13 Resources that Helped Me Embrace the Science of Reading

“Knowing the needs of my students and labeling the components of the Science of Reading has helped me realize I’ve been successfully doing most of these things in my classroom, yet I am always learning!”

7-minute read | 2 videos

science of reading for pre-k and kindergarten

Stephanie Dowlearn
Educational Consultant and Kindergarten Teacher

Anyone who knows anything about teaching children to read can tell you something about the Science of Reading. They can share a fact about the years of research dedicated to improving reading instruction or how a quip from state-mandated coursework reminded them of that Educational Psychology class back in college.

No matter what is being said, the Science of Reading is not just a fad or a buzzword of the year; it’s a solid foundation of research that began hundreds of years ago by pioneers in education who knew the importance of understanding how children learn to read, and it is still significant today.

science of reading for pre-k

The Pressure to Read is On!
So why do so many teachers feel overwhelmed when the subject of the Science of Reading pops up in conversations? Could it be that many teachers feel the pressure to learn, understand and put into use the body of research sweeping the nation while fitting in the numerous requirements already mandated?

science of reading for early learnersOr, is it that over the course of their career, they have been told phonics is best, only to learn the next year that the whole language approach is better? And don’t forget balanced literacy! One thing is for sure; there are studies to back each method, and they are creating madness in the minds of teachers!

Recognizing SOR for What it is
What can be done to quell the angst? The first step is to understand that the Science of Reading is not a curriculum, a program to implement, or a magic cure for teaching reading. It is a body of research fueled by the desire to understand the best ways to teach reading.

Throughout history, many reading wars have been waged over which technique is best, and the victims are the students left to learn at the victor’s mercy. In today’s classroom, teachers who acknowledge the science behind how humans learn to read and use it to guide their instruction, regardless of the curriculum in place will reap the spoils!

Teachers have a huge weight on their shoulders, and having a strong understanding of the Science of Reading can ease the burden.

Google the Science of Reading, or drop a question into ChatGPT, and you will quickly have an overwhelming amount of information at your fingertips! As an educator, I’m fascinated by the research and would likely devour the content if I had time, but as a teacher, wife, and mom, I need the meat and potatoes version.

science of reading simplifiedI recently watched a great webinar called The Science of Reading Simplified, hosted by Mr. Greg from TKS and Holly Ehle from TRT. They are real classroom teachers who shared easy and effective ways to incorporate SOR aligned activities into daily instruction. It’s FREE, so be sure to check it out!

To break it down, the Science of Reading focuses on five key components: Phonemic Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension. These five components are woven together, each dependent on the other to build strong readers.

science of reading for early learners1. Phonemic Awareness
Phonemic awareness is the more sophisticated relative of phonological awareness. Instead of just the ability to hear, recognize, and play with the sounds in spoken language, a child with good phonemic awareness can hear, recognize, and play with the individual sounds in spoken words.

These individual sounds are called phonemes, and discerning these in spoken word is a step toward becoming a reader. Phonemic awareness implies that all kids are or become aware in their own time, but it is a skill that must be explicitly taught in the classroom.

Rhyming, segmenting, blending, isolating, and manipulating phonemes are excellent activities for developing phonemic awareness in early learners. A few of my favorite resources in the classroom were Reading Rockets, Heggerty, and the Florida Center for Reading Research.

science of reading for early learners2. Phonics
Phonics is the understanding that symbols or letters represent specific sounds and that those sounds can be combined to form readable words. Phonics is a necessary skill to sound out and blend words so students can read them when they see them.

Children with strong phonics skills can connect the sounds they hear in spoken words to the letters that make them up. This is crucial for decoding and spelling words, as it helps children to make sense of the letters on the page and turn them into words they can understand.

science of reading for early learnersTo help build phonics knowledge, teachers can use numerous strategies and engaging activities. Some of my favorite resources for phonics in the classroom were Jack Hartmann, Frog Street, Handwriting Without Tears, and Letters alive!

3. Fluency
Fluency is reading smoothly and accurately, an important predictor of reading comprehension. Children who struggle with fluency may have difficulty understanding what they read because they focus on decoding the words rather than comprehending the text.

To improve fluency, teachers can use repeated readings of familiar texts, choral reading, and other strategies to help children practice reading with expression and accuracy. My kindergartners loved using Epic to listen and read along with the stories.

4. Vocabulary
Vocabulary refers to the words we know, understand, and use to communicate effectively. It is another essential component of reading comprehension. Children with a larger vocabulary are more likely to understand what they read and hear and use more words correctly in their speaking and writing.

To build vocabulary, teachers can use various strategies such as introducing new words through shared reading and read-alouds, providing opportunities for children to use new words in their writing and speaking, and using visual aids to help children learn new words.

It is also important for teachers to provide explicit instruction in word meaning and encourage children to use context clues and ask questions when they encounter unfamiliar words. I introduced new vocabulary with every unit, and my students loved Reading and Writing the Room activities. WordWorld and WordGirl on PBS Kids were favorites to watch during snack time!

Integrating science into literacy activities is another great way to build vocabulary.

Using the Letters alive building sentences feature, I was able to spur many interesting and lively discussions in my classroom! Cross-curricular resources enable students to develop great background knowledge that benefits them as they learn to read!

Watch my teacher friend, Adam, using Letters alive:
phonics program for kids

5. Comprehension
Comprehension is the ability to draw information from a text and make meaning of it. In the Science of Reading, comprehension is the end goal, not necessarily something focused on until students become skilled at decoding.

The science shows that asking a child to decode and answer questions about the plot, setting, characters, problems, and solutions can can tax an emergent reader. Of course, comprehension is important, and as children grow as readers, teachers can address comprehension skills through read-aloud, class discussions, and audiobooks.

When the difficult decoding layer is removed from the story, reluctant readers are more apt to participate, ultimately building their reading confidence. So take the time to read to your class and ask questions along the way!

Trust the Science
Throughout my 25 years as an educator, I’ve gathered knowledge from many sources, including professors, colleagues, researchers, bloggers, authors, and, most importantly, my students.

Knowing the needs of my students and labeling the components of the Science of Reading has helped me realize I’ve been successfully doing most of these things in my classroom, yet I am always learning! You are too! Embrace the science, use your resources, and put it into practice!


If you’re looking for fun and easy ways to implement the Science of Reading and to support your curriculum, send us a message below:

Is Technology Appropriate for Early Learners?

technology for prek and kindergarten

“What if technology was used to help children collaborate, talk with each other, and stir up their imaginations?”

5-minute read | 2 videos
technology for early learners

Cynthia B. Kaye
CEO | Chief Zoo Keeper of Alive Studios

Is technology an appropriate resource for early learners? Well, it kind of depends. We all know young children sitting by themselves in front of the screen is not ideal, but what if technology was used differently?

What if technology was used to help children collaborate, talk with each other, and stir up their imaginations?

What if there’s a technology that helps teachers facilitate conversation and interaction between their students? I think there can be a wrong way that we use technology with children and a right way.

Are you using technology with your young learners? If so, what kind of technology are you using? Is it a collaborative technology that gets children engaged with each other and the teacher?

Or, is the child more isolated and engaged by themselves? Is the student doing a “stare and peck” activity where he/she glares at a screen and pecks at a keyboard? It doesn’t have to be this way.

Technology for early learners

The Right Criteria for Tech
Technology in the classroom has become increasingly popular for students of all ages, including early learners between the ages of three and six.

While there are valid concerns about the potential negative effects of using technology for early learners, there are certainly strong arguments that support its use as a highly-positive educational tool… if the right criteria are met.

Play-based learning is essential for young children’s development, and if you can incorporate novel and intentional technology in this play children can learn important skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and social interaction.

With the right type and use of technology, teachers can add a fun and exciting way to learn to their list of teaching strategies. technology for prek and kindergartenIf the technology encourages and facilitates collaboration, interaction, and movement, it can open children’s brains up to a higher level of attention and learning.

Many children in this age group are naturally curious and enjoy exploring new things, and technology can provide them with a wealth of interactive and stimulating educational resources.

For example, the right educational apps, games, and programs can help children learn basic skills such as counting, letter recognition, collaboration, and problem-solving in a way that is both exciting and effective.

Furthermore, supplemental digital resources can be used to enhance and bring to life traditionally static and boring teaching tools, such as flashcards, books, worksheets, or even a classroom rug.

Helping Kids Develop Appropriate Tech Skills
Also, the use of appropriate and effective technology in early childhood education can help children develop important 21st-century skills.

In today’s digital age, it is increasingly important for children to be proficient with technology tools and to be able to navigate the digital world. Using technology in the classroom can help children develop skills such as digital literacy, communication, and working together, which are essential for success in today’s world.

Additionally, technology can also provide children with access to a wealth of resources that might not otherwise be available, such as virtual field trips and online educational videos. For early learners, here are some points to keep in mind for positive use of technology.

Kids need:

● tech that promotes collaboration with other students and the teacher
● interaction with the technology
● hands-on/physical activities
● visual/audio “novel” experiences that increase their excitement and engagement

Technology for Pre-K and Kindergarten
So you might be thinking, what are some technologies that are novel and encourage collaboration?

technology for prek and kindergartenOsmo
One of these positive technology resources available for early learners is Osmo. Osmo is a mobile application that encourages students to collaborate, create, think critically, and communicate.

The application is coupled with an age-appropriate learning kit including a tablet base, camera reflector, manipulatives, and a teacher’s guide. One of Osmo’s learning tools is “ABC’s”, which offers an interactive and kinesthetic approach to phonics.

Kids can work with Mo the Monster to form letters and make words with squishy, colorful sticks and rings. This type of learning with technology blends traditional learning methods with young children’s natural curiosity about today’s digital devices.

Illumination Station
technology for prek and kindergartenAnother example of an engaging technology tool for Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms is offered by Kaplan Early Learning; It’s the Illumination Station.

The Illumination Station takes your sand and light play to the next level. It engages children’s cognitive, social, and sensory development by transforming a common sand table and projector into a hands-on learning adventure!

Using 3D Augmented Reality, the Illumination Station transfers realistic colors and life-like images onto the sand for a mesmerizing sensory experience that kids love.

Children learn about geography, topography, seasons, animal habitats, and more as they create new worlds and explore interactive environments.

technology for prek and kindergartenLetters alive
Letters alive is a super-engaging, supplemental early literacy learning kit that uses 3D augmented reality animals to get students excited and motivated to learn. It facilitates social learning through collaborative and novel technology. Teachers lead their students through the Alive Studios Zoo to learn about the 26 animals while building solid foundations for reading success.

Letters alive brings all five components of the Science of Reading to life and is proven by Independent Research to increase engagement, support classroom management, and improve outcomes.

Research on Tech for Early Learners
You might be wondering, what does research say about the use of technology for early learners? Glad you asked.

When Dr. Tamra Ogletree, Professor of Language and Reading at the University of West Georgia, was introduced to a supplemental reading program, Letters alive, from Alive Studios that utilizes 3D Augmented Reality zoo animals, she initiated an Independent Study to determine its efficacy.

Technology for early learners

Dr. Ogletree discovered that Letters alive can be used to enhance any core curriculum with a multi-modal, collaborative learning experience.

Dr. Ogletree’s study tracked the progress of Pre-Kindergarteners in three classes for 90 days: Class 1 did not have the program, Class 2 had partial components from the program, and Class 3 had the full program. Neither class was given any instruction on how to use the product.

At the end of the study, the students who had full use of Letters alive could identify twice as many letters and four times as many letter sounds as the non-users.

technology for prek and kindergarten

“The teachers who were part of the study were surprised at how students who typically had attention difficulties were consistently engrossed in the program. The students responded to the animals because of the sound and visual stimulation,” Dr. Ogletree said. “Classroom management problems decreased as a result of the students being actively engaged, as well,” Ogletree added.

Yes, the Right Tech IS Appropriate for Early Learners
Technology can be an effective and engaging educational resource in the classroom for early learners between the ages of three and six. It can provide children with a fun and thrilling way to learn, and it can help them develop important problem solving and social skills.

However, it is important to use technology in moderation and find a balance using technology as a supplement to traditional teaching methods.

If you would like more information about collaborative technology from Alive Studios, send us a message below.

Pre-K to receive $5,000 per Classrooms in Covid-Relief Grants

covid relief funds for prek DECAL

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal this past May, 93% of the Covid-Relief funds allocated for education remain unspent. As the use-it-or-lose-it clock ticks, states are revitalizing conversations to determine the best and most effective ways to use the money.

Your home state may currently be creating projects with the surplus funds from CRRSA and ARP. If you’re in need of funds, check out your state’s Department of Education website to see what’s available for you. You can also read this summary of Covid-Relief Funds and the guidelines for usage. Do not miss this opportunity to fund the resources that may be vital to your classrooms.

In our home state, the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) has funds remaining from the federal Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplement Appropriations (CRRSA) Act and from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. As a result, DECAL is implementing several projects supporting Georgia’s child care providers, early care and educational workforce, families with young children, and other groups.

GA DECAL funding grants

Among the projects from GA DECAL, is Georgia’s $5,000 per Classroom Pre-K Grants. These $5,000 one-time Pre-K Classroom Grants are specifically allocated for the purchase of technology, instructional materials, and approved Pre-K curricula, as well as classroom furniture. These grants present an exciting opportunity for Pre-K providers around the state to procure crucial resources that get children in their care confident and ready for kindergarten.

Our Pre-K providers play a vital role in resetting the stage during this post-pandemic era. The new class of students entering into the world of education may have escaped the weight of the Covid impact, but they will still need engaging resources within a joyful learning environment to succeed.

The timeline for the Georgia Pre-K Grants is as follows:

September 2022 – Notification period
October 2022 – Grant funds to be awarded
March 31, 2023 – Deadline for all purchases

As an edtech developer of evidence-based supplemental resources, Alive Studios is pleased to share what we have to offer as purchase options for these grant funds.

Over the last nine years, Alive Studios has equipped thousands of classrooms in the United States and 26 other countries with mind-boggling 3D technology that springs learning to life. We take a brain-based approach to learning by catering to multiple learning modalities for maximized engagement! Our novel method of presenting instruction takes children on a magical journey through the Alive Studios Zoo with 26 animals that come alive using 3D Augmented Reality technology.

Alive Studios’ resources are aligned to:

  • Creative Curriculum
  • Head Start Framework
  • CLASS crosswalk
  • TEKS
  • And more

  • Case Studies and Independent Research prove that when student engagement increases, learning accelerates and outcomes improve.

    Below, we have conveniently answered some common questions:

    Are Alive Studios’ resources eligible for Covid funds allocated for technology and/or literacy?

    Are Alive Studios’ resources aligned to Pre-K standards?
    Yes, as well as kindergarten standards.

    What areas of study do Alive Studios’ resources cover?
    ELA (phonics based), Mathematics, SEL, and STEM for PreK & Kindergarten

    Do Alive Studios’ resources require a subscription?
    No, they are a one-time purchase.

    Do Alive Studios’ resources require the internet for use?

    Does Alive Studios have Case Studies and Independent Research proving the success of their resources?
    Yes. They can be found on our website.

    Does Alive Studios offer staff training for ease of implementation and effectiveness of use?
    Yes. We offer onsite and virtual training.

    Regardless of your home state, we can put together custom bundles to meet your grant needs. You can discuss a plan with your local Alive Studios Education Sales Consultant.

    Volume Bonus for School Districts

    school district pilot program

    Below is a recent Press Release announcing our Proficient by 3rd Grade District Level Volume Bonus Program:

    Alive Studios Helps School Districts Win the Reading Challenges for At Risk Students

    Alive Studios is introducing a Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus program for school districts to test and prove the Letters alive early learning reading program.

    Alive Studios has structured a program that allows school districts to test and prove the effectiveness of teaching with Letters alive within eight classrooms. “We encourage districts to test and compare student outcomes between classes using Letters alive and those not using Letters alive.” stated Cynthia B. Kaye, CEO and Chief Zoo Keeper of Alive Studios. The volume program comes with a full-year of free online digital assessments for measuring, tracking, and reporting the progression of students. The generated reports can be shared with teachers, principals, and even parents in English or Spanish. The Alive Studios’ team will also come on-site and trains the participating teachers how to most effectively use Letters alive with their students and how to track their outcomes. Says Kaye, “We’re convinced that once districts try the bonus program and see the results for themselves they’ll want to make this available to all their at risk students.”

    “We’ve been busy spreading awareness of our game-changing supplemental reading program, Letters alive, by introducing it to teachers around the country.” added Kaye. “What we’re finding at trade shows and during demos is that teachers love our solutions, but 74% of them don’t have the purchasing authority to obtain it. We realized we needed to take our solutions to the district level.”

    at risk studentsAmerica has a literacy crisis among our early learners and serious solutions are in demand. “An alarming number of children—about 67 percent nationwide and more than 80 percent of those from low-income families—are not proficient readers by the end of third grade. This has significant and long-term consequences not only for each of those children but for their communities, and for our nation as a whole,” cited Ralph Smith, Managing Director of The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

    With almost 7 out of 10 students not proficient in reading by 3rd grade, early intervention with a proven solution is crucial for establishing the foundations for high school graduation and career success. Alive Studios’ difference maker is a mind-boggling technology called Augmented Reality. It creates a 3D experience without glasses and provides off-the-charts engagement that increase student outcomes. Now, over 1,500 classrooms are learning letters, letter sounds, sight words and sentence building in a revolutionary way.

    The program is especially effective with At Risk students including ELL, ESL and Special Needs. Independent Research has proven a 48% increase in letter naming fluencies and 112% increase in letter sound fluencies by implementing Letters alive in the classroom. “My students love seeing a new animal each day and their reactions to the animals coming to life is priceless! Letters alive brings a whole new engagement level to our ABC BOOTCAMP!” stated Greg Smedley-Warren, Kindergarten Teacher at JE Moss Elementary, a Title I school in Nashville, Tennessee.

    The Proficient by 3rd Grade Volume Bonus Program is available to any school district. Interested teachers and principals are encouraged to inform their district leaders about the program. Details about Letters alive and the bonus program can be found here.

    Content is King for Classroom Technology

    Content is King for Classroom Technology

    So, after a long wait and a lot of pleading you finally got that new computer, or that new smartboard. Now what? Do you have the really cool content you need to engage students?

    As we make the trade show tour, we have the pleasure of seeing all the latest educational technology; fast, streamlined computers and big, crystal-clear displays. Like kids in a candy store glaring at the shiniest and most colorful lollypop, we all fall into the “I have to have this” category. But when we get it into our classrooms, we realize it doesn’t solve any of the major problems we face with early learners. Are they now learning letter sounds and letter naming more effectively? Does the new tech reach both ends of the learning spectrum? Are At Risk students now achieving better results? Can ELL students grasp the English language any quicker?

    One common void we discover amongst the hardware tech crowd is the lack of content. content is king for classroom technologySure they offer the ability to do “it” quicker, bigger, and with more wow.. but do what? It’s the content ON the device that makes the difference. It’s the software application that brings the device to life and solves problems in classrooms.

    It reminds me of a story about a little boy who had a $5 bill and wanted to buy a wallet. After shopping several stores, he found the perfect one. It fit his pocket, it felt good in his hand, and it only costed $5. You can guess the rest of the story. Having spent his $5, the little boy had nothing to put into his new wallet. Just like the wallet with no money, a new computer or smartboard just isn’t that impressive without content.

    So, if you’re given the green light for new technology, remember to save some funds for engaging content that will help make a positive difference in your classroom.