Souns® for Literacy in the GET-SET Preschool in Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA
This graph – in percents – represents letter-sound knowledge for learners (N=34) in the GET SET preschool classroom, comparing data collected at the beginning of the school year and at the conclusion of the school year. Consider the future step into kindergarten for these children.
While in a separate graph, it is important to mention that the majority of the learners knew 6 digraphs, and could sound out 9 phonetic words. It is awe inspiring to see the potential awaiting classrooms when children are supported and learning is fun. The focus on letter-sound associations in exclusion of letter-name associations (until decoding begins) clearly makes a difference in building young writers and readers.The Souns program is evidence based and it works! Thank you, Rotarians, for the gift of Souns! Thank you teachers and volunteers of GET SET for ensuring that our c h i l d r e n w i l l r e a d !
I am in a van on the road to Peace Corps Inservice Training (IST) in South Africa. Such beautiful hearts and minds sit with me. Grace, courtesy, warmth, and enthusiasm are constantly present in this organization’s efforts to better the world. I have been on this same trip to different sites on several occasions to train volunteers to implement our Souns for literacy program. I find it an equally positive experience each time.
PCV’s (Peace Corps Volunteers) have an energy and a flexibility that are bound to make a difference for their communities as their terms progress. One volunteer on this trip is doing what so many do, extending their term an additional year. PCV’s are making a difference and they feel it and often do not want to end the experience. The other side of the story, of course, is that the volunteers are learning more about themselves than can be measured on a calendar. The lessons will affect them for a lifetime. I think of it as tracking their future. Each of us has a gift already in place, but it is only discovered and confirmed through experience.
In the words of one PCV:
“Working alongside people who struggle to put food on the table, yet who have welcomed me into their lives and hearts has allowed me to see the great potential in the rural areas, and has motivated me to extend my service beyond the usual two years. As I work to teach new skills, I am learning what it means to be part of a global community that transcends culture, ideologies, and language.”
Tomorrow I will be “tracking” my future, doing what I love most (next to doing a walk-about in my mind along a warm beach somewhere) – I will be introducing PCV’s to the Souns program. Those who find it compelling will be trained and will receive sets of Souns provided by The Rotary Foundation through a Global Grant project sponsored by RD9400 and RD6900. PCV’s are reaching thousands of children, making a difference one child, one village at a time. What a pleasure it is to be wrapped around with such purpose.
“Today ends our federal review. We came out excellent. We talk to federal about SOUNS and [they] were delighted.” A note from Head Start in San Juan about our project in Puerto Rico with 4000 children.
“Our club is giving Souns to a large center near us!” from the President Elect of Rotary Club of Bainbridge in southwest Georgia. That is the largest center in the SWGACAC program and they have been using only two sets of Souns for 13 classrooms. Now, thanks to Rotary D6900, they will be fully supplied with Souns.
Children are our teachers! Observing how they learn teaches us how learning happens best…for any age. To build literacy, play is the way for children to learn the fundamentals of print. We can shelve all the manuals, the quick fixes, the how-to’s, and the flash cards, and follow the child to what is needed. Intentional activities that are play-based, meandering by design with the exploring mind of the child, teach us how specifically the hand defines the brain. Every detail is measured and absorbed. Be still, watch, and you will see.
A playful day with one of the families:
We had such great weather last weekend, we were able to get outside a bit. My daughter loves to play with chalk, so my husband and I drew out her souns on the driveway. We asked her (and each other) to go stand, sit, hop, whatever we could think of on her souns. We all had a blast!
I used the regular recipe with 1/2 cup of cranberry juice and 1/2 cup of water (and no essential oils) and it came out a very pretty pink. I keep it in an airtight container; I made it over a month ago and it’s still fine. Like I mentioned in class, my husband and I have fun with it but my daughter really won’t touch it (yet).
One way or another we learn letter-sounds and apply that knowledge directly to learning to read. For the most part it works, but not without notable levels of difficulty and frustration.
One additional step can make a commanding difference in that journey to reading – building words. Consider a 1000 piece puzzle. Putting it together can be challenging for anyone. Taking the completed puzzle apart into its individual pieces to be returned to the box is quite simple by comparison.
Learning to read is like negotiating the loose puzzle pieces of our alphabet, turning a chain of sounds into a word. It is quite challenging and can lead to many failures and much guessing before success is enjoyed.
Consider the ease of taking the puzzle apart. A spoken word is like a puzzle already put together. All the sounds are there in a nice little package called a word. If the child knows letter-sound associations well, listening to the sounds and building the word – one sound at a time – (not as it is spelled) is quite confirming and informative for the child.
This step – building words – bridges code based knowledge and decoding. Children 4 and 5 years old and those challenged as readers need to develop a deep understanding of how words are built. A child who knows letter-sound associations well and who focuses on building words – one phonetic sound at a time – for several weeks to a month often transitions into reading words seamlessly.
Reading becomes the next natural step for the child who has built words by listening to sounds in words first. This has been the magic of the Montessori-minded Souns program. IT is a direct link between sound and symbol, bypassing letter formation, which is another skill altogether.
Be still, observe your child! Watch that little developing mind explore, examine, attend to every nuance in the world around it. You will be in awe at the attention to details. The extended gaze, the second glance, the questioning look, the twinkle of confirmed knowledge, the determination – all threaded by no more than a string, a crack, an ant, a shadow, a drop of water, or a new face. Every piece of life matters in the construction of the brain. This building of a person offers no trailer, no quick view, no short cuts. There is no time when the brain is not learning (P. Wolf). The senses are the tools that feed the brain, and they must be allowed to do their work. Gently watch your child, and he or she will show you who they are in their endless quest to become that unique bundle of talents they have unfolding within them.
The “poem” above is one mind telling us its story. Young children have SO much to say. Are we listening? Are we watching? Are we willing to be amazed?
The “poem” is from a Souns child that had just turned 5.