Coding to Encoding to Decoding

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Are we there yet?

We recently returned from a visit to three Head Start programs in Puerto Rico. This message is in response to what we saw: Teachers are doing a great job with Souns. The missing piece is an understanding that children are ready to build words before you think they are. We asked teachers if they had begun building words, and the answer was “No, not yet!”

In each classroom, with the “No, not yet!” response, we asked for two or three children who knew through the /u/ sound. In each case the children who were selected eagerly listened to the sounds in simple, phonetic words, and built the words. The teachers were so excited, as were the children.

The picture above is one of those moments. Look at the joy on the children’s faces as they apply what they know about letter-sound associations to real words….building the words from sounds only (remember, no spelling)! For us, for the teachers, and for the children, it was a beautiful experience. Such activities are particularly inspiring for the children observing, those not yet to the /u/, as they see their efforts have a purpose.

Certainly it is important not to set a child up for failure, so I appreciate being slower than faster for this second stage in Souns – building words. However, there is a way to be relatively sure the child is ready to listen to sounds in phonetic words and build each word – one sound at a time.

When you reach /u/ in the sequence of Souns letters, it is the time to move forward into building words for children three to four years of age. Go slowly – no more than two to three words at any setting – and have fun. Look at the delight as the children around the table in the photo discover who has the missing sound in “peso.”

When you reach /u/ in the sequence of Souns letters, it is time to build words.

Now 6 and Ready to Read to Learn

Oh, such happiness displayed! The confidence, the knowing “I can read!” wraps every word. This six-year-old will be entering first grade this year with a joy of reading that will make learning unfold as it should for young children.

She began Souns as a toddler.  A walkabout through SounsTalk will touch her journey, learning the tools for reading (letter sounds)…one step at a time….playing and exploring all the way! As her mother said, “it was effortless!”

Many thanks to this wonderful family for sharing their experience with Souns.

 

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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There Is A Moment!

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There is a window, a clear view into the moment a child “knows” … the look on the face when a detail has moved from the outside to inside that little mind. I saw that again yesterday.

A mom and her toddler son visited Counterpane wanting to sign up for the free Souns Early Literacy Workshops (ELW) we have about every two weeks during school sessions. Meeting a lovely, engaging mom and a lively, smiling, attentive young man of about 14 months was a delight.

I had the time and chose to share the concept of Souns so they would know what to expect at her first ELW this Friday. I fetched the first four Souns letters – /o/m/s/t/ – and sat down on the floor with the child. I introduced each, one at a time, and he spent several minutes exploring their shapes, sometimes two or three in hand at a time. Ready smiles intertwined with play with the symbols…moving them from one corner of the room to another on tip-toes all the way.  He would place one on the floor, exchange one for another, dance about, and repeat.

When it was time to go, I asked if I could write the four sounds on his hands. Both mom and child agreed. I carefully wrote the /o/m/s/t/ – one on the top of each hand and one inside each hand. As he was walking out, mom and I discussed how she could reinforce the work at home. When the child heard us say /o/ that lttle body stopped, he looked at the hand that had the /o/ on it and then over at us.  It was one of those moments where the eyes speak, “I know!”

Rotary / Head Start In Puerto Rico

Giggles, smiles, engaged hands and minds of children were common denominators in our review of the Souns program in Head Start classrooms in San Juan Puerto Rico. The children in San Juan are making dramatic steps toward literacy with the Souns materials provided by Rotary Districts 7000, 6990, and The Rotary Foundation. This review celebrates comments such as these:

“I have 19 years of classroom experience, and I have never seen a program like this….it really works.”  

“Three of my students were able to read last year because of Souns. In my 13 years of teaching preschool, that has never happened before.” 


Beautifully, the conclusion of one grant can build to the beginning of another. With 4000 children in this pilot project in San Juan, it is the wish of Rotary District 7000, this time in collaboration with Rotary District 6900, to expand the program to as many Head Start classrooms in other regions of Puerto Rico as funding will allow. A Global Grant proposal is the next step. One classroom at a time is the road to change for these children. Rotarians from both districts join hands on the ground in Puerto Rico to make this happen. Head Start and Rotary are promising partners for literacy.

Rotary Clubs of Peachtree City (RD6900) and Rio Piedras (RD7000) are leading this effort to build support for a project that will reach from 150 to 300 more classrooms in strategic Head Start programs in Puerto Rico. If you are interested in joining this project, comment with contact information to this blog .

Thank you Rotary Clubs of Smyrna (RD6900) and Fort Lauderdale (RD6990) for initiating the pilot project in the San Juan Municipality. These four-year olds are reaping the harvest as they build words by listening to the sounds in them. They have learned letter-sound associations through Souns.

I Almost Didn’t Hear Her!

sukey-so-14Walking briskly on a warm, sunny, winter day offered so much to enjoy that I almost missed the little voice saying, “Look Omi, an ‘oh’ and a ‘ss’!” A little finger pointed to tree flowers (catkins) shaped by happenstance into “sounds” after falling from the tree. She was inviting me to participate in her discovery of sounds!

A child’s interests show up in a lingering gaze, a slight pull of the hand in a new direction, a pause to examine a detail, or an explosion of glee at a sight or activity. I have seen a little one want so badly to stop and watch a musician performing along a sidewalk as the parents, unaware, pulled him along, never noticing the physical plea of the child to stop and absorb the moment. We try so hard to get them to listen to us; imagine how hard they work trying to get us to listen to them.

Be ready for surprises! Follow their lead! A walk can turn into so many adventures: comparing leaf shapes, little hands tracing twisted roots, or following an insect into the crack in the pavement. Since I didn’t miss the little voice on that winter’s walk, I stopped and we examined the many shapes on the sidewalk under the tree. We found so many sounds waiting to be discovered, sounds only a child would have seen.

The Story Before “I wrote Sukey!”

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“I wrote Sukey!” The proud exclamation of a little one knowing, “I can do it!”  She is three and she is empowered with basic letter-sound associations, able to express her thoughts – one word or three –  from her mind to the world. Sooner than one might think, it will be words from another mind to her mind, as she discovers turning chains of sounds into words.

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Before she wrote with her hand, she built words with Souns letters, stretching each word into its pieces like taking apart a puzzle, analyzing to hear the sounds she recognized (and teaching her baby doll how to “write”). “Look what I did!” is the sound of confidence.

 

 

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When she began Souns she was one. Between one and three there was only play, sometimes intentional and sometimes not. Learning letter sounds has been natural, just like learning about water and sand and the wind. The skin, the ears, the eyes, the mouth, and the nose are all teachers. Four of those five senses are engaged through Souns – inviting exploration and learning. I find myself saying repeatedly, “Can it be this simple?” What if it is?

 

 

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“This is your /o/!” … and another journey begins! Playing to learn!