Auditory Processing and Spelling

What is Auditory Processing?

Have you ever heard a new word and tried to spell it? Doing this helps you to remember the new word. The task of reading new words is much easier than spelling new words. Reading words is the process of decoding. Spelling is the process of encoding. These are two sides of the same coin. Decoding is sounding out words. Encoding is figuring out how to spell words.

That being said, the act of spelling brings your letter knowledge and phonemic awareness together. Phonemic awareness is the ability to match the sounds you hear with the letters that represent them. This is also the ability to manipulate sounds and use the sounds of oral language.

So, let’s look at phonemic awareness. It is typically taught in the early grades and then forgotten about. That is one reason that many kids and even adults have difficulty with spelling. Manipulating sounds with the letters that represent them grows as you grow. Reviewing this skill as you spell longer words improves your spelling. This, then, improves your overall auditory processing and listening skills.

The Auditory Processing and Spelling Connection

We all take in information through the sense of hearing (auditory), seeing (visual), and doing (tactile/kinesthetic). Each of these systems is critical to our ability to learn with ease. So, incorporating them into a reading and spelling program is important.

Auditory processing skills are foundational to read, spell, and write. The first steps in learning are not just visual, they are also auditory. A baby can hear a mother’s voice before being born. Toddlers refine the sounds they hear. This is the beginning of phonemic awareness. The early grades teach you to refine your auditory processing skills. This includes phonemic awareness and phonics. These skills are used throughout school and life.

Phonemic awareness is your ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds – phonemes – in spoken words. Phonics is the next step in the process. It is the ability to relate the auditory sounds to a visual symbol, a letter or group of letters. This is how we spell. We take the sounds we hear and put the letters that represent them together to spell the words.

Areas of Auditory Processing that are the Foundations of Spelling

Auditory Discrimination

Auditory discrimination is the most familiar area of auditory processing. This is the ability to discriminate between individual sounds or words that are similar or different in the way they sound. For example: very and berry, mob and mop, half and have.

9 Areas of Auditory Processing

Auditory-Visual Integration

This is both an auditory processing area and a visual processing area. The ability to accurately relate an auditory sound to a visual symbol is how we use letters to represent sounds.

Auditory Closure

Auditory closure is the ability to combine sounds together to make words. This is often referred to as sound blending. Given the individual sounds ‘b’, ‘a‘, and ‘t’; can you pull them together to make the word ‘bat‘? ‘Filling in’ the missing piece of a word is another part of auditory closure. If I were to say ‘to _a to‘, can you fill in the missing ‘m‘ and say ‘tomato‘?

Auditory Figure-Ground

Figure-ground is attending to instruction when there is background noise. An example is when your kids are watching television and you ask them to do something, do they do it? Did they even hear you? Or are they distracted by the background noise of the television?

These are four of the nine areas of auditory processing that impact spelling, reading, and overall learning.

The Structure of the English Language

The first step is to understand how we put sounds together with letters to make words. In the English language, we do this in 8 ways. These 8 ways are the 8 spelling patterns. We only put letters together 8 ways to make words. For example, most of us know the vowel-consonant pattern. This is where the vowels give their short sound. They do that in the words: ‘hat’, ‘set’, ‘it’, ‘pot’, ‘fun’, and the two-syllable word ‘picnic‘.

Scholar Within’s Reading Program incorporates 9 Areas of Auditory Processing

Scholar Within’s Reading Program uses proven methods that improve your auditory processing system:

  1. Reading Fluency Training that Incorporates Phonemic Awareness
  2. Rapid Naming Activities
  3. Phonics and Spelling Video Lessons
  4. Auditory Memory Activities
  5. Auditory Discrimination Activities
  6. Auditory Figure-Ground Activities
  7. Executive Function (Planning Skills)
  8. Brain-Body Connection Activities

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Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Soon, teachers began to ask what she was using with the kids who saw her. The teachers saw the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

Reading Fluency Activities

Reading fluency activities are a great way to improve reading speed and accuracy. Reading fluency is the speed or rate of reading without conscious attention to the mechanics of reading. A fluent reader has the ability to read and understand words automatically.

Fluent readers are able to more easily comprehend complete sentences and entire reading selections. When readers understand entire reading selections, they are able to retain the information, analyze it, and use it in many different ways.

The more fluid and fast you read, your understanding of what you read becomes automatic and more fun. Reading can become an enjoyable activity for everyone. When you work on improving your reading fluency, you inherently improve your reading comprehension. Short, daily reading fluency activities are a perfect way to not only read faster, more fluidly, and efficiently but to also improve confidence.

Reading Fluency Activities

1. Reading Fluency Drills

Reading fluency drills are one of the best activities you can do to improve your reading fluency. With our custom-designed, phonetic-based drills, you work on improving the underlying brain processes of reading. When you do these drills, you target five areas of visual processing, six areas of auditory processing, and two areas of tactile/kinesthetic processing. This process also strengthens phonemic awareness and phonics skills at the same time. We do this in just 5-minutes a day and 3-5 days a week.

› Download the Free Reading Drill

How Scholar Within’s Reading Fluency Training Works:

  1. One Student, One Instructor
    You will need either a parent, teacher, tutor, or older sibling with your student.
  2. Gather Supplies: 2 Copies of the Drill
    • Both the student and instructor (parent, teacher, or older sibling) will each have copies of the same drill in front of them. The instructor’s copy has word counts on the side to be able to quickly figure out how many words the student has read.
    • Go to the Free Reading Fluency Drill Download Page
  3. Practice the Reading Drill (2-3 minutes)
    • We start by doing a practice read aloud from left to right, just as you would read normally.
    • If any mistakes are made, have the instructor correct the mistakes as they are made aloud.
    • Your student will not have to read all of the words on the drill of the practice read, just roughly the amount they will be able to read in a minute timed.
  4. Timed Reading Fluency Drill (1 minute)
    After you have done a brief practice read, you are ready for the timed drill.
    • Have the instructor use a stopwatch or the timer functionality on a phone.
    • Have the instructor keep track of mistakes discretely. We do this because sometimes students get flustered if they see that you have marked that they made a mistake and will not keep going.
    • Mistakes are: mispronounced words, skipped words, or repeated words.
    • Stop the drill at 1-minute.
  5. Chart Words-Per-Minute and Mistakes
    • Count the number of words the student read in the 1-minute timing along with the number of mistakes made.
    • Chart the words and mistakes in a daily chart. This way you can keep track of how many words your student has read per minute each day. You will start seeing mistakes per minute go down and words read per minute go up often in the first few days.
  6. Do the Reading Fluency Training 3-5 Times a Week
    • Continued daily fluency training in short increments will improve your kid’s skills faster than just reading alone.
  7. Set a Goal for Mastery
    • After the first time the student has done the practice read and then the timed reading of the drill, set a goal for them to be able to read about 5-25 more words per minute, depending on the student’s grade level/ability, always with a maximum of no more than 4 mistakes per minute.
  8. Move on to the Next Drill
    • Once the student has achieved mastery, move on to the next reading drill. We have over 50, custom-designed reading drills that start with the short vowel-consonant pattern and we work the way up all the way to multi-syllable, multi-pattern words.

Free Reading Fluency Activity Download

Many parents and teachers have asked if they could try our reading fluency activities, so we have made the first reading drill available to download.

Reading Fluency Activities - Directions

Download Reading Fluency Drill

2. Repeated Readings

Repeated reading is another type of reading fluency practice. This is where a student reads a single passage multiple times in order to reach accuracy and improve their speed of reading the passage. This process typically improves the student’s ability to read automatically without pronunciation errors while maintaining their comprehension of the reading selection. The focus is on reading quality rather than on reading speed. 

3. Choral Readings

Choral reading is another way to practice reading fluency. In this method, students read along with a more experienced reader. Several students can also simultaneously choral read together with a more experienced reader. Choral reading helps the student pick up reading fluency, expression, and intonation.

4. Paired Reading (Take Turns Reading)

Paired reading is another way to improve reading fluency. In this strategy, students take turns reading the text to each other. This can also be done by a parent reading a paragraph or page and the student reads the next paragraph or page. We did this often as a family, taking turns with each child reading a paragraph or page and then the next one would read, or I would read. Alternating readings are great for students to be able to understand the correct intonation of sentences.

Understanding Why Reading Fluency is Important

Read the sentence, “Sally can go to the store.” Then several pages later, you get to the questions and one question asks, “Why couldn’t Sally go to the store?” The question doesn’t make any sense to you, because you read Sally can go to the store. Upon going back and re-reading, you find that the sentence really said, “Sally can’t go to the store.” The whole meaning was lost by skipping the apostrophe t in the word can’t. That is one way that reading fluency problems impact comprehension.

Your ability to read fluently starts with phonemic awareness and phonics. It is the ability to take the patterns of sounds (phonological structures) and sound-symbol relationship (orthographic structures) and being able to recognize it quickly enough to gain meaning from it. This process of quickly or rapidly recognizing word structures helps you to understand entire sentences automatically.

When you are a fluent reader, you are able to read without thinking about the mechanics of reading. S. Jay Samuels started doing research in the 1970s. In 2006, he states, “Comprehension requires the fluent mastery of the surface-level aspects of reading.”

What does research say?

Reading fluency is about learning the patterns of the spoken and written word. When you start to see patterns in how words are written, you become more fluent. Because of this, fluency training that focuses on the phonemic and phonic components of words helps us to read a text more rapidly. Mark Seidenberg, author of Language at the Speed of Light states, “Reading brings in regularities in how letters combine and how orthography relates to phonology and meaning.” Practicing reading with a phonological and phonic basis, helps you to recognize and retain words quickly. This, then, makes reading easier and more fluent.

As early as 1886, one of the first reading fluency researchers, psychologist William MacKeen Cattell, discovered that you can read a word (like ‘tiger’) faster than you can name a picture of a pouncing feline creature!

Cattell was the first person to recognize that we become quite ‘automatic’ when we read. In fact, we are more automatic when reading than when speaking. So, learning to read automatically is a huge achievement for our brain. This is a capacity that we have, learning something so well that we can do it almost without thinking.

Reid Lyon, Ph.D. (1997) states in his article Why Reading Is Not a Natural Process, “If beginning readers read the words in a laborious, inefficient manner, they cannot remember what they read, much less relate the ideas to their background knowledge. Thus, the ultimate goal of reading instruction–for children to understand and enjoy what they read-will not be achieved.”

How does reading fluency fit into the 5-principles of reading?

Reading fluency activities are important for every student to do. It is the third principle of reading. Fluency brings together phonemic awareness and phonics so that you can read words, sentences, and paragraphs quickly. When you are able to read quickly, you typically understand and comprehend what you have read.

There are ways to improve your fluency. Fluency training is one of the easiest things a parent can do for their child. It requires little time and minimal experience.

For more direct instruction on improving reading skills that include fluency training with phonemic awareness and phonics, the alphabetic principle, reserve your spot for our Reading Program. Here, Bonnie teaches these skills to you, step-by-step through audio and video lessons. The program integrates fluency training, phonemic awareness and phonics seamlessly.

Best Practices for Teaching Phonics

Phonics is the ability to pair individual sounds with a visual symbol (letters). This method is frequently used to teach reading. Phonics teaches the sounds that letters or groups of letters make when spoken. Phonics is the process of matching sounds to letters. Reading experts refer to this as the alphabetic principle. This process is where the auditory (sounds) are integrated with the visual symbols. This is known as auditory-visual integration.

Phonics is the second principle in the process of reading and joins the first principle, phonemic awareness. The alphabetic principle and phonemic awareness do go hand in hand. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words. Phonics, on the other hand, takes that a step further. Phonics is the ability to pair individual sounds with a visual symbol (letters). So, what are the best practices for teaching phonics? Continue reading.

How do we teach phonics?

We start teaching phonics early on when we match a word that is given aloud to a picture of it. This is typically started in preschool and/or kindergarten. The goal of teaching the Alphabetic Principle, phonics, is to help children grasp the idea that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language. Specific phonics instruction helps children learn the relationship between written and spoken language.

For example, if I were to say show me the picture of a cat, and the student pointed to the cat, they would pair the spoken word with a visual representation. A next step might be pointing to the picture that begins with the /d/ sound (ex: desk). Once that is established you would then ask the student to match the sound of /d/ to the letter /d/, after teaching the students that these squiggly lines (letters) stand for the sound of the letters.

The Alphabetic Principle

The alphabetic principle is the understanding that individual sounds are paired with visual symbols (letters). Students start to learn the alphabetic principle by:

  • Acquiring and remembering letter names.
  • Acquiring and remembering letter shapes.
  • Matching letter sounds with their written form (shape).

Best Practices for Teaching Phonics

  • Teach the letter-sound relationship in a clear and detailed way and in isolation.
    • Start with teaching the beginning sound and letter for your kids’ names.
    • Teach your kids name written out, you can do this by putting their name at their place where they sit at the dinner table.
  • Then start with these letters: f, m, n, r, and s as they can be pronounced easily in isolation.
    • Teach five additional sounds: a, i, e, m, t.
    • Then you can make words with them: at, it, fat, mat, sat, rat, fan, tan, man, ten, set, sit, met, and Mitt.
    • Next, make sentences with them: I see MatMat sits.
  • Next, give multiple opportunities each day to practice the sound-symbol relationships.
    • Label objects in their rooms and around the house. Ask them what other objects they would like to label i.e.: dresser, bed, tub, door, etc.
    • On the way to school, practice the names of the letters with their sound and even a word that begins with that sound.
    • Think of rhyming words with /at/. This is a great way to introduce additional letter-sound relationships (at, cat, fat, hat, etc.)
  • Review daily previously taught sounds-symbols and gradually add new sound-symbols (letters).
  • Practice and apply these sound-symbol relationships with phonetically spelled words that are familiar to them.

For more direct instruction on improving reading skills with phonemic awareness and the alphabetic principle, learn more about our Reading Program. The program integrates both phonemic awareness and phonics seamlessly with step-by-step activities and video lessons.

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How does phonics fit into the other principles of reading?

“Mark Seidenberg, a cognitive neuroscientist and author of the book “Language at the Speed of Sight,” states, “Phonics is crucial when it comes to learning how to read. Surrounding kids with good books is a great idea, but it’s not the same as teaching children to read.”

Kids struggle to read when schools leave phonics out.

Phonics is the second principle of reading instruction. As you read the list of the Five Principles, you will see how one principle builds upon the next. You can’t learn phonics without the ability to discern individual sounds. And, you can’t become fluent without the foundation of phonemic awareness and phonics.

The Five Principles of Reading

  1. Phonemic Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Fluency
  4. Vocabulary
  5. Comprehension

When you bridge phonemic awareness with phonics, you create a strong foundation of the building blocks of language, reading, and spelling. By taking this a step further and learning the spelling patterns, you can learn to spell thousands of words by following the patterns.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

Sleep Problems? How to Adjust to the Time Change

Sleep problems can affect all of us and are especially difficult with the time change. I recall with my kids, they often had trouble getting to sleep. And my grandkids, yes, they too quite often have trouble getting to sleep. I think part of the reason for this is that we are all so busy now. It is difficult for kids as well as adults to wind down.

Sleep is critical for our minds, memory, learning, and development. While you are sleeping, your brain organizes information, makes connections, and even solves problems. Sleep helps transform your short term memory into long-term memories. Susumu Tonegawa, the Professor of Biology and Neuroscience at MIT, discovered that you actually replay your memories from your day like video clips in your sleep before they get consolidated into long-term memories.

Sleep problems often impact those with ADHD. In fact, studies show that 50% of those with ADHD have signs of sleep deprivation at least a few nights a week. Studies also show that a lot of kids’ ADHD symptoms seem to almost disappear when they get enough sleep!

The time change can throw your regular sleep schedule out of whack. You know as well as I do that when you don’t get a good night’s sleep you tend to get sleepy during the day. When stress is put on you, you don’t cope as well. Small things can irritate you more easily. Learning is more difficult. Focus can almost be impossible.

How to Fix Sleep Problems

ADHD Sleep Problems and Symptoms

So, what can you do to help your kids get a better night’s sleep? How can you get that churning mind and or body to calm down? Earlier in the day, or before dinner, make sure to get some exercise like a walk, run, jumping jacks or playing at a local park. Exercise has shown to elevate the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin levels that also help focus and attention. It is much easier to sleep when your body is physically exhausted.

Set up a bedtime routine where you are calming things down. Help them pick out their clothes for the next morning. Be sure their backpack with homework assignments is packed up and ready by the door. No soda, iced tea or coffee before bedtime. Turn off the screens (television, iPads, etc.) at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Screens disrupt the circadian rhythms, disrupting and suppressing the release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin which makes it more difficult to sleep. It can also help to dim some of the lights in your house or turn a couple off while you are preparing for bed.

Some tips to help people get in the mood for bedtime:

  • A warm bath
  • Soft music (I use Mark Romero or Gary Lamb) They can also be used during homework time.
  • Read a story
  • A back rub
  • Chamomile Tea
    • Helps calm your nervous system as well as soothes and supports digestion.
  • Banana Tea
    • Cut off both ends of a banana and put it with the peel and all into a small pot of water. Boil it for about 10 minutes pour it through a colander to catch the peel.
    • Add some Ceylon cinnamon for a little more flavor.
    • The potassium and magnesium from the banana are great for relaxing the muscles. They are also beneficial to the nervous system.
  • Essential Oils
    • Try some essential oils in a diffuser in the bedroom.
    • Lavender oil works wonderfully for calming one down.
    • A few drops of cypress oil on the pillow can help too.

If you or your kids seem to wake up congested or coughing, see about getting some household plants to help filter the air and generate oxygen. Snake plants (Sanseveria) and aloe vera can be great additions to the house. Also, see about running a HEPA air purifier in your rooms while you sleep.

Clean Bedrooms to Help ADHD Sleep Problems

Keep Your Bedrooms Clean

  • Additionally, keep the walls and floor of the bedrooms simple. Visually stimulating material can be distracting and keep you up.
  • Keep toys, books, and games on shelves or in bins, sorted according to use.
  • If you have enough space in the bedroom, place the bed perpendicular to the wall instead of next to it. Then, use the bed as a divider in the room. One side of the room can be for books, school-related items, and study items. The other side of the room can be for toys and games.
  • If you can’t divide the room in half in that manner, it is still okay, but you will need to still create some specific zones to categorize your belongings. You can help your kids with this by relating how the kitchen is organized… the pots and pans go here, the plastic containers go here, the silverware goes in this drawer, the cooking spoons go in that drawer. In the same way, have bins or containers or shelves that bins.
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Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

Halloween Activities to Improve Learning and Comprehension Skills

Halloween and comprehension skills? What could they possibly have in common? You know as well as I do that your kids are excited about Halloween and just want to enjoy the day, but what if they can enjoy the day and learn at the same time? That is a win-win situation in my book! So what can your kids do to improve their comprehension skills on Halloween?

You can work on your observation and memory skills on Halloween. And when you improve your observation skills and do something with them, comprehension skills improve.

Step-by-Step How to Improve Comprehension with Halloween Activities

While your kids are out trick or treating, make a point of noticing and observing. Talk about your observations while you are out, going door to door. Look at and try to remember the different costumes others are wearing.

How many ghosts do they see? How many witches, vampires, mad scientists, black panthers, or princesses do they see? Do some houses have Halloween decorations up? Are the houses spooky? Do the houses have a lot of lights and pumpkins outside? For those that attend parties, they can think about the costumes the party attendees wore.

After your kids get home, record those observations. Then pick two of the costumes that you liked the most and use them for a quick writing experience. Compare and contrast the different Halloween costumes:

  1. Colors
  2. Shapes
  3. Most unusual
  4. Easiest to wear
  5. Funniest/silliest
  6. Scariest
  7. Animal
  8. Famous person
  9. Most difficult to get around in etc.

The Final Step to Improve Comprehension Skills With Halloween Activities

Use one of the story-board forms or the compare contrast fill-in-the-blank form from Ten Minutes to Better Writing and Study Skills. It’s quick, easy, and fun! You can even draw pictures of the costumes you saw and add that to your compare/contrast form. In addition to helping you make comparisons, this activity also builds memory skills. The act of writing or drawing what you saw aids in building long-term memory skills. Use Ten Minutes to Better Writing and Study Skills to improve comprehension skills on Halloween.

Additional fun family activities are provided weekly in our After School Reading Program. Scholar Within’s After-School Reading Program integrates the five principles of reading with curriculum to improve overall reading skills.

Bonus: Halloween Math, Sorting, and Executive Function Activities

Another thing our family would do was to offer our kids the choice of trading their candy for a penny apiece. Nowadays, a nickel or dime may be more appropriate for candy that they like and maybe a penny apiece for candy that they are not so crazy about. To begin with, decide together how much each piece of candy is worth. Have them then group the different values of candy total up how much their candy is worth. Then, have them decide how much candy they want to trade for money. We then took the candy that we bought back from our kids to our corresponding workplaces, which may or may not have been a good idea!

Scholar Within After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

Phonemic Awareness and Reading

Phonemic awareness is critical to reading. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds – phonemes – in spoken words. A phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another, for example, /b/, /c/, and /s/ in the words bat, cat, and sat. When we hear or read words, we don’t often think of the different sounds that are combined to construct the word. It becomes automatic. Phonemic awareness is the first of the five principles of reading.

What are the components of phonemic awareness?

  • Phoneme Blending
    Phoneme blending is the ability to listen to a sequence of phonemes (sounds) and to be able to combine them to form a word. /c/ /a/ /t/ is cat. This is the process used in decoding words.
  • Phoneme Segmentation
    Phoneme segmentation is the ability to break a spoken word into its separate phonemes. This can be seen as the process of spelling words phonetically. In the word step, there are four sounds: /s/ /t/ /e/ /p/.
  • Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondence
    A grapheme is how a phoneme is represented as a letter, punctuation, or other symbols. Phoneme-grapheme correspondence is the sound-symbol relationship.

What does research say about phonemic awareness and reading?

G. Reid Lyon (1995) found that “the best predictor of reading difficulty in kindergarten or first grade is the inability to segment words and syllables into constituent sound units (phonemic awareness).”

Dr. Sally Shaywitz (2003) finds that “reading and phonemic awareness are mutually reinforcing: Phonemic awareness is necessary for reading, and reading, in turn, improves phonemic awareness still further.” Shaywitz is the co-director of the Yale Center for the Study of Learning and Attention and a leader in the new research into how the brain works.

Dr. Penny Chiappe (2002) states that programs focusing on phonological awareness, coupled with systematic, explicit phonics instruction, structural analysis of words, spelling, and comprehension strategies have higher success rates.

Scholar Within After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

How does phonemic awareness fit into the other components of reading?

Phonemic awareness is the first principle of reading and is the foundation of developing reading skills.

The Five Principles of Reading

  • Phonemic Awareness
    Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds – phonemes – in spoken words.
  • Phonics
    Phonics uses the awareness of sounds and matches the sounds to letter symbols.
  • Fluency
    Reading fluency is the ability to read easily, fluidly, accurately, and articulately. It is the ability to accurately decode words and automatically process words. When reading aloud, it is also the ability to add appropriate intonation (the rise and fall, pattern and pitch of voice while speaking) to words.
  • Vocabulary
    Vocabulary is the knowledge and understanding of words. It is the ability to use words effectively and understand them in different contexts.
  • Comprehension
    Comprehension is the ability to understand, analyze, integrate, and use what you have read, whether it be words, sentences, paragraphs, articles, or books.

Scholar Within’s After-School Reading Program integrates the five principles of reading with curriculum to improve overall reading skills.

When you bridge phonemic awareness with phonics, you create a strong foundation of the building blocks of language, reading, and spelling. By taking this a step further and learning the spelling patterns, you can learn to spell thousands of words by following the patterns.

In Scholar Within’s After-School Reading Program, we incorporate phonemic awareness with phonics in auditory and visual spelling video lessons. The program teaches spelling by spelling patterns and breaks down the complexity of the English language into bite-sized chunks.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

Executive Function and Reading

If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail.
– Benjamin Franklin

Executive function is all about planning and organizing. It’s also your ability to strategize and pay attention to and remember details. Executive function also involves flexible thinking. This is used when you have an assignment or project, or a problem that can be done in several ways. Do you get stuck, or do you look for a different way to do it? When we read, we use our executive function skills.

Executive Function Directly Impacts Reading Skills

Every time you read:

  • You decide what you are going to read.
  • You decide when you are going to read.
  • You plan your reading to fit into your day, whether it is at a break, after school, after dinner, or before bed.

While reading, whether it’s a news story, social media, an article, or a book, your brain constantly uses executive function skills by asking yourself:

  • Is this important? 
  • Do I need to remember this?
  • What associations or connections can I draw from the characters?
  • Do I have any personal experiences that I can relate to what I’m reading?

The process the brain uses as it asks these questions is executive function. Asking these questions filters and sends the information to both the short and long term memory centers of the brain. This helps you to retain, understand, and fully comprehend what you read. 

Scholar Within After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

3 Brain Processes Work Together

  1. Working Memory:
    Your ability to recall steps of a word problem while solving it or recalling the steps of a recipe while cooking.
  2. Flexible Thinking:
    When you are stuck, flexible thinking is the ability to try new ways to solve a problem.
  3. Executive Function:
    This is your ability to ask yourself questions, plan, and organize your thoughts. 

When you are able to retain what you’ve read, organize your thoughts with your working memory and flexibility, you are able to act succinctly.

Specific Areas of Reading are Impacted by Executive Function

  • Vocabulary:
    Helps you organize, associate, and categorize words to retain meaning.
  • Grammar:
    Helps you to interpret the content. e.g.: Let’s eat grandpa. vs Let’s eat, grandpa.
  • Word and Sentence Emphasis:
    Helps you determine the mood or emotional context of the passage which aids comprehension.

Your ability to maintain focus impacts your ability to read easily. Working memory comes into play by helping us to hold onto multiple bits of information in a paragraph as well as a story. Executive function helps us to comprehend.

Executive Function Skills Build Foundational Reading Skills

Many researchers, including Laurie Cutting and George McCloskey have established the connection of executive function to the reading process. Executive function skills work directly with working memory. If you improve your executive function skills, your reading comprehension skills will naturally improve. There are specific activities for different age groups that strengthen executive function and reading skills.

In a nutshell, executive function is a term used to describe a set of mental processes that helps us connect past experience with present action. We use executive function skills when we perform the following activities:

  • Planning
  • Organizing
  • Strategizing
  • Paying attention to details 
  • Remembering details

These skills allow us to:

  • Finish work on time.
  • Ask for help when needed.
  • Wait to speak until we’re called on.
  • Seek more information.

Executive function can improve. These are learned skills and can improve with instruction! Study skills instruction that incorporates planning skills can and does make a real difference!

Many schools do not teach these executive function skills. They expect students to just catch on to how to plan. However, when you teach your kids these skills, both reading and overall learning improve.

Learn about our After-School Reading Program to find out how we integrate executive function skills into reading instruction.

Scholar Within After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

The Visual Processing System: How Does it Impact Learning?

Visual processing often means how well you discriminate between one letter and another or one word and another. This is prominent with kids who confuse letters, also known as letter reversals. Below are some examples of letters and words that kids mix up:

  • b and d
  • p and q
  • was and saw
  • felt and fell
  • bad and dab

Just scanning the letters and words above, it is understandable how it can be easy for kids to mix the letters and words up. The shapes are not that different from each other. When we work on our brain’s visual discrimination abilities, we fine-tune our ability to see the differences in shapes of letters and words.

After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

More Than Just Seeing Differences

There is more to visual processing than just seeing the differences in shapes of words and letters. Visual processing directly impacts your ability to learn, read, and retain information. Learning in school is typically directed at visual processing 75% of the time. So, to do well in school and in life, developing your visual system is critical. One of the great things about visual processing and its 9 sub-categories is that the skills involved with visual processing are learned skills and they can and do improve when you do specific visual activities.

Visual processing is the process of how your eyes receive information and the steps involved to process and understand that information. This involves eye-hand coordination, discrimination, your ability to combine shapes and letters to form objects or words. This also involves your ability to visually remember seeing something, move your eyes from left to right efficiently, and more.

The Visual Processing System Explained

Visual Processing

Let’s take a step back to understand this a bit more. One thing is very clear. We all receive information through our five senses: smell, taste, hearing, seeing, and doing. Within each of those senses, there are subcategories. The sense of smell can sense sweet, pungent, savory, floral, etc. The sense of taste can break down foods into salty, sweet, bitter, or sour. Within hearing (auditory processing), seeing (visual processing), and doing (tactile/kinesthetic processing), there are 9 sub-categories each. And, when you want to optimize learning, pay attention to what you are doing signals to address each of these auditory, visual, and tactile/kinesthetic systems.

Visual Processing and Brain-Based Learning

There is a compelling argument to include a variety of visual activities to improve reading and overall learning skills. According to the research from Early Choice Pediatric Therapy, once a child enters school, about 75% of the classroom activities are directed through visual processing pathways. Additionally, when we think about the human brain, about 40% of the brain is involved in one form or another with visual processing. (National Vision Research Institute of Australia)

Let me explain… Upon visual input, visual signals leave the eye and follow a path into the superior colliculus in the brainstem. This is where the electrical impulses react and control all eye movements. These eye movements include blinking, dilating pupils, and tracking objects that are moving or tracking a line of words. The optic nerve then forms synapses and sends neurons to the occipital lobe of the cerebral cortex. This pathway is responsible for experiencing and controlling visual perception. The input comes from both eyes. The right cortex receives impulses from the left orbit. The left cortex receives input from the right orbit. Once these visual signals are sent to the cerebral cortex, the cortex processes them and makes sense of them.

Research Behind Visual Processing

Research on eye movements has been going on for many years. The 2009 eye movement study by Levy, Bickness, Slattery, and Raynor shows that eye movements are based on the visual perceptual input. This input is combined with grammatical language input (the word order within a sentence). Every reader combines the perceptual input with sentence structure to guide the saccadic movement of their eyes.  Saccades are the rapid movements of the eyes.

For example, the word flour is reread more often in sentence 1a than in sentence 1b or than the word wheat in sentence 1c):

1a. He swept the flour that he spilled.

1b. The baker needed more flour for the special bread.

1c. He swept the wheat that he spilled.

Reading involves saccades, rapid eye movements.

These rapid eye movements and tracking movements are separated by fixations when the eyes are relatively still. Saccade movements typically travel about 6 to 9 letter spaces. They are not impacted by the size of print. The complete perceptual span typically extends to 14 or 15 letter spaces to the right and 3 to 4 spaces to the left. It is the saccade movement to the left combined with the perceptual span length that assures that every letter of every word enters the visual field.

Can you read this whole sentence quickly?

About 10-15% of the time, readers also shift back (known as regression) to look back at the material that has already been read. And as the text becomes more difficult, saccade length tends to decrease and regression frequency increases. It is important to note that the space between words does facilitate fluent reading. When the spacing between words varies or is not available, reading is slowed by as much as 50%. The research further notes that efficient eye movement is more critical than generating predictions of upcoming words. Readers systematically move their eyes from left to right across the text. Then, they fixate on most of the content words. The processing associated with each word is very rapid, and the link between the eyes and the mind is very tight. Rayner, K. (1997) Scientific Studies of Reading, 1(4) pages 317-339.

After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

After-School Reading Program incorporates the 9 Areas of Visual Processing

Scholar Within’s Summer Reading Program uses proven methods that improve your visual processing system:

  1. Reading fluency training
  2. Rapid naming activities
  3. Visual memory activities
  4. Visual discrimination activities
  5. Eye-aiming activities

Learn More about After-School Reading Program

Who is Bonnie Terry?

Bonnie Terry, M.Ed., BCET is the author of Five Minutes To Better Reading Skills, Ten Minutes To Better Study Skills, and numerous other books, reading games, and guides. She is a Board Certified Educational Therapist and internationally recognized as America’s Leading Learning Specialist and the founder of Scholar Within, Inc. Terry is an expert in identifying students’ learning disabilities. Ms. Terry coaches teachers and parents so they can give their child a 2 to 4-year learning advantage in just 45-60 minutes a day. She is a frequent media guest and speaker.

Reading and Spelling: Decoding and Encoding

How are Reading and Spelling Connected?

Reading and spelling are two sides of the same coin. In order to do one part well, you need the other part. In order to read, you need to decode (sound out) words. In order to spell, you need to encode words. In other words, pull the sounds apart within a word and match letters to the sounds. Encoding and decoding combine the components of auditory and visual processing. Here, phonemic awareness and phonics come together in the process of reading.

This is the reason why Scholar Within’s reading program includes spelling and phonics lessons. When you are able to spell more easily, you are also able to read more easily.

Phonemic Awareness Is Necessary for Reading and Spelling

Phoneme Blending

Phonemic awareness is your ability to manipulate the sounds in language. This is your ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds, phonemes, in spoken words. Then, you combine the phonemes to form a word. This is known as blending. You blend the individual sounds together to form a word. /c/ /a/ /t/ is cat. This is the process of decoding words.

Phoneme Segmentation

When you break a spoken word into its separate sounds, phonemes, you spell the word. This is known as encoding. This process is used when you spell a word phonetically. For example, there are five sounds in the word strip: /s/ /t/ /r/ /i/ /p/.

Combining Decoding and Encoding

So, pulling these two steps together, you are able to both sound out words, decode them, and spell them, encode them. Learning how we put letters together to make words improves your ability to read. The relationship between phonemic awareness, reading, and spelling is complimentary. As you improve your spelling skills, you improve your reading skills. As you improve your reading skills by working with sound/symbol relationships, you improve your spelling skills.

Research Supports Combining Reading and Spelling

Mandi Johnson, M. Ed., author of The Relationship Between Spelling Ability and Reading Fluency and Comprehension in Elementary Students, 2013 states:

“If students have a higher knowledge of spelling, they are able to make more sense of the words that they are reading; therefore, it is easier for them to remember what is being read.”

Dr. Louisa Moats, author of How Spelling Supports Reading states:

“Spelling is a critical element not only in reading fluency and comprehension but also across the curriculum in all subject areas. It is shown that students who improve in spelling instruction, also improve in writing fluency and reading word-attack skills. If students have a higher knowledge of spelling, they are able to make more sense of the words that they are reading; therefore, it is easier for them to remember what is being read. ”

“Research shows that learning to spell and learning to read rely on much of the same underlying knowledge. Learn more about the relationships between letters and sounds and how a proper understanding of spelling mechanics can lead to improved reading.”

Additionally, according to the 2007 study by Wilma Jongejan, Ludo Verhoeven, and Linda S. Siegel titled Predictors of Reading and Spelling Abilities in First-and Second-Language Learners:

“Phonological awareness was found to be of great importance for the development of literacy skills in both first and second language learners. The training of phonological awareness skills should, therefore, be encouraged for children of all linguistic backgrounds.”

Apply the Research

Look at the two sides of the coin: decoding and encoding. The research supports it. Reading programs should include a spelling component to help students master reading skills at a faster rate. So, we include spelling with our reading program. This solidifies the overall fluency and comprehension skills.

Download Free Reading Fluency Drill

Many parents and teachers have asked if they could try our reading fluency activities, so we have made the first reading drill available to download. This free drill helps your students work on their decoding skills.

Reading Fluency Training

Download Reading Fluency Drill

After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Give your kids an academic advantage this year with our step-by-step, results-driven After-School Reading Program with spelling and phonics. Learn through our custom-designed visual, auditory, and tactile methods that actually help your brain work more efficiently and make learning easier.

Learn More

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

10 Back to School Supplies That Make the Difference

What Can You Do to Get Your Kids Off to a Great Start for School Success?

Having the right back to school supplies can make the difference between feeling prepared for the school year and not. They can help boost your kids’ confidence as they enter the school year knowing that they have the supplies they need at their disposal. As a parent, what can you do to help your kids be excited and confident about school?

For our family, it was critical that we talk about the upcoming year. We’d speculate on which teacher they might get. We would think about who might be in their class. We’d also walk over to the school a week before school started and see where the new grade classrooms were and sometimes we even got to meet their teacher who was getting the classroom ready. Doing this always increased their excitement and confidence for the coming year.

Then, one of the most fun things we’d do was to shop for the new backpack and some school supplies. There is nothing like that ‘feel’ of picking out your backpack and a few new supplies to start off the new year.

Studies have shown that students tend to do well when they have the tools they need handy. The right tools can make a difference in helping your kids make connections, comprehend, and use what they are learning.

Back to School Supplies that Make a Difference

K – 2nd Grade Back to School Supplies

  1. Pencils: These are for beginning writers.
  2. Pencil Grips: These are specifically designed to help kids write and hold their pencils properly.
  3. Dry Erase Markers and Whiteboard: These markers make it easy for your kids and easy to erase.
  4. Washable Markers: These markers make it easy for your kids and easy to wash off.
  5. Pencil Sharpener: Make it easy for kids to write more neatly with sharpened pencils.
  6. Erasers: These are the sturdiest and best I’ve found over the years.
  7. Glue Stick: Make it easy for your kids to glue without making a mess.
  8. Scissors: Get the sharpest and safest scissors around.
  9. Sentence Zone Game: Learn how to write sentences with color-coded cards.
  10. Wide Ruled Handwriting Paper: This paper helps with sizing letters correctly.

3rd – 8th Grade Back to School Supplies

Get the supplies in the K – 2nd-grade list and add the following items:

  1. Erasable Pens: These will help you make corrections a little bit easier.
  2. Highlighter Tape: Better than highlighter pens…color code your textbooks and notes with removable colored tape.
  3. Graph Paper: This helps you keep your columns straight in math.
  4. Hole Punch: Helps keep track of your papers in their appropriate folder or notebook.
  5. Folders for Reports: Helps you be better organized with color-coded folders.
  6. Atlas (student-friendly): See the connections geographically and historically.
  7. Thesaurus (student-friendly): Helps you use more interesting words in your writing and assignments.
  8. Dictionary (student-friendly): Our favorite dictionary that has simple, easy to read definitions. A must-have!
  9. Graphic Organizers: Make note-taking, paragraph writing, and essay writing a little easier.
  10. Writing Reference Guide: The ultimate cheat sheet for any writing assignment.

5 Steps to a Successful School Year

  1. Set up your backpack with the supplies you’ll need, at least for the first couple of days.
  2. Visit the school a week or even a day or two before it opens. Check out where their classroom is, so they will know exactly where to go.
  3. Have your kids set up their first week of school schedule: including homework time as well as sports practice, scouts, etc. (This is very easy to do with the planning calendars in Ten Minutes to Better Study Skills.)
  4. Have your kids plan what they will wear to school the night before school. This is a good routine to get into as it helps reduce morning stress.
  5. Plan what you’d like your kids to take to school for lunch as well as a snack (grapes, apple, orange, carrots, cucumbers, hummus, etc.) so that your kids have the energy for learning.

Planning and doing these things ahead of time will make it a bit easier for your kids to adjust back into ‘school mode’. Coming out of summer break and back to school is a big change and implementing these tips will make getting back into the routine of school a bit more enjoyable.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

School Success: Goal Planning for Your New School Year

Executive Function Skills, Setting a Big Audacious Goal, and How to Help Your Kids’ Successfully Plan their Year

PLUS FREE Goal Planning Worksheet

School success depends on executive function. Executive function is all about planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to, and remembering details. In order to succeed, you do need to be somewhat organized. You need to pay attention to what is going on. And, you also need to remember details. That being said, many of us have heard the adage If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail. This statement is credited to Benjamin Franklin. Think about that. If you fail to plan, many things don’t get done. Often you end up failing to do as well as you could have.

One way to plan for a successful year is to sit down with your kids and make a plan. Start off by letting your child know that you do remember some wins and some struggles last year. Remind them they are a bit older now and that their brain has had time to make more connections, so learning will be a bit easier this year.

A great way to start the school year off is to frame the year by setting some over-arching goals. These initial goals will be the foundation for your kids’ school year and will have something that they can work towards throughout. They can have school directed goals and more personal goals, but try to have at least one of each.

Big Audacious Goal Planning

What is a big audacious goal? It is a goal that is bold and might put you out of your comfort zone. It is a goal that is attainable. This could be something from giving a presentation on a topic your child may know something or nothing about to their classroom or other groups. It might be for them to learn how to play a song with an instrument. It might be to learn how to cook a favorite meal and to prepare dinner for family and friends.

The goal will depend on the child. If they already excel at something they want to focus even more this year, the audacious goal would be to push their talents even further than what they might think is currently attainable. The goal might be an idea that has been burrowing in the back of their mind for some time. Help brainstorm ideas and even come up with an audacious goal of your own this year. Shoot for the stars and land on the clouds.

Be Realistic

It is often impossible for someone to accomplish a life long goal overnight or even sometimes in a year, but you can plan out certain steps or milestones that will make progress towards a larger goal. Instead of your child writing down that they want to become an engineer by the end of the year, have them set their immediate goal to something more attainable. Possibly have their audacious goal to be about to learn about the construction of sustainable buildings and to make a presentation to family and friends on the topic.

Write Your Goals Down

When you write your goals down, they become real. This process helps you figure out what it is that you really want. Your goals can be completely different from someone else. This sort of planning helps start the wheels in your mind moving and to have something to work towards.

The research from Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University of California, shows that the actual process of writing goals down can help improve your chance of accomplishing your goals by 33%.

Write Down the Steps You Need to Do to Accomplish Your Goal

It is one thing to just put a big goal out there and then to have no thoughts about how you can actually make it happen. For the goal of making a presentation on sustainable building designs, they could write down that they will read books and articles on the topic, watch YouTube tutorial videos from engineers, research what buildings near where they live are sustainable, try to contact engineers of different firms that construct the buildings to see if they could get a tour of their studio, as well as document their research along the way. Depending on grade level, this can be as simple or as complex as you want.

 

Download FREE Goal Planning Worksheet

We put together a school year goal planning worksheet to make the whole process of planning a little bit easier. We start off with a big audacious goal, move on to another goal that your child needs to accomplish (but might not be something that they are the most excited about), and we wrap up with one goal that they’d like to do if there is time to do it. Download the goal planning worksheet and share it with your friends.

2019 Big Audacious Goal School Success Worksheet (Graphic Organizer)
School Success Priority Planning Worksheet:
2019 Big Audacious Goal Worksheet

More Graphic Organizers and Planning Worksheets

A consistent step in actualizing goals is to fill out a calendar with different dates that your kids want to accomplish certain milestones with. Bonnie Terry Learning’s Graphic Organizer Handbook is loaded with planning calendars and other great organizers. The book contains over 50 graphic organizers including:

  • Goal Planning
  • Priority Planning
  • To-Do Lists
  • Daily Planning
  • Weekly Planning
  • Monthly Planning
  • Textbook Note-Taking
  • Story Note-Taking
  • 5 ‘W’ Form
  • Hamburger Paragraph
  • Formal Essay Outline
  • Book Reports
  • Storyboards
  • Sentence Building
  • Paragraph Organizer
  • Essay Organizers
  • Formal Essay Outline
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Cause and Effect
  • Study Guides
  • Study Tips
  • Test-Taking Tips
  • Note-Taking Tips
  • Paragraph Writing Tips

Learn More

Coming Soon: After-School Reading Program

Woohoo! For those who were not able to join our Summer Reading Program this summer, we are offering an After-School Reading Program that you can do with your kids at home to boost their reading skills. We work on foundational reading skills, from training your eyes to move more efficiently to learning how to read for meaning. Are you interested? Send us a note to let us know. The program is for kids who are looking for a boost to their skills whether they are at grade level, above grade level, or below grade level. We work on skills to make learning easier and more efficient.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

How Vocabulary and Comprehension are Connected

Going back to my first year of teaching, I found that comprehension was impacted directly by vocabulary. When you don’t understand a word, how it is connected or associated with other words, it is hard to comprehend. Comprehension is the ability to understand and use what you have read or learned. This involves understanding, analyzing, and synthesizing words, sentences, and ideas. Vocabulary is the body of words you know. Words are everywhere, so as we improve our word knowledge, our vocabulary, we improve comprehension.

Since vocabulary is the knowledge-base of words and their meanings, it is the go-to place in our memory system. Our brain sifts through our memory bank to make sense of words. One of the ways it does this is to make associations. When we make an association, it is easier for us to remember. For example, the word organ can be associated with musical instruments or with parts of the body. So we associate the word organ with one of those categories as we read a selection. We combine it with the other information we read. This, then, tells us which meaning of the word organ is being referred to in the text.

Scholar Within Summer Reading Program

Vocabulary and Comprehension Research

Studies have shown that when you don’t have a large vocabulary to draw upon, comprehension is depressed. In fact, Biemiller (2005) stated, “Lacking either adequate word identification skills or adequate vocabulary will ensure failure.” The Nation’s Report Card states, “Students who scored high in comprehension also scored high on vocabulary.” So, improving vocabulary improves comprehension.

How Do You Improve Vocabulary and Comprehension?

The research on how vocabulary and comprehension are intertwined is widely documented. Over the past twenty years, researchers have discovered some of the best methods to teach comprehension and vocabulary.

According to Eric Jensen, author of Brain-Based Learning, there are three basic ways the brain constructs meaning. When learning a new word, you need to use relevance, emotion, or patterns and connections. Each of those three ways uses association to construct both meaning and retention. Relevance is relating the word to something that is relatable. Emotion is having an emotional reaction – you really liked something or didn’t like something. You can bring up that specific part by reminding a student that they didn’t like the selection. Connections or patterns is making a connection with the vocabulary word like in the example of the word organ, above.

Learn more about Associative Learning.

  1. Direct instruction of words and definitions as well as making associations with the words
  2. Repetition and multiple exposures through a variety of activities
  3. Words must be useful and relevant so they can be used in multiple contexts

Apply the Research on Vocabulary and Comprehension

How to teach new vocabulary:

  1. Use new words in a story to model what the word means.
  2. Use the new word in an example that they have made up.
  3. Doodle or draw a picture of what the word means.
  4. Make a vocabulary notebook (spiral notebook or binder). Have a page or two for each letter of the alphabet. Write the new word in the notebook with your story example and picture.
  5. Use the new word in conversations every day for 5-10 days.
  6. Play games with words.

Scholar Within’s Summer Reading Program provides a variety of activities throughout the week that improve vocabulary and comprehension skills. One of the many activities is to use our special story cards and storyboards to draw about what you read. Another activity is to play the weekly card game. The card games rotate each week from word structure games that build vocabulary to specific vocabulary games that build word associations. Game playing allows for learning and practicing vocabulary in a relaxed setting. Eric Jensen, author of Brain-Based Learning, (1997) states, “Through visual and kinesthetic methods you’ll increase student performance.” Games do just that!

What do Parents Say?

My son’s reading skills have gone up tremendously. I can’t believe we saw progress in three days, just like you told me I would! You know, I’ve been homeschooling my son for 4 years and he had never picked up a book to read on his own. It was such a struggle to get him to want to read. I have to tell you, three weeks after working with the video lessons, we went to the library, and my son actually picked out 3 chapter books to read. In fact, he wouldn’t put the first book down until he finished it.”

– Lisa K

Thank you for partnering with me to help my daughters improve their reading skills. They are really enjoying your program and are excited about becoming more confident readers.” 

Lisa G

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about Scholar Within.

4th of July Family Activities

The 4th of July is perfect to do family activities outside like a picnic or BBQ in the park. Make your 4th that much more memorable by playing games. Some of our favorites include relay races, obstacle courses, and the one sure to go over with a splash, a water balloon toss. You might not realize it, but obstacle courses and relay races improve several areas of learning including laterality, directionality, visual memory, and auditory memory. These family activities target the brain-body connection which is critical to learning.

Scholar Within Summer Reading Program

Brain-body activities such as obstacle courses, relay races, or even playing musical chairs can be fun for kids of all ages and are completed in just a few minutes. Bean bag toss or cornhole is also a favorite. All these activities work on our sensory systems. The sensory systems are interconnected in numerous ways. Strengthening our skills through activities like these games intrinsically improves our academic skills.

Family Activities: Relay Races

Egg on a Spoon Race

  • Form two teams. Give each player a spoon. Give each team a hard-boiled egg (or a plastic one). To play, teams carry their egg from the starting line to a turnaround point and back again, then pass it to a teammate to repeat the process. If the egg is dropped, the player must stop and retrieve it. Whichever team gets the egg back and forth the fastest wins.
  • Variations: Skip the spoon and use an armload of plastic eggs; use raw eggs; skip the egg and use a bowl full of pennies that must be transferred on the spoon; add obstacles to the playing area; require players to march or skip instead of walking.

Wheelbarrow Race

  • Make teams of two and mark the start and finish lines. One person in each team must walk on his hands while his partner holds his ankles. Have teams go as fast as they can to the finish line, swap places and race back to the start.

Balloon Race

  • These races are best for kids over 4. Littler ones may be scared by popping noises, and fragments of popped balloons are a choking hazard. Split the group into teams and have them stand in a single-file line. Give the leader of each line a balloon. He must pass it through his legs to the player behind him. That player passes it overhead to the next player. Repeat this pattern until the balloon gets to the end of the line; the last player runs to the front of the line and (optional!) pops the balloon to win the game.
  • Variations: Use water balloons or a beach ball; have kids race from start to finish lines holding a balloon between their knees or back-to-back with a partner, or, in pairs, balancing a balloon on a towel or piece of newspaper.

3-legged Race

  • Divide players into teams of two. Have them stand side-by-side and tie adjacent (inside) legs together using a bandanna or scarf. Mark off the start and finish lines. The three-legged pairs must work together to race to the finish. It’s harder than it looks!
  • Variation: Have duos link arms instead. To make this tougher, give them something they must carry together, such as a football or a small bucket of water.

Water Relay Races

  • Give each team a plastic cup and a bucket full of water. Put one empty bucket for each team at the finish line. Players take turns filling up their cup from their bucket, then dumping it into their empty bucket. The game is over when the once-full bucket is empty; the team with the most amount of water in their finish-line bucket wins.
  • Variations: Use a large sponge instead of a cup; poke a few holes in the cup and have kids carry it over their heads

Dress-Up Relay

  • Divide your group into two teams. Place two similar piles, boxes, or suitcases of dress-up items at the end of the playing area, one per team. The first player runs to the pile, puts on all the dress-ups on top of her clothing, then runs back to her team. She removes all the dress-up items and gives them to the next player, who must put them all on, run back and forth across playing area, and then remove the dress-ups so the next player can repeat the process. Variations: Have the first player put on just one item from the pile. The second player has to put on that item, plus a second one. The third player puts on three items, and so on.

Be sure to take pictures too!

Fireworks Family Activities

Get the most out of your trip to view the fireworks. Be extra observant. Count how may blue, green, red, white, and multi-colored fireworks there are. You can even make a chart for this. Decide which colors were your favorite ones. Was there a style that you liked better than another? This will help you with your observation skills. Be sure to take pictures throughout the day.

Stretch Activity: Scrapbook / July 4th in Review

Afterward, on July 5th, put your pictures together with a quick summary of your day using graphic organizers from the Summer Reading Program. Then, 3-hole punch your summary and keep it in a family notebook. At the end of the summer, you’ll have a great family memory book as well!

Summer Reading Program Family Activities

Family outings and activities are built into the Summer Reading Program. This is one of the ways we build memory skills, in addition to having a good time with your family. The activities build your overall experience bank from which to draw upon while you are reading. This is your factual knowledge base, another piece of the comprehension puzzle. Take pictures or draw pictures of your family activity. Place them along with a few sentences about the activity into your family memory book. Then, go through the family memory book and talk about the great times you had. This activity will improve writing skills, both auditory and visual memory skills, and 15 other areas of learning as well!

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie began designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids who saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From there, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home, on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kid’s overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

The Key to Boosting Reading Speed, Accuracy, and Efficiency: Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is the ability to speak or read smoothly, easily, and quickly. Good readers can read words automatically without having to sound out each syllable (also known as decoding). In other words, you don’t have to spend a lot of effort and attention on the mechanics of reading. Reading becomes easy.

After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

Why is Reading Fluency Important?

Your ability to read fluently contributes to good comprehension skills. When you can’t read quickly, it is hard to hold pieces of text in your mind and make sense of them. When that happens, you typically don’t enjoy reading. It is just too labor-intensive. This directly impacts reading comprehension. According to the research done by S. J. Samuels, “Comprehension requires the fluent mastery of the surface-level aspects of reading.”

How to Improve Reading Fluency

Mastery Guide Reading Rates (Words-Per-Minute) for Students

So, let’s first start off with what is considered being at grade-level for words read per minute. The following is a guideline you can use to gauge your child. These word-per-minute rates are based on reading passages of text at grade-level. Over the years I’ve been teaching, the reading rates for each grade level has risen progressively. This is where they currently are:

  • 1st Grade (Spring): 40 – 80 wpm
  • 2nd Grade (Spring): 80 – 120 wpm
  • 3rd Grade (Spring): 115 – 140 wpm
  • 4th Grade (Spring): 140 – 170 wpm
  • 5th Grade (Spring): 150 – 195 wpm
  • 6th Grade (Spring): 170 – 220 wpm

*2017 Update of Oral Reading Fluency (ORF) Norms

Why Do Some Kids Read Slowly?

One effect of kids reading slowly is that they may not enjoy reading as it takes them so long to read a selection. How fast kids can process what they see also impacts reading accuracy. Listen to your kids read aloud. If they skip, omit, or repeat words, phrases, or lines when they read, this is typically due to a visual tracking issue. Eye muscles aren’t moving as efficiently as they can. Visual tracking and processing speed are learned skills, and they can improve quite easily with simple activities.

Re-reading of text is quite common because kids are missing bits and pieces of what they’re reading. They re-read the selection so it will make sense to them. This can occur with kids at all levels of reading whether they are: above, at, or below grade level. Fortunately, this can easily improve, again, with simple activities. This can happen when your eyes are not working fluidly.

Does your child have room for improvement?

Your child can improve the number of words they read per minute with short, daily reading fluency training, like that in our Summer Reading Program. With our training, you can not only reach the higher ends of these word-per-minute guidelines, but you can excel past them. We have seen some kids read twice as many words-per-minute as when they started within a couple of months.

The methods in our phonetic fluency training focus directly on improving 5 areas of visual processing, 6 areas of auditory processing, and the 2 areas of tactile/kinesthetic processing that are most critical for reading and learning. We train your eyes to track more efficiently. Our reading drills are different from other reading fluency programs in that we start by focusing on training your eyes at the most bare-bones level. We start with drills that speed up your letter and word recognition processes. Then, we build your rapid automatized retrieval, which improves the speed at which you can look at a word, recognize, and say the word.

We also make sure that students read the drills out loud to build their auditory processing systems at the same time. We have students chart the words per minute they read and mistakes per minute they made each day. They love competing against their previous records by seeing their words-per-minute go up and mistakes per minute go down.

What Do You Do to Improve Reading Fluency?

There are two types of activities that work hand and hand to improve reading fluency. One is rapid naming activities that work on improving processing speed. Rapid naming deals with your ability to rapidly name letters, objects, or words. It is the speed at which your brain retrieves information from memory. The other activity works on visual tracking, processing speed, and phonic reading skills. Our Reading Programs provide you with those specific activities, improving your overall reading skills.

After-School Reading Program with Spelling and Phonics

What Does the Summer Reading Program Include?

  • Reading Fluency and Rapid Naming Activities
  • Spelling
  • Comprehension
  • Phonics
  • Executive Function
  • Brain-Body Connection Activities
  • Reading Games

Get Started

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie started designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids that saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From here, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home and on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kids’ overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

How Brain-Body Connection and Movement Activities Improve Overall Learning Skills

Most of us don’t think about learning skills in conjunction with the brain-body connection and movement. However, the brain-body connection and movement are very important to your ability to learn and master reading skills. The brain and body work together as a machine, one designed to move through space efficiently, walking, moving, and maintaining balance.

The vestibular system maintains balance and spatial orientation. As you walk, your arms and legs swing, counterbalancing each other. The hips and buttocks stabilize the body. Your eyes need to be stable in space so you can both see and read a sign that is 20 feet away while walking. Together, the neck and vestibular system stabilize and refine the head and vision system.

The Vestibular System and Learning

The vestibular system is the sensory system that sends signals to the neural structures that control eye movement. Because we learn and read through eye movements, the vestibular system is a critical piece of the brain-body connection. It helps us focus on and perceive both objects and words, take in and analyze shapes, sizes, and directions of objects, words, sentences, and passages. It helps us interact with our environment every day.

Movement triggers the vestibular system. The body then passes information received in a round-trip pattern from the spinal cord to the brain to and back. When an action is completed, the cortex (brain) processes the information received during the action and sorts it into usable, retrievable pieces. Higher-order thinking takes place during this process, and both short-term and long-term memory banks store information.

The Brain-Body Connection Impacts Reading Skills

The vestibular system needs to be activated to have higher-order thinking, receiving, and interpreting take place. The brain takes in information from our visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic systems. The vestibular system then sifts through words, shapes, sizes, directions, and space, interpreting the data. Next, it sends it to specific areas of the brain to make sense of and retain meaning from it.

The vestibular system and the brain-body connection directly impact your ability to receive and interpret words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories. It allows you to see the shapes, sizes, and positions of letters in space. Additionally, it helps you visually scan words across a page in order to read fluently and accurately. Without the ability to scan words across a page quickly and accurately, reading is stilted and comprehension is lost. As we improve the vestibular system, the system of brain-balance, reading, and overall learning improve.

Scholar Within Summer Reading Program

Brain-Body Connection Activities Improve Learning Skills

Brain-body activities are specific movement activities such as balancing on an exercise ball, doing a tree pose, or even tossing a bean bag in specific ways. Do these short activities for only a few minutes each day. Sensory movement activities like these help improve academic skills such as reading. Extensive research from NASA demonstrates how brain-body activities can impact our ability to learn. Our Summer Reading Program includes numerous brain-balance activities that improve reading skills.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie started designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids that saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From here, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home and on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kids overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn more about the Summer Reading Program

How to Prevent the Summer Slide: Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Did you know that kids often lose much of what they learned from the school year over summer time? This is because most of the time during the summer we don’t spend much time stimulating the brain and keeping them active. It’s typical for kids to lose between two and four months of learning over summer and kids who are already struggling can lose between four and six months!

In as little as 30-60 minutes a day, you can prevent your kids from having summer learning loss and they’ll still have a bunch of free time.

Step 1: Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Planning

Planning is a HUGE part of growing up. If you don’t have a plan together, you are often just getting carried by the wind as life happens around you. Let your kids buy into their own success by having them plan their day, week, or month. Feel free to give them suggestions or some ideas, but push them to want to be productive or to get the most out of their summer and not have it pass by without doing the things that they wanted to do.

During the school year, most of the planning in their lives is already taken care of with school and specific after school curricular activities like sports, scouts, or music. Instilling planning over the summer will be one of the real first chances they’ll get to making their own structure of their time.

Our at-home, online Summer Reading Program instills planning along with other executive function activities. Each week, we also have a special Week In Review form that revisits what you did over the week, what you did the best, where you could use some improvement, and what do you want to tackle the next week. Registration is now open.

Scholar Within Summer Reading Program

Step 2: Take Family Field Trips

Take those planning skills to work and get your kids involved into taking family field trips. You don’t even have to go anywhere far, but try to make a habit of going someplace every week. This can be going to a different park, the river, trails, museums, or the next town over. You can even visit different businesses. Call ahead and see if they mind you stopping by to say hello and to get an understanding of what it is that they do.

Set aside an afternoon or evening where the whole family brainstorms ideas of places that you want to go see or do. Let everyone have a chance to contribute their ideas. Write them down. Then, plan on a calendar when you want to go where. Do a little bit of research before you go to learn about the place and how to get there.

While you are on your field trip, make sure to take pictures! Also, try to take a couple of moments to think about the smells and sounds where you are. Ask questions!

When you finish the adventure, have your kids write down a few simple summary paragraphs of where you went. Have them write down what they liked and didn’t like. Have them draw a picture. Graphic organizers, like those in our Summer Reading Program, can help with this to make it easy to fill-in-the-blank.

Having your kids write down what they have done increases your kid’s ability to make multiple connections and memories with the activity. It will help your kids remember the field trips quite a bit more, and the summary paragraphs work great for making a scrapbook.

Scholar Within Summer Reading Program

Step 3: Enroll in our online Summer Reading Program

Our comprehensive Summer Reading Program focuses on boosting not only reading skills, but planning, executive function, brain-body, and overall learning skills. We give you step-by-step instructions of what you should do with your kids each day. Each day there are 4-5 different short activities that you do for a total of 45-60 minutes.

Our 6-Week Summer Reading Program includes:

  • Reading Fluency Training
  • Spelling and Phonics Lessons
  • Reading Comprehension Lessons
  • Executive Function Activities
  • Brain-Body Connection Activities
  • Video and Audio Lessons
  • Weekly Schedule and Planning Forms
  • Graphic Organizers
  • Easy Online Access
  • Help and Support

Our Summer Reading Program is the ultimate learning program that you can do over summer. We have designed it with the secret sauce to help your kids use their brains more efficiently and actually improve their reading skills over summer. Summer learning loss can now be a thing of the past.

Sign up for our Summer Reading Program.

Who is Scholar Within?

Scholar Within was founded by learning expert Bonnie Terry, M. Ed., BCET. Bonnie started designing and developing her own custom educational tools when she started her private learning center in the 1990s. Teachers kept asking what she was using with the kids that saw her because of the dramatic improvements that the kids made in school. From here, Bonnie decided to make her materials available to teachers and families worldwide.

Now, Bonnie Terry has turned her materials into a full-service online program that you can follow step-by-step at home and on your schedule. School alone is not enough anymore. Bonnie’s programs boost your kids overall learning skills by focusing on improving the auditory, visual, and tactile processing areas of your brain to make it work more efficiently.

Learn More about Scholar Within

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