Between the Lions is a ten-time Emmy Award-winning television series designed to help children ages four to seven acquire beginning reading skills and a love of reading. The program, broadcast daily for over a decde on PBS, features a family of lions -- Theo and Cleo and their cubs, Lionel and Leona -- who live in, and run, an enchanted library. Each episode centers on a book, newspaper or other everyday reading experience.
Between the Lions is built around a curriculum that incorporates the most recent evidence-based research in literacy instruction. Each episode features an engaging variety of entertaining animation, puppetry, live action, music and graphic segments that supplement the stories and address the curriculum goals.
Scientific research conducted by the University of Kansas, Harvard University, Mississippi State University, the University of Pennsylvania and others has consistently demonstrated that Between the Lions significantly boosts children's early reading skills in key areas, such as phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency and vocabulary.
Between the Lions is a co-production of Sirius Thinking and WGBH Boston, in association with Mississippi Public Broadcasting.
Lomax: The Hound of Music is a PBS children’s series produced by Sirius Thinking, Ltd., in association with Connecticut Public Television, and based on celebrated music teacher John Feierabend's First Steps in Music curriculum. The program features a good-natured, melody-obsessed puppet pooch named Lomax, his fluffy feline sidekick Delta, and their human companion, Amy, on a tune-filled train ride crisscrossing the musical landscape of America. With the help – and full participation – of real kids on the train and on location, and the viewers at home, Lomax and his friends doggedly pursue their mutual passion: tracking down the wonderful songs that form the heart of our nation’s diverse musical heritage.
Along the way, they meet an array of interesting friends and musical celebrities, who introduce them to the infectious melodies of American roots music, such as “Ain’t No Bugs on Me,” “All the Pretty Little Horses,” “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore,” “Mary Mack,” “Turkey in the Straw,” and more. In every half-hour episode, young viewers are invited to sing these classic folksongs with Lomax and his friends, and along the way, to gain a greater musical intelligence that will last a lifetime.
Accompanying Lomax, Delta, and Amy on their journey is Fred, the train’s genial conductor, who, because he has a knack for making all kinds of “mouth sounds,” also serves as the train’s whistle. And also on board are Louise and Clark – a pair of adventurous fleas who have hitched a fun-filled ride on Lomax.
As Lomax the dog tracks down the folk songs of America (much like his namesake, legendary musicologist Alan Lomax), he and his friends also discover that America is a land of fascinatingly diverse places and people. They travel to Louisiana, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, the Erie Canal, Arkansas, New England, “The West” and “The Seashore” to name just a few places, and everywhere the go they unearth the folksongs that have been passed down generation after generation.
Stop, look, and listen to our opening theme song!
Lomax and Delta on the TODAY Show!
Tutoring with the Lightning Squad
Tutoring with the Lightning Squad is a highly motivating, peer-supported, web-based, interactive multimedia tutoring model. Developed by Sirius Thinking, Ltd., and the Success for All Foundation in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, the program is designed to enable struggling readers in Grades 1-3 to achieve grade-level literacy proficiency by developing skills in fluency, phonics, word blending, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension through a series of game-like cooperative activities. The tutoring software enables a paraprofessional to serve up to six struggling readers at a time for 30 minutes each day, either during school hours or after school.
Features include students working cooperatively in pairs on laptops or tablets, alternating roles as “coach” and “player”; exciting new video and game content featuring characters from Sesame Workshop’s popular literacy education television program, The Electric Company; sophisticated assessments to analyze students’ progress and errors and prescribe next steps; and “celebrations” as children make progress. Students earn points throughout the activities and cash them in for games and videos in “The Prize Spot” after they’ve mastered a story level. In addition, families are given access to an engaging series of online video programs called “Home Links” that reinforce the material presented to students during their tutoring sessions. Parents are encouraged to watch these “shows” with their children so they can support their progress at home.
Tutoring with the Lightning Squad was launched just in time for the 2017-2018 academic year. In a brief randomized pilot study conducted in eight elementary schools shortly before the product was released, tutored students’ rate of growth was twice that of untutored students.
Tutoring with the Lightning Squad was funded by a 2015 Small Business Innovation Research award from the U.S. Department of Education.
Click above for a Lightning Squad project preview.
Watch Tutoring with the Lightning Squad in action!
Over the past several years, Sirius Thinking has been compiling an “animated interactive dictionary” which already consists of over 500 brief (15 seconds to approximately a minute) animated videos that define and explain the meaning of words experts consider it especially useful for young readers to learn. Our ever-growing series of videos features an array of silly and amusing recurring characters including a mistake-prone elephant, a trickster rabbit, a sweet but clumsy hippo, a gourmet chef goat with dozens of different ways to serve sneakers, a fashion-conscious (and fish-obsessed) bear, and many more, both animal and human.
Although all kinds of words can be and have been depicted, the Sirius Thinking Animated Dictionary excels in explaining the meaning of verbs, adverbs, and abstract nouns – words that are extremely difficult to define without the animation and audio our dictionary provides. The Sirius Thinking dictionary has been pieced together, bit by bit, through an array of diverse projects – definitions have been created to appear when eBook readers click on a word of text; to serve as “interstitial segments” in longer educational programs; and, most significantly, to be used for direct vocabulary instruction in Success for All 's preschool, kindergarten, and first grade classrooms.
Our next goal is to achieve a “critical mass” of kindergarten and first grade words. Once we do (and we're getting tantalizingly close), we plan to offer a comprehensive online and/or app-oriented animated dictionary enabling users to “look up” common words (via a custom web interface or mobile app) and expect a majority of their reasonable searches to be successful.
Also in development is an initiative to create a unique English-as-a-second-language resource by translating the narrations of our unique dictionary animations into bi-lingual texts featuring “scaffolding” in a variety of other languages, recording these translations, and using them as substitute or supplementary audio tracks. Furthermore, new audio tracks featuring “foreign” language versions of our definitions would open our Sirius Animated Dictionary to distribution in a variety of international markets.
Click above to see our dictionary in action!
Interactive Math Storybooks from Speakaboos
Sirius Thinking is proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Columbia Teachers College and Speakaboos, the interactive eBook company, on three innovative new interactive storybooks designed to teach early counting and mathematic strategies.
In addition to consulting with legendary Teachers College cognitive development psychologist Herbert Ginsburg, Ph.D., who conceived and led the effort, Sirius was responsible for music creation, and audio production and direction, on tall three book. Star Between the Lions puppeteers Jennifer Barnhart, Peter Linz, and Tyler Bunch provided the voice talent. Other major collaborators included FlickerLab, the technology and animation company founded by Harold Moss; Beatstreet Productions, the New York production house responsible for audio recording and sound design on Between the Lions and The Electric Company, and Alice Wilder, Ed.D., Speakaboos’ Chief Content Officer, co-producer of Blue’s Clues, and co-creator of Super Why.
You can read more about the project here. And, to sample the interactive eBooks themselves, click on the links on the right-hand side of the page.
Sirius Thinking has been collaborating, over the past several years, with two wonderfully imaginative educational app companies, Teachley and Tiggly. We've worked closely with both these firms on character casting, sound design, and audio direction and production, and have helped out in other creative areas as well.
Teachley was founded to bridge the gap between research and practice by three passionate teachers – Kara Carpenter, Rachael Labrecque, and Dana Pagar – who met studying Cognition & Learning at Columbia University. Rigorous research has shown students improve their fact fluency, strategy use, and fractions knowledge using their products.
Teachley’s research and development is supported by the U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation. We're proud that Addimal Adventure, an elementary-school-age mathematic app to which Sirius was priviliged to contribute, recently won an Apple Design Award. Find out more about Teachley here.
Phyl Georgiou, Dr. Azadeh Jamalian, and Bart Clareman started Tiggly in 2013 as a reaction to growing concerns about children’s screen-time. “70 years of academic research from the likes of Montessori have emphasized the importance of physical play,” explains Georgiou. “What if we could combine classic toys, like a shape sorter, with today’s digital devices? With Tiggly Shapes, Tiggly Math, and Tiggly Words we’ve done just that, taking the best of physical and digital to create an entirely new play experience. Academic research has shown our products are better learning tools than apps alone.”
Unabashed silliness and humor are central elements in all Tiggly’s learning products, and that’s one of the reasons Sirius has so enjoyed collaborating with the company. (We think you’ll be particularly delighted by Tyler Bunch’s performance as the wildly experimental, mathematics-obsessed, “Tiggly Chef.”) You can read all about Tiggly here.