      It’s generally best if the letters are flat on the table, because that is how the student will ordinarily see letters on a page. So while the model is 3D, the goal is to also have the student develop the skill to recognize words when spelled with 2D letters printed on a page.

      You should have already completed Alphabet Mastery before moving on to Symbol Mastery with words. If the letters are correctly formed, even if not of uniform size, and the student is satisfied, then I think it is usually fine to move on. But if there are consistent problems with a particular letter or the letter is inaccurate (such as if the letter is reversed or clearly incorrect, then it my be a sign of an unresolved trigger. In that case you would probably want to guide the student toward discovering their own error, and/or do detriggering of the particular letter if necessary.

  4. Jon
    June 2, 2017 at 9:00 am

    If a student models a word, should they be able to easily and immediately recall a detailed memory of the image if asked to recall it weeks, months or years later, or is the memory supposed to be unconscious?

    • June 2, 2017 at 12:54 pm

      Great question! Because our goal is mastery, the memory should be both automatic and subconscious. Our goal is to supply a picture-thinker with the ability to think with words like “in” or “about”. But the only thing needed for that is the concept the word conveys – not necessarily the specific image.

      For example, a person might model the word “in” showing people “in” a house — as is shown at

      But later that person hears or reads the phrase, “toys in a box”. A picture thinker needs to retain the idea of something being “in”, but a mental image of a house is not important. So rather than consciously recalling the clay model that was created, it would be best if the person automatically creates a new mental picture to fit the sentence — this time with toys and a box, rather than people and a house.

      So even though we are using clay images to provide an example of the word, only word meaning is important.

      It would not be appropriate to try to test a student by later asking them to describe their model or recite the word’s definition. Instead, our goal is simply to eliminate confusion. If the student later seems to be triggering on a word or having difficulty with understanding a passage containing that word, it is possible that the word would need to be revisited and remodeled; or it may be that a secondary or alternative definition of that word needs to be remodeled.

      But very often picture thinking is very fast and happens on a subconscious level. So there really would be no purpose in testing the person’s memory of the model.

      • Jon
        June 6, 2017 at 3:44 pm

        Thanks for that answer! It definitely makes sense, especially once you consider multiple definitions often exist.

        – J

  5. Tattie
    April 27, 2017 at 1:50 am

    Would this also work with learning cursive handwriting? Maybe after the print alphabet is learned well?

    • April 27, 2017 at 2:14 am

      You certainly could try using clay modeling for cursive, especially if a person is having difficulty recognizing and forming cursive letters.

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