Seeing Stars® at Home

Seeing Stars® is a program developed by Lindamood-Bell to improve decoding.  I posted on some general techniques they use in a former post, but here I will go into more detail about the Seeing Stars® program.  This is just an overview.  More details would be needed to fully implement this program at home.  The Seeing Stars® Manual (available from Gander Publishing) will guide you through the program step-by-step.  When I tried to research the LMB reading programs myself, it seemed like I could not find anyone to describe the programs, except in very vague terms, so that is why I am putting these out there so that you can see if it is something you would want to tackle at home and which materials you should buy.  Please do not depend on these instructions to do the program at home.  I may have forgotten something or not explained something well.  You really need the manual, at least.

It should be said that the “steps” in these programs are not done one at a time.  It is not that you introduce step one and once mastered, you move to step two.  Instead, you will usually start off with something the student is already doing well and then work with something that provides a challenge and usually incorporate something that is a greater challenge all in one session.

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Set the Climate
Tell your student what you will be doing and why.  You can make a very simple drawing to illustrate.
Example:  “I am going to help you picture letters in your head so that it will be a lot easier to read, like this.”  Then draw a head (smiley face) with a thought bubble with a simple word in the bubble.

Step 2: Imaging Letters
a) Using a flashcard (simple card – just the lowercase letter or digraph- no other pictures)  Digraphs are treated as letters, since they work together to make one sound.
Show your student the card for a couple of seconds and then turn it over or cover it.
The student “Air-Writes” the letter and says its name and sound has he/she writes it.
Note on “Air-Writing”: This is just the student using their finger to write the letter in the air.  Require the student to “write” it clearly.  They should look at their hand as they write and it should be about three to six inches (not that you should measure it, but not tiny and not huge).  If  they have a hard time, hold up a standard sheet of notebook paper and let them “write” it with their finger on the paper first to get the idea of how big it should be.  They should be able to see a “shadow effect”.  They should use lower case letters.
WARNING: Pretty much every student hated Air Writing!  You can tell them that after they get really good at it they won’t have to do it very often, so they should do their best to prove that you don’t need to keep working on it.

b) Without a flashcard:The clinician says a letter (or later a letter sound) and the student Air-Writes the letter and its sound while writing.  It is just the same as step 2a, except that the clinician does not show the student the card and may say either the letter’s name or the sound it makes as a prompt.

Step 3: Syllable Cards

The clinician shows the syllable card for a few seconds and then covers it.  The student will see (in his mind), say (the letter names), writes (air-writes) and reads (from his mental picture).

This is one of areas that is hard to re-create without purchasing the cards from Gander.  They cost over $300, so they are not cheap!  You could make your own by using the syllables in the workbooks, but it will be quite a bit of work.
There are several levels of syllable cards, going from simple to complex like this:
CV (Consonant, Vowel, like “my” or “go), VC, CVC, CCV, VCC, CVCC, CCVC, CCVCC

Note:  at the single syllable level, you do not worry about open and closed syllables.  All are treated as closed.
Remember as you handle errors that the student should be directed back to his/her imagery and you are responding to the student’s answer.  (“What letter did you see after the ‘i’? Let’s see if that matches.”)

Here is also where you are going to want to introduce some phonics rules as you come across them like:
-When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking, and it says its own name
-The “Bossy Final E” that makes the first vowel say its name
-The soft and hard g
-The soft and hard c
You can make small drawings  on a 3″x5″ card and hung up in the student’s work area as a visual reminder.

At this step is where you are going to introduce exercises to improve  “symbol imagery.”

Step 4: Imaging and Sequencing Syllables on the Syllable Board

The Syllable board is a small board that is about 1.5″x6″.  On one side it has seven blank lines.  The student “writes” a letter on each line with his/her finger.

This step overlaps with step three.  It is similar, but the word will be “written” on the syllable board (with finger, not actually written) and this can help the student to “hold” the image of the word in their head long enough to compare it with what they are saying and check if it is correct.  There are three stages:
a)Imaging the syllable and “writing” it on the syllable board.  This is done just like step three, but the word is “written” on the board. (Say the letters as they write them and then read from the invisible letters on the board.)

b)Imaging and Air-Writing in a chain
In this exercise, the clinician begins with a word (depending on the level they are working on VC, CV, CVC, etc.) and changes just one sound at at time.  Note that it is one sound, not one letter, so going from “fip” to “foop” would be fine because “oo” works together to make one sound.  In the manual there are many sample chains that you can use right out of the book.

You can also question the student about which letters they see to make sure that image is staying there.  (“What is the last letter you see?”  “What letter do you see second?” “Can you pictures the letters and tell me them backwards?”  “What if we change the ‘i’ to an ‘oo’?  What would we have? ” “Now change the ‘r’ to an ‘s’…etc.”  You want to ensure that the picture of the word is stable in their imagination.  The changes in letters should first be done in a chain (only changing one sound).

c) Continue this, but each syllable is a new syllable, not in a chain.

Step 5: Imaging and Sequencing Syllables: Air-Write with a Chain

This is just like 4b above, but air-writing instead of on the board.  Remember that “in a chain” means changing only one sound at a time and there are many example chains in the manual.  The same kind of symbol imagery exercises are used.

Step 6: Imaging and Sequencing Syllables: Air-Write without a Chain

The same as step 5, but not in a chain.

Step 7: Imaging Sight Words

Use a common sight word list, like Dolch or Fry.  If you get the Seeing Stars® workbooks, they are called “Star Words.”Show the list (one word at a time) and have the student decode the words.  If they are fast immediately, move on to the next word, but if the response is incorrect or slow, write it on a card in lower case letters.  Practice at every session and categorize them into slow, medium or fast, depending on the student’s response time.  They can be practiced by decoding (reading) or spelling.  You can incorporate games to make it more fun.

Step 8: Imaging Spelling

Use a list like the Fry list and dictate them to the student like a spelling test.  The ones that are not easily spelled correctly get put on a “Visual Spelling Chart”
The spelling chart is divided into several columns.  In the first column, the word is written.  The student marks (underlines) the “tricky” part and divides the syllables (/) in that first column and marks the accented syllable.
Then, the student writes the word (can look at the word), then visualize and air-write the word.
The student writes the word (word is covered) while saying it in the next column and then compares in with the original word.
The last column is to mark the dates the student got it correct, so that you know when they have it correct five times.

Step 9: Two Syllable Words and 10:Three Syllable Words

I am not going to go into detail in step eight and nine, but will let you know that the clinician will use many of the same techniques, but now applied to affixes and then multi-syllable words.

I will also say that they have good information on how to split syllables that has helped my son tremendously.

Seeing Stars® is a fabulous program and has been very useful for our homeschool.

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Lindamood Bell Programs General Overview: Using Gander Publishing Resources at Home

Since I had a very hard time trying to figure out if I could do the Lindamood-Bell programs at home when I was searching on the internet, I am posting this here in hopes that it will benefit someone else.  There is no way that I could explain every step of each program, so you will need to get the manual (some libraries even have them), but I hope to give you an overview so that you can get an idea of what the programs are all about and see if you would like to try them at home.

I think I started hearing about LMB programs in about 2007/2008.  I was so excited to hear that this “Reading Clinic” addressed hyperlexia as well as dyslexia.   You can read about hyperlexia in a former post, but basically it is decoding skills (sounding out the words) that are far above comprehension skills, accompanied by a fascination with letters and words.  It is said to be the “neurological opposite” of dyslexia.

Lindamood-Bell has four main reading programs.  The ones used most frequently are:

  • Seeing Stars®:
    The Seeing Stars® program develops symbol imagery—the ability to visualize sounds and letters in words—as a basis for orthographic awareness, phonemic awareness, word attack, word recognition, spelling, and contextual reading fluency.*
    This would be for dyslexia/decoding problems.
    I will summarize all the Seeing Stars steps in my next post, so stay tuned!
  • Visualizing and Verbalizing®:
    The Visualizing and Verbalizing® (V/V®) program develops concept imagery—the ability to create an imaged gestalt from language—as a basis for comprehension and higher order thinking. The development of concept imagery improves reading and listening comprehension, memory, oral vocabulary, critical thinking, and writing.*
    This would be for hyperlexia/comprehending problems.
    I summarized the steps and have videos here.

The other two programs, used less often, are:

  • LiPs®:
    The LiPS® Program develops phoneme awareness. Students learn to recognize how their mouths produce the sounds of language. This kinesthetic feedback enables them to verify sounds within words and to become self-correcting in reading, spelling, and speech.*
    Parts of the LiPs® program are sometimes incorporated into the Seeing Stars® students if they need it.
    (You can see the steps for LiPs in this link in a paper written from the person that developed this program.
  • Talkies®
    The Talkies® program is the primer to the Visualizing and Verbalizing® program for students who need simpler, smaller steps of instruction to establish the imagery-language connection. The goal of Talkies® instruction is to develop mental imagery as a base for language comprehension and expression. Talkies® instruction may benefit students with prior third-party diagnoses of expressive language delays or autism spectrum disorders.*
    Parts of the Talkies® program are sometimes also used in the V/V® program for students with less language that can read.
  • There is also a math program called “On Cloud Nine®”

*Descriptions of the programs are from the publisher’s website (ganderpublishing.com).  My own comments about the program are in italics.

Nanci Bell has made some great presentations at the UC Davis MIND Institute’s Summer Institute
(MIND = Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/

Here is a video of Nanci Bell discussing V/V® and Talkies® for hyperlexia.

The more I heard about it, the more I knew that Visualizing and Verbalizing® (V/V)® would be great for my older son, D, but when I discovered that instruction in the center cost over $100/hour, I knew that would never be possible for us, especially since the program is usually very intense.  Four hours a day, five days a week is not uncommon. (Twenty hours X $100 = $2000/week!!!!)  I should say that there are discounts for more hours, etc., but for us it would still always be out of reach for us.

Eventually, I was able to be trained in Seeing Stars and Visualizing and Verbalizing myself, so that I could teach it to my kids.  For those of us who live in the real world and cannot afford $2,000/week for tutoring, I would highly recommend that you do it yourself.  It can be integrated into your homeschool curriculum or be done after school or over the summer.  The materials can be purchased at ganderpublishing.com and the manual goes through the program step-by-step.  If you want to be even more prepared, you can attend one of their workshops.  In the training, for the most part, they wanted  you to stick closely to the “script.” ( You say, “X” and then the students responds and you say “Y” if it was correct and “Z” if it was not.)  There are even many sample dialogs in the manuals.

Here are some general LMB-ism that apply to all the programs:

  • There is big time bribing (eh… make that “rewarding”) going on constantly.
    I am not saying that is necessarily such a bad thing.  Most of these kids are doing the program because they have had major problems in the area that they are working on (decoding, comprehension) and this is the last thing they want to do when they are finally out of school.
    – Filling your bucket with magic stones (see below) gets you five stars on your “star card.”  If it is filled, that card can be used as “currency” to get prizes (small prizes , like trinkets from Oriental Trading).
    – Something really great (maybe getting something correct that they usually struggle with) gets you another type of card.  With that card the students gets up and drops it into a box and rings a bell.  Every time that bell rings, everyone stops for a second and cheers.  There is a weekly drawing with these cards and someone will win a prize.
    -Some kids have additional rewards worked out with in conjunction with their parents.  “If you get through X number of pages or if you don’t do X (insert problematic behavior), you get that toy you’ve been wanting, etc.
  • Every response (right or wrong) from the student earns a “magic stone” that is dropped into a small metal bucket and makes an nice affirming “clinking” sound each time.
  • A big part of the program is how you handle errors.
    Every response gets positive feedback before a correction.  (The student may say, “LIT” for the word “LIFT” and the clinician would say, ” I love how you got that /l/ sound, and that vowel sound was perfect.  When you say the word, ‘LIT,’ what do you picture before the T?”
    The student may say, “I,” and the clinician could answer, “I picture the letter ‘I’ in the word “LIT” too.  Let’s check if that’s right.”  We look at the card together and the student corrects it, get more praise, and several magic stones in their bucket.
  • The clinician constantly prompts for imagery.  (What do you SEE when you picture the word?  What do you PICTURE for the sentence you read?  How do you PICTURE the man in the story?  What do you SEE for his shirt?  Do you PICTURE him with shoes on?)  You are trying to get them to make an image in their head whether it be in decoding or comprehending.
    You show them something (a letter, a word, a part of a paragraph), they read it and then you cover it up, so that their brain has to make the picture in their head.
  • You want to make the child feel successful.  When they feel like they can do it and that you believe in their ability, they feel more confident and are more willing to try harder.  Plus, they can do it!  Every human being has great potential.
  • You “set the climate” at every session.  (For example: “Today we are going to picture letters in your head”) and they use simple drawings to help.  (Draw a head with at thought bubble that has a letter in it.)

These are the general things that apply to all of the LMB programs.  I will go into greater detail about the specific programs in future posts.