Teaching with the Butterfly Book


Just teach them. They’ll learn.

We do not support the idea that children from ‘disadvantaged’ families should
be educationally ‘disadvantaged’. Children who are taught to read, write and
spell the Butterfly way just don’t fail in the way they are expected. And we
reject suggestions that parents, who might themselves be educationally
underprivileged – illiterate perhaps – should be blamed for failing to teach
their children themselves.

We describe the way our children achieve – no matter how ‘under-privileged’
their families may be – as the uniquely powerful Butterfly Effect.

This Butterfly Teachers’ Pack is for committed volunteers and
others who believe that literacy, speedily taught by the Butterfly scripted,
structured method of whole-class, direct instruction, provides a unique
foundation for a child’s educational success.

The methodology set out here may be used by those who have signed up,
with Real Action, to this exclusive programme. 



Butterfly children are normally aged 5-12. Their reading age is assessed by
national standardised reading test. They are placed in classes appropriate to
their reading level.

Teachers may find that the class registers contain the following information
against children’s names: date of birth and reading age. Note that reading age
7.03, for example, means 7 years 3 months; 7.06 means 7 years six months;
7.09 means 7 years 9 months. Where the reading age is beyond, or below, the
calendar age it is possible to calculate the difference as an advance, or a
‘deficit’, expressed as +/-. For example a child aged 9 with a reading age of 7.09
(7 years 9 months) has a ‘deficit’ of - 1.03 i.e. the child’s reading age is 1 year 3
months below their calendar age.

It is the teacher’s job to use The Butterfly Book: A Reading and Writing Course,
and the further materials and methodology associated with it, to secure
maximum improvement in reading age for every child. Naturally a child with a
substantial ‘deficit’ is a matter of concern. A child approaching secondary
school age with a ‘deficit’ of one or two years or more will be informed that
s/he is expected to move rapidly up through the classes. Teachers should
inform a member of the team immediately it is apparent that clear progress has been made so
that the child can be re-tested and moved up.

At the Butterfly Saturday Reading Schools testing is normally conducted at the
beginning of the autumn term, half-way through the spring term, and
sometimes at the end of the summer term. Children may also be re-tested at
the parent’s, or the child’s, or the teacher’s request. Progress is reported as +/-
in relation to the last reading age recorded. New registers may be compiled
showing +/- in relation to the new reading age.

Children with even quite substantial reading age deficits normally make speedy
progress in Butterfly classes. Where an individual child seems not to be making
headway a member of the team should be informed. Tendencies to confuse the order of letters,
or, for example, to confuse ‘d’ and ‘b’ should be particularly noted as they may
indicate dyslexia. (The Butterfly programme is particularly effective in
redressing dyslexia.)

The child moves up a class the moment s/he has achieved the next level. For
example if a child is re-tested before break s/he is congratulated – often with a

handshake – and is invited to transfer to the next class straight after break.
This is something they normally enjoy doing, without delay.


Butterfly teaching enacts the principle that –

The teacher is an authority in two senses:

  As the individual who bears the moral responsibility of passing on

knowledge, understanding, culture and values from one generation to

the next, and as the person who controls the class.

Butterfly teaching methodology is:

  Didactic

  Whole class

  Direct instruction

  Interactive

  Structured

  Directed by the teacher

  Planned and presented to enable 100% of the children to be taught

100% of the time

  Contrary to the ‘child-centred’ primary school norm

  Complementary to and supportive of, but distinct from, the national


  Founded on principles developed, and demonstrated as proven

effective, by Butterfly course director Irina Tyk.

Butterfly teaching normally does not involve:

  Groupings within the class

  Different activities for different groups

  Child-directed activities

  Games

  Sequences of activities involving movement of children away from their


  Containment strategies

  Therapeutically-driven support

  Inclusion of drawings or pictures as a supplement to text or



It follows that:

  The teacher teaches, at a quick pace, from the front of the class

  Children are seated in rows, preferably at separate tables, facing the


  Children are required to pay attention to, and respond to, the teacher

  Children are called randomly to respond

  Children do not get out of seats unless required to do so

  The teacher is encouraged to move around the class commenting on,

and marking, children’s work

  Children do not normally speak unless they have put up their hands, and

been invited to do so

  Children are discouraged from introducing their own topics, or any

remarks, that distract the class from the lesson being taught

  Interactive communications are between the teacher and the taught,

not between different children

  Inattentive and/or distracting behaviour is prevented by reducing

distractions and keeping children ‘on-task’ throughout the lesson

  Each session presents a lesson to be learned

  Children are tested regularly on what they have learned

  Good work is praised and rewarded

  Bad work is criticised

  Right and wrong answers are pointed out when spoken, and marked

when written

  Children do not mark each other’s work

  As they advance children are encouraged to speak in sentences.

  Children should neither shout nor whisper. They should be encouraged

to speak clearly and correctly, in good English.



Irina Tyk’s unique, dynamically effective Butterfly reading and English books
now comprise:

  The Butterfly Book: A Reading and Writing Course

  The Butterfly Grammar: A Course for Better English

  The Junior Butterfly Reader (not yet published)

  The Advanced Butterfly Reader (not yet published)

Also available is Linda Webb’s Funtastic Phonics.

Other useful material includes our Word List (see page 7), Alpha to Omega,
Schonell’s Essential Spelling List, Once a Week Comprehension, Help Yourself to
English: Words, First Aid in English, Junior English, So you really want to learn
English, some information sheets: Vocabulary lists, Guidelines for
Comprehension and How to write a story.

First things first

Children are taught the basics of how to read, spell and write with The
Butterfly Book: A Reading and Writing Course.

This fast-paced, cumulative, fine-structured programme of phonics takes the
children from zero to reading age 8+. It swiftly transforms them into
independent readers, able to read what they call ‘chapter books’. The course
provides a fine foundation for a life-time of learning.

Funtastic Phonics by Linda Webb provides lots of Butterfly practice and
dictation and revision material.

Moving on....

Children with reading age 8+ may need first to consolidate their basic literacy
with some revision, using Butterfly Book Lessons 54 to 62, and our Word List –
focussing particularly on soft ‘c’, soft ‘g’ and words with silent letters.

You can now also teach The Butterfly Grammar Book.

Systematic teaching of spelling, with dictations and spelling tests, are routinely

given to all Butterfly pupils. As they move on there’s grammar, punctuation,


vocabulary, comprehension, reading aloud (around the class, each lesson),
learning by heart (poetry, definitions of words), essay- and story-writing,
preparation and delivery of speeches.

Other resources can now be drawn upon: poetry anthologies, fairy tales,The
Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and Oscar
Wilde’s The Happy Prince and Other Stories, exemplary modern fiction by
Michael Morpurgo and others, for example.

and upwards...

The Junior Butterfly Reader launches them into the higher reaches of
comprehension and literary appreciation. For readers over the age of 11
there’s The Advanced Butterfly Reader.

The Butterfly Reader books have an additional virtue. Not only do they
consolidate the ‘basics’ of literacy and grammar by their inclusion of strands –
in the Preparing to Read sections (from The Butterfly Book and Butterfly
Grammar;) they also provide a model for teaching virtually anything: poetry,
literature, narrative history in particular. And H. E. Marshall’s Our Island Story,
E.H. Gombrich’s A Little History of the World, and classics by Dickens,
Shakespeare; and well-written newspaper features can now be read,
discussed, understood and appreciated....

Butterfly homework normally consists of a short exercise to enable pupils to
consolidate what they have learned in the lesson, to be done on one of our
homework sheets, and brought back the following week.



  See that tables and chairs are evenly spaced, in rows, facing the front, so
children can face and interact with the teacher.

  All bags, coats, pencil cases etc. should go to somewhere designated at the
front or back of the class at the beginning of the lesson. We provide them
with the materials they need. Pupils should only have what is absolutely
necessary for the work they are doing. The less things they have, the less
things they can fidget with, drop on the floor etc. This means you may find
it worth taking time to hand, collect and re-hand out books, exercise books
etc. For example, when introducing a new sound from The Butterfly Book
on the board at the beginning of the lesson it’s worth having nothing at all
on pupils’ desks to help ensure you have everyone’s undivided attention.

  Write the date, and the lesson and page numbers on the board.

  In larger classes, particularly where you don’t have an assistant, when

introducing a new lesson you may find it easier to write a section from The
Butterfly Book up on the board and point - rather than have children read
from the book. You can keep the tables completely clear, they don’t have to
share books, and there is no potential for children losing their place in the
book since you can point to words on the board.

  Each lesson should start by ensuring there is absolute silence, children are
sitting properly at their desks with no coats, bags etc. and the register
should be taken. If someone is late and arrives after the register has been
taken then their lateness should be remarked upon in front of the class.

  Please ensure the class registers are taken at the beginning of the lesson.

REMEMBER: YOU ARE THE AUTHORITY, in two senses. You are the person
with the moral duty of passing knowledge, understanding, culture, values
etc. from one generation to the next. And you are the person who controls
the class. You’re the teacher, the leader!

  Choose children to read at random to keep them on their toes. Move
between children quickly to keep up the pace so that a child may be called
on at any time and they don’t think they can go to sleep for half a page.

  When reading, if a child makes a mistake allow him or her a short amount
of time to correct the mistake, otherwise say it’s wrong and move on to the
next person. You can give another chance later on. Never be afraid of saying

something’s wrong. You might like to keep a list of the difficult words to go

over at the end or use in a spelling test.


  Don’t ever allow children to guess words and stop them if they do. If they

don’t know the word they should say out aloud the sounds by blending
them, as they have been taught to do by us. For example: men / tion. Bear
in mind that this may be the opposite of what they have been taught to do
at their normal school. Children using this method is absolutely critical to
the success of what we teach. Depending on the situation you can ask for
hands up for someone else to say the sounds, not the whole word even if
they know what it is.

  All writing that both you and the children do should be from left to right.
For example, discourage pupils from making lists of words down the page.
Encouraging the mind to look and think from left to right helps combat

  Children not reading should follow the text with their finger. If they lose
their place they should silently put their hand up for the teacher or
assistant to show the correct place. While reading the assistant - and if
necessary the teacher - should pro-actively go round the class making sure
that absolutely everyone is following with their finger.

  If a child reads quietly then getting him or her to stand up first at his or her
desk may help.

NEVER leave a class unsupervised by an adult. If you have no assistant
send a responsible child with a message to the Butterfly Superviser.

  If a child doesn’t start to read when asked because he or she hasn’t been
following then admonish him or her quickly then move on to the next
person. Keep the pace up. You can go back to the pupil again.

  One option is to get a pupil – chosen at random - to read a sentence or
paragraph. When they make a mistake you move on to the next pupil.

  Any word that a pupil gets stuck on should be broken down into its sounds
and blended. Again, this is fundamental to the phonics method of teaching
reading that we use. If the word is an exception to a normal phonics rule
then say so and don’t worry. Children readily accept this. The point is that
they will never appreciate what the exceptions are if they don’t know what
the rules are and that’s what we teach. It may be worth keeping a list of
these words for a spelling test or to go over on the board.


  After the break the children are usually quite excited and boisterous. Don’t
start until there’s absolute quiet. You may wish to take the register again
which quietens things and emphasises that work is about to begin again. A
spelling test or dictation directly after break is helpful in calming things
down. As well as words incorporating the sound being introduced that day,
this can be used to revise and re-enforce the previous week’s lesson.

  Teacher and assistant should look out for children not sitting up straight,
not facing the front, both feet not on the floor, hands in front of mouths
etc. and immediately correct posture. Watch out for the pencil rolling off a
desk. Stop it rolling, and you’ll stop several children scrabbling for it, and
disrupting the class.

  Avoid ‘toilet’ breaks. If you are not quite strict about this you can find
yourself ushering a stream of children out of the room, and little is learned.

  All written work (except for homework) should be done in the exercise
books. Work from The Butterfly Book should be copied into the exercise
book. If you prepare a homework sheet, the children should use it only for
homework. They should never write in The Butterfly Book.

  Keep the desks in rows facing the front with as much space as possible
between them. If you have to push some together to allow children to
share books, push them apart afterwards.

  Make sure relatives, school friends and rivals always sit apart.

  Although we normally stick to a rule that children aren’t allowed to leave

their desks, some teachers find that calling a child to write an answer to a
question on a board works well. Any mistakes must be promptly corrected.
The correct answer must be demonstrated. The authority of the board is
also at issue here. Don’t leave anything incorrect on the board.

  Some teachers don’t allow children to write on the board when answering
questions as it undermines the authority of the board and means that
something that is potentially incorrect may be written down. Others allow
this. Don’t leave anything incorrect on the board.

  When doing written work don’t wait for the slowest child. Move on when
the majority of the children have finished. Keep the pace up. You may want
to select a few children to read out their work – if they haven’t finished tell
the pupil to work more quickly in future and swiftly move on.

  Make it clear that no one should leave their desk without permission. This
again may be different to school during the week for the pupils, so don’t
think this is something that the children are definitely already aware of.
Similarly, make it clear that there will be no talking without permission by
putting hands up. If you have just begun taking a class it may be worth
saying this explicitly at the start of the lesson.


  Good work should be praised in front of the class. Award stickers for good
work. Bad work should be criticised in front of the class and parents should
be informed of either.

  Apart from when testing, mark written work as you go around the class. The
assistant should also mark.

  Children should not be asked to mark each other’s work.

  Homework should be set with the purpose of consolidating what was

taught in the lesson. Hand out prepared homework sheets for this.

  Please remember to complete the class record sheet.


Revised by Mark Ivens, and Pam Clarke
in November 2002
Amended October 2014 and 2022!

Real Action, The Learning Store, 3 Mozart Street, Queens Park, London W10 4LA Registered charity number: 1072633
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