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(Gen) Exploring Phonics Through Science

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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 8:22 pm    Post subject: (Gen) Exploring Phonics Through Science Reply with quote

Here they come! Quirkle invasion scheduled for April 29
Springfield authors, St. Louis-based designer to debut colorful book series
Date: April 13, 2006
Missouri State University

SPRINGFIELD – The Quirkles are coming.


They’re 26 smart, colorful and fun characters – with names like Andy Acid, Susie Sound and Mary Motion – from the Quirk Galaxy who will make their debut this month in a series of 26 books designed to enhance phonics and science curriculum for pre-K through early elementary school students through use at school or home.

The Quirkles are the creation of a trio of Missouri State University alumni – Sherry Cook, lecturer in the Missouri State marketing department; her sister, Terri Johnson, owner and developer of a private after-school education program in Springfield; and Jesse Kuhn, an illustration and graphic design graduate who lives in St. Louis.

“As a teacher for more than a decade, I noticed kids were bored with a curriculum that was 20 years old,” Johnson said. “So, I started making up characters to go along with the lessons. And when I began incorporating those characters with the science and phonics, I noticed the kids were captivated. They were eating this up. And I was teaching two lessons—reading and science at once.”

That was two and a half years ago. Since then, Cook, Johnson and Kuhn collaborated and formed Creative 3, LLC. After more than two years of work and research, they are prepped to officially launch The Quirkles at a premiere event from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 29 at the Discovery Center in Springfield. During this event, children will hear some of the Quirkle stories and do the related experiments along with other fun activities.

Johnson said it was important that each Quirkle character be attached to a distinct science concept. For instance, Jazzy Jet – described in her book as the “jolliest” Quirkle with a love for “jokes” and a “jovial” laugh – enjoys studying jets and how they fly.

Included at the end of each book is a series of science experiments. In the Jazzy Jet book, for example, students learn how to make a paper airplane and how to test aerodynamics with a two-liter plastic bottle, scissors and a ping-pong ball. Earth, physical and life sciences, in alignment with national science standards, are featured throughout the series.

“These are not textbooks,” Cook said. “We wanted this to be something used by teachers, and we also wanted this to be something parents can use at home with their kids.”

Teachers are already latching on to The Quirkles, Cook said. Creative 3 has partnered with the Republic School District’s Early Childhood Center, where seven teachers are currently conducting a pilot project utilizing The Quirkles in their lessons.

Johnson said Creative 3 received tremendous support from textbook companies, numerous editors – many from the Springfield area – and relied heavily on the national science standards for research. “We wanted every concept we presented to be exactly right,” she said.

One of the integral aspects of the series, Johnson said, is that each Quirkle experiences positive character development and each one is the problem solver in its particular story.

“With these books, we’re showing kids that it’s OK to be different and it’s OK to be smart,” Johnson said. “From what I’ve seen, these books and this concept spark interest and passion for learning – something every kid can build on. At a time where it’s more and more important to get kids excited about science and reading, that’s a good thing.”

For more information on the Discovery Center premiere or to learn more about the Quirkles, contact Cook at (417) 836-6718 or access the website at Additionally, an event similar to that at the Discovery Center will be held May 6 in West Plains, Mo.


What is phonics?

A Phonics tool kit

Lesson Plans in phonics


Introduction to letter sounds

Learn to read

It's fun to read

I'm reading

What is quirky learning?

An Introduction to Quirkles

Meet the Quirkles


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 5:05 pm; edited 3 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2007 3:43 pm    Post subject: No one strategy is best for teaching reading, FSU professor Reply with quote

Florida State University
25 January 2007

No one strategy is best for teaching reading, FSU professor shows

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For decades, a debate has simmered in the educational community over the best way to teach children how to read. Proponents of phonics, the "whole language and meaning" approach and other teaching methods long have battled for dominance, each insisting that theirs is the superior strategy.

Now, a Florida State University researcher has entered the fray with a paper in the prestigious journal Science that says there is no one "best" method for teaching children to read.

Carol M. Connor is an assistant professor in the FSU College of Education and a researcher with the Florida Center for Reading Research. Along with colleagues from FSU and the University of Michigan, she wrote "Algorithm-Guided Individualized Reading Instruction," published in Science’s Jan. 26 issue. (The magazine is available online to subscribers at Connor’s paper shows that lots of individualized instruction, combined with the use of diagnostic tools that help teachers match each child with the amounts and types of reading instruction that are most effective for him or her, is vastly preferable to the standard "one size fits all" approach to reading education that is prevalent in many American elementary schools.

"There is too much of a tendency in education to go with what ‘sounds’ really good," Connor said of various educational trends that come into and fall out of fashion. "What we haven’t done very well is conduct comprehensive field trials and perform the rigorous research that are the norm in other fields of science. With this study, we sought to do just that — to take a systematic approach to what works, what doesn’t, and why" when teaching students to read.

The researchers found that "the efficacy of any particular instructional practice may depend on the skill level of the student. Instructional strategies that help one student may be ineffective when applied to another student with different skills." The trick, then, is to more precisely determine the reading skill level of each child and then find a way to cater the curriculum to each student’s individual needs.

"Instead of viewing the class as an organism, we’re trying to get teachers to view the students as individuals," Connor said.

While that may sound daunting to the typical first- or second-grade teacher, Connor has turned to technology to offer a helping hand. She, Frederick J. Morrison and Barry Fishman, professors at the University of Michigan, have developed "Assessment to Instruction," or A2i, a Web-based software program. A2i uses students’ vocabulary and reading scores and their desired reading outcome (i.e. their grade level by the end of first grade) to create algorithms that compute the recommended amounts and types of reading instruction for each child in the classroom. The software then groups students based on learning goals and allows teachers to regularly monitor their progress and make changes to individual curricula as needed.

A2i currently is being tested by about 60 elementary-school teachers in one Florida county. However, "right now A2i is just a research tool," Connor said. "Hopefully we’ll be able to make it available more widely as time goes on."

By Barry Ray Jan. 25, 2007

Go to to view an A2i demonstration page. Use the username "a2idemo" and the password "isi06!".

In addition to Connor, Morrison and Fishman, other co-authors of the Science paper were Associate Professor Christopher Schatschneider of FSU’s department of psychology and Phyllis Underwood, a doctoral student in the FSU College of Education.

The Florida Center for Reading Research ( was established in 2002 as a cornerstone of former Gov. Jeb Bush’s "Just Read, Florida!" initiative to have all schoolchildren in the state reading at their grade level by the year 2012. For the next two years, the center will focus its efforts primarily on improving the reading skills of K-3 students under President George W. Bush’s "Reading First Initiative," which is aimed at helping the country’s youngest students improve their reading skills.
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