Having taught both middle school and high school level English courses, Benjamin Kukainis understands just how widespread literacy problems are throughout the United States. As education currently remains in a constant state of reform, Kukainis observes that one of the most important issues for today’s educators is to ensure students receive lessons regarding the foundations of literacy.
Kukainis explains, “Without proper literacy, students will have difficulty in most aspects of study from math to science; it is an important skill that determines academic success in and outside of the English classroom.” In addition to scholarly performance, literacy is an issue that can be found among adults who may not have developed solid reading comprehension skills at an early age.
Ongoing research has shown that illiteracy in adults has impacted work performance and employability among individuals. Benjamin Kukainis adds, “Illiteracy can snowball out of control—adults who are illiterate may end up passing these habits on to their children, promoting a general sense of incomprehension that is essential in modern society. It is for these reasons that educators must focus on ways to encourage reading comprehension as early as possible and to continue these lessons all the way throughout the high school levels.”
As many of today’s teachers know, there is a wide variety of approaches to education that are widely debated in the academic community. However, an emerging teaching method may provide a new solution in helping children develop stronger reading skills. A recent report from an ABC affiliate, WQAD in central Illinois, highlights this new model which has been coined “Voweletics.”
While many are familiar with the lessons of “phonics” that gained in popularity throughout the 1990s, most parents, students and teachers will probably prove unfamiliar with the principles of Voweletics. WQAD explains, “Voweletics, it’s a learning approach most parents have never heard of and that’s because only one school in the country is using it…Lourdes Catholic School in [Bettendorf, Illinois] has been using the teaching method for three years and one of their own teachers created it.”
The report goes on to explain how creator and first grade teacher Jane Volden employs the method, noting that it integrates the principles of reading and speech with the acts of dancing and singing. Volden explains her approach to Voweletics, “We are really having a great time and it’s wonderful to see the children’s enthusiasm, the way they embrace it. It’s very important that we lay the foundations so that students are not guessing at reading, they have the knowledge and they know the how and why those vowels make the sounds they do.”
While the model has only been used in one school, its success is notable. The report explains students who undergo the Voweletics model move on at a higher level. Principal David Hodin adds, “At the end of first grade, they’ve mastered those blends and sounds.” In addition to the success of literacy that students gain, Volden has developed the program to become incredibly comprehensive as she has “has devoted 10 years to making this program and from it has evolved 23 songs, lesson plans and textbooks.”
Although the growth of Voweletics may appear slow, Benjamin Kukainis believes that this new approach is one essential for all educators to consider—especially those teaching younger classrooms. Kukainis adds, “This program is described as one designed for students in kindergarten to second grade; it’s a great way to establish strong reading comprehension in students in a fashion that is fun. If programs like these become more widely implemented, the nation may see a considerable decrease in illiteracy rates.”
Programs like Voweletics may help younger students approach reading and speech from a new perspective, but many may wonder how this unique teaching model can impact older students—such as those in high school and middle school—who struggle with literacy. In response, Benjamin Kukainis concludes, “Voweletics stands out because it encourages interaction—it engages the students; that quality is something that all educators should continue to observe when seeking ways to improve the way students receive taught material.”
Benjamin Kukainis is a young professional focused on teaching English at the middle school and high school levels. As a recent graduate from Rutgers University, Kukainis earned his Bachelor of Arts in English in 2010. Only about three years after earning this degree, he has continued to pursue his Master of Arts in English, also at Rutgers University, yet has also taken time to explore the new potential that a teaching career has to offer. With a modern approach to academics, Kukainis has maintained a heavy focus on teaching the importance of literature and English skills, yet has taken care to connect with his students by creating engaging, interactive lesson plans.