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Saturday, September 28, 2013

How to Find the Right Graduate Program

It is always a difficult process to find the right graduate program.  There are a plethora of options out there and locating the perfect place can be tricky and time consuming. I wanted to share my own personal anecdote as well as some recommendations.  I hope that you find this helpful!  
What inspired this post was a question by one of my followers.  Below you will find their question in blue and my answer in red. 

I am a special education teacher and have been for 20 years +.  I also work as an adjunct professor for several Massachusetts colleges.  I have my masters +60 additional graduate credits, but have yet to commit to a doctoral program because I cannot find one that really interests me. I really want to focus on the impact of movement and exercise, cross-body exercises and increased heart-rate on learning.  How did you go about tailoring a degree program to meet your unique interests?  I’m not sure where to even begin!  Any help or advise you could give me would be so appreciated!    

Thank you,  Karen

Dear Karen:

Thanks so much for your question.  I'm happy to share my experience and some advice.  

When I was looking at graduate programs, I too had trouble finding a single college that allowed me to acquire the needed coursework and education I desired.  I did not plan to have an undergraduate, masters degree and doctoral degree in different areas.  I also did not plan to switch doctoral programs three times.  It all seemed so chaotic, but as I traversed this path, it gave me an unusual insight.  I could see that each department lay isolated, there was little to no communication between the fields, and each provided their own perspective, objective and strategies. To my delight, combining the methods and paradigms was an amazing journey and it offered a unique expertise that has allowed me to bridge some important gaps.  For instance, having a comprehensive understanding of learning, cognition and assessment allows me to qualitatively evaluate the needs of my students.  Also, having an artistic background enables me to bring color, images, illustrations and design into my student sessions which ignites excitement and sparks creativity.  This diversity has become my tool box and continuing education in areas such as mindfulness and nutrition continue to expand my multisensory approach.  So, don’t be afraid to mix coursework from numerous departments and look for a school that offers graduate work in all your areas of intrigue.

I love the fact that you want to combine coursework in the mind-body connection.  It is such an important issue and I can tell you that integrating mindful movement can be magical for many students.  It can also help individuals with disabilities to break through difficult barriers.  

To start the process, make a list of the research articles that you find most inspiring.  Note of the institutions that feature their research.  If possible, contact the author.  Find out what schools they attended, and ask them if they know of any programs that would enable you to expand on your interests.  If they are faculty members themselves, find out more about the possibility of working with them in a doctoral program.  The college matters, but the mentors you encounter in the program far supersedes the reputation of the school.  Check out the backgrounds and interests of all the faculty in each department and if at all possible meet them.  For my masters program in educational psychology, I picked the University of Northern Colorado over New York University as well as Columbia.  My friends and family were shocked, but I never doubted this decision.  The faculty were outstanding at UNC and the assistantship they granted me as well as the individual attention and small class sizes were a perfect fit.

I hope this has been helpful.  If I can be of further assistance, please let me know.  I wish you great luck and fortune on your quest for higher learning.


Cheers, Erica

If any of you have additional advice for Karen, please leave a comment 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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Friday, September 13, 2013

Natural Strategies that Can Help Students Academic Abilities and Behaviors

More and more children are being medicated for school based problems related to attention and learning issues, and families are concerned about the short term and long term effects.  In addition, most caregivers don’t want to mask the presenting symptoms.  Instead, they want to get to the root cause of the problem.   

What are Some Possible Causes that can be Addressed Naturally?
There are three possible causes that can addressed without medications.  First, there are increasing amounts of toxins and unhealthy, synthesized substances in our environment that have impacted our food chain and water supplies.  For instance, toxic levels of mercury are often reported in many types of fish and professionals are continually warning us about the dangers of pesticides and genetically modified foods.  Second, many available foods contain preservatives, additives and other chemicals that can negatively impact on our bodies and brains.  A common additive, monosodium glutamate or MSG, is used by restaurants to make patrons feel full.  However, this substance can also cause headaches, intestinal distress and other unpleasant symptoms. Third, in our fast paced society, many kids do not have a well balanced diet and therefore struggle with nutritional deficiencies.  An imbalanced diet can impact physical development, organs, and because the blood feeds the brain, poor nutrition can affect cognition. 

What are Some Common Symptoms that Indicate Nutritional Deficiencies?
     1.     Rough dry skin
     2.     Cracked lips
     3.     Dry or dull hair
     4.     Pasty skin
     5.     Excessive thirst

What are Some Common Symptoms that Indicate Toxins are Present in the Body?
     1.     Rashes
     2.     Irritability
     3.     Intestinal issues
     4.     Mental fog
     5.     Inflammatory conditions
     6.     Head aches
     7.     Sinus problems
     8.     Difficulty sleeping

What Can We Do?
     1.     Use natural cleaning products without synthesized agents and heavy perfumes.
     2.     Clean your house with hot steam instead of chemicals.
     3.     Drink plenty of clean water.
     4.     Eat organic produce and meat.
     5.     Eat detoxifying foods, like fruits and vegetables.
     6.    Take a high grade fish oil supplement.  Here is a great video on the benefits of fish oil http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQ477yo1IXY
     7.     Take high quality vitamins.
     8.     Avoid processed foods – particularly white flour and sugar.
     9.     Exercise your body 3-5 times a week.
    10.    Allow your body to have some down time.

I hope you found this helpful!  I would love to hear your thoughts.


Cheers, Erica

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, September 7, 2013

Word Collages and Wriggle Writing Make Writing Fun and Engaging



Bringing creative ideas and images into the writing process can make class work and homework assignments fun and memorable for students.  I love teaching my students how to create word collages in the shape of an image.  In addition, I find that my students love wriggle writing, too, which allows them to write their stories and poems in a nonlinear fashion.

The Process of Creating a Word Collage:
By Erica Warren Copyright 2013
      1.     Provide your students a theme, such as their favorite animal, a friend, a self-portrait, an event, a concept and so forth.  
      2.     Share with them that they will be creating a word collage using phrases, sentences and/or words that they can type, write or cut out of magazines.
      3.     Indicate that they can place their words, phrases and sentences randomly, or they can organize them within a traced image on a piece of poster board.  Then, show them some examples.
      4.     As an added option, students can be encouraged to add small objects and designs.  

* The image to the right was done about the concept of learning.

The Process of Creating Wriggle Writing:
      1.     Provide your students a topic, such as a description of    
By Erica Warren Copyright 2013
themselves, their favorite animal, a friend, an event, and so forth.  This can be written as prose or as a poem.
      2.     Share with them that they will be taking a short writing piece or poem and rewriting it on the outline of an image, on a squiggle, inside a maze and so forth.
      3.     Share that they can trace an image or design on a piece of poster board and then write their story or poem on the outside of the image.  Then, show them some examples.

 * The image to the right illustrates wriggle writing on a squiggle.

Two Websites Make Word Collages and Wriggle Writing a Breeze
If time is an issue, you can let your students use one of these internet sites to help them create their word collage or wriggle writing projects. 

Tagxedo:
The online site, Tagxedo, makes wonderful word collages from your own file, a website, a blog and more.  It allows you to pick a shape, the color combinations and it will generate the image for you!  Your students can also get their creations placed on a T-shirts, mugs, bags and more. 


 * The image to the right one that I did about my dog Butter:

Festisite:
The online site, Festisite, allows you to paste your text into a text box and it will create a PDF file of your written work into a spiral, a heart, a wave pattern, or a maze. 

If you pull the PDF image into a word document you can then change the page background, and then take a screen shot to add color. 


 * The image to the right is one I did from a poem I wrote:

If you decide to use these fun methods, 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 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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