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The Application of the Audiblox Program in the
Grade 0 (Kindergarten) Classroom

Kathleen Castro Amaro and Tersia Connell, teachers at the Musgrave Campus of the Crawford Schools in South Africa, report the results of the Audiblox program in the Grade 0 (Kindergarten) classes. The article was submitted to the Crawford Journal, and is reprinted with permission.

Audiblox is “…a system of cognitive exercises aimed at the development of foundation learning skills” (www.audiblox2000.com). It claims to improve concentration, perception, memory, reasoning, sensory motor integration, visual and auditory discrimination, spatial awareness, number concept and motor co-ordination. The benefits are said to include better achievement in reading, writing, mathematics and spelling with less learning difficulties, effective help for dyslexics, faster learning and working rate, improved classroom discipline, greater self-esteem and better motivation towards learning by the participants.

This system was first devised by Dr J. Strydom in the late 1970’s as a school readiness program for his daughter. It soon became apparent that the program had far-reaching benefits for children of all ages, especially those with learning disabilities. A number of case studies have been documented and these are recorded on the internet at www.audiblox2000.com and in the book The Right to Read, co-authored by Dr Strydom and Susan du Plessis. Most of the cases involve the individual tuition of children with learning problems. Our aim is to discuss the practical application of the Audiblox program in the Grade 0 (Kindergarten) classroom and to evaluate its claims and benefits with regard to a standard pre-school group.

The equipment required consists of a perspex board with the numbers 1-50 running in lines of 10 from left to right. Below the numbers are lines of shapes. The board is referred to as the Persepto. There is a box of coloured squares which can be attached to the Persepto for the teacher’s use and a separate box of coloured, plastic blocks and a cardboard screen for each child. It is necessary to attend training with an Audiblox master trainer before presenting the program in the classroom. The manual is well laid out and the exercises are set down in the order necessary for implementation.

In Grade 0 it is recommended that the Audiblox exercises are done every day for a period of twenty minutes. The teacher places the Persepto on a table in front of the class with the children sitting on the floor directly facing her. The preferred seating arrangement is for the children to be at tables, but this is seldom possible in Grade 0 as children usually work in groups of four to six at a table which does not facilitate direct vision. Each child has a box of blocks in front of him and stands the cardboard screen so as to prevent his neighbour from copying his patterns. Oh yes, they know all about copying, even at this stage!

The basic method used is Socratic. Leading questions are asked and all the information comes from the children. The teacher cannot indicate in any way as to the accuracy of the child’s answer until the exercise is complete. Silence must be observed and rules must be followed. The exercises present a constant challenge and are divised to stretch the learners’ capabilities to the limit. The pre-school program is comprised of a variety of exercises namely Pattern, Auditory, Spatial, Arrows, Counting and two variations of Sequencing. These exercises are grouped and arranged into five progressive levels. Each set of exercises is then repeated daily and extended according to the group’s ability for a period of about two months before moving up to the next level. Each exercise targets certain foundation skills. The Pattern exercise, for example, focuses on the development of concentration and the visual discrimination of foreground-background, form, position in space, colour, visual memory and shapes, while the Arrows and Spatial tasks help to develop a sense of directionality and assist with co-ordination and balance.

From a practical point of view it is difficult to fit the Audiblox program into the daily timetable as the Grade 0 program is already very intense. The best time to implement it would be first thing in the morning, but some specialist teachers have early morning slots and the children often arrive bursting with ‘news’! We have made a concerted effort to include it at some time in the morning and have made the following observations:

At least thirty minutes needs to be set aside for a twenty minute lesson in a group situation. The children take a while to set up and more teacher intervention is necessary when checking and correcting their work. For example, they do not always realise that they have reversed two colours and the correction needs to be pointed out.

The time allowed for each exercise is short, often only five minutes and while this is adequate with regards to Arrows, Auditory, Spatial and Counting; the children are not extended to their full potential during Pattern and Sequencing work. This is due to the various abilities of the children. The solution would be to group the children according to ability for this lesson, but unfortunately this is not feasible on our campus as the Grade 0 classes have some lessons in rotation.

We have found that it is necessary to begin with the easiest exercises and to progress slowly up the levels when teaching the class as a whole. Instructions have to be very clear. For example, the children are told to close their eyes while listening to instructions during auditory exercises and then told to proceed and build the sequence they have just heard. Initially, some of the younger children proceeded bravely, but because they were not told to open their eyes, (one simply assumed that they would), they were trying to build the sequence with their eyes closed!

The Grade 0 age level falls between four-and-a-half and six years which is a broad spectrum at this stage of development. They all enjoy the counting and pattern exercises, but the older children cope better with the spatial exercises. The auditory exercises provide the highest level of difficulty and are extremely good for developing listening skills. The children of today are bombarded with visual stimuli from sources such as television and many have poor listening skills.

We have noticed a definite improvement in all the areas mentioned under the Audiblox claims. A special note must be made here regarding a class that began following the program at the beginning of the third term. By the middle of the fourth term, the majority of the class could remember a sequence of up to fifteen colour blocks, a few children remembering up to twenty colour blocks. Every child in the class was able to complete a hundred piece puzzle and the improvement in the children’s figure-ground abilities, their counting and their visual discrimination skills was amazing. A vast improvement from previous years. It has also assisted us as teachers to identify children with specific problems, such as visual memory or directionality. The repetition of the exercises helps these children to make progress in their areas of weakness.

We believe that the exercises are most beneficial and lay a good foundation for better achievement in reading, writing, mathematics, spelling and learning. We need to liaise closely with the Grade 1 teachers in this respect and suggest that the program should be followed through into our Grade 1 classes. (This is an area we are already addressing.) The program grows with the children and it constantly challenges and develops the skills necessary for optimal achievement.

We cannot comment on the effectiveness of the program for dyslexics as our Grade 0’s are not yet at a diagnostic level for dyslexia. We do agree, however, that some learning difficulties are identified and these areas can be targeted and strengthened before they enter Grade 1.

The code of discipline calls for quiet, order and a high level of concentration. It is a good way to set the tone for the day and there has been a marked improvement in the behaviour of highly active children at this time. These children are often very bright and cope well during short periods of intense concentration. We have found that this discipline is soon adhered to and respected by the group, with complaints such as “You are disturbing my brain!” directed towards offenders.

The children are really proud of their achievements and have certainly grown in confidence through experiencing success. If they do not get an exercise correct they know they can correct it themselves after the checking interval. Some children have been heard to say, “That was a piece of cake!” after a particular challenging exercise. The children’s enthusiasm has grown and they are excited about doing the Audiblox program. They are known for complaining if we miss a day due to circumstances. We have observed that while most children enjoy the challenge, there may occasionally be a child with emotional or marked auditory processing problems who cannot cope with the pace of the lesson. This can be problematic for the teacher because she cannot exclude the child who may continually disrupt exercises and hold back the class. Such children need individual tuition and it would be ideal to have this take place at the same time as the class lesson. Another option would be to implement the home program, which involves the parents working with the children at home.

Professor E. J. van Niekerk from the University of South Africa commenting on the program remarked, “Educationalists, educational authorities and teachers especially should take the new prospects made by Audiblox very seriously” (2000: page 145). We, as Crawford teachers, do take it seriously. Our task is to prepare our children to meet the challenges of the future and to motivate them to always strive for excellence. The benefits of implementing the Audiblox program in Grade 0 are numerous and far-reaching. They extend to all areas of the children’s day and have a profound influence on future learning. By implementing the Audiblox program at this young age we are helping them to build a solid foundation for future learning. We conclude, therefore, that the program is a worthwhile and essential addition to any Grade 0 classroom.

Bibliography
Strydom, J., Audiblox Manual (Persepto) (Remedium: Pretoria, 2002).
Strydom, J., Audiblox Manual (Supplementary) (Remedium: Pretoria, 2003).
Strydom, J., www.audiblox2000.com, 2000 – 2003.
Strydom, J. & Du Plessis, S., The Right to Read (Remedium: Pretoria, 2000).

Authors bio
Kathleen Castro Amaro has been a Grade 0 teacher at Crawford, Musgrave, Durban since 1997. A former principal and H.O.D. she has been teaching for 35 years and has a national Teachers Certificate from Barkly House Training College in Cape Town and eight credits towards a B.A. (Psychology and English) from U.N.I.S.A. Kathleen is married, with two sons and lived in Portugal for five years where she obtained a T.E.F.L.A. Certificate and taught English. On her return in 1994 she was employed as a music specialist on the Musgrave Campus. She believes the foundation phase is crucial in preparing children academically and for giving them the skills and confidence necessary to face future challenges in life.

Tersia Connell has been a Grade 0 teacher at Crawford, Musgrave, Durban since 2001. She has been teaching for 9 years and has a dual diploma in Junior and Pre-Primary Education from Edgewood College in Pinetown. On completion of her diploma she moved to England, where she taught the foundation phase for five years. She is a firm believer in the importance of the Grade 0 year and after attending Audiblox training in the middle of 2003, she is a strong advocate for the inclusion of Audiblox in Grade 0.