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Showing posts from 2018

100 Powerful Learning Specialist and Educational Therapy Materials

This week I wanted to tell you about my online store, Good Sensory Learning. I’m Dr. Erica Warren, and I established this site so I could share all the materials that I have created over the last 20+ years as a learning specialist and educational therapist. When I first began my private practice, Learning to Learn, I had great difficulty finding fun and multisensory materials for my students that were effective and engaging. So back in 2005, I made it my mission to design and distribute high-end, remedial products as well as memorable, motivating lessons that bring delight to learning. If you would like to try a free sampling of my activities , CLICK HERE . How Are the Products Organized at Good Sensory Learning? You can download my Free Printable Catalog or you can browse the site using the grey “search all products” bar in the top right of any page with keywords such as dyslexia, working memory, and executive functioning. What’s more, drop down menus in the red banner allow you t

5 Reasons Why Dyslexics Should Avoid a Foreign Language

Foreign language courses are mandatory for graduation in many high schools and colleges, however, for some students with language-based learning disabilities such as dyslexia, this requirement may feel insurmountable. Luckily, schools and even Ivy League colleges, such as Dartmouth, are now granting students with well-documented learning disabilities waivers of foreign language requirements. Laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 have now paved the way to reasonable accommodations and substitution courses that have widened the route to graduation. 5 Reasons Dyslexic Students Should Avoid Traditional Foreign Languages Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability , and learning a foreign language presents the same difficulties with decoding, spelling, and writing as with the English language. Foreign language teachers are not trained to identify and accommodate the diverse learning needs of students with learning disabilities. Most schools and colleges

How to Assess a Student's Reading Needs

Over the years, when I have worked with struggling readers, I have found that they all come with knowledge as well as knowledge gaps.  In fact, each student presents their own unique patchwork of knowns and unknowns.  I believe that it is my job to quickly evaluate, uncover, and fill the pits an pockets so I can forge a strong foundation and play catchup to a forward bounding curriculum. Why Should I Assess the Reading Needs of a Struggling Reader? I have found that no two students have the same strengths and weaknesses.  Likewise, struggling readers, even those that come with diagnoses such as dyslexia, all come with a different knowledge base and areas that require instruction and remediation.  Unfortunately, many reading programs make all participants go through a lengthy process from square one and progress can be slow and time-consuming.  In contrast, evaluating foundational reading skills at the beginning of any program can uncover accomplishments and establish specific need

3 Reliable Ways to Strengthen Hemisphere Integration

Most people know the saying: Two heads are better than one.  Similarly, one brain with two integrated hemispheres can be equally as powerful.  It is common knowledge that the brain has two hemispheres that are bridged by a bundle of nerves that travel across the corpus callosum. Although this overpass exists, it doesn’t mean that it is always used. In fact, you will often hear of people claiming to be right or left brain dominant, and many people function quite well using predominantly “half a brain.” However uniting the power of both hemispheres and assimilating experiences, students can create an internal environment for optimal learning. What is Hemisphere Integration? Hemisphere integration is the communication between and activation of both the left and right hemispheres of the brain. When hemisphere integration is low, the two hemispheres are not communicating well, there is an imbalance between the right and left sides, or one hemisphere is inactive while the other remain

How to Quickly Teach Multiplication Facts with No Struggle

I know far too well that rote memorization is both boring and frustrating for many young learners.  Over the years, I have also witnessed many students that struggle to learn these foundational skills to resist the process, exhibit anxiety and begin to question their own intelligence.  This is why coming up with a new approach to teaching multiplication and division facts was one of my first priorities when I opened my educational therapy practice 20 years ago.  What are the 4 Secret Ingredients to Learning the Basic Multiplication and Division Facts?  Creating a multisensory  learning process :   In other words, how could I meet the learning needs of all of my students by conduct to a symphony of senses?  Tapping into visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic styles was primary, but I also wanted to make the process a highly organized sequence of steps that offered students the opportunity to verbalize, interact with others, and directly experience the learning process.  Finall

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 f

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 t

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 le

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 inf

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 magical 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

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 is Messy or illegible  Covered in cross-outs and erased text Burdened with improper spacing between letters and words Hindered with oversized and crooked letters and words Disrupted with a combination of lower and uppercase letters as well as a mixture of print and script Misaligned when doing math problems Labored written language includes Pencil grip is cramped and strained Word repetition Word and punctuation omissions Sent

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

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 per