Retention Prevention: What You Need to Know Before Standardized Testing

Workshop: Retention Prevention
Thursday, January 25th
7:00 – 8:30 pm
Syllables Learning Center
12755 Century Drive, Suite C
Alpharetta, GA 30009

Standardized testing season is about to begin. With the Georgia Milestones right around the corner, schools are already evaluating student progress and creating a short list of students at risk of being retained. If you are concerned about your child’s progress, now is the time to determine where your child stands and develop a plan. Waiting until standardized test results come in will not give you the time you need to reverse your child’s trajectory.

Communicate with your child’s teachers now about your concerns. Make conversations productive by being as specific as possible. Telling a teacher, “My child can’t seem to answer basic questions about what she’s just read,” or asking “Should it take her 45 minutes to complete her math homework?” will start a more productive dialog than simply asking, “How is my child doing?” Keep a notebook with a running list of questions and concerns that arise when your child is doing their homework or when papers come home from school. A positive, collaborative line of communication between you and your child’s teacher will help prevent any surprises from cropping up at the end of the school year.

Jennifer Hasser, M.Ed., Dyslexia Advocate and Executive Director of Syllables Learning Center

Jennifer Hasser

If you would like more strategies to help your student, please join Syllables Executive Director Jennifer Hasser on the evening of January 25th for Retention Prevention: What You Need to Know Before Standardized Testing. The workshop is free, but please register.

To learn more about the impacts of retention, watch the short video below:




Rethinking Bedtime Reading

Bedtime reading is a treat for natural readers. But for kids with dyslexia or other learning issues, curling up with a good book at bedtime is not the best way to end the day. It is important not to pair frustration and struggle with the act of reading, and if your child is tired, they will become frustrated quickly. If you have a child who finds reading challenging, it’s time to rethink the bedtime routine!

Click on the video below for helpful suggestions.

Advocating for Your Child: What You Need to Know

Join Me on September 18th at 6:30 pm

A Message from Executive Director Jennifer Hasser

Dyslexia educator Jennifer Hasser

When your child struggles in school or is diagnosed with a learning disability, your role as a parent shifts. Suddenly you find yourself navigating complicated territory — struggling to become an expert in what’s wrong, and sorting through the confusing web of options to help your child. It’s overwhelming at best, but when you layer on worry and fear, it can be debilitating. Time and time again, I meet parents who are nearly paralyzed as they begin the process of getting their child the help they need.

As the captain of your child’s team, one of your most important jobs is to determine how best to work with your child’s teachers and school. The most successful parents I see are those who stay organized and manage to keep the process non-confrontational. They understand what the school can provide, and they know when they need to seek outside help.

Unfortunately, I also see parents who make costly missteps when working with teachers and administrators. Parents of children with learning issues do not have time to make mistakes.

Please join me on Tuesday, September 12th at 6:45 pm for a free workshop entitled, “Advocacy: Effectively Partnering with Your Child’s Teachers and School.” At the workshop, I will discuss five common mistakes I have seen parents make, and I will teach you how to avoid these pitfalls. Parents will leave the session with a better understanding of the IEP process and will be equipped to foster a constructive relationship with their child’s teachers and school.

This workshop is sponsored by the Georgia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association and  Understood is a collaboration among nonprofit organizations with the express purpose of helping parents of children with learning and attention issues. Understood provides concrete, tangible tools and information, as well as access to experts who can help parents and children on their journey. Joseph Cortes of Understood will be at the workshop and will provide participants with a free (and very helpful) IEP Organizational Binder.

Advocacy: Effectively Partnering With Your Child’s Teachers and School
Tuesday, September 18th, 6:30
Mountain View Library
3320 Sandy Plains Rd, Marietta, GA 30066

Session is free, but please RSVP 

Make Summer Learning Fun With These Four Outdoor Activities!

Summer provides an excellent opportunity to work with your kids to boost their skills and prevent the dreaded (and very real) summer slide. But mention summer learning, and most parents envision grumbling kids and workbooks at the kitchen table — enough to make them call it quits before even beginning.

We know that learning is most effective when it is enjoyable, when it engages the senses (i.e. when it’s multisensory) and when it involves new and unique experiences. So get your kids moving this summer and promote learning while they are having fun outside. They’ll never even realize they are doing their “summer work!”

Four Multisensory Outdoor Activities to Promote Summer Learning

Note: we have geared these activities toward reading/writing and phonemic awareness, but you can easily adapt them to other concepts you are reinforcing.

  1. Sandwriting

    Sandwriting makes learning funHeading to the beach or playground? Have your child practice sounds or sight words in sand. Writing in different textures makes writing a multisensory activity and helps kids retain what they learn. Plus, it’s fun!

  2. Beach Ball Toss

    Beachball Toss summer learning activityWith a permanent marker, write sounds, words, or nonsense words on a beach ball. Toss the ball to your child and have them read the words closest to their thumbs. For advanced students, cover the ball with blends, vowel teams, roots, examples of syllable types, etc.  For a beach ball that doesn’t become obsolete once your child masters the concepts you are practicing, check out the Toss & Teach Beach Ball, which features reusable pockets ideal for flash cards or cards from our card decks.

  3. Scavenger Hunt

    Send your kids on a scavenger hunt in search of the sounds they are learning (or for objects that have the sounds in the middle or end of their names). If your kids are old enough to use a camera or phone, have them photograph what they find and review their photos and sounds with you. You can make this more challenging for advanced kids by asking them to find objects with a certain number of syllables or with certain syllable types in their names.

  4. Paint the House (Yikes!)

    Multisensory outdoor learning activitiesGive the kids a bucket of water and paint brushes. Have them write sounds, words, or even a whole story on the house, driveway, deck, etc. Watch as the writing evaporates and fades away.



b d Reversals

Why Do Children Experience b d Confusion?

To understand b d reversals, it helps to think about how we learn to label objects. When children are very young and beginning to acquire language, the first thing they learn is to associate names with objects. They learn that a ball is a ball, a cup is a cup, and so on. They also learn that no matter how they view an object, its name typically does not change — a cup is still a cup whether it’s on the table or upside down on the floor.

b d reversals occur because b and d look so similar but have different namesWhen we introduce letters to children, things get a bit more tricky. Thankfully, most letters look unique, making them easier to associate with their name. For instance, y, k, f, and e all look different. They can be identified even if they are viewed backward or on their side. This is not so for b and d. They are mirror images that look so similar that they are difficult to tell apart. Furthermore, if these tricky twins are flipped upside down, p and q become involved!

b d reversals occur because the letters are mirror images of each otherIt is important to note that b d confusion is NOT a phonics issue — children do not say “mom and bab” instead of “mom and dad.” They are not confusing the sounds, they are visually confusing their symbols.

Most children under age seven make occasional b d reversals. This is not a concern and will correct itself over time. But children with learning issues, including dyslexia, can have b d confusion that persists past the age where children begin to accurately discriminate between b and d.

How to Correct b d Reversals

The most effective way to promote learning is through frequency, intensity, and duration. In other words, the best way to correct b d reversals is to spend time with b and d! Students should be taught correct mouth formation when each sound is made and they should be exposed to b d discrimination activities repeatedly over time. Kendore Learning’s dabboo hand tattoos intensely reinforce b d identification over a period of several days. To learn more b d reversal remedies and to learn a helpful b d fingerplay, watch the videos below.



What is Working Memory and Why is it Important?

Working memory is the brain’s system for temporarily storing and managing the information required to carry out complex tasks such as learning, reasoning, and comprehension.

Children with poor working memory typically have difficulty remembering multi-step tasks and instructions. They also may have issues with impulse control, because their brain cannot hold the thought of both an action and its consequence at the same time.

Working memory has a profound impact on reading because sounding out words requires that a child hold each sound in working memory before putting those sounds together. For instance, a child with a working memory deficit may sound out /b/, /a/, /t/, and then go back to say the word, only to find that they have forgotten the sounds they just decoded. The child will then guess by saying “butter” or “bite.”

One of the best ways to help a struggling reader who has working memory deficits is to help reading become automatic. Teaching good decoding strategies creates automaticity, which frees up working memory space. Students with poor working memory can also benefit from brain training programs such as Cogmed.

Learn more about working memory by watching the video below:


Learning Disabilities Association Conference 2016: Photo Gallery

We were thrilled to attend the Learning Disabilities Association Conference in Orlando, where we spent three days talking with educators about multisensory teaching tools and strategies. Our Executive Director Jennifer Hasser received rave reviews for her workshop entitled, “Reaching Students with Reading Disabilities Through Multisensory Games and Activities.”

Learning Disabilities Association Conference: Kendore Booth

Anna-Leena, Jennifer, and Catherine at the Kendore Learning exhibit booth.

Learning Disabilities Association Conference: Kendore Booth.

Talking with a teacher about multisensory games.



Playing Slap at Learning Disabilities Association Conference

Reinforcing literacy concepts using what? Yes, those are (clean) toilet bowl brushes.

Multisensory games at the Learning Disabilities Association Conference

Jennifer leads a participant through “hot lava” during her workshop, “Reaching Students with Reading Disabilities Through Multisensory Games and Activities.”

Explaining Brain Research at LDA Conference

Jennifer takes a moment to explain the brain research behind multisensory learning strategies.

Jennifer Hasser and Kendore Learning at Learning Disabilities Association Conference

The “Cupid Poop Relay” was a big hit.

Learning Disabilities Association Conference Kendore Workshop.

Jennifer got participants on their feet during her workshop. Here, she teaches a lively way to sound out words.

Learning Disabilities Association Conference: Jennifer Hasser's Workshop reviews

We’re proud of Jennifer’s rave reviews!

Learning Disabilities Association Conference: Jennifer Hasser's Workshop reviews Learning Disabilities Association Conference: Jennifer Hasser's Workshop reviews

Why We Teach Sounds Before Letters

“Letter of the Week” is NOT Good Practice

It’s very common practice in preschool and kindergarten classrooms to introduce the “letter of the week.” While this method of teaching is based on good intentions, it presents problems when children are learning to sound out words (decode) and write (encode). Learning letters limits children because some important sounds in the English language are not represented by single letters (for example, /ch/, /sh/, /ow/ and /au/).  Also, alternate spellings get confusing when one sound is pegged to one letter.

Why We Teach One Sound at a Time

There are only 44 sounds in our language and the rapid automatic retrieval of those sounds is the foundation of reading. Regardless of age, in order for a student to be a fast and accurate reader, the sounds must be mastered. If a student is not able to retrieve the sounds efficiently, their accuracy and comprehension will suffer. EVERYTHING else in reading is secondary to this crucial first skill.  Once a student shows mastery, he or she will move ahead to increasingly more complex concepts.

Watch Kendore Learning Executive Director Jennifer Hasser explain in greater detail.

Make the Most of Winter Break

Winter Break, when your child is not overwhelmed with school and extra-curricular commitments, is an excellent time to get ahead. Relaxed and rested children are more receptive to learning!

winter break tutoring at SyllablesThough we will suspend our regular schedule from Saturday, December 19th through Friday, January 1st, we will still see students by appointment.

Current Syllables Students

Fit in a few sessions to get ahead and speed up progress. Multiple-hour sessions are available.

Syllables “Almuni”

Brush up on skills by scheduling a few refresher sessions. Don’t forget that we offer free assessments for our former students. Schedule your assessment now so that we can develop a plan for Winter Break.

High School and College Students

We work with older students on study skills and test taking strategies. Winter Break is an excellent time to focus on these critical skills. It’s also an excellent time for high schoolers to tuck in some SAT/ACT test prep.

Call us at 770-752-1724 for more information or to schedule.

Reflecting on Dyslexia Awareness Month 2015

Dyslexia Awareness Month was busy and exciting — with events taking place across the nation. It was a time to reflect on the importance of literacy education, raise much needed funding, and come together as a community to support those with dyslexia.

Here in Georgia we were proud to sponsor the annual Dyslexia Dash. On a personal note, it was rewarding for me to see an event I started years ago grow into a powerful force in providing funding and community support for literacy initiatives.

On a national level, I was honored to lead a workshop at the International Dyslexia Association Annual Conference in Dallas. Hundreds of educators attended our session to learn about the importance of multisensory education (and to discover the benefits of the Ghost Poop Relay!!). It is inspiring to meet people from across the nation who have devoted their lives and careers to helping people with dyslexia.

The month has ended, but its benefits continue.

— Jennifer Hasser, Kendore Learning and Syllables Learning Center Executive Director

IDA Conference International Dyslexia Awareness Month

Our workshop, Putting Research into PLAY, was attended by dyslexia educators from across the nation.

Jennifer Hasser and Kendore Learning at IDA Conference

The Kendore/Syllables team at the IDA conference. We enjoyed meeting so many dyslexia educators and advocates.

Dyslexia Dash Atlanta 2015

We had a blast working the Dyslexia Dash photo booth.

Educators at IDA Conference

At the IDA Conference, more than 100 of us played Beach Ball Pass to demonstrate fun and effective ways to teach literacy.

IDA Conference Kendore Spelling Bees

Spelling Bees Anna-Leena and Pam buzzed around the Kendore Booth and celebrated Halloween at the International Dyslexia Association Conference.

IDA Conference Multisensory Activities

We practice what we preach! Our workshop at the IDA Conference was multisensory and full of movement.

Jennifer Hasser teaching multisensory activities

Preparing for the Beach Ball Pass at the IDA Conference. Before each activity, we discussed research that proves that multisensory education WORKS!

Jennifer Hasser speaking at IDA Conference

Yes, toilet bowl brushes can be effective learning tools!

Teachers at Dyslexia Dash Atlanta 2015

Runners and supporters at the Dyslexia Dash. This group of dedicated teachers goes the extra mile (literally) for their students.

The Syllables:Kendore team Dyslexia Dash 2015

The Syllables/Kendore team at the Dash finish line.

Kendore Learning at IDA Conference

We enjoyed introducing educators to Kendore’s multisensory games and activities at the IDA Conference.

Families coming together at Dyslexia Dash Gerogia

Families came together to have fun at the Dyslexia Dash. Here a dad and daughter played a multisensory game in gooey Brain Freeze.