We had one student who came in at the 16th percentile in comprehension and when we post-tested him he was at the 98th percentile. That child can now go to Jr. High and access the content which before he wouldn’t have been able to. I think of him almost every day because what happened for that child was just amazing.”
Six years later I am still amazed by the growth I see in students
using Seeing Stars or Visualizing and Verbalizing. I am committed to
continuing the use of the instructional strategies in these amazing
programs with our students. I only wish I could bring
every teacher on board with me."
I started working with Sydney when she was a first grader. The alphabet and sight words seemed to her to be a foreign language. It seemed no program would help her. After I introduced Seeing Stars, her spelling and fluency improved. Her attitude began to change. She started to care about school and learning. She now has the ability to go to high school and college, where before she had no real hope."
One of the highlights of summer in Double Bay (Australia) was Lily, a cheerful nine-year-old who came for a quick blast of Seeing Stars. We introduced 'Matilda' to her in her final week. I was there when she read the part where Matilda finds out about her powers. The look on Lily’s face? I'll never forget it. She didn't want to stop reading. Lucky me for seeing Lily discover the magic of reading."
My daughter struggled with identifying letters and matching them to sounds. She repeated Kindergarten twice to help her catch up on both reading and writing. (After instruction in the Seeing Stars program) Her 1st-grade teacher was amazed at how her reading ability and fluency had leaped within two short months."
Sophia has always struggled with remembering history. Today, she read her history and actually remembered what she read. She took a test and felt like she actually knew the answers...for the first time!
Life With Color
One of the first Visualizing and Verbalizing students I ever worked with was a high school student. After going through V/V instruction, he told me it was as if he went from living his life in black and white to living in color; he compared this to the movie The Wizard of Oz where the scenes come to life with color."
I have used a vast variety of programs, but I have never seen one work so well, so easily, with so much student engagement so quickly. I was amazed, as was (my) student. Her eyes lit up with so much excitement because she finally knew that she could do it."
Her dad was so proud because it was the first time
Amelia read a whole book independently. Amelia's eyes
were filled with so much joy and she kept saying she
couldn't believe that she had read a book on her own!"
An 8th-grade student came to us with very weak math skills. He completed the On Cloud Nine program, and his [HL] math skills and confidence improved dramatically.[/HL] His mother commented she was seeing him connect with numbers and use his new math skills at home. On top of that, his performance on one standardized math test went from a [HL] 3rd-grade to an 8th-grade level,[/HL] and on another, from a Kindergarten to an 11th-grade level!"
–Learning Center Director
The Joy of Reading
Lucy is enjoying her very first middle-school novel. Yesterday, she shared, 'I tried reading this book a while ago but it was just too hard. I gave up. Now I can understand it and I love it! I can really picture what's happening and I can't put it down!'
From Student to Teacher
Mia has started bringing the magic of Seeing Stars to her brothers. Not only does she error-handle them while they're reading, but she uses Magic Stones and has set up cubbies for them. Not only were we able to help her reach her potential with reading fluency, but we also inspired the confidence in her to teach others."
You took in a downtrodden, sad child and now she is a student who can't wait to raise her hand in the classroom!"
Taking the Lead
One of our students is now able to be the LEAD in the school play because she can finally read the scripts with ease! I absolutely love to see the confidence boosts this instruction brings. We are so lucky!"
The Sky’s the Limit
Today, the mom of one of my middle school students shared that we gave him the tools to soar and he feels that freedom of flight! He has confidence, enthusiasm, and a love of learning. I'm so thankful to have been part of his journey and to witness the difference we have made in so many children's lives!"
Making a Difference
We were all close to tears after receiving a call from a parent to tell us that they had their IEP meeting today and their daughter tested out of special education."
I wanted to share an awesome moment I just experienced listening to a student outside my office. He had just read a four-syllable word independently, ran to the nearest teacher to tell them the news, and then happily declared, 'I'M PROUD OF MYSELF!'"
At the end of last week, we had a Visualizing and Verbalizing student who was hiding in his hoodie saying, 'I don't write. I can't write.' Today, we have the same student writing outlines and summaries, sprinting down the hall to share his work with his teachers."
I just received a letter from a past student. She shared: 'My 8th-grade year has certainly been something. Academically I am doing the best I have ever done! I have almost all straight A's. I can't believe it has been almost five years since I was that little scared 4th grader learning how to read. You have no idea how much I appreciate you guys... You helped me become who I am today!'"
Still Going Strong
Barbara Wilmarth’s signature sign-off on all her email correspondence includes this famous quote from Einstein: “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.”
Wilmarth, a 33-year veteran in the public school system of Pinellas County, Florida, came across this quote after taking a Lindamood-Bell workshop on teaching comprehension: the Visualizing and Verbalizing program. The program develops mental imagery as a foundation for language comprehension. This approach to teaching reading changed her professional career. Today, she spreads the imagery mantra to her colleagues in the district’s Exceptional Student Education (ESE) division, which services students with reading/language disabilities and IEPs.
Wilmarth started in the program as an ESE coordinator. In her role as an instructional leader, she supports ESE teachers throughout the district.
“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to travel from school to school across Pinellas County and work side by side with teachers to help their students become better readers. Generally a month or more will go by between my visits. While I wish I could see them every week, I am always impressed by the progress they have made. I have seen students make multiple years’ gain in a single semester of school.”
Wilmarth has helped oversee the implementation of both the Visualizing and Verbalizing and Seeing Stars programs at 31 sites in the district. Seeing Stars develops symbol imagery as a basis for orthographic awareness and word reading skills. With the inherent challenges of providing the necessary support and professional development her colleagues need on a limited budget, she has had to get creative in supporting around 60 ESE staff spread throughout the district. Each month, she gathers with the entire group at a central location to discuss best practices, problem-solve, monitor program fidelity, and offer guidance based on her experience in using the programs over the last six years. As an instructional leader, she takes her role very seriously. She knows the neediest students depend on her.
She recalls a student named Eric, a few years back. “As a 6th grader, Eric really wasn’t reading at all. He had some very basic word attack skills, at only a one syllable level.” Eric received small-group, targeted intervention in the Seeing Stars program. With Barbara’s oversight, the work of his teachers, and a new way to teach reading, his life was changed. “He went from not reading, to now as a high school student, his passion is writing,” she says proudly.
And there are many, many more students, who have inspired Wilmarth’s professional transformation. You can hear her excitement about the profession she loves and the work she does.
“Earlier this week someone said to me, ‘Barbara when you said after 27 years of teaching students in exceptional education classes you finally found something that has changed your life, you had my attention.’ Six years later I am still amazed by the growth I see in students using Seeing Stars or Visualizing and Verbalizing every day. I am committed to continuing the use of the instructional strategies in these amazing programs with our students. I only wish I could bring every teacher on board with me.”
As she continues to bring as many teachers as possible with her, she knows she’ll be able to impact that many more students in need. Which is a big deal in Pinellas County. The district has nearly 104,000 students and is the 26th largest in the country. Sixty-three of the over 140 campuses are Title 1, with more than 40% of the students at each of these schools in poverty. There are over 13,600 students with disabilities, most of them related to reading difficulties.
Marquise is one of these students. As a 9th grader, he could barely sound out words like “meat” or “trap.” Because Wilmarth and her team knew how to diagnose the underlying issue preventing him from learning to read, they could intervene and provide exactly what he needed to be successful. “Marquise was on his way to being another statistic,” says Wilmarth. “Instead, he has earned his way to attend college!”
Barbara Wilmarth is just one example of the thousands of passionate educators out there who are driven by their desire to see children learn to their potential. The world is a better place because of them. We are lucky to have leaders and superheroes that change lives each and every day.
A Student Sees the Stars
This story was shared by Sonya Bledsoe, a Special Education teacher in Tennessee who was trained in the Seeing Stars® program.
May 30, 2018
I started working with Sydney when she was a first grader. She was a quiet solemn child. Nothing came easy for her. The alphabet and sight words seemed to be a foreign language. I was in her classroom for Inclusion reading, trying to help keep her head above water. Inclusion was the model for special education services at the time, and was little or no help to my students who had missing skills, especially in reading. As time went on, Sydney learned to get by in school, but just barely. It seemed no program we had would help her. We tried everything our district had to offer. She made little progress and was increasingly frustrated and angry. On our district benchmark test Sydney never scored above the 8th percentile until the sixth grade. After several months of another reading intervention program, Sydney made it to the 19th percentile, but dropped back to the 5th by winter. She had to mark and code everything she read, and she had little or no fluency. Sight words were almost nonexistent, and her reading was laborious!
“In the winter of 2017 I told Sydney about a reading program (Seeing Stars) I was teaching to some younger students. I asked her and one other student if they wanted to give it a try, and if they didn’t like it, we would go back to what we were doing. After a couple of weeks, she could already see an improvement in herself. She cried when she realized all the sight words she didn’t know when I tested her over Star Words. Soon she was zooming through her Star Words, and we were seeing progress! By the end of the school year she scored 25th percentile on the district benchmark. She had made so many gains that she actually read over the summer, and came back to school in August of 2017 and scored at the 31st percentile. We began working one on one and were zooming through the boxes of Syllable Cards. Her spelling improved and so did her fluency. Her attitude began to change. She started to care about school and learning. On the winter district benchmark Sydney scored at the 71st percentile: Two whole stanines above grade level!! Sydney was so proud of herself, as was I. Her most recent district benchmark score was 70th percentile (Spring 2018). She maintained her score, proving herself to everyone.
“I am so proud of her and thankful for the Seeing Stars Program. Seeing Stars has made such a difference in Sydney’s life. She now has the ability to go to high school and college, where before she had no real hope. She can pick up a novel now and read with fluency. Her grades are improving, and she is no longer just getting by. Seeing Stars is by far the best method of teaching reading that I have encountered since I began teaching 23 years ago. In the beginning I dreaded the Lindamood-Bell® robot coaching visits, but began to look forward to them because I felt supported. I feel that I can make a difference in my students lives. Thank you to everyone at Lindamood-Bell for helping me make a difference.”
February 28, 2018
My daughter struggled with identifying letters and matching them to sounds. She repeated Kindergarten twice to help her catch up on both reading and writing. During a parent/teacher conference, her teacher showed me her rendition of the alphabet. My daughter had stopped at the letter B and just drew faces in the boxes where each letter should have gone. I realized that she was avoiding the assignment because she couldn’t ‘see’ the letters. They didn’t mean anything to her. By the end of her second year of Kindergarten, she hadn’t progressed in her reading or letter identification. Her teacher told me that she was doing ‘okay,’ but every school day morning, she told me she didn’t want to go. Her stomach hurt. She felt frustrated all the time. That’s when I sought the help of Lindamood-Bell. Their comprehensive testing verified what I had been observing. She could hold two letters in her mind before they disappeared. She had trouble following instructions beyond two sequential steps. Lindamood-Bell suggested that she enroll in the Seeing Stars program.
“From the get-go, my seven-year-old daughter recognized that this program and the tutors were special. She arrived there ready to work and came home with a huge smile on her face. I asked her about her experience after each session. She’d reply with a ‘great,’ ‘terrific,’ ‘stupendous,’ or ‘fun’ every time. She loved the tutors and came home with stories of some fun activity they did during the sessions. What was most striking for me was to see her inner confidence blossom in the matter of a few short months. The first time she read a complete chapter book, she did a fist-pump in the air and cheered for herself on a job well done.
“After re-testing, my daughter can now hold five letters in her mind at a time. She gets excited for school and seems all-around more confident. Her Ist-grade teacher was amazed at how her reading ability and fluency had leaped within two short months. Lindamood-Bell worked wonders for her reading and self-esteem. I’m so grateful that she had this experience. It’s amazing what the centers and staff can do with the Seeing Stars program!”
Misty Kennedy (Elkins), Florida educator
I am in my twentieth year of teaching, all within Florida. A great deal of my career (over three-fourths) has been spent working in Title I schools with struggling readers. In Palm Beach County, I worked with children of migrant workers who came to our school knowing no English. I taught reading blocks all day to ESOL students in grades K-3. The last six years of my career, I spent as a literacy coach In Bay County, working with D and F schools. This year, I am currently the part-time reading coach/part-time interventionist/gifted teacher at Chaires Elementary. I tell you all of this only to show my previous experience with struggling readers and the multitude of programs and resources out there that attempt to meet their needs.
This year, I attended the four days of training that were offered in September by Leon County for the Lindamood-Bell programs. I returned from the training and, eventually, began a Visualizing and Verbalizing (V/V) group with five low-performing third graders. One of the students in this group was performing very low in class activities, as well as on school-wide and class assessments. She was also very quiet and shy. When we started working in our group, her answers, when she gave them, were COMPLETELY off base (students were supposed to be describing a picture of a dog and she would talk about a fish). I was very concerned that she would not be able to continue in the group; that the group would leave her behind. I was very methodical and specific with the way that I questioned this student. As time went on, this student was no longer quiet in our group, but constantly chattering and answering the questions, even before they were asked. The teacher also reported that she could not get the student to stop talking now in class. After moving up through the various steps for about eight weeks, I eventually asked the student to do a word summary on an eight-sentence paragraph. She accomplished this task with flying colors! After dismissing the group, I went back to my office and cried. I have used a vast variety of programs, but I have never seen one work so well, so easily, with so much student engagement, so quickly. I was amazed, as was this student. Her eyes lit up with so much excitement because she finally knew that she could do it.
I also have a group of 4th graders who have been struggling through another intervention program that I was using. I just was not seeing the phonetic progress with them that I wanted to see in the time we had been working together. I decided, just recently, to give Seeing Stars a try. After a couple of weeks, the attitude and behavior of one of our most challenging students made a drastic change. Reading and writing were both coming easier to him and HE recognized it. He came to the group more on task and engaged than he had been for months. The group asks to continue using the program because they see it is making a difference and they are engaged.
I have seen firsthand how the Lindamood-Bell programs have helped tremendously.