A Jewel In Colorado!

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This lovely woman, Della Palacios, is now living in Boulder, Colorado. One of her offerings is Souns and Rhymes classes for little people. Get to know this remarkable talent. I celebrate that she is a Souns trainer as well!

Souns and Rhymes

The design of this class is to establish a foundation so firm that no holes will ever appear in fundamental literacy skills. It’s a simple brilliance that makes it so profound.  Souns® and Rhymes classes consist of two core elements: letter sounds and nursery rhymes.  Parents interact with children as language and literacy is brought to life.

I used Souns with my children and taught them nursery rhymes, but it was not until they were three and four years old.  Now, I am having the pleasure of watching one-year old babes learn nursery rhymes and letter sounds.  Two weeks ago, a 16 month-old said “row row row” in eager anticipation of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  Another 17-month old pointed out the “mmm” when asked on the poster displaying the rhyme “mary had a little lamb.”  She connected the label of the Souns symbol, /mmm/, to the print on the poster.
 
Simple is best.  Teach children nursery rhymes.  Teach children letter sounds with lower case letters first.  Children will read.

A Few Weeks Ago

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Della Palacios  @sensablelrning

A few weeks ago I met a young man who, due to life’s circumstances, started school many years after most children.  His native language is Spanish, although I would not have known as he spoke so well.His caregivers called me to see if I may be able to help him with his reading.  The computerized assessment he was given had him reading at a primary level, even though he is a freshman in high school and is several years older than most of the others in his class.

When I arrived, I introduced myself and explained that I am like a reading detective, trying to figure out what’s going on.  He was very polite so when I asked if he struggled, he answered simply, “Yes, ma’am.”  

I started like I always start with older learners, with a Sound Check using #Souns.  It was evident pretty quickly, he only knew letter names and was trying to convert them into some variation.  He did not know any sounds besides /f/ when I went through the first half.  I stopped there as I didn’t want to embarrass or frustrate him and thought carefully about what reading passage I wanted to begin with.  

I should mention here that the computerized reading assessment ‘s results said he knew his beginning sounds and blends?!

I pulled out a few phonetic phrases and he read them fine.  I looked at him and said, ”Wow.  You are smart.  You have memorized an awful lot of words to be able to read to me what you just read.”  Again, he answered, “Yes, ma’am.”

So, I told him that learning his letter sounds will help.  It will help him figure out new words he hasn’t memorized.  We began and after practicing with a number of Souns at a time, he wrote.  He wrote pot and mop and dog and cat.  Three letter words were difficult for him.  This is not at all surprising as it reveals the confusion with the short vowel sounds that get well hidden by word memorization.  I asked him if he remembered how they taught him to read when he started school since he started late.  He said the first book he every read was “Up and Down” and he recited it to me.  It sounded like a sight word book.

So we continued to work and build.  I would hear him going through the sounds in front of him while I was fumbling through the tub with the Souns symbols.  I asked if he thought it would help him and he said, “Yes, ma’am.”  He shook my hand and thanked me quite genuinely for coming before I left. 

I went to meet with him a few more times.  Both visits were the same: sound practice, word construction, and basic reading practice.  By the end of the last session, he recalled 21/26 letter sounds and three of the six digraphs.  The vowels are still the most troubling.  

The most telling thing about his reading experience thus far was the miscues that he did as I asked him to read passages for me.   We read from the McGuffey Reader.

Instead of pen, he read open.

Instead of pen,  he read pan.

Instead of run, he read ran.

Instead of song, he read sound.

Instead of pond, he read pound.

Instead of bank, he read blank.

Instead of bead, he read bread.

instead of beak, he read bake.

Instead of quite, he read quietly.

Shapes of the words were similar.  The words looked a lot like the others.  He is putting in so much mental energy into recalling each individual word, comprehension is not happening.  He is extremely bright, so once he does catch on to and start processing the language code, I suspect reading will improve.  The time and practice must take place, though.

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Even Start Family Literacy Program

A school year has spun by so quickly since we began Souns with the Even Start Family Literacy Program in Georgia. Five counties participated, with one center in each. The centers ranged from childcare settings which met daily during the week to centers with once a month visits by families. Almost every site included home visits by Even Start teachers.

From my experience, the people involved in ESFLP are an inspiration and such a positive reflection on the efforts to build literacy in Georgia. Each site is unique in its style and population. I have delighted in the eagerness of a parent watching her four-year-old child demonstrate letter-sound knowledge while she, herself, was on her way to a classroom to study for the GED. She is determined her child will have a head start in school. A home visitor shared the success she was having with a family whose child was not succeeding in school because of reading issues. There are abundant anecdotes of how Souns made a difference for children and their families. One teacher bemoaned the fact that the Even Start Family Literacy Program did not have Souns until this year, saying it would have made a tremendous difference had they had it during previous years.

We also learned about the conditions that make it harder for Souns to succeed. Souns works best when a child has regular exposure to the program. Souns once a month does not give as positive results as Souns being taught each day. Home visits were successful where the family supported the program between visits. Children who miss many days of school are clearly in jeopardy of not progressing as well as their classmates who attend regularly. The teachers voiced this frustration many times, “The program works if the child is here.”

Souns is an early literacy program that teachers love and children love if we can get the teacher, the material, and the children together on a regular basis. An exceptional academic program and great teachers are two critical legs of a stool that will not stand without the third leg – the child, supported by their family. The issues that challenge families who qualify for Georgia’s Even Start Family Literacy Program are clearly issues that are not easily remedied by the best of intentions or the greatest of programs and teachers. We must find a way to intercept families earlier and in incidental ways that adapt to the needs and schedules of very determined parents with complicated daily lives. How can we reach the most predictable teacher for a child  – the parent – with the right information to build literacy at home? This hope I gained from this year. That is our goal, and I thank the Even Start Family Literacy Program for giving us such a clear direction for helping children. Every parent wants their child to read!

Ah-Ha Moments

  I registered for the Florida Literacy Conference on a whim. My rationale went something like this, “Adult and Family Literacy certainly applies to SensAbleLearning, LLC, I’ll go.” It was a very good whim.

At the conference, I had my first experience using Souns® with an adult learner.  He inquisitively looked at the Souns® symbols (letters) and I explained quickly how the program worked the first time he happened by.  I realized quickly that his curiosity was more than piqued as he touched the letters and said the sounds with me.  I wondered if he could read, but I did not ask.

He left to attend a workshop but he soon returned and apologized for having to leave.  I asked if he would like to sit and work with me for a bit using Souns®.  He said yes.  We went through each letter sound, just as the program suggests.  Most of the sounds he learned very quickly.  I have the tracking sheet we used. He did not recognize many of the letter sounds initially, but we practiced and he learned.  Next, I began building words with him using Souns® symbols and the objects I have ready in my box of three letter words.  With each new word he built, a smile stretched from ear to ear displaying his delight in what I can only assume is a new understanding of this mysterious language code.  I wish I had more time with this young man.

I loved every ah-ha moment that came across the faces of trained professionals, tutors and scholars  as they “got” how teaching sounds first before letter names removes much of the confusion not needed for a beginning reader.  But, the ah-ha that will remain in my heart is the one I saw in the smile of the curious young man.

Della Palacios                                                                                                                                Founder and Owner of SensAble Learning, LLC