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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Executive Functioning Game: In or Out

Functioning Game: In or Out

I'm so pleased to announce the release of my new Publication: Executive Functioning Game: In or Out!  It is the first of a series of executive functioning games that I have been creating over the past six months.

Card Descriptions
All 30 cards include two images: an inner image and an outer image. There are six images: a car, a light bulb, an alien, a raindrop, a flower and a hand. In addition, there are five different colors: yellow, red, blue, green and purple. It is a complex matching game that requires players to remember and utilize rules to search for commonalities amongst cards. The black symbol in the middle of the inner image directs players to look at the inner image or the outer image. Then players compare cards from their deck to the image in the discard pile. The black cat is simply a distractor and has no other purpose in the game.

What Population of Learners Does This Serve?


In or Out is a fabulously fun game for anyone, but it also serves as a cognitive, remedial tool that strengthens executive functioning skills: working memory, attention to detail, management of distractions, stamina, response inhibition, as well as mental shifting and sustained attention. For remedial purposes, this game can benefit individuals with ADHD, learning disabilities, executive functioning disorder as well as those with head injuries and the elderly.

For 1 to 3 Players:
Initially, I play the game with my students and verbalize the process. I slowly scaffold the process over to them. Once they have it, we play against one another.

Where Can I Purchase the Game?
The game is presently available @ Good Sensory Learning as a digital download. You can also purchase it as a bundle with my other executive functioning games Focus, Memory Master and No Match Penguins. You can also purchase a set of all four decks of cards as a hard good 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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Monday, December 21, 2015

Asking Students to Sit Still Can Have Dire Consequences

Sitting and limited activity can have detrimental effects on the elderly, but did you know that this can also have negative consequences for children too? What we are discovering is that excessive sedentary behavior has serious health ramifications at all ages, and one of the biggest culprits that breeds inactivity is school.
Stuck seated motionless behind desks only to come home with a full agenda of homework, results in school children spending an average of 8.5 hours of their day sitting.  In fact, sitting increases after age 8 when school, homework, and technology consumes their time. What's more, youngsters are continually asked to sit still, as movement is often labeled distracting to classmates as well as the teacher.  These learners that wiggle and squirm in and out of their seats are often considered troublesome and some of these kinesthetic kids are even placed on ADHD medications to temper their excessive commotion and exuberance.
What are the Deleterious Effects of Sitting too Much on Kids?
Inactivity can result in a number of problems for school-age children:
  • Obesity: Sitting slows metabolic rate resulting in the diminished burning of calories.
  • Heart Disease: Sitting increases blood sugar and decreases the burning of fat.
  • Muscular Atrophy: Excessive sitting can cause ones muscles to degenerate.
  • Osteoporosis: Sitting can lead to poor bone density which is a precursor for osteoporosis.
  • Circulation: Sitting causes blood circulation to slow and blood can pool in the legs.
  • Inattention/lethargy: Sitting reduces the amount of blood and oxygen that reaches the brain resulting in a decline in cognitive performance.
What Can Teachers Do to Skirt a Sedentary Style?
  • Integrate activities into your lessons that allow students to get up and move around.
  • Encourage your students to get out of their seats at least once an hour and engage in a minute of exercise.
  • Provide adjustable desks for your students, so they have the option of standing or sitting on a tall stool.  Many schools are now using standing desks with a foot swing. See image below.
  • Use sites like GoNoodle that offers kinesthetic brain breaks for young learners.
  • Get involved with organizations like Let’s Move and https://www.designedtomove.org/
Bringing movement into your classroom will only help you and your students to improve attention, retention, motivation and alertness; but regular activity will lead to better test scores, improved behavior, and the integration of healthy habits.
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, December 12, 2015

Pros and Cons of Every Student Succeeds Act for Dyslexia

On Friday, December 10th, 2015 Barack Obama Signed the Every Students Succeeds Act. This new law now rewrites the No Child Left Behind Act and offers a number of changes that could have both positive and negative ramifications for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.  As with any new law, the true pros and cons will be revealed over time, but here is a list of considerations.
Pros of ESSA
Cons of ESSA
The Common Core curriculum can be adopted by states, but it is no longer required.
Annually, 3rd through 8th grade students will still have to be tested in Math and English.  In addition, high school students will be tested once.
School accountability has shifted from the federal to the state level.  Now, states will be responsible for setting academic goals and evaluating their schools.
Now advocates will have to focus their attention on both federal and state mandates.
There is more flexibility in how accountability tests are administered as well as the testing format.
Only 1% of students (10% or students with disabilities) will qualify for alternate testing. With this cap, the testing needs of many students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities will likely be ignored.
Federal proficiency goals for schools and the penalties for the failure to reach them have been eliminated.
If alternative testing is granted, these students will likely receive “special diplomas” or no diplomas upon graduation.
The creation of a Comprehensive Literacy Center will focus on reading difficulties for kids with disabilities like dyslexia.  The center will offer information for parents and teachers as well as professional development in the areas of screening and educational tools.
If students with learning disabilities don’t receive the needed testing accommodations this could limit their accessibility to higher education.
ESSA will provide up to $160 million in grants on reading skills such as decoding and phonological awareness.
There are no opt-out options proposed in the law.  Each state will be deciding this matter.
States are now required to create a plan that reduces bullying, restraints, seclusions, suspensions and expulsions. This should be helpful as this often
impacts students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.


The true test of this law lies in the specifics that will soon be defined by each state. Clearly, it will be important for advocates to speak with state representatives and be involved with the creative process so that the needs of students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are addressed and supported.

Here is an image of the table that can be pinned.


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, December 9, 2015

Nurturing Grit and Resilience: Classroom Strategies for Success


Resilience and grit are two popular terms in education that are associated with student happiness, motivation, and academic success. These are learnable behaviors, thoughts, and actions that help learners cope with stress, face adversity or trauma, and bounce back from challenging experiences. Angela Duckworth proposes that the development of grit is an important skill to teach our students. In fact, Duckworth shows in her research that grit is a better gauge of academic achievement and success than one's IQ!


What is Resilience?  Resilience is an attribute or skill that helps us recover from negative events or feelings, cope with challenges and adversity, and take care of ourselves.


What is Grit?  Grit is the ability to maintain passion, motivation, and effort when developing a mastery or an expertise.   


Some of the Most Important Characteristics of Grit and Resilience Include:
  • Managing Emotions - being open to one’s feelings and able to modulate them in oneself.
  • Awareness of Strengths - cognizant of one’s talents or strong abilities.
  • Persistent Determination - continually pursuing a course of action despite difficulties or opposition.
  • Passion-Driven Focus - actively persevering with a powerful and clear intention.
  • Resourcefulness - acting effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations.
  • Personal Sense of Control - subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and managing one's own actions.
  • Ability to Reach Out to Others - pursuing connections and assistance from those around us.
  • Problem-Solving Skills - finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.
  • Bouncing Back - quickly recovering after a setback or when facing significant stress, adversity, or trauma.
Key points in the Research:
The research offers some important outcomes about resilience and grit in the classroom:
  • Students and can learn skills that can increase their resilience and grit.
  • Teachers start the transformational process by believing in themselves.
  • Teachers can change their own attitudes and improve connections with their students.
  • Teachers can learn to nurture and instruct these skills.


Teaching Strategies that Nurture Resilience and Grit:
There are a number of approaches that can help to culture resilience and grit in your classroom and create a sense of community.
  • Be present and find joy in being with your students.
  • Nurture caring and supportive relationships that make each student feel valued.
  • Offer guidance and high expectations in each student's potential for growth.
  • Present opportunities for creative expressions and critical thinking discussions.
  • Build community in your classroom, and provide opportunities for students to help one another.
  • Encourage students to ask for help.
  • Recognize and reinforce the expression of feelings.
  • Teach learners to see failures as opportunities for growth.
  • Help students to recognize and change negative and self-defeating behaviors.
  • Help learners cope with stress.  Talk about stress factors with your students in the classroom and brainstorm management strategies.


Classroom Activity Ideas:
  • Have your students complete and score a grit scale test.  Then watch Angela Duckworth's TED video and lead a discussion about how students can become more gritty.  
  • Once a week/month, sit in a circle with your students for appreciation dialogue.  Ask each student to express appreciation for another member of the classroom and share it aloud with the group.  Then ask them to share a personal accomplishment.  If they have trouble with this, ask the rest of the class to help.
  • Avoid negative labels such as incorrect or wrong.  Instead, use words like, "nice try" or "almost" and guide your students to the correct answer.
  • When grading assignments make positive comments about growth and effort.
                                       

Becoming resilient and gritty is a challenging skill for anyone to master.  However, employing this mindful approach can help teachers find joy in their profession, nurture a supportive community within their classroom, and help students to reach their true potential.

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, December 2, 2015

Number 1 Trick to Improving a Student's Writing

There are many effective strategies worth instructing that can improve a student's writing, but my number one, favorite strategy is teaching the effective use of a thesaurus.

What is a Thesaurus? 
A thesaurus is a book or online site that lists words in groups of synonyms or related concepts.

What are the Benefits of Teaching Students to Use a Thesaurus?
Teaching your students or children to use a thesaurus offers many gains and can be used to:
  1. Expand vocabulary - Using a thesaurus helps students increase their usable word choices.
  2. Avoid repetition - Consulting a thesaurus guides students to alternate word choices when they are concerned with the overuse of a single word within their composition. 
  3. Improve writing quality and sophistication - Utilizing a thesaurus assists students to select more appropriate or mature wording.
  4. Select descriptive words - Consulting a thesaurus helps students find more descriptive words that will enable their audience to better visualize their content.
  5. Impress your readers - Utilizing a thesaurus assists students in finding words that can impress their audience.
  6. Nurture a mindful approach - Using a thesaurus feeds an active, thoughtful and analytical approach to writing.
  7. Find words that are difficult to spell - Consulting a thesaurus assists in finding challenging words to spell when you enter a common synonym to the desired word.
  8. Make the writing process fun - Employing the use of a thesaurus is enjoyable.  I have always enjoyed using a thesaurus and find that it has nurtured a personal love for words.
Are There any Problems with Using a Thesaurus?
When used in a passive or rushed manner, students might select words that don't make sense in a composition or they may overuse the thesaurus and make documents sound awkward and complex.

What are Some Activities I can Use to Help Students Learn How to Use a Thesaurus?
  1. Provide a passage with a lot of word repetitions.  Ask your students to change the repeated words in the passage by using a thesaurus.  Once the students have rewritten the passage, ask the students to read them aloud and discuss the benefits of using a thesaurus.
  2. Highlight boring, simple words in a passage that are difficult to visualize.  With the use of a thesaurus, ask students to rewrite the passage with synonyms that conjure more visuals in the reader's mind's eye.
  3. Give your students a list of simple words and ask them to find other words in a thesaurus that are more descriptive.
  4. Ask students to find words in a thesaurus such as the word"Kind" and ask them to make a list of all the words that they didn't know that have the same or similar meaning.  They might come up with words such as philanthropic, benevolent, or one that I just learned by looking at the thesaurus - eleemosynary.
  5. Discuss how mindlessly selecting synonyms can get a writer in trouble because many words have multiple meanings. Then provide a game where your students have to take a mixed up list of words.  Ask them to place these words in order based on similar meaning.  For example, Sad = Down = Under = Lesser = Minor = Young = New.  Once the students are finished with the activity ask them to create their own.
I hope you got some good ideas!  If you have any more activities ideas, please share them 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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