The Phonics Program (residency) is an innovative approach to teaching reading readiness using songs, dances, signing, and visual arts. Since all students do not learn in the same way or at the same rate, the program uses multiple stimuli to teach phonics to pre-kindergarten through first grade students. The program was developed by Jerry Raven, a Western New York composer, musician and educator; Cindy Hanna, a dancer; and early childhood art specialist Marna Burstein. Teaching artists attach each consonant or vowel to a variety of activities, which establish and reinforce the connection of the letter to its corresponding sounds.
Students have the opportunity to work with two teaching artists specialized in music and movement work with a small group of students from each class or an entire class, teaching four or five songs and dances relating to the letters of the alphabet at each session. After each visit, the songs are reinforced by the classroom teacher who leads the entire class in the corresponding visual art activity described in the accompanying Curriculum Book. Students listen to the accompanying CD and sing along while working on the art project. The Residency culminates in a celebratory performance by all participating students.