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Friday, April 17, 2015

The Key to Improved Attention and Memory for Optimal Learning

Did you know that visualization can be the key to unlocking memory abilities, attentional skills and enjoyment for learning? Surprisingly, the use of mental imagery for learning is not a new
idea. 

Use of Visualization Throughout History:
In fact, an appreciation and recognition of visualization is sprinkled throughout history. It can be traced back as far as Aristotle in 348 B.C.  He wrote, “recollection is a searching of an image.” Again, in the 5th and 6th century, Greek and Roman intellectuals used mental images to
enhance memory (Ashcraft, 1989; Sadoski and Paivio, 2001). At that time, visualization was a common strategy used for public speaking.  Scholars used this skill, which is now known as method of loci, to organize and recall a speech by imagining and associating topics with everyday objects (Douville, Pugalee, Wallace, & Lock, 2002). Yet again, in the thirteenth century, St Thomas Aquinas spoke of visualization, indicating that we acquire knowledge by forming “phantasms” or mental images (Magill, 1963).  Finally, in the 19th and 20th centuries, a resurgence of interest in mental imagery took place in the fields of experimental psychology and cognitive psychology (Thomas, 2013). Piaget, with a focus on cognitive constructions and “mindfulness,” offered a renewed interest in the role visualization played in cognition and learning. (Douville, Pugalee, Wallace, & Lock, 2002).  Einstein was also a proponent of visualization and, to this day, is often quoted as saying, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” 

What's the Scientific Proof?
Most recently, scientific methodologies have been utilized to assess the validity and utility of visualization. In the past 50 years, researchers have looked at the impact of mental imagery on academic achievement. There is a host of research on this topic, and this blog focuses on some of the key studies that investigate the impact of mental imagery on learning.  

Research on the Impact of Visualization on Reading:
Research has investigated the effect of visualization on reading abilities. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between poor comprehension skills and the inability to visualize text (Gambrell, 1982; Gambrell and Bales, 1986; Gambrell and Jawitz, 1993; Steingart and Glock, 1979).  In contrast, research substantiates that students who picture what they are reading, thus painting the setting, characters and plot on the canvas of their mind’s eye, have better comprehension scores and find greater joy in the reading process (Bell, 1991; Gambrell, 1982; Gambrell and Bales, 1986; Gambrell and Jawitz, 1993; Long, Winograd and Bridge, 1989; Sadoski, 1985; Sadosi, Goetz and Kangiser, 1988; Sadoski and Quast, 1990; Steingart and Glock, 1979). Algozzine and Douville (2004) also assert that training in mental imagery aids students in generating their own mental images when reading. In addition, students who visualize while reading are better at making inferences and accurate predictions (Gambrell, 1982; Steingart and Glock, 1979). Moreover, research on the efficacy of using visual imagery has also been shown to improve deep connections that aid in memory recall and reading comprehension (Craik and Lockhart, 1972). Clearly, visualization is a necessary cognitive skill that helps readers attend to and encode literature, but mental imagery also helps learners develop their expressive language abilities.  

Research on the Impact of Visualization on Writing:
Employing visualization has also been demonstrated to enhance writing skills in students (Jampole, Konopak, Readence, & Moser, 1991). In particular, gifted students who received mental imagery instruction outperform those who did not on originality and the use of sensory descriptors (Jampole, Konopak, Readence, & Moser, 1991).  Additionally, Algozzine and Douville (2004), claimed that training in visualization helped students generate their own mental images when writing. Furthermore, Kwan-Lui, Liao, Frazier, Hauser, and Kostis (2012) reported that visualizing events described in writing, “is crucial for constructing a rich and coherent visuospatial mental representations of the text.” Finally, when Jurand (2012) researched the efficacy of visualization for a summer writing program, he reported that art projects were a successful method that helped students to visualize their ideas during the writing process, and they also served to develop the students’ imagination. Yet, reading and writing are not the only areas of academic achievement that benefit from mental images.

Research on the Impact of Visualization on Math:
Visualization hones mathematical abilities too. Dougville, Pugalee, Wallace and Lock (2002) suggested that using mental imagery can help learners to, “concretize abstract mathematical concepts in ways that facilitate more effective problem-solving.” They also noted that more advanced math imaging can be achieved through storyboarding activities where the steps of a math problem are drawn in a pictorial sequence. Dougville, Pugalee, Wallace and Lock (2002) claimed the words of their participants offered compelling evidence. Participants suggested that using mental imagery was like, “having a video camera in my brain” and like “going to a movie in my head” and that, “reading and learning was more fun” for the participant students.  Clearly, the mathematics community embraces the benefits of visualization but do the hard sciences concur?

Research on the Impact of Visualization on Science:
Even the scientific community is beginning to consider how visualization can make research more understandable and manageable to the public (Kwan-Liu, Liao, Frazier, Hauser, Kostis, 2012). When
students visualize graphic progressions and cycles, as well as webs, diagrams, and lab experiences, they can improve their understanding and memory of the content.  Although the research on visualization in the sciences is sparse, it appears clear that all areas of instruction are enhanced by learning to use one's mind's eye. 

Qualitative Evidence Supporting Visualization: 
Qualitative anecdotes further support the power of visualization in learning. Many of my students who love to read and also have excellent reading comprehension, claim that words, “create movies in
their heads,” which allows them to take a mind trip into the fantasy realm created by the author. Similarly, the actor, Tom Cruise noted, “I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read.” Some talented few have reported that they can even relive historical events, past science experiments, and classroom lectures!  Likewise, visualization is reported to help with the writing process.  Great writers, like Mark Twain, claimed to have used personal visualizations to help him write a scene by picturing the moment and then painting it with words. Twain remarked, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Likewise, the writer, Holly Lisle professed, “We have to see – really see – the people and places around us as if our bodies were full-sensory cameras and our minds were film.” Even scientists report that they use visualizations to help them grasp concepts. Albert Einstein was credited with saying, “a picture says a thousand words.” He also offered advice on how to visualize in the 4th dimension: “Take a point, stretch it into a line, curl it into a circle, twist it into a sphere, and punch through the sphere.” Even if a student can visualize and use their imagination, they
may or may not be using this talent when reading, writing or listening.  Because reading, writing and listening all require attention, researchers suggest that some students find that they do not have the cognitive space to visualize when learning (Gambrell, 1982; Gambrell, & Jawitz,
1993).

Overall, mental imagery appears to impact all areas of academics. Douville and Algozzine (2004) unite the prior outcomes, and propose that visualization can be used across the curriculum.

How Can I Teach This Needed Skill?
I have found that the best way to teach visualization is through games and mindful discussions.  To help with this process, I wrote a book entitled Mindful Visualization for Education.  In fact, this blog includes an excerpt from the book, and all the full citations are available in the full document.  This 132 page downloadable document (PDF) provides a review of the research, assessment tools, over twenty game-like activities and lesson suggestions in all the subject areas as well as for vocabulary development and listening.  In addition, I offer two PowerPoint downloads that review the 10 core skills that need to be developed to optimize visualization abilities.

If you have any thoughts on the use of visualization for learning, please post a comment! Also, if you have had some success with visualization in the classroom, please share your experiences.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to: www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Eradicating Errors and Mistakes and Embracing Oopsy Doodles


Have you ever made a mistake or error? Were you ever wrong? Were you ever told that you were careless, lazy or umotivated?  


How did that make you feel?  Were you embarrassed?  Were you ashamed?  Were you angry? Were you sad?


Now, I want you to imagine a giant eraser, because were are going to erase all mistakes.  We are going to erase errors.  We are going to erase anything and everything wrong or careless.  And, as we mindfully delete all those negative words and memories while holding onto any valuable lessons, all those bad feelings disappear too.


Imagine that you travel around the world and erase every careless mistake - every single error - everything that is wrong.  All those bad feelings leave everyone and float up into the sky and disappear.   All that remains is a perfect, deep blue sky with wispy clouds.


Now, imagine that in the sky, appears the words Oopsy Doodles in colorful swirly letters.  Oopsy Doodles are wonderful, because they help us to grow. Oopsy Doodles tell us what we don’t understand, so we can learn. Oopsy Doodles are cool, colorful and fun.  

Everyone makes Oopsy Doodles and that’s one of the wonderful things that make us all human beings. Parents make Oopsy Doodles. Teachers make Oopsy Doodles.  Even our president makes Oopsy Doodles; and you make Oopsy Doodles too.  So the next time someone tells you that you have made a mistake or an error, that you are incorrect or they call you careless, tell them about Oopsy Doodles. Tell them that you and many others are changing the world.  That you are helping to erase negative labels and replacing them with the beauty of Oopsy Doodles.  Help them to see how positive Oopsy Doodles can be.  


____________________

The reason why I created this post and I encourage you to spread the word about Oopsy Doodles is because so many students are traumatized by negative labels and wording in education. Students are continually told what is wrong with their work, but rarely told what is right. Many are afraid to participate in their classes, because they don't want to "look stupid." They are disinclined to make mistakes and combat the impatient smirks, belittling snickers, and disgruntled rolling eyes. In addition, time and time again, students have shown me assignments that are covered in negative comments and large red "Xs." A couple years ago, one student came to a session feeling so dejected, it took me an hour to rebuild his confidence. Even though he got an 87 on an assignment, the paper was filled with big red "Xs" and in giant letters across the page his teacher wrote, "LOTS OF CARLESS ERRORS!" This student had executive functioning as well as attentional weaknesses, and the last word that described him was careless. Still it took me an hour to pull him out of a deeply defeated and helpless mindset. It wasn't until the end of the session that I pointed out to him that that everyone makes oopses. In fact, the teacher had misspelt careless. Another incident was a six grade student that was doing poorly in school. She had a teacher that made all the students in her class redo wrong answers on assignments and tests and categorize these mistakes as concepts errors (never understood the content) and detail errors (careless mistakes). She hated completing these assignments and because of them, she hated school. It wasn't until I changed the wording that she could begin to follow through with the assignment. Instead of a content error we called them a "What?," and we replaced detail errors with an "oops."  

An article by Harvard Business Review reported that the ideal praise to criticism ratio is six to one for the highest performing teams, and this study was done on adults!  But is criticism even appropriate in education? Couldn't we just change our focus to the positive and even praise those that help us to understand areas of confusion? 

Over the years, I have learned to mindfully eradicate negative words. For example, I never say "no." Instead, I declare, "That was close" or "Give it another try." If you too can do this, it will change the energy of your classroom and will create a safe place for students to participate and learn. If you would like to learn more about shifting negative labels to words of encouragement come read my blogpost entitled Embracing Positive Learning Environments.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, April 3, 2015

Strategies that Strengthening Math Abilities for Struggling Elementary Students

There is often an easy solution to helping elementary students that struggle with math.  But first, we must understand that the root of math troubles often results from one or more of the following:
  1. lack of experience and practice working with numbers and symbols.
  2. drab or humdrum instruction.
  3. problems activating the needed areas of cognition to solve these problems.
  4. weaknesses in the cognitive areas of quantitive reasoning, spatial skills, visual processing sequencing, and working memory. 
What Happens to These Struggling Learners in Our Present Education System?

Young learners often lose interest and motivation quickly when they have problems learning concepts. What's more, when their peers exhibit learning mastery and they do not, it can feel embarrassing and humiliating.  If left unaddressed, anxiety, a poor academic self-concept and even helplessness can result.

How Can We Protect Students from Negative Thoughts that Quickly Damage One's Academic Self Concept?
  1. Choose names for lessons that bring excitement and anticipation to the learning process.
  2. Make lessons "magical."  Like a magician, teach your students tricks in an animated way that helps them uncover the answer. To read more about this CLICK HERE.
  3. Bring fun and enticing activities to the table.  Integrate manipulatives, games and movement into lessons. 
  4. Go multisensory in your lessons and teach to the 12 Ways of Learning.
  5. Pay attention to popular fads.  When I saw my students obsessions with rainbow looms, I quickly integrated the color bands and geoboards into my lessons.  
  6. Ask your students for strategy and lesson ideas?  When learners get involved with the teaching process, they often get more excited about the topic or instruction.
  7. Provide scaffolding.  Continue to walk your students through the sequence of steps required to complete a problem, until they can do it independently.
  8. Offer memory strategies to help your students encode and retrieve new concepts.  You can also ask them to generate their own strategies. 
  9. Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud. 
  10. Integrate mindfulness into your class and teach visualization strategies.
  11. Teach your students how to be active learners.
How To Activate the Needed Regions of the Brain and Strengthen Weak Areas of Cognition?


But what if the core difficulties are the result of weak areas of cognition or learning disabilities?  One of the best ways to assist is to act like a personal trainer for the brain and help students activate and strengthen foundational skills. 

I created Quantitative and Spatial Puzzles: Beginners for this population of learners.  Eight, engaging activities help students improve upon: 
  • quantitative reasoning
  • spatial skills
  • visual processing
  • sequencing
  • working memory
These engaging activities were designed for 1-5 grade students, but I often use them with my older students to help fortify these key cognitive abilities.   The activities also can be printed and placed into math centers, used or morning warm-ups and offered as fun activities for students that finish their class assignments early.

If you would like to learn more about my new publication, Quantitiative and Spatial Puzzles - Beginners, CLICK HERE or on any of the sample images.  I hope you found this blog helpful. Please share your thoughts and comments.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Orton Gillingham Online Academy: An Interview with Founder Marisa Bernard



This week I am featuring an interview with Marisa Bernard the creator of the Orton Gillingham Online Academy.  Marisa is a dynamic educator and passionate learning specialist that has an expertise in serving students with dyslexia.  Marisa has made it her mission to assist children who do not fit inside the conventional box and to send them on their way feeling productive, successful, & well-equipped to lead a fruitful life.
_________
Erica: Hi Marisa!  I'm so excited to be able to share this interview with my audience.  Can you tell us more about your professional background?

Marisa: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus in cognition and learning as well as a Master’s Degree in Special Education. I have experience as an Elementary Education teacher, a Reading Specialist, and I worked on staff at the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana as both an educator and trainer of the Orton Gillingham Approach. In addition, I taught Special Education in a public school setting and have remediated countless numbers of students to grade level by using research based strategies such as the Orton Gillingham Approach. Furthermore, I am a professional member of the International Dyslexia Association, and I also received a grant through the Lilly Foundation that enabled me to travel to the highlands of Ecuador to teach English, using the Orton Gillingham Approach, to the indigenous children. 


Erica: What population of students are best served by your online training program? 

Marisa: The Orton Gillingham Online Academy serves as a resource for those who teach individuals with Dyslexia. Having said that, any student population learning the English language would find our course work and tools helpful. It is our goal to unlock the door to language acquisition for people from across the globe.

Erica: Who typically purchases your training modules?

Marisa: Parents, teachers, SLPs, tutors, school districts, paraprofessionals... Really anyone who is involved with the education of those with Dyslexia.

Erica: What are the benefits of your training program?

Marisa: The Orton-Gillingham Approach is used for those who have Dyslexia. These individuals have difficulty primarily in the areas of reading, writing, and spelling.  Often these difficulties create a learning gap in other academic areas as well.  While non-dyslexic students acquire language skills easily, those with Dyslexia need to be taught various components that make up the English language. The Orton-Gillingham Approach is most often and effectively used one-on-one, due to its prescriptive nature, as well as the fact that the lessons can be catered to each student’s individual learning needs.  Having said this, the Orton-Gillingham Approach can also be adapted to group instruction.  Please note, the Orton-Gillingham Approach has stood the test of time and has been proven effective time and time again in assisting individuals to overcome their language-based disability.

Erica: Are you creating new courses and materials?

Marisa: Absolutely! Our academy is growing and we are continuously revamping, improving and adding to our current course work to enhance the teaching/learning venue. We will be launching our Advanced Language Continuum Course April 4th and this course will cover advanced morphology & derivatives, connectives, accenting, vocabulary development, & much more. We are also launching a comprehensive multisensory Connect to Comprehension course is June. This course will cover everything needed to teach students the tools necessary for meaningful comprehension, including curriculum guides and scripted texts for multiple levels. We are also working on a comprehensive multisensory grammar course, as well as a word study seminar. The idea is to provide a holistic website that will serve to meet the needs of those with Dyslexia by offering an array of courses & resources geared toward successful remediation.

Erica: How would you like to see your academy grow over the next few years?

Marisa: The knowledge we have to share has the potential to change lives and our hope is that word of our academy travels to those who need us the most. Currently, we are servicing several countries from Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Canada to the United States & several other locations in between. As we continue to reach places with no previous exposure to language remedial tools, paths are appearing and making a difference. This is truly what we are all about.

Erica: What is the best way for people to reach you?

Marisa: The best way to reach me is via email: ogonlineacademy@gmail.com

___________

Thank you Marisa for sharing your passion, expertise and mission with all of us!  It's been a true pleasure to get to know you better, and I wish you great success.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Working Memory Definition, Facts, Symptoms and Strategies Infographic

This week I created an infographic on working memory.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you would like to share this image via email or IM, use the following link: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/5003312-working-memory-2

Here is a portion of the infographic that can be pinned on Pinterest:



Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  


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Friday, March 13, 2015

The Power of Nonprofits: Solving the U.S. Achievement Gap


This week, I am featuring an insightful and impressive guest blog by Marissa Zych.  

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As an advocate for global literacy and accessible education, it’s difficult for me to swallow the United States education pill that is the achievement gap. Directly related to both the learning and opportunity gaps, the achievement gap commonly refers to the “significant and persistent disparity in academic performance or educational attainment between groups of students.” The roots of this disparity run deep.

According to the National Education Association, the student groups that commonly experience achievement gaps (as indicated by test performance, access to key opportunities, and attainments such as diplomas, advanced degrees, and future employment) include racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families. Inner-city schools, which some researchers call “dropout factories,” are often at the heart of this issue, due in part to their high numbers of minority and impoverished students.

The U.S. government’s No Child Left Behind law of 2002 was overrun with issues and failed to make notable improvements. And while a number of city schools nationwide have taken the issue into their own hands, working to improve the quality of their teachers and their graduation rates with some success over the last decade and a half, experts agree that gradual change over time will not cut it. As recently as 2012, African American and Hispanic students trailed their peers by an average of 20 or more test points, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In general, the students experiencing achievement gaps have a higher chance of dropping out of school. These dropouts face significant trials in acquiring employment and attaining economic stability. Female dropouts are at a unique economic uncertainty. As compared to male peers, girls who fail to earn their diploma have higher rates of unemployment; make notably lesser wages; and are more inclined to depend on help from public programs to accommodate for their families.

A Nonprofit Solution
It’s important to note that many of these inadequate strategies have been centered on making changes within regular school hours — changes that take time to implement. How can we make a more immediate impact on our schools, outside of school?

Independent studies have shown that superior after-school programs lead to positive academic outcomes, including improved test scores, grades, attendance, dropout rates, and increased interest in learning. Evidence also suggests that they lead to a decrease in juvenile crime rates and notable boosts in self-esteem and confidence.

Unfortunately, many city school districts that need these programs the most lack the policy and/or budgetary support, making education-based nonprofits a crucial part of the solution.

A growing number of reports on the performance of education-based nonprofits prove that their after-school and/or summer programs have a positive impact on students and their families. They provide disadvantaged youth with a safe and engaging environment, extended time spent on diverse subject matter, mentorship, and psychosocial and intellectual enrichment in exciting contexts and settings that aren’t available in school.

So, What Does a Superior Program Look Like?
  •  MOST: While it’s no longer active, The Wallace Foundation’s Making the Most Out-of-School-Time (MOST) fundraising initiative partnered with other like-minded organizations in Boston, Chicago, and Seattle from 1993-1999 to increase the awareness and availability of after-school programs. The MOST contributed to the foundation of evidence that now proves how necessary these kinds of programs are to bridging the achievement gap.
  •  Girls Do Hack: Giving youth an opportunity to learn something that they wouldn’t normally learn inside the classroom is important, specifically young women. Young women are not always considered for roles in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. With the help of Misha Malyshev in association with the Adler Planetarium, Girls Do Hack gives young women a safe space to discover and be encouraged to learn and find their skills in these fields.
  •  826 National: A personal favorite, 826 National is a nationwide organization. It tackles the literacy and learning issues of students (ages 6-18) through programs centered around creative writing and is currently run by Gerald Richards. Their centers offer free programs including after-school tutoring, field trips, creative workshops (cartooning, anyone?), and their young authors’ book project. According to Arbor Consulting Partners, “students [at 826 National] develop ‘habits of mind’ that support the achievement of positive academic outcomes.”


There are a number of factors that affect a student’s chance at successfully navigating their way to graduation. That’s where these education-based non-profits really fill the gap in the education system. It isn’t possible for every teacher, principal, school sentry and janitor to solve every potential problem students have. Their plates are already loaded with getting students to pass standardized testing, dealing with administrative issues and keeping schools safe and clean. It’s the non-profits that have the opportunity to see a problem and analyze it, to come up with a creative solution without the same restrictions our school systems and administrators face, and to engage children and their parents in a manner that is more likely to work within those parameters. It certainly isn’t easy to create a successful non-profit. It takes heart, great support, and engaged stakeholders. These are some non-profits out there that have stood out and have done a wonderful job.
                                                 
Thank you Marissa for writing this blog and sharing your insight!
Marissa Zych is a twenty year old student at RIT. She is interested in the education and political landscape and is from Albany, New York.  She loves getting involved in her community and seeing positive change through giving back. She likes to volunteer her time at after school programs, nursing homes, and animal shelters where she rescued her cocker spaniel puppy Bowie!

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10 Ways to Teach Planning, Time Management and Organization

Teaching students planning, time management and organizational skills is necessary in education.  Although some find executive functioning to be quite obvious, there are those that need to learn the process.  Here are 10 recommendations:



  1. Provide an organized environment.  
  2. Set an example.  Use a planner and create a structured routine for yourself and use labeled boxes, shelves and filing systems so that everything has it's place.
  3. Praise self initiation.  In the beginning, rewarding kids for executive functioning skills will provide greater motivation.
  4. Organize time and post schedule around the house or classroom so that a daily routine can be established.
  5. Provide structure by offering a lot of support in the beginning.  Do the process together and slowly pull away as the needed skills are acquired independently.
  6. Give reminders and help students come up with systems so that they can remind others as well as themselves. 
  7. Use calendars.  Show the different calendar options to students and let them pick their preference.  Some students need to see the “big picture” and may prefer a month or two at a glance, others may choose one or to weeks at a time, and then there are those who like to manage one day at a time.  Checking and maintaining these calendars at allocated times on a daily basis is important.
  8. Stay calm and supportive.  Maintaining a mindful and peaceful demeanor will help to create a “safe” environment where students can learn from their mistakes.
  9. Avoid negative labels such as careless or unmotivated as it will only create negative energy.  For many, name calling will make children feel helpless to the point where they stop trying.
  10. Provide breaks.  For many, the maintenance of executive skills is exhausting and scheduling unstructured breaks can help provide some “down time.”
If you are looking for a publication that offers a large selection of materials that help students with executive functioning skills, CLICK HERE.

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Letter Cube Fun: Freebie Language Arts Game

I love to use foam blocks for all sorts of language arts fun.  Most recently, I created a game that my students adore.  Here are the steps so you can create it too.

1) You can purchase colorful foam cubes on Amazon for a very reasonable price.  I included a link at the bottom of the post.
2) Select 12 cubes.  I line the cubes up in a row and write all the vowels in capital letters (including "y") on each cube two times making sure not to place the same vowel on a single cube more than once.  Then I add the consonants as suggested below.

3) I assign the point value on the bottom right hand corner.  This will also help the players to orient the letters.  For example the letter P will look like the letter d when it is upside-down but as long as the number indicating the point value is in the bottom right hand corner, players can recognize that they need to rotate the letter to the proper orientation.  Also, using capital letters helps with letter confusion.


4) Other items needed to play:  a timer and a set of 12 colored cubes with the letters and point values for each player.
5) To Play:

  • Each player rolls their set of 12 colored cubes onto their playing area (they can not change the orientation of the cubes but must use the letters rolled.  
  • Set and begin timer for 2-5 minutes.  You can decide the amount of time you like.
  • Words must crisscross like a scrabble game, and players must try to use as many cubes as they can.  
  • When the timer goes off, the play ends and players add up their points.
  • Bonuses as granted as follows:
    • 4 points for a 6 letter word
    • 5 points for a 7 letter word
    • 6 points for a 8 letter word
    • 5 points for using all 12 cubes

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Using Simple Images to Teach Math Concepts



Utilizing imagery and visual memory can be very helpful when learning mathematics.  A single picture can help a student define and remember a concept, or it can even help them to recall the steps required to compute a problem.  What’s more, it often brings the “fun factor” into the learning environment as students can pull out their crayons, colored pencils or magic markers to complete the activity.
I recently learned about the Palm Tree Method from one of my students. I scoured the internet to find its origin, but came up empty handed.  So, although I did not come up with this idea, it is still one of my favorites for solving proportions.  

If you would like to learn about other imagery activities to help your students learn math concepts, you might like my blog entitled Mathemagic or my products Measurement Memory Strategies or Why We Should Learn about Angles.




Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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