Ms. Panda has a soft voice. She encourages children to pronounce letters and vowels and to pronounce words. Then she asks them to embrace their smart brains.

The voice behind the colorfully dressed animated character on their computer screens is that of UC Riverside education researcher Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette. Ms. Panda, a lively educational emissary, was Navarrette’s creation.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Navarrette created the character by uploading all of her physical education materials to a digital learning platform known as the “ABC Rule of 3”. The program offers English learners and other early childhood learners a unique way to acquire language and literacy skills. Navarrette adapted their existing, in-person, Rule of 3 curriculum by creating lesson scripts, imaginative PowerPoint presentations to build children’s vocabulary, animated phonic charts and catchy songs.

Ms. Panda’s promotional video for ABC Rule of 3. (Courtesy of Dr. Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette)

This research-based teaching design aims to accelerate students’ language and literacy skills through engaging lessons. The program is part of Navarrette’s Moving Forward project, designed to help English language learners and students with limited English proficiency. Project Moving Forward is supported by a grant from the US Department of Education.

“This pandemic has struck, and parents and teachers have started writing to us asking us to bring the Rule of 3 program online,” said Navarrette, who started Project Moving Forward in 2012. She is a researcher at the Graduate School of Education at UCR. Previously the idea was to simply teach using the Rule of 3 in classrooms, but the ABC Rule of 3 online program now provides access to teachers and parents across the United States.

“Parents can provide additional instructions at home,” Navarrette said. “Teachers can use the structured curriculum to accelerate learning and differentiate teaching. Lessons can be viewed multiple times until each standards-based skill is learned.

In the new website,, users can find classes for kindergarten students. The goal is to continue downloading content for the other grades of elementary school, Navarrette said.

The Rule of 3 program has been used in dozens of school districts across the United States, including the Inland Empire.

DIBELS- English learners meeting benchmarks
DIBELS- English language learners meeting benchmarks (Courtesy of Dr Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette)

Rule of 3, or RAP, stands for Repetition, Analysis, and Word Production. It is a fast paced interactive program that puts the learning burden on the child. Since its inception, Project Moving Forward has received two multi-million dollar grants and a prestigious Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association. In 2018, its effectiveness caught the attention of Assistant Undersecretary of the US Department of Education and Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA), José Viana. He visited the Inland Empire to watch teachers teach the program.

For nine years now, Rule of 3 participants have shown significant gains on standardized tests, including the CELDT, ELPAC, DIBELS and Gates-MacGinitie reading tests.

In 2019, a one-year randomized study of 339 students in 16 kindergarten classes from nine different schools demonstrated the effectiveness of the rule of 3. Navarrette said that 73.9% of English learners given that the intervention met national criteria, compared to only 6.9% in the control group.

“My goal has always been to close the achievement gap. Students of color in some districts come with huge learning curves and this program is helping them make incredible progress, ”said Navarrette.

Students working during the Rule of 3 lesson at Las Palmitas Primary School in March 2020 (UCR / Sandra Baltazar Martínez)
Students working during the Rule of 3 lesson at Las Palmitas Primary School in March 2020 (UCR / Sandra Baltazar Martínez)

Transition Kindergarten teacher Shannon Rodriguez said her students’ reading, writing, listening and speaking skills have improved significantly over the past school year with the 30-minute ABC Rule of 3 online program, and they loved the interaction with Ms. Panda.

“Not only did they learn their letters and sounds, but their English also improved,” said Rodriguez, a teacher at Las Palmitas Elementary School in Thermal, a desert community in the Coachella Valley Unified School District. “I have a lot of non-English speakers in ‘TK’ and by doing the songs with Ms. Panda and making their phrases grow and fatter every day, their English skills have improved dramatically.”

Ms. Panda helped her virtual education, but prior to COVID-19, she used the rule of 3 in her classroom. Over the course of his 24-year career, Rodriguez said it was the program that best allows students to read and analyze questions.

Before the pandemic hit, Gloria Perez, a preschool teacher at Las Palmitas Elementary, was surrounded by large yellow sticky notes, filled with sounds of letters and spelling patterns. The Rule of 3 curriculum class grew rapidly, with interactive sounds, jingles, and lots of body movements. Navarrette designed it to specifically keep little minds attentive.

“I’ve been teaching the program for two years and since learning it I’ve loved it,” said Perez, who has taught for 28 years. “I like the use of large images because without them the words are abstract; analyzing words allows students to see all parts of the word.

ABC 3 character rule.  (Courtesy of Dr Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette)
ABC 3 character rule. (Courtesy of Dr Linda Ventriglia-Navarrette)

Teachers and parents around the world can now find educational materials online, including animated videos with characters who speak English, Spanish and Mandarin.

“Online access can help reduce inequalities in education, and it means enabling our children to compete in school and in the workforce later in life,” Navarrette said.

Meet some teachers from Coachella Valley Unified School District who have used the Rule of 3 program: