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Showing posts from 2018

What Do Working Memory Problems Look Like in Kids?

With working memory reported to be the number one indicator of academic success, it's surprising that most teachers and parents know little about it. Working memory is like a mental dry erase board where we post information until we need to use it in short-term memory.  This information is accessible through one's inner visualizations as well as one's inner voice. There are a Number of Misconceptions about Working Memory:

1) Myth: Kids with a weak working memory have ADHD or other learning disabilities. 1) Truth: Some kids just have a weak working memory that doesn't warrant a diagnosis of ADHD or a learning disability.
2) Myth: Kids with a weak working memory can't remember what they learn.
2) Truth: Memory strategies & exercises can bypass and remediate a weak working memory.

3) Myth: Kids with a weak working memory always have problems with executive functioning skills. 3) Truth: Working memory is only one small part of executive functioning. To learn more about …

Why are Games the best Teaching Method for Learning?

In my practice as a learning specialist and educational therapist, I quickly learned that games were the secret weapon to learning.  Candy, toys and other bribing forces trigger limited and brief bursts of motivation, but sparking a love for learning remains the bullseye.  Everyone loves to play a game, and when instruction incorporates creative and multisensory merriment to combat and obliterate learning fatigue and frustration, even the most discouraged learners will rise to the occasion. Why do Games Grasp the Hearts and Minds of Students?
Paring pleasantries and positive feelings with scholarship increases the motivation to learn over time.  I can't tell you how upset I get when I learn that a student has been assigned school work as a punishment.  This silent warfare wreaks havoc on self-directed learning and homework completion.  In contrast, when humor, joy, comfort, and nurturance is associated with the process, an insatiable force is ignited.  I have witnessed this transf…

How to Meet the Individual Writing Needs of Your Students

With large classroom sizes, it is often challenging to meet the individual writing needs of each student. What makes it doubly difficult is the writing process involves a complicated synergy that requires students to physically write, type or dictate, implement rules of written language/spelling, as well as generate and organize ideas. Those are a lot of tasks that require attention, and every student comes with their own unique preferences and needs.

So How Can a Single Teacher Manage the Writing Needs of Individual Students?
I find that when most students receive a graded, written assignment, they rarely look past the number. However, sprinkled across their papers are colorful hints and suggestions on how to accomplish higher marks as well as personalized clues on how to develop greater mastery over the written word. The best way to meet the individual needs of your budding writers is to provide the metacognitive strategies, tools, and feedback so that they can consciously learn to …

The Best, Free Following Directions Activities

Learning to follow both oral and written instructions is a vital skill that students need to learn at an early age.  However, grabbing their attention long enough to learn the complicated process can be challenging!
Why are Following Directions a Difficult Skill for Young Learners?
Following directions involves a combination of mental tasks. Therefore, for a student to be good at this, he or she needs to be proficient at the following skills, and he or she also needs to be able to do them simultaneously:
Attention is the ability to maintain focus on a selected stimulus, sustaining that focus and shifting it at will.Receptive language is the ability to understand language “input” - including both words and gestures.Memory is the ability to understand and remember information over time.Verbal reasoning is the ability to understand and reason with words.Executive Functioning is the ability to multitask, self-monitor, self-initiate, plan, prioritize and organize information.  It is the int…

5 Fun Games and Activities to Strengthen Listening Skills

I'm happy to continue a discussion on listening skills from my prior blog post, "What are the 7 Root Origins of Poor Listening Skills?"  This past blog reviewed the cognitive skills behind listening.  Now, I would love to share the games and activities that I use to improve listening skills in my own students.
It's all in the Presentation: Here are three magic steps:
Motivating lesson titles can hook your learners and feed eager and enthusiastic attitudes. Upbeat and animated presentations can grab your students' attention and get them engrossed in the content. Integrate fun and interactive games that reinforce the concepts so that the content sticks. Games and Activities that Strengthen Listening Skills: If you know anything about me, you know that I love games and fun, multisensory activities.  In fact, if I don't already have a game or fun activity to practice new concepts, then one is quickly created.  Here are some of my favorite ways to improve listening…

What are the Signs of Dysgraphia and Solutions for Success?

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects written language: spelling, capturing ideas on paper, visual-spatial skills, and fine motor skills such as handwriting. Different terms are used to describe these difficulties. In fact, the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 (DSM-5) doesn’t use the term dysgraphia but uses the phrase “an impairment in written expression” which is under the category of “specific learning disorder.”
What are the Signs of Dysgraphia or Impairment in Written Expression? Handwriting isMessy or illegible Covered in cross-outs and erased textBurdened with improper spacing between letters and wordsHindered with oversized and crooked letters and wordsDisrupted with a combination of lower and uppercase letters as well as a mixture of print and scriptMisaligned when doing math problems Labored written language includesPencil grip is cramped and strainedWord repetitionWord and punctuation omissionsSentences are unfinishedAvoidant b…

What are the 7 Root Origins of Poor Listening Skills?

It is easy for parents and even teachers to lose their cool when children do not listen to repeated directions. So, if kids aren’t making sense of what they hear, how can the learning process even take place? To solve this problem, it is necessary to uncover the root causes of poor listening skills.  Then, one must find the individualized, cognitive-based culprits for each student. 
What are the Cognitive Skills Behind Listening? There are a number of core cognitive skills that support one's capacity to listen:
Attention - Attention is the ability to tune into information, sensations, and perceptions that are relevant in the moment.Working memory - Working memory is a cognitive function that enables students to recall and use relevant information to complete an activity. It also enables learners to hold multiple pieces of information in the mind and manipulate them. Often described as a mental workspace, working memory helps students stay focused, block distractions and stay abrea…

How to Teach Executive Functioning to Struggling Students

Many teachers are miffed when apparently simple tasks such as using an agenda or turning in an assignment is difficult for their students. Many of my own students have shared that some teachers impose very strict rules and regulations about both recording assignments and due dates. In fact, I have witnessed policies that are so rigid, a zero is divvied out if an assignment is even a minute late. Unfortunately, harsh punishments do not provide the attention and instruction that these students need to develop this skill. Instead, penalties and labels such as careless, lazy and unmotivated simply place these frustrated learners in a state of learned helplessness.  In contrast, these students need structured routines, comprehensive instruction, and a scaffolding approach to planning, managing time, and organizing.
How Hard Can it Really Be to Plan, Manage Time and Organize?
I have to admit, when I first started working with students that struggled with executive functioning, I was perplex…

How to Address Spelling Needs and Nurture Student Success

This week I am thrilled to share a case study of a fabulous teacher named Kim, from Cape Town in South Africa. Kim teaches a 3rd-grade class at a special needs school. The children range from 10-12 years old and most are bussed in daily from very disadvantaged areas all over the peninsula. Kim reported, "I was so thrilled to have stumbled across your website when I was drowning in a sea of unrecognizable words and paragraphs which were proudly presented to me by 8 out of my16 pupils." Kim knew they were capable, "as most of them could do math with the greatest of ease. So what was this?" How Could Kim Meet the Diverse Needs of Her Students?
Kim signed up for my course: Spelling Instruction: Assessment and Focused Remedial Approach.  She shared, "After studying your course, I realized that my student's brains were wired differently as far as language processing." Kim learned that her struggling students had different cognitive based weaknesses that wer…

What are the 5 Important Steps to Navigating Dyslexia?

Navigating and then overcoming the challenges that many individuals with dyslexia experience is a process that requires both time and patience. What's more, a vital approach that tames the turbulence is revealing and addressing inherent weaknesses while embracing the many gifts that come with this diagnosis.

What are the Five Steps to Navigating Dyslexia?
Thorough Screening and Assessment: The first step is to complete a free dyslexia screener, and, if needed, pursue a comprehensive psycho-educational assessment.  This will help to uncover the specific areas of difficulty that need to be addressed and it will also define each student's "genius" qualities that can be fully realized and utilized.In-Depth Understanding: The second step is to have a comprehensive understanding of the unique strengths and weaknesses of each learner. By tapping into a student's strengths they can learn to develop compensatory learning strategies. With guidance and a scaffolding approach

Innovative Games Improve Reversals and Poor Body Scheme

This week I’m pleased to introduce you to guest blogger and author, Mary Moynihan. Mary is a registered and pediatric, board-certified occupational therapist with 38 years of experience in the field of pediatrics. She has worked in a variety of settings including developmental education centers, neonatal intensive care unit, early intervention and preschool settings, as well as public schools and clinics. Most recently, she published, Fun Kinesthetic Games to Improve Gross Motor and Perceptual Skills, one of our newest downloads that is available at Dyslexia Materials.
I’m sure that over the years you have known children who appear a little “lost in space.” These are the children that bump into every desk on their way to the front of the room, don’t realize they have fallen out of their chair till they land on the floor, and continually rub against the walls as they walk down the hallways. They may be able to stand on one foot when their eyes are open, but if you ask them to close th…