Hi! I’m Kathi Parker, author of the Connect Phonics and Spelling programs.
I was born in Fremont, a small town in western Michigan. With Fremont being the corporate headquarters for Gerber Baby Foods, my childhood held a wide variety of educational experiences for which I am most grateful.
I am a third-generation teacher. My grandparents were teachers, and both of my parents were also teachers — my father a math teacher and football coach; my mother a speech pathologist. From a young age, I loved to play teacher. As a teenager, I realized it was the love and support of my teachers who had helped me through the difficult times after my father and brother’s deaths. My teachers provided me with love, guidance and a soft place to land. Their loving influence was a beacon of light in my life. I into education hoping to follow in the footsteps of these influential teachers.
After graduating from Fremont High School, I received my bachelors of education from Central Michigan University and then furthered my education at Northern Michigan University. It was in the Upper Peninsula that I received my training in the dyslexic method of teaching reading. This was the catalyst leading me to develop the Connect Phonics and Spelling programs.
How did Connect Phonics come to be?
One summer as a classroom teacher in a rural school, I was given the fortunate experience of learning the dyslexic method of teaching reading at an intense two week training. (I did not learn dyslexic instruction as part of my college training.)
Fast forward to September. My school decided to have the Title One teacher go into the first and second grade classrooms to teach a half hour lesson daily using the dyslexic method to one hundred percent of the students. As a classroom teacher, also trained in the dyslexic method, I was able to hone my skills and follow through with the title teacher’s lessons.
The results were astounding with almost all (over 90%) of the students at grade level by the end of the year. An added bonus was, first graders with no learning issues sky rocketed and by May were reading often at the end of second grade level. TEACHING THE DYSLEXIC METHOD BENEFITED EVERYONE!
Fast forward four years down the road. I’m teaching fifth grade. My students earn the Golden Apple and score the highest in the state standardized tests for writing, Science, and Social Studies. One hundred percent of the fifth graders passed the writing and over 90% passed the Science and Social Studies test.
The following year had similar results, without the Golden Apple though. I was interviewed on why I thought a small rural school with a high poverty rate could score so well on tests?
I replied, “All my students can read and spell. They have their basics down to a T. Because they all learned to read and spell with the dyslexic method, there aren’t any word my students can’t figure out. Success breeds success, no matter what their background.”
Circumstances were such I moved and was hired as a Title One teacher. I took what I had learned and built on it twenty fold. Realizing it was important to make learning fun. I added stories, coloring pages, songs, games, manipulative materials, speed drills, and worksheets.
We also had tremendous results. While having fun, the students learned.
Fast forward again ten years and I retired. After much soul searching, I realized my retirement wouldn’t end just yet. How could I let all these materials gather dust and not be used again? I decided to edit my Connect Phonics materials making them available to all teachers and parents so they can help kids learn to read. My intention is the materials are of service to you and your students have wonderful results.
How did Connect Spelling come to be?
I was the Title One Reading teacher info the first and second grade classrooms, teaching the phonics program I had developed based on the dyslexic method to 100 percent of the students. Word spread of the astounding student success. Parents would come up to me in the halls and say, “I want you to teach me this stuff so I can help my child.”
About that same time the teachers were complaining about the spelling. They commented it was too easy at the beginning. “The first words in spelling are all three letter words with the same vowel in the middle. Kids don’t have to think.” The teachers of older grades complained because the lists were created with random unrelated words. The kids couldn’t find patterns and all they could do was memorize them. They felt it was unnecessary and unfair to the students. I made the statement that would lead to changing the trajectory of my life. I told the teachers, “I think I can do better than that.”
That evening at home I also realized this could be a win/win situation. If there’s one thing ALL parents do, it is study spelling words with their child. I thought, “What if I could week by week in the spelling notes, I could teach the parents the dyslexic method? What if through my spelling, the students not only learned how to spell the most common words, but also bit by bit the parents would be learning what they so eagerly asked me to teach them?”
And thus it began, three summers dedicated to creating the Connect Spelling program.
I remember on a flight to San Francisco to visit my son, I had the 1000 Dolch words, and most commonly misspelled words before me. On that long flight, with five different colored highlighters, my job began.
First I divided up the words by grade level, then I divided them by syllable type or word patterns, then I figured which words were the most difficult and used most often. Those words would be repeated every year. Lastly, I included homophones because if there’s anything that would get in the way of student success as an adult; it would be using “there” instead of “their”. (After all I was thinking long term here.) Lastly, I included the most commonly misspelled words.
My last four decisions were:
- I decided three years of a phonics based approach using tactile methods was all that was necessary. All students, even those with learning disabilities, would have the basics down by that time.
- I would start out with review so the students would achieve success. The first six weeks would be relatively easy. The lists would be progressively harder, making it challenging. (Using the dyslexic method, students would be spelling two syllable words in first grade and by third grade, three syllable words would be a piece of cake.)
- I would make worksheets and teach the teachers how to use tactile methods to teach Spelling. I’d be sure and tell the teachers it wasn’t necessary to use all the materials, but they would be provided in case they needed them.
- Lastly, I would provide the weekly spelling lists in word document form. This way the teacher can edit the lists to accommodate the needs of her students. Teachers could adjust lists to meet intervention requirements and add words needed for their writing. They may choose to edit the dictation sentences.
Thee confidence students gained by understanding the patterns, using tactile methods, and repetition of difficult words would develop successful spellers.
Every time I would become tired and want to quit, I’d remember the face of a struggling student. This would give me energy to continue, knowing those students could achieve success also.