Make Significant Strides With Summer Tutoring

During the school year, students squeeze tutoring into a schedule packed with school, sports, homework, and other afterschool 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.
  • Brush-Up for Syllables Alumni: If your child has graduated from Syllables’ reading program, they are welcome to come in for a free retest. 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.  View Our Training Schedule
  • Sibling Screenings: Dyslexia and other learning disabilities run in families. If you have a current Syllables student and are concerned about their 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.

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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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.

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.

Learn more about working memory by watching the video below:

Effective Strategies for Teaching High-Frequency Words

In general, high-frequency words are considered to be the most frequently occurring words in text. Students need to be able to recognize these words instantly in order to read fluently!

High-Frequency Word Facts

  • Only 100 words account for approximately 50% of the words in print. These words include the, of, to, was, for and if.
  • The most frequent 300 words make up 65% of all printed text.
  • Students should know the first 300 words by the 3rd grade.

Phonetic vs. Non-Phonetic “Discovery” Words

Many of the most frequent words are completely phonetic, allowing for students to decode their meanings efficiently and with ease. For example, that, with, and not are all phonetic words and can be decoded.

Other high-frequency words cannot be decoded or sounded-out. For example, of, was, and some are non-phonetic words requiring memorization. We call these words “Discovery Words”  since we must “keep digging” to discover which part of the word is not saying what we expect.

Some words must temporarily be treated as non-phonetic words requiring memorization until classroom instruction covers the rules they follow. For example, the word have follows the rule that English words should not end in ‘v’; therefore an ‘e’ is added. Most students will have to memorize have before that rule is introduced.

Most high-frequency word lists do not distinguish between phonetic and non-phonetic words. Students are required to memorize hundreds of high-frequency words — even those that follow standard, decodable patterns. This can be overwhelming for any student, but it can be particularly daunting for a struggling reader or a student with dyslexia.

At Syllables and Kendore, we simplify things by dividing high-frequency words into two categories: phonetic and non-phonetic. This dramatically lessens required memorization because students who have learned phonics rules can decode phonetic words efficiently and with ease.

For non-phonetic “Discovery Words,” the color red is associated with memorization so that words can be easily discernable at the time of instruction. Students will come to know that they must memorize words that are written in red. Commonly confused words like ‘saw’ and ‘was’ are not as confusing when students see the phonetic pattern in ‘saw’ and learn ‘was’ as a “Discovery Word.”

Teaching Tools for High-Frequency Word Instruction

The Discovery Dig Card Deck makes high-frequency word instruction fun and memorable! The Discovery Dig features over 100 of the most frequent sight words, explanation and instruction cards, and additional cards you’ll need to play War, Grab, and more. Play your way to reading and spelling success!

With our Discovery Word Book Set, students investigate non-phonetic sight words to figure out where the word has a spelling they have yet to discover. Use this bound book of reproducible masters to reinforce “Discovery Words” — non-phonetic high-frequency words.

Students will enjoy learning about non-phonetic high-frequency words with the Discovery Word Quicksand Kendore Kit. This kit comes with 36 high-frequency words printed on double-sided cards. Choose the non-phonetic word you wish to reinforce, and your student will see, spell, say, and shape the word with red clay.

Use the Discovery Word Wall to display and reinforce the most frequent non-phonetic sight words after you have introduced them. These “Discovery Words” do not follow basic phonics rules, yet students need to have these words orthographically mapped for basic reading and sentence construction!

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.

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.

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!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Ten Fun (and Educational) Road Trip Word Games

Road Tripping this Summer?

10 ways to eliminate the “I’m Bored,” chorus from the backseat.

Ten Fun (and Educational) Road Trip Word Games

Whether you’re traveling cross country or logging time running errands around town, put your car time to good use this summer with these 10 fun road trip word games. Shhhh — don’t tell the kids that you are reinforcing language skills while they are having fun.

1. Graffiti

Let the kids write on the windows with dry erase markers.  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!

2. License Plate News

Call out the letters on the license plate in front of you and have your kids develop a wacky newspaper headline using the letters as the start of each word.  For instance, MEW could be “Man Eats Walrus,” and BDH could be “Boy Develops Hovercraft.”  For younger kids, simply have them think of a word for each letter.

3. Sound String

Create a string of words by listening for the beginning and ending sounds! 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 string 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”).

4. ABC Scrapbook Page

Ten Fun (and Educational) Road Trip Word GamesWhile traveling home from vacation, have your children write the letters A – Z down the left hand side of a piece of notebook paper.  Have them think of a word from your trip that starts with each letter.  Be creative.  For instance, a trip to Disney World might yield a list that starts like this, “Ariel, Belle, Carousel, Dad, Everybody was happy, Florida, and so on.” Your children may either write or illustrate their word if it is too difficult to spell. This idea was submitted by a parent who regularly plays this game with her kids and saves the results as a trip memento.

5. 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.”

6. Travelogue

Ten Fun (and Educational) Road Trip Word GamesFor older kids with internet access: have your child Google the towns you pass through and ask them to find and read aloud three interesting facts about that town.  If you are in no-man’s land, have them research your destination and tell you about some of the landmarks you will see there.

7. 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!

8. 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…

9.  Grocery List

Build an imaginary grocery list one item at a time in alphabetical order.  The trick is remembering each item on the list as it grows.  For example, the first person might say, “I went to the grocery store and I bought artichokes.” The next person might say, “I went to the grocery store and I bought artichokes and Band-Aids.”  Create any kind of list you want — items to take to the beach, things found in Aunt Betty’s house, etc.

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. While traveling this summer, consider listening to audio books in the car instead of listening to the radio or watching a DVD. 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!