Sunday, December 20, 2009

80% by the Winter Break

It's winter break. Kindergarten is not yet half over.

I've got 29 kindergartners in my class. 23 have mastered the Soundabet. That's about 80%. Of the 6 kids who have not yet fully mastered the Soundabet, all but two are mostly there.  The 2 kids who aren't almost at mastery are "pulled" out for EL instruction while we're doing Soundabet. They'll have a lot of catching up to do, but I'll make sure it gets done....

The real story here is that so many have gone on well past Soundabet mastery and are now reading books to their moms. I got this email from one of the moms in my room:

Hi Mr.Gurney,
I wanted to thank you.  Jacob just read me his first of many books to come, The Foot Book by Dr.Seuss.  I always knew this day would come, I never thought he would be reading after his first few months of Kindergarten.
I can't say thank you enough.  I want you to know how truly amazing you are.  You certainly are a gifted Teacher.  I am blessed to have you teaching my son and if I am lucky, my daughter.
Thank you,
M. L.
That's what teaching the Soundabet can do.....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kids Who've Mastered Soundabet

The number of students who've mastered the Soundabet has climbed to seven now, in mid-November, with a bunch more kids coming within range of mastery.

It's really exciting for me to see so many students cross this most important threshold into the land of literacy. It's going to be an exciting winter and  spring!

Friday, October 30, 2009

How to Order Soundabet

I get a number of emails asking how to order Soundabet like this one.

Hi, Dan,
I would like to order 1 set each of your king and queen cards.  I have looked on the internet and could not find the site to do this.  I am not sure if this will get to you, so I'll send this off.  I ordered a lot of your materials a few years back and I love teaching your Soundabet.  The children love it too and learn it so easily.  Please advise me as to how to order more of your materials.  Also, are you giving a workshop in the bay area any time soon?
Thank you!
D. S.

To help make it easier to see how to order, I've placed the explanation at the top of the column to the right.

I've very happy to hear from my past customers who've found Soundabet helpful to them.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Two Soundabet Masters, and it's not even Halloween yet

It's not even Halloween yet and two of my students have mastered the whole Soundabet in both upper and lowercase forms and are reading mid-first grade level.

With those two out of the starting gates, I now have a half dozen more students begging to demonstrate their Soundabet knowledge to me....

Life is good!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Testimonial-Sept, 2009

Here's another testimonial, this one from a couple of days ago.

Hi Dan,
My name is Tere Fieldson and I teach kindergarten at Hopkinson in Los Alamitos, California.  It's my 26th year of teaching kindergarten and I LOVE IT!  I feel very fortunate to have seen you present Soundabet for our district
about 10 years ago.  Ever since that presentation, I have helped other teachers new to kindergarten, learn the
"Dan Gurney Soundabet."  In fact, the other teacher that helps me, brings a banjo to kick it off!  I truly must say
your Soundabet has added an incredible, fun tool to my program.  My students love shouting, "Soundabet Alert!"
Thanks again for sharing (so enthusiastically) this great reading and writing tool.
Please send me an order form so I can order some things for our new K teachers.
Tere Fieldson

Friday, September 4, 2009

12 Days into the Year

I'm frequently asked when I introduce the Soundabet in kindergarten. I don't know why, but people are often surprised when I say, "On the first day."

This is what the basic Soundabet song looks like as it is sung in my classroom very early on in the year. This video, shot yesterday, shows you how it looks 12 days into kindergarten.

The students seem to be engaged and having a good time with it.

What do you think?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Questions I'm often asked....

I'm often asked to answer questions like the ones S. asked me this morning.

I thought to post the questions and my answers here, since others are probably asking similar questions:

I was thrilled to receive my Soundabet materials! I've watched the DVD and now I have a few questions to get me started.

1. Do you start the year writing everything in the king capital letters and then progress to a mixture of king and queen letters for names and sentences? Am I right in understanding that the kids started with the king deck for mastery and then progressed to the queen deck?

2. I'm not familiar with the sounds changes to QU, R, W, and Y.. Could you explain a little about that?

3. Is the Y ever sounded as /y/? I thought the kids said EE whenever they went through the Soundabet.

4. Is the king U sounded as long u and the queen u as the short u?

5. Is the Q alone sounded as /kwa/ and the QU as /coo/?


I'll try to answer your questions:

1. I start with the king's capital letters to avoid the bdpq ambiguities. How quickly I move to the lowercase depends on the kids, but I start there. I don't like to confuse kids.

2. When Soundabet was born, I used the same sounds for QU, R, W, and Y that I had been taught in first grade back in the fifties. In 2002, I presented Soundabet to a roomful of speech and language specialists who suggested I try coo for QU etc. I tried their suggestions and found them to be significant improvements, so I made the switch. However, Soundabet works with the old sounds, too, (the kwuh for QU, etc.) I used as a little guy, and so I accept either the old sounds (the parents in your class will teach the old sounds) or the new ones that Soundabet uses.

3. Say yellow really slowly (or yes, yell, whatever). See if yellow doesn't sound like: "eee -e-ll-ow." And, of course, Tony, Danny, Nancy, and Yvonne will totally get ee for y. The other sounds Y usually makes are borrowed from I long i as in Kyle and short i as in myth. If you never teach "yuh" your kids won't be harmed one tiny little bit. Yuh, after all, is just ee with a schwa. (eeuh)

4. U makes two sounds in Soundabet, long as in unicorn and short as the medial sound in sun. The two sounds look exactly the same. I did this on purpose to force the kids to read the prompting word at the bottom of the card. I wanted the basic Soundabet to include this visual ambiguity to force students to understand you have read and apply contextual clues to know what sound to make. Windy. A windy day, or a windy road?

5. The Q alone appears in very few words. I teach QU as a unit because it almost always appears that way. Al Qaeda is the only exception that comes to mind, and I'm not likely to teach that word in kindergarten.

Good luck with Soundabet. Trust yourself to experiment with it, make it yours, and employ your own creativity with it...your creativity with Soundabet is what will make it really fantastic in your classroom.


Friday, July 31, 2009

And another

Dear Mr. Gurney,

I teach at Lafayette Elementary School, in Lafayette, California. We have used your Soundabet cards/songs with our kindergarten students for the past four years. It has been an amazing journey with the children and your Soundabet song and cards are an integral part of our program. This coming year, I will be teaching First Grade and would like to order additional sets (both king and queen) for use in my classroom.

-Christina N.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Testimonial--July 2009

One of the great things about doing Soundabet is getting e-mails like this one from Mrs. Westover. It's the sort of message that will keep me around doing a small, slow business for people who dig enough to find me and are patient enough not to expect same day rush-rush service. Slow foods is good for us eaters; slow business is good for us shoppers, too.

I asked her if I could post her email here, and she said I could.

It makes me happy to think that some people are getting such wonderful results with Soundabet (19 out of 20 bests the ratio of success in my own classroom!)

Here's her letter, I mean email---

Dear Dan:

Last year, I bought your system and have had remarkable success with my kindergarten class. 19 out of my 20 students knew their letters and sounds by the first trimester. 19 our of my 20 students were able to write several sentences in their journals without any help! I attribute much of my success in my classroom to your program. I was forced to teach the Houghtin Mifflin program, but I added the "Soundabet" as part of my daily routines and it made a big difference. Could you please be kind enough to send me a blank invoice or purchase order so that I may be able to order more of materials? Another teacher used this program also had similar success! Thank you for such a great program, keep up the good work! Please don't close your business! We need you!! :)
Mrs. Westover

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Workshop and Sale

I just got back from doing a Soundabet Workshop in Southern California. It was fun for me.

It's stirred up some renewed interest in Soundabet both for me and for the people who use it.

So I thought I'd do a summer Back-to-School sale. I'll go through the Soundabet order form and revise the prices downward a little, effective July 20.

By the way, the Flash Cards will henceforth be shipped with the Story Starters on stickers to affix to the back.

Another Testimonial

One of the great satisfactions of having created Soundabet is hearing from people who've used it and felt inspired to tell me. Here's one from Michelle Emra:

Hi Mr. Gurney,
We've never met, but I order your soundabet kit and I can't tell you how much fun we had this last year. I was fortunate enough to teach fullday kindy, and I only has 23 students. (that's low for oregon) We use the Treasures curriculum and between district mandates and your ideas, 20 of my students left kindergarten above grade level. 22 were reading and 22 were writing 2 or more sentences. (Actually about 15 were writing several sentences over 3-4 pages.) I had the most successful year; my test scores were through the roof, which got a lot of recognition from our district office and some principals around the district.
It was my 2nd year in kindergartern, my 17th year in education and I loved every minute of it.
So, when I got politically bumped out of kindergarten and will now teach a 1/2 blend, I cried for 2 days. I plan on using a lot of your ideas since they lend themselves so well to the struggling learner, I just hope to be able to head back down to the place where my heart sings.
Have a blessed summer. You helped me so much. thanks!!!!

I hope you get a chance to return to kindergarten, Michelle!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Soundabet Assessment

You'd think after 28 years of teaching that HANDS ON would have occurred to me before today.

But it took that long for me!!

Here's a YouTube clip of Brandon going through his mid-year Soundabet Uppercase assessment. You'll notice, if you watch closely, that he corrects himself on CH (his initial response is /H/) and that he says /ee/ for the Y, which is what I teach as the sound for Y. Towards the end of the clip he skips the /er/ sound.

No big deal. Brandon knows so much about letter sounds that he's definitely going to be fine in first grade. This single assessment tells me much more than anything else, yes, including DIBELS, than any other indicator of basic early reading skill.

I'm delighted to be able to share this with the world over the internet!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another Testimonial

Dear Mr. Gurney,

I attended your workshop about 6 years ago and LOVED IT!!! I used Soundabet the next day in class and each day since! It's wonderful, hats off to you!!

I am now a stay home mom (love teaching my little 3 year old) and have been searching frantically for my Soundabet board with the letters on it and can't find it. Can I purchase the cards from you? Thanks a million!


Cross Diane

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 28 Last Day of Half Off Sale

Be sure to send your Soundabet orders off by February 28 (post marked by that date) to take advantage of the February 1/2 off sale.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Hi, folks!

I got another nice email from a past customer, Kate. I asked her if I could use it on the blog and that if she did, I'd offer her a half price deal on whatever she ordered.

I guess it's only fair to do the same for other folks who've used the products and have nice things to say about Soundabet (based on actual use of the materials). So, if that's you, email me and ask for the same half off deal.

dangurney "atsymbol"

And, as to why everyone isn't using Soundabet, I think part of the answer is it's not "research" based. That is to say, I'm not a big publisher who lobbies the Department of Education to make rules that keep teacher-created materials out of classrooms.

Anyway, here's what Kate had to say:

Hi Dan,

I'm interested in buying some or all (depending on cost) of your soundabet products if you are still selling them. I taught Kindergarten about 8 years ago and used Soundabet with my class after taking your seminar. I LOVE the program and would like to use it at home with my 4 year old son who is beginning to become obsessed with letters, letter sounds, and reading. I don't know why everybody doesn't use this program....It's so awesome!

Thanks for your time,
Kate Gillespie

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

See a Video on YouTube

Here's a video—really quick and unedited—showing the Soundabet being sung with the class in January, 2009.

I'm pretty excited right now because so many of my kindergartners know the whole Soundabet and have begun to read with a good deal of success on their own. When they've mastered the Soundabet before the halfway point in kindergarten, I know they're going to have success in first grade.

So, here it is, my second YouTube video, and the first one about Soundabet.