Learn from our answers to Frequently Asked Questions.
The Sonday System product line was designed to be easy to use and replicate in the classroom. Students learn best in small, homogeneous groups. Everything needed for instruction is contained in a small, easy-to-manage kit. The lesson plans are done for you! The program is designed to progress at the students' pace. It is not a scripted curriculum—rather, it is a sequential, systematic, multisensory, and cumulative diagnostic program that any teacher, para, tutor, or parent can use successfully with struggling learners.
The first-graders can read and understand many words and sentences, but their reading comprehension skills are still lacking. Are there any books/materials you can suggest to improve this area?
Don’t even think about reading comprehension for first-graders. All readers need to develop word reading ability and fluency before they can concentrate on what the words are saying to them. Direct instruction in comprehension begins with picture comprehension and listening comprehension. First-graders can look at pictures and answer factual, predictive, and open-ended questions. First-graders can listen to stories and answer factual, predictive, easy inferential questions and open-ended questions. These forerunners of reading comprehension can be learned while the student is developing reading and fluency skills. The Spring 2001 issue of Perspectives, Vol. 27, No. 2, published by the International Dyslexia Association, is focused on teaching comprehension and contains informative articles.
I am on the board of education in my home state. What is your opinion on state standards that generate extensive, expensive and comprehensive, sometimes lofty and appeasing reading programs or curriculums? And why hasn't your program opened up to a whole curriculum, as it were, satisfying all this standardized requirements for proficiency?
It isn’t possible to legislate academic proficiency. If test scores are to be increased, the delivery system must change. Creating standards may lead to change in the delivery system or it may not. We need to stress that the methodology, sequence, etc., of the Sonday System have been designed for a very special population. That population consists of students who fall through the cracks in conventional, comprehensive reading/language arts programs! National publishers usually don’t have individuals listed in the stable of writers/designers who have a background in this methodology, which is supported by the NICHD or the National Reading Panel. We need to stress that once these children can read and believe they can read, many will be prepared to take advantage of other aspects of more comprehensive programs already in place.
Contact your state or local branch of the International Dyslexia Association. The branches keep lists of resources in their area. The national office in Baltimore can help if, for some reason, you are unable to reach your branch. Their number is 1-410-296-0232. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.eida.org
If you are considering starting somewhere other than at the beginning, remember that determining where to start a student requires diagnostic expertise, knowledge of language structure sufficient to recognize gaps in the continuum, and the ability to intervene with corrective strategies. A teacher who isn’t trained in structured, systematic phonics may not receive the cues given by the learner or may not be able to intervene. We have created a Resource Book that offers a placement test across all Sonday System products. It also provides a baseline for the student.
The best thing to do is start at the very beginning of the system. For the Sonday System, the instructor should go through the Pre-Reading levels to verify that the learner can successfully manage the skills practiced. Move as rapidly as possible but as slowly as necessary. It is easy to assume that pre-reading skills are in place when the student is old enough for those skills to be in place. Don’t make that assumption. Missing a piece or two in the continuum of language may undermine the whole effort.
The Sonday System allows for flexibility when teaching the reading levels. The first levels may be easy, but don’t skip them—they focus on short vowels, which are difficult or confusing for learners who have reading delays yet are essential to the foundation for any beginning reader. It may be possible to complete the first levels quickly, but as the material becomes more difficult, it will be necessary to slow the pace. The Mastery Checks will help with pacing and the decision to move ahead.
Phonics instruction is a way of teaching reading that stresses the acquisition of letter–sound correspondences and their use in reading and spelling. The primary focus of phonics instruction is to help beginning readers understand how letters are linked to sounds (phonemes) to form letter–sound correspondences and spelling patterns and to help them learn how to apply this knowledge in their reading. Phonics instruction may be provided systematically or incidentally. The hallmark of a systematic phonics approach or program is that a sequential set of phonics elements is delineated and these elements are taught along a dimension of explicitness depending on the type of phonics method employed. Conversely, with incidental phonics instruction, the teacher does not follow a planned sequence of phonics elements to guide instruction but highlights particular elements opportunistically when they appear in text.
Yes, there are. There are five basic phonics instructional approaches (as listed below). Most research recommends explicit/synthetic phonics. "Explicit" means that rules, reasons, consistencies, and inconsistencies are taught so that the language will make sense to the learner.
|Teaching students unfamiliar words by analogy to known words (e.g., recognizing that the rime segment of an unfamiliar word is identical to that of a familiar word and then blending the known rime with the new word onset, as when reading "brick" by recognizing that "-ick" is contained in the known word "kick" or reading "stump" by analogy to "jump").|
|Teaching students to analyze letter–sound relations in previously learned words to avoid pronouncing sounds in isolation.|
|Teaching students phonics skills by embedding phonics instruction in text reading, a more implicit approach that relies to some extent on incidental learning.|
|Phonics Through Spelling|
|Teaching students unfamiliar words by analogy to known words (e.g., recognizing that the rime segment of an unfamiliar word is identical to that of a familiar word, and then blending the known rime with the new word onset, such as reading brick by recognizing that -ick is contained in the known word kick, or reading stump by analogy to jump).|
|Teaching students explicitly to convert letters into sounds (phonemes) and then blend the sounds to form recognizable words.|
Perhaps your child isn’t being taught the way s/he learns. Children's learning styles vary, as do their learning strengths. When only one system of teaching reading is used, some children are left out of the learning loop.
Reading is talk written down in code. Though some students can learn the code without direct instruction, many others need to be taught the sound–symbol connections, how to blend sounds to make words and how to segment words into sounds to spell them. Systems that teach the code are called code-emphasis or phonic reading systems.
Most elementary-school children in the U.S. are instructed using a whole-language or literature-based program. This kind of program works well for about half of the population, but the other half needs something else. Individuals who learn to read using visual approaches do not have trouble learning to read in school, and many are reading when they start school. Visual approaches include whole-language or literature-based programs as well as language experience, neurological impress, and basal programs.
The most effective phonics systems teach reading and spelling together so that one strengthens the other. Reading and spelling are mutually reinforcing. Effective programs are structured, systematic, and multisensory and involve intensive reinforcement or practice. "Multisensory" means that various sensory pathways are involved. A student learns the code by SEEING letters and words, HEARING the sounds made by letters, and FEELING the way a sound is formed. The learner is made aware of the way the lips, tongue, throat, and mouth are positioned and responding as well as the feel of the fingers, hand, and arm when a letter is being traced or written. Look for a systematic spelling component in effective phonics systems.
Your reader may need phonics instruction if s/he demonstrates two or more of the following:
- Reluctance to read
- Low scores on reading tests
- Skipping or adding words
- Misreading or guessing
- Reversing and/or transposing letters (e.g., confusing b and d or “no” for “on”)
- Inability to unlock long words
- Inability to read smoothly; lack of fluency
- Inability to observe punctuation
- Inability to understand what has been read
Your speller may need phonics instruction if s/he demonstrates any of the following:
- Poor handwriting
- Failure to observe punctuation or capitalization
- Lack of knowledge of the rules and structure of language or failure to apply such rules. Examples:
- "black" spelled as "blak"; "pink" spelled as "pinck";
- "catch" spelled as "cach"; "steep" spelled as "step";
- "spill" spelled as "spil"; "trimming" spelled as "triming"
- Difficulty sequencing sounds. Examples:
- "form" spelled as "from"
- "left" spelled as "felt"
- "chart" spelled as "chrat"
- "was" spelled as "saw"
- stick spelled as sick
- Inaccurate sound discrimination. Examples:
- "fed" spelled as "fad"
- "miss" spelled as "mess"
- "riddle" spelled as "rittle"
This is not an exhaustive list but does include some of the programs.
- Let’s Play Learn
- Sonday System 1
- Sonday System 2
- Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators
- Alphabetic Phonics
- Wilson System
- Multisensory Teaching Approach
- Edmark Reading Program
- Project Read
Recommended reading for a thorough and understandable overview: Straight Talk About Reading, S. Hall and L. Moats, Contemporary Books. Available in bookstores and online.
The Sonday System product line (Let’s Play Learn, Sonday System 1, and Sonday System 2) is used for teaching reading and spelling using multisensory phonics practices. The programs are user-friendly, complete with pre-planned lessons so that even someone who knows little or nothing about phonics will have the materials and instructional support to do precision teaching.
The Sonday System won’t work as well if the spelling component is omitted. NIH research suggests that spelling is an important component of successful reading programs. Spelling dictation is a focused multisensory activity that cements learning into long-term memory. It enables the diagnostic teacher to constantly monitor responses and know which sounds, rules, or generalizations still need practice or reteaching. Without the spelling component, reinforcement and accurate monitoring suffer.
Touch Spelling enables the student to separate the sounds of a word and assign them to separate fingers of the non-writing hand. One sound is assigned to one finger. Sounds may be spelled with more than one letter.
When there is more than one choice for the spelling of a sound, placement of the sound in a word and rules governing spelling will help determine how the sound should be correctly spelled. The Sonday System will provide guidance and direction regarding rules and placement.
Ultimately, this should be the goal for every student. Work as fast as possible but as slowly as necessary in Sonday 1. The Mastery Checks for reading and spelling will be the best measure of pacing for instruction. The most important thing to remember is not to skip anything. Struggling learners have gaps in their understanding of language processing. If you skip anything or assume they know it and they don’t, they will continue to struggle to comprehend what is read because they will be stuck in the mode of decoding and figuring out. We want students to over-learn language concepts so that when they read, their minds can be free to think deeply about comprehension.
The Let’s Play Learn program is an early childhood program but is also successfully used as an intervention for struggling learners in early elementary grades. The program is heavy on phonological awareness and beginning phonics while also integrating practice in fluency, vocabulary development, and comprehension strategies. Some students will need more of these foundational skills due to the severity of their learning differences.