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Friday, November 28, 2014

10 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers


While reading, tracking across the page from one line to the next can be tricky when the text is small, but for students with dyslexia or weak reading skills, it can be a problem regardless of the font size. 

What Exactly is Tracking?
Tracking is the ability for one's eyes to move smoothly across the page from one line of text to another. Tracking difficulties happen when eyes jump backward and forward and struggle to stay on a single line of text.  This results in problems such as word omissions, reversals, eye fatigue, losing your place while reading and most importantly it can impact normal reading development.  

Can Tracking be Improved?
Tracking can be improved by strengthening eye muscles as well as getting your eyes and brain to work cooperatively.  There are three eye movements that need to be developed:  
  1. Fixations: The ability to hold one's eyes steady without moving off a target.
  2. Saccades: The ability to jump to new targets that randomly disappear and reappear in a different location.
  3. Pursuits: The ability to follow a moving target with one's eyes.
10 Free Ways to Improve Tracking:
  1. Use Beeline Reader to read ebooks, PDFs and web pages will assist with tracking.  This free technology makes tracking faster and easier by using a color gradient to guide your eyes from one line of text to another.  
  2. Play ping pong - but more importantly, watch others play the game.  Sit on the side of the table and keep your head steady.  Watch the ball, moving your eyes back and forth across the table.
  3. Get a book but only read the first word and the last word in each line.  Continue down the page. Time yourself and try to beat your speed.  If reading words is slow or labored, just read the first and last letter on each line.
  4. Go to the site Eye Can Learn and do their eye tracking exercises. 
  5. Watch a metronome or crystal pendulum.  Place the metronome or pendulum about 1-2 feet from your face, keep your head steady and move your eyes with the swinging metronome or pendulum. 
  6. Use a laser pointer on a wall and watch the red dot while sweeping it across the wall: go up, down, left, right and diagonally.  
  7. Use Apps like Dream Reader which will highlight the words while it reads the text.  You can read along with the excellent synthesized voice options, or if you prefer, read the text yourself and turn off the audio.  Adjust the speed so that words are highlighted while you read.
  8. Pick a common letter of the alphabet such as the letter "A."  Select a book, or article and scan through the lines of text as if you are reading, circling the letter "A" every time they see it.  
  9. Read aloud.  This helps the eyes and brain to work together.
  10. Play an internet version of Pong.  My favorite is Garfield Tabby Tennis.
Are There Any Products I Can Purchase That Develop Visual Tracking?
Yes, check out the Reversing Reversals series to develop tracking as well as other important visual processing and cognitive skills that will improve the foundation abilities needed to be an excellent reader.
 
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, November 20, 2014

Holiday Activities that Strengthen Following Directions Skills and Freebie Offering

Do some of your students struggle with subtle linguistic cues, tricky wording and following both oral and written directions?  Difficulties in these areas can make it challenging to complete all aspects of an assignment, interpret multistep directions and comprehend multiple choice tests.  This is a common problem for students with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities, however, most students benefit from the development of this skill.  So what can we do to help foster these skills while bringing in the fun factor?

With the holiday season around the corner, many students love to get into the spirit and providing festive activities can be entertaining and motivating.  My Thanksgiving and Christmas Following Directions Activities could be just what you are looking for! In fact, I offer a holiday bundle too that celebrates, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, St Patrick's Day and Valentines Day.  Come download some free sample following directions 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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Friday, November 14, 2014

Developing Writing Skills for Students with Dyslexia

Like reading, writing is a complex process that requires students to multitask.  In fact, all students must master a number of fundamental skills before they can be expected to become competent writers. However, for students with dyslexia, the process can be even more challenging as their learning disability may impact cognitive tasks such as spelling, word finding, as well as the formulation and organization of ideas.

What are the Fundamental Skills Required to Write?
The fundamental skills include:
  • Transferring the inner voice into words on the page - spelling
  • Formulation of letters or typing skills
  • Access to a rich vocabulary and creative ideas
  • Awareness of grammar, sentence structure, and literary elements
  • Cognizance of transitions, and paragraph structure  
What are the Key Features to Consider When Teaching Students with Dyslexia?
  • Help Students Learn to Automaticity: The fundamental skills required for writing must be done simultaneously, therefore, to become efficient and effective writers, many of these tasks must be mastered to a degree of automaticity.  In other words, students should be able to do these tasks with little thought or effort.  If the fundamental skills are not fully learned, student will not have enough cognitive space to unite these skills and write.   
  • Make Learning Multisensory: Integrating as many of the 12 Ways of Learning into your lesson plans will help students' encode the needed skills.  Here is a free Prezi that reviews these diverse teaching modalities.
  • Include Enjoyable Activities in the Learning Process:  Consider what your students love to do and integrate that into lessons about writing.  For example, if Peter likes to draw, get him to create a story board where he illustrates pictures that represent the sequence of ideas.  If Sue likes balls, consider brainstorming ideas while tossing a ball back and forth.  If legos are popular, place adjectives on red pieces, nouns on yellow pieces, verbs on green pieces and so forth and then have fun joining them to create silly sentences.  Finally, come learn about how to make free word collages and wriggle writing to increase the fun factor.
  • Play Games that Allows Students to Practice their Lessons: Play sentence building games such as DK Games: Silly Sentences and Smethport Tabletop Magnetic Sentence Builders. You can also master grammar skills with games like Grammar Games Glore and the Best of Mad Libs. If you want to develop creative writing abilities consider the writing game Show Don't Tell.
  • Teach the 5 Ws:  The 5 Ws are questions students can ask themselves when they are trying to formulate the whole story. Who is it about?  What happened?  When did it take place? Where did it take place?  Why did it happen?  If you would like to practice this, consider the game The 5 Ws Detectives.
  • Teach Students to Visualize before Writing: One of the best ways to bring the fun factor into writing is to have students visualize the setting, characters and plot before they begin writing.  Then all they have to do is paint the images with words.  If you need to develop this skill, consider teaching this skills with products like Mindful Visualization for Education.
  • Teach Grammar and Literary Devices: Here are a number of tools that can be used to help students master grammar and literary devices: A Writer's ReferenceThe Giggly Guide to Grammar Student Edition, Word ShuffleMastering Literary Devices, and Grammar Games Glore.
  • Expand and Develop Vocabulary: There are many tools that can help students to broaden their vocabulary.  Workbooks like Wordly Wise 3000, or free sites like Free Rice, can develop this skill.  What I really love about Free Rice is that students work is reinforced because for each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.  Also, teaching students how to use a thesaurus to vary word choice and learn new words is a terrific strategy that they will use for the rest of their lives.
  • Teach about Transitional Words, Phrases and Sentences: It is also important to instruct students about transitional words, phrases, and sentences so that their writing is understandable and flows from one idea to the next.  Here is a free transitional word sheet, and if you would like some activities to develop this skill consider Categorizing, Paragraph Building and Transitional Words Activity.
  • Use a Scaffolding Approach:  Like a scaffolding that supports a weak building, adults can help students develop their writing skills by assisting young learners with the process of writing.  For example, if handwriting is labored and monopolizes a student's attention, acting as a secretary for a student can lessen the cognitive load so that he or she can learn some other aspects of writing such as the development and organization of ideas.  If you would like to learn more about scaffolding, read The Joy of Writing: A Scaffolding Approach.
  • Analyze Good Sentences and Paragraphs:  Look at sample sentences and paragraphs from each student's favorite books and talk about what makes the author such a great writer.
  • Use Software to Help with the Writing Process:  My favorite products are Kidspiration (for K-3) and inspiration (4-adult).  These two programs help students generate and organize ideas.  They offer the full software for free for one month.
  • Teach the Formula Behind Writing:
  1. Sequence the Steps: It is important to also review the steps required to formula sentences and paragraphs.  Here is a free Prezi that reviews the sequence required to write a 5 paragraph essay.
  2. Teach about Main Ideas and Details:  Each new paragraph introduces a main idea that is then supported with details.  Therefore, teaching students how to formulate main ideas and details is a vital step in teaching the writing process.  I have two games that teach kids how to generate main ideas and details.  The first publication, the Main I-Deer, offers instruction on main ideas and details as well as two games.  The second publication is a game, Hey, What’s the Big Idea.
  3. Provide Graphic Organizers: Graphic organizers help students to visually brainstorm, organize and connect ideas before writing.  There are many sites that offer free graphic organizers to help students with the writing process.  In addition, it's always a great idea to help students create their own graphic organizers.  Come learn how to create your own templates.
For more information, check out the webinar from the DyslexicAdvantage where they interviewed Dr. Charles Haynes who provides strategies to help students with dyslexia in the areas of writing, sentence building, paragraph cohesion, and word retrieval.

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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Friday, November 7, 2014

Improving Spelling for Students with Dyslexia


Not all students require the same remedial process even though they struggle with the same academic difficulties.  Diverse combinations of cognitive processing weaknesses and deficits can unite to create the "perfect storm" that can cause challenges with reading, math, writing, spelling and more.  In fact, no two students have the same cognitive profile, so to provide the optimal solution, one needs to consider both a student's strengths and weaknesses when designing a remedial approach.  

Occasionally, I like to present the questions emailed to me from parents and teachers.  This week, I will share an email that I received from a parent in England as well as my response.

Email received: 

Hi there:
Love the website!
Our son (age 8) is dyslexic and we have been told that he has a good visual memory (so he can easily spot a correctly spelt word and can even easily distinguish the correct meanings of similar sounding words e.g. sea and see). However, he has poor memory retrieval - so he has massive difficulties finding the correct spelling of a word. We have found that if he really concentrates and can think of a place where he has seen that word written previously, then he can eventually extract the word - but it takes time and is not a practical way of remembering spellings in a busy classroom. I wondered, which of your resources would be good to try to help him to build on the skill of word retrieval?
Many thanks

Here was my response:

Thanks so much for your email.  That is terrific that your son has a great visual memory, and it will come in handy.  I have a few suggestions:

1)  Develop his visualization capacity.  Visualization - which is a little different than visual memory (because your son has to conjure his own imagery) will help him become a better speller, reader, writer and will improve his long-term memory - auditory and visual.  I think it will be his secret weapon!  So the main publication that I recommend is Mindful Visualization for Learning: http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/teaching-visualization.html  I think the two of you will have a lot of fun with this.  It helps students develop their capacity to visualize through games that the two of you can play together.  
2) Exercise his word finding abilities by playing the game Spot it.  You can find it just about anywhere.  I purchased it on Amazon.com.  There are many versions and any of them would be great.  It is all about practicing quick retrieval.  I will place links to a few versions at the bottom of this blog.
3) Keep track of the words that your son finds tricky or difficult to recall.  Create a little book.  Each page can be devoted to one word.  Have him write the word.  Practice visualizing it (Once he thinks he’s got it visualized, ask him questions like: "what is the 3rd letter?", and “Can you spell it backwards?...").  Also on each page ask him to come up with a memory strategy.  For example, let’s take the word “what.”  Your son might notice that the word “what" has “hat" in it.  So his strategy might be - "What hat?"  Then he can do a drawing of a hat on top of the word “what."  Make it a fun and creative project that integrates coloring, collage, and anything else that he enjoys... 
4) Encourage him to develop his keyboarding skills and use a computer for his written work.  A spell check will help him to see the words spelt correctly which will improve his spelling over time.  Also consider purchasing Word Prediction Software, or a device like the Franklin Spellers to assist him with the immediate process. 

Before long, he’ll be a wonderful speller!! Keep in touch and I’ll be happy to help if you have any more questions.  

Yours sincerely, Erica

In Summary: 

When considering the best remedial approach, investigate each student's strengths as well as any reported difficulties so that a plan can be tailored to accommodate individual needs and achieve quick results.  Ideally, it is best to meet with families as well as review prior testing, teacher comments and other pertinent materials.  I hope you find this blogpost helpful.  If you have your own suggestions, please share them 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, 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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