Visual Phonics

The Challenge of the Squiggly Lines

Jan 11th, 2013 | By

The Challenge of the Squiggly Lines Providing staff development offers many opportunities to interact with educators. Some are willing to share their thinking during the training sessions via questions and statements that call for “clarification”. Some thoughts and/or questions reflect a sense of doubt or skepticism, while some are just searching for confirmation of their thoughts & ideas. One of the concerns that is expressed during Visual Phonics trainings involves the thought that adding written symbols under print will confuse students, more so for those who struggle with the “code” of English and are already confused by the variability of the sounds that letters represent. This concern is logical from the perspective of educators whose concept of early literacy skills is founded in letter knowledge, with letter-sound knowledge in a secondary position of importance. I have given this question a great deal of thought through the years. The fear of confusing students with additional characters in the print field would appear to be valid if students viewed both letters and Visual Phonics written symbols as the same kind of “squiggly lines” on the page. At first glance, both are squiggly lines that represent something and that is where the similarity [...]



Sorting Things Out – An Update

Jun 24th, 2012 | By

Organizing is hard-wired into our brains – our brains love patterns and repetition.  The concept of similarity, or sameness, is a basic organizing strategy . . . a way to be aware of and recognize common characteristics of things seen, heard, or felt.  With the awareness of sameness comes the awareness of difference, another basic organizing strategy. Information that is sorted out through the process of comparing & contrasting (thinking about the similarities and the differences) has high storage strength, and as a result, also has high retrieval strength. The underlying cognitive constructs of polarity, category inclusion and exclusion, are part of the brain’s hard-wired organizational default.  In education, we use the terms “alike”, “same”, “go together” and “not different” to teach and reinforce “sameness”, while the terms “different”, “don’t go together”, and “not the same” teach and reinforce “difference”.  Other ways to express the idea of inclusion include “goes with” and “belongs”, while exclusion can be expressed by “doesn’t go with” or “doesn’t belong”. These very basic concepts of inclusion and exclusion can be infused into the literacy process of connecting sound to print through the use of Visual Phonics hand shapes and symbols, beginning as early as pre-school.  [...]



Utility Is the Key

Apr 7th, 2012 | By

Utility directly impacts the lasting recall of Visual Phonics hand shape cues and written symbols. Thoughtful and purposeful use of hand shapes and written symbols can be plugged in to daily dynamic routines of review, daily reinforcement activities involving coding with Visual Phonics symbols, and the use of visual references/charts. Utility is established for teachers when the Visual  Phonics cues become an effective teaching tool . . . and for students when the cues become an effective learning tool. Teachable moments – those unexpected instances when students appear confused, provide a “wrong” answer, or perhaps just don’t know -  provide excellent opportunities to connect sound and print with either Visual Phonics hand shapes or written symbols, and are often more powerful learning experiences than planned lessons. The decision about when, how much and how often to use Visual Phonics is based on how well teachers know their students and how observant teachers are relative to student understanding and response. Visual Phonics written symbols can be easily integrated into Word Walls, Sound Walls, Word family posters, and Sight Word displays. Specific information on implementation ideas can be found in a collection of articles under the Visual  Phonics tab on the Home [...]



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 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 [...]



It’s Not the Years in Education . . .

Mar 8th, 2010 | By

I really enjoy ancient wisdoms and thoughts that cause us to stop and think, such as: It’s not the years in education . . . it’s the education in the years. Making the most of our collective and individual time with students is so important, especially when some of our learners struggle with literacy skills that come easily for their classmates. As a very wise colleague once said, “we need to have a variety of brain-compatible/sense-making strategies and activities readily available at all times”. Having a variety of ways to teach and learn touches all of the various combinations of learning channels, a very important consideration for struggling learners. We must find numerous, creative, unique and “fun” ways to connect sound and print, and we need to do that on a routine basis.  Multisensory strategies/methods can open windows of learning that had remained limited or even closed through traditional teaching/learning methods. Visual Phonics, a multisensory strategy for connecting sound & print, is opening windows of learning and helping to make sound-letter connections and “break the code” for many struggling learners. Since the brain loves repetition and patterns, the activities of gathering and sorting are naturally very “brain-compatible”. There are two [...]



We Do What We Are Immersed In

Mar 8th, 2010 | By

If we immerse our students in activities that connect print and sound utilizing Visual Phonics hand shapes and written symbols, they will use these “tools” when they are processing print without being told to do so (especially the visual-kinesthetic learners).  When the teacher models hand shape & written symbol use throughout the day and embeds VP hand shape/written symbol use into learning centers, the value of the method shows up due to  frequent, intense & dynamic implementation. Consider this piece of ancient wisdom: If you give a man a fish he eats for a day . . .  when you teach a man to fish he eats for a lifetime. When we immerse our students in Visual Phonics hand shape and symbol use, they will use them more often, and will do so independently. What a truly great way to empower our students!



Sameness and Difference – The Brain’s Sorting Processes at Work

Mar 5th, 2010 | By

Organization is hard-wired into our brains – our brains love patterns and repetition of interesting and meaningful information.  The concept of similarity, or “sameness,” is a basic organizing strategy . . . a way to be aware of and recognize common characteristics of things seen, heard, or felt.  With the awareness of “sameness” comes the awareness of “difference”, another basic organizing strategy. At the foundation of how we organize is the strategy of sorting. Sorting involves reasoning about “belonging” and “not belonging” . . . or inclusion and exclusion. The underlying cognitive constructs of polarity, category inclusion and exclusion, are part of the brain’s hard-wired organizational default.  In education, we use the terms “alike”, “same”, “go together” and “not different” to teach and reinforce “sameness”, while the terms “different”, “don’t go together”, and “not the same” teach and reinforce “difference”.  Other ways to express the idea of inclusion include “goes with” and “belongs”, while exclusion can be expressed by “doesn’t go with” or “doesn’t belong”. The sorting process can be as basic as “is” & “is not”. For example, when teaching young children about the color “red”, it is “brain-friendly” to use a variety of real objects, some of which [...]



Won’t the Students Be Confused?

Feb 2nd, 2010 | By

It is not unusual for a teacher or administrator to ask this question during a Visual Phonics training, workshop, or class: “Won’t students get confused by the Visual Phonics written symbols when they are trying to learn their letters?” This line of reasoning appears to come from the observation that learning the letter names is not always easy for students and that the letters of the Alphabet are also “symbols” . . so if they are unsure or confused by letters, why wouldn’t they be further confused by Visual Phonics written symbols? At first glance, that would be a logical conclusion . . . however, with a closer look at the characteristics of letters and the characteristics of the Visual Phonics written symbols, a different picture appears. Consider this – a symbol is consistent in what it represents – it represents the same meaning no matter where it shows up. Letters can be described as “squiggly lines” which are not consistent in what they represent. Sometimes they represent their “default” sound(s) (the typical sounds that are taught in preschool and Kindergarten) and sometimes they don’t. For example, the letter A can sound long in “ate”, short in “apple”, like a [...]