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.

Rotarians at Work in Puerto Rico

A Great Trip! RD6900 Visits Early Literacy Project in Puerto Rico with RD7000

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Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Peachtree City and the Rotary Club of Henry County visited Rotary District 7000 in Puerto Rico, the site of a Global Grant for teaching basic literacy skills to preschoolers attending local Head Start programs. This project is an extension of a relationship between RD6900 and RD7000 that began in November of 2011 and has involved two Matching Grants and two Global Grants. Recipients have been in both Puerto Rico and Georgia, altogether reaching over 10,000 children.

Our visiting group of nine from RD6900 spent four days with Rotarians from clubs throughout Puerto Rico – RC Rio Piedras (Host Club), RC San Juan, RC Junco, RC Manatee, RC Mayaguez, RC Ciudad Del Turabo – attending Rotary Club meetings and visiting Head Start sites where the SOUNS program is being implemented with materials provided by the GG. The grant was a result of the efforts and financial support of Rotarians in both districts, lead by RC Peachtree City and RC Henry County in RD6900, and RC Rio Piedras in RD7000.

Rotarians going to work (in a school bus)! Pictured are President Russ Heil, PP Ed Outlaw, and Amy Matusek of RC Peachtree City, PP Laura Crumbley and husband David, PP George Siggins and wife Mary Jane of RC Henry County, and Antonio Santos of RC Rio Piedras. Taking the pictures: Peachtree City Rotarian Brenda Erickson and husband Norman Hough.

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prrusspedro15During the trip we also attended several English and Spanish-speaking Rotary Club meetings, providing us the opportunity to exchange club banners and interact with many Rotarians. The Rotarians of District 7000 and their District Governor, Jesus A. Vivas, could not have given us a more welcoming and enthusiastic reception.

Pictured are RC Rio Piedras President Pedro Watlington and RC Peachtree City President Russ Heil. Exchanging banners and conversation was a constant for the trip. Engaging eight Rotary clubs across two Rotary districts makes for a jovial time!

We visited nine classrooms in the three Head Start programs – San Juan, Caguas, and Mayaguez – talking with administrators, teachers, sponsoring Rotarians, and children. We were very impressed with the facilities, other teaching materials, and the professionalism of the staff. Imagine where these preschool children will be as emergent readers entering kindergarten when they are five years of age. The children in the image are building “peso” and have discovered who has the /o/…. playing to learn to read. Go teachers!

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Below are Laura Crumbly, George Siggins, David Crumbly, Mary Jane Siggins, Brenda Erickson, Ed Outlaw, and Amy Matusek.

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To sum up the trip, it was a great experience for the nine Rotarians and spouses from District 6900. It gave us a chance to see with our own eyes how the grant was successfully benefitting young children from difficult circumstances and to meet Rotarians from another country who have a real desire to build a better tomorrow for their children. Beyond that, our team got to know and enjoy each other while engaging in the hands-on work of Rotary!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

And We Clapped!

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A fuzzy image often goes hand in hand with a dancing heart!

“I wanted to write clap,” she said with a big smile! My daughter was so excited to share with her dad that she wrote “clap” with her baby….”and we clapped!” she exclaimed, as she clapped the baby doll’s hands.

Intentional play! Have fun learning letter sounds first. Then, with Souns, building words phonetically – by listening to sounds spoken and finding the letters that represents the sounds –  comes much before sounding  words out phonetically. The steps for Souns are at http://sounsworks.wordpress.com. Play to learn!

The Quiet Hand Of Rotary!

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At bottom left is the patient hand of Rotarian Robin Jones as he watches preschoolers build words.

Children building a word by listening to the sounds in the word is so much fun. In truth, futures are being built. Thank you to The Rotary Foundation for what this project is doing for the township children in South Africa.

A feel-good letter! Thank you, Rotary District Governor Blake!

Johannesburg / 17 Oct 2013

Robin,

Thank you for your email. I am the District Governor for D6900 which is the Peachtree City Rotary Club’s district. I am currently in South Africa on business for a few days so please let me know if I can be of any assistance.

The SOUNS project is a great example of the power of collaboration between Rotary clubs and making a significant difference in the peoples’ lives and their communities.

Thank you for your Rotary leadership and congratulations to the Pretoria East and Peachtree City Rotary Clubs on the success of the SOUNS program in Zebediela, Dennilton, Soshanguve, Atteridgeville, Mamelodi South Africa.

Yours in Rotary Service,

Blake McBurney

Rotary D6900 District Governor 2013-14