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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Do I have dyslexia? Explaining Symptoms and Myths for Kids

What do you do when you learn that your child has dyslexia? Should you hide this diagnosis to protect them from labels and misunderstandings, or should you tell them? If you do decide to tell them, how do you do this? Can you help them to overcome any potential fears or misunderstandings? These are the questions that I will answer in this blog that includes kid-friendly graphics.

What are the Benefits of Telling Your Child That He or She Has Dyslexia?
Educating your child with dyslexia about the common signs and misconceptions can help them to:
  • understand that they learn in a different way than other kids that don’t have dyslexia. 
  • shed negative labels such as stupid, careless, unmotivated and lazy.
  • correct any misunderstandings.
  • identify with other successful people that have or had dyslexia.
  • acquire the needed intervention and instruction in school.
  • learn that many people with dyslexia have strengths that others do not have. Individuals with dyslexia are often:
    • great at communicating their ideas aloud.
    • creative, critical thinkers.
    • good at seeing the big picture.
    • excellent at solving puzzles and building things.
If you want to learn more about dyslexia consider reading:

Help your Child Understand Dyslexia by Reviewing the Eleven Common Signs
Show your child the image below and read the list out loud. Ask them to identify which symptoms describe their difficulties.
  1. You have or had trouble with letter reversals (b and d) and words reversals (was and saw).
  2. You have or had troubles with reading aloud.
  3. You have or had trouble with words problems in math.
  4. You have a hard time estimating how long a task or project will take.
  5. You have trouble starting your homework independently.
  6. You are easily distracted.
  7. You have a hard time keeping track of your possessions and often lose important materials
  8. You have trouble listening to and following multi-step directions.
  9. You have trouble transitioning from one task to another.
  10. You have keeping appointments. 
  11. You have trouble keeping your bedroom and book bag organized.

What are Four Myths and Truths about Dyslexia:
Show your child the graphic below and read the list of myths and truths out loud. Ask them to respond to each of the myths - "Have you ever felt this way?" Then read the truth and address any questions.

Myth #1: People with dyslexia are not smart.
Truth #1: Many dyslexic individuals are extremely bright and creative. In fact, many kids with dyslexia are gifted. Watch a video on famous people with dyslexia: Click Here

Myth #2: People with dyslexia cannot learn to read or write.
Truth #2: With the right intervention and instruction people with dyslexia can become excellent readers and writers.

Myth #3: People with dyslexia see things backwards.
Truth #3: Dyslexia is not a vision problem. It has to do with how the brain make sense of what is seen.

Myth #4: People with dyslexia are lazy and should try harder.
Truth #4: Kids with dyslexia learn differently. When they are asked to learn in a way that does not work well for them, it can take more time.
Finding Multisensory Remedial Tools for Kids with Dyslexia: 
If you are looking for fun, creative and multisensory remedial materials, lessons and games created for learners with dyslexia, 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 and Learning Specialist Courses.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to http://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/, https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Social Media Disrupts Homework: Five Management Strategies for Success

Although many students think that they can manage an onslaught of distractions while they are doing their home work, there is a price to pay.  Pings from social media and bleeps from electronic devices present constant interruptions that pull attention away from the task at hand.  In fact, because many students try to juggle multiple activities, divided attention can turn an hour of assignments into three hours or more.  An added problem is that diversions prevent learners from fully engaging in their work on a deep level and their learning curve takes a sharp dive.  As result, these students often have to take the additional time to relearn the information at a later date - if they don’t want their grades to suffer.   


What Can We Do to Help This Generation of Young Learners Manage Social Media?
  1. Teachers can integrate social media into classroom and homework assignments.  
    • Start a group for your class so that students can share study tips and strategies.
    • Record your classes on Periscope, Zoom, or Skype so that sick students that miss the lecture can access the content.
    • Ask students to follow and connect with authors or experts that tweets, blogs, tumbls, snaps, pins or scoops.
    • Post notes and resources in DropBox and Google Docs and let the students know through social media.
    • Share resources and links on sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Tumblr.
  2. Teach your students strategies on how they can use social media to benefit their studies.  
    • Establish a study group on Google Hangout.
    • Use social media to connect with classmates when missing an assignment or needing help with a problem.
    • Teach students that they can learn missed instruction by watching YouTube videos you or other teachers have created.
  3. Encourage learners to schedule blocks of time where they “turn off” all social media.
  4. Instruct students to use a timer for uninterrupted homework time and a timer again for social media breaks.
  5. Ask students to read articles that review the pitfalls to multitasking such as Think you are Multitasking?  Think again!, and review research that investigates the pros and cons of using social media while completing homework such as The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families.  Have them write a paper about what they learned as well as a personal plan of action.  

Technology and social media is here to stay, so it’s best to embrace these tools and teach learners how to manage and leverage these resources in positive and productive ways.

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 and Learning Specialist Courses.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to http://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/, https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Mindfulness Training Improves Weak Emotional Intelligence: Symptoms and Strategies Defined


I find that more and more parents and teachers are complaining that our youth have underdeveloped social skills.  Instead of face to face encounters, many youngsters have their attention buried in their electronic devices, and they are not learning to read important social cues. As a result, many children are not developing their emotional intelligence.  

We are now learning that mindfulness-based approaches can be very beneficial to both the learning process and the development of emotional intelligence.  This is a form of metacognition that can help youngsters gain a sense of control over both their thoughts and emotions. In addition, these practices can improve self-esteem and resilience.

What Does Mindfulness have to do with Emotional Intelligence?
Psychology Today defines emotional intelligence as "the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and those of other people." It involves the following three skills: emotional awareness, emotional application, and emotional management. Some believe that mindfulness is the foundation of emotional intelligence. By exercising our attention through mindfulness, we can actually teach the brain to become more emotionally astute. As an added benefit, people with a well developed emotional intelligence usually display high levels of resilience, experience more trusting relationships, and they are better able to manage their social interactions, attitude and temperament.

What are Some Key Symptoms of a Weak Emotional Intelligence?
  • Student often feels like others don’t “get it,” and it makes them feel impatient and frustrated.
  • Student often criticizes others.
  • Student is easily annoyed or angered when someone disagrees with them or has a different opinion.
  • Student is unaware or surprised that others are sensitive to his or her comments or jokes.
  • Student believes that his or her ideas and assertions are right and rigorously defends them.
  • Student finds others are to blame for his or her own mistakes.
  • Student has trouble managing negative emotions.
  • Student lacks compassion or empathy for the feelings of others.
  • Student resists learning anything new.
  • Student has trouble reading facial expressions and nonverbal communication.
  • Student easily gives up when learning new content or when they reach a difficult problem.

What are Some Activities that can be Done to Develop Emotional Intelligence?

Ready Made Activity Cards for Developing Emotional Intelligence:
I created a set of Mindfulness Activity Cards for Developing Emotional Intelligence based on the current research on emotional intelligence and social emotional learning.  There are 50 cards in the set, and they can be used in therapeutic sessions or classrooms to help develop mindfulness, emotional regulation, emotional intelligence, resilience, and community. Additionally, they can be used to teach authentic dialogue and develop self-esteem. These task cards are ideal for individual sessions, round table discussions, and circle groups.  I also have a series of Mindfulness Activity Cards for Developing Working Memory.  

Would you like to Watch a Video Blog on this Content?

I hope you found this helpful!

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 and Learning Specialist Courses.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to http://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/, https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Inquiry Based Instruction: A Four Step Process to Student Empowerment

Having focused my higher education on lifelong learning, I studied both pedagogy (a child-focused teaching approach) as well as andragogy (an adult-focused teaching approach).  In fact, I believe that many of the distinctions in instructional methods are valid, such as children come to lessons with little to no experience, while adults come to the learning table with far more know-how and knowledge.  However, over the years of working with learners of all ages, I have found that incorporating many of the adult education principles into my one to one sessions with children has been extraordinarily beneficial.  In fact the inquiry-based learning approach, that is sometimes used in the sciences with children, can help student think and be used to bridge learners to a place of greater independence and empowerment in the learning process.

Inquiry Based Learning Helps to Unite Some of the Principles of Pedagogy and Andragogy for Young Learners.
Inquiry-based learning is primarily a pedagogical method from a constructivist viewpoint, that was first developed in the 1960s. However, it teaches students the following principles from adult education:
  • Learners can be self-directed
  • Learners can be responsible for their own learning
  • Learners can be internally motivated to learn
  • Learners can bring their own experiences to the learning process
Since inquiry based learning was proposed, a number of additions and revisions have resulted in a 4 step scaffolding process that ultimately teaches students to engage in and take on a self-directed role in the learning process.  
So How Have I Altered the Inquiry Based Approach to Empower my Students?
There are a number of different processes for teaching this approach and many use this way of teaching in the sciences.  I personally love to use it with my struggling learners for math, writing as well as test preparation.  I find that a well structured, scaffolding approach is best.
Step 1: Teacher/Learning Specialist Structured
In teacher structured the learning specialist controls the lesson or study session. Multisensory materials, manipulatives, and embedded memory strategies walk the student through the instruction.
Step 2: Teacher/Learning Guided
In teacher guided, the learning specialist provides paper, an ipad, or a dry erase board and pens to the student. Then the learning specialist provides the question or problem and guides the student through the process by having the student complete the question or problem steps themselves at the same time that the learning specialist demonstrates the process. Both the learning specialist and student writes out and then compares the steps or procedures.  The learning specialist then encourages the student to self-generate a memory strategy so they can remember the process. We often create colorful, step by step strategy sheets that can be compiled into a “strategy manual” that the student can refer to as needed.
Step 3: Teacher/Learning Assisted
In teacher assisted the learning specialist writes out the question for the student. Then, the student is responsible for following their own procedures and memory strategies to reach the answer.  
Step 4: Student Applied
In student applied, the student formulates their own approach to a new problem or concept they need to learn.  They self generate multisensory steps to learning, implement their own memory strategies, and then teach the concept to the learning specialist.
If you would like to see an example of one of my multisensory math lessons click here

Moving students from dependent to independent ways of learning will make the learning process fun and also provide students the tools and ownership that they need to become successful lifelong learners.

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 and Learning Specialist Courses.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to http://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/, https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mindfulness Training Improves Working Memory Capacity: Classroom Strategies for Success


Mindfulness-based approaches to learning are attracting more and more teachers, therapists and school administrators. Mindfulness refers to being completely in touch with and aware of the present moment, as well as taking a non-evaluative and non-judgmental approach to one's inner experience. These methods are helping students, as well as their teachers, learn how to manage and minimize stress, become active engaged participants, enhance memory and learning, improve classroom climates, and even develop supportive communities. Mindfulness-based programs empower students to self-regulate, develop emotional intelligence, and gain a sense of control over both their minds and bodies.

Classrooms today are faced with endless distractions including electronic devices, competitive classroom environments, ever-increasing administrative expectations, and both real and virtual violence. What’s more, competing diversions bombard learners, even when they are at home. This high-pressure lifestyle creates, for many, a “fight-flight-freeze response,” making learning uncomfortable and arduous. Additionally, when the limbic system is triggered, it is challenging to activate the prefrontal cortex and encode as well as process new information. However, the research now supports that neuroplasticity allows learners to make measurable changes in the way the minds functions at any age, but especially during the school age years. So helping students learn to manage their bodies and minds with developmentally appropriate mindfulness based practices, can make a significant difference in the lives of students and teachers, while helping to rehabilitate education as the whole (Mindfulness and Learning, 2016).

A holistic approach to cognitive, social, and emotional development is also supported in neuroscience. Recent research shows that the prefrontal cortex, which manages higher-level cognition, also plays an important role in processing and regulating emotion. Therefore, learning involves both a cognitive and affective schema. “This evidence has forced us to rethink the relationship between reason and emotion. Not only does academic learning depend on social and emotional skills, but it is virtually impossible to disentangle the two" (Barseghian, 2016).

Although this may seem to be a new approach, monks and meditation proponents have long advocated the value of mindfulness, and clinical evidence supports this assertion. In fact, recent research suggests that mindfulness training can prevent the deterioration of working memory during periods of high stress (Jha, Stanley, Kiyonaga, Wong and Gelfand, 2019), enhance attention (Brefczynski-Lewis. Lutz, Schaefer, Lenvinson, & Davidson, 2007), increase backwards sequential processing of numbers (Chambers, Lo, & Allen, 2007), improve visuospatial processing efficiency (Kozhevnikov, Louchakova, Jpsopovic, & Motes, 2009), and can even be used to treat medical conditions (Mindfulness Practices May Help Treat Many Health Conditions)


What is Working Memory?
Working memory is a core executive functioning skill that is responsible for the temporary holding, processing, and manipulation of information.  It is an important process for reasoning and guides decision making and behavior.  Working memory also enables one to remember and use relevant information to complete activities.  Often described as a mental workspace, working memory helps students attend to the immediate experience, access prior knowledge, solve problems in their head, and meet current goals. The process of working memory involves the conscious awareness of sensory input, while simultaneously pulling relevant knowledge from long term memory and mentally manipulating all this information with one’s inner voice and inner visualizations (See image below).


What is Working Memory?
Working memory is a core executive functioning skill that is responsible for the temporary holding, processing, and manipulation of information.  It is an important process for reasoning and guides decision making and behavior.  Working memory also enables one to remember and use relevant information to complete activities.  Often described as a mental workspace, working memory helps students attend to the immediate experience, access prior knowledge, solve problems in their head, and meet current goals.


How Does a Weak Working Memory Impact Learning?
Working memory difficulties affect:
  • Reading comprehension
  • Mental math
  • Understanding social interactions
  • Completing homework
  • Planning and preparing for activities
  • Solving multi-step directions
  • Writing essays and reports
  • Following a conversation
  • Test preparation
  • Turning in homework
  • Following and participating in group discussions


What are Some Key Symptoms of Working Memory Difficulties?
  • Troubles comprehending a story or directions
  • Difficulties memorizing facts
  • Problems making and keeping friends
  • Difficulties self-initiating or starting homework
  • Forgets needed materials at home and at school
  • Fails to complete work
  • Struggles with organizing ideas when writing
  • Makes irrelevant comments and often tries to change the topic of discussion
  • Difficulties maintaining focus
  • Misplaces things like pencils, notebooks, and agendas
  • Leaves assignments and test preparation to the last minute
So What Can We Do to Nurture a Mindful Classroom Environment?
1) Practice mindfulness in your own life, so you can demonstrate this approach and set an example for your students.
2) Define and discuss mindfulness with your students.  
3) If your students appear distracted, conduct a mindful activity to calm their senses.  Ask the students to sit for 3 minutes with their eyes closed.  They should notice their breath, release any thoughts and relax into their bodies.  You can start at their feet and work up to their head, asking them to be aware of their body and allow it to fully relax.
4) Before a test, offer a mindful activity to help your students release any anxiety.  Have the students take deep breaths and ask them to visualize a peaceful place of their choosing.  As they breathe in, have them imagine peace and knowledge filling their lungs.  As the breathe out, have them imagine that all negative thoughts such as doubt or concern will leave their bodies.
5) After a classroom or social conflict, ask the students to sit in a circle facing one another holding hands.  Ask them to close their eyes and imagine that they are all one entity.  As they breathe in, have them imagine that they are bringing positive energy, forgiveness, and loving kindness into the group.  As they breathe out, have them release any negative thoughts that they may feel.  You can make it specific to the situation.  After the activity, ask for volunteers to share complements or appreciation they would like to offer to the group or an individual.  Ask all the other students to listen mindfully.
Ready Made Materials:
Dr. Warren’s Mindfulness Activity Cards were created based on the current research on working memory, and they can be used in classrooms or therapeutic sessions to help enhance working memory capacity and build community.  In addition, they can be used to teach authentic dialogue and develop emotional intelligence. They are ideal for individual sessions, circle groups, and classroom discussions.  To view all of the social emotional products on Good Sensory Learning, 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 and Learning Specialist Courses.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to http://www.learningspecialistcourses.com/, https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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