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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Following Directions: How Do I Teach this Skill?



Learning to follow directions is a crucial milestone in any student’s learning program.  It is the foundation of learning and difficulties in this area can impact a student’s ability to take notes, follow a sequence of steps, as well as show their knowledge on written assignments and even multiple-choice tests.

Even if a student is listening carefully or reading and rereading text, it doesn’t mean that they will succeed at following directions.  Weaknesses in attention, executive functioning, and language processing (both auditory and visual) can present as great obstacles for these students.  So what can be done about this?

We need to teach students how to follow directions.  They need to learn the subtleties of linguistic cues.  They need to learn to carefully analyze each word and then know how to decipher what it all means.

Whether it involves listening comprehension (auditory, receptive language) or understanding written directions (reading comprehension), there are a number of things teachers and parents can do to assist students with this process.
What’s most important is to make the process fun.  Whether you speak the instructions in person or on a tape recorder, you will be strengthening the ability to follow oral instructions.  If you write the instructions down, then you will be assisting the ability to follow written instructions.

One game that has been around for a long time is Simon Says.  In this game directions can be presented orally or by writing on a large piece of paper or overhead.

1.    Tell the players to line up in front of you so that they can see you.  Instruct them that you are Simon and that you will be giving them directions to follow. If you say "Simon says" before you give the instructions, the players should do the action(s). If you do not say "Simon says" before you give the instructions, they should disregard the instructions.
2.    Start with simple one step directions such as, “Simon says put your hands on your head.”  In the beginning, “Simon” can demonstrate the directions with the players.  Later, “Simon” can stop demonstrating and can even verbalize multi-step instructions.  For example, “Simon says, hop on your left foot, then hop on your right foot, and finally sit on the floor.”
3.    Typically students are out of the game when they make a mistake.  I recommend giving points or tokens to those that follow the directions perfectly so that the ones that makes mistakes can continue to play.  The player with the most tokens at the end is the winner.

Another game, that I call Follow My Words is a game that is best played with two players.  One player is blindfolded and the other player gives directions.
1. The player that is blindfolded must follow the oral directions of the other player.  You can do simple activities such as make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or you can even rearrange the furniture and try to get the blindfolded player from point “A to point B.”  Another option is to give the blindfolded player directions on how to trace a picture that they have not seen, or build something out of blocks.
2. It is very important to stress safety and that directions must be careful and well thought-out so that no one is hurt or misguided.  Remember the one that is blindfolded is placing all their trust in you.
3. Each player should take turns as the one that is blindfolded and the one that is giving the instructions.

A final suggestion that will help students work on following written directions is a treasure hunt.

1. You can play one-on-one or in groups.
2. Explain to the players that they will be given a clue.  On the clue will be directions that they have to follow.  The clue will lead to an object.  On that object will be another clue that will lead to another object and so forth.
3. At the end you can have a prize or a note that tells them what they have won.
4. Directions can vary in difficulty level.  For instance, a clue could read I’m under the big red ball in the closet, or it could say, I’m in the Library in a book entitled “The Phantom Tollbooth.”  Your next clue will be on page 7.  You can even guide them to a key that will open a chest or a door.

I hope you find these ideas helpful.  If you would prefer to use a workbook that is filled with activities to strengthen students abilities to follow directions, please check out my two publications: Learning to Follow Directions: The Fun and Easy Way at my website: www.goodsensorylearning.com  I also offer a free download sampling of all these activities.
      
 
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 Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Multisensory Teaching Reaches All Types of Learners


A common question and frustration plaguing teachers is how to meet the diverse learning styles of all the students in their classroom.  With as many as 12 learning styles, teachers can get overwhelmed thinking about teaching a topic 12 different ways. 

There is a solution.  First, it is imperative to understand the different learning styles or ways of learning.  Second, one must consider a number of teaching strategies.

Understanding the 12 Learning Styles:
There are 12 ways of learning: visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic, sequential simultaneous, reflective/logical, verbal, interactive, direct experience, indirect experience and rhythmic/melodic.  Although most students can learn in some capacity using all 12 learning styles, when students’ unique profiles or preferences are accommodated, they often experience joy in the learning process and celebrate remarkable gains. 

Below, the 12 learning styles are defined and 3 to 4 teaching suggestions are made for each.

1) Visual Teaching: This method allows students to learn by seeing.
Seeing a diagram
Seeing an image
Seeing a movie

2) Auditory Teaching: This method allows students to learn by listening.
Listening to a lecture
Listening to a debate
Listening to a story

3) Tactile Teaching: This method allows students to learn by touching.
Touching and manipulating an artifact
Conducting a hands-on experiment
Copying or tracing diagrams or tables
Dioramas

4) Kinesthetic Teaching: This method allows students to learn while moving.
Role playing scenarios or doing skits
Participating on field trips
Conducting interactive experiments

5) Sequential Teaching: This method allows students to learn material in a specific order or series of steps.
Breaking down information into a series of steps
Making flow charts
Placing events in sequence on a timeline

6) Simultaneous Teaching: This method allows students to learn “the big picture,” or how the information is interrelated.
Producing summaries
Explaining the overall meaning
Creating concept maps or webs
Looking at a timeline to gleam the overall relationship

7) Reflective/Logical Teaching: This method allows students to solve problems and ponder complex issues.
Brainstorming solutions to problems
Asking students to analyze material
Offering reflective writing opportunities

8) Verbal Teaching: This method allows students to learn information by talking about it.
Breaking students into discussion groups
Encouraging students to verbally rehearse their understanding of information
Asking students to think aloud

9) Interactive Teaching: This method allows students to learn information in the company of other people.
Organizing a group debate
Breaking into small group activities
Conducting a question-answer session

10) Direct Experience Teaching: This method allows students to learn through experience.
Conducting experiments
Going on field trips
Taking part in an apprenticeship program

11) Indirect Experience Teaching: This method allows students to learn from the experiences of others.
Telling about your own experiences of learning from peers
Reading a biography
Watching demonstrations

12) Rhythmic/Melodic Teaching: This method allows students to see patterns or pair melodies and rhythm to the information they are learning.
Suggesting patterns/themes across course content
Pointing out songs that address the course themes
Bringing in a musical piece that reflects a time period and
creates a mood

Teaching Strategies that Accommodate the 12 Learning Styles:
When you understand the different learning styles, there are a number of strategies that can be employed:

·    Create learning stations that enable students to pick activities, practice materials, complete handouts and make projects that teach and reinforce new knowledge.  Each learning station should accommodate different learning styles.  For example, there could be a tactile learning station, a sequential learning station, a kinesthetic learning station…
·    Step out of your own learning style and try other methods. 
·    Design multisensory lessons. A lecture, for example, does not have to be exclusively auditory. To name a few, visual, simultaneous, tactile and verbal approaches can be woven into the lesson.  Also certain instructional techniques are naturally multisensory.  For example, doing a skit is highly multisensory because it is auditory, visual , kinesthetic, verbal, and interactive.
·    Consider assessing the learning styles of your students so that you can tailor lessons to meet their needs.  An excellent option is the Eclectic Learning Profile.  This can be used to look at individual or class profiles.  The manual is also packed with teaching suggestions, lesson ideas and handouts.
·    Provide homework or project options.  Say, for example, you wanted students to show mastery of a process.  This could be the steps to complete a math problem, the plot of a story or their understanding of a historical time period.  In all three cases, students can select assignment options such as:
o   Create a timeline or sequence chart
o   Create a web or flow chart
o   Draw a series of images that show the steps and write a caption for each.
o   Do a power point presentation that shows the sequence
o   Do a skit that illustrates the steps.
o   Write a song that illustrates the steps.

Learning to accommodate the diverse needs of your students will make you a more popular, confident and creative teacher. 

If you would like to see a video on the 12 Learning Styles click on the link 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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Helping Students that Struggle with Executive Functioning

Many students struggle with organization, time management and planning. Capable and intelligent learners can sabotage their grades by: losing materials, forgetting to turn in assignments,leaving things to the last minute,
miscalculating or underestimating the amount of time it will take to complete a task, failing to record homework in an agenda or planner,leaving needed materials at school, leaving needed materials at home, failing to prepare for tests, failing to plan and break down long-term assignments into manageable tasks or goals, neglecting to plan for midterms or finals, missing assignments, forgetting details, losing focus and missing important notes or directions, losing mental stamina and failing to complete a task, misplacing important materials, rushing through work.

The publication, Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success offers methods and strategies to help structure, guide, and support students in the areas of organization, time management and planning (executive functioning skills) in all academic areas. Executive functioning is a newly defined cognitive process that has gained recognition in schools over the past decade and accommodating students that struggle in this area is often neglected. Inappropriate labels such as “careless” and “lazy” are often placed on this population. Instead of compassion and strategies, they are often intimidated, harassed and mishandled with discipline and inconsistent methods that result in poor grades. For these students anger, frustration, poor motivation and feelings of learned helplessness are common. More and more students are being described with this label and this video strives to offer them strategies for success.


This video presentation was also created to help teachers, parents and administrators understand the needs of students that struggle with Executive Functioning (attention, time management, organization, mental manipulation, and self initiation) weaknesses. A comprehensive definition is offered and many strategies are presented.  It is all based on a CD book or downloadable file called Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and Easy Approaches to Mastering Executive Functioning Skills for Students.


To learn more about this and other fabulous educational resources, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com
 
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 Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  

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It’s all in the Presentation - Place Value Games a Success



If students are subjected to boring presentations and endless practice problems, many may disengage and some may even act out.  Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s all in the presentation?”  The way a teacher presents new class topics can impact each student’s interest, degree of focus as well as their learning curve.  For example, a teacher could announce, “We will be starting a new unit on script tomorrow morning,” or they could say, “I have great news! Tomorrow we will be starting one of my favorite activities, roller coaster letters!” The second presentation will surely create a greater sense of excitement and anticipation.  However, teachers are not only contending with the constant challenge of making their lessons engaging, but they also have to accommodate diverse learning styles. For instance, some students need to see examples, others are aided with manipulates, still others may need to process ideas aloud or make connections through webs or a sequence of steps.   Clearly, presenting materials in a multi-sensory way is key so that all students can learn to their best of ability.  But addressing all these issues can be overwhelming and exhausting.   

Place Value Games: Golf, Hockey, Bowling Shuffleboard and Stair Toss and Place Value Panic were created at Good Sensory Learning to help address these issues.  Students can now learn about place value through interactive, multi-sensory games that are easy to make, appealing and fabulously fun.   This is one of many learning games and activities at Good Sensory Learning.  Come check out all our learning games!
 
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 Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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