Ronald McDonald House

Research has shown that having a strong support system of family in close­ proximity during medical treatment can go a long way when it comes to the healing process. Multiply that need for a support system by a billion when it comes to sick children. That is why it is so vital for families to stay connected and close during such a scary time. Unfortunately, many families have to travel thousands of miles in order to obtain the best treatment possible for children. Where do those families stay during that time? How do they pay for it when, in many cases, insurance alone does not cover the cost of medical bills? Often times, parents are forced to leave their jobs in order to remain by their child’s side 24­hours a day. That is where Ronald McDonald House Charities is helping to bridge the gap. An organization that allows sick children, who are receiving medical treatment at local pediatric facilities, and their families to remain in close proximity during their treatment for little or no cost. Each year, Ronald McDonald House enables nearly 9 million families around the world to stay together for the length of their medical treatment!

Passionate about this charity and its mission, Playful By Design and Add Ease Tutoring is excited to share RonaldMcDonald Charities as their chosen charity! Playful By Design has been supporting Roland McDonald House of Tampa for over a year and we are so pleased that Add Ease Tutoring joined on this mission on November 2014.
The average cost for a family of 4 per night is $80 at the Ronald McDonald House in Tampa. The family shares 1 room with either 2 twin beds or 2 double beds and a private bathroom. All of the guests of the house share a fully­stocked kitchen, eating area, laundry facilities and play areas. While families who are utilizing the house are asked to donate the $80/night themselves, it is not a requirement if they are financially unable; Ronald McDonald house will waive the nightly fee but it requires donations from the public in order to do so.

In addition to monetary donations, Ronald McDonald House also gratefully accepts food donations in order to provide their families with nutritious meals each day. Meals can either be prepared by a restaurant or bought at local grocery stores and then prepared directly at RMD. The academic coaches at Playful By Design will also be participating in this opportunity and we encourage all of our followers to do the same!

7 Syllable Types

Beyond letter recognition, sound association, isolating and blending, teaching children how to read our complex English language can be a daunting task.  Where does one even begin to teach children the rules and regulations that are associated with reading?


For instance, while teaching reading throughout my career, many times I have found myself wondering or outwardly saying to my students, “I don’t know why they used a ‘ph’ in that word instead of an ‘f’,” or, “I realize those letters are ‘augh’ but they actually make the short ‘o’ sound together like in the word ‘taught’ but they say the short ‘a’ and ‘f’ sound like in the word ‘laugh.”  Phew!  This kind of confusion applies to many words in our language.


Understanding and familiarizing yourself with the 7 syllable types can greatly ease the teaching process.  Once your child, or student, is familiar with them, they can be referenced at any time when attempting to decode words.


Picture this syllable type as a door that is shut.  It is a syllable in which a vowel is followed by a consonant.  In that case, the vowel usually makes the short sound.


hat       kit/ten           rab/bit

mug          up                nap/kin

muf/fin     in/sect             sat




This syllable type can be thought of as a door that is open.  Any syllable that ends in a vowel, the vowel is almost always long.

he               ti/ger                fo/cus

go              ba/by                 ro/bot

spi/der      pa/per                se/ven



Mama E


Essentially, this is a syllable that has a long vowel, followed by a consonant, and then a silent e.  This is a fun one because it requires me to do a little role playing.  To explain the concept to children, I talk in a little old lady voice, wave my finger at them as if I were the “mama E” at the end of the word and the vowel was my child.  I say in my old voice, “vowel, you say your name!”  And then I tell them that is Mama E’s only job…she makes the vowel say their name (or make their long sound) and then she is quiet after they listen to her.


cake          pine            shake

name        bone           tote

poke         home            flute


Vowel Team


I remember when I was learning how to read, I was taught, “two vowels go walking, the first one does that talking.”  That is the idea behind the Vowel Team, though that rule doesn’t apply to every situation. Really, the rule is that a syllable that has 2 vowels next to each other make one sound when combined.


team         pie            tray

street       float          goo/gle

boat         seed           boy/ish


R-Controlled Vowel  


A syllable in which a vowel that is in front of a single “r” is then “controlled” by that r.

(ar, er, ir, or, ur)


stir        bird            yard

burn      purse         fern

car         star             fort





This is a syllable where, when two vowels are combined, form a new vowel sound.

(oi, oy, oo, oo, ou, ow, au, aw, ew)


boil         pool        claw

cloud      toy          audio

book      cow           chew


Consonant -le


An “le” appears at the end of a word with a consonant.


bub/ble          sta/ple        hum/ble

cas/tle            jun/gle        tram/ple

cir/cle             han/dle        jug/gle


Building a strong foundation in reading is key to developing fluency.  In addition to learning the 7 syllable types, reading with an adult daily for at least 10-15 minutes is greatly beneficial and will transfer across all subject areas.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”  -Dr. Seuss


Blog written by Lauren Bronson from Tampa Learning Co. 

What is STEAM?

The latest philosophical shift towards designing curriculum that supports STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in the classroom is creating a generation of students who are able to work collaboratively and innovatively in the workforce.  The purpose behind the focus on STEAM is to cultivate our future society’s ability to innovate and to boost the economy that will eventually be lead by the children of today.  STEAM activities are being incorporated into schools across the nation in grades as early as pre-kindergarten and throughout high school.


What used to be known only as STEM, it has been modified into STEAM in order to include the very important Arts and Design element.  The idea of the importance of incorporating the Arts into this movement can be much attributed to Daniel Pink’s New York Times’ and BusinessWeek’s bestseller book, A Whole New Mind, where Pink discusses “why right-brainers will rule the future” as our society “shifts from the left-brain dominated Information age” towards one created by design and innovation. Still, while right-brained children will greatly impact our future, it is still essential to cultivate our left-brained students who will lead the way in the other areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.




The internet offers a wide variety of STEAM activities and resources for all ages that can be incorporated into the classroom in any capacity.  Here are just a few:


  • Education Closet’s Steam Portal is a website that offers ideas for lessons and other resources for support and information.
  • Students can compete with teams nationally and across all grade levels through Odyssey of the Mind.  Teams are challenged with complex problems that will require creative thinking in order to solve.
  • DIY is a forum that allows students to explore their own skills and share them with others.  From art to philosophy to business-related skills, there is a place for everyone.
  • Digital STEAM Workshop from Autodesk provides projects created by field experts in an effort to support project-based learning.  Students can choose from a plethora of project challenges and can also choose between beginning, intermediate and advanced levels to best meet their learning needs.
  • The Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education is another great resource for project ideas that support STEM.
  • KinderArt provides a multitude of art lessons and is sorted by age and by medium.  It provides project ideas, art history lessons, vocabulary, filler activities and so much more!

Blog written by Lauren Bronson from Tampa Learning Co.

What is a Flipped Classroom?

Imagine homework that consists of watching lessons via the internet, collaborating with peers in a teacher-monitored online forum and asking questions regarding their learning.  At the same time, consider the possibilities of corresponding activities, homework and projects taking place within the classroom during the school day.  This is the idea behind a “flipped classroom.”


The flipped classroom was created in 2007, when teachers Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams needed a solution to the problem of how to deliver content taught during the day to the students who were absent from school.  They began utilizing software that recorded their PowerPoint presentations and shared them with those absent students.  This idea became very popular among other teachers and eventually lead to the flipped classroom.


Advantages of the flipped classroom include:


-Teachers have the availability during the day to personally work with students to explain concepts that are challenging to them.


-Students are more likely to watch online videos at home than they are to complete assigned homework that they feel is too difficult.


-Studies on the concept of the flipped classroom show that students have greater success in the areas of math and english when compared to students in a traditional classroom setting.


-Students arrive to the classroom with prior knowledge and a familiarity with the topic that will be addressed that day.


-Teachers have the ability to deliver differentiated instruction simultaneously

Flipped Classroom 1

Some disadvantages of the flipped classroom that can easily be remedied:


Problem:  Students may have limited or no access to the internet at home.

Solution:  Students can remain at school after the school day and utilize the internet or students can visit the public library.


Problem:  Recorded lectures mean that students cannot ask for clarification during the lesson.

Solution:  Teachers can encourage students to write their questions down and can address them individually the following day.


Problem:  Determining how to address students who consistently need to view the lectures at home.

Solution:  Students need to be held accountable for watching the lessons just as they would for completing their homework assignments.  Teachers can utilize software that keeps track of who views the lectures in their entirety.


FlippedClassroom 2


Post written by Lauren Bronson from Tampa Learning Co.

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