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Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quick Individualized Solutions for Struggling and Dyslexic Readers

There is no single reading program or method that will address all the needs of struggling readers, because each learner has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses.  In fact, there are many cognitive processing weaknesses that can effect young learners and if you want quick and optimal results, it’s important to pursue a comprehensive evaluation.  A good assessment will help uncover the areas of difficulty.  Then educational professionals, such as an experienced reading specialist or educational therapist can focus on strengthening those specific areas of cognition. 

What Are Some of The Cognitive Processing Areas That Impact Reading?
There are many cognitive processing areas that can impact reading.  Here are the most common:

Tracking: is the ability of the eyes to follow the movement of an object in motion or follow words across the page from left to right.
Visual Synthesis – is the ability to pull the pieces together to create a visual whole.
Visual Closure - is the ability to identify or recognize a symbol or object when the entire object is not visible.
Visual Discrimination - is the ability to discriminate between visible likeness and differences in size, shape, pattern, form, position, and color. 
Visual Reasoning - is the ability to understand and analyze visual information. 
Visual Memory - is the ability to recall what has been seen.
Visual Sequencing  - is the ability to recall the sequence of symbols, letters or numbers that have been seen.
Attention to Visual Details - is the ability to attend to and recognize all the information and fine points presented in an image.
Auditory Discrimination - is the ability to detect differences in sounds.
Auditory Memory - is the ability to remember the details of what is heard.
Auditory Sequencing - is the ability to remember the order of information in which it was heard.
Auditory Closure - is the ability to “fill in the gaps” and decipher a word or message when a part is distorted or missing.
Sound Symbol Association - is the ability to connect a sound with a symbol or letter.
Word Retrieval - is the ability to rapidly and precisely express ideas into specific words.
Receptive Language - is the ability to accurately understand language that is seen or heard.
Mental Flexibility - is the ability to shift our thoughts in order to respond effectively to any given situation.

Comprehensive Reading Programs Work, But Are They The Best Solution?
No one would suggest a whole body workout, if you just had a weak bicep.  Although a whole body workout would help in many ways, it will be a long process and your bicep may never receive the intensive work it needs to catch up with the rest of your body.  Likewise, a reading program is always beneficial, but it will probably take time and it may never strengthen the specific cognitive areas that need the most attention. 

How Can Specific Cognitive Areas Be Strengthened? 
To strengthen specific areas of cognition, it is important to do repeated activities that exercise those areas of the brain.  For example, if you need to improve a student's tracking abilities, he or she would need to do a lot of activities that would require their eyes to follow from left to right and follow objects in motion.  Likewise, to improve visual discrimination, a student would need to complete a lot of activities that would require the processing of similar images.  They would need to learn to practice and uncover likenesses and differences. 

What Are Some Specific Tools Professionals, Teachers and Parents Can Use?
To help make this process easier, I have designed a series of specific cognitive activities and games in a series of publications called Reversing Reversals.  The first publication in the Series, Reversing Reversal Primary, offers cognitive training materials for young learners that are struggling with letters and numbers, as well as those that are showing signs of dyslexia or other learning disabilities.  This product includes fun activities and games that use animals which will truly please and entice students.  Young learners will not even realize that they are working on the foundational skills that are necessary to learn basic math and reading.  The next product is Reversing Reversals Beginners and Reversing Reversals.  This integrates letters and numbers into the activities and games.  Finally, Reversing Reversals 2 continues to offer more activities which work with letters, numbers and even symbols.   Other options include my Following Directions Series, Executive Functioning Games, and Working Memory Series. Free samplings of the activities are also available on the product pages.  

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 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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Monday, June 24, 2013

Sharing a Powerful Analogy used by Sir Kenneth Robinson

Sir Kenneth Robinson continues to inspire educators around the globe with his ideas for educational reform.  He uses the following analogy in a recent Ted Talk entitled: How to Escape Educations Death Valley.
To view the whole video, click on the link below.
http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_how_to_escape_education_s_death_valley.html
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, June 21, 2013

10 Easy Ways to Strengthen the Weaknesses Associated with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is the new, hot topic in education around the globe, and it is frequently featured in educational conferences, news articles, YouTube videos, and even movies. New estimates suggest that as many as 1 in 10 children have this difficulty, making it the most common type of learning disability. Although dyslexia is common, many with this condition remain undiagnosed. Furthermore, many others who have received this diagnosis don’t fully understand it and never receive the needed remediation. So, how can we help this underserved population?

Here are some suggestions:
1. Because black text on a white background can be visually uncomfortable for many with dyslexia, provide them the option of using color overlays or nonprescription glasses with color-tinted lenses. You can make your own overlays by taking transparent, colorful pocket folders or report covers and slicing them into strips that can also be used as bookmarks. You can get a selection of tinted glasses that your students can use on sites like Amazon.com. The most popular color seems to be yellow.

2. Similarly, if changing the color of the background is helpful for reading, it is likely that your learners will also benefit from changing the background color when typing. On a Mac, using Word, this can be done by clicking on the Format drop down menu, and then selecting background. Here you can select another background color. Please note, this will not impact the background when printing documents. On a PC, this can be done by selecting the drop down menu, Page Layout, then Page Color.

3. Play search games with letters and words that are challenging. For example, if a learner is having trouble discriminating between the letters "b" and "d," give them a magazine, newspaper or other print out and have them circle all the "bs." They don’t have to be able to read the text; they will just be searching for the designated letter or word. If you instruct a student to scan one line at a time, you will also be strengthening his or her tracking skills.

4. Purchase a book of jokes, or find some on the internet. Go through each joke and talk about what makes it funny. Discuss double meanings, and make a list of words that have multiple meanings. Finally, encourage the learner to make their own joke book.

5. If spelling is a real problem, make a list of the student's commonly misspelled words. Use a notebook and place one word on each page. Have fun coming up with memory strategies that will help the learner remember the correct spelling. For example, if a student is having difficulty with the word “together,” he or she may notice that the word is made up of three simple words – to, get and her. As another example, one may notice that the word “what” has the word "hat" in it. The student might draw many hats in their notebook and then write down the question, “What hat?”

6. Play fun, free internet games and videos that review basic phonics, such as Star Fall, BBCs Syllable Factory Game, Phonics Chant 2 and Magic E.

7. Make difficult letters, numbers and words with the learner out of wet spaghetti, pebbles, raisins, pipe cleaners, a sand tray, shaving cream, or clay. You can also place challenging letters, numbers or words on a ball or a balloon and play catch. Every time a participant catches the ball or balloon, he or she reads the first symbol or word seen. Integrating a tactile and kinesthetic modality into lessons will make them more enjoyable and memorable.

8. Use books on tape or read aloud. While listening, ask the learners to close their eyes so they can image the story in their head. Many learners with dyslexia never fully develop their capacity to envision or visualize a story, because reading is so mentally overwhelming. Helping these learners to develop the ability to utilize their mind’s eye aids in reading comprehension and memory. Another option is to have the learner read along, so they can begin to see and recognize whole words and phrases. A two great organizations that offers books on tape for struggling readers are Bookshare and  Learning Ally. You can also purchase Franklin's Anybook Anywhere so that books can be recorded at your convenience, yet played anytime - anywhere!

9. Have fun creating a special reading area. Make sure to come up with a fun name for this place, such as "the book nook." Decorate it together. You can fill it with pillows, stuffed animals, blankets and other comforting objects. You can hang drapes around it, get a large bean bag, hide it under a tall table, or build it around an indoor chair swing or hammock. Have books, highlighters, colored pencils and paper within reach.

10. Create a consistent time every few days where the whole family grabs a book and reads. All family members should congregate and read in a common room. Make sure to have munchies and other comforting objects at hand. This is a time to relax and enjoy the company of one another, so make this a cherished and special time.

If you are interested in purchasing some products that help students with dyslexia, consider downloading a free sample of Dr. Warren’s Reversing Reversals, Following Directions, Making Inferences the Fun and Easy Way, or Reading 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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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Can Hemisphere Integration Exercises Help Students with Dyslexia?

It is common knowledge that the brain has two hemispheres and that they are bridged by a bundle of nerves that travel across the corpus callosum.  However, because this overpass exists, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is always used.  In fact, you will often hear of people claiming to be right or left brain dominant, and many people function quite well using predominantly “half a brain.”  But if we could learn to unite the power of both hemispheres and assimilate experiences for optimal learning, wouldn’t that be great? 

Image 2
Brain Gym by Dr. Paul E. Dennison and Smart Moves, by Dr. Carla Hannaford offers just these tools, as well as some scientific research to back these claims.  What they have uncovered, by uniting the fields of Applied Kinesiology, Educational Kinesiology, Developmental Optometry, Biology and Neuroscience, are movements or exercises that enhance communication across the hemispheres.   Many of these activities continually cross the midline (an imaginary line that descends down through the body from the corpus callosum) so that both hemispheres are activated, and they must communicate for proper execution (See image 2).  Other movements involve procedures that help to relax and refocus the mind and body by using acupressure or trigger points and other simple motions.  

The authors claim that the activities can help improve academics, focus, memory, mood, and even remediate learning disabilities such as dyslexia and dysgraphia.  The bottom line is that many students remain physically inactive in classrooms for much of the day, and integrating simple movements between lessons, can provide the needed physical release. 

I would love to share some specific exercises, but they are protected under copyright laws. 

You can learn more by purchasing their books linked below.


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 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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Saturday, June 8, 2013

Sight Word Bracelet Project and Game

Learning all the sight words in the English language can be a challenging task for beginning readers and finding fun and engaging activities to help them master these phonetically unconventional words can be a chore.  One of my students recently came to a session with a charming bracelet that she had created with the use of letter beads, and it ignited an idea for a fun classroom or home project and game. 

Sight Word Bracelet Project:
· Go to the craft store or Amazon.com to purchase letter beads and twine or cord.  Personally, I like to use cord that stretches, so that children can easily slip their creations on and off their wrists.  I included some links at the bottom of the post. 
· Make a list of challenging sight words.
· Have your student(s) select a challenging sight word and have them place the letter beads onto the cord in a sequence so that they spell the word.  You can limit each bracelet to one sight word, or you can do two or more by placing spacers between the words. 

Sight Words Read and Write Race Game: 
(for three or more players)
· Ask each player to wear his or her new sight word bracelet.  Make sure each student can read the sight word on his or her own bracelet. 
· Give each player a piece of paper and a clip board.
· Tell the players that they have to read the sight word or sight words off of each student’s wrist.  But, so nobody else can hear, they must whisper the answer so only the person wearing the sight word can hear them.  If they get it correct, then they get to write it down on their piece of paper.  If they don’t get it right, the person wearing that word or words whispers the word back in their ear.  They can come back to that person and whisper their sight word again, but not right away.  They have to go and read at least two other sight words before they can go back and reread the one that they missed.  If there are not any more words for them to read, they must wait one minute before going back and giving it another try.  The first person to correctly read and write down all the sight words on everyone’s wrist, including their own, is the winner.  If you don't want a "winner," after all the players finish the activity, ask for volunteers to read all the sight words on their paper.

If you are only working with one student, you can let them create a sight word necklace with a series of ten or more difficult sight words that are separated with spacers.  Encourage them to wear it and see if they can read and spell all the sight words for their friends and family members. 

I hope you enjoy this activity!  I'd 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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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Student Mind Maps: Revealing the Remedial Needs of Struggling Writers


Having an understanding of how each student processes information and conceptualizes ideas is key in the remedial writing process.   Students can think in a sequence of images, a series of words, webs of pictures, an outline of phrases, a collage of imagery, a patchwork of terms, movie-like scenes and more.  By evaluating the ways your students conduct the process, you can help them to tweak their method so that writing can become a fluid and enjoyable process.  This can be done through discussion, but what I find to be most helpful is having your student(s) conduct a drawing of how their mind works – a mental mind map.

I discovered the utility of this mindful approach when working with a student, JT.  Time and time again, JT struggled to get his ideas on paper, and beginning the process was always a chore.  What’s more, first drafts tended to be a hodgepodge of overlapping ideas.  We often referred to JT’s difficulties as road blocks, and when I finally asked JT to draw what it was like in his mind to write, we discovered a very different issue.  JT didn’t suffer with writers block, he experienced more of a writer’s bottleneck.   The term bottleneck is a metaphor that is often used to describe the traffic congestion created when construction takes a multilane road and limits travel to a single lane.  Soon traffic gets backed up and travel becomes slow and frustrating.  It comes literally from the slow rate of liquid outflow from a bottle, as it is limited by the width of the exit – the  bottleneck.  JT’s challenge was not a result of a lack of words and ideas as we once thought.  Instead, he was overwhelmed with competing and overlapping ideas as represented in the image on this page.  JT drew a complex web of lines that was dotted with what he described as both good and bad ideas.  Also, he remarked that darker lines represent stronger ideas.  Once I saw the image, it all made sense.  JT is highly intelligent, but he also has ADHD as well as dyslexia.  Now it is clear how these diagnoses impact his writing.  JT is bombarded with a plethora of ideas and he has difficulty funneling and organizing his thoughts into an ordered sequence of words.  When he writes, he too becomes frustrated with the slow and labored process of writing in a linear fashion.  What’s more, his dyslexia, which impacts his spelling, is an added hurdle and annoyance that distracts him during the writing process.

So now that I know JT’s challenge, what can I do to help him?

1) From the very beginning, I can help JT to define the main ideas and topic sentences. 
2) I can also encourage him to use graphic organizers or programs such as Inspiration to help JT to categorize his supporting details and examples.
3) I can offer JT a computer with a spell check and word prediction software.
4) When conducting research papers, I can help JT define each main idea on a different colored index card.  Then, JT can organize each nugget of information onto the best colored index card so that all the supporting details and examples are categorized under the same color as the most appropriate main idea.  Then, I can let him sequence the supporting details and examples in an orderly fashion by arranging the cards.  Finally, when JT is ready to type his paper, he can alter the font color to match the colored index cards so that he can be sure to get all the correct details and examples under the best main idea.   Once the paper is complete, JT can select the whole document and change the font color back to black.

I hope you will try having your students draw their own mental mind maps.  Allowing them to show the workings of their inner mind will not only help others remediate areas of difficulty, but it will help each individual have a better understanding of and power over his or her own ways of processing.

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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