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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fast Remedial Results for Dyslexics: Creating Mindful Language Arts Handbooks

Do your students have trouble remembering all the phonics, grammar and spelling rules? Do you have to continually review past lessons to assure that struggling readers know the foundational skills? Do you find that one day a student has mastered a concept and the next day you have to start at square one? Having to continually review the same old stuff can be a boring chore for everyone involved. However, one of the most effective methods I have employed with my students is helping them to create their own colorful, language arts handbook.  What’s more, this activity can be fun, engaging, and memorable.

What Format Should be Used?
I find that it is best to be flexible.  Let each student select from doing his or her handbook on a computer or by hand in a photo album, blank book, binder or a notebook. 

What are the Secrets to Making a Student Created Handbook Work?

  1. Make this project exciting and be enthusiastic!
  2. Let each student come up with their own fun name for their handbook and allow them to create their own colorful cover. 
  3. Give clear directions and provide sample pages.  
  4. Allow your students to use a large selection of art and craft supplies such as paints, magazine clippings (to make a collage), stickers, sparkles and more.
  5. Encourage your students to share strategies and ideas.
  6. If needed, break the page into labeled sections so that your students know what they have to include on each page.
  7. Teach students to place a single concept on each new page.
  8. If there are a series of steps required to learn a task, help the students define a color-coded sequence of steps.  Encourage them to use a numbered list, web, or flowchart. 
  9. Integrate both visual and auditory mnemonics, rhymes, raps, and ditties on each page.
  10. Include sample problems or examples on each page. 
  11. If the student is highly kinesthetic, encourage them to come up with a hand clapping routine or dance for the rhymes, ditties and raps.
  12. Tell your students that you will be having contests for the best pages for each new concept. Take these winning pages and scan them for your own, "Best of Language Arts Handbook." This handbook can be used to motivate and give ideas to future students.  Try to help each student in the class win at least one page in your, "Best of Language Arts Handbook."
Sample Page:



Here is a pinnable image:



If you would like to do something similar for math, come read my blog entitled Mathemagic: Multisensory and Mindful Math Strategies Tailored for the Individual 

Here is a pinnable image:  

I would love to hear your thoughts.  Please share them below this blog post.

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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Thursday, June 18, 2015

12 Summer Activities that Nurture Cognitive and Academic Growth


Over the summer, many students experience the "summer slide" phenomenon and lose both cognitive and academic gains from the prior school year. In fact, those who are already behind, can be the ones that stand to lose the most. However, this doesn't have to be the case! With as little as an hour a day, students can maintain and even improve their knowledge and abilities. So what can we do to help our young learners fight the slide and make significant gains while having fun?

12 Activities that Help Children Improve Learning and Cognition Over the Summer
  1. Design a fun learning nook with your house for your children, and have fun coming up with an imaginative name for this magical space such as Penelope's Princess Palace, Bobby's Boisterous Bungalow, Hal's Happy Hideout, Amy's Adventure-filled Attic, Ian's Imaginative Igloo...  This can be created in a loft, in a tent, under an elevated bed or table etc.  Use pillows, drapes, Christmas lights, stuffed animals, and pack it with fun books, activities and other learning resources.  CLICK HERE for some fun resources. 
  2. Find fun apps and websites that kids can play on Ipads and computers.  CLICK HERE for a list of online resources.  CLICK HERE for a list of app resources.
  3. Designate a specific time each day where the whole family gets together to have a "love, learn, and laugh hour."  You can work together on a project, play an educational game or work individually on your own project. 
  4. Go to educational places like the science museum, the planetarium, aquarium, nature center, etc.
  5. Arrange an "adventure" or "exploration" and take pictures or collect objects from nature. Afterwards, have fun looking up the names of each the items and learning about them.
  6. Create learning stations such as "Magical Mathematics, Whoopee Words, Spectacular Science, Brain Busters..."  Fill each station with activities and resources.  CLICK HERE for some fun resources.
  7. If math is difficult, work together to create a math manual.  Create a fun and enticing title for the project and use images, define the sequence of steps required to complete a problem, integrate memory strategies, and most of all use lots of color and art supplies.  This can also be done for reading, fine motor weaknesses or other areas of difficulty. 
  8. Sign students up for fun programs like The Khan Academy, the Nessy line of products.
  9. Write a family summertime newsletter or blog that can be shared with friends and family.  Let your children be a part of taking images, videos, writing articles and more.  You can do this for free on Blogger, or sites like Edublogs and Kidblog that offers teachers and students free blog space and appropriate security. 
  10. Have fun making cool things.  Instead of purchasing games and items, make your own out of recycled materials.  Some possible ideas are to create an obstacle course, a fairy wand, candles, origami...
  11. Teach your children about giving back to the community by picking up litter, volunteering with an animal rescue organization, visiting the sick or elderly, feeding the homeless, or pull weeds at a community garden.  
  12. Integrate learning into everyday activities.  For example, you can teach about measurements when baking together, or allow your child to help you balance your bank account. Even a boring chore, such as food shopping, can be fun when kids are in charge of cutting coupons, making grocery lists and collecting the needed items.
If you can think of other fun ideas, resources or links, feel free to share them by commenting on this blog post.  

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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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Multisensory Teaching Accommodates the 12 Ways of Learning

Teachers are always trying to reach more learners and improve retention.  One of the best ways to do this is to employ a variety teaching methods.  This involves integrating the 12 ways of learning into instruction.  Here is an infographic that reviews the 12 ways of learning and provides some statistics on how learning improves when teachers implement multisensory instruction.

Here is an image of the same infographic that can be shared on Pinterest.

  

I hope you found this to be informative and inspiring.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment below this blog post.

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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Thursday, June 4, 2015

15 Ways to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom


How can we nurture resilient, active learners that embrace challenging academic material and become successful lifelong learners? Carol Dweck suggests that what we need to do is help students shed a fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. What's more, Dweck contends that developing a growth mindset will also result in less stress and a more productive and fulfilling life. 

What is a Fixed and Growth Mindset?
In a fixed mindset, students believe that their abilities are dependent on fixed traits that can not be changed such as intellect or talent. Individuals that think this way, often cultivate a self-defeating identity, feel powerless, and many struggle with a sense of learned helplessness. In contrast, students with a growth mindset accept that abilities and aptitude can be developed with persistence and effort. As a result, these individuals are not intimidate by failure, because they realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process. They continuworkinhardespite any difficulties or setbacks. 

So What Can Teachers do to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom?
  1. Instruct your students about what it is to have a growth mindset and ask them to interview and write about someone that has a growth mindset.  
  2. Resist offering hints when students struggle to answer questions.  Instead, allow your students the time to think aloud and formulate answers so that they can embrace this as part of the learning process.
  3. Demonstrate your own growth mindset by seeing yourself as a lifelong learner that can improve and grow.
  4. Teach your students that what is most important is what they do after a failure.  Ask them to discuss this in small groups and then share their conclusions with the class. 
  5. Create an environment that nurtures and rewards students that maintain motivation and effort. Provide opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes, make corrections and improve grades.  
  6. Share real-life stories of past and present students that have exhibited a growth mindset. Challenge your students to do the same.
  7. Read about successful people who worked hard, struggled, and overcame obstacles to reach a high level of achievement.  Ask your students to write about how they could apply a similar mindset to their own life.
  8. Recognize initiative and praise students for hard work.  Avoid accolades for intelligence or talents.  To learn more about this, watch this video by Trevor Regan at Train Ugly.
  9. Encourage students to be aware of their inner voice and to speak to themselves like they would speak to their best friend. Help them to become aware of any fixed mindset phrases they may use such as "I can't do this."  Ask your students to share other fixed mindset phrases they have used in the past and make a list on the board.  Next, as a group, reword all the fixed mindset phrases listed with growth mindset suggestions.  For example, a growth mindset phrase might say, "This may be difficult at first, but with practice and effort I can master this!"  
  10. Watch this video by Trevor Regan at Train Ugly and lead a discussion with your students about how they can become better learners.
  11. Celebrate mistakes and thank students for sharing any misconceptions. Tell your students that this will help you to be a better teacher, and they will become resilient learners. 
  12. Offer a suggestion box to your students, so that they can share thoughts and ideas that can help to improve the classroom environment, instruction methods, and assessment tools. 
  13. Find out what motivates your students and integrate it into the curriculum. Then, share your own enthusiasm and excitement on the topic.
  14. Don't give homework.  Instead, assign creative, home-fun activities that are optional.  Provide assignment possibilities that students will enjoy completing and let them be a part of creating these assignment options.  
  15. Have your students complete and score a grit scale test.  Then watch Angela Duckworth's TED video and lead a discussion about how students can become more gritty. 
If you have any more suggestions on what we can do to nurture a growth mindset in the classroom, please make a comment below this blog post.

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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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Should ADHD Students Sit Still? New Research on Movement and Learning

Can you imagine trying to learn in a classroom all day while being bound in a strait jacket?  For many kinesthetic learners as well as kids with ADHD, requiring them to sit still during instruction is quite similar to binding them in their chairs.  Although some learners do benefit from sitting motionless, for others it is almost impossible to learn while their bodies remain idle.

Why Do Most Middle school and High school Teachers Require Their Students to “Sit Still?”
It makes sense that one would teach in a way that they, themselves, learn.  As a result, most teachers reflect upon their own ways of processing information when they create their lesson plans. I have found in my many years of conducting workshops with teachers, that very few teachers personally find movement helpful with the learning process.  In fact, I have my own theory that teacher education does not attract many kinesthetic learners, as the process to become a teacher requires little to no movement.  This hypothesis was tested when I conducted a workshop at a private middle school and high school.  When I assessed the learning preferences of the entire 200+ faculty, I was amazed to learn that only one of the teachers reported that they were a kinesthetic learner and that movement helped them to learn.  When I asked them what subject that they taught, they replied, “Gym.” Because the majority of subject-based teachers in middle school and high school don’t find movement helpful in the learning process, and often find it distracting, one can understand how difficult it can be to find teachers that are comfortable accommodating students that need to move around while learning.

What Does the Research Suggest About Movement in the Classroom?
New research that was recently published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology indicates that physical motion is critical to the way that students with ADHD encode and retrieve information and solve problems. Dr. Mark Rapport, a psychologist at the University of Central Florida conducted a study that was published this April, 2015 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.  The article, entitled, Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior? indicates that movement aids working memory and attention for boys ages 8-12 with ADHD, while these higher levels of activity resulted in lower working memory for typically developing students.  This indicates that the hyperactivity for students with ADHD has a functional role.   It would be nice to see more research that looks at the needs of other kinesthetic learners that don't have ADHD.  They do exist, as I have worked with quite a few of them myself.

How Can We Accommodate These Kinesthetic Learners in the Classroom?
Clearly, motor activity is a compensatory mechanism that facilitates neurocognitive functioning for kinesthetic students as well as those with ADHD.  Therefore, instead of requiring students to sit motionless in their chairs, schools need to offer students the option of sitting on ball chairs, integrating adjustable desks with foot swings that give the students the option of standing, and integrating desks with exercise equipment.  In addition, these students need to be coached on appropriate and non-disruptive ways that they can move in the classroom, and teachers need to be educated about the benefits of movement for many students.

Personally, I love to integrate movement into my lessons for those that need it.  It's amazing to see how engaged and motivated students can become when they learn in a way that nurtures their best ways of processing.  Here are some links to some of my favorite kinesthetic tools for the classroom!



If you would like to assess the learning preferences of your students and uncover the kinesthetic learners in your classroom, consider learning more about my Eclectic Teaching Approach. This publication also comes with an assessment that will help you define the unique ways of learning for each of your students, so that it is easy to accommodate and empower them. 

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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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sleep and Learning: Strategies to Help School Children Fall Asleep

Do your students or children struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Do they complain that they are fatigued during the school week? Many youngsters are up late doing homework, and as a result, they do not get the needed rest.  In fact, recent research suggests that insufficient sleep has been shown to cause poor school performance, cognitive and emotional problems, disciplinary problems, sleepiness in classes, and poor attention skills. 

Insufficient Sleep Can Also Lead to:
1.     symptoms of depression and anxiety
2.     aging of the skin
3.     serious health problems
4.     weight gain
5.     impaired judgement

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
According to WebMD, the amount of sleep needed varies per age. 
·       7-12-year-old children need 10 - 11 hours of sleep per night
·       12-18-year-old adolescents need 8 - 9 hours per night.

What Does the Recent Research Suggest?
Recent research has revealed an association between insufficient sleep and poorer grades and behaviors in school.  In 1998, psychologists Amy R. Wolfson of the College of the Holy Cross, and Mary A. Carskadon of Brown University Medical School surveyed more than 3,000 high-school students and found that those who earned C's, D's and F's had about 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed about 40 minutes later than students who received getting A's and B's.  In addition, researchers at the University of Minnesota reported on a study of more than 7,000 high-school students that attended a school district that had switched from a 7:15 a.m. to an 8:40 a.m. start time. When compared to students that maintained earlier start times, those that started later reported more sleep on school nights, feeling more alert during the day, earning improvements in grades and experiencing fewer depressive thoughts and behaviors.  Furthermore, in 2009, American and French researchers discovered that events in the brain called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. This process transfers learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep which can be impacted by insufficient sleep.  What’s more, Wiggs and Stores research reported in, Sleep Disturbance and Daytime Challenging Behaviors in Children with Severe Learning Disabilities, indicated associations between sleep problems and challenging behaviors. They found that sleep problems were more common in children with severe learning disabilities and that these children were also more likely to show daytime irritability, lethargy and hyperactivity. Finally, according to Backhaus, Junghanns, Born, Hodaus, and Faasch from the University of Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany, lack of sleep is associated with diminished consolidation of declarative memory. In other words, during sleep the brain turns recently learned memories into long-term memory storage, and sleep helps to lock in the learning.  

What are Some Strategies to Help Students Get Enough Sleep?
  1. Avoid television or screen time two hours before bed.  Research suggests that children who watch TV before bed stay up later and sleep less than children who do not.
  2. Prevent exposure to bright lights two hours before going to sleep.  A bright light can disrupt one’s circadian rhythms making it difficult to fall asleep.
  3. Keep your child’s bedroom as dark as possible.  Even a night light can disrupt sleeping patterns.  Help them to get comfortable with the lights off, or leave a nightlight on until they fall asleep.
  4. Provide children with a pass that is good for one (and only one) trip out of the bedroom after their bedtime.  If needed, allow them to earn a reward for compliance after a few days.
  5. Avoid long naps during the day as this can make it difficult to fall asleep in the evening.
  6. Engage in calming activities like meditations, lullabies, affection, and storytelling to help children relax and prepare for sleep.
  7. If your child still has difficulty falling asleep, encourage them to count backwards in their heads from 100.
Clearly, we need to assure that our children get the needed sleep so that they can optimize their learning as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing.  If you know of any other strategies, please share them with us.

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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