Hi! I’m Kathi Parker, author of the Connect Phonics and Spelling programs.
I am a third- generation teacher. After graduating from Fremont High School, it seemed only natural to become a teacher. I received my bachelors of education from Central Michigan University and then furthered my education at Northern Michigan University.
How did Connect Phonics come to be?
One summer as a classroom teacher, I was given the fortunate experience of learning the dyslexic method of teaching reading and spelling at an intense Orton-Gillingham two week training. (I did not learn dyslexic instruction as part of my college training.)
That fall, my school decided to have the Title One teacher go into all the first and second grade classrooms to directly teach phonics using the dyslexic method. Listening to the Title Teacher’s daily half hour lessons enabled me to hone my skills.
Fast forward four years and I’m teaching fifth grade. My students earn the Golden Apple award scoring the highest in the state on 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 tests. The following year had similar results, I was interviewed on why I thought a small rural school with such a high poverty rate could score so well on tests?
I replied, “All my students can read and spell. One hundred percent of them were taught using the dyslexic method in grades 1-3.
Circumstances were such I moved to lower Michigan 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. TEACHING ALL STUDENT USING THE DYSLEXIC METHOD BENEFITED EVERYONE!
After retirement I thought, “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 FOR FREE. My hope is each spring you can experience the delight of watching smiling first graders easily read three syllable words. My intention is these materials are of service to you and your students as you discover how fun and easy learning to read and spell can be.
How did Connect Spelling come to be?
While teaching the phonics program I had developed based on the dyslexic method, word quickly 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 basal spelling. They commented, “Kids don’t have to think. Every word has “oo” in the middle.” The teachers of older grades complained because the lists were created with random unrelated words. The kids couldn’t find patterns and all they did was memorize them. How were they learning the basics of spelling that way? They felt it was unnecessary and unfair to the students.
That evening at home I also realized this could be a win/win situation. If there’s one thing almost ALL parents do, it is study spelling words with their child. I thought, “What if week by week in the spelling notes, I could teach the parents the dyslexic method? What if week by week the students could learn the foundations of spelling? They could learn how to spell the most common words, the most frequently misspelled words, plus gain skills to spell multisyllable words. All this with a systemic, tactile approach.” It sure sounded like a “win-win” to me.
And thus began, three summers dedicated to creating the Connect Spelling program.
- I decided three years of a phonics-based spelling, 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.
The 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.