Dr. Warren has a blogger blog entitled Learning Specialist Materials Blogspot. Here you can access her articles.

Multisensory Teaching Accommodates the 12 Ways of Learning

Teachers are always trying to reach more learners and improve retention.  One of the best ways to do this is to employ a variety teaching methods.  This involves integrating the 12 ways of learning into instruction.  Here is an infographic that reviews the 12 ways of learning and provides some statistics on how learning improves when teachers implement multisensory instruction.

Here is an image of the same infographic that can be shared on Pinterest.

  
I hope you found this to be informative and inspiring.  If you have any thoughts you would like to share, please leave a comment below this blog post.

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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15 Ways to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom

How can we nurture resilient, active learners that embrace challenging academic material and become successful lifelong learners? Carol Dweck suggests that what we need to do is help students shed a fixed mindset and adopt a growth mindset. What’s more, Dweck contends that developing a growth mindset will also result in less stress and a more productive and fulfilling life. 

What is a Fixed and Growth Mindset?
In a fixed mindset, students believe that their abilities are dependent on fixed traits that can not be changed such as intellect or talent. Individuals that think this way, often cultivate a self-defeating identity, feel powerless, and many struggle with a sense of learned helplessness. In contrast, students with a growth mindset accept that abilities and aptitude can be developed with persistence and effort. As a result, these individuals are not intimidate by failure, because they realize that mistakes are a part of the learning process. They continue working hard despite any difficulties or setbacks. 

So What Can Teachers do to Nurture a Growth Mindset in the Classroom?

  1. Instruct your students about what it is to have a growth mindset and ask them to interview and write about someone that has a growth mindset.  
  2. Resist offering hints when students struggle to answer questions.  Instead, allow your students the time to think aloud and formulate answers so that they can embrace this as part of the learning process.
  3. Demonstrate your own growth mindset by seeing yourself as a lifelong learner that can improve and grow.
  4. Teach your students that what is most important is what they do after a failure.  Ask them to discuss this in small groups and then share their conclusions with the class. 
  5. Create an environment that nurtures and rewards students that maintain motivation and effort. Provide opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes, make corrections and improve grades.  
  6. Share real-life stories of past and present students that have exhibited a growth mindset. Challenge your students to do the same.
  7. Read about successful people who worked hard, struggled, and overcame obstacles to reach a high level of achievement.  Ask your students to write about how they could apply a similar mindset to their own life.
  8. Recognize initiative and praise students for hard work.  Avoid accolades for intelligence or talents.  To learn more about this, watch this video by Trevor Regan at Train Ugly.
  9. Encourage students to be aware of their inner voice and to speak to themselves like they would speak to their best friend. Help them to become aware of any fixed mindset phrases they may use such as “I can’t do this.”  Ask your students to share other fixed mindset phrases they have used in the past and make a list on the board.  Next, as a group, reword all the fixed mindset phrases listed with growth mindset suggestions.  For example, a growth mindset phrase might say, “This may be difficult at first, but with practice and effort I can master this!”  
  10. Watch this video by Trevor Regan at Train Ugly and lead a discussion with your students about how they can become better learners.
  11. Celebrate mistakes and thank students for sharing any misconceptions. Tell your students that this will help you to be a better teacher, and they will become resilient learners. 
  12. Offer a suggestion box to your students, so that they can share thoughts and ideas that can help to improve the classroom environment, instruction methods, and assessment tools. 
  13. Find out what motivates your students and integrate it into the curriculum. Then, share your own enthusiasm and excitement on the topic.
  14. Don’t give homework.  Instead, assign creative, home-fun activities that are optional.  Provide assignment possibilities that students will enjoy completing and let them be a part of creating these assignment options.  
  15. 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. 
If you have any more suggestions on what we can do to nurture a growth mindset in the classroom, please make a comment below this blog post.

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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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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Sleep and Learning: Strategies to Help School Children Fall Asleep

Do your students or children struggle to get out of bed in the morning? Do they complain that they are fatigued during the school week? Many youngsters are up late doing homework, and as a result, they do not get the needed rest.  In fact, recent research suggests that insufficient sleep has been shown to cause poor school performance, cognitive and emotional problems, disciplinary problems, sleepiness in classes, and poor attention skills. 
Insufficient Sleep Can Also Lead to:
1.     symptoms of depression and anxiety
2.     aging of the skin
3.     serious health problems
4.     weight gain
5.     impaired judgement

How Much Sleep Do Children Need?
According to WebMD, the amount of sleep needed varies per age. 
·       7-12-year-old children need 10 – 11 hours of sleep per night
·       12-18-year-old adolescents need 8 – 9 hours per night.

What Does the Recent Research Suggest?
Recent research has revealed an association between insufficient sleep and poorer grades and behaviors in school.  In 1998, psychologists Amy R. Wolfson of the College of the Holy Cross, and Mary A. Carskadon of Brown University Medical School surveyed more than 3,000 high-school students and found that those who earned C’s, D’s and F’s had about 25 minutes less sleep and went to bed about 40 minutes later than students who received getting A’s and B’s.  In addition, researchers at the University of Minnesota reported on a study of more than 7,000 high-school students that attended a school district that had switched from a 7:15 a.m. to an 8:40 a.m. start time. When compared to students that maintained earlier start times, those that started later reported more sleep on school nights, feeling more alert during the day, earning improvements in grades and experiencing fewer depressive thoughts and behaviors.  Furthermore, in 2009, American and French researchers discovered that events in the brain called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. This process transfers learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep which can be impacted by insufficient sleep.  What’s more, Wiggs and Stores research reported in, Sleep Disturbance and Daytime Challenging Behaviors in Children with Severe Learning Disabilities, indicated associations between sleep problems and challenging behaviors. They found that sleep problems were more common in children with severe learning disabilities and that these children were also more likely to show daytime irritability, lethargy and hyperactivity. Finally, according to Backhaus, Junghanns, Born, Hodaus, and Faasch from the University of Luebeck, Luebeck, Germany, lack of sleep is associated with diminished consolidation of declarative memory. In other words, during sleep the brain turns recently learned memories into long-term memory storage, and sleep helps to lock in the learning.  

What are Some Strategies to Help Students Get Enough Sleep?
  1. Avoid television or screen time two hours before bed.  Research suggests that children who watch TV before bed stay up later and sleep less than children who do not.
  2. Prevent exposure to bright lights two hours before going to sleep.  A bright light can disrupt one’s circadian rhythms making it difficult to fall asleep.
  3. Keep your child’s bedroom as dark as possible.  Even a night light can disrupt sleeping patterns.  Help them to get comfortable with the lights off, or leave a nightlight on until they fall asleep.
  4. Provide children with a pass that is good for one (and only one) trip out of the bedroom after their bedtime.  If needed, allow them to earn a reward for compliance after a few days.
  5. Avoid long naps during the day as this can make it difficult to fall asleep in the evening.
  6. Engage in calming activities like meditations, lullabies, affection, and storytelling to help children relax and prepare for sleep.
  7. If your child still has difficulty falling asleep, encourage them to count backwards in their heads from 100.
Clearly, we need to assure that our children get the needed sleep so that they can optimize their learning as well as their physical and emotional wellbeing.  If you know of any other strategies, please share them 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, 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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Teaching Mental Math to All Elementary Students

Many people think that mental math is too difficult for elementary learners, but, in fact, youngsters have wonderful imaginations and capacities to visualize that can be utilized while doing mathematical calculations.  In addition, it teaches them how to use their brains in an efficient, mindful and active manner.  What’s more it develops working memory, executive functioning skills and attention abilities that can serve them for the rest of their lives.

How Can Mental Math Utilize and Develop Working Memory, Executive Functioning and Attention?
Working memory is the key mental process that enables one to hold, manipulate, organize and process both new and stored visual and auditory information.  When employing working memory, students also develop their executive functioning skills as well as their attention so that they can retrieve, integrate, and process the problem at hand.

Teaching Children the Power of Visualization Makes Mental Math Fun and Memorable
Another important component of an efficient and robust working memory is the capacity to visualize what one is learning.  Creating mental imagery that can be adjusted like an internal movie can make learning both fun and memorable.  If you are interested in helping students to develop this capacity, you can play activities and games that will help young learners to develop this skill.  To learn about why and how you can teach this, CLICK HERE.

What Types of Mental Math Can You Teach Children?

You can begin by teaching very simple mental math problems by encouraging your students to visualize objects that they can then count in their head.  I also love to use mental math to teach simple addition and subtraction.  Instead of rote memorization, I have a different approach.  Here are a few examples.
  1. Students can learn to add and subtract simple addition problems by visualizing dice.  I have them do art activities and play games with dice until they feel comfortable that they can picture them in their heads.  Then when they have to add numbers that integrate 1-6, they can visualize a die and count up for addition and countdown for subtraction.  
  2. I teach funny memory strategies that students can visualize for learning how to add identical digits like 2+2, 3+3, 4+4 and so forth.  For example, with the problem 9+9, I tell them that the two nines are in love, and they get married.  When this happens they become one (1), and two heads are better than one (8). 
  3. Once they can add the identical digits, the mental manipulation comes in.  If they know that 6+6=12, then they can compute 6+7.  All they have to do is 6+6=12 and 12+1=13. 
  4. I am also a strong believer in integrating color, games and multisensory methods.  To learn more about my Mathematic Math Manual idea CLICK HERE.
You would think that mental math is only for bright or gifted children, but I have found that it works brilliantly with children with learning disabilities and even those with low IQ scores.  In fact, it works quickly, and I find that my students have great fun with it.  I would love to hear your thoughts on this matter.  Do you, too, use mental math when instructing elementary students?

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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Why Copying from a Board is Ineffective for Dyslexics


Having to take notes by copying from a board or projection while a teacher is lecturing is challenging for any learner, because it requires students to multitask and constantly shift modes of learning.  The process demands students to read, listen and write while making sense of the material.  However, for students with dyslexia this teaching method can be disastrous.
How Has Technology Impacted Note-taking?
Before the rise of educational technology, students used to copy while the teacher wrote on the blackboard, however, with the use of devices such as the Smartboard and software like PowerPoint, the words just magically appear.  As a result, many teachers lecture while the students are trying to read and write from the projected image, and what often happens is confusion, shoddy notes, gaps in knowledge, and frustrated learners.  But what about students with dyslexia that are also dealing with weaknesses in language processing and memory?  According to the British Dyslexia Association, taking notes is ineffective for this population of learners and “creates serious difficulties.”
What are the Challenges Students with Dyslexia Face While Copying from the Board?
Many students with dyslexia find difficult to reproduce words accurately and, worst of all, many have trouble finding their place on the board after they have looked down at their notebook.  In addition, when under pressure to work quickly, students with dyslexia usually have problems in copying words accurately.  They may mix up words in two separate sentences, misspell words, omit words or they may patchwork words that they see on the board with the words their teacher is speaking into a nonsensical hodgepodge of disjointed sentences.  Even if they do record some legible and readable notes, they probably won’t learn or fully understand the content, and will require another teacher or tutor to reteach the material.
What Does the Resent Research Say?
Dr. Kirkby, with The Language and Literacy Group at Bournemouth University, researched how dyslexia affects learners when they are reading from classroom whiteboards.  She discovered that copying from a board presents serious difficulties to learners with dyslexia.” The process involves a series of sequential visual and cognitive processes, including visual-encoding, construction and maintenance of a mental representation in working memory, and production in written form. These are all activities that can be challenging for students with dyslexia.  In their experiment, they use a head-mounted eye-tracker to record eye movements, gaze transfer, and written production of adults and children that copied from a whiteboard.  The results of the study showed that adults typically encode and transcribe words as whole words, but researchers found that even children without reading difficulties used only partial-word representations that often made note-taking ineffective.
What Can Be Done to Remedy This Problem?
What is most important is for teachers to slow down.  Give students the time to digest and get involved in the content.  Also, be sure to use other modalities in the learning process to increase engagement such as hands-on activities, discussions, and skits.  Additional note-taking suggestions include:
·     Offer your students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities reasonable accommodations such as a note-taker, use of computer or a copy of another student’s notes. 
·     Present a copy of your own notes to the students at the beginning of class.  Be sure to leave space so that they can add their own thoughts and connections.
·     Allow students to use technology like the Smart Pen which will allow them to go back and supplement notes with the recorded lecture, organize their materials, highlight important content and transfer their written words into typed text.
·     Post PowerPoint presentations online or make them available as downloads to your students.
·     Teach note-taking strategies.
·     Continually evaluate your students note-taking abilities and help them to “fill in the gaps.”
If you have any other thoughts or suggestions, please share them with us by commenting under this blog post.

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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An Overview of the Orton-Gillingham Approach to Reading Instruction

Many parents and professionals ask me about the Orton-Gillingham approach to reading and spelling. It is a well-researched and multisensory way of teaching struggling readers.  In fact,  popular programs such as Lindamood-Bell, Wilson, Barton, Fast Forward, and Spire are all based on this incremental approach.

What is at the Heart of the Orton-Gillingham Approach?
I created the following infographic to help provide an overview of the process:

When was the Orton-Gillingham Approach Created, and Who Designed it?
The Orton-Gillingham approach has been around since the 1930’s.  It was designed by a Samuel T. Orton, neurologist and pathologist, and Anna Gillingham, an educator and psychologist.  They developed an explicit, incremental and diagnostic way to teach reading instruction for students with dyslexia.

Limitations to using Orton-Gillingham Based Programs: 
Although the programs available on the market today offer a well-sequenced, comprehensive, cookie cutter methodology of teaching reading and spelling, I find that the process can be long and arduous for some students.  Many learners don’t like completing workbooks and reading long lists of words. As a result, I suggest finding a professional that knows the Orton-Gillingham approach well and has the confidence and mastery to tailor individualized lessons for each student.  In addition, I suggest using tools that strengthen the core cognitive skills required to read and spell as well as implementing games and fun activities that make the learning process motivating and fun.  If you would like to see some of these products, Click Here.

If you have any thoughts or anecdotes about the Orton-Gillingham Approach, please share them below this post.

Here is a pinnable image:

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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A Learning Disability Diagnosis: Should I Tell My Child?

I find that a lot of parents decide to hide the fact that their child has a learning disability.  They want to protect them from negative associations with the label.  Most of all, they don’t want their child to feel disabled or experience any bullying from his or her peers. Although there might be some short-lived uncertainties and uneasiness associated with learning about one’s diagnosis, the research shows that has lasting beneficial outcomes.

How Can Learning about One’s Learning Disability Diagnosis Help?
Learning about one’s diagnosis can help in a number of ways.  Whether the child is in elementary school or even approaching college, learning about one’s learning disability:

  1. shows there is a reason for academic struggles and that the child can receive support and reasonable accommodations that will help them to succeed.
  2. helps define the type of assistance that a child needs so that remediation can be tailored.
  3. enables children to shed negative labels such as stupid, lazy, unmotivated, and careless.  
I actually did my doctoral dissertation on this topic.  I interviewed higher education students that were diagnosed with a learning disability for the first time in college.  I wanted to see if their diagnosis impacted their sense of self.  The stories were inspiring and profound. Although some of the participants experienced some initial, short-term concern about their testing results, before long, all those interviewed reported that learning about their learning disability as well as their strengths was empowering in three areas of their life: personally, academically, occupationally, and socially. All of the participants had an improved self-esteem and felt “vindicated, validated and freed.”  They reported improvements in their lives, and they all experience resulting academic and occupational success.

How Do I Disclose a Learning Disability Diagnosis to my Child?

      1) Prepare Your Discussion

  • Manage your own emotional reactions to the diagnosis, before talking to the child.
  • Make sure you know all about the learning disability including associated struggles and even some possible strengths associated with the condition.
  • Compose a simple script before you begin the conversation about the evaluation results and any changes that might take place in school.  
  • Be prepared to explain what the learning disability is and what it is not in a sensitive and age-appropriate way.  Avoid professional terms and use vocabulary that is easy to understand.  

      2) Conversation Suggestions:

  • Discuss the child’s learning problems with him or her in a gradual, informal, and sequential way.
  • Share that all people have strengths and weaknesses and then discuss some of your own challenges. 
  • Remind the child that they learn in a unique way that requires hard work and some different activities from classmates.  
  • Explain that learning can be a challenge and that it may take a little longer to master some skills than other classmates.
  • Reassure the child that negative and fearful feelings are natural and understandable at first, but that in time, learning about their brain will help them to be successful in life.
  • Provide inspiration by citing successful people, friends and family members that have similar problems.
  • Emphasize the child’s strengths and do not simply focus on deficits and difficulties.
  • Remind the child that there is a strong and intact support system at home and at school.
  • Talk about accommodations and modifications that he or she may need.
  • Encourage the use of teacher-pleasing behaviors in response to receiving extra help.
  • Finish the conversation by encouraging the child to ask questions.
How Do I Support my Child After Disclosing His or Her Learning Disability?
  • Maintain open lines of communication with your child, so he or she can speak freely at home and with school personnel.
  • Be prepared to spontaneously discuss incidents that may occur at home or at school in a positive and supportive manner.
  • Share ways your child can compensate for any academic or social difficulties.
  • Teach your child self-advocacy skills.
  • Provide encouragement as well as positive and constructive feedback.
  • Maintain a positive attitude and express optimism about the future.
  • Keep expectations realistic but high.  As children grow and receive remedial assistance, areas of difficulty can be overcome.
  • Set goals that are attainable, even if this is only in small progressive steps. 
In the long run, hiding a learning disability diagnosis from your child will create more difficulties and angst than it will save.  In contrast, helping a child learn about their difficulties as well as their strengths is a critical step in developing and sustaining motivation, independence, and self-advocacy skills.
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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Eradicating Errors and Mistakes and Embracing Oopsy Doodles

Have you ever made a mistake or error? Were you ever wrong? Were you ever told that you were careless, lazy or umotivated?  



How did that make you feel?  Were you embarrassed?  Were you ashamed?  Were you angry? Were you sad?



Now, I want you to imagine a giant eraser, because were are going to erase all mistakes.  We are going to erase errors.  We are going to erase anything and everything wrong or careless.  And, as we mindfully delete all those negative words and memories while holding onto any valuable lessons, all those bad feelings disappear too.



Imagine that you travel around the world and erase every careless mistake – every single error – everything that is wrong.  All those bad feelings leave everyone and float up into the sky and disappear.   All that remains is a perfect, deep blue sky with wispy clouds.



Now, imagine that in the sky, appears the words Oopsy Doodles in colorful swirly letters.  Oopsy Doodles are wonderful, because they help us to grow. Oopsy Doodles tell us what we don’t understand, so we can learn. Oopsy Doodles are cool, colorful and fun.  

Everyone makes Oopsy Doodles and that’s one of the wonderful things that make us all human beings. Parents make Oopsy Doodles. Teachers make Oopsy Doodles.  Even our president makes Oopsy Doodles; and you make Oopsy Doodles too.  So the next time someone tells you that you have made a mistake or an error, that you are incorrect or they call you careless, tell them about Oopsy Doodles. Tell them that you and many others are changing the world.  That you are helping to erase negative labels and replacing them with the beauty of Oopsy Doodles.  Help them to see how positive Oopsy Doodles can be.  

____________________

The reason why I created this post and I encourage you to spread the word about Oopsy Doodles is because so many students are traumatized by negative labels and wording in education. Students are continually told what is wrong with their work, but rarely told what is right. Many are afraid to participate in their classes, because they don’t want to “look stupid.” They are disinclined to make mistakes and combat the impatient smirks, belittling snickers, and disgruntled rolling eyes. In addition, time and time again, students have shown me assignments that are covered in negative comments and large red “Xs.” A couple years ago, one student came to a session feeling so dejected, it took me an hour to rebuild his confidence. Even though he got an 87 on an assignment, the paper was filled with big red “Xs” and in giant letters across the page his teacher wrote, “LOTS OF CARLESS ERRORS!” This student had executive functioning as well as attentional weaknesses, and the last word that described him was careless. Still it took me an hour to pull him out of a deeply defeated and helpless mindset. It wasn’t until the end of the session that I pointed out to him that that everyone makes oopses. In fact, the teacher had misspelt careless. Another incident was a six grade student that was doing poorly in school. She had a teacher that made all the students in her class redo wrong answers on assignments and tests and categorize these mistakes as concepts errors (never understood the content) and detail errors (careless mistakes). She hated completing these assignments and because of them, she hated school. It wasn’t until I changed the wording that she could begin to follow through with the assignment. Instead of a content error we called them a “What?,” and we replaced detail errors with an “oops.”  

An article by Harvard Business Review reported that the ideal praise to criticism ratio is six to one for the highest performing teams, and this study was done on adults!  But is criticism even appropriate in education? Couldn’t we just change our focus to the positive and even praise those that help us to understand areas of confusion? 

Over the years, I have learned to mindfully eradicate negative words. For example, I never say “no.” Instead, I declare, “That was close” or “Give it another try.” If you too can do this, it will change the energy of your classroom and will create a safe place for students to participate and learn. If you would like to learn more about shifting negative labels to words of encouragement come read my blogpost entitled Embracing Positive Learning Environments.

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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