Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on parent advice.

10 Reasons to Stop Using Candy to Motivate Students

Providing sweets to children to make them momentarily more compliant is a trick that teachers have used for ages.  In fact, fifteen years ago, when I started my private practice, I too can remember bribing challenging students to read lists of words or work through tedious drills.  But it was not long before I realized that this was the wrong tool to entice young learners.  In fact, loading youngsters with sugary sweets and empty calories proves to be detrimental in a number of ways.

10 Reasons to Stop Bribing Learners with Candy:

  1. Consuming candy is terrible for children’s teeth.
  2. Ingested sugar has the potential of destroy ones general health and immunity as it can strip the body of important
    vitamins and minerals. 
  3. Many children are addicted to
    sugar, and many insist on eating it instead of vital, nutritious diets.  http://eric.ed.gov/?q=sugars+impact+on+learning&id=EJ872852

  4. Eating too much sugar makes children vulnerable to the overgrowth of yeast, which can cause eczema, chronic nasal
    congestion, and ear infections. In addition, yeast overgrowth has been linked to sensory
    integration disorders and mental fogginess. 

  5. Sugar
    hinders the absorption of some B vitamins, and B
    vitamins help maintain optimal thinking, coordination, and memory. 

    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/this-is-your-brain-on-sugar-ucla-233992 

  6. The U.S. Department of
    Agriculture (USDA)
     reports that the average U.S. citizen consumes 156 pounds of added sugar every year.       
  7. Chronic
    consumption of added sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop
    eating.  

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12088740  

  8. Students that are offered extrinsic motivation or external incentives tend to select simpler tasks, and they generally offer minimal effort for maximum rewards.
  9. Rewards can devalue learning and counteract the development of intrinsic motivation (internal drive) and self-discipline.  http://machinelearning.wustl.edu/mlpapers/paper_files/NIPS2005_724.pdf

What Are Some Successful Ways to Motivate Learners?

  1. Make your educational approach fun.  Create games, creative projects, and engaging activities that have your students begging for more.
  2. Go multisensory.  Use a variety of materials and approaches that tap into the 12 ways of Learning
  3. Foster an environment that nurtures intrinsic motivation.  Making learning pleasurable by igniting students interest in the subject matter will motivate learners to select challenging tasks and learn information in greater depth. 

  4. Extend praise
    and positive feedback that is timely, sincere, and specific. 

  5. Offer healthy, nutritious snacks if you feel the need to use edible rewards.
  6. Present opportunities to earn points or tokens that can be exchanged for privileges if you want to move your student slowly away from tangible rewards.

Clearly, the secret lies in instilling intrinsic motivation in students as well as creating a positive, multisensory, and playful learning environment.  This can be done when teachers foster a
cooperative, nurturing atmosphere where each student feels respected, valued, and empowered.   

I hope you enjoyed this post.  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  

Audiobooks Can Improve Word Recognition, Pronunciation and Visualization Abilities

Did you know that audiobooks or books on tape can improve word recognition, the proper pronunciation of words and also develop visualization abilities?  Passive learners may not obtain these perks, but with guided instruction on active and mindful reading, these benefits can be easily attainable.

How Can Students Reap The Benefits of Audiobooks?
For young learners to get the most out of audiobooks, they must learn to be active participants in the reading process.  They can take one of two roles.

1) Students should follow along with the text as they listen to the book:

  • If students read the text while listening to the book, they can begin to recognize whole words.  Instead of decoding or sounding out the words, the audiobook does this for them, and they can just focus on tracking the words across the page.  
  • An added plus to scanning the text while listening is students will quickly learn the proper pronunciations of sight words and other tricky words such as “chaos,” and “deoxyribonucleic acid.”  In fact, for many students they experience improvements in spelling too as they pair the proper pronunciation with the visual of the word.  

2) Students should close their eyes while listening to the audiobook and make a conscious effort to visualize the setting, characters and plot.  Learning to create a movie in ones head improves attention and will also make the process more fun and memorable.  Understand that many students that struggle with reading do not fully develop their abilities to visualize, and they may need instruction and practice with this needed skill.  If you would like to help your students to develop this ability consider purchasing Mindful Visualization for Education.

Where Can I Get Affordable Options for Audiobooks?
There are a number of sites online that offer audiobooks.  If I child has a learning disability, they can qualify to receive audiobooks through their school or learning specialist from sites such as Learning Ally and BookShare.  Furthermore, here is a website that offers 224 Places for Free Audio Books.  Below you will see a list of just a few of them:

  1. Project Gutenberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/
  2. Audible: http://www.audible.com/
  3. Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/freeaudiobooks
  4. Free Classic Audiobooks: http://freeclassicaudiobooks.com/
  5. Books Should be Free: http://www.booksshouldbefree.com/
  6. LibriVox: https://librivox.org/
By helping young learners to actively use audiobooks, they can improve their reading abilities and find more joy in the process.

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 Motivate and Empower Struggling Readers

Making the reading process fun over the summer months can transform an apparent chore into an enjoyable activity that young learners can relish.  One can make the reading process pleasurable by integrating engaging activities, creating a fun reading environment, teaching kids how to visualize, pairing the activities with pleasantries, sharing the process with them and integrating technology such as books on tape.
What Are Some Specific Strategies?
  1. Be positive and excited about your own reading time.  If kids see that you love it, they will want to do it too.
  2. Help your children learn to visualize or imagine pictures when reading or listening to text. While reading together, talk about your own visuals and ask them about theirs.  Creating a movie in your head improves reading comprehension, attention and will help kids picture the characters and settings.
  3. Create an exciting and comfortable niche for your children to read.  With your child or children collect pillows, blankets, stuffed animals and other items that create a relaxing, comfortable and fun environment for reading.
  4. Allow kids to listen to books on tape while reading along.  This will improve sight word vocabulary and listening skills.
  5. Make your child’s favorite snacks and drinks available during reading time.  This will provide positive associations with the reading process.
  6. Create a family time a few days a week, where the whole family reads to themselves or as a group.
  7. Go to the library or book store and help your children select reading materials that they find engaging.  This could be a book, magazine, comic and more.
  8. Integrate activities that your children enjoy into the reading process.  For example, if they love to draw, encourage them to illustrate a scene out of each chapter that they read.  
  9. Read the book with your child so that you can talk about each chapter.  You can even make it into a game.  See how many character, setting and plot details you can each remember from your reading. 
  10. When kids self-initiate reading, be sure to praise them and celebrate their self-directed accomplishments.

I hope you found these strategies helpful.  If you have any other ideas, please share 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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10 Great, Free Typing Games


Over the summer months, kids can easily improve their keyboarding skills while having fun. There are numerous free typing games available on the internet, and this blogpost highlights a few of them.  The very first one listed, Dance Mat Typing, is by far my favorite of all the options.  In fact, it is better than many purchasable software programs and online lessons. The first two games offer lessons, while the last eight are games that allow students to practice their keyboarding skills.

This is a comprehensive typing game.  It is a free, beginners keyboarding game by BBC.
This site offers some simple, free typing lessons.
Kids can practice keyboarding skills by typing the words on the oncoming planes to make them disappear.
Type the letters to make the oncoming spaceships disappear while dodging their attack with the space bar. 
Kids can save a martian colony by typing strings of letters that will destroy the attacking flying saucers.
Kids type in the string of letters to destroy the oncoming meteors.
If kids type the string of letters, a frog will eat the oncoming words before hit the ground, if not, the frogs will disappear – one at at time.
Kids race down a road and type in the string of letters to drive past the cars.
If kids type the string of letters before they hit the ground they will disappear, if not, the ghouls will disappear.
This game helps kids learn the location of all the keys.  It involves shooting down bombs that have letters on them before they hit a city. 
If you know of any other great, free keyboarding games, please let us know by commenting below.

The Secret to Motivating Students

Motivation is thought to be a common culprit that plagues students, however this couldn’t be further from the truth.  As Rick Lavoie said, “It is not that students become unmotivated, because all human behavior is motivated.” Instead, other factors such as anxiety, a poor self-esteem, learned helplessness, depression, and learning disabilities are just a few real causes that impact learning and appear to impact motivation.
How Can We Help Students that Appear to be Unmotivated?
First, we must try to understand the root causes of the unwanted behaviors.  One can try to uncover these blockades through discussion, but it may be best to pursue help from a therapist, seek a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation or find an excellent educational therapist or learning specialist that has some training in psychology.  Once the underlying causes have been uncovered, one must provide the structure and support that will help to guide the student to better habits and behaviors.
3 Common Misconceptions:
  1. All students are motivated by the same things.  In fact, students can be motivated by a wide range of contrasting options.  One reason for this is because each learner comes to the classroom with different strengths and weaknesses.  But personality issues can also play into the recipe for learning.  For example, some students are motivated by challenging activities while others are motivated by manageable or easy activities.  In addition, some students are motivated my competition, while others are motived by cooperation.  
  2. Punishing students will increase motivation.  Punishments are often dangerous, because they can create anger and resentment.  In addition, if a student is motivated to do well, but is struggling due to learning difficulties, punishments can result in learned helplessness, anxiety and even depression.
  3. Rewards will motivate my students.  Rewards can offer some external motivation, but what students really need is to be internally motivated.  Intermittent reward, however, can be helpful, particularly as a way to celebrate success. 
What Can Be Done to Motivate Students?
  1. Try to only praise effort and improvement.  If you praise students at times when they know that they did not deserve the recognition, your accolades will lose credibility. 
  2. Hold onto your power by offering limited choices instead of giving students open ended options.  Many young learners will challenge your authority, but giving into their fear and complaints will only teach them to protest and be defiant.
  3. Develop positive, supportive relationships.  Try not to let a student’s negativity or frustration impact your mood.  Instead, stay calm, use a soothing voice and maintain control.
  4. Offer intermittent or unexpected rewards that celebrate achievements.
  5. Help students to uncover their “genius qualities” and integrate them into academics wherever possible.
  6. Replace tests with manageable projects.
  7. Move away from competition and create a cooperative learning environment.  The only students that will be motivated by competition are the ones that know they will win.  All the other students will feel lousy and may even come to resent the teacher or their peers that continually succeed.  Instead, provide all students equal recognition.  For example, instead of posting a single student’s weekly achievement, allow all students space to post their best work of the week. 
  8. Instead of pointing out what was done wrong – recognize what was done correctly. Also encourage students to learn from their mistakes by allowing partial credit from completed test corrections.  
  9. Replace negative feedback such as no, wrong, mistake, incorrect with almost, getting there, try again. 
  10. Avoid negative labels such as careless, lazy, and unmotivated.  Nobody is encouraged by deprecating remarks.  Praise the good behavior and ignore the bad.
For more useful strategies consider Rick Lavoie’s YouTube: Motivation Breakthrough  
or purchasing his book:
I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have other ideas about how to motivate students, please leave a comment below this post.

Teaching Students to be Mindful and Conscious Learners

According to recent research, a growing number of school aged children are experiencing a plethora of social, emotional and behavioral problems that interfere with school success, interpersonal relationships, as well as the potential to become competent adults and productive citizens.  What’s more, many students are passive learners that mindlessly attend classes and complete the work.  As a result, a growing number of young learners are unmotivated to learn, struggle with encoding academic content, and have trouble getting the grades that they desire.  So what can we do to help these students?  A simple strategy is to teach learners to be mindful and conscious of their academic approach.

What is Mindful or Conscious Learning?  
Mindful or conscious learning is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and sensations.   When taught to young learners, recent research suggests that training in this method can help students:

  1. foster empathy for peers and others
  2. reduce stress
  3. increase attentional abilities
  4. improve emotional regulation and social behaviors
  5. boost motivation
  6. raise grades

How Can This Skill be Taught?

The best ways to teach children to be mindful and in the moment is to be fully present yourself and share your own thought processes.  In addition, you can implement short meditations where you encourage learners to be aware of their breath and just observe their thoughts.  Here are three useful videos.  The first two videos can be shown to students and helps to explain the practice, while the third video shows practitioners in the classroom teaching this skill.  


Teaching children the skill of mindfulness can help them in school, but it will also help them to control and manage their emotions and physical state of being for the rest of their lives.  If you have had any experience using mindfulness in the classroom, please leave a comment.

7 Great Free Homework Help Sites

The internet offers a growing number of wonderful resources for students, and there are quite a few free websites that can help to make the learning process both fun and memorable.  Here is a list of my favorite resources:
Quizlet:  http://quizlet.com/  

Quizlet allows students to browse through and use millions of study materials created by other users, or they can also generate their own.  Once information is entered into a set, students can use this content in many ways.  Electronic flashcards can be viewed or printed or students can also learn the material through questioning activities.  In addition, a variety of games can be generated from the information entered.  Finally, students can create tests in a number of formats and take them online for an immediate score.  Testing options include multiple choice, true and false, and fill-ins.  There are even visuals and a feature that reads information aloud.  Students can save their content, share them with
others, and even merge them for midterms or finals.



Wolfram
Alpha:
  
http://www.wolframalpha.com



Instead of placing your questions into Google and other search engines, Wolfram Alpha offers its own engine that computes answers in
many subject areas.  The content and resources on this website are growing daily, and
it already has a huge collection of knowledge.  Go to Wolfram Alpha and ask a question.  You will be amazed.  It’s fabulous for calculating difficult math problems,
and is a great way to check homework.
BookShare:  https://www.bookshare.org/

Bookshare is supported by the Department of Education and offers audio books at no cost for school aged students with print-based disabilities.  Others can use it too for a nominal fee.


Shepard Software:   http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/

This website offers hundreds of educational, interactive
activities and games to help students learn math, geography, science and more. It’s great for all ages.
The Khan Academy   http://www.khanacademy.org/

This is a wonderful not-for-profit organization that provides a free, quality education to students around the globe. They offer an ever growing collection
of thousands of videos covering everything from basic arithmetic and algebra to chemistry, programming, history, SAT prep and more.  They also have a practice/lesson component that is terrific.  This allows students
to test their new knowledge, and if they get stuck, the website walks them
through the process and even offers the needed video tutorial! 
They have built into this site motivational tools such as avatars as well as
feedback and progress summaries for parents and teachers.

Prezi:   www.prezi.com

If you want to take your presentations to a whole new level, create a Prezi!  Like PowerPoint, you can generate a presentation, but a Prezi offers a different experience.  Present your ideas on a large canvas, and show relationships thought scale and placement. 


Google Docs:    docs.google.com/‎
Google Docs is Googles version of a word processing program.   You can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, surveys and more.  In addition, they offer a growing selection of add-on apps that provide templates, bibliography assistance, table of contents help, a thesaurus and more. What makes this extra special is that documents are save in cyberspace so they can be accessed from any location.  In addition, you can invite others to view or even work on the same document. 

Google accounts are free and they can be accessed
from any computer.  Google also offers free email (gmail), an excellent personal calendar (google calendar), and a translator (google translate).  

To learn about some more great resources on the internet that I share with my students, 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

Dyslexic Advantage Webinar on Multisensory Teaching for Students with Dyslexia

Dear Friends:

I wanted to share a link to a free webinar on Multisensory Teaching. The hosts, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, the authors of The Dyslexic Advantage and The Mislabeled Child, are international experts on dyslexia and learning differences and they interviewed me as a guest speaker. This online event took place this August and you can view a youtube version of the webinar at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVXwqyxTbPs

Cheers, Erica

Early Detection of Dyslexia

Early intervention is key as it can remediate and work around upcoming academic difficulties.  This is a very important approach for students with dyslexia.  Recent reports suggest that dyslexia impacts 5-10 percent of the population.  Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if this condition could be detected before children learned to read? Weaknesses could be strengthened and appropriate teaching methodologies could be selected, making the process of reading successful the first time.  This could save the educational system a fortune and these young learners could sail through elementary school with an intact self-esteem.

MIT News Reported, on August 14th, 2013 that research suggests that brain scans may help to diagnose dyslexia.  Differences in the size of the arcuate fasciculus, the brain structure that unites two language processing areas, is now detectable.  To learn more about this and their continued efforts, CLICK HERE

I hope you you found this helpful!  I would love to hear your thoughts.

Cheers, Erica

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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Can ChromaGen Glasses Really Cure Dyslexia?

                                               Image offered at Chromogen Website 
If ChromaGen
glasses can cure dyslexia, this implies that the root cause of this condition
lies in the visual domain. 
However, recent research, by Guinevere Eden, Ph.D. at
George Washington University Medical Center suggests that visual processing
weaknesses are not the cause of dyslexia. 
Nonethless, some individuals with dyslexia also report visual distortions when
reading, and for those who suffer from the illusion that words appear to move
on the page and also experience headaches, fatigue, and nausea when reading,
these glasses may warrant a second look. 
What is the History of
ChromaGen Glasses
The
ChromaGen website reports that what began as an optical corrective solution for
color blindness, soon became a tool for some individuals with dyslexia when
they reported a reduction in certain symptoms.  As a result, ChromaGen now offers a series of 16 lenses that
are designed to help children or adults who have visual reading disorders
associated with dyslexia.
How Do the Glasses Work:
According
to ChromaGen, for some individuals, the eyes do not work together properly.  The visual information that travels
along the brain’s neurological pathway is imbalanced.  The creators of ChromaGen glasses claim that colored lenses
change the wavelength of light going into the eyes so that the speed of the
information is altered.  By placing
different colored filters over the eyes, the glasses can balance the
information traveling to the brain. 
Dr. Harris, who developed the ChromaGen lenses, also purports that 90%
of individuals with dyslexia, that report visual distortions, benefit from their
product.
What are the Pros
1.   ChromaGen glasses are
noninvasive and could offer a quick fix for some visual processing symptoms.
2.   ChromaGen glasses are approved
by the FDA.
3.   ChromaGen glasses offer a 90
day, no questions asked, money back guarantee.
4.   There are no reported side
effects.
Cons
1.   ChromaGen glasses are expensive
at $150.00 for a screening and $750-$1200 for a pair of glasses.
2.   ChromaGen glasses are not covered
by insurance.
3.   ChromaGen glasses only
address one specific symptom that effects only some individuals with dyslexia.
4.   Although the ChromaGen
website offers plenty of written and video-based testimonials about the
benefits of their product for individuals with dyslexia, they still need to
back their claims with rigorous, quantitative research. 
If
you are still curious about ChromaGen glasses, they offer a questionnaire on
their website that can help you determine whether you or your loved one is a
candidate for this technology. 
Here is a link to the survey:
You
can also view some videos about the Chromagen lenses at the following link: http://www.ireadbetternow.com/show_all_videos
In
conclusion, these glasses may help some individuals with dyslexia to correct a
specific visual processing issue, but it’s definitely not a cure for all the
symptoms associated with this condition. 
Although, there are many testimonials for this technology, one must
consider the placebo effect.  But,
if you really want to know for yourself, and money is not an issue, why not
give it a try.  If you have any
experience with these glasses, I would love to hear your feedback.
Cheers,
Erica
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 and www.learningtolearn.biz  
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