Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on executive functioning.

Executive 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. I am looking into printing decks of cards, and they will eventually be available 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, 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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Should ADHD Students Sit Still? New Research on Movement and Learning

Can you imagine trying to learn in a classroom all day while being bound in a strait jacket?  For many kinesthetic learners as well as kids with ADHD, requiring them to sit still during instruction is quite similar to binding them in their chairs.  Although some learners do benefit from sitting motionless, for others it is almost impossible to learn while their bodies remain idle.

Why Do Most Middle school and High school Teachers Require Their Students to “Sit Still?”
It makes sense that one would teach in a way that they, themselves, learn.  As a result, most teachers reflect upon their own ways of processing information when they create their lesson plans. I have found in my many years of conducting workshops with teachers, that very few teachers personally find movement helpful with the learning process.  In fact, I have my own theory that teacher education does not attract many kinesthetic learners, as the process to become a teacher requires little to no movement.  This hypothesis was tested when I conducted a workshop at a private middle school and high school.  When I assessed the learning preferences of the entire 200+ faculty, I was amazed to learn that only one of the teachers reported that they were a kinesthetic learner and that movement helped them to learn.  When I asked them what subject that they taught, they replied, “Gym.” Because the majority of subject-based teachers in middle school and high school don’t find movement helpful in the learning process, and often find it distracting, one can understand how difficult it can be to find teachers that are comfortable accommodating students that need to move around while learning.
What Does the Research Suggest About Movement in the Classroom?
New research that was recently published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology indicates that physical motion is critical to the way that students with ADHD encode and retrieve information and solve problems. Dr. Mark Rapport, a psychologist at the University of Central Florida conducted a study that was published this April, 2015 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.  The article, entitled, Hyperactivity in Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): Impairing Deficit or Compensatory Behavior? indicates that movement aids working memory and attention for boys ages 8-12 with ADHD, while these higher levels of activity resulted in lower working memory for typically developing students.  This indicates that the hyperactivity for students with ADHD has a functional role.   It would be nice to see more research that looks at the needs of other kinesthetic learners that don’t have ADHD.  They do exist, as I have worked with quite a few of them myself.
How Can We Accommodate These Kinesthetic Learners in the Classroom?
Clearly, motor activity is a compensatory mechanism that facilitates neurocognitive functioning for kinesthetic students as well as those with ADHD.  Therefore, instead of requiring students to sit motionless in their chairs, schools need to offer students the option of sitting on ball chairs, integrating adjustable desks with foot swings that give the students the option of standing, and integrating desks with exercise equipment.  In addition, these students need to be coached on appropriate and non-disruptive ways that they can move in the classroom, and teachers need to be educated about the benefits of movement for many students.
Personally, I love to integrate movement into my lessons for those that need it.  It’s amazing to see how engaged and motivated students can become when they learn in a way that nurtures their best ways of processing.  Here are some links to some of my favorite kinesthetic tools for the classroom!

If you would like to assess the learning preferences of your students and uncover the kinesthetic learners in your classroom, consider learning more about my Eclectic Teaching Approach. This publication also comes with an assessment that will help you define the unique ways of learning for each of your students, so that it is easy to accommodate and empower them. 

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.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  
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The Key to Improved Attention and Memory for Optimal Learning

Did you know that visualization can be the key to unlocking memory abilities, attentional skills and enjoyment for learning? Surprisingly, the use of mental imagery for learning is not a new

idea. 
Use of Visualization Throughout History:
In fact, an appreciation and recognition of visualization is sprinkled throughout history. It can be traced back as far as Aristotle in 348 B.C.  He wrote, “recollection is a searching of an image.” Again, in the 5th and 6th century, Greek and Roman intellectuals used mental images to
enhance memory (Ashcraft, 1989; Sadoski and Paivio, 2001). At that time, visualization was a common strategy used for public speaking.  Scholars used this skill, which is now known as method of loci, to organize and recall a speech by imagining and associating topics with everyday objects (Douville, Pugalee, Wallace, & Lock, 2002). Yet again, in the thirteenth century, St Thomas Aquinas spoke of visualization, indicating that we acquire knowledge by forming “phantasms” or mental images (Magill, 1963).  Finally, in the 19th and 20th centuries, a resurgence of interest in mental imagery took place in the fields of experimental psychology and cognitive psychology (Thomas, 2013). Piaget, with a focus on cognitive constructions and “mindfulness,” offered a renewed interest in the role visualization played in cognition and learning. (Douville, Pugalee, Wallace, & Lock, 2002).  Einstein was also a proponent of visualization and, to this day, is often quoted as saying, “If I can’t picture it, I can’t understand it.” 
What’s the Scientific Proof?
Most recently, scientific methodologies have been utilized to assess the validity and utility of visualization. In the past 50 years, researchers have looked at the impact of mental imagery on academic achievement. There is a host of research on this topic, and this blog focuses on some of the key studies that investigate the impact of mental imagery on learning.  
Research on the Impact of Visualization on Reading:
Research has investigated the effect of visualization on reading abilities. Studies have shown that there is a direct link between poor comprehension skills and the inability to visualize text (Gambrell, 1982; Gambrell and Bales, 1986; Gambrell and Jawitz, 1993; Steingart and Glock, 1979).  In contrast, research substantiates that students who picture what they are reading, thus painting the setting, characters and plot on the canvas of their mind’s eye, have better comprehension scores and find greater joy in the reading process (Bell, 1991; Gambrell, 1982; Gambrell and Bales, 1986; Gambrell and Jawitz, 1993; Long, Winograd and Bridge, 1989; Sadoski, 1985; Sadosi, Goetz and Kangiser, 1988; Sadoski and Quast, 1990; Steingart and Glock, 1979). Algozzine and Douville (2004) also assert that training in mental imagery aids students in generating their own mental images when reading. In addition, students who visualize while reading are better at making inferences and accurate predictions (Gambrell, 1982; Steingart and Glock, 1979). Moreover, research on the efficacy of using visual imagery has also been shown to improve deep connections that aid in memory recall and reading comprehension (Craik and Lockhart, 1972). Clearly, visualization is a necessary cognitive skill that helps readers attend to and encode literature, but mental imagery also helps learners develop their expressive language abilities.  
Research on the Impact of Visualization on Writing:
Employing visualization has also been demonstrated to enhance writing skills in students (Jampole, Konopak, Readence, & Moser, 1991). In particular, gifted students who received mental imagery instruction outperform those who did not on originality and the use of sensory descriptors (Jampole, Konopak, Readence, & Moser, 1991).  Additionally, Algozzine and Douville (2004), claimed that training in visualization helped students generate their own mental images when writing. Furthermore, Kwan-Lui, Liao, Frazier, Hauser, and Kostis (2012) reported that visualizing events described in writing, “is crucial for constructing a rich and coherent visuospatial mental representations of the text.” Finally, when Jurand (2012) researched the efficacy of visualization for a summer writing program, he reported that art projects were a successful method that helped students to visualize their ideas during the writing process, and they also served to develop the students’ imagination. Yet, reading and writing are not the only areas of academic achievement that benefit from mental images.
Research on the Impact of Visualization on Math:
Visualization hones mathematical abilities too. Dougville, Pugalee, Wallace and Lock (2002) suggested that using mental imagery can help learners to, “concretize abstract mathematical concepts in ways that facilitate more effective problem-solving.” They also noted that more advanced math imaging can be achieved through storyboarding activities where the steps of a math problem are drawn in a pictorial sequence. Dougville, Pugalee, Wallace and Lock (2002) claimed the words of their participants offered compelling evidence. Participants suggested that using mental imagery was like, “having a video camera in my brain” and like “going to a movie in my head” and that, “reading and learning was more fun” for the participant students.  Clearly, the mathematics community embraces the benefits of visualization but do the hard sciences concur?
Research on the Impact of Visualization on Science:
Even the scientific community is beginning to consider how visualization can make research more understandable and manageable to the public (Kwan-Liu, Liao, Frazier, Hauser, Kostis, 2012). When
students visualize graphic progressions and cycles, as well as webs, diagrams, and lab experiences, they can improve their understanding and memory of the content.  Although the research on visualization in the sciences is sparse, it appears clear that all areas of instruction are enhanced by learning to use one’s mind’s eye. 
Qualitative Evidence Supporting Visualization: 
Qualitative anecdotes further support the power of visualization in learning. Many of my students who love to read and also have excellent reading comprehension, claim that words, “create movies in
their heads,” which allows them to take a mind trip into the fantasy realm created by the author. Similarly, the actor, Tom Cruise noted, “I had to train myself to focus my attention. I became very visual and learned how to create mental images in order to comprehend what I read.” Some talented few have reported that they can even relive historical events, past science experiments, and classroom lectures!  Likewise, visualization is reported to help with the writing process.  Great writers, like Mark Twain, claimed to have used personal visualizations to help him write a scene by picturing the moment and then painting it with words. Twain remarked, “You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” Likewise, the writer, Holly Lisle professed, “We have to see – really see – the people and places around us as if our bodies were full-sensory cameras and our minds were film.” Even scientists report that they use visualizations to help them grasp concepts. Albert Einstein was credited with saying, “a picture says a thousand words.” He also offered advice on how to visualize in the 4th dimension: “Take a point, stretch it into a line, curl it into a circle, twist it into a sphere, and punch through the sphere.” Even if a student can visualize and use their imagination, they
may or may not be using this talent when reading, writing or listening.  Because reading, writing and listening all require attention, researchers suggest that some students find that they do not have the cognitive space to visualize when learning (Gambrell, 1982; Gambrell, & Jawitz,
1993).
Overall, mental imagery appears to impact all areas of academics. Douville and Algozzine (2004) unite the prior outcomes, and propose that visualization can be used across the curriculum.
How Can I Teach This Needed Skill?
I have found that the best way to teach visualization is through games and mindful discussions.  To help with this process, I wrote a book entitled Mindful Visualization for Education.  In fact, this blog includes an excerpt from the book, and all the full citations are available in the full document.  This 132 page downloadable document (PDF) provides a review of the research, assessment tools, over twenty game-like activities and lesson suggestions in all the subject areas as well as for vocabulary development and listening.  In addition, I offer two PowerPoint downloads that review the 10 core skills that need to be developed to optimize visualization abilities.

If you have any thoughts on the use of visualization for learning, please post a comment! Also, if you have had some success with visualization in the classroom, please share your experiences.

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.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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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, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Simplifying What is Best for ADHD Learners

Students that struggle with ADHD battle maintaining their focus on classroom materials and can be a challenge to hook and reel in for any teacher.  Many teachers and parents ask me to help them address what is best for ADHD learners, and the magic for motivating and enticing these students falls into five realms: the learning environment, the teaching approach, the teachers presentation, mindfulness training and the assessment of learning method.

The Learning Environment:  Create an engaging, multisensory learning environment that offers fun learning tools.

  1. Offer hands on experiences and consider creating learning stations where students can complete a variety of activities that reinforce lessons.
  2. Offer a variety of seating options.  Some students learn best when sitting still, while other students need to move around.  Options, such as the Zenergy Ball Chairstand up school desks and bouncy bands offer opportunities for students to move without distracting their classmates. 
  3. Play games that preview or review lessons.  This will bring the fun factor into the classroom.
  4. Make sure that the lighting is optimal for all learners.
  5. Make sure that there are minimal auditory and visual distractions.

The Teaching Approach: Use teaching methods that are empowering for all learners.

  1. Go multisensory:  Teach to each of the 12 ways of learning, while assessing and accommodating your learners best ways of learning so lessons can be most empowering.  To get an assessment and manual on meeting the 12 ways of learning, CLICK HERE.
  2. Make the lesson playful.  If you are not sure how to do this, create a suggestion box and let your students offer ideas.
  3. Go creative and integrate art and music into your lessons.

The Teacher’s Presentation: Be enthusiastic and positive when presenting your lesson.

  1. Create excitement or intrigue on class topics.  For example, encourage your students to dress like the historical characters they are learning about, create a game for a lesson and let the students know how fun it will be, provide examples on how a coming topic is used in real life, and invite engaging professionals to share their experiences to the class.
  2. Come up with a fun name for all lessons.  Instead of introducing a lesson with a dull and boring name, come up with a title that sounds fun.  For example, don’t teach script or cursive, teach roller-coaster letters!
  3. Be positive in your presentation.  Stop using negative labels and replace discouraging comments with words of encouragement.  Click here to learn more.
Mindfulness Training:  Teach your students to manage and be aware of their own thinking process.
  1. Determine if your students are passive or active learners and help them become conscious learners.  Here is a free assessment you can use with your students.
  2. Lead a discussion with your students about on how to maintain focus.  See what strategies your students are already using and suggest metacognitive approaches and visualization strategies
  3. Share your own metacognitive techniques on how you focus.  You can do this by sharing your internal thoughts.
  4. Ask your students to think about the material and make connections to their own lives.
Assessment of Learning Method: Maximize the utility of classroom and home work assignments.
  1. If you want to assess your students knowledge of a topic through class and homework assignments, provide 3 to 5 different options that tap into the different ways of learning.  
  2. Make sure all homework and classwork is valuable and engaging.
  3. Allow students to get partial credit for errors on classwork, homework and tests so that they can learn from their mistakes.  
I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have any other 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, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com
www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Free Tools for Helping Students to Plan and Organize for School

With the new academic year around the corner, teachers, parents and students need to begin planning for the new school year.  But what most teachers and parents don’t know is that the part of the brain that assists with planning, time management and organization is not fully developed until students reach their early twenties.  Therefore, for most young learners, adults need to help create a structured plan and provide assistance when prepping, and gathering materials for school. Checklists, graphic organizers, step by step procedures, strategies and more are often required, but many adults are overwhelmed with other responsibilities, and it can be difficult to find the time to take on this role.  
I have created a free sampling of 8 printable handouts that can help jump start the process.  This freebie includes: a back to school checklist for parents, picking your organization approach for students, a school materials checklist, before and after school checklists, a teacher availability and information sheet, recording my grades tables, a student contacts sheet, and a create a homework plan and stick to the routine sheet.  It also provides the table of contents to a full publication that assists students from elementary school through college. To learn more about
helping students with executive functioning skills and acquiring other helpful learning
handouts, consider purchasing Planning
Time Management and Organization for Success
.  This digital download offers
methods and materials that guide and support learners in the areas of
learning strategies, time management, planning and organization (executive
functioning skills).  It offers agendas, questionnaires,
checklists, as well as graphic organizers.  You will also acquire advice
and handouts for reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and
incentives programs.   Finally, I offer a  free video on executive functioning.  
I hope you find this post helpful.  If you have any questions or thoughts, please leave a comment.

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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Helping Students Plan Long-Term Assignments and Projects

Figuring out how to manage long-term
projects and assignments can be a challenge without a sequenced and structured
approach, and teaching students how to manage these skills is a key element in
the learning process.   Planning and time
management involve executive functioning, a portion of the brain that continues
to develop until around 20 years of age. 
As a result, when teachers assign long-term assignments or projects, it
is important for them to also instruct students on how to plot a strategy and
break the task into manageable chunks.  

Planning the
Overall Approach:
1.    
Set
and Example
: Demonstrate
how you plan and manage your own time.
2.    
Brainstorm: When you announce a new long-term
assignment, discuss with the students how they might plan their approach and
create deadlines. 
3.    
Group
Work:
Create opportunities
for students to plan their approach in small groups.
4.    
Offer
Incentives:
 Offer extra credit for students that can make
a plan and stick to it. 
Planning the
Details:
1.    
Encourage
students to estimate and discuss the total time they expect to spend on a project or assignment.
2.    
Break assignments or projects into manageable tasks with clear expectations.
3.    
Assign
each task a goal, a start date and a deadline date.
4.     Ask students to record
goals in a planner and/or on a family calendar.
5.    
Helps students create checklists and encourage them to check off completed tasks.
Pointers:

·     
Encourage
students to schedule the completion of an assignment a few days early just in
case they want teacher feedback, time commitments are underestimated or
unexpected priorities arise.
·     
Allow
your students to use my Planning Long-Term Assignments Checklist to the right as a guide
throughout the process.
To learn more about
teaching executive functioning skills and acquiring other helpful learning
tools, consider purchasing Planning TimeManagement and Organization for Success.  This publication
offers methods and materials that guide, and support students in the areas
of learning strategies, time management, planning and organization (executive functioning
skills).  It includes agendas, questionnaires, checklists, as well as
graphic organizers.  You will also find advice and handouts for
reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and incentives
programs.  These materials were created over a ten-year period for my
private practice.  What’s more, the materials accommodate learners of
all ages from elementary to college.  Finally, I offer a free sample assessment from the publication too, as well as a free video on executive functioning.  To Access this 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, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz

Executive Functioning: Problems and Solutions

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Many young learners are being diagnosed with executive functioning weaknesses and schools are struggling to meet the needs of this population of learners.  The problem is that many teachers and administrators don’t understand the difficulties associated with this problem and therefore find accommodating these students an ever increasing challenge.

What is Executive Functioning?
  •  The command and control center of the brain
  •  The conductor of cognitive skills
  •  The cognitive process that connects learned experiences with present actions.
  •  The place that encodes, retrieves and manipulates information.

What is the Impact of Executive Functioning Difficulties?
On the one hand, a weakness or deficit in executive functioning can impact an individual internally in a number of ways:
1) Cognitive Performance:

  • Slow processing speed
  • Difficulty maintaining motivation
  • Limited stamina
  • Poor goal-directed persistence

2) Emotional Regulation:

  • Problems curbing frustration
  • Difficulty maintaining a positive attitude
  • Struggles with controlling anxiety

3) Monitoring and Management:

  • Poor self-awareness  – prioritizing and self-awareness
  • Difficulties with self-regulation – time management, organization and planning

4) Memory:
  • Problems encoding information – holding and manipulating data
  • Difficulties retrieving information – word finding and connecting new concepts to prior knowledge
5) Attention:
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Problems sustaining attention
  • Difficulties shifting focus
  • Poor goal-directed persistence

On the other hand, difficulties with executive functioning can also impact an individual externally in a number of ways:

1) Social:
  • Difficulties arriving on time for social gatherings
  • Problems planning events
  • Difficulties engaging in-group dynamics
  • Struggles with recalling people’s names
2) Family:
  • Problems arriving on time for family gatherings
  • Difficulties finding items
  • Struggles with maintaining an organized space
  • Problems regulating emotions with family members
3) Educational:
  • Difficulties recording assignments
  • Problems initiating schoolwork
  • Struggles with locating Handouts and homework
  • Forgetting to submit completed assignments
  • Problems maintaining organized materials and space
  • Trouble keeping appointments
4) Occupational:
  • Problems maintaining stamina on projects
  • Difficulties organizing materials
  • Struggles to keep appointments
  • Problems finding materials
  • Difficulties arriving to work on time

What are Some General Solutions?
  • Meditation and mindfulness training
  • EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Cognitive remediation in areas such as working memory and emotional regulation
  • Individual or family therapy
  • Structured and routine oriented lifestyle
  • Use of planners, a PDA (such as a smartphone or computer) or hiring a personal assistant

What are Some Academic Solutions?
  • Create a structured daily routine
  • Set priorities
  • Generate a homework plan
  • Break large assignments into manageable chunks
  • Make to-do checklists
  • Teach study skills
  • Illustrate note-taking skills
  • Demonstrate time management skills by breaking large assignments into manageable chunks with numerous deadlines
  • Teach test taking strategies
  • Demonstrate memory strategies
  • Help student motivation by offering incentives and positive reinforcement
  • Create and use graphic organizers for writing
  • Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud
  • Use technology such as a smartphone to create reminders

Academic Tools for Success:
To help with strategies and more, I created a 116-page publication that offers methods and materials that structure, guide, and support students in the areas of time management, planning and organization (executive functioning skills).  This comprehensive document includes agendas, questionnaires, checklists, as well as graphic organizers for writing and test preparation.  You will also find advice and materials in the areas of reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and creating incentives programs.  These materials were all created over a 10 year period for my private practice.  What’s more, the materials accommodate learners of all ages from elementary to college.  Come get a free sample assessment from the publication, as well as view a free video on executive functioning.  CLICK HERE

If you would like to view a Prezi that I created for this blog, 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, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com, www.learningtolearn.biz  

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Working Memory, Hemisphere Integration and Attention Building Activities

Successful learners are fully engaged, can
maintain attention and they activate both hemispheres of their brain.  However, many young learners go through their
daily classroom activities without being fully conscious of the task at
hand.  They are constantly distracted by
external stimuli as well as their own internal thoughts that take them on
“little trips” outside of the classroom. 
Although their bodies are present, their minds are elsewhere.  What’s more, when these students eventually
become consciously involved in the classroom, many have missed important
instruction and they may only be activating the dominant side of their
brain.  So, for example, if a student is
only using the right hemisphere, reading can become a difficult task, as for
most
people, the left hemisphere of
the brain is dominant for language.  For
students that fall into this profile, learning can become difficult, frustrating
and taxing.   

What Can We Do to Help Students Improve Memory, Activate Their Whole Brain and Improve Attention?

The key to developing these skills lies in improving three areas of cognition:
  1. Working memory
  2. Hemispheric Integration 
  3. Attention

What is Working Memory?

According
to Google definitions, working memory is the part of short-term memory that is concerned with immediate,
conscious, perceptual and linguistic processing.  The development of working memory is
fundamental to helping students to be present and mindful while in the
classroom.  It also helps them to encode
information as well as perform mental manipulations.

What is Hemispheric Integration? 

Hemispheric Integration is the activation of both
the left and right hemispheres of the brain. 
When hemisphere integration is poor, there is decreased communication
between the right and left sides of the brain. 
Electrically, the two hemispheres
are not communicating, there is an imbalance between the right and left sides of the brain or one
hemisphere is activated, while the other remains largely inactive.   Multisensory integration is essential for almost every activity that we
perform because the combination of multiple sensory inputs is essential for us
to comprehend our surroundings.  Dan Seigal (see link below) suggests, “A healthy and productive mind “emerges
from a process called integration.”  Both Dennison (see link below) and Hannaford
(see link below) offer
physical activities that integrate the brain through movement, but this
publication offers quick printable activities that can also activate both
hemispheres and train the brain to be mindful and present for improved memory
and processing.

What are Attention Building Activities? 

Attention building activities require students to maintain attention in order to complete the exercise. Without being fully focused, the drills are virtually impossible.  If instructors or learning specialists slowly increase the number of activities that the student completes in a single session, they will be training the brain to concentrate over longer and longer periods of time. 

Why I Created and Use These Activities with My Students? 

We
live in a society that is constantly bombarding children with stimuli to the
point that when there is no stimulation, many kids get bored.  In addition, many children do not know how to
activate their own cognition and take control of their own thought
processes.   I
created these fun, game-like activities to help students become mindfully
present, develop working memory, engage both hemispheres of the brain and improve
the capacity to sustain attention.  Many
of the activities were created with the Stroop Effect in mind.  The
effect is named after John Ridley Stroop who first researched
and published the effect in England in 1935.  Later, his findings inspired a test,
The Stroop Test.  The Stroop Test is
purported to measure selective
attention, cognitive flexibility, processing speed, and
executive functions.  If you would like to learn more about these activities as well as see some sample pages, 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, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com, www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Midterms and Finals: Free Strategies and Handouts for Success

For many
students, midterms are right around the corner, and learning how to plan for these
comprehensive exams can be key to helping them manage test anxiety and achieve the
desired grades.
What Can Teachers Do to Help Prepare
Students for Midterms and Finals?
     1.     Throughout the Term Encourage
Your Students to Create a “Test Preparation Portfolio”:
·     
Help your students to create
test preparation materials weekly from homework, classwork, notes, handouts and
textbooks. 
·     
Provide
the opportunity for your students to ask questions about prior class content
that creates confusion when they are preparing their portfolio.
·     
Evaluate
each student’s test preparation materials and make recommendations.
     2.    
Communicate
with Your Students About Upcoming Exams:
·     
Inform
your students about the exams well in advance and provide a study guide.
·     
Inspire
your students to organize their materials. 
Evaluate their approach and offer recommendations.
·     
Encourage
your students to create materials such as two column study sheets, index cards,
sets on Quizlet and so forth.  Again, evaluate their resources and offer
recommendations.
     3.     Help
Your Students Estimate the Time Needed to Fully Prepare for Exams:
·     
Urge
your students to come up with the total time they think it will take to prepare
for the test.
·     
Encourage
your students to create a study schedule that designates reasonable time
commitments over a period of time.
     4.     Teach
Your Students to Use Memory Strategies:
·     
Show your students how to use acronyms to encode and retrieve information.
·     
Instruct
your students on acrostics.
·     
Inform
your students how to use images and mental imagery to enhance memory.
·     
Teach
your students how to use hooking strategies. 
·     
For
an in-depth look at memory strategies CLICK HERE.
     5.     Help
Your Students Determine Whether Working With Others or Working Alone is Best for Them and Encourage All Your Students to Share their Finished Test Preparation Materials:
·     
Teach
your students that some individuals do better when they work independently, while others
thrive when collaborating with peers, parents and teachers.
·     
Encourage
students to share their preference to work independently or in groups and
support their choice. 
·     
Help
students, that are empowered by interactions, to form study groups.
·      Allow your students to use some class time to prepare for tests so that you can assist study groups as well as those that choose to work independently.
·     
Encourage
your students to share their ideas, memory strategies and other test
preparation creations with the rest of the class.
     6.     Offer
Strategies that Students Can Implement Once They have Finished Studying:
·     
Teach
your students how to manage stress through deep breathing, stretching, and
mindfulness practices such as meditation.
·     
Urge
your students to get a good night’s sleep before the exam.
·     
Suggest
to your students that they should eat a well-balanced and healthy breakfast the
morning of the exam. 
·     
Encourage
your students to think positively about the test and to visualize their own
success. 
To get a free downloadable copy of the two images at the top of this blog CLICK HERE.
To learn more about test preparation
strategies as well as other helpful learning tools, consider
purchasing Planning Time
Management and Organization for Success
.  This publication
offers methods and materials that guide, and support students in the areas
of learning strategies, time management, planning and organization
(executive functioning skills).  It includes agendas, questionnaires,
checklists, as well as graphic organizers.  You will also find advice
and handouts for reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and
incentives programs.  These materials were created over a ten-year
period for my private practice.  What’s more, the materials
accommodate learners of all ages from elementary to
college.  Finally, I offer a free sample assessment from the publication
too, as well as a free video on executive functioning.  To
Access this 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, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz