Souns Moves Forward In Colorado Springs

snowinCOSIt is early morning and I am in a winter wonderland, snowed in and free to revisit the past few days in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Smiles, excitement, hope: a myriad of positive emotions and shared experiences as the Souns trainings and visits unfold.

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During one visit, a parent stopped us and shared, “I am so thankful for the Souns program my daughter had in the GET SET preschool program [preschool image from the First Presbyterian Church]. She is doing amazing work in kindergarten and loves to learn. She is always writing and reading: writing letters to her dad while he is away and reading (and teaching letter-sounds) to her little brother.” 

The visit to GET SET confirmed further results of Souns. These two preschoolers are exploring their newly discovered ability to sound out words.

 

On Tuesday we had  an energetic, engaging time training 125 CPCD Head Start teachers. There were 5 little ones – ranging from 20 months to three years – to help us demonstrate the practice of Souns for the teachers. It is always surprising for teachers to see that the younger the child the more they gravitate toward Souns. The littlest one did not want to give the letters up at the end of the demonstration…clasping the letters to her chest and shaking her head “NO!” when we asked for them. That is the beginning of learning.

This is the third group to be trained for this collaboration between Head Start and Rotary clubs in Colorado Springs. The three-hour training has now been completed for all the Head Start teachers in the CPCD program. 100% of the classrooms – 2000 children – will have this activity to enhance classroom practices. The back-story to this Rotary/Head Start project is a pilot program implemented in two stages: first one classroom in the spring, then an experimental summer program including eleven classrooms. According to the CPCD program director, the result after seven weeks of Souns (and teachers new to the program) was a 20% increase in literacy scores. Consider future results when preschoolers engage for an entire school year with teachers that have become comfortable with the program. There is such opportunity and promise for these children thanks to CPCD Head Start and Pikes Peak Area Rotary Endowment!

Ready – “Get Set” – GO!

O n e   l i t t l e   s c h o o l ,   o n e   b i g   d i f f e r e n c e !

GET SET in Colorado Springs, CO, is part of the First Presbyterian Church and has two classrooms serving preschool children from economically challenged environments. This year the classrooms have 12 children in one (Purple) and 16 children in the other (Red).

Students at GET SET begin working with Souns in September and continue with hands-on activities to teach letter-sound knowledge throughout the school year. The story of this year’s learning pictured in the graphs below is to be celebrated. They speak louder than words about what can happen with the right pieces – dedicated teachers, volunteers, and a keep-it-simple early literacy program that focuses primarily on letter-sound associations.

The results were sent to us by the preschool and reflect letter-sound knowledge only.  Compilation of pre/post results are thanks to Rotarian Robby Dale Nelson. Many of the children ended the year sounding out words. What a way to begin kindergarten! Great job, GET SET!

Thank you, Rotarians from the Rampart Range Rotary Club of Colorado Springs, CO, for believing in Souns. We all celebrate the results for the children in your community.

Get_Set_5-7-14_Purple_Chart_1                 Get_Set_5-7-14_Purple_DataGet_Set_5-7-14_Red_Chart_1

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Colorado Springs – An Observation

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From the heart and experience of a preschool administrator in Colorado Springs. Random observations of learning with Souns:

Forming the Soun[d] with their mouth, saying the Soun[d] with voice, limbs moving to the mat, hands holding the Soun[d], hands sliding the Soun[d]s on the mat feeling the Braille, hands passing the Soun[d] to share with a friend, skin feeling the O on their nose, on their mouth, on their chin is telling the brain this is part of you, this is your language, this is part of your legacy as a human being, you own this.

 

A Beginning – CPCD / Souns

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Building a future for children brings smiles to everyone’s face. Head Start has a plan! There is a tool – Souns – to make that plan come true, and there is an energy – Rotary – in the community wanting to make all the pieces fit together for children. Rotary is committed to impacting basic literacy skills and this project is about our preschool children learning to write and read in our community in Colorado Springs.

CPCD (Community Partnership for Childhood Development) is piloting the Souns program during the next few months to gather information for a grant application that, if approved, will provide Souns to as many Head Start classrooms as the grant will fund in the CPCD program. The excitement is clearly visible in the smiles, but is even more contagious as one watches this program unfold with children. Magic wraps up every moment as the little ones respond with… “I want to do it!” “It is my turn!” “Can I help her?” “Look, there is /m/ in Monday!” … at every turn when implementing the Souns program.

Thank you Rotary Clubs  in Colorado Springs for this possibility! Thank you Rotarian Robby Dale Nelson of the Rampart Range Rotary Club for your enormous commitment to the children in your community.

Colorado Springs: Thank You!

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   “Can you touch an /o/?” asks Rotarian Robby Dale Nelson.

I thank this community for reminding me, once again, of the difficult path to simple.

I am convinced that to be a teacher (myself included) is to be first and foremost a learner. As many times as I have observed and participated in a child’s learning…as much information as I have taken into that moment to teach the child…I have never left the experience without being the primary learner. Surprisingly, the lesson seems always to be keep it simple. The child will take the simplest of lessons to the depths of his or her interest…or there will be no learning.

In a classroom learning to implement Souns, the simple, incidental, easy style of the program is closeted by our predispostion as excellent, committed teachers to plan every detail of a day so that we can feel we have done our best. Yet, we rarely feel we have enough time in a day to do all we want to do. I feel that way myself visiting the classrooms and assisting teachers in understanding this program. I complicate, they complicate, we all are driven to complicate. We would be well advised to follow the child a bit more. They linger, examine, build knowledge, linger some more…roll around and speak to a friend, or stare out a window…then back to lingering, examining, and building.

So how does this relate to teaching Souns? How do we fit “another program” into an already packed-full day with cultural studies, self-esteem activities, social courtesy lessons, etc.? First, and most difficult, is to understand Souns is an unprogram. Souns is meant to be a part of the environment – as important, incidental, and consistant as food, clothing, and kindness. That is hard to do, as we have burdenened writing and reading with academic weight. Language is treated naturally, even joyfully, as little ones move into spoken communication. Progressing into writing and reading can be equally joyful and natural through intentional play. Play is how children learn. Souns is about intentional play.

“Look at the /s/ on your jacket!” is a lesson in Souns. “Did you hear the /h/ in home?” is a lesson in Souns. “Let’s find the sounds in dog.” is a lesson in Souns. It is a program that slips into the crevices of each day so filled with rich experiences planned by caring teachers. In all those experiences there are letter-sounds. Build excitement about listening to and identifying letter-sounds in the classroom. Keep it simple, play, have fun! Those little minds are always learning!

Thank you, Rotarians from the Rampart Range Rotary Club of Colorado Springs, CO, for believing in Souns.

Colorado Springs: Follow up – DAY ONE

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“See the Braille, the little bumps, on the letter? Can you find the Braille on your letter?”

I love working with administrators who are committed to a project and who are supportive of their teachers. The work moves so much more smoothly and children are so much more likely to succeed. A rhetorical statement for sure…but when you see such a situation in front of you there is a healing energy that counters the times the picture is broken.

The school today was beautiful in talent, spirit, and leadership. From the toddler class through the four classrooms to the pre-kindergarten class, the rooms were filled with happy, eager learners. Teachers demonstrated their creative exercises with Souns, in each case drawing from the environment: books in the little reading corner, text on the walls, and letters on T-shirts. Their positive attitudes influence every little mind wanting to learn to write and read.

What I saw were children appropriately progressing through letter-sound knowledge with exploration and play. Their bodies were moving, their hands were examining letter shapes, and their faces reflected engagement.

This is the first year for Souns for this preschool, and, indeed, the letter-sound associations are being learned.  As is typical, the teacher is the primary learner for a new program. In subsequent years implementing the program will flow more naturally . It takes at least the experience of that year to realize how easily the child learns when their hands are involved and the lessons are daily, incidental, and playful. When comfort with the easy style of Souns is attained, the children will progress faster than most teachers expect.

For instance, the children surprised their teachers today. They knew more than the teachers thought they knew.  In the pre-kindergarten classroom, children were ready to build words with the Souns letters. They did not want to stop…and they learned two new letter-sound associations in the process. Children are more ready than we think. Pushing does not teach; however, kids thrive on trust… ”Do you think you are ready to do this…? “ Ask them; they will tell you. Then make certain they succeed. That is the fire that builds.

Thank you to Rotarians from the Rampart Range Rotary Club of Colorado Springs for initiating this effort.

Giggles, Letter-Sounds, Results!

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It was such a treat to train preschools in Longview, Texas, today. The bright-minded teachers and the eager children made the experience exceptional.  We trained teachers for 12 classrooms and enjoyed the assistance of a few little ones to demonstrate the fun one can have learning letter-sounds.

Longview10-13Large smiles from those teachers and giggles from their little people painted a promising picture for early literacy in this community. Four children of different preschool ages and abilities played with Souns as teachers were trained to implement the program. Amazingly, play is the teacher. When learning is fun, the timing is right, and the hands are involved, school looks very different to a child.

And it works! One public preshcool in Longview began implementing Souns in eleven preschool classrooms this year in September. Today they ordered materials for three more classrooms. Results are clear – Souns is making a difference. Consider this letter that greeted me in an email today from a preschool using Souns in Colorado. It is from parents celebrating the reading ability of their Souns child who graduated from the preschool and is currently in kindergarten. We are grateful for such sharing.

I was told that you called the other day to follow up on the [Souns] reading program you did this past year.  I longview10-13-5wanted to send you the picture of [my daughter] as September’s super reader for her Kindergarten class.  I gave her teacher the letter you had given in regards to the Souns program.  She is reading now and just the other day read 5 books in a 15 minute period. When we do spelling words with our older son, our daughter is able to spell many of them just because she knows what sound the letter makes!   Thank you so much!!  The only downside is that she said she hasn’t learned anything new in Kindergarten yet!!  I suppose that is a problem that can easily be fixed!!

Build her library and stand back. A reader will always be learning. Once a child can read, you can’t take that away!

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