Proven methods for teaching language, literacy, and learning

  • Literacy
  • Executive
  • Learning

If your students struggle with any of these skills, we can help.

  • Language
  • Homework
  • Metacognition

Get more from your students than you ever thought possible

Architects For Learning has pioneered methods that educators can use – across the curriculum, and in all settings – to develop the skills and strategies that students need in school and beyond.

Our Vision

Our vision is that educators have effective methods and tools for teaching what’s hard.

Our Methods

We wrestle with the real problems students have with language, literacy, and learning, and we work out solutions.

Our founder and CEO, Dr. Bonnie Singer, and her long-time research partner, Dr. Anthony Bashir, have dedicated years to developing innovative teaching methods and learning strategies that can be used by teachers and students in all grades.

All of our instructional methods and strategies

  • Are grounded by theory and research
  • Align with Common Core and State Standards
  • Can be used in general education classrooms as well as more specialized settings
  • Get proven results

We are always developing and testing new instructional strategies that are designed to meet the needs of ALL learners.

Our Team

Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP

Founder and Chief Executive Officer

B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Communication Disorders: Emerson College

Dr. Singer works with schools world-wide to develop sound practices for literacy instruction. She also directs a staff that provides academic intervention, assessment, and consultation services in Architects For Learning’s Boston area office.

For her entire career, Dr. Singer has been interested in the ways in which language and cognition interrelate to support and constrain language, learning, reading, and writing. She is particularly passionate about working with students who struggle academically, especially with written expression.

In partnership with Dr. Anthony Bashir, Dr. Singer developed EmPOWER™, a method for teaching expository writing, Brain Frames®, graphic scaffolds for language, literacy, teaching, and learning, as well as the Qualitative Writing Inventory and Me & My Writing/My Students’ Writing assessment scales. Her primary research and numerous publications focus on the relationship between spoken and written language, cognition, spatial processing, and self-regulated learning.

Dr. Singer received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in Communication Sciences and Disorders from Emerson College, where she also was an instructor and clinical supervisor. She currently holds an adjunct teaching position in graduate and professional studies at Endicott College.

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Jessica Curtin, M.Ed.

Director of Training Programs

B.S. in Elementary Education, Special Education, and Psychology: Fitchburg State College
M.Ed. in Creative Arts Across the Curriculum: Lesley University

Jess earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, special education, and psychology, and a master’s degree in Creative Art and Learning Across the Curriculum from Lesley University. She holds certification in education (grades 1-5) and special education (grades K-8). Her experience spans working as a 4th grade teacher, literacy coach, and special educator in Ansbach, Germany; special educator at a private school; and special educator as well as 5th grade classroom teacher in a public school.

Jess is a co-author of EmPOWER: Classroom Materials. She provides professional development and consultation to educators in EmPOWER, Brain Frames, and other instructional methods developed by Architects For Learning. Jess is particularly passionate about giving teachers practical and easy-to-use teaching methods that help them get the best out of their students.

“Helping students become effective readers, writers, and communicators is every teachers’ dream. Training teachers in order to help their students is my dream come true. When teachers have the language and tools to “make the invisible visible” for their students, then just about anything can be written, taught, talked about, and/or learned. In using the strategies we’ve developed, not only do I have an explicit way of teaching  teachers, but they then have an explicit and effective way of reaching their students.”

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Anthony Bashir, Ph.D., CCC

Educational Consultant

Ph.D. Communication Disorders: Northwestern University

Dr. Bashir has spent a lifetime dedicated to language and learning. He was the director of the speech-language pathology department at Children’s Hospital in Boston for 25 years; Coordinator for Academic and Disability Services for 14 years, the Director of the Freshman Academic Studies Program for 15 years as well as Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Emerson College. In addition, he has taught in Boston College’s Lynch School of Teacher Education for over 40 years. Dr. Bashir is an honored Fellow of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. His many years in clinical practice and teaching have led to research interests in the natural history of language disorders as well as the literacy and self-advocacy needs of students who struggle with language and learning.

Along with Dr. Bonnie Singer, he developed the EmPOWER™ method for teaching expository writing, the Brain Frames® graphics for supporting language, literacy, teaching, and learning, and the Qualitative Writing Inventory, and Me & My Writing/My Students’ Writing scales for assessing writing.

“I’ve been teaching for nearly 50 years, and I enjoy few things more than talking with teachers – hearing their stories, helping them adapt to the shifts in pedagogy and policy that come their way, and guiding them with understanding how powerful mindful listening and talking with their students can be. That partnership is so powerful.”

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Holly Graham, Ed.D.

Educational Consultant/Instructional Specialist

Holly has taught both English and history to middle school students in Massachusetts since 2003.  She began using EmPOWER and Brain Frames in her curriculum in 2004 then went on to become a trainer in these methods for Architects For Learning.  Upon completing her M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts-Boston in 2007, Holly began teaching graduate courses in language education at University of Massachusetts-Boston, taking coursework in the department of linguistics, and undergoing private study with Dr. Bonnie Singer.  She completed her Doctor of Education degree at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2015. In addition to designing instruction related materials for Architects For Learning, Dr. Graham teaches middle school English in Northampton, MA and holds a faculty appointment at Mount Holyoke College, where she teaches language and literacy courses to preservice teachers (including a course on using Brain Frames for classroom instruction).  Dr. Graham’s research is focused on teacher education, systemic functional linguistics, genre-based pedagogy, metalinguistic development, and instructional practices for teaching and learning.

“Dr. Singer’s training put me on a path to deeply wanting to understand the nexus between language education and content instruction delivery. Her methods provide students and teachers with ways to unpack language and unlock content area literacy all at once. Such strategies are emancipatory for my students, who now learn to talk themselves, literally talk, through the patterns and nuances of reading and writing in ways that invite far deeper access to schooling. I cannot remember how I taught before.”

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Our Story

Developing methods that transform teaching and learningBy Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., Founder/CEO

Founder’s Story

I was drawn to what I do by a kid named Mark.  I met him in the traveling theatre group I was part of in high school.  Mark was profoundly deaf.  The only person he could communicate with was his sister, and it bugged me to no end that I couldn’t talk to him.  In our spare moments in rehearsals and car trips to and from performances, I got him to teach me sign language, and I made a new friend.  Shortly thereafter, when applying to Emerson College to study vocal performance, I stumbled across a description of speech-language pathology, a field I had never even heard of.  In a flash, all my cells realigned.  Some voice from within me whispered, “Switch your major.” I did before even landing on campus.

I made that decision 37 years ago.  In hindsight, it was one of the best blind decisions I have ever made.  Early in my career, I became fascinated by kids who can’t read and went off to get a Ph.D..  Part way through, kids who struggled with writing captured my attention, and that’s where I focused my research.  Pretty soon came the kids who had challenges with attention and memory and spatial processing — all the skills needed to “do school.”  In 37 incredible years, I’ve remained endlessly fascinated by the ins and outs of language and their relationships with thinking and learning.

A few months ago, a colleague asked me what students struggle with the most.  Without blinking, I responded, “They’re massively disorganized.”  I didn’t mean messy.  I meant internally disorganized — their language and thinking and ways of approaching hard tasks get all jumbled up.  One of my students likened it to the mangled-up ball of Christmas tree lights that are impossible to untangle.

The result?  They don’t make sense.  They don’t make sense of what they read, or what others say to them.  They don’t make sense when they explain something or write.  Because their actions are guided by inner dialogue, and their inner dialogue is inherently disorganized, they often do things in ways that don’t make sense too.  Though they may be quite bright, they’re all over the place.  In other words, they’re in a muddle.

I realized recently that what has gotten me out of bed with a sense of purpose all these years is an undying commitment to make sense of the muddle.  To unpack it, understand it, impose some kind of order in it and, well, make it less muddled.

Take my recent conversation with Ricky, for example, a second grader I was talking to the other day.  He was sharing what he did at camp:

“We…um…went…um…I forget.  We did baseball camp.  It was fun.  We did outfield infield catching…uh…and…we…um…we…and that’s it!”

What he did at camp.  Got it…not!

Instantly, my brain kicks into gear, firing questions and searching for answers.  What the heck is going on with his language?  Or is it his thinking?  One is clearly affecting the other, but which got muddled up first?  And how?  And why?  And for the love of [insert name of higher power here], what do I do to help him?  My need to make sense of the muddle inspired me to create EmPOWER and Brain Frames and everything else I’ve come up with over the years.

You’d think that’d be enough for me to work on, but no.  I can’t stop there because the stakes for kids like Ricky are too high.  Organized language paves the way for establishing relationships, belonging in community, gaining knowledge and understanding, and self-knowing.

I get out of bed to make sense of the muddle Ricky is in, but what keeps me going for the rest of the day is helping Ricky’s teachers make sense of it too.  Because Ricky has important things to say now, and if he doesn’t learn how to express them, he won’t grow up able to make his unique contribution to the world.  Teachers are the key to his future.  If they have effective methods and strategies to make sense of his muddle, they can and will change Ricky’s life.

Now we’re on a mission to bring our teaching methods to a million educators in the next decade.  Why wouldn’t I want to get out of bed for that?