All entries by this author

Trouble Shooting for Early Literacy Struggles – The Role of Phonological Awareness Skills

Jan 17th, 2011 | By

Some students have difficulty acquiring emergent literacy skills in preschool and continue to struggle after entering Kindergarten. Both reading and writing are born out of the child’s awareness of the sounds of oral language, the association of sounds to letters, and the subsequent ability to map sound to print. Having the adequate literacy foundation skills of phonological awareness is a necessity. Research tells us that phonemic awareness is critical for reading and writing (especially blending and segmenting), so what is the difference between phonological awareness and phonemic awareness? Phonological and phonemic awareness are interdependent, with phonemic awareness being a subset of phonological awareness. Simply put, phonological awareness involves patterns and all units of sound (the chunks), while phonemic awareness deals with the phonemes or sounds (the pieces). Phonological awareness is innate – our brains are hard-wired for pattern-seeking. Phonological awareness involves the ability to hear/recognize and manipulate the patterns of oral language – words, syllables, rhymes, onsets, rimes, and alliteration, and is an auditory skill (no print involved). It also involves the sense of beginning, end and middle parts of words, as well as word play and the understanding that spoken words consist of sequences of phonemes. Phonemic awareness is [...]



The Gift of Inner Knowing

Dec 31st, 2010 | By

At the beginning of July, 2010, I spent a week with a group of educators from Ontario Canada – what an enriching and inspiring experience! We were there as Performance Learning Systems (PLS) instructors to share and learn more about collaborative inquiry, differentiated instruction and classroom management. When a group of experienced and passionate educators gather, discussions are never limited to the specific topics on the agenda . . . and such was the case at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario. Much of the discussion in the sessions and beyond involved teaching and assessment. To a person, the consensus was that real change needs to happen in education in Canada and the US in the ways we engage students in learning and in the ways we assess their learning. For our students to survive and thrive in a global society, more emphasis needs to be placed on thinking vs. regurgitation of information . . . and the assessment of thinking needs to move beyond “paper & pencil” methods. A traditional teacher role has been to impart knowledge as the expert and to have students parrot back information as “proof” of their learning . . . usually in “paper-pencil” assessments [...]



Neural Systems for Reading

Nov 26th, 2010 | By
Neural Systems for Reading

As more educators come to understand learning and the brain, teaching practices and strategies improve, benefiting all learners. The following is a brief summary of information from the work of Dr. Sally Shaywitz and Dr. J. Richard Gentry relative to brain systems for reading. Broca’s area (area A in Gentry’s diagram of the brain) is the Phoneme Processing Area. This is where subvocalization occurs . . a process that is slow and analytical and most likely to be used in the beginning stages of learning to read, according to Shaywitz and Gentry. This area might be activated when a K teacher has children shouting out the rhyming word in a nursery rhyme as they repeat a part in unison. Broca’s area is also the “speech” area, dealing with articulation . . . how sounds are formed in the mouth. The second area of importance is the Word Analysis Area in the parieto-temporal area of the brain (area B). This is where words are pulled apart and put back together, in essence, linking sounds to letters. It is my belief that the use of Visual Phonics hand shapes helps to activate this area. This is also slow and analytical . . [...]



Counting On What Counts

Nov 24th, 2010 | By

As was so aptly put by Albert Einstein, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted”. Those of us in education are very good at counting and keeping track of student performance with numbers and data. We notice every error in spelling, math, writing, reading accuracy, quizzes, chapter review questions, unit tests, and standardized tests. Scores often reflect what is left after all of the errors are subtracted. I have even seen spelling and math tests returned with the “score” in red ink and a minus sign in front of the number. Wouldn’t it be better to put +17 instead of -3? Teachers rarely miss inappropriate behaviors in their classrooms, the hallways, the cafeteria, the gym, at recess or on the bus. Outside of school, parents notice when children are misbehaving much more often than when they are being “good”. That seems to be adult human nature – notice what is “bad” and frequently make a comment. How would we, as adults, like it if the only comments we heard from our boss were about our mistakes? What kind of message would result and how would we feel? Consider this thought from Dr. [...]



Get Contagious!!

Nov 13th, 2010 | By

One of the joys I experience in teaching children and their teachers about Visual Phonics is to witness the “ahas” – those light bulb moments where you can almost hear the “click” of a connection being made. It is heartwarming to witness the excitement of a child when the connection between letters and individual sounds or chunks of sounds finally arrives after being elusive or confusing in the past. It is just as gratifying to see or hear teachers (no matter whether new to the teaching profession or experienced veterans) learn new ideas and strategies that change their teaching and how they look at literacy development. As a part of Visual Phonics courses I teach through Professional Development, teachers are required to write a paper and reflect on the questions with which they are provided. One of the questions deals with what teachers have noticed about the impact of Visual Phonics on their students – frequently, there are comments about students being excited, more involved in their learning, and showing more confidence. Since we’ve all heard “nothing motivates more than success”, I decided to share examples of comments I get to read on a frequent basis. One teacher shared what [...]



Preservice Reading Teachers in the Differentiated Classroom: A Rationale for Visual Phonics – by Marta J. Abele, Ph.D.

Sep 20th, 2010 | By

Editor’s Note: The author teaches reading courses at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. After becoming an enthusiastic supporter of See the Sound/Visual Phonics, she was asked to relate her experiences with her college students and their reactions to STS/VP. The following is her response, which includes a review of current research and a rationale for all teachers to include STS/VP in their reading programs. Background I love my job! For over 25 years I have either helped children learn to read, or taught aspiring teachers how to help children learn to read. As many teachers tend to do, we teach what we were taught. For example, I learned to read primarily by using phonics. My teacher stressed phonics as a useful strategy for figuring out new words, and it worked well for me. At least, I don’t remember struggling with the reading process. Therefore, I teach phonics in my college courses for the elementary reading endorsement. Even though phonics instruction was controversial for many years, I continued to think it was important and included it in my reading courses, rebel that I am. I begin each semester by asking my students, “How many of you were taught phonics as [...]



The Shower Doesn’t Work

Aug 28th, 2010 | By

Back in May, our niece from California graduated from the University of Iowa, so her family stayed at our house for a few days pre and post graduation. As is the case in most households, having company means cleaning things and rooms that aren’t usually included on the regular schedule. While there is a bathroom on the main floor in a spare room addition, the shower hasn’t been used for over a year. One of my jobs was to clean the stools, sinks, and showers. I left the spare room bathroom for last . . I cleaned the sink, the stool and then turned my attention to the shower. Hmmm . . . water to the sink, water to the stool . . . no water coming out of the shower. I checked all of the water shut-offs and everything was as it should be. Too late to call a plumber, since everyone was arriving that night! We got through the week of company by using other showers and things returned to normal. No hurry in figuring out what was wrong with the shower, right?  Wrong . . my wife announces that  a good friend is coming from out East [...]



Nobody Be Perfect

Aug 18th, 2010 | By

Words of wisdom from Bella (not her real name), a 12 year old young lady who had severe apraxia,  offered to the graduate speech pathology student who was working with her during a summer intensive therapy program. The graduate student had made a well-meaning comment about Bella’s variable sound production errors, to which Bella responded, “Nobody be perfect.” Profound and relevant. Why the pursuit of perfection? Are those of us who strive for perfection in the product missing something that was right there in the process? Does commenting only on “perfection” guarantee long lasting learning? I think not! Do we miss “moments of brilliance” and “connection” by focusing on the answer given in the teacher’s manual or to our preconceived “correct” response, instead of being open to any answer and being able to connect the dots between where we “are” and where the student’s response “is”? I wonder what would happen if we were more mind ”full” of what “is” . . and mind “less” of what “isn’t”? Would we see the perfection in each student’s thinking more often? © 2010  Dave Krupke  All Rights Reserved



Valuing or Devaluing – The Choice IS Ours

Jun 21st, 2010 | By

In any relationship, all parties have choices involving whether to value or devalue others. When we consider Emerson’s thought that “the ancestor of every action is a thought”, we realize that it is our thoughts that determine our actions and our words . . . and that we do have a choice about what we think. Conventional wisdom tells us that actions are stronger than words. Yet we also know that words can be delivered “out of sync” with the actions that accompany or follow.  In addition, it is commonly known from research and practical experience that undesirable behavior can be stopped by negative comments, but changed in a lasting way only with positive ones . . . delivered frequently. There was a study many years ago (source unknown) that involved tallies of comments between parents and their children in their homes for a period of time. Results indicated that parents comments were more negative than positive – a ratio of 13 negative to every positive comment. The data gathering then shifted to a school setting, with tallies of commentary between teachers and students in a typical classroom revealed a 3:1 ration of negative-to-positive. Much better than in the home [...]



The Value of Visual Phonics Training for Pre-Service Teachers

Apr 15th, 2010 | By

Visual Phonics has been an added strength to our Elementary Education program reading endorsement at the University of Dubuque. Today’s preservice teachers are well aware of the latest brain-compatible research for learning. Therefore, they understand the positive impact that VP can have on helping children to learn to read. When they are observing out in the schools, our preservice teachers are now seeing classroom teachers using VP with their early readers. The classroom teachers are very impressed that our students are able to jump in and reinforce the VP hand shape cues. The VP training has also added a unique element to their college resumes, and in some cases, resulted in an elementary teaching job offer! One surprising result of the VP training has been the impact on some college-level readers. In several cases, students have said that it has helped them improve their reading skills, even at this stage in their reading development! One college student preservice teacher said, “I always had trouble distinguishing between vowel sounds when I was learning to read. I struggled back then with reading, but VP has helped me now. I know it would have helped me become a better reader if I had been exposed to [...]