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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Are We Grading or Degrading our Students? Let's Shift Paradigms


Over the 15 years that I have worked as a learning specialist and educational therapist, I have never had a student come into my office with a poor test grade and ask me to help them to learn the material that they clearly did not master.  Instead of nurturing a desire to learn, our current paradigm instills a fear of failure.  As a result, when a student receives what they believe to be a poor grade on a test or assignment, they often feel degraded and ashamed.  Oftentimes, these tests and assignments are hidden or thrown away, and learning takes a nosedive.  In fact, when a student does unexpectedly poorly on a test, they are often so mortified that they learn little to nothing the rest of the day.  Instead they tend to internally ruminate and stress about the grade.  Sadly, it is the high test grades that students love to share and celebrate, as students quickly learn that they are rewarded for perfection.

Traditional Grading Only Points Out the Errors:
When teachers limit feedback to pointing out errors on assignments and tests, this can be both demoralizing and discouraging for learners.  Can you imagine working in an environment that only points out errors?  Too much criticism can be discouraging and can cause kids to dislike school and ultimately learning.

Where Does This Leave the Average Student or Struggling Learners?
Average students and struggling learners are often disempowered and frustrated, as they rarely, if ever, get to experience the grades they desire.  As a result, many of these learners can fall prey to a sense of learned helplessness.  Learned helplessness is a condition in which a person suffers from a sense of powerlessness, arising from persistence failure.  They learn to give up quickly as past efforts have failed.  It is thought to be one of the underlying causes of depression, acting out in school and even juvenile delinquency.

Learning to Embrace Mistakes Builds the Resilience.
Conversely, we should thank our students for sharing their misconceptions and mistakes and reward them for learning from them.  We should teach them the value of, "giving it another try" and learning from mishaps.  They should know that most of our greatest inventions were the result of repeated mistakes.  In fact, it was reported that Thomas Edison made 1000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When asked about it, Edison allegedly said, "I have not failed 1000 times.  I have successfully discovered 1000 ways NOT to make a light bulb." 

How Can We Shift Paradigms to an Environment that Helps Students Embrace and Celebrate Learning?
  1. Teach students that you love hearing about their mistakes and misconceptions.  You can even offer a locked box where students can safely and anonymously ask questions or request the review or reteaching of a topic.
  2. When students make a mistake, guide them to the correct answer.  Use words like:
    • "You're getting there."  
    • "Almost."  
    • "You're getting warmer."
    • "Give it another try."
  3. Reward students for effort instead of intelligence. As Winston Churchill professed, "Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential."
  4. Let go of grades and only make comments.  Begin by telling students what they did right, and then point out a few things they can do to improve their abilities.  Try to offer more feedback on what you liked and limit negative feedback, so students do not get overwhelmed.
  5. Allow students to always earn back partial credit for doing assignment and test corrections.
  6. Share your own past mistakes and misconceptions.  
  7. If you don't know an answer to a question, admit it.  Then demonstrate for your students how to find the answer.
  8. When students make a mistake, do not give them the answer.  Instead guide them to the correct response.  You can even turn it into a game like, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" - where students can ask for one the the following lifelines: 50:50 (give them a choice of two options), ask the class (poll the class), or ask a peer.
I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have some other suggestions, please make a comment below this posting.

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, July 18, 2015

Dyslexia: Understanding and Remediating Auditory Processing Skills

Although there are a number of cognitive processing deficits that can cause a diagnosis of dyslexia or a reading disability, challenges with auditory processing tend to be the prevailing cause for many struggling readers.  However, many of the terms used to describe these core problems can be confusing.  In fact, wading through a comprehensive testing report can be overwhelming, because they are packed with complex cognitive and remedial terminology.  In this blog, I hope to unscramble the tangle of terms associated with auditory processing.

What are Some Key Terms One Should Understand?
  1. Auditory Processing:  Auditory processing is the brain's interpretation of the sounds we hear. A difficulty or delay with auditory processing is not an issue with hearing, but with the understanding of what is heard.  It's a complex operation that involves auditory synthesis, auditory closure, auditory sequencing, auditory discrimination, segmenting and auditory memory.  
  2. Auditory Synthesis or Auditory Blending: The ability to pull together individual sounds to form words.
  3. Auditory Closure: The ability to fill in any missing sounds to decode a word.  For example, this may involve understanding what someone with a foreign accent maybe saying when they delete a sound or two in a word.
  4. Auditory Sequencing: The ability to properly order language sounds in words or sentences.  For example, a child may reverse the units of sound so that when they say the word animal it comes out "aminal."
  5. Auditory Discrimination: The ability to recognize differences between sounds.  For example, some students may struggle hearing the difference between the short "e" and "a" sounds.
  6. Segmenting: The ability to break a word into individual sounds or phonemes.
  7. Auditory Memory: The ability to remember what is heard.
  8. Phonological Processing: The ability to detect and discriminate a broad awareness of sounds including rhyming words, alliterations, syllables, blending sounds into words, as well as deleting or substituting sounds.
  9. Phonemes: The tiny units of sound that make up speech - such as the letter sounds.
  10. Phonemic Awareness: The ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds - also known as phonemes.  This, for example, includes the ability to detect the first sound, middle sound and end sound in a word.
  11. Phonics: A method of teaching reading by pairing sounds with letters or groups of letters.  It is the process of mapping speech into print.
  12. Receptive Language:  The ability to understand the language that we input, including both words and gestures. 
How Can These Difficulties be Remediated?
  1. Use an Orton-Gillingham, phonics based reading program that offers activities that strengthen auditory processing.  One of my favorite programs is Nessy Reading and Spelling.  There are many programs available, and our friends at the Dyslexia Reading Well offer a great review of the different programs.
  2. Build core cognitive skills through games and remedial activities.  Here is a great bundle of cognitive exercises at Good Sensory Learning
  3. Integrate fun activities that help students to practice the needed skills.  Check out the Reading Gamesfollowing Directions Activities and other fun reading publications at Good Sensory Learning.
I hope you found this helpful.  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Good Sensory Learning Offers Affiliate Marketing Commission Opportunity



Dear friends, fans and loyal customers of Good Sensory Learning: 

I'm happy to announce that I now have a new affiliate program that is available to you.  You can earn commissions simply by referring friends or customers to my website.  Each time one of these referrals makes a purchase you will earn a commission.  To start, all affiliates make 15%, but those who send a lot of traffic can be rewarded with greater commissions - up to 30%.

If you would like to learn more about becoming an affiliate CLICK HERE.

In addition, you will notice that I have redesigned my site for an easy navigation and shopping experience.  Please come by Good Sensory Learning and let me know how I can make it even better! 

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, July 4, 2015

Remediating Dyslexia with Orton Gillingham Based Reading Games


Students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities often learn differently and require an alternative approach to learning basic reading.  What's more, these young learners are working full tilt while sitting in the classroom and by the time they get home and have to complete their homework, they are mentally spent.  As a result, tagging on remedial reading lessons to a cup that is already overflowing can be enough to turn these kids off to learning altogether.

How Do We Help These Students Learn the Core Skills Needed to be Successful Readers?
  1. First, use a remedial program that is backed by time, testimonials and research.  The Orton-Gillingham approach to reading is a well-established and researched approach that offers a multisensory, sequential, incremental, cumulative, individualized, and explicit approach.  There are many programs that are available.  Click here to learn about a selection of these programs. 
  2. Second, employ an individualized approach as each student has unique challenges and gaps in knowledge.  If you need to assess the areas that require remediation be sure to use an assessment tool such as the Good Sensory Learning Reading Assessment
  3. Third, the process needs to be fun and engaging.  Many programs required students to slog through boring lessons, complicated rules, and bland workbook pages. Many of these concepts can be instructed through cute memory strategies and fun activities.  You can find many fun supplemental materials here
  4. Fourth, integrate a student-created, colorful, language arts handbook or guide. Click here to learn more about this method. 
  5. Fifth, help students learn how to visualize what they are reading.  Many struggling readers do not have the cognitive space to use their mind's eye when reading, therefore, developing this skill to automaticity is key.  To learn about the research behind visualization and learning as well as how to teach this needed skill click here.  
  6. Sixth, and most important, supplement all reading programs with card and board games that allow students to practice the concepts they are learning.  This brings the fun factor into learning and can help to nurture a love for reading.
Where Can I Find Multisensory and Fun Reading Games?

At Good Sensory Learning, we offer a large selection of downloadable card and board games that work with any Orton-Gillingham or phonics based reading program.  In addition, we have many other supplemental multisensory reading activities and materials.  In fact, we just unveiled a new website. Let me know what you think!

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, 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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