Fun Summer Learning 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. They’ll never even realize they are doing their “summer work!”

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

1. Sand Writing

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

Toss and Teach Beach Ball makes learning fun and effective.

With 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 outside 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 activities

Give 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.

5. Graffiti

Let the kids write on the windows with dry erase markers or dry erase crayons.  Older kids can play hangman and younger children can practice their name and alphabet. Make sure to have a roll of paper towels on hand!

6. Chain ‘Em Up 

No, we are not suggesting a new way to restrain your kids (hmmm…there’s a thought). Say a word and have your child repeat it slowly, emphasizing the ending sound.  Ask your child to think of another word that begins with the ending sound of the first word.  For instance, if you say “cat,” your child could say, “top.”  Take turns…forming a chain of words. Note: use the words’ ending sounds, not their ending letters (so if someone says “happy,” the next word could be “eagle,” but NOT “yellow”).

7. Mad LibsTM

Play Mad LibsTM with a twist!  Buy a Mad LibsTM tablet, download the Mad LibsTM App, or download pages by searching the internet for “free Mad Libs printables.”  Have an adult (non-driving, please!!) call out the word-type needed, but with an added twist.  For instance, “I need a verb that starts with /p/,” or “Give me a three-syllable noun.”

8. Story Building

Have one family member develop the first sentence of a story.  Take turns adding a sentence.  You won’t believe the plot twists that ensue!

9. Unfortunately/Fortunately

Similar to Story Building, you will create a story one sentence at a time.  However, the beginning word of each sentence must alternate between “unfortunately” and “fortunately.”

This is how your story might unfold: “Unfortunately, on the way to Grandma’s house, Mom took a wrong turn. Fortunately, the road led to an amusement park.  Unfortunately, it was closed.  Fortunately, the gate was unlocked.  Unfortunately, a guard dog blocked the entrance.”  And so on…

10.  Audiobooks

Ten Fun (and Educational) Road Trip Word GamesDid you know listening to books can help build your children’s vocabulary and make them better readers?

Often there is more than one way to sound out a word.  If your child has heard a wide variety of words in literature, she will be better able to access her decoding skills and read more fluently because it is easier to read words you have heard before. Audiobooks also improve listening comprehension. Follow along with the written book, or sit back and enjoy the scenery.  Either way is beneficial.

Share Your Ideas

Have an idea of your own?  Email us and we’ll include it in a future blog post!

Behind the Scenes at Syllables

Jennifer conducts a training class for Syllables Learning Center Therapists.

You probably have a good idea what goes on during your child’s time at Syllables. No doubt you’ve heard about the games we play, our trip through the Vowel Valley, and how cool it is to write in shaving cream. But do you know what goes on when your child is not at Syllables? We are guessing it’s more than you realize! Between your child’s sessions, we think about them, prepare for them, and monitor their progress. Our therapists are also continually deepening their knowledge and skills through collaboration and training.

Ms. Emma and Ms. Kathleen learn new ways to work with students.

By design, most of our students see more than one therapist. This is because experience has shown us that two heads are better than one! Behind the scenes, your child’s therapists compare notes — sharing strategies and brainstorming the best ways to work with your unique child. Our leadership team is involved in this process too. This collaboration leads to insights that result in more efficient and effective tutoring sessions.

Ms. Jennifer and Ms. Eileen review a student’s progress.

Our program is diagnostic in nature. For instance, your child may think that they are simply trying to “beat the clock” with a fluency drill without realizing that we are actually tracking their progress and assessing their mastery of concepts. Though we are not able to formally re-screen students as frequently as parents would like (because too much familiarity with the screening invalidates the results), our ongoing in-session assessments are monitored by our leadership team and form the basis of the progress reports we send home each month. If we see that a child is not making the progress we expect, we put our heads together and pull new strategies from our extensive toolbox.

Ms. Kathleen and Ms. Britanie review student progress and brainstorm the most effective ways to help students succeed.

All Syllables therapists complete rigorous and ongoing training and observations. This professional development is led by our Founder and Executive Director, Jennifer Hasser, an internationally recognized expert in dyslexia who has trained thousands of teachers worldwide and is sought after as a speaker at reading and dyslexia conferences. Jennifer and her team at Syllables keep up with the latest research and teaching methods and pass this information along to our therapists. Our training program is accredited by the International Dyslexia Association and the Multisensory Structured Language Education Counsel, who set a very high standard for our teacher training.

We appreciate your trust in us and we are honored to be on your child’s team. If you have any questions about our program or your child’s progress, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Differentiating in the Classroom

The Kendore Kingdom curriculum is designed to benefit all students. Our activities enable teachers to continually assess student progress so that they can help struggling readers while also giving those who catch on quickly the opportunity to delve deeper. We recently received the following question from a Kendore-trained teacher and thought it was worth sharing.

Hi Jennifer,
What do I do if I have students in my group that already know or quickly grasp the understanding of sounds and letters? I want to make sure I attend to all the kids in my classroom, and not hold anyone back.
Sincerely,
Dealing with Mixed Levels

 
Hi Dealing with Mixed Levels,
Great question! All students can benefit from retrieval, memory and phonological awareness activities while building reading capacity. Teachers often confuse rushing through phonics as true reading instruction, but that would be like memorizing the rule book for a sport and never over-learning the fundamentals.

We want students of all levels to have a solid foundation before moving forward, and because our curriculum is full of activities all students are sure to stay engaged!

Here are some recommendations for providing your students with challenges while focusing on phonological awareness.

  • Provide students with a word and ask them to give you words that rhyme with it (e.g., cat, bat, hat). Discuss why the words rhyme by breaking down the sounds in the word.
  • Use Smiley Thumbs Up lists and have students identify words containing the target sounds for the week. You can always add more challenging words to test high performing students.
  • Lots of kids may know their sounds, but do they know how they’re produced? Talk to your students about how the sounds are made, where the air travels, tongue placement, etc., and ask them to watch themselves in a mirror for full kinesthetic learning.
  • Incorporate oral punctuation and oral sentence construction into your lessons! Watch this helpful demonstration to see how.
  • Try Magazine Madness, the activity where kids cut pictures from magazines into either syllables or phonemes. This can prove to be quite challenging!
  • Incorporate parts of speech into your lessons by using a MadLib to teach nouns, verbs and adjectives containing the target sounds.
  • Even high performers can build automaticity to increase their reading rate! Use fluency drills to build sound retrieval, and pair off students of similar levels to time each other.
With card games, memory building activities, Sound Track and more, the possibilities are endless!
Please contact us if you need more ideas or have a question you’d like answered. We may feature it in a future blog post.

Putting Things in Perspective: Timeline for Intervention

Oh, the back-to-school craziness! The lazy days of summer have come to an abrupt end and our homes and minds swirl with more logistics than we can possibly manage. The worry we felt in May has faded, so when it comes to jumping into fall tutoring, it’s easy to pause and say, “we’ll just wait and see how things go.”

If you have a child who struggles, it’s important to make choices with a long term perspective. Remediating a learning issue gives children the skills and tools they need for a lifetime. If that voice inside your head is telling you there is a problem, don’t wait…listen!

In this quick video, Jennifer Hasser puts learning struggles in perspective to help you as you make choices for your child.

Advanced Activities for Kendore-Trained Teachers

Adapting Activities for REVLOC

This blog post highlights how the multisensory Kendore activities our teachers know and love can be altered to help students work on advanced concepts, including syllable types (“REVLOC”). If you are a Kendore-trained teacher, read on! If you would like to know more about becoming trained in our curriculum, check out Kendore Learning’s website or contact us.

Hot Lava

Early in the curriculum, teachers learn how to use the Code Quest Consonant and Vowel decks to play Hot Lava to test their students’ automaticity. Quick recap: Set down a series of cards on the ground and ask your student to say the sound before hopping to the next card. If the student incorrectly identifies the sound, they fall into “hot lava” and have to go back to the beginning. Students love using their imaginations with this activity, pretending to meet a fiery demise when they misstep.

The UNLOCK REVLOC deck is perfect for Hot Lava! Lay down two or three syllable cards next to each other to form a multisyllabic word. Ask students to read the word and then hop on it to stay “safe.” Create a path of these words. Note that the word you form with the REVLOC cards do not have to be real words because students need practice decoding both real and nonsense words in order to know how to apply the rules you are teaching.
You can also create a path using a variety of single syllable cards. Ask the students to cross the “hot lava” by jumping only on a certain syllable type, or by naming the syllable type before they jump on the card. For a Hot Lava reminder, watch our demonstration video.

Beach Ball Toss

This Kendore activity is an excellent way to get students up and moving while they practice syllable types.

Place cards from the UNLOCK REVLOC deck inside the pockets of the Toss and Teach Beach Ball. Toss
the ball back and forth and ask your student to read the card their thumb lands on and identify what syllable type is represented. Advance to having the student read two cards next to each other on the beach ball so that they can practice decoding and smoothly reading multisyllabic words. Remember that having them practice reading real and nonsense words will help them build automaticity.
For a reminder about how to use the Toss and Teach Beach Ball, watch our demonstration video.

Syllable Tracking

You’ve been working with your students on Sound Track since their very first Kendore lesson. Now that they’ve been introduced to some of the syllable types, they can work on Syllable Tracking. This activity follows the same structure as Sound Track, but now each rainbow token will represent one syllable. Therefore, your student will work on strengthening their memory skills by recalling a multisyllabic nonsense word, identifying which syllable is changing, and showing the change.
If you have any questions about these activities, please contact us. We would be more than happy to help!

Chunking Information Helps Students Remember What They Learn

When delivering new content to students (particularly struggling learners), it is important to chunk information into small, digestible parts. Why?

By breaking content into smaller bits, and presenting it gradually over a period of time, we maximize retention rates in the classroom because chunking makes more efficient use of working memory. A child is more likely to remember twenty vocabulary words if they are presented with two or three new words each day rather than all at once.

Watch this short video to hear Jennifer Hasser explain why this strategy helps students succeed!

 

 

 

 

 

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 22nd through Tuesday, 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 “Alumni”

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.

The Importance of Nonsense Words

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

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

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.