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Sherwood Tutoring

The Four Levels - chapter-7 "Prestigious Education" by Tracy Sherwood

The best way to demonstrate the Four Tutoring Levels is to start at the top and move down the levels.  If you have an understanding of the ultimate in study ability, you will be more able to understand the underlying skills that must be mastered to attain the goal of study mastery. But first let me show an example of what study mastery is not. You are certain to be enlightened. I will use for my example the 'Pledge of Allegiance'. This is a patriotic recital that is used for demonstration only. If you disagree with the 'Pledge' being recited in our public schools, view this as you would any other piece of information your child may study on any subject. It is simply an example of what study is not.

The student recites flawlessly,

'I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which is stands, one nation under God with liberty and justice for all'.

Or...not so flawlessly as commonly recited as,

"I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the 'Nited States of America, and to the erpublic, for Richard Stans, one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all".

Cute, but obviously not comprehended. I have tested hundreds of children on each one's understanding of the 'Pledge'. About one out of one hundred fully understand what it is saying. Why not? Our children repeat this tune every school day of the year for at least six years. That's approximately 2000 times.

What's not to understand? Let's break it down into literacy skill levels starting with:


The Big Words

Ask yourself the meaning of each of the following words as meant in the 'Pledge'. And then, for an experiment, ask your child what each means in his own words. You may get some interesting answers. Check your dictionary, because many adults have a few incorrect ideas themselves:

justice      liberty       nation     republic     united     allegiance     pledge

It takes more than a dictionary to understand the meaning of these words. It takes some background understanding of the basics concepts of government, of varying regions from small to enormous, under separate and then larger leaders, as well as how people are not just a local community, but contribute to larger and larger communities from neighborhoods, to towns, to cities, to counties, to states, to countries, to nations. This can be taught in a very general manner without getting complex. But children don't have the slightest basics needed to even begin to understand what they are 'pledging' each and every school day. It's no wonder parents are increasingly opposed to this regimen in our schools. Our children are promising something they don't understand.

If these concepts in the above paragraph were taught well enough to then learn the terms in the list above, we have a more effective sequence in teaching. Assuming this is done and the student was able to learn the terms above through independent dictionary study, we have accomplished a vital part of comprehending the

"Pledge of Allegiance".

What Skills are needed to learn these words independently?

This is a step lower but still in Level Three. There are very exact study procedures that are applied in several steps here, which are protected by intellectual property rights - not owned by me. I cannot go over these steps, but I can give you an idea of what barriers even excelling students run into when looking up a word in the dictionary. You will no longer wonder why students are so reluctant to use the most vital study tool for independent study.

Let's take just one word from the list:  justice

Most children read only the first definition when looking up a word in the dictionary. In fact, many adults stop there as well. It's not a lazy thing; it's avoidance of non-comprehension that usually accompanies looking up a word. Non-comprehension is a very uncomfortable barrier to learning. Unfortunately, reading just the first definition, rarely allows one to escape non-comprehension for several reasons that we will cover as we move down the steps and levels.

justice n. 1.the condition of being just or fair [there is justice in their demand]

First of all, this is not the complete meaning of justice in the 'Pledge of Allegiance' is it? There is much more to understand here. And even if this definition were understood incompletely, let's look at what barriers would result in it being even less understood if lacking a few other basics in Level Three.

Within the definition itself there lay right before us, the most obvious barrier. Can you spot it? If you said the word, ' just ', you're correct. If a student does not know the meaning of 'justice', it's not likely he will understand, 'the condition of being fair and just '. To reach full understanding of 'justice', the student will have to jump to the definition of just in the dictionary and come back again. Yeah, sure, a genius bookworm might persevere here? I doubt it. It takes close supervision and training until the student masters such skill and self-discipline. But it is done every day with thousands of children and adults from struggling to genius levels, all over the world.

You may be disheartened to realize what study mastery entails. But step by easy step, you will see that there are very few who do not have the potential to attain this level of study mastery. Even older children who have not been able to learn to read with extensive one-to-one tutoring can and do accomplish not only mastery of study, but also swift mastery of study. It's all a matter of the right techniques and going step by easy step and never passing one until mastered. Now let's look at another step or barrier in this one definition - not to mention the other omitted definitions for demonstration purposes:

Say we are at the level of removing the barrier 'just', and now understand the definition of 'justice'.  Let's take a side step and see what other barriers might be found:

justice n. 1.the condition of being just or fair [there is justice in their demand]

What other word might bar a student from understanding this definition. Check yourself for meanings of the other words and see if you can spot another likely. If you spotted ' condition ', you are right. A common understanding of this word is in context to' whether something is in newer shape or worn shape'. Or possibly, with higher vocabulary students, 'whether one is ill, not ill, healthy, not healthy, or fit or unfit. These are the common understandings. In view of those understandings, try to fit one of those meanings into the definition of ' justice ' above and see what understanding - or confusion you derive.

Doesn't work well? That's because these definitions do not fit. And for many students, getting the conceptual understanding of the meaning of condition as meant above, is difficult. This is because it is used in reference to a state of being and requires more of a grammar perspective for its understanding. If I lost you here, it's because you are personally missing lower level skills that would make sense of this. But let's look at the correct meaning of ' condition ':

condition n 1. the particular way a person or thing is [weather conditions won't let us go]

Now looking at the definition and then the example, one can yet be left a bit confused when fitting them into the definition of: justice: the condition of being just or fair '. Now it will take several examples of understanding the broad concept of 'the way someone or something is' before many students will understand its usage in 'the condition of being just or fair'. Most students limit themselves conceptually to the example sentence in reference to weather: [weather conditions won't let us go]. It takes training to broaden one's view of how concepts can apply or not apply to other concepts. With training, one comes to do this on one's own, thinking up examples and becoming creatively but accurately conceptual. Such a student can then see how this definition makes perfectly good sense in the definition of justice.

But this training of conceptual application and flexibility is taught in LEVEL TWO. Therefore, we have other barriers to tend to still here in LEVEL THREE, and still here in this one word, justice. Let's move down a little step still in LEVEL THREE.

Assuming the student had the training and conceptual aptitude to understand these two words, in their correct definitions. He now can understand this word justice? Often not. Another barrier is that most students do not master the usage of the 'example' sentence. Some students understand that the 'example' sentence is simply to give more understanding of the definition by using the word in a sentence or phrase. But as mentioned before, many students are not able to carry over the example to understand how it fits in the meaning. But that was already covered. Let's look at the next step down in this barrier:

Many, many students do not even know the purpose of the example sentence. They do not know what the brackets [ ] represent, or why there is a sentence or phrase between them. Many students read the definition and run it right into the example and don't even know that it didn't make a bit of sense to them. They do not stop to say to themselves, "That didn't make sense". I need to look at this a little again a little closer. What are those bars around those words? What is this even saying? What don't I get?" They don't stop to ask themselves this because they are not 'trained' in these basics or to even stop and check one's own comprehension. Today it's all about 'memorizing' and passing tests with memory by association. It's simply missing basics and their application in study. It's simply its-bitsy missed steps, one right after another.

So now it looks as though the dictionary is impossible as a tool anyway? It sounds like a good idea when we tell our kids, "Look it up in the dictionary!   Now you know why they don't. They can't.

I do not want to put you into a state of depression about your child mastering study, because I want you to know that the way is not from the top down, but it's from the bottom up. It won't look so impossible when you look at it from the bottom up - after looking from top down. But let's briefly look at the other barriers in this highest level of study mastery so you can understand even better, why your child, and many adults will not use the dictionary.

Let's look at the definition of 'justice' again:

justice n. 1.the condition of being just or fair [there is justice in their demand]


Other barriers taught in LEVEL THREE:

The number in the front of each definition is usually skipped over and ignored by many students because they don't know why it's there. They aren't trained to read through different meanings - that one could learn to see which meaning fits best, and that each meaning has a number to separate it from others. Very simple, but not well known. So they are skipped when reading the meaning. Most kids, if they read more than the first meaning, run each definition into the next, not even realizing they have entered a new meaning and that only one will best fit.

Another barrier is that the dictionary doesn't explain meanings in conversational terms like you or I would explain a meaning to a student. Students are not accustomed to this format of communication - in phrases and without extra words to give plenty of examples and put the meaning in several ways. That's how you or I would explain the meaning of a word to someone isn't it? But the dictionary doesn't have room for that. It cuts its communication into concise terms that is often abstract and to the student, non communicative. Thus, another reason students do not like dictionaries.

Another tremendous barrier is grammar itself. This is understanding of how a meaning of a word can stay the same, while the spelling and usage changes depending upon its job in the sentence. A simple example is the word: stand. One meaning would be express [stand up for what one believes]. This would be doing something and therefore is a verb. Another use of that word has the same idea, but is talking about [the thing one is standing up for] for example 'freedom'. A thing is a noun. So you have the same idea, listed separately in the dictionary twice. One as a verb, another as a noun. And many words have more than one grammar usage other than noun or verb with the same basic idea. This is another reason students dread looking up words in the dictionary. If they do not master grammar in its dictionary application, these meanings run together and come out to explain very little. These are missing basics learned in LEVEL TWO.

When all of these basics are mastered, and real study has begun, we go for 100% comprehension. This includes every word that makes up the idea or ideas being communicated in writing or in speech. In studying something like the 'Pledge of Allegiance' every connecting word has significant meaning.

If we skip over looking at the smaller words, understanding the big words won't help a lot. Let's take a look at the 'Pledge' one more time:

'I pledge allegiance to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the republic for which is stands, one nation under God with liberty and justice for all'.

Look at the smaller words, such as stands , under, and all .

Keeping in mind the context of their use in the 'Pledge', define each of these words in your own words. Now determine how well your child would do.

Now look at the remaining little words and see how many you can define according to their meanings in the 'Pledge'. You may need a dictionary! Each of these little connecting words has much meaning, and without understanding them, our comprehension becomes vague.

How many could your child define?


It's vital to understand, that many an excelling student I have tested, tested very high in grammar - in a test simply for grammar. But when tested on whether or not he can conceptually apply what he has been taught to dictionary use, very few master this skill well enough to face the self-discipline needed to willingly use the dictionary when studying. Most parents of excelling students will tell me they rarely use the dictionary unless required of a homework assignment - which is also rare, as you may have observed. In any case, less than one percent of our nation's students master the dictionary in its fullest sense. And a small percent of these master the dictionary in relation to study itself.

Becoming more and more accustomed to how the dictionary communicates can be learned. The unpleasant and more difficult way is simply through years of use - which fewer and fewer students are experiencing these days. The swiftest and most enjoyable way to become comfortably oriented to the dictionary lingo is done in LEVEL TW0.

So we have found that almost every element in a dictionary definition can be quite confusing to a student. From understanding the numbering, to the example sentence, to comprehension of the terms used to define and the various grammar usages, all the way to the advance skill of conceptualizing the meaning to one's text. Many skills are needed just to apply this one skill of 'look it up in the dictionary'. There is hope however, and progress moves swiftly with the help of an expert tutor.

LEVEL TWO - Bridging from reading to mastery of study

The above itemized basics are applied in LEVEL THREE and are prepared for in LEVEL TWO. Remember Karate Kid: paint the fence, wax the car etc.? The karate student was learning motions by repetitive action. He repeated these motions without knowledge of how they would later be applied. This is because if the instructor were to try to teach him how they would be used while learning the motions, it would become too complex; he would also be thinking about fighting and the student wouldn't be able to concentrate on the exactness of the motions. It's a matter of breaking it down into simple steps, one before the other.

But even in learning these earlier steps, one must have a purpose or some understanding involved in the process. In the Karate Kid, his purpose was, 'to wash the car' and to 'paint the house'. This was enough purpose once he got on the jobs and started making some progress. It wasn't his original purpose for his lessons, but he knew in the long run it must all connect somehow. By the time he mastered the motions, the rest fell into place and he learned swiftly. My tutoring program is so structured as you will see:

LEVEL TWO of Superphonics prepares the student for an easier progression into the dictionary and thus mastery of study. There are many enjoyable and challenging tutoring drills that unbeknownst to the student, will arrive him at advanced dictionary and study aptitude that even surpass that of most highly educated parents. Before the student is expected to 'look up the word' in LEVEL THREE, he masters all it entails and is very sharp and quick in doing so. From first testing to graduation day, he experiences no discomfort when the time comes to put it all together to accomplish independent study mastery for any subject.

LEVEL TWO drills are much like games and little intellectual exercises. Many of them require observation of objects, the environment, people, and past recollection of memories. The student coaches a parent or another student if in group-session, in order to do a drill step in his own learning. There are various drills and activities in each of most sessions, which break up the session time into small interesting segments. We want the student to look forward to his next session and always feel quite a bit smarter at end of each session. We want the parent to sit in and be involved in the drills and activities and learn what her child is learning. There is no faster progress than with a parent who knows the techniques and who can help her child practice between sessions and support study mastery for the years ahead. This makes for promise of very easy college years and a college graduate who studies for application of knowledge in life, rather than mere grades.

So LEVEL TWO is simply the bridge between basic reading and advanced study mastery. There are many basics mastered in LEVEL TWO. One vital note is that although some of these basics are taught in school, it is important to observe that they are taught largely for themselves as a subject rather than their application to study. They are applied to writing skills largely, but without advanced mastery, even writing skills will fall below the student's potential. Grammar for example is tested in sentence patterns and writing. They are not taught for the purpose of study skills that have value in study comprehension. The student can pass tests with multiple choice questions and memory by association and such. This is why so many students I test fail my study skills check. And believe me, it's most often just a simple check, because few students are up to being tested on real study aptitude.



It's heartbreaking to find so many students years behind in reading and spelling words. The difficulties for this level of student falls far below comprehension. If one cannot read (pronounce) the word in front of him, it doesn't matter whether or not he knows the meaning. He can't read the word to find out. In the sentence, "The bear ran beneath the tree", there are words that many students of varying ages cannot read. If they can't read it, they can't understand it - unless you read it to them. Then you find the comprehension of these words is just fine. The problem is he can't read the words to find out.

Spelling is also a crippling barrier to writing. Writing deficiencies impede progress in comprehension. Students who can read fairly well, but do not write because they have poor spelling and grammar, will make slower progress in reading comprehension.

Also, weak spelling accompanies a weakness in reading words. They go hand in hand because they are both based on speech sounds, which the student has not been trained in or has not caught on to. Some students memorize the spelling of words without learning the phonics (speech sounds of the alphabet). This is sight- spelling which accompanies sight-reading (memorizing the pronunciation without sounding out the word). Such students may have an enormous sight-vocabulary for both reading and spelling. This leaves the student stuck however when encountering a word that has not previously been memorized and stored in the mental sight-vocabulary. New words are often mispronounced by sight-readers. Phonics enables one to decode a word by sounds at first encounter.

Many students can read words and spell with no problem, yet have trouble understanding what they read. This is because of missing basics in sentence structure, punctuation of sentences and paragraphs, low vocabulary or past upsets in the learning process.

There are also students who understand most everything you say or read to them but have trouble reading independently.

Still, others cannot read the words or understand the material when one reads to them.

All of these cases have missing basics. Some are missing due to not being taught, getting lost along the way, or due to a general inhibited learning aptitude Whatever the case, if the student can communicate basic survival needs, has some function of his lips, tongue, ears and eyes, and often even without some of these, an individual can learn. It just takes the right sequence of the correct techniques and endless patience.

Many students move swiftly through LEVEL ONE and come to pronounce nearly any word in the dictionary independently as well as attain a high level of spelling aptitude. Many such students come in completely deaf to the sounds of letters or syllables in words, reverse letters while reading, leave letters out, add letters where they don't exist and many other astonishing twists in reading. Many come with every single one of these manifestations. But the number or severity of these manifestations does not mean the student will not be a fast case. It is the learning aptitude and correct sequence of effective techniques that will determine the speed of progress - factoring in the parent's interest and involvement in the program. Such students may graduate from LEVEL ONE within a few weeks of tutoring.

Other students have bigger barriers to get through. I do not call them learning disabilities simply because very few are actually irreparably disabled. In most cases they are simply impeded by one or more of the following:

1. There have been traumatic emotional upsets that have caused the student to withdraw his communication and/or focus.

2. Lack of effective eduation has resulted in little or no progress and the student has given up and no longer has desire to try.

3. The student is convinced he has a learning disability and has no hope.

4. A neurological or physiological barrier have seemed to limit but usually do not block ample progress with the correct sequence and specialized techniques.

5. There has been no structure in the environment and learning has not been enhanced. Often this is instead an environment of TV, video games and unstructured free time. This child is often resistant to learning as well as to your parenting. There is intelligence to be tapped and this student may prove to be one of the fast progress students when parent participation is present. Progress matures an irresponsible child.

6. The student has never spoken for himself and has never thought for himself. There was always a sibling or parent to speak for him when it comes to his needs and wants, viewpoints, ideas, and communication in general. Such children often have speech difficulties and later difficulties with sentence structure and expression of things that took place. These students may take on a quiet interest such as drawing, taking things apart and putting them back together, making things and so forth; anything they can do on their own free of outside input. But once outside control enters, the student often withdraws from such interests as well.

7. The is the willful, irritable student in need of education about life, family purpose, self-value and contribution to others. This child is often found to contribute little to others and the family as a whole. Progress in effective education is a personal enhancement but lower level help is occasionally needed before progress on Levels 1, 2 or 3 can take place. Often however, a little progress in tutoring can transform such a student into a well-centered family member.

Special cases require special handling. This calls for:

LEVEL ZERO - Breakthrough Tutoring

Level Zero explains the 4 Levels of Superphonics. LEVEL ZERO consists of 'Breakthrough Tutoring techniques, custom to the student's needs. Breakthrough programs are done when testing shows that progress will be impeded unless we break through the student's impeding barriers. Sometimes the Breakthrough Drills are done concurrently with another Level. As the Breakthroughs are being made, the other Level starts to snowball and soon the student is progressing in big strides. LEVEL ZERO lasers in on a student's particularly tough barriers and break through the those holding back his progress. These barriers may include but are not limited to: Concentration, focus, confidence, shyness, attitude, depression, anger, fear, fidgeting, daydreaming, and many more.


Most students can get through all levels of Superphonics eventually, limited only by the degree of life experience and life education needed for conceptual understanding of various fields of knowledge.

LEVEL THREE, Study mastery includes apprenticeships in areas of the student's interests. Professionals help to apprentice students who opt for these opportunities. For example a student who masters study may find he has taken an interest in accounting or science. He can then experience real life hands-on in the local college or with a local professional.

Graduates of LEVELS 1, 2 and 3 coach others on what they are learning as they learn. At end, they are proficient teachers. My son Michael was home-schooled since mid 2nd-grade and passed his High School Proficiency Test when he was thirteen. He is now 20 and has tutored children and adults, has written two high-tech science fiction books, has been a technical writer for a software document editing company and is now apprenticing in networking for a computer company. His ultimate goal is to become an independent charter pilot and computer programmer in his own business. Michael was a child of average intelligence, taught with LEVELS ONE, TWO, THREE and a lots of LEVEL ZERO BREAKTHROUGH techniques.

Tracy Sherwood is now taking students in Sherman Oaks and surrounding areas. Schedule a testing-demonstration session by calling Shelly Wood:

    Call 661-588-4089       Cell: 818-469-1378      

1-888-KFI-TUTOR (888-534-8886)

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Superphonics Copyright Tracy Sherwood 1985, 2000, 2003, 2004

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