b d Reversals

March 31st, 2016 by

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?

February 29th, 2016 by

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

February 29th, 2016 by

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

February 3rd, 2016 by

“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

November 20th, 2015 by

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

November 6th, 2015 by

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.

The Importance of Nonsense Words

October 2nd, 2015 by

Let’s talk nonsense!

We are frequently asked why we use nonsense words with students. Parents and teachers worry that nonsense words will confuse their children and will interfere with learning new words. While we wholeheartedly agree that students need to work with real words, we also know that nonsense words play an important role in effectively teaching students how to read and spell.

Many young children have excellent memories and are able to memorize one syllable words without understanding how the words’ sounds connect with their letters. When these students eventually are introduced to multisyllabic words that do not contain memorized words, the child is lost.

If a student has been given a strong foundation in the alphabetic principle (connecting sounds with letters) through real and nonsense words, more advanced words won’t deter them in the future. For example, if we ask a student to sound out the nonsense word “lat,” we are reinforcing the sounds /l/, /a/, and /t/. Students who have learned to decode (read) and encode (spell) using letter sounds will not be deterred if the words they encounter are unfamiliar or as they increase in difficulty. They will not have to resort to memorization of large words because they will possess the tools they need to decode. Later, as the child is exposed to more advanced words, they will see words like “latitude” and “bilateral.”  They will learn that roots like “lat” are not necessarily nonsense after all —  “lat” is a Latin root that means “side.”

Working with nonsense words will not confuse a child in terms of vocabulary because if a word is not assigned a meaning, the child will not use it. For instance, the student who decoded the word “lat,” in school will not come home and say, “Mom, can we have lat for dinner?” or “I really would like a new pet lat.” Since the word has no meaning, it will not interfere with the child’s growing vocabulary. On the other hand, it will help with their reading and spelling for years to come.

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Choosing the Right Reading Material for Your Child

September 28th, 2015 by

Choosing the right reading material for your child can be tricky. Most experts agree that a child is reading at the appropriate level when they can decode 95% of the words on the page. Any less than that and comprehension, fluency, and confidence suffer. If you find that your child is not able to read accurately and fluently, the book they are reading is probably too difficult.

So what do you do if you are at the library or bookstore and you need to quickly assess whether the book your child picks up is one that they can handle? Have them take the Five Finger Test!

The Five Finger Test makes Choosing the Right Reading Material a Snap!Five Finger Test

  • Tell your child to open their hand and extend their fingers.
  • Open the book to a random page and have your child start reading.
  • Each time they miss a word, have them fold down one finger.
  • If all five fingers are down by the time they reach the end of the page, the book is too challenging.

In general, the most appropriate books will leave your child with two to three fingers remaining at the end of the page. If they can easily read all of the words on the page, the book may be too easy.

Ask yourself the following additional questions as your child is reading:

  • Do they understand what they are reading?
  • When they read aloud, do they read smoothly?
  • Does the topic interest them? (Remember, the goal is not only to teach your child to read, but to teach them to LOVE to read!).

Support Your Child if They Want to Read a Book That’s Too Difficult

Reading Aloud helps expand vocabularyIf your child picks up a book that’s too difficult for them, don’t despair. Read the book aloud to them or let them listen to the book in audio format. Contrary to popular belief, having a child listen to a book is not “cheating!”

When a child hears a new word read aloud their vocabulary expands and they are better equipped to decode that word when they eventually encounter it in writing (because it’s a lot easier to decode a word you’ve heard before than one you’ve never encountered). Introducing new words auditorily will significantly improve your child’s reading, and is particularly important in keeping struggling readers from falling further behind their peers.  Audio “reading” also enables struggling readers to stay current with the books their peers are reading and discussing.

Don’t stop reading aloud to your child when they are able to begin decoding for themselves. You can read aloud with your child well into their middle school years.

Making the Most of Reading Time

One last tip — if your child is reading material that is challenging for them, rethink the bedtime routine! Many parents save nightly reading time for bedtime, when the child is tired. This is often the worst time to read independently. Encourage your child to read earlier in the day when they are fresh, or reserve nighttime reading to a book you read to them.


Correct Sound Pronunciation

September 14th, 2015 by

Phonics is the pairing of a language sound with a symbol (letter). When teaching phonics (i.e., the letter ‘b’ says /b/) it is very important that students are taught the correct pronunciation of the most frequent sound of that letter. That is why the Kendore/Syllables curriculum emphasizes correct sound pronunciation before moving on to more advanced reading concepts.

We cannot stress this enough: it is crucial that teachers and parents form sounds correctly! However, many of us make the common mistake of saying “muh” for /m/ and “buh” for /b/, etc. This is because of the way many of us were taught years ago — old habits are hard to break!

After viewing the Correct Sound Production video, listen to yourself make the sounds to ensure that you are saying them properly. This will pay off when you start blending sounds to make words.

Learning Hard and Soft C and G Rules

July 22nd, 2015 by

Mastering hard and soft c and g rules is an advanced skill that yields significant rewards. Beginning readers frequently encounter hard c and g sounds as they learn single syllable words (for example: cat, cloud, go, and glow). However, soft c and g are often found in Greek and Latin roots so they tend to appear in more complex, multi-syllabic words. Understanding how to decode c and g enables students to read very complex words (for example: biological and circumspect).

Hard and Soft C and G Rules

When c is in front of an i, y, or e, it is soft and says /s/. For example: city, cycle, and race.
When c is in front of any other letter, it is hard and says /k/. For example: camera, car, and cone.
When g is in front of an i, y, or e, it is soft and says /j/. For example: giant, gypsy, and gem.
When g is in front of any other letter, it says /g/. For example: go, gave, and gravel.

There are some common sight words that don’t follow the rules (for example: girl and gift). This is why we teach hard and soft c and g rules to older students, who already have good mastery over basic sight words and phonics concepts. These students can handle the additional layer of hard and soft c and g rules.

Giant vs. Cyclops: Hard and Soft C and G Games

Our Giant vs. Cyclops card deck gives students a fun way to practice applying hard and soft c and g rules. The game comes complete with instructions for playing six games of varying difficulty. To ensure mastery, the deck contains real and nonsense words (nonsense words force players to decode rather than memorize). Click below for a video demonstration of two fun Giant vs. Cyclops card games.

Order Giant vs. Cyclops — on sale through 8/31/2015.

Jennifer Hasser demonstrates games that teach hard and soft c and g rules.