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.

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.

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.

Meet Artist Meghan Ambrose

June 30th, 2015 by

Artist Meghan Ambrose of Inklings and HuesWe are proud to feature work by artist Meghan Ambrose in Syllables’ lobbies.  Meghan has been a member of the Syllables family for nearly ten years – serving as a tutor, associate director, and in her current capacity as graphic designer. Meghan is the creative force behind the art found on Kendore Learning card decks and curriculum materials.

Meghan’s journey with dyslexia began long before her affiliation with Syllables. As a child, Meghan worked harder in school than other students, yet she often was labeled “unmotivated” and “lazy.”  This continued through her freshman year of college, where once again Meghan worked harder than her peers but still struggled academically.

Notes Meghan, “A children’s literature class my sophomore year was my turning point. I was asked to read aloud to the class, something I had always dreaded. After class, the professor pulled me aside and asked if I had ever been diagnosed with dyslexia.” Subsequent testing revealed that Meghan was “profoundly dyslexic” and that it was remarkable that she had achieved so much without remediation or accommodations.

Artist Meghan Ambrose of Inklings and Hues

Meghan displays her art at local festivals and on her Etsy site.

Always a gifted artist, Meghan changed her major to art and began to excel.  She transferred to the Atlanta College of Art, where she graduated third in her class. Meghan also pursued training in dyslexia remediation and became a reading tutor at Syllables.  “I knew I wanted to help kids like me,” Meghan reflects. “I would tell students that I understood their struggles and I explained how Syllables would make a difference.”

Today, Meghan combines her artistic talents with the love of teaching she developed at Syllables. When she is not at home with her son Gabriel or designing art for Syllables, she is busy teaching art to children and adults.  Meghan sells her art at local festivals and on her etsy shop, Inklings And Hues. She is also available for commissioned work. Contact Meghan at InklingsAndHues@gmail.com.

Home by Inklings and Hues artist Meghan Ambrose

Chicadee and Baby by artist Meghan Ambrose of Inklings and Hues





Ooey, Gooey Multisensory Fun!

May 26th, 2015 by

Brain Freeze is one of our favorite tools for multisensory fun. This ooey, gooey gel keeps students engaged and actively learning as they practice sound and word dictation.

A cup of water transforms Brain Freeze from tiny crystals to squishy gel. After a day or two, the crystals dry up and can be reconstituted or stored for later.

Watch Syllables Learning Center/Kendore Learning Executive Director Jennifer Hasser demonstrate Brain Freeze.

 Watch Brain Freeze Multisensory Fun DemonstrationBuy Brain Freeze


Make Significant Strides With Summer Tutoring

April 28th, 2015 by

During the school year, students squeeze tutoring into a schedule packed with school, sports, homework, and other after school commitments. Summer frees up not only time, but also brain bandwidth — making summer tutoring at Syllables extremely productive.

Don’t miss the chance to help fill in any learning gaps and prepare your child to succeed next school year!

How Syllables Can Help

  • Intensive Tutoring:  Speed up your time with us by increasing tutoring frequency or scheduling two-hour sessions. Students who complete “intensive summer tutoring” make remarkable strides and dramatically shorten the time they need to spend with us during the school year. Because our therapists are experts at keeping students engaged and active, double sessions are extremely productive.
  • Math: If your child comes to Syllables for reading tutoring but also struggles in math, consider adding math to their Syllables summer tutoring menu. Our Orton-Gillingham math program breaks down math in a new way — giving your child the tools they need to finally “get it.” Math tutoring is available for students in grades K through 5.
  • Cogmed Working Memory Training: Did you know that is is possible to actually change the existing pathways of students’ brains to boost working memory and improve learning skills for a lifetime? Summer is the ideal time to complete Cogmed Working Memory Training, which requires several blocks of time per week. Learn More.
  • Brush-Up for Syllables Alumni: If your child has graduated from Syllables’ reading program, they are welcome to come in for a free reading assessment. We will determine if your child has retained their skills and kept up with their peers. If we see any deficits, summer is a good time to fill in gaps.
  • Study Skills: Did you know that we are experts in teaching kids study skills? Summer tutoring is an excellent way to develop these skills without the pressure of daily schoolwork. Learn More
  • Work at Home: Parents who work with their child at home decrease their child’s time at Syllables. Make sure to complete the practice your therapist recommends between sessions. You can also visit our YouTube channel to watch demonstrations of games you can play and activities you can do at home.
  • Attend a Training Session: Parents are welcome to attend our teacher training sessions (offered through our sister company, Kendore Learning). You’ll learn our proven method of teaching reading and you will leave prepared to help your child at home more than you ever thought possible! Parents of currently-enrolled Syllables students receive 40% off of Kendore Kingdom training.  Learn More
  • Sibling Screenings: Dyslexia and other learning disabilities run in families. If you are concerned about your Syllables student’s sibling(s), bring them in for a complimentary one-hour reading assessment. If there is an issue, we can help you make a plan.

Not sure how to structure your child’s summer at Syllables? Give us a call at 770-752-1724. We are experts at assessing students and helping you make the most of your child’s time with us.

Teachers’ Corner: What Should I Do if My Students Have Poor Phonological Memory?

January 28th, 2015 by

What is Phonological Memory?

Weak Phonological Memory leads to frustration in the classroom.Phonological memory is the ability to hold information (numbers, sounds, words) in working or short-term memory for temporary storage. Students must be able to hold information long enough to process it, use it, and then transfer it to long-term memory.

Why Poor Phonological Memory is a Problem

Poor phonological memory can hinder a student’s ability to accomplish most tasks including:

  • mastering early reading skills
  • learning new vocabulary words
  • comprehending new and lengthy material
  • following multi-step directions

For example, when decoding an unfamiliar but lengthy word, a student must figure out each sound and then each syllable. The student must recall these word components in exact sequence, and finally, blend them back together.  The longer the word, the more parts there are to remember. Children often have to rehearse each syllable first until they know it well enough to blend all of the syllables together to complete the entire word.

If a child with poor phonological memory is hearing new words as someone is talking, the speaker may be well into the rest of the message while the child is stuck making sense of the new word.  Or, the child may miss the new word as he or she tries to keep up with the story/message. Either way, vocabulary development is at risk.

How to Help a Child with Poor Phonological Memory

Helping a child with weak phonological memory to be successful in the classroom requires us to be mindful of the following:

  • how much information we deliver at one time
  • what senses we engage when delivering and reinforcing information
  • how often we repeat key ideas

C.A.R.S.:  Remember this mnemonic and your students will be off and running!

CARS -- A Phonological Memory Reminder.Chunk Information into smaller parts for mental storage.  Only introduce one or two concepts at a time and pause strategically when talking.

Allow for Success by teaching, modeling and practicing (and practicing some more!). Practice skills in different contexts to reinforce.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat!  Restate key elements or new information in various ways.  Have students repeat back to you.  Use purposeful pausing as you repeat.

Sensory: make lessons multisensory!  Children with poor auditory memories need to SEE, ACT OUT, and FEEL the lesson in order to understand better. Their weakest mode of learning is by sitting and listening.