Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Become an Institutional Member Today

Posted by Brian McCabe,

AVKO has recently revamped Institutional Membership, increasing the resources offered as well as the discount. Everyone can become an Institutional Member, not just schools, non-profits, tutoring centers, etc. and can reap the benefits.

The newest e-books are available for free download with Institutional Membership, including the Word Family Supplements 1-7 (that correspond to each of the levels of Sequential Spelling) and the Spelling Remediation Test Kit (which has 17 pre-tests, diagnostic tests, and prescriptive tests for remediation and evaluation of spelling and reading level). Additionally, Institutional Members have read-only access to all of the other AVKO materials (excluding Sequential Spelling and Engaging Language Kits). They can read and use the entire books of the other AVKO supplemental and reference materials from the internet, but cannot download or print them.

Benefits of AVKO Institutional Membership

Institutional Membership is open to individuals as well as tutoring centers, schools, learning centers, homeschool resource centers, etc.

  • Access to all of the benefits of AVKO's Individual Membership (see below)
  • 25% discount off all materials ordered
  • Read-only access to ALL AVKO curriculum materials (except for Sequential Spelling and Engaging Language Kits)
  • Access to AVKO's newest e-books:
    • Word Family Supplements 1-7 for Sequential Spelling
    • Spelling Remediation Test Kit
If you are currently an individual member, you may upgrade your membership to an Institutional Membership for only $50 from now until the end of August. E-mail or call AVKO at 810.686.9283 or toll-free at 1-866-285-6612 to do this.

Learn more about membership here

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Teaching Aid Freebies on

Posted by Brian McCabe,

AVKO is proud to share with you a few new teaching aid freebies for the teaching of reading and spelling, or for your reference in the classroom, homeschool, or resource/reference room.

Newest Freebies:

Monday, July 27, 2009

New AVKO Resource: Sequential Spelling Word Family Supplement E-books

Posted by Brian McCabe,

AVKO is proud to announce that we have launched a new e-book resource series called Sequential Spelling Word Family Supplements. These invaluable e-books correspond to each of the Sequential Spelling levels and contain the pages from The Patterns of English Spelling: Combined with Word Families in Sentence Context for ALL of the major word families presented. This means that you can quickly turn to see all of the other words in a particular word family being tested, as well as have a bank of contextual sentences for the most common words. These can be used for dictation exercises, vocabulary building, choral reading, reading practice, handwriting practice, keyboarding practice, and more! These e-books are available for $7.50 apiece on

Friday, July 24, 2009

New AVKO Resource for Testing Spelling and Reading Levels

Posted by Brian McCabe,

AVKO has introduced a new e-book resource: a collection of diagnostic, prescriptive, and pre-tests for spelling and reading. This collection of 17 tests written by Don McCabe will allow you to quickly determine which spelling patterns your students need to learn, where they should be placed in Sequential Spelling (or another spelling program), and how to best remediate their spelling. This collection will also give you all of the information you need to quickly create your own spelling program. These tests can also be used for ESL instruction, special education, creating an IEP, and many other things!

This is available for purchase from AVKO for only $5.00 from the Scribd website. You can see all of AVKO's documents on Scribd here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Become an AVKO Commissioned Salesperson -- Now Even Easier

Posted by Brian McCabe,

AVKO has a commissioned sales program where you can earn 10% for each and every sale that you refer to us. We have now made it even easier for you to earn money: All you have to do is enroll as an AVKO commissioned salesperson ("associate") and then when people click on the link that you send them or that you have posted on your blog, e-mail signature, website, etc. and purchase something from us, you earn 10%. You can even log in and track your earnings.

For more information and tips on how to earn more money, see the sales section of our website; also visit the Retailer Resources section of the website for advertising and product graphics, ISBNs and SKUs, and more. Remember that you can also earn bonuses for getting new schools and bookstores to carry or purchase AVKO materials. Also, do not hesitate to contact Brian at for more information.

Engaging Language Kit by Brian McCabe Sample on Scribd

Posted by Brian McCabe,

Learn more about AVKO's Engaging Language Kits by Brian McCabe. Check out this sample of the various language arts activities that your students will have fun -- and learn -- with below.

381 Sample

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Handwriting Resources

Posted by Brian McCabe; Courtesy of Kate Gladstone

Activities Inspired by Harry Potter

Posted by Brian McCabe,

Today, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince opens in theatres everywhere. Regardless of your opinions of the films or books, it's undeniable what they have done to re-instill a love of reading in our nation's kids. In the spirit of Harry Potter, I'd like to propose a few summer activities for reading and language arts:

The Importance of Names:
One of the great things about the Harry Potter series is the ubiquitous presence of names that have some deeper significance or reference: Argus Filch, Minerva McGonagall, etc. See these sites for more information on the names and possible references:
Challenge your students to pay attention to names in the other books, movies, and pop culture they take in. Names carry a lot of meaning and can be in homage to many things, and can give rich, though subtle, contour to an oeuvre.

Summer Reading Contests:
Summer is traditionally a time for lots of pleasure reading. Challenge your students to read as much as they can over the summer months. You may want to have a reward system for them. Or, you can have them set their own goals. Or, you can contact your local library or school district to see what kinds of competitions they have in place for the students.

Mythology and Personification:
Throughout the Harry Potter series, many mythological creatures and characters are referred to. We have werewolves, giants, vampires, references to Minerva and Argus, etc. How about giving a lesson on the popular myths (Greco-Roman, Norse, Native American, fables, fairy tales) that are pervasive in our culture? Knowledge of these myths is important for the understanding of much classical literature as they are referred to time and time again.

Manytimes, mythological characters are the personified forms of inanimate objects or abstractions (love, war, hearth, wind, fate, etc.) It's interesting to see how different cultures have personified these different abstractions. You can challenge your student to compare various abstractions across different cultures' mythology or even create their own mythological characters personifying an abstraction of their choice. These can make great art projects or creative writing projects. You can also challenge your students to think of a "creation myth" for some object, event, place, etc. This is especially common in the Native American mythologies (e.g., the creation of the Sleeping Bear dunes in Michigan).

Monday, July 13, 2009

A New Material by Kate Gladstone of Handwriting Repair to Come Out Soon

Posted by Kate Gladstone of Handwriting Repair

A good friend of AVKO, Kate Gladstone, has an upcoming product launching. Since many of AVKO's members have problems with handwriting (and/or dysgraphia), and since Kate is a pre-eminent handwriting specialist, we are excited to share this new product information with you. We will keep you posted with updates:


If "handwriting can't matter" in the Cyber Age ...

... why does the SAT exam now include a timed, handwritten essay?

... why do most employers still require applicants to complete one or more forms by hand?

... why do hundreds of blog entries and Twitter posts daily describe the blogger's or poster's poor handwriting or complain about the poor handwriting of others?

Computers will never completely replace other writing tools -- not unless someone can invent a computer the size of a pencil or pen, costing the same as a pencil or pen, and needing no electric power supply. (After Hurricane Katrina, millions of teachers and students who had supposed that "handwriting can't matter" learned otherwise when they had to spend a school year without computers.)

Computers and cell-phones haven't eliminated handwriting -- they have merely tempted people to stop teaching and learning the subject. This may change in September, though. As millions of schoolchildren head back to the classrooms, expect to announce a startling new product that may forever change the way we think about teaching, learning, and using handwriting.
Stay tuned ...


Friday, July 10, 2009

Brain Rules by John J. Medina

Blog by Gloria Goldsmith

I was tickled pink when I stumbled across Medina’s website. I bought the book the very next morning. I was delighted by the 12 brain rules he has come up with though his scientific inquiry. Mind you, he is a developmental molecular biologist focused on the genes involved in the human brain development. He insists on his research being published in a peer-review journal and successfully replicated before he included the study in the Brain Rules book. That means the information he shares with us isn’t just theories that he has invented, it is real science, and I am delighted to say, presented in a meaningful and extremely readable manner. Plus, the biggest clincher for me was the fact that it parallels all the methods of teaching that we, at the AVKO Foundation, have been encouraging parents and teachers to use, recognize, and perform for over 35 years. It is great to see it confirmed in another form of scientific tests.

Attention | Rule #4: We don’t pay attention to boring things. What we pay attention to is profoundly influenced by memory.

One method AVKO advocates which helps a student concentrate is ten to fifteen minute lessons. AVKO even encourages the use of a timer when doing lessons. Medina goes on and on about how humans need something to grab our attention about every 10 minutes in order to keep us interested. AVKO promotes that after any academic lesson students need some form of physical release. Exercise!

Exercise | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power. The greatest predictor of successful aging is the presence or absence of a sedentary lifestyle.

AVKO encourages exercise of some kind, many times during the school day, especially for ADHD kids. We think a 15 -20 minute break helps to drop the anxiety levels some humans feel when attempting to learn something difficult. Coming back to a lesson after a refreshing energy boost pause, makes it easier to tackle. According to John Medina, ALL humans perform better with some form of daily exercise. Our memory is better with cardiovascular fitness.

Survival | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too. There is no greater anti-brain environment than the classroom and cubicle

Homeschoolers, you may well have a deeper connection to the truth of this rule than most parents whose children are in public school. It wasn’t just our bodies that adopted from swinging in the trees to walking on the savannahs, our brain also had to evolve to survive, solve new problems, learn from mistakes, and create alliances with other peoples in order to survive. Humans now rule the world because we learned to cooperate and formed teams with our neighbors. Yet if we do not feel safe with our neighbor, boss or teacher, we may not perform as well under their leadership. Isolation in learning does not create an open learning environment in which questions are welcomed.

Short-Term memory is Rule #5: Repeat to remember. The human brain can hold about seven pieces of information for less than 30 seconds!

If you want to prolong the 30 seconds a few minutes or a few hours, you will need to re-expose yourself to the information again and again. Memories are so volatile that you have to repeat to remember. This fact has long been a staple in AVKO’s Sequential Spelling program. The presentation of word families (same sound/same spelling) teaches the student to recall using the logic of spelling patterns (in, pin, sin, spin), as well as the repetition of sequentially spelling the base word plus a different tense each day (pin, pins, pinned, pinning). AVKO also encourages parents to revisit the target word in The Patterns of English Spelling, Word Families in Sentence Context, and use the patterned approach of Let’s Write Right, or Individualized Typing. We encourage parents to let the student practice their spelling words in word games by going to where the student can type in current spelling words and Spelling City forms them into several different word games. Fun and repetition! AVKO supports all of these review methods which re-exposes the student to the target word repeatedly, just as Medina advocates for short-term and long-term memory to take place.

There are 12 brain rules. I won’t go over all of them here, but I do encourage you to get the book, and read this fascinating subject for yourself. I know it will create a clearer understanding of how people learn and what you can do to effect faster learning and how to avoid things that impair learning. John Medina also has a web site ( that explains a lot about his book. It is deliberately done in a very amusing style, because as he said, we recall things better when they have made an impression.

Grammar Untied -- A Featured Website

Posted by Hajira Khan, AVKO Volunteer, formerly known as Tongue Untied, is a great website! It covers a wide range of topics, and offers instructions related to basic grammar, sentence structure, and word choice, as well as rules for punctuation. It covers all the aspects of English language and is an excellent online guide.

This website was originally developed for students who want to take Journalism as a major at college level. However, it can be used by people of all ages whether young or old.

The website’s layout is simple but effective, making it appealing. The website has information you need in a design that is easy to read and understand. This information can easily be navigated by using the clear instructions present for the users. There are two menus on the home page of the website; one is on the left side of the page and the other on the top of the page. The left menu provides links to explanations in each of the major components of English grammar while the top menu offers links to quizzes, curriculum, and discussion. There are seven tabs on the top menu, each one directing the user to another page that contains more information.

For each concept covered, it starts with a brief description of the theory and provides excellent examples and interactive quizzes. For example, the page on adjectives tells you what adjectives are, followed by a practice exercise on adjectives, and an interactive quiz. By doing such quizzes, the users can find out how proficient they are in English language. A very interesting element present on the website is an image that reads “Grammar Warning Ahead”, by clicking on this image the user is directed to a new page with topics like “Top Ten Most Commonly Confused Words.”

There is a ten week curriculum on the website. Each week a topic is extensively covered, with its explanation, and its types followed by homework and example quizzes. If this curriculum is properly followed, it can produce meritorious results by the end of the tenth week.

The website is very impressive and is recommended to anyone teaching, learning or polishing their English. The content is exceptionally good, and everyone can benefit from the enormous amount of material on it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Creative Writing Prompts: Ambiguous Stimuli

Posted by Brian McCabe,

Psychologists have, for a long time, used ambiguous stimuli ostensibly to tap into the unconscious mind. By "ambiguous stimuli," we mean something that makes an abstract picture that can be interpreted in many ways. The most famous example of this would be the Rorschach inkblot test. The inkblots do not make up any one picture, but the person "injects" his own creativity, personality, and whatever's the most present on the person's mind into the stimuli to come up with an interpretation of the picture.

See this Wikipedia article for a list of common projective tests.

You can use these same concepts for creative writing prompts. Take an ambiguous stimulus of your own making or observation and have the student(s) write a short story or prose about what they see and can imagine happening in the picture. This activity is really fun to do with a group of students who can share, in turn, what they saw and what they wrote.

Here are some ambiguous stimuli you could use for creative writing prompts:

- Make your own ink blots by putting a smudge of ink or paint on a piece of heavy paper and folding it once or a few times.
- Toss a handful of pebbles, coins, twigs, buttons, etc.
- The clouds -- or a snapshot of a specific cloud.
- Patterns in the sand
- Patterns in the carpeting
- Freckles / scars on your skin
- Random dots on a piece of paper
- Patterns in a television's static.
- Other

Have fun, but try not to over-analyze results, especially if you give instructions to be creative.

Getting Your Kids Interested in Current Events

Posted by Brian McCabe,

- Make a collage or d├ęcoupage old maps onto the wall, a table, or a poster board.

See AVKO's previous post on collage or d├ęcoupage (with words) for information on how to do these crafts.

If your students are surrounded by the images of countries, cities, and cultures -- and learn about them -- they will be more interested in learning more about them in the future. You can find maps in old issues of National Geographic (you can always find back issues at used bookstores, estate sales, antique stores, etc.).

- Take advantage of the news sites for kids and adolescents. Many of them have worksheets you can use for your homeschooling as well.

Check out:

Nick News
Channel One
Scholastic News Online
Time for Kids

- Teach your kids how to read the newspaper has a nice introduction to newspaper terms that will help in navigating the newspaper for the first time. Explain how there is a difference in perceived importance of the articles based on their placement in the paper. What's on the first page? Are there big pictures? How much space is devoted to the piece?

Explain the difference between news articles, editorials, letters to the editor, and op-eds. Explain bias. You may want to do some high order thinking exercises with your students in helping them parse out what in a piece is biased, how its biased, and what you may be able to infer about the author based on the slant that is taken in a piece.

Use the political cartoons as additional exercises in abstract thought and discussion starters.

- Assign news reviews at least once a week

Have your students write a little recap of a news article at least once a week. You can choose to assign a topic (foreign affairs, politics, op-ed, environment, etc.) or have it be a free for all of what interests them.

- Introduce the Fake News sources, if you wish, to make the news more fun. Obviously, there may be more discretion needed here to decide what is suitable for your individual setting / student. However, political satire and "fake news" programs are extremely popular in today's popular culture. You may decide to take a more intellectual / analytical approach with these and use clips or excerpts as examples of satire, parsing out what is sarcastic (or sardonic), etc.

The Onion
The Daily Show
The Colbert Report
Saturday Night Live's Weekend Update
Chocolate News

Storytelling with your Children

Posted by Brian McCabe,

Younger students love to tell stories, even if it's just sharing what they did that day, what they learned at school, or a silly story they've made up. Take advantage of the children's natural curiosity and creativity -- and boost their language skills -- by writing the stories out.

For younger students, you can have them dictate the stories while you transcribe them. If you have a motor mouth on your hands, you may wish to use a tape recorder or your computer to allow their creative juices to keep flowing naturally (instead of halted waiting for you to finish writing/typing the last sentence). You may need to ask a few questions along the way to get them to elaborate on their descriptions, what happened next, how the characters relate to each other, etc.

Once you have it all written/typed out, put it in a binder. Have your child draw the illustrations and/or the cover. Collect the stories in the same binder or keep them stored together if they are in multiple bindings. A week or so later (and at later intervals, too), you can have the children read the stories back to you or read them silently.

This is a great way for the children to see their own vocabulary words in print, and in the context of full sentences that are syntactically and grammatically correct, reinforcing their language building skills.

They may decide that they want to revise the stories later on -- adding more detail, adding new characters, or creating sequels to the stories. Encourage this!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Brain Rules

Posted by Brian McCabe,

Brain Rules, a new book, extolls the essence of what AVKO's philosophy is all about with psychological and biological research evidence.

AVKO recommends that you check out this wonderful and readable book about how we think, how we best learn, and what doesn't work in our present educational and professional systems for our own brains.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Review: Irlen Syndrome

or Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome, by Gloria Goldsmith, AVKO Foundation

The AVKO Foundation recognizes there is no one thing that will fix everyone’s problems. But we know our spelling program is a giant help for those with spelling difficulties, just like the Irlen Institute is a giant help for those with light sensitivities.

I was speaking to a Mom just yesterday who had a son with severe headaches, problems with concentration, visual tracking problems and I forgot to mention the Irlen Syndrome, a light sensitivity problem. I hope she finds this blog.

Irlen Syndrome is not an optical problem; it is a problem with the brain’s ability to process visual information. Often it runs in families and there is no standardized educational or medical test which can identify this syndrome.

It can affect both academic and work performance, behavior, attention, the ability to sit still and concentration. This syndrome is often mistaken for ADHD. Often the problem is white paper and dark ink – high contrast printing. Ordinarily, parents and teachers would think that high contrast is excellent, just the thing to make sure the printed words show up nicely on the page. But for most sufferers of the Irlen Syndrome it is the exact WRONG thing for their perception.

How is it evident in individuals? Each individual with Irlen Syndrome exhibits the problem differently. It is believed that forty-six percent (46%) of slow readers could be helped by the colored filters prescribed by the Irlen Institute. You or your child may experience some or many of these sensitivities: print looks different (blurred, spinning, dancing, rivers, etc),environment looks different, slow or inefficient reading, poor comprehension, eye strain, fatigue, headaches, difficulty with math computation, difficulty copying, difficulty reading music, poor sport performance, poor depth perception, low motivation, or low self-esteem. Glare, florescent lights, bright lights, sunlight and sometimes lights at night can bother those with light sensitivity.

The problem is not able to be corrected with remediation. But there is a solution, and that is colored filters. The filters can be bought in page sized overlays and for even better solutions, color filtering lenses for glasses. The remarkable changes that take place for those who have moderate to severe cases of this syndrome are documented in video clips on the Irlen Institute website. There is also a book available called “Reading by the Colors” by Helen Irlen, her first book describing the syndrome in detail and several other helpful books are offered on the web site for children and parents.

I recommend checking the Irlen Institute website for more information about the syndrome, a self-test, samples of the distortions reported, research, testimonials, and to find an Irlen Testing Center. You can even change the color of the webpage to see how it affects your reading perception. (For my eyes ease, I prefer the light blue.)

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