Dyslexia describes an individual who has problems reading due to a physiological, cognitive pattern that prohibits the ability to process letters for sounds. People with dyslexia often read letters backwards or struggle to sound out words letter by letter. These reading problems can be especially frustrating because children with dyslexia are often very creative and interested in learning more, but feel held back by their difficulty reading. There are step-by-step ways to overcome dyslexia that takes a reader from phonics all the way to reading comprehension with inferences. We employ direct, explicit phonics as a foundation for our early reading program because studies have shown it to be the most effective for students with reading difficulties.
While this type of dyslexia is quite rare, there are many reading difficulties today that follow the same patterns of dyslexia. Many reading approaches created over the past century have led students down the wrong path for reading. These programs overemphasize the memorization of words and sight words to the detriment of a student’s phonetic awareness. Thus, many students need to regroup and retrain their reading habits to focus on sounds rather than the shapes of words. A strong background and use of phonics actively help students with reading comprehension because they free up energy and attention for higher order reading tasks. In our tutoring program, we make great use of phonics sound cards, controlled reading, and dictation to solidify gains in reading habits. We like to enlist the help of parents and babysitters when possible, so that a student can practice outside of the tutoring sessions. Many parents have loved the experience of sharing the joy of reading with their children and of participating in their reading development.
Reading Comprehension / Inferences
The purpose of reading is to understand and connect with the author’s words on the page. Although this remains the ultimate goal, there can be several problems that develop which prevent a student from comprehending what is actually on the page. These problems often come from inadequate phonetic awareness, improper attention to detail, gaps in vocabulary, and inadequate visualization. When working with children on their reading, we are always sure to do a thorough check of their skills and weaknesses. It can be remarkable to see how quickly students can develop their reading comprehension given the right prompts and strategies. We are also sure to spend time on working with inferences, which are ideas gleaned from the subtext or predicted from the information given earlier in a text. Many readers like to explore the realm of inferences as it gives them the chance to play the role of a reading detective who looks into the future and the inner workings of a text. Moreover, reading comprehension and inferences are playing larger and larger roles in school assessments that ultimately impact a student’s future academic paths.
Imagine trying to write sentences in a language in which you cannot identify a subject, verb, object, or adjective. It would be next to impossible. You’d probably just write from a flow of consciousness with the vocabulary words that you might know. Unfortunately, many American students approach writing English with the same structural obstacles. They have not been taught the grammar or system of their own language to a mastery level. Thus, writing becomes a chore of guessing without a reference guide. This writing approach can be very anxiety provoking because students do not know how to begin or how to follow through on their ideas.
Lionheart Tutoring seeks to teach the structure of our English language and the building blocks of grammar. Learning grammar requires direct instruction and copious amounts of practice to achieve mastery. Rather than be bored with these exercises, students often find that it is an interesting challenge to work logically through problems. Our philosophy is to go from the building blocks to more advanced topics systematically, so students see how elements work together. Children find the interactive online practice fun and rewarding, with instant feedback on their accomplishments.
For many students, the scariest task is to confront the blank page of an essay due the next day. Writing requires not only clear ideas but also the skill to communicate them effectively. The founder of Lionheart Tutoring, Dan Chinburg, has designed a creative system for teaching writing mechanics that enables writers to write seemingly automatically. Through targeted worksheets, Lionheart Tutoring can take a student through the process of crafting sentences, then paragraphs, and then entire papers. Along the way, tutors incorporate grammar instruction as needed in order to cement better writing habits. Students then write regularly for their tutors on engaging topics that encourage deep understanding and expression. Many students voluntarily show their writing to their parents because they develop a pride in their work and wish to convey their thoughts to others.
Along with reading, writing serves as a universal skill that opens doors in almost every profession. When employers realize that a person can write well, suddenly many new opportunities spring up and offer room for advancement. We enjoy seeing how students can write and practice writing in many subject areas, in order to get a feel for what it would be like to have careers in these fields. Writing can become a novel experience to delve deeply into a topic and find hidden treasures of insight.
Meet Our Tutors
Inspired by what he saw in South Korea as a Fulbright Teaching Fellow, Dan Chinburg began tutoring students on the Main Line in 2009. He graduated with a M.S.Ed. in Reading/Writing/Literacy from the University of Pennsylvania with a K-12 reading specialist certification and has a B.A. in English & World Literature from Pitzer College. Since his return to the states, he has taught over 110 students through word-of-mouth. He loves working with struggling students and advanced students alike. Always striving to get the best results, he has tutored Singapore Math at a charter school and has explored many different approaches to higher mathematics. Over the years, he has designed his own grammar, writing, and standardized test program to meet the demands of his students. He particularly enjoys the challenge of giving crash-courses in subjects before last-minute finals for new students.
Yuanyuan (Elizabeth) Zhang
Chinese Director / Tutor
Fluent in English and a native-speaker of Mandarin Chinese, Yuanyuan brings an incredible breadth of language training and linguistic expertise to her Chinese and ESL sessions. She graduated with a M.S.Ed. in TESOL from the University of Pennsylvania and has a B.A. in Business English. While in China, she taught classes of Chinese students of all levels in English at the prestigious private tutoring firm in Shanghai. She has developed the Chinese program of Lionheart Tutoring through her self-designed learning programs for students in grades PreK-12. She brings an energetic approach to Chinese instruction while incorporating games, iPad apps, songs, poems, and multimedia with her students. Parents have been delighted to find her as many private schools have embraced Chinese as a foreign language across the Main Line. Always dear to her heart, she loves working and developing her toddler program for young Chinese learners who are training their ears for the novel tones of Chinese.