The S.M.I.L.A. program has a successful history and was initially developed at Lester Demonstration School, a public school in Memphis, TN.  In 1996, the S.M.I.L.A.  training program moved to Shelby Oaks Elementary School, another Memphis City School, where we still continue to work with educators and students to this day.  Beginning in Summer, 2015, S.M.I.L.A. will offer the same training to the Nashville area.  Every summer, dedicated classroom teachers, speech pathologists, and school administrators spend four weeks at the Institute developing and enhancing their knowledge of the following components:


Content: What is Taught

  •     the identification of individual learning styles of students including their strengths and         weaknesses
  •     phonology and phonological awareness
  •     sound-symbol association
  •     syllable instruction
  •     morphology
  •     syntax
  •     semantics
  •     Oral Language
  •     Written Language

Principles of Instruction: How its Taught

  •     Simultaneous, Multisensory (VAKT)
  •     Systematic and Cumulative
  •     Direct Instruction
  •     Diagnostic Teaching
  •     Synthetic and Analytic Methodologies 

S.M.I.L.A. operates under the 501(c)(3) charter of the Binghampton Fellowship Foundation.  Our mission is to equip and train teachers in the use of the highly effective and proven research-based methods for instructing students to read, write, spell, speak, and comprehend oral and written language.  Accredited by the International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC), S.M.I.L.A. strives to promote language development and literacy for students in the early elementary grades where research has shown it is most effective and, thereby, leads to a more successful educational experience throughout school.

The multisensory method of language arts instruction allows for teaching to all of the learning styles – visual, auditory, and tactile/kinesthetic.  Derived from the Slingerland® Approach, the program trains teachers to incorporate the students’ auditory, visual, and tactile/kinesthetic senses into instruction for learning language skills.  Links are consistently being made between the visual (what we see), auditory (what we hear), and kinesthetic-tactile (what we feel) pathways in learning to read and write.  This approach teaches children and adults to link sounds of the letters with the written symbol and to feel how the letter or letters are formed.  For instance, as students learn a new letter, they carefully trace, copy, and write the letter while verbalizing the corresponding letter name.  Students then read and spell words, phrases, and sentences using these patterns.  Teachers and their students rely on all three pathways for learning rather than focusing on a single method.

Students who do not display symptoms of learning disabilities as they go through school tend to learn by using all of their senses to take in information, or they may naturally learn best through the same style used by the teacher in the classroom.  However, for many students, their strongest learning style has not been identified and is not the one being taught to in the classroom; so they are missing vital information needed to achieve.  Since reading, writing, and listening are the forms in which most academic instruction are presented, students who fall behind in the early grades are likely not to catch up and perform well throughout the subsequent years of school unless they receive remediation at an appropriate time and with a specially trained tutor.

S.M.I.L.A. provides teachers with the knowledge of language development and the skills needed to help all students make satisfactory progress in oral and written language, reading, decoding and comprehension.  S.M.I.L.A. hopes to reach more students by training a larger number of teachers and program instructors each year.

To learn more about how to become trained in the S.M.I.L.A. simultaneous, multisensory approach to language arts instruction, please go to our Professional Development link.

e 12 Endorsement is an add-on endorsement to initial teaching license (grades K-8 or 7-12), and requires completion of an approved Master’s degree program.  The program integrates a reading practicum that promotes the linking of theory and practice and requires successful completion of the following courses:

Christian Brothers University in Memphis Course Title: READ 630 Foundations of Literacy

Christian Brothers University in Memphis Course Title: READ 631 Integration of Literacy

Christian Brothers University in Memphis Course Title: READ 633 Reading Assessment

Christian  Brothers University in Memphis Course Title: READ 634 Reading and Writing Across the Curriculum

In order to complete the S.M.I.L.A program and apply it towards the endorsement, you must attend two summers. You may receive 6 credits for each summer attended.
The credits may also be applied to Christian Brothers University in Memphis’ M.Ed. program as well.

Visit the Christian Brothers University website for more information on applying to their M.Ed. program.


Once our program is submitted and approved by the state of Tennessee, including the 12 hours plus two additional courses at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, you will be eligible to apply for a Tennessee Reading Specialist K to Grade 12 Endorsement.
Additional requirements for obtaining a Tennessee Reading Specialist K to Grade 12 Endorsement include:

PRAXIS Exam: Reading Specialist, Qualifying Score: 510

Years of Teaching Experience: 3 years

Recommendation from the Director of S.M.I.L.A, Rosemary Williams

Accredited by IMSLEC and International Dyslexia Association

  IMSLEC                       IDA-Accredited-Program