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Friday, May 30, 2014

11 Multiple Choice Strategies

With the end of the school year quickly approaching, many young learners are prepping for finals. Learning the content for these comprehensive exams is imperative, but mastering the strategies for approaching multiple choice tests can also serve as a means to elevate final grades.  

Why Should Students Learn About How to Take Multiple Choice Tests?
Due to large class sizes, increasing paperwork as well as common core curriculums, multiple choice tests are becoming the fast favorite of educational institutions.  Ironically, these are the most difficult tests to create, they are often poorly written and they commonly include tricky wording. As a result, test items can be a linguistic nightmare for some students.  They can become an obstacle course that can trip up learners with language-based disabilities or weaknesses, making it virtually impossible for them to share their true knowledge of the academic material. What's more, teachers are not properly trained on how to write and evaluate this testing format. For instance, if 50% or more of the class misses an item, teachers should discard the item as it measures one of two things.  Either the teacher did not adequately teach the material or the question was poorly worded.  Sadly, many teachers do not even have the power to eliminate items as many tests are mandated from the powers above.  So what can we do to manage this difficult situation?  We must train our students to be linguistically savvy and make them aware of the many looming booby traps that are embedded in multiple choice tests.

11 Multiple Choice Tips

Here are a number of strategies that I teach my own students:


  1. After reading the stem of each question, anticipate the answer before looking at the options.  Then match your answer with the best choice.
  2. Read each item completely.  Even if you think you have found the answer, study every option before moving onto the next problem.
  3. Eliminate options that are clearly incorrect so you can simplify the task.  Most questions have throwaway items.
  4. If you don't know the answer, flag the item and come back to it later.  You might find the relevant information in other test questions.
  5. Options that offer broad generalizations are usually incorrect.  Watch for words like always, necessarily, only, completely, must, totally, never that make this option improbable.
  6. Options that offer qualified pointers are usually correct.  Look for words such as perhaps, sometimes, often, may and generally that make this option probable.  
  7. Be aware of words such as not, no and none as well as prefixes such as a, un, and dis.  These words or prefixes can change the meaning of the question. 
  8. Be aware of double negatives that make a statement positive.  For example, not atypical means typical and not false means true.
  9. Choose from familiar options and avoid unknown terms and wording.
  10. If you have to guess, chose one of the following: 
    1. Choose the longest answer.
    2. Choose the answer that is presented in the middle.
    3. Choose one of two opposite answers.
  11. If you get anxious, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and visualize successful results.
I hope you found this post and these strategies helpful.  If you have any thoughts or further ideas, please share them below this post.


To learn more about helping young learners develop executive functioning skills and acquiring other helpful handouts and advice, consider purchasing Planning Time Management and Organization for Success. This publication offers methods and materials that guide and support students in the areas of time management, learning strategies, planning, and organization. It includes questionnaires, agendas, checklists, as well as graphic organizers. You will also find materials that focus reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and incentives programs. What’s more, the materials accommodate learners of all ages from elementary to college. Finally, I offer a free sample assessment from the publication too, as well as a free video on executive functioning. To Access this Click Here
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, May 23, 2014

The Secret to Motivating Students

Motivation is thought to be a common culprit that plagues students, however this couldn't be further from the truth.  As Rick Lavoie said, "It is not that students become unmotivated, because all human behavior is motivated." Instead, other factors such as anxiety, a poor self-esteem, learned helplessness, depression, and learning disabilities are just a few real causes that impact learning and appear to impact motivation.

How Can We Help Students that Appear to be Unmotivated?
First, we must try to understand the root causes of the unwanted behaviors.  One can try to uncover these blockades through discussion, but it may be best to pursue help from a therapist, seek a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation or find an excellent educational therapist or learning specialist that has some training in psychology.  Once the underlying causes have been uncovered, one must provide the structure and support that will help to guide the student to better habits and behaviors.

3 Common Misconceptions:
  1. All students are motivated by the same things.  In fact, students can be motivated by a wide range of contrasting options.  One reason for this is because each learner comes to the classroom with different strengths and weaknesses.  But personality issues can also play into the recipe for learning.  For example, some students are motivated by challenging activities while others are motivated by manageable or easy activities.  In addition, some students are motivated my competition, while others are motived by cooperation.  
  2. Punishing students will increase motivation.  Punishments are often dangerous because they can create anger and resentment.  In addition, if a student is motivated to do well, but is struggling due to learning difficulties, punishments can result in learned helplessness, anxiety, and even depression.
  3. Rewards will motivate my students.  Rewards can offer some external motivation, but what students really need is to be internally motivated.  Intermittent reward, however, can be helpful, particularly as a way to celebrate success. 
What Can Be Done to Motivate Students?
  1. Try to only praise effort and improvement.  If you praise students at times when they know that they did not deserve the recognition, your accolades will lose credibility. 
  2. Hold onto your power by offering limited choices instead of giving students open-ended options.  Many young learners will challenge your authority, but giving into their fear and complaints will only teach them to protest and be defiant.
  3. Develop positive, supportive relationships.  Try not to let a student's negativity or frustration impact your mood.  Instead, stay calm, use a soothing voice and maintain control.
  4. Offer intermittent or unexpected rewards that celebrate achievements.
  5. Help students to uncover their "genius qualities" and integrate them into academics wherever possible.
  6. Replace tests with manageable projects.
  7. Move away from competition and create a cooperative learning environment.  The only students that will be motivated by competition are the ones that know they will win.  All the other students will feel lousy and may even come to resent the teacher or their peers that continually succeed.  Instead, provide all students equal recognition.  For example, instead of posting a single student's weekly achievement, allow all students space to post their best work of the week. 
  8. Instead of pointing out what was done wrong - recognize what was done correctly. Also, encourage students to learn from their mistakes by allowing partial credit from completed test corrections.  
  9. Replace negative feedback such as no, wrong, mistake, incorrect with almost, getting there, try again. 
  10. Avoid negative labels such as careless, lazy, and unmotivated.  Nobody is encouraged by deprecating remarks.  Praise the good behavior and ignore the bad.
For more useful strategies consider Rick Lavoie's YouTube: Motivation Breakthrough  
or purchasing his book:
I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have other ideas about how to motivate students, please leave a comment below this 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 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, May 16, 2014

12 Strategies for Overcoming Test Anxiety

With finals around the corner, many students are becoming anxious about end of the year exams. Although a small dose of the jitters can provide some motivation, larger degrees of anxiety can virtually cripple many young learners. 

What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a product of fear or worry about a test or quiz.  In fact, a student that struggles with test anxiety may know the material, but he or she can not access the information during the examination due to this enfeebling mental state.  

What are the Causes of Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety can manifest from a number of root causes?
  • Questioning ones own abilities can create the fear that you will do poorly or even fail a test.
  • Distractions by other students, noise, or even one's own internal thoughts can make it difficult to concentrate.
  • Physical symptoms can also hinder students.  Short breaths, fast heart rates, nausea, headaches, and body sweats can make it difficult to recall answers.
  • Mental blocks can also make it difficult to recall learned information from one's memory.
How Can You Beat Test Anxiety?
Here are a few strategies that can help:
  1. Create a distraction-free study environment.  If students prepare for tests with full concentration, they will learn the material quicker and better.
  2. Be sure to have students review all class materials.  This includes class work, homework, notes, prior tests, and projects.
  3. Create study materials and encourage students to show their approach to their teacher to assure that all the content is addressed.
  4. Form a study schedule so that students can prepare for tests over time.
  5. Encourage your students to get a good nights sleep before the test.
  6. Ask your students to consume a nutritious meal before the test and avoid sugary and starchy foods. Sugar and starch require a lot of energy to digest and can make it difficult to concentrate.  In contrast, foods like meats, eggs, nuts, and vegetables can help to energize the brain. 
  7. Help your students make a conscious effort to take deep breaths and relax any tense muscles while taking a test. 
  8. Teach good test-taking strategies to your students such as: doing the easiest questions to enhance confidence, answering every question - even if you are not sure of the answer, using all the time allotted, and eliminating answers that are definitely wrong.  To learn more strategies, CLICK HERE
  9. When taking the test, encourage your students to ask for clarification when needed.  Although teachers will not provide answers, they can often clarify confusing words or questions that can help lead students to the correct answer.
  10. Instruct your students about memory strategies such as mnemonics and hooking to aid recall during the test.  If you would like to learn more about memory strategies, CLICK HERE. 
  11. Consider teaching your students the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  This method unites acupressure and dialogue to relax the mind and body.  It also helps to relieve any lingering energy blockages due to past trauma or struggles.
  12. Consider doing a mindful meditation with your students before the test to help calm the mind, relax the body and enhance confidence.  This strategy will help students become aware of their anxiety, observe the way they are feeling and then choose to let it go. 
I hope you found these strategies helpful.  If you have any other ideas, please share them by commenting below this blog.
 
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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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Teaching Students Metacognitive Strategies Improves Grades


We are living in an information, distraction-rich time and multitasking seems to be a common way of navigating the complexities of reality.  Our youth have grown up observing their parents juggling multiple responsibilities at one time while they have also been immersed in the modern day influx of technology.  As a result, many young learners have applied their observations to academic endeavors, and homework is often completed while laying prey to constant interruptions from social media, online video chatting, texting, television and more.  Although there is some utility in life to being able to multitask, the learning process is hindered when attention continually shifts.  In contrast, to this multitasking approach to learning is metacognition, and this can play a critical role in successful learning.

How Can Students Learn to Do Schoolwork with Greater Efficiency?
The foundation to instructing students how to maximize their learning potential is teaching them metacognitive strategies.  Metacognition is often described as "thinking about thinking,” and it involves higher order reasoning that actively controls the thought processes engaged in learning. Some other terms that are often used interchangeably with metacognition are self-regulation and executive control.  Planning a learning approach, self-monitoring comprehension, and evaluating one's progress are examples of metacognitive skills.    

Teaching Metacognitive Approaches:
1.     Share your own thought processes aloud, so that students can hear how you think about your own thinking.
2.     Encourage students to focus on one task at a time from beginning to end.
3.     Tell students to remove all distractions when completing schoolwork. 
4.     Teach students to be aware of their own thought processes through mindfulness.  Here is another blog that discusses mindfulness
5.     Instruct students on how to plan and manage their time.  Provide handouts and materials that help them to think through the process.
6.     Ask students to create an after-school routine where they schedule homework time and down time separately.
7.     Urge students to plan their approach, create deadlines, and report their intentions to you or a small group of classmates.
8.     Provide assignments that merely ask students to create a study approach and have them share their ideas with their classmates. 
9.     Encourage students to keep a written log of their approach to your class.  For example, after students get back tests and assignments, ask them to evaluate their approach.  What worked?  What didn’t work?  How can they improve their strategy moving forward?


If you would like ready made checklists, handouts, and assessments that can help your students develop metacognitive skills, check out the many resources available in my publication, Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and Easy Approaches to Mastering Executive Functioning Skills for Students.
 
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, May 2, 2014

Using a Geoboard to Help Students with Dysgraphia



Recently I discovered the geoboard and now I love to use this product to develop mathematical skills, visual spatial skills, visual reasoning and fine motor dexterity.  In fact it is great for my students that have dysgraphia.

What is a Geoboard?
A geoboard is a math manipulative that students can use to explore basic shapes and geometry such as perimeter, area and coordinate graphing.  It consists of a wood board with evenly spaced rows of nails or a plastic board with protruding pegs around which string or rubber bands are wrapped.

How Do I Use My Geoboards?
Due to the popularity of rubber band bracelets, one can get a huge variety of colorful rubber bands in many different sizes.  I have organized mine into sectioned plastic boxes so that my students have many options to choose from.  Here are a number of fun activities that I offer my students in my own private practice.

For my young learners I use the geoboard to:
  1. learn the formation of letters and numbers.  It is a wonderful tool to use when students struggle with letter, number or symbol reversals.
  2. instruct about the many shapes - triangles, squares, rectangles...
  3. develop spatial skills where students copy a design I create on another geoboard or from a picture of a design that I created on a geoboard.
For my older students I use the geoboard to:
  1. develop writing skills.   Players create images that they then described in writing so that another player can create the image by following the directions.
  2. teach and review coordinate graphing.
  3. teach and review the plotting of points on a coordinate plane.
  4. creating, line, frequency and bar graphs.
If you too are using a geoboard, I would love for you to comment below this blog.  Also please share if you are using the geoboard in other creative ways.

Click on the image below to purchase on Amazon:

 
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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