Hi, I’m Kristen, and this is my business, Sensory Phonics. I am a teacher and a mom of twins. I believe in the power of creative play. It’s so good for kids (and adults!) In play, we make meaning of the world around us, we solve problems, we interact with others, we learn and we have fun. My twins were preemies and benefited from some amazing Speech therapists, Physical Therapists, and Occupational Therapists. Those experiences with my own kids opened my eyes to sensory play and how it helps children develop critical skills. I hope that my sensory bins and sound sorting kits provide hours and hours of productive play for each recipient. I have created products that I want to have for my kids, my students, myself as a teacher, and the amazing therapists and teachers who make a difference everyday.
So, here’s a little more info about me. I started out teaching adult ESL. I loved working with people from all over the world, teaching conversational English and learning about new cultures. I loved the personalization of learning as we practiced vocabulary through conversations based on their interests and proficiency in English. We really got to know one another and the class became a beautiful little community.
Next, I transitioned into teaching ESL in elementary school. It was also wonderful to get to know the children and support them in learning conversational English, but there was so much more they needed beyond speaking English. They also needed to learn to read and write! So my teaching grew into all things reading and writing, speaking and listening.
This is probably stating the obvious, but I believe in the power of literacy and the power of a great book. Being able to read and write fluently breaks the world wide open. Reading lets us learn, explore, see life in a new way, laugh and cry. Writing lets us express ourselves in the mundane and creative parts of life.
Choosing the just right book for the learning goals for my students was always a critical part of my planning. I had to figure out how to use the book to introduce concepts, vocabulary and language then how to engage the student so they were learning what they needed at their level.
I believe open ended learning engagements are the best for literacy because the student can join at their level and I can provide support for some and extensions for others. The foundations of reading need to be mastered and come quickly for some, and painfully for others. I often worked with small groups of struggling readers and the frustration they faced motivated me to find new and better ways of teaching.
I believe that the more that I know as a teacher, the more prepared I am to support my students in their learning goals and my goal for them - to become fluent readers and writers who can express themselves clearly in English. This is where phonics comes in. I had the opportunity to be trained in an Orton Gillingham Dyslexia Intervention program. I was moved into a literacy coach and Dyslexia Interventionist role in my elementary school. I supported teachers in best practices in teaching literacy and got my National Board Certification in Early/Middle Literacy. I dove into learning and teaching others about the Science of Reading. Phonics is one critical part of learning to read and because of a complicated history in American education, teachers and students have gaps of knowledge when it comes to phonics. My Sound Wall Vowel Valley Sound Sorting Kit is as much for the teachers as it is for the students. It is the product I wanted as a teacher, dyslexia interventionist and literacy coach to make the spelling patterns concrete using miniature objects for sound sorting. This Sound Wall product is the only one of its kind. Believe me I searched far and wide before deciding to create my own!
So why now? Is this a project I do along with teaching? No, this new chapter of Sensory Phonics was initiated by some health issues and being unable to work in the classroom after a full 16 years of teaching. I have always struggled with neck pain and headaches which more recently included spinal fusion surgery and chronic migraine. I am still seeking treatment in hopes of restored health and active teaching in some format. However, my teacher heart is filled by creating sensory bins and sound sorting kits that can facilitate play and learning for so many students. I also love sharing books and how to pair them with play (or inquiry) for deep learning. As I continue my learning, I will share more about The Science of Reading and how to incorporate the research into our teaching. Thanks for checking out the Sensory Phonics website. Follow me on socials as I share teaching tips, sensory play ideas and new products.