Make Your Child a Stronger Reader

May 3rd, 2023 by

Want to help make your child a stronger reader and a better critical thinker? Learn to ask the right questions!

When your child is reading (either alone or with you), engage in discussions that will stretch their imagination and inference skills. For instance, if your child is reading Harry Potter, you could ask them the following questions:

  • Would you rather be a wizard or a muggle?  Why?
  • What do you think it would feel like to see Hogwarts for the first time?  Describe what you see in your mind’s eye.
  • If you could invent potions or spells, what would you create?

Books vs. Movies

Make your child a stronger reader - book before movie.When a book is also a movie, encourage your child to read the book first.  If your child has not seen the movie, their imagination will create their own visual. Once the movie has been seen, the mind’s eye can only conjure scenes from the movie.
If your child is a reluctant reader, you can use movies as a reading incentive: “Once you’re done reading Harry Potter, we are going to have a movie marathon.” Then, ask your child questions about how the movie compared to the “movie” they had already directed in their imagination.

Choosing the Right Reading Material for Your Child

May 3rd, 2023 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.

Fun Summer Learning Activities

May 3rd, 2023 by

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 high frequency 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 Tic-Tac-Toe with sounds and younger children can practice their name and alphabet. Make sure to have a roll of paper towels on hand!

6. Sound String

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”).

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!

Why We Teach Sounds Before Letters

April 18th, 2023 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.

Advanced Multisensory Activities

March 1st, 2023 by

Adapting Activities for REVLOC

This blog post highlights how the multisensory Kendore activities teachers know and love can be altered to help students work on advanced concepts, including syllable types (“REVLOC”). If you’ve attended our webinars or trainings, you may be familiar with these activities! If you would like to know more about our accredited curricula and trainings, check out our 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 identifying the six 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

If you’re trained in our curriculum, 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!

GURRRRRR! R-Controlled Vowels

February 21st, 2023 by

The letter <r> becomes very bossy when it follows a vowel! This letter affects the sound a vowel makes, giving a vowel followed by an <r> the name “r-controlled vowel.”

Tricky R-Controlled Vowels: ‘er’, ‘ur’, and ‘ir’

Growing r tiger helps teach r-controlled vowels.In the Kendore Kingdom, we call these three r-controlled vowels “growling r” vowels because rather than letting the vowel say its sound or name, the <r> makes the vowel growl like a tiger.  Growling r vowels are vowel digraphs since they are two letters representing one sound.

Since <er>, <ur>, and <ir> all sound the same, spelling these digraphs can be tricky. It helps to know that <er> is the most common spelling of the /er/ sound (40%), <ur> is the second most common (26%), and <ir> is the least common (13%). When all else fails and the student does not know the proper spelling, knowing frequency will help students make an educated spelling guess.

‘ar’ and ‘or’

While <r> still controls the sound of /ar/ and /or/, these r-controlled vowels have unique sounds — making them easier for children to spell.

Teaching R-Controlled Vowels

The Kendore Kingdom features a memorable story about Growling ‘r’ tiger.  Poor Growling ‘r’ hasn’t learned his manners and he growls when introduced to new friends. Children remember the adventures of Growling ‘r’ tiger and translate this story into an understanding of r-controlled vowels. If you are a Kendore-trained teacher, be sure to refer to your manual for instructions on using Growling ‘r’ tiger to teach your students r-controlled vowels.

When writing/spelling a word with an r-controlled vowel, students will often incorrectly reverse the <r> and the vowel. In many words, reversing the two letters will still produce a real word (barn/bran, arm/ram). Dot and Jot (phoneme/grapheme mapping) can help students prevent these transpositions.

Tiger Trek Card Games

Tiger Trek card games are a fun, multisensory way to reinforce r-controlled vowels. Tiger Trek can be used to play many games, including War, Rummy, Memory, Go Fish and more! The Tiger Trek deck contains both real and nonsense words in order to assess concept knowledge and discourage rote memorization. Students should be able to decode nonsense words such as ‘fram’ and ‘terk’ as well as real words.

Watch a demonstration of Tiger Trek games.

Order a Tiger Trek card deck.

Behind the Scenes at Syllables

February 15th, 2023 by
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.

Our Language Makes Sense

April 19th, 2022 by

All too often, we hear people say that the English language doesn’t make sense and that spelling and word meaning “just have to be memorized.” This couldn’t be further from the truth! Our language does make sense…if you know the rules.

Let’s stop telling our students that our language is illogical, and let’s teach them the tools they need to easily break the code to read and spell thousands of words.

Dyslexia Legislation Passes in Georgia

April 2nd, 2019 by

Karen Huppertz serves as the Director of Training for Kendore Learning, the teacher training division of Syllables Learning Center. She is currently the President of the International Dyslexia Association, Georgia Branch, where she helps coordinate IDAGA's advocacy efforts.

Karen Huppertz serves as the Director of Training for Kendore Learning, the teacher training division of Syllables Learning Center. She is currently the President of the International Dyslexia Association, Georgia Branch, where she helps coordinate IDAGA’s advocacy efforts.

By now you may have heard that Senate Bill 48 has passed a final vote in the Georgia legislature. Governor Kemp is expected to sign the bill into law this month. While this is a great step in the right direction, don’t anticipate rapid change. SB48 states that local school systems will not be required to screen all kindergarten students for dyslexia until the beginning of the 2024-2025 school year.

What SB48 Will Do

In a nutshell, the new law will establish a standard definition of dyslexia, set forth a timeline for mandated dyslexia screening, and begin the process of educating teachers about dyslexia. It does not address intervention beyond that currently used in schools, and does not mandate particular reading curricula.

Definitions – SB48 will provide a legal definition of dyslexia based on the International Dyslexia Association’s definition and specifically acknowledges the importance of phonemic awareness (the ability to recognize that words are made up of a sequence of sounds and be able to manipulate them for reading, writing and speaking).

The bill further states that a ‘qualified dyslexia screening tool’ will need to measure phonological awareness skills, phonemic decoding efficiency, sight word reading skills, rapid automatic naming skills, and accuracy of word-reading of grade-level text. These are important steps toward educating teachers in Georgia and are exactly what we do when screening students here at Syllables.

Policies – Based on these steps, the new law will require the State Board of Education to develop policies for referring students in kindergarten through third grade for dyslexia screening “who have been identified through the RTI process” no later than July 1, 2020. These new policies will also include a list of approved dyslexia screening tools for schools, a process for letting parents know the results of the screening and a process for monitoring student progress after screening.

Teacher Training – SB48 also requires the Department of Education to collaborate with the Professional Standards Committee to improve and update professional development opportunities for teachers specifically relating to dyslexia. By Dec. 30, 2019, the Professional Standards Commission will create a ‘Dyslexia Endorsement for Teachers’ trained in dyslexia awareness and how to use a dyslexia screening tool. This is a step in the right direction but does not mean teachers will be trained in remediation for dyslexic students.

Kindergarteners in Georgia will be screened for dyslexia under SB48.Pilot Program – The new law requires the State School Superintendent to establish a 3-year pilot program to “demonstrate and evaluate the effectiveness of early reading assistance programs for students with risks factors for dyslexia” beginning with the 2020-2021 school year.

Dyslexia Screening in all Schools – Beginning with the 2024-2025 school year, local school systems will be required to screen all kindergarten students for dyslexia. At the same time, students in grades one through three will be screened if they have been identified through the RTI process.

At the College Level – Finally, SB48 requires (but without a deadline) the Professional Standards Commission to include dyslexia awareness information in teacher preparation programs for elementary and secondary education instruction. New teachers coming out of colleges and universities will enter the classroom knowing the definition of dyslexia, how to spot the signs and screen students, and what kinds of instruction will help. This does not require teachers be trained in good instruction.

Many parents will say this is not enough, and not soon enough. While we agree, we have watched other states attempt aggressive legislation just to see it fail. Dyslexia advocates like those at the International Dyslexia Association Georgia and Decoding Dyslexia Georgia will continue to work toward strengthening dyslexia legislation in Georgia.

At Syllables Learning Center, our greatest hope is that one day all teachers will be trained to identify students with dyslexia in kindergarten. Our teacher training division,  Kendore Learning, dreams of a day when all teachers are equipped with the training they need to help struggling readers in the classroom. This new law is an exciting step in the right direction. We are carefully following this legislation and will keep you updated.

Read the final draft of SB48 and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Learn about the signs and symptoms of dyslexia.

Correct Sound Pronunciation

September 14th, 2018 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.