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

Strategies that Strengthening Math Abilities for Struggling Elementary Students

There is often an easy solution to helping elementary students that struggle with math.  But first, we must understand that the root of math troubles often results from one or more of the following:

  1. lack of experience and practice working with numbers and symbols.
  2. drab or humdrum instruction.
  3. problems activating the needed areas of cognition to solve these problems.
  4. weaknesses in the cognitive areas of quantitive reasoning, spatial skills, visual processing sequencing, and working memory. 

What Happens to These Struggling Learners in Our Present Education System?


Young learners often lose interest and motivation quickly when they have problems learning concepts. What’s more, when their peers exhibit learning mastery and they do not, it can feel embarrassing and humiliating.  If left unaddressed, anxiety, a poor academic self-concept and even helplessness can result.

How Can We Protect Students from Negative Thoughts that Quickly Damage One’s Academic Self Concept?

  1. Choose names for lessons that bring excitement and anticipation to the learning process.
  2. Make lessons “magical.”  Like a magician, teach your students tricks in an animated way that helps them uncover the answer. To read more about this CLICK HERE.
  3. Bring fun and enticing activities to the table.  Integrate manipulatives, games and movement into lessons. 
  4. Go multisensory in your lessons and teach to the 12 Ways of Learning.
  5. Pay attention to popular fads.  When I saw my students obsessions with rainbow looms, I quickly integrated the color bands and geoboards into my lessons.  
  6. Ask your students for strategy and lesson ideas?  When learners get involved with the teaching process, they often get more excited about the topic or instruction.
  7. Provide scaffolding.  Continue to walk your students through the sequence of steps required to complete a problem, until they can do it independently.
  8. Offer memory strategies to help your students encode and retrieve new concepts.  You can also ask them to generate their own strategies. 
  9. Teach metacognitive skills by thinking through the process aloud. 
  10. Integrate mindfulness into your class and teach visualization strategies.
  11. Teach your students how to be active learners.

How To Activate the Needed Regions of the Brain and Strengthen Weak Areas of Cognition?


But what if the core difficulties are the result of weak areas of cognition or learning disabilities?  One of the best ways to assist is to act like a personal trainer for the brain and help students activate and strengthen foundational skills. 
I created Quantitative and Spatial Puzzles: Beginners for this population of learners.  Eight, engaging activities help students improve upon: 
  • quantitative reasoning
  • spatial skills
  • visual processing
  • sequencing
  • working memory
These engaging activities were designed for 1-5 grade students, but I often use them with my older students to help fortify these key cognitive abilities.   The activities also can be printed and placed into math centers, used or morning warm-ups and offered as fun activities for students that finish their class assignments early.
If you would like to learn more about my new publication, Quantitiative and Spatial Puzzles – Beginners, CLICK HERE or on any of the sample images.  I hope you found this blog helpful. Please share your thoughts and comments.

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  

Follow on Bloglovin

Orton Gillingham Online Academy: An Interview with Founder Marisa Bernard

This week I am featuring an interview with Marisa Bernard the creator of the Orton Gillingham Online Academy.  Marisa is a dynamic educator and passionate learning specialist that has an expertise in serving students with dyslexia.  Marisa has made it her mission to assist children who do not fit inside the conventional box and to send them on their way feeling productive, successful, & well-equipped to lead a fruitful life.

_________
Erica: Hi Marisa!  I’m so excited to be able to share this interview with my audience.  Can you tell us more about your professional background?

Marisa: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology with a focus in cognition and learning as well as a Master’s Degree in Special Education. I have experience as an Elementary Education teacher, a Reading Specialist, and I worked on staff at the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana as both an educator and trainer of the Orton Gillingham Approach. In addition, I taught Special Education in a public school setting and have remediated countless numbers of students to grade level by using research based strategies such as the Orton Gillingham Approach. Furthermore, I am a professional member of the International Dyslexia Association, and I also received a grant through the Lilly Foundation that enabled me to travel to the highlands of Ecuador to teach English, using the Orton Gillingham Approach, to the indigenous children. 

Erica: What population of students are best served by your online training program? 

Marisa: The Orton Gillingham Online Academy serves as a resource for those who teach individuals with Dyslexia. Having said that, any student population learning the English language would find our course work and tools helpful. It is our goal to unlock the door to language acquisition for people from across the globe.

Erica: Who typically purchases your training modules?
Marisa: Parents, teachers, SLPs, tutors, school districts, paraprofessionals… Really anyone who is involved with the education of those with Dyslexia.
Erica: What are the benefits of your training program?
Marisa: The Orton-Gillingham Approach is used for those who have Dyslexia. These individuals have difficulty primarily in the areas of reading, writing, and spelling.  Often these difficulties create a learning gap in other academic areas as well.  While non-dyslexic students acquire language skills easily, those with Dyslexia need to be taught various components that make up the English language. The Orton-Gillingham Approach is most often and effectively used one-on-one, due to its prescriptive nature, as well as the fact that the lessons can be catered to each student’s individual learning needs.  Having said this, the Orton-Gillingham Approach can also be adapted to group instruction.  Please note, the Orton-Gillingham Approach has stood the test of time and has been proven effective time and time again in assisting individuals to overcome their language-based disability.
Erica: Are you creating new courses and materials?
Marisa: Absolutely! Our academy is growing and we are continuously revamping, improving and adding to our current course work to enhance the teaching/learning venue. We will be launching our Advanced Language Continuum Course April 4th and this course will cover advanced morphology & derivatives, connectives, accenting, vocabulary development, & much more. We are also launching a comprehensive multisensory Connect to Comprehension course is June. This course will cover everything needed to teach students the tools necessary for meaningful comprehension, including curriculum guides and scripted texts for multiple levels. We are also working on a comprehensive multisensory grammar course, as well as a word study seminar. The idea is to provide a holistic website that will serve to meet the needs of those with Dyslexia by offering an array of courses & resources geared toward successful remediation.
Erica: How would you like to see your academy grow over the next few years?
Marisa: The knowledge we have to share has the potential to change lives and our hope is that word of our academy travels to those who need us the most. Currently, we are servicing several countries from Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Canada to the United States & several other locations in between. As we continue to reach places with no previous exposure to language remedial tools, paths are appearing and making a difference. This is truly what we are all about.
Erica: What is the best way for people to reach you?
Marisa: The best way to reach me is via email: ogonlineacademy@gmail.com
___________
Thank you Marisa for sharing your passion, expertise and mission with all of us!  It’s been a true pleasure to get to know you better, and I wish you great success.

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  

Follow on Bloglovin

Working Memory Definition, Facts, Symptoms and Strategies Infographic

This week I created an infographic on working memory.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you would like to share this image via email or IM, use the following link: https://magic.piktochart.com/output/5003312-working-memory-2

Here is a portion of the infographic that can be pinned on Pinterest:

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  
Follow on Bloglovin

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  

Follow on Bloglovin

Letter Cube Fun: Freebie Language Arts Game

I love to use foam blocks for all sorts of language arts fun.  Most recently, I created a game that my students adore.  Here are the steps so you can create it too.

1) You can purchase colorful foam cubes on Amazon for a very reasonable price.  I included a link at the bottom of the post.

2) Select 12 cubes.  I line the cubes up in a row and write all the vowels in capital letters (including “y”) on each cube two times making sure not to place the same vowel on a single cube more than once.  Then I add the consonants as suggested below.

3) I assign the point value on the bottom right hand corner.  This will also help the players to orient the letters.  For example the letter P will look like the letter d when it is upside-down but as long as the number indicating the point value is in the bottom right hand corner, players can recognize that they need to rotate the letter to the proper orientation.  Also, using capital letters helps with letter confusion.

4) Other items needed to play:  a timer and a set of 12 colored cubes with the letters and point values for each player.
5) To Play:

  • Each player rolls their set of 12 colored cubes onto their playing area (they can not change the orientation of the cubes but must use the letters rolled.  
  • Set and begin timer for 2-5 minutes.  You can decide the amount of time you like.
  • Words must crisscross like a scrabble game, and players must try to use as many cubes as they can.  
  • When the timer goes off, the play ends and players add up their points.
  • Bonuses as granted as follows:
    • 4 points for a 6 letter word
    • 5 points for a 7 letter word
    • 6 points for a 8 letter word
    • 5 points for using all 12 cubes

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  

Follow on Bloglovin

Using Simple Images to Teach Math Concepts

Utilizing imagery and visual memory can be very
helpful when learning mathematics. 
A single picture can help a student define and remember a concept, or it
can even help them to recall the steps required to compute a problem.  What’s more, it often brings the “fun
factor” into the learning environment as students can pull out their crayons,
colored pencils or magic markers to complete the activity.

I recently learned about the Palm Tree Method from
one of my students. I scoured the internet to find its origin, but came up
empty handed.  So, although I did
not come up with this idea, it is still one of my favorites for solving
proportions.  
If you would like to learn about other imagery activities
to help your students learn math concepts, you might like my blog entitled Mathemagic or my products Measurement Memory Strategies or Why We Should Learn about Angles.

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  

Follow on Bloglovin

Mindful Meditations for Children: An Interview Heather Bestel

It is with great pleasure to share with you an interview with Heather Bestel – the creator or Magical Meditations for Kids.  Heather is a holistic therapist and mindful teacher that embraces the ideas of “hope, love, kindness and forgiveness.”  She believes that “everyone is capable of doing great things” and she helps many along their path to success.

New research suggests that meditation benefits children academically, emotionally, and personally, and Heather’s materials are truly outstanding.  My students love Heather’s meditations!

________________________

Erica: If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is at the heart of Magical Meditations for Kids?
Heather: Inspiring children to connect with their inner sense of calm.
Erica: Why did you create your products?
Heather: I had been working with children as an educational psychotherapist for many years and loved to use stories and meditations with them as part of the process. I’m passionate about the power of story and love meditation.  I had built up quite a library of resources, but they were never exactly what I was looking for, so I started to develop my own. All the meditations have been honed and tested on thousands of children over the years. In 2010 I was approached by a publisher

who was a big fan of my work and wanted to make it available to the world.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Magical Meditations for Kids Click here to view more details
Heather: All the children I’ve worked with for more than twenty years have inspired me, and I learn from them all the time.
Also, my good friend and founder of A Quiet Place, Penny Moon. Penny has always been a big fan of my therapy work and invited me to head up the team to pilot her idea of offering Educational Therapeutics in inner city schools to support families of children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. The pilot was monitored and measured by Liverpool University and deemed a huge success.  Now A Quiet Place offers holistic support in schools nationally and internationally. It was during my time working with this project that I created my first magical meditations.
Erica: Who is your audience?
Heather: The meditations are divided into two age groups: 4-7 year olds and 8-11 year olds. But I’ve used them successfully with pre-schoolers and teenagers too. They can be used by teachers during circle time or quiet time or during personal health and social education classes or as a wind down to the day. Parents love them whether their child is experiencing challenges with anxiety or just enjoying a chill out session before sleep. They are a great resource on a long car journey too.  
There are 2 titles in the 4-7 age group:
  • Magical Me – is a lovely safe way to introduce younger children to the world of relaxation and helps them learn how to find their inner calm. They develop some wonderful resources to empower them whenever they need it.
  • Magical Adventures – takes our explorers on magical journeys: under the sea, into space, to the circus and on a magic carpet ride.  It helps them build their confidence and creativity.
  • Click here to view more details
There are 2 titles in the 8-11 age group:
  • The Magic Castle – helps children to feel calm & confident, increasing feelings of happiness and pride and build a belief in being amazing and talented.
  • The Magic Garden – helps older children to relax and switch off. They will love visiting their own special quiet place where they can develop a sense of wonder and feel: calm and peaceful, happy and relaxed, safe and loved.
  • Click here to view more details
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about Magical Meditations for Kids?
Heather: I especially enjoy all the wonderful comments I get from the children as they always tell me how the magical stories make them feel.
Parents and teachers notice changes in behavior and attitude sometimes a soon as the first few days of listening. They are great if a child is struggling with a specific issue like nightmares, bedwetting or anxiety as the parent can measure results really easily.  Parents are delighted when their child is able to find their way back to their happy place.
Teachers love that they have a way of helping their pupils learn to slow down and be still, especially in this age of constant distraction. They notice a difference in use of imagination, concentration and an increase in their sense of well being, self esteem and a deep sense of inner calm.
I get a lot of emails from parents of children with autism telling me what an indispensable resource I’ve created.  Those messages are always extra special.  
Erica: Will you be creating more CDs?  How about digital downloads?
Heather: I’m always working on new ideas and would love to create more CDs. The present meditations are available as digital download and as apps. 
Erica: Will Magical Meditations for Kids be expanding and using other forms of technology and communication?  
Heather: I love to think of my work being around and developing in the future and am looking at ways to progress it in terms of new technologies. There is so much potential for growth and I’m always listening to new ideas and feedback from the most important people, the children.
Erica: Do you have any links or images that you would like to share?

Heather: I have a free gift for any parents wanting to try out my meditations with their own children. It’s a very gentle introduction to my work with a bedtime relaxation called My Angel to help your child have a peaceful sleep with their very own mp3. To download: go to 

http://www.magicalmeditations4kids.com/custom-p/free-stuff.html  If you are interested in Heather’s other materials Click here to visit Heather Bestel.

                                                  ________________________

I want to thank Heather for sharing her words and wisdom 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 www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com www.learningtolearn.biz  

Follow on Bloglovin

Word Finding Strategies for Dyslexics with Word Retrieval Deficits

We
all suffer, from time to time, with that feeling that a name or phrase we are
trying to recall is on the tip of our tongue, but somehow we just can’t access
the needed information in the moment.  For many students this happens during stressful moments such as test taking, but for others, such as most students with dyslexia, this is a pervasive problem that requires intervention.
What
Exactly is a Wording Finding Problem?
Word
finding problems, also known as word retrieval difficulties, dysnomia, anomia
or semantic dyslexia, result in difficulties recalling names of objects,
places, and people, with no impairment of comprehension or the
capacity to repeat the words.  This difficulty can stem from the cognitive
processes of encoding, retrieving or a combination of encoding and retrieving.

What Are the Symptoms of Word Finding Problems?

A student with word finding difficulties may display the following challenges: 

  • Word Substitutions – Using another word that has a similar meaning such as utensil for fork.
  • Circumlocutions
    – Providing descriptions of the word such as, “it’s the apple that is green and sour” for granny smith apple.
  • Fillers – Filling time with utterances such as “um”, “I know it…”, or “It’s coming to me.”
  • Vague Wording – Using phrases such as “that thing on the desk”, “the thingamabob in her hair, or “the doodad on his plate.”
  • Gestures – Acting out the targeted word (e.g.
    “You know, when you do this…”).
Do
Other Learning Challenges Struggle with Word Finding Problems?
Dyslexia
is not the only learning diagnosis that struggles with word finding difficulties.
 In fact, there are numerous learning disabilities that can share this
challenge:
  • Specific
    Learning Disabilities
  • Specific
    Language Disabilities (expressive, receptive or both)
  • Attention
    Deficit Disorder
  • Executive
    Functioning Disorder

Can
Word Finding Problems be Remediated?
These
cognitive deficits are not known to be curable, however, individuals can
learn compensatory strategies that can enable them to largely navigate
around these hurtles.  Here are a number of both encoding a retrieval
strategies that can improve word finding:
  1. Go Through
    the Alphabet:  
    Go through the alphabet and say the sounds of each letter and think about whether the word may start with that sound.
  2. Visualize a Letter Association:  To
    remember names, associate the first letter with the object person or place.  For example, when I met a woman named Vera, I noticed that she was wearing a v-necked shirt.  Whenever I saw her, I remembered her wearing that shirt and it triggered her name.
  3. Use Word
    Associations:
    Associate an idea or quality with the object.  The way I remember the name of the flower impatiens is to remember how impatient I get when trying to think of the name. 
  4. Associate a Rhyming Word: Use a rhyming word with the object.  To remember the flower’s name geranium, I think of cranium – geranium.  
  5. Visual Associations:  Associate a visual to aid recall.  I often associate a visual when using rhyming words as combining strategies can help to assure future recall.  In the example above, cranium – geranium, one may notice and then visualize that a full geranium blossom resembles the shape of a cranium.
  6. Use Visual Hooking
    Strategies
    – Using visual hints that lie within the name or word that one wishes to quickly recall.  A visual hooking strategy for the name Richard might be the recognition that the word rich is in Richard.  One could then visualize Richard as being very rich
  7. Use Auditory Hooking Strategies – Using auditory hints that lie within the name or word that one wishes to quickly recall.  An auditory hooking strategy for the vocabulary word benevolent might be that the word sounds like be not violent.  Then one can think, be not violent – be kind, and benevolent means kind in spirit.  
  8. Utilize Circumlocution – Describe the word so that others can provide the name for
    you.   
  9. Create a List or Table: Take
    a picture of the object, person or place, create a document or memo and label each image.  Make this document accessible from technology such as computers and smart phones. 
  10. Name Associations:  Associate names of new acquaintances with other people that have the same name.
  11. Visualize the Word: When you can not recall a word, use your mind’s eye to see the word written on paper.  
  12. Use Technology:  Use technology to find the word you can not recall.  For example, you can go onto Google and describe the word.  This will often guide you to the answer. 
Are
There Any Games that Strengthen Word Finding?
There
are a number of games that I have found to help strengthen word finding.
 Here are a few of my favorites
  1. Word Shuffle 
  2. Hey What’s the Big Idea 
  3. Anomia 
  4. Spot It 
  5. Scattergories 
  6. Scattergories Categories 
  7. Lumosity – Lumosity is an internet site that offers games for the brain.  Two of their games, familiar faces and word bubbles, are great for exercising word finding. 
Just remember to truly remediate your word finding difficulties and reach your full potential, you must make a conscious effort to use the strategies that work best for you. 

 
 


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  

Follow on Bloglovin

Mindfulness and Resilience for Teachers and Students: An Interview with Renee Jain

I am truly honored and very excited to share an interview that I conducted with Renee Jain.  Renee is an award-winning technology entrepreneur, speaker and certified life coach that specializes in cultivating mindful resilience skills for children and adults.  Renee has transformed research-based concepts into fun and multisensory learning modules and workbooks that are ideal for teachers and students.  My questions focused on her site, GoStrengths!, that offers metacognitive techniques through digital animation and activities.  However, I soon learned, as will you, that she has a number of fabulous products and resources. 

____________________

Erica: Hi Renee.  Thank you for making the time to speak with us.  If you had to put it into a single sentence, what is the heart of Go Strengths?

Renee: The idea that happiness is a skill that can be fine-tuned with practice.

Erica: Why did you create the Go Strengths website and products?

Renee: There are simple research-based tools that can change a child’s life such as awareness of our self-talk, disputing inaccurate thoughts, and nurturing more optimistic explanatory styles. Why should kids only have access to such a toolkit inside the walls of a therapist’s office? Right now, we wait until children get anxious or depressed, for example, to send them to therapy. That is, if we recognize the issue, can afford therapy, have access to it, or deem it appropriate. All these qualifiers result in less than 30% of kids ever getting the help they need. But what if we took fundamental skills that anyone would learn in talk therapy and just taught this to kids early? What if we gave kids life skills before they faced their first big challenge? What we know is prevention of mental health disorders is possible. GoStrengths is a prevention program. 

The other reason we created GoStrengths is that beyond surviving, we wanted to teach kids how to thrive. Just getting rid of all the bad stuff can take you from a -10 to a 0. To live with meaning, hope, purpose, joy, and gratitude, are a whole separate set of skills we can pass onto children.

Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the genesis of Go Strengths? 

Renee: There were so many people (and continue to be) that it’s hard to create a comprehensive list. The work of Martin Seligman–the founding father of the field of positive psychology–has been a great inspiration to this work. Research by Richie Davidson who studies contemplative practices such as mindfulness meditation and its effects on the brain has been another inspiration. Then, of course, there was a boy named Scott in my 7th grade math class who used to pick on me–a very non-resilient child. Many of the scenarios within the GoStrengths and GoZen programs are based on the challenges I faced while growing up. 

Erica: Who is your audience?

Renee: We reach parents, teachers, amazing children, and practitioners. This last group includes therapists, coaches, social workers, and other professionals working with children. 

Erica: The cartoons as well as the dialogue presented in your 10 modules is truly excellent.  Did you have a large team working on this comprehensive program?

Renee: Thank you! Our team is extremely large when it comes to heart, passion, and ingenuity. In terms of absolute numbers, we’re pretty dinky.

Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about your Go Strengths materials?

Renee: Oh, the feedback has been tremendously positive. It often brings tears to my eyes when someone says that this program is the thing that really clicked with their child and has made all the difference. 

Feedback we recently received on GoZen: “Thank you really doesn’t even begin to do justice to what GoZen! has done for my daughter. She is in kindergarten and this has turned us around. She also made her own GoFreeze necklace to take to school.”

Erica: Will you be creating more modules?

Renee: Absolutely. We have two full programs right now. The first program we launched was GoStrengths! dedicated to teaching social and emotional learning skills to children and aimed at the K-12 community. We also have GoZen! which deals specifically with anxiety relief and is used more by parents and therapists. We also have a mindfulness program that has yet to fully roll out called GoToTheNow! Our next project is an anger management program for kids.

Erica: Will Go Strengths be expanding and using other forms of technology and communication?  

Renee: Yes! We started with online programs only, but realized people still love to hold something in their hands and write on paper. So we’ve expanded the programs to have home study versions with workbooks and DVDs. We also have an array of other books, relaxation CDs, mindfulness cards, and more. What we’re most excited about is the launch of our toy line. Our first anxiety relief doll will be available next month!


___________________
Thank you Renee for sharing your words with my audience.  The products you have already created are both brilliant and magical.  I can’t wait to see what you create next.  
You can purchase comprehensive modules on the sites www.gostrengths.com and www.gozen.com.  In addition, some of Renee’s products are available through Amazon – see the links below.

 

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  

Follow on Bloglovin

The Reading Focus Card: An Interview with Designer Joan Brennan

This week’s blog features an interview with Joan Brennan, a teacher and inventor who designs reading tools for struggling readers.  We will focus our discussion on her ingenious Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) and her Reading Focus Cards desktop application (Patent 8,360,779).

_____________________________
Erica: Hi Joan.  Can you tell us about your mission to help struggling readers?
Joan Brennan

Joan: My mission and that of my company, Brennan Innovators, LLC, is to create and provide inexpensive yet helpful low-tech AND digital tools to challenged readers of all ages.  In addition, as certified educators, we also present parent and educator workshops, consultation services and other professional development opportunities in the Greater St. Louis Area. We work diligently to bridge the gap between no services for challenged readers and expensive therapies, methods and other resources that are not accessible to many because of the cost or the location of such resources. 


We are particularly passionate about helping children, teens and adults who struggle to read.  This struggle may be for a variety of reasons.  As a result, since 2007, our Reading Focus Cards have helped many readers of all ages with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision and other issues that can affect reading success.
Erica: Why did you create the Reading Focus Cards website and products?
Joan: The low-tech and sensory-appealing Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) grew out of need in my own middle school classroom in the late 1990’s.  Because a special education teacher was not on the faculty at the time, all teachers worked with all students in their individual classrooms, even children with additional needs. 

More than a few of my students had experienced focus, tracking and attention issues.  As a result, comprehension and retention skills were significantly compromised.  Some had been diagnosed with ADHD while others were suspected to have attention deficiencies.  A few had been prescribed medications by their pediatricians, but even these students sometimes did not always take their medications (parents forgot to administer before school day, etc.) 

The “light-bulb moment” occurred some years ago during one reading class period when a student (without her medication taken that day) privately mentioned to me that she was having difficulty paying attention enough to read the requested 2 pages of a selection.  To make matters worse, this was at a time when the school had just established a daily schedule that included a 90-minute block for language arts classes.  So, I knew something had to be done to help this young student to focus and read with some degree of success—and immediately!  That’s when the first prototype of the Reading Focus Card was born.  I instinctively (and on the fly!) took an old manila folder from the top of my desk and cut a shape about the size of a 3″ X 5″ index card.   With that, I then cut a narrow but long rectangle in the center of the card and gave it to the student, asking her to read each line of the two pages in front of her with that card.  This immediately allowed her to focus on one line at a time and read each when she was ready to read it.  The focusing card also covered much of the surrounding text that had overwhelmed her.  The result?  The student was amazed at the card’s ability to help her, and she asked if she could take it to her next class!  Since that time, I have learned from many special education educators that they, too, have often created similar paper devices to help their students who struggled to read, only to discard it after use.

During the ensuing summer vacation periods and as a result of doing a considerable amount of research, the left side of the Reading Focus Card prototype was opened (for improved tracking), colored filters were added (recommended by a developmental optometrists’ group here in St. Louis) and sensory-appealing materials were sought for the final, working prototype.  Later, two independent focus studies were successfully conducted of the Reading Focus Cards (in 2007-2 6th grade classrooms and in 2011 in a high school reading specialist’s classroom).  Today, thousands of these Reading Focus Cards have been sold and are in use in the U.S., Canada and around the world. They continue to help many readers who struggle with all kinds of reading challenges.
Erica: Were there any key people or organizations that helped to inspire the Reading Focus Cards? 
Joan: Yes, there were a few key people and organizations that helped to inspire and contributed to the development of the idea of the Reading Focus Cards;
a. First of all, my husband, Robert Brennan, Jr., M.D., has inspired and supported me and the idea in every way since it first “made a difference” for my reading student.  He is amazing.
b. My former principal, Mr. Michael Talleur, recommended that I “do something” with the first “seeds” of the idea.
c. My business advisor, Mr. William Deemer, volunteer mentor in the St. Louis University Dept. of Entrepreneurship (part of the John Cook School of Business at SLU) advised and supported my efforts to bring all of my reading tools to market.
Erica: Who is your audience?
Joan: My audience is GROWING daily.  The majority of my audience is primarily mothers, teachers and tutors of children & adults with ADHD & dyslexia, and special needs organizations.  However, in the past year, we have received many more orders and requests for services from OTs, speech & language pathologists, optometrists, autism caregivers/orgs. and stroke recovery, brain injury (TBIs) patients and their caregivers.  Most recently, a local optometrist ordered a Reading Focus Card Combo Pack for her patient with Parkinson’s disease.  So you can see that there is a very interesting, diverse AND increasing audience for our reading tools and services.
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about the Reading Focus Cards?
Joan: Our testimonial page will provide many comments from users of the low-tech RFCs.  
Erica: I understand that you have also created the Reading Focus Cards App for both Mac and PC. Can you tell us more about this?
Joan: This new Reading Focus Cards desktop application (Patent 8,360, 779) for Mac and PCs (desktops & laptops) was also created for challenged readers to help provide improved focus and better tracking when reading digital media. This customizable app is an extension of the low-tech Reading Focus Cards used with physical books and documents. As a result and if the app is used properly, the reader can experience better comprehension and retention as well as better focus and tracking when using this desktop app.  In addition, the digital, pop-up Toolbox for the app will allow the user to adjust color, length, width and orientation of several features of the virtual Reading Focus Card to help the reader enjoy more visual comfort as well. This app can be especially helpful for persons of all ages with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, low vision, stroke or brain injury issues and other challenges that can affect reading success. 
The Reading Focus Cards desktop application is very innovative in that it is able to independently float over AND stay on top of underlying digital applications. It can be customized and controlled by using a mouse, touch pad, arrow keys or the reader’s fingers on a screen (where touch-screen technology is available.)  Currently, Apple and Android tablets and other mobile platforms are not able to support this “disruptive” type of technology.  However, we are monitoring this for possible future development.  To learn more about this technology Click here.
Erica: Are you presently working on any other projects to help struggling readers?
Joan: We are currently collaborating with another company to create a new program with e-books, online courses and materials specifically for readers with dyslexia.  In addition, another company has recently requested our new Reading Focus Cards app’s assistance in allowing challenged younger readers to more easily read its new series of e-books soon to be published.
_________________________

I want to thank Joan for taking the time to share all this great information with us.  You can purchase the reading focus card on Amazon (also linked below) and the App on the Mac Apple Store button. You can also purchase products directly on Joan’s website and learn how to get the software for Windows PC


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  

Follow on Bloglovin