Tuesday, April 28, 2009
That’s the question we asked ourselves over and over while designing the new Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Pre-K levels. Well, we knew it had to be all about phonemic awareness. That was the jump off point. What’s phonemic awareness? The ability to hear and manipulate phonemes—the smallest sounds we hear in words. We also knew it had to teach the alphabetic principle (associating sounds with their respective letters) and we knew it had to teach a few other skills we’ll talk about in future blogs (blending, alliteration, rhyming, etc.). But most of all, we were sure it had to be FUN. I constantly thought about those delicious chewable vitamins I used to take when I was a boy. I swear they tasted like candy, but they were good for me.
That’s what Learn to Read Pre-K had to be: fun that is good for you. It’s all about using animation, print, music, manipulatives, and online technology to help children build phonemic awareness (you already know what that means). And children have so much fun watching the HOP Kids hangin’ out doing fun things that they never notice they’re learning—a lot! If you don’t believe me see for yourselves…
Friday, April 24, 2009
At the end of the second grade, a child using the program is probably getting better and better at reading the storybooks, so we liked the extra challenge of reading verse and the fluidity it requires.
Hold on to your socks — here are some excerpts from Shoes in the Night:
The house is still and quiet.
You could hear a dropping pin.
Then, after just a moment,
THEY start creeping in.
The hinges on the front door creak,
And soon I hear them crawl.
First there’s a bump and then a thump.
The boots are in the hall!
I hear the squishing of a sponge.
Plates rattle, glasses clink.
I bet a band of pumps and clogs
Are in the kitchen sink.
I hear some of them jumping.
They skip around a rope.
It sounds like they are having fun,
But do I like it? Nope!
What could those shoes be up to?
What’s making all that sound?
I get up out of bed,
And I start to snoop around.
I have to take a look down there.
I have to take a peek.
I slowly tiptoe down the stairs
And hope the stairs don’t squeak.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Did you learn to read with Hooked on Phonics? Do you use Hooked on Phonics with your child? We would love to hear from you! Send us your stories and you could be featured on our website or product promotions. If your testimonial is used, you will receive a free product of your choice.
Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Rhymes with Spring(Hint: Try these rhymes on for size: sing, string, swing, ring, king, Beijing, bring, something, sting, thing, everything.)
My favorite time of year is spring.
With each warm day, I want to ______.
I fly my kite up on a ______,
Then go to the park to ride the ______.
Look at this! I’ll give you a ______.
If you’ll be the queen, I’ll be the ______.
Together we’ll fly all the way to ______.
We’ll come home with too much to ______.
But I forgot to tell you one ______.
With the spring comes the bees, and they ______!
What else is bad? I can’t think of a ______.
In spring I like almost ______.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
When we started out, we wrestled with the challenge of moving from audio to video. We didn’t want to create animations that were simply entertaining but not educationally meaningful. We were also concerned that some parents might be turned off by a reading product that required kids to watch DVDs. On the other hand, we didn’t want to create a relentless wave of letters and words that would make kids lose interest.
As soon as the first animation tests arrived, however, we knew we had a winner on our hands. These aren’t just fun little videos (although they are fun). They present a systematic approach to learning with its own set of "laws". These include:
Letters should stand still when someone is reading them.
When letters join together to form a new sound, they turn the same color.
All sound effects must stop during reading time.
This is only a small sample of the thinking that went into these videos, and I’ll be talking more about this in future posts.
And of course, there’s a rich history of animated letters, from Schoolhouse Rock to The Electric Company. We stand on the shoulders of giants.
You can get a sneak peek at the new Hooked on Phonics “HOP Kids” who run and jump and play throughout our new workbooks and videos. More on them is coming soon!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Just as poetry plays an important part in our culture, rhyming plays an important role in phonemic awareness. When kids can recognize and make rhymes, they’re developing an important pre-reading skill. Kids will use this skill later on as they begin to recognize similar letter patterns and word families. So this month, make a special place for rhymes and poetry. Stay tuned for more on National Poetry Month!
Friday, April 10, 2009
One book that we have coming out in the new Second Grade edition of Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read is My Giant Bunny, written by Russell Ginns and Jonathan Maier and illustrated by Guy Francis. It’s a story about a boy and his best friend, who happens to be a giant bunny. Size has advantages and disadvantages throughout this sweet book, but at its heart, this is a book about friendship.
Until My Giant Bunny is available, here are some other wonderful books to fill your bunny-love needs:
The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown; illustrated by Clement Hurd
In this story by the author of Goodnight Moon (an excellent bunny book in its own right), a little bunny threatens to run away, but soon realizes that he can never run to a place that’s outside the realm of his mother bunny’s love.
Knuffle Bunny, by Mo Willems
In this Caldecott Honor Book, Trixie and her daddy visit the Laundromat. Trixie can’t talk yet, which becomes a major problem when she realizes her stuffed bunny is gone. Good thing her daddy — with a little help from her mommy — is determined to make it all right again.
Bunny Cakes, by Rosemary Wells
Rosemary Wells’ lovable bunny characters are making cakes for Grandma’s birthday, but Max keeps spilling Ruby’s ingredients. Ruby sends Max to the grocery store again and again, and each time Max tries to add the secret ingredient he needs for his earthworm birthday cake: Red-Hot Marshmallow Squirters. The grocer can’t read Max’s scribbles — until Max finally finds a creative way to make himself understood.
Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies, by Carolyn Crimi; illustrated by John Manders
In this high seas adventure, none of the buccaneer bunnies aboard the Salty Carrot can understand why Henry, son of the captain Barnacle Black Ear, spends all his time reading instead of doing normal pirate things. Soon, though, the crew comes to realize that reading can really come in handy!
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld
Okay, some of you may argue that this is really a book about a duck, but that’s the fun of this new book of optical illusions. Is it a duck or a rabbit? There are convincing arguments for both, so it’s up to you to decide.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Remind your child of the sound the letter or letters make, and give some sample words that begin with that letter. Then search for things that begin with that letter.
I did this with my daughter walking home from preschool the other day after she spent the day learning the letter l. She told me all about lions and love and lettuce. As we walked, we found lots of good l words: leaves, light, lines (on the sidewalk), library, and litter (did I mention that we live in New York City?) To help her find some of these things on her own I would give hints like, “Eww! What’s that on the ground that starts with the letter l?”
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The ability to read and spell words was enhanced in kindergartners who received systematic beginning phonics instruction. First graders who were taught phonics systematically were better able to decode and spell, and they showed significant improvement in their ability to comprehend text. Older children receiving phonics instruction were better able to decode and spell words and to read text orally.
Over the next few months, the blog will give me a chance to share a behind-the-scenes look at the making of our new learning program. This should give you a window to some of the research, debates, and decisions that led to our final product.
It'll also be a bit of a soapbox for me and the team to share our views about books, storytelling, music, interactivity, and teaching kids to read.
So come along with us. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll learn the sound of the letter i!
Here are three things you probably don’t expect me to confess right off the bat: (1) the biggie — when it came time to teach Chris to read, I never used Hooked on Phonics … which isn’t why he struggled by the way; Chris is (2) dyslexic and my husband and I — along with Chris’ teachers — had a difficult time trying to get him to read until he was diagnosed; and (3) as parents, we felt completely ill-prepared when it came to helping our son learn to read at home (never mind the dyslexia). But we did try (and try and try and try), which is the most important thing.
So, with your encouragement (and participation), that’s what I’d like this blog to focus on: trying to get our kids to read. While we have a number of ideas on that (ahem, an entire series of Learn to Read systems under the Hooked on Phonics brand), it’s not the only solution so I’m planning to share this space with teachers, reading specialists, award-winning children’s book authors, our friends from literacy organizations and you. Yes, you — if you want to share your experience with other parents — we’d love to have you post. Likewise, since I’m following a number of you already, we can add you to the blog roll.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I do want to introduce you to my friends and colleagues here as well — in their own right, they’re former reading specialists, teachers, children’s book authors, curriculum developers and, of course, parents — many of whom have just wrapped up a year-long (multi-million dollar) labor of love reengineering how we deliver the phonics platform in fun (but still educationally sound), interactive ways. This blog will publish a “Developer’s Diary” to share the process, thinking and people behind this massive undertaking; we’ll also preview some of those elements with you.
Before we left the house, I reminded Chris that he’s not alone in the world — more than 40 million American children and adults are dyslexic (including one of my heroes, Walt Disney, and some of Chris’ — Orlando Bloom and Tom Cruise). “Some people just have to try harder than others but the point is to try, and where we can, help others get ahead.” “Well,” he said, “if it helps people to know that you tried to the point of tears, I guess I don’t mind.”
More tears. Proud mom. And always a Mom!
Judy L. Harris