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Friday, March 27, 2015

Orton Gillingham Online Academy: An Interview with Founder Marisa Bernard



This week I am featuring an interview with Marisa Bernard the creator of the Orton Gillingham Online Academy.  Marisa is a dynamic educator and passionate learning specialist that has an expertise in serving students with dyslexia.  Marisa has made it her mission to assist children who do not fit inside the conventional box and to send them on their way feeling productive, successful, & well-equipped to lead a fruitful life.
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Erica: Hi Marisa!  I'm so excited to be able to share this interview with my audience.  Can you tell us more about your professional background?

Marisa: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus in cognition and learning as well as a Master’s Degree in Special Education. I have experience as an Elementary Education teacher, a Reading Specialist, and I worked on staff at the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana as both an educator and trainer of the Orton Gillingham Approach. In addition, I taught Special Education in a public school setting and have remediated countless numbers of students to grade level by using research based strategies such as the Orton Gillingham Approach. Furthermore, I am a professional member of the International Dyslexia Association, and I also received a grant through the Lilly Foundation that enabled me to travel to the highlands of Ecuador to teach English, using the Orton Gillingham Approach, to the indigenous children. 


Erica: What population of students are best served by your online training program? 

Marisa: The Orton Gillingham Online Academy serves as a resource for those who teach individuals with Dyslexia. Having said that, any student population learning the English language would find our course work and tools helpful. It is our goal to unlock the door to language acquisition for people from across the globe.

Erica: Who typically purchases your training modules?

Marisa: Parents, teachers, SLPs, tutors, school districts, paraprofessionals... Really anyone who is involved with the education of those with Dyslexia.

Erica: What are the benefits of your training program?

Marisa: The Orton-Gillingham Approach is used for those who have Dyslexia. These individuals have difficulty primarily in the areas of reading, writing, and spelling.  Often these difficulties create a learning gap in other academic areas as well.  While non-dyslexic students acquire language skills easily, those with Dyslexia need to be taught various components that make up the English language. The Orton-Gillingham Approach is most often and effectively used one-on-one, due to its prescriptive nature, as well as the fact that the lessons can be catered to each student’s individual learning needs.  Having said this, the Orton-Gillingham Approach can also be adapted to group instruction.  Please note, the Orton-Gillingham Approach has stood the test of time and has been proven effective time and time again in assisting individuals to overcome their language-based disability.

Erica: Are you creating new courses and materials?

Marisa: Absolutely! Our academy is growing and we are continuously revamping, improving and adding to our current course work to enhance the teaching/learning venue. We will be launching our Advanced Language Continuum Course April 4th and this course will cover advanced morphology & derivatives, connectives, accenting, vocabulary development, & much more. We are also launching a comprehensive multisensory Connect to Comprehension course is June. This course will cover everything needed to teach students the tools necessary for meaningful comprehension, including curriculum guides and scripted texts for multiple levels. We are also working on a comprehensive multisensory grammar course, as well as a word study seminar. The idea is to provide a holistic website that will serve to meet the needs of those with Dyslexia by offering an array of courses & resources geared toward successful remediation.

Erica: How would you like to see your academy grow over the next few years?

Marisa: The knowledge we have to share has the potential to change lives and our hope is that word of our academy travels to those who need us the most. Currently, we are servicing several countries from Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Canada to the United States & several other locations in between. As we continue to reach places with no previous exposure to language remedial tools, paths are appearing and making a difference. This is truly what we are all about.

Erica: What is the best way for people to reach you?

Marisa: The best way to reach me is via email: ogonlineacademy@gmail.com

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Thank you Marisa for sharing your passion, expertise and mission with all of us!  It's been a true pleasure to get to know you better, and I wish you great success.
 
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, March 20, 2015

Working Memory Definition, Facts, Symptoms and Strategies Infographic

This week I created an infographic on working memory.
If you would like to learn more about how to strenthen working memory, click here.
I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you would like to share this image via email or IM, use the following link: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/5003312-working-memory-2

Here are two images can be pinned on Pinterest:


 
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, March 13, 2015

The Power of Nonprofits: Solving the U.S. Achievement Gap


This week, I am featuring an insightful and impressive guest blog by Marissa Zych.  

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As an advocate for global literacy and accessible education, it’s difficult for me to swallow the United States education pill that is the achievement gap. Directly related to both the learning and opportunity gaps, the achievement gap commonly refers to the “significant and persistent disparity in academic performance or educational attainment between groups of students.” The roots of this disparity run deep.

According to the National Education Association, the student groups that commonly experience achievement gaps (as indicated by test performance, access to key opportunities, and attainments such as diplomas, advanced degrees, and future employment) include racial and ethnic minorities, English language learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income families. Inner-city schools, which some researchers call “dropout factories,” are often at the heart of this issue, due in part to their high numbers of minority and impoverished students.

The U.S. government’s No Child Left Behind law of 2002 was overrun with issues and failed to make notable improvements. And while a number of city schools nationwide have taken the issue into their own hands, working to improve the quality of their teachers and their graduation rates with some success over the last decade and a half, experts agree that gradual change over time will not cut it. As recently as 2012, African American and Hispanic students trailed their peers by an average of 20 or more test points, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

In general, the students experiencing achievement gaps have a higher chance of dropping out of school. These dropouts face significant trials in acquiring employment and attaining economic stability. Female dropouts are at a unique economic uncertainty. As compared to male peers, girls who fail to earn their diploma have higher rates of unemployment; make notably lesser wages; and are more inclined to depend on help from public programs to accommodate for their families.

A Nonprofit Solution
It’s important to note that many of these inadequate strategies have been centered on making changes within regular school hours — changes that take time to implement. How can we make a more immediate impact on our schools, outside of school?

Independent studies have shown that superior after-school programs lead to positive academic outcomes, including improved test scores, grades, attendance, dropout rates, and increased interest in learning. Evidence also suggests that they lead to a decrease in juvenile crime rates and notable boosts in self-esteem and confidence.

Unfortunately, many city school districts that need these programs the most lack the policy and/or budgetary support, making education-based nonprofits a crucial part of the solution.

A growing number of reports on the performance of education-based nonprofits prove that their after-school and/or summer programs have a positive impact on students and their families. They provide disadvantaged youth with a safe and engaging environment, extended time spent on diverse subject matter, mentorship, and psychosocial and intellectual enrichment in exciting contexts and settings that aren’t available in school.

So, What Does a Superior Program Look Like?
  •  MOST: While it’s no longer active, The Wallace Foundation’s Making the Most Out-of-School-Time (MOST) fundraising initiative partnered with other like-minded organizations in Boston, Chicago, and Seattle from 1993-1999 to increase the awareness and availability of after-school programs. The MOST contributed to the foundation of evidence that now proves how necessary these kinds of programs are to bridging the achievement gap.
  •  Girls Do Hack: Giving youth an opportunity to learn something that they wouldn’t normally learn inside the classroom is important, specifically young women. Young women are not always considered for roles in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) industries. With the help of Misha Malyshev in association with the Adler Planetarium, Girls Do Hack gives young women a safe space to discover and be encouraged to learn and find their skills in these fields.
  •  826 National: A personal favorite, 826 National is a nationwide organization. It tackles the literacy and learning issues of students (ages 6-18) through programs centered around creative writing and is currently run by Gerald Richards. Their centers offer free programs including after-school tutoring, field trips, creative workshops (cartooning, anyone?), and their young authors’ book project. According to Arbor Consulting Partners, “students [at 826 National] develop ‘habits of mind’ that support the achievement of positive academic outcomes.”


There are a number of factors that affect a student’s chance at successfully navigating their way to graduation. That’s where these education-based non-profits really fill the gap in the education system. It isn’t possible for every teacher, principal, school sentry and janitor to solve every potential problem students have. Their plates are already loaded with getting students to pass standardized testing, dealing with administrative issues and keeping schools safe and clean. It’s the non-profits that have the opportunity to see a problem and analyze it, to come up with a creative solution without the same restrictions our school systems and administrators face, and to engage children and their parents in a manner that is more likely to work within those parameters. It certainly isn’t easy to create a successful non-profit. It takes heart, great support, and engaged stakeholders. These are some non-profits out there that have stood out and have done a wonderful job.
                                                 
Thank you Marissa for writing this blog and sharing your insight!
Marissa Zych is a twenty year old student at RIT. She is interested in the education and political landscape and is from Albany, New York.  She loves getting involved in her community and seeing positive change through giving back. She likes to volunteer her time at after school programs, nursing homes, and animal shelters where she rescued her cocker spaniel puppy Bowie!
 
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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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

10 Ways to Teach Planning, Time Management and Organization

Teaching students planning, time management and organizational skills is necessary in education.  Although some find executive functioning to be quite obvious, there are those that need to learn the process.  Here are 10 recommendations:



  1. Provide an organized environment.  
  2. Set an example.  Use a planner and create a structured routine for yourself and use labeled boxes, shelves and filing systems so that everything has it's place.
  3. Praise self initiation.  In the beginning, rewarding kids for executive functioning skills will provide greater motivation.
  4. Organize time and post schedule around the house or classroom so that a daily routine can be established.
  5. Provide structure by offering a lot of support in the beginning.  Do the process together and slowly pull away as the needed skills are acquired independently.
  6. Give reminders and help students come up with systems so that they can remind others as well as themselves. 
  7. Use calendars.  Show the different calendar options to students and let them pick their preference.  Some students need to see the “big picture” and may prefer a month or two at a glance, others may choose one or to weeks at a time, and then there are those who like to manage one day at a time.  Checking and maintaining these calendars at allocated times on a daily basis is important.
  8. Stay calm and supportive.  Maintaining a mindful and peaceful demeanor will help to create a “safe” environment where students can learn from their mistakes.
  9. Avoid negative labels such as careless or unmotivated as it will only create negative energy.  For many, name calling will make children feel helpless to the point where they stop trying.
  10. Provide breaks.  For many, the maintenance of executive skills is exhausting and scheduling unstructured breaks can help provide some “down time.”
If you are looking for a publication that offers a large selection of materials that help students with executive functioning skills, 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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Letter Cube Fun: Freebie Language Arts Game

I love to use foam blocks for all sorts of language arts fun.  Most recently, I created a game that my students adore.  Here are the steps so you can create it too.

1) You can purchase colorful foam cubes on Amazon for a very reasonable price.  I included a link at the bottom of the post.

2) Select 12 cubes.  I line the cubes up in a row and write all the vowels in capital letters (including "y") on each cube two times making sure not to place the same vowel on a single cube more than once.  Then I add the consonants as suggested below.

3) I assign the point value on the bottom right hand corner.  This will also help the players to orient the letters.  For example the letter P will look like the letter d when it is upside-down but as long as the number indicating the point value is in the bottom right hand corner, players can recognize that they need to rotate the letter to the proper orientation.  Also, using capital letters helps with letter confusion.


4) Other items needed to play:  a timer and a set of 12 colored cubes with the letters and point values for each player.
5) To Play:

  • Each player rolls their set of 12 colored cubes onto their playing area (they can not change the orientation of the cubes but must use the letters rolled.  
  • Set and begin timer for 2-5 minutes.  You can decide the amount of time you like.
  • Words must crisscross like a scrabble game, and players must try to use as many cubes as they can.  
  • When the timer goes off, the play ends and players add up their points.
  • Bonuses as granted as follows:
    • 4 points for a 6 letter word
    • 5 points for a 7 letter word
    • 6 points for a 8 letter word
 
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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Using Simple Images to Teach Math Concepts



Utilizing imagery and visual memory can be very helpful when learning mathematics.  A single picture can help a student define and remember a concept, or it can even help them to recall the steps required to compute a problem.  What’s more, it often brings the “fun factor” into the learning environment as students can pull out their crayons, colored pencils or magic markers to complete the activity.
I recently learned about the Palm Tree Method from one of my students. I scoured the internet to find its origin, but came up empty handed.  So, although I did not come up with this idea, it is still one of my favorites for solving proportions.  

If you would like to learn about other imagery activities to help your students learn math concepts, you might like my blog entitled Mathemagic or my products Measurement Memory Strategies or Why We Should Learn about Angles.

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, March 6, 2015

Mindful Meditations for Children: An Interview Heather Bestel


It is with great pleasure to share with you an interview with Heather Bestel - the creator or Magical Meditations for Kids.  Heather is a holistic therapist and mindful teacher that embraces the ideas of "hope, love, kindness and forgiveness."  She believes that "everyone is capable of doing great things" and she helps many along their path to success.

New research suggests that meditation benefits children academically, emotionally, and personally, and Heather's materials are truly outstanding.  My students love Heather's meditations!

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Erica: If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is at the heart of Magical Meditations for Kids?

Heather: Inspiring children to connect with their inner sense of calm.

Erica: Why did you create your products?

Heather: I had been working with children as an educational psychotherapist for many years and loved to use stories and meditations with them as part of the process. I’m passionate about the power of story and love meditation.  I had built up quite a library of resources, but they were never exactly what I was looking for, so I started to develop my own. All the meditations have been honed and tested on thousands of children over the years. In 2010 I was approached by a publisher
who was a big fan of my work and wanted to make it available to the world.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Magical Meditations for Kids Click here to view more details

Heather: All the children I’ve worked with for more than twenty years have inspired me, and I learn from them all the time.

Also, my good friend and founder of A Quiet Place, Penny Moon. Penny has always been a big fan of my therapy work and invited me to head up the team to pilot her idea of offering Educational Therapeutics in inner city schools to support families of children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. The pilot was monitored and measured by Liverpool University and deemed a huge success.  Now A Quiet Place offers holistic support in schools nationally and internationally. It was during my time working with this project that I created my first magical meditations.

Erica: Who is your audience?

Heather: The meditations are divided into two age groups: 4-7 year olds and 8-11 year olds. But I’ve used them successfully with pre-schoolers and teenagers too. They can be used by teachers during circle time or quiet time or during personal health and social education classes or as a wind down to the day. Parents love them whether their child is experiencing challenges with anxiety or just enjoying a chill out session before sleep. They are a great resource on a long car journey too.  

There are 2 titles in the 4-7 age group:
  • Magical Me - is a lovely safe way to introduce younger children to the world of relaxation and helps them learn how to find their inner calm. They develop some wonderful resources to empower them whenever they need it.
  • Magical Adventures - takes our explorers on magical journeys: under the sea, into space, to the circus and on a magic carpet ride.  It helps them build their confidence and creativity.
  • Click here to view more details
There are 2 titles in the 8-11 age group:
  • The Magic Castle - helps children to feel calm & confident, increasing feelings of happiness and pride and build a belief in being amazing and talented.
  • The Magic Garden - helps older children to relax and switch off. They will love visiting their own special quiet place where they can develop a sense of wonder and feel: calm and peaceful, happy and relaxed, safe and loved.
  • Click here to view more details
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about Magical Meditations for Kids?

Heather: I especially enjoy all the wonderful comments I get from the children as they always tell me how the magical stories make them feel.

Parents and teachers notice changes in behavior and attitude sometimes a soon as the first few days of listening. They are great if a child is struggling with a specific issue like nightmares, bedwetting or anxiety as the parent can measure results really easily.  Parents are delighted when their child is able to find their way back to their happy place.

Teachers love that they have a way of helping their pupils learn to slow down and be still, especially in this age of constant distraction. They notice a difference in use of imagination, concentration and an increase in their sense of well being, self esteem and a deep sense of inner calm.

I get a lot of emails from parents of children with autism telling me what an indispensable resource I’ve created.  Those messages are always extra special.  

Erica: Will you be creating more CDs?  How about digital downloads?

Heather: I’m always working on new ideas and would love to create more CDs. The present meditations are available as digital download and as apps. 

Erica: Will Magical Meditations for Kids be expanding and using other forms of technology and communication?  

Heather: I love to think of my work being around and developing in the future and am looking at ways to progress it in terms of new technologies. There is so much potential for growth and I’m always listening to new ideas and feedback from the most important people, the children.

Erica: Do you have any links or images that you would like to share?

Heather: I have a free gift for any parents wanting to try out my meditations with their own children. It’s a very gentle introduction to my work with a bedtime relaxation called My Angel to help your child have a peaceful sleep with their very own mp3. To download: go to 
http://www.magicalmeditations4kids.com/custom-p/free-stuff.html  If you are interested in Heather's other materials Click here to visit Heather Bestel.

                                                  ________________________

I want to thank Heather for sharing her words and wisdom with us.  
 
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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