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Friday, August 29, 2014

Ten, Fun Games that Strengthen Visual Processing

Visual processing is an important cognitive skill for children to develop, and there are many fun games that help to strengthen this skill.  

What is Visual Processing and Why is it Important?

Visual processing is a visual cognitive skill that allows us to process and interpret meaning from the visual information that we see through our eyes, and it plays an important role in reading, math, and spelling.  

What Are the Cognitive Skills that Make up Visual Processing

Visual processing involves a number of cognitive components:

  1. Visual Processing Speed: the ability to process visual information at a rapid pace.
  2. Visual Scanning: the ability to look at and absorb all parts of visual information and text.
  3. Visual Spatial Skills: the ability to mentally manipulate 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional figures.
  4. Visual Spatial Reasoning: the ability to perceive the spatial relationships between objects.
  5. Visual Construction Skills: the ability to organize and manually manipulate spatial information to make a design.  
  6. Visual Memory: the ability to remember what is seen.
  7. Visual Motor Integration: the ability to translate visual perception into motor planning, sequencing, control, coordination and speed.
  8. Visual Synthesis: the ability to unite visual information into a coherent whole. 
  9. Visual Sequencing: the ability to determine or remember the order of symbols, words, or objects.
  10. Visual Closure: the ability to make sense of visual information when some of the image is missing.
  11. Visual Reasoning: the ability to find meaning and make sense out of visual information.
What Are Some Games that Can Help to Develop These Skills?
  1. Set: Set is a card game of recognition and deduction. Each card contains one of three symbols (squiggles, diamonds, ovals) in varying numbers (up to three), colors (purple, green, red), and degrees of shading. A player arranges 12 cards, face up, and all the players quickly discriminate "sets" of three cards linked by combinations of sameness or difference. This game works on visual discrimination, processing speed, reasoning, sequencing, and visual scanning.
  2. Tricky Fingers: Who can match the pattern card first?  Non-removable marbles are manipulated.  This game works on visual processing speed, motor integration, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  3. Spot it: Spot it is played with 55 cards, each decorated with eight symbols varying in size and orientation. The object of the game is to be the first to spot the one symbol in common between two or more cards. This game works on visual processing speed, scanning, motor integration, discrimination and memory.
  4. Logic Links: Each puzzle is comprised of a series of clues that instruct the player where to place colored chips to solve a puzzle. This game works on visual reasoning, sequencing, and visual scanning.
  5. Blokus: The goal of this game is for players to fit all of their pieces onto the board. The player who gets rid of all of their tiles first is the winner. This game works on visual motor integration, reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  6. Pixy Cubes: Pixy Cubes uses challenge cards for players to match or they can design colorful pictures with 16 colorful cubes.  This game works on visual motor integration, memory, processing speed, spatial reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  7. Q-Bits: Q-bitz will challenge your visual agility. Players puzzle over how to quickly recreate the patterns on the game cards using their set of 16 cubes. This game works on visual motor integration, processing speed, spatial reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  8. Q-Bits Extreme: This is the same game as Q-Bits, but the cubes are not all the same and the puzzles are more challenging. This game works on visual motor integration, processing speed, spatial reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  9. Blink: Blink is a quick game where two players race to be the first to use all their cards. Players quickly match cards by the shape, count, or color on the cards. The first player out of cards wins.  This works on visual processing speed, discrimination and scanning.


I hope you found this helpful.  If you know of other card or board games that you find benefit visual processing, please share them below.  


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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Free Tools for Helping Students to Plan and Organize for School


With the new academic year around the corner, teachers, parents and students need to begin planning for the new school year.  But what most teachers and parents don't know is that the part of the brain that assists with planning, time management and organization is not fully developed until students reach their early twenties.  Therefore, for most young learners, adults need to help create a structured plan and provide assistance when prepping, and gathering materials for school. Checklists, graphic organizers, step by step procedures, strategies and more are often required, but many adults are overwhelmed with other responsibilities, and it can be difficult to find the time to take on this role.  

I have created a free sampling of 8 printable handouts that can help jump start the process.  This freebie includes: a back to school checklist for parents, picking your organization approach for students, a school materials checklist, before and after school checklists, a teacher availability and information sheet, recording my grades tables, a student contacts sheet, and a create a homework plan and stick to the routine sheet.  It also provides the table of contents to a full publication that assists students from elementary school through college. To learn more about helping students with executive functioning skills and acquiring other helpful learning handouts, consider purchasing Planning Time Management and Organization for Success.  This digital download offers methods and materials that guide and support learners in the areas of learning strategies, time management, planning and organization (executive functioning skills).  It offers agendas, questionnaires, checklists, as well as graphic organizers.  You will also acquire advice and handouts for reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and incentives programs.   Finally, I offer a  free video on executive functioning.  

I hope you find this post helpful.  If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment.

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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  



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Friday, August 15, 2014

Mastering the Vowel Teams Freebie

Would you teach your students a reading rule, if the rule only worked or was applicable less than 50% of the time?  The saying: When two vowels go a walkin', the first one does the talkin' is a rule that most learners know.  But if your students applied this to a comprehensive exam on vowel teams or vowel combinations, they would likely fail the test.  Clearly, this rule creates more confusion than good.

How Can Students Successfully Master the Vowel Teams or Vowel Combinations?
I like to use visualization strategies, hidden pictures, mazes and games to help my students master the concept.  What used to be a boring and tedious task is now fun and memorable.  

How Can I Learn This Strategy?
I'm offering a free sampling of my publication: Vowel Combinations Made Easy.  This will allow you to see some pictures as well as a maze that I use to entice my students.  The full publication also includes a number of engaging games.

I hope you enjoyed this blog.  If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment.

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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

10 Reasons to Stop Using Candy to Motivate Students

Providing sweets to children to make them momentarily more compliant is a trick that teachers have used for ages.  In fact, fifteen years ago, when I started my private practice, I too can remember bribing challenging students to read lists of words or work through tedious drills.  But it was not long before I realized that this was the wrong tool to entice young learners.  In fact, loading youngsters with sugary sweets and empty calories proves to be detrimental in a number of ways.

10 Reasons to Stop Bribing Learners with Candy:
  1. Consuming candy is terrible for children's teeth.
  2. Ingested sugar has the potential of destroy ones general health and immunity as it can strip the body of important vitamins and minerals. 
  3. Many children are addicted to sugar, and many insist on eating it instead of vital, nutritious diets.  http://eric.ed.gov/?q=sugars+impact+on+learning&id=EJ872852
  4. Eating too much sugar makes children vulnerable to the overgrowth of yeast, which can cause eczema, chronic nasal congestion, and ear infections. In addition, yeast overgrowth has been linked to sensory integration disorders and mental fogginess. 
  5. Sugar hinders the absorption of some B vitamins, and B vitamins help maintain optimal thinking, coordination, and memory.  http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992 
  6. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average U.S. citizen consumes 156 pounds of added sugar every year.       
  7. Chronic consumption of added sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating.   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088740  
  8. Students that are offered extrinsic motivation or external incentives tend to select simpler tasks, and they generally offer minimal effort for maximum rewards.
  9. Rewards can devalue learning and counteract the development of intrinsic motivation (internal drive) and self-discipline.  http://machinelearning.wustl.edu/mlpapers/paper_files/NIPS2005_724.pdf
What Are Some Successful Ways to Motivate Learners?
  1. Make your educational approach fun.  Create games, creative projects, and engaging activities that have your students begging for more.
  2. Go multisensory.  Use a variety of materials and approaches that tap into the 12 ways of Learning
  3. Foster an environment that nurtures intrinsic motivation.  Making learning pleasurable by igniting students interest in the subject matter will motivate learners to select challenging tasks and learn information in greater depth. 
  4. Extend praise and positive feedback that is timely, sincere, and specific. 
  5. Offer healthy, nutritious snacks if you feel the need to use edible rewards.
  6. Present opportunities to earn points or tokens that can be exchanged for privileges if you want to move your student slowly away from tangible rewards.
Clearly, the secret lies in instilling intrinsic motivation in students as well as creating a positive, multisensory, and playful learning environment.  This can be done when teachers foster a cooperative, nurturing atmosphere where each student feels respected, valued, and empowered.   

I hope you enjoyed this post.  If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment.

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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz