Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on strategies.

12 Summer Activities that Nurture Cognitive and Academic Growth

Over the summer, many students experience the “summer slide” phenomenon and lose both cognitive and academic gains from the prior school year. In fact, those who are already behind, can be the ones that stand to lose the most. However, this doesn’t have to be the case! With as little as an hour a day, students can maintain and even improve their knowledge and abilities. So what can we do to help our young learners fight the slide and make significant gains while having fun?

12 Activities that Help Children Improve Learning and Cognition Over the Summer

  1. Design a fun learning nook with your house for your children, and have fun coming up with an imaginative name for this magical space such as Penelope’s Princess Palace, Bobby’s Boisterous Bungalow, Hal’s Happy Hideout, Amy’s Adventure-filled Attic, Ian’s Imaginative Igloo…  This can be created in a loft, in a tent, under an elevated bed or table etc.  Use pillows, drapes, Christmas lights, stuffed animals, and pack it with fun books, activities and other learning resources.  CLICK HERE for some fun resources. 
  2. Find fun apps and websites that kids can play on Ipads and computers.  CLICK HERE for a list of online resources.  CLICK HERE for a list of app resources.
  3. Designate a specific time each day where the whole family gets together to have a “love, learn, and laugh hour.”  You can work together on a project, play an educational game or work individually on your own project. 
  4. Go to educational places like the science museum, the planetarium, aquarium, nature center, etc.
  5. Arrange an “adventure” or “exploration” and take pictures or collect objects from nature. Afterwards, have fun looking up the names of each the items and learning about them.
  6. Create learning stations such as “Magical Mathematics, Whoopee Words, Spectacular Science, Brain Busters…”  Fill each station with activities and resources.  CLICK HERE for some fun resources.
  7. If math is difficult, work together to create a math manual.  Create a fun and enticing title for the project and use images, define the sequence of steps required to complete a problem, integrate memory strategies, and most of all use lots of color and art supplies.  This can also be done for reading, fine motor weaknesses or other areas of difficulty. 
  8. Sign students up for fun programs like The Khan Academy, the Nessy line of products.
  9. Write a family summertime newsletter or blog that can be shared with friends and family.  Let your children be a part of taking images, videos, writing articles and more.  You can do this for free on Blogger, or sites like Edublogs and Kidblog that offers teachers and students free blog space and appropriate security. 
  10. Have fun making cool things.  Instead of purchasing games and items, make your own out of recycled materials.  Some possible ideas are to create an obstacle course, a fairy wand, candles, origami…
  11. Teach your children about giving back to the community by picking up litter, volunteering with an animal rescue organization, visiting the sick or elderly, feeding the homeless, or pull weeds at a community garden.  
  12. Integrate learning into everyday activities.  For example, you can teach about measurements when baking together, or allow your child to help you balance your bank account. Even a boring chore, such as food shopping, can be fun when kids are in charge of cutting coupons, making grocery lists and collecting the needed items.
If you can think of other fun ideas, resources or links, feel free to share them by commenting on 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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10 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers

While reading, tracking across the page from one line to the next can be tricky when the text is small, but for students with dyslexia or weak reading skills it can be a problem regardless of the font size. 
What Exactly is Tracking?
Tracking is the ability for ones eyes to move smoothly across the page from one line of text to another. Tracking difficulties happen when eyes jump backward and forward and struggle to stay on a single line of text.  This results in problems such as word omissions, reversals, eye fatigue, losing your place while reading and most importantly it can impact normal reading development.  
Can Tracking be Improved?
Tracking can be improved by strengthening eye muscles as well as getting your eyes and brain to work cooperatively.  There are three eye movements that need to be developed:  
  1. Fixations: The ability to hold ones eyes steady without moving off a target.
  2. Saccades: The ability to jump to new targets that randomly disappear and reappear in a different location.
  3. Pursuits: The ability to follow a moving target with ones eyes.

10 Free Ways to Improve Tracking:

  1. Use Beeline Reader to read ebooks, PDFs and webpages will assist with tracking.  This free technology makes tracking faster and easier by using a color gradient to guide your eyes from one line of text to another.  
  2. Play ping pong – but more importantly, watch others play the game.  Sit on the side of the table and keep your head steady.  Watch the ball, moving your eyes back and forth across the table.
  3. Get a book but only read the first word and the last word in each line.  Continue down the page. Time yourself and try to beat your speed.  If reading words is slow or labored, just read the first and last letter on each line.
  4. Go to the site Eye Can Learn and do their eye tracking exercises. 
  5. Watch a metronome or crystal pendulum.  Place the metronome or pendulum about 1-2 feet from your face, keep your head steady and move your eyes with the swinging metronome or pendulum. 
  6. Use a laser pointer on a wall and watch the red dot while sweeping it across the wall: go up, down, left, right and diagonally.  
  7. Use Apps like Dream Reader which will highlight the words while it reads the text.  You can read along with the excellent synthesized voice options, or if you prefer, read the text yourself and turn off the audio.  Adjust the speed so that words are highlighted while you read.
  8. Pick a common letter of the alphabet such as the letter “A.”  Select a book, or article and scan through the lines of text as if you are reading, circling the letter “A” every time they see it.  
  9. Read aloud.  This helps the eyes and brain to work together.
  10. Play an internet version of Pong.  My favorite is Garfield Tabby Tennis.

Are There Any Products I Can Purchase That Develop Visual Tracking?
Yes, check out the Reversing Reversals series to develop tracking as well as other important visual processing and cognitive skills that will improve the foundation abilities needed to be an excellent reader.

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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Developing Writing Skills for Students with Dyslexia

Like reading, writing is a complex process that requires students to multitask.  In fact, all students must master a number of fundamental skills before they can be expected to become competent writers. However, for students with dyslexia, the process can be even more challenging as their learning disability may impact cognitive tasks such as spelling, word finding, as well as the formulation and organization of ideas.

What are the Fundamental Skills Required to Write?
The fundamental skills include:

  • Transferring the inner voice into words on the page – spelling
  • Formulation of letters or typing skills
  • Access to a rich vocabulary and creative ideas
  • Awareness of grammar, sentence structure, and literary elements
  • Cognizance of transitions, and paragraph structure  

What are the Key Features to Consider When Teaching Students with Dyslexia?

  • Help Students Learn to Automaticity: The fundamental skills required for writing must be done simultaneously, therefore, to become efficient and effective writers, many of these tasks must be mastered to a degree of automaticity.  In other words, students should be able to do these tasks with little thought or effort.  If the fundamental skills are not fully learned, student will not have enough cognitive space to unite these skills and write.   
  • Make Learning Multisensory: Integrating as many of the 12 Ways of Learning into your lesson plans will help students’ encode the needed skills.  Here is a free Prezi that reviews these diverse teaching modalities.
  • Include Enjoyable Activities in the Learning Process:  Consider what your students love to do and integrate that into lessons about writing.  For example, if Peter likes to draw, get him to create a story board where he illustrates pictures that represent the sequence of ideas.  If Sue likes balls, consider brainstorming ideas while tossing a ball back and forth.  If legos are popular, place adjectives on red pieces, nouns on yellow pieces, verbs on green pieces and so forth and then have fun joining them to create silly sentences.  Finally, come learn about how to make free word collages and wriggle writing to increase the fun factor.
  • Play Games that Allows Students to Practice their Lessons: Play sentence building games such as DK Games: Silly Sentences and Smethport Tabletop Magnetic Sentence Builders. You can also master grammar skills with games like Grammar Games Glore and the Best of Mad Libs. If you want to develop creative writing abilities consider the writing game Show Don’t Tell.
  • Teach the 5 Ws:  The 5 Ws are questions students can ask themselves when they are trying to formulate the whole story. Who is it about?  What happened?  When did it take place? Where did it take place?  Why did it happen?  If you would like to practice this, consider the game The 5 Ws Detectives.
  • Teach Students to Visualize before Writing: One of the best ways to bring the fun factor into writing is to have students visualize the setting, characters and plot before they begin writing.  Then all they have to do is paint the images with words.  If you need to develop this skill, consider teaching this skills with products like Mindful Visualization for Education.
  • Teach Grammar and Literary Devices: Here are a number of tools that can be used to help students master grammar and literary devices: A Writer’s ReferenceThe Giggly Guide to Grammar Student Edition, Word ShuffleMastering Literary Devices, and Grammar Games Glore.
  • Expand and Develop Vocabulary: There are many tools that can help students to broaden their vocabulary.  Workbooks like Wordly Wise 3000, or free sites like Free Rice, can develop this skill.  What I really love about Free Rice is that students work is reinforced because for each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.  Also, teaching students how to use a thesaurus to vary word choice and learn new words is a terrific strategy that they will use for the rest of their lives.
  • Teach about Transitional Words, Phrases and Sentences: It is also important to instruct students about transitional words, phrases, and sentences so that their writing is understandable and flows from one idea to the next.  Here is a free transitional word sheet, and if you would like some activities to develop this skill consider Categorizing, Paragraph Building and Transitional Words Activity.
  • Use a Scaffolding Approach:  Like a scaffolding that supports a weak building, adults can help students develop their writing skills by assisting young learners with the process of writing.  For example, if handwriting is labored and monopolizes a student’s attention, acting as a secretary for a student can lessen the cognitive load so that he or she can learn some other aspects of writing such as the development and organization of ideas.  If you would like to learn more about scaffolding, read The Joy of Writing: A Scaffolding Approach.
  • Analyze Good Sentences and Paragraphs:  Look at sample sentences and paragraphs from each student’s favorite books and talk about what makes the author such a great writer.
  • Use Software to Help with the Writing Process:  My favorite products are Kidspiration (for K-3) and inspiration (4-adult).  These two programs help students generate and organize ideas.  They offer the full software for free for one month.
  • Teach the Formula Behind Writing:
  1. Sequence the Steps: It is important to also review the steps required to formula sentences and paragraphs.  Here is a free Prezi that reviews the sequence required to write a 5 paragraph essay.
  2. Teach about Main Ideas and Details:  Each new paragraph introduces a main idea that is then supported with details.  Therefore, teaching students how to formulate main ideas and details is a vital step in teaching the writing process.  I have two games that teach kids how to generate main ideas and details.  The first publication, the Main I-Deer, offers instruction on main ideas and details as well as two games.  The second publication is a game, Hey, What’s the Big Idea.
  3. Provide Graphic Organizers: Graphic organizers help students to visually brainstorm, organize and connect ideas before writing.  There are many sites that offer free graphic organizers to help students with the writing process.  In addition, it’s always a great idea to help students create their own graphic organizers.  Come learn how to create your own templates.

For more information, check out the webinar from the DyslexicAdvantage where they interviewed Dr. Charles Haynes who provides strategies to help students with dyslexia in the areas of writing, sentence building, paragraph cohesion, and word retrieval.

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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Improving Spelling for Students with Dyslexia

Not all students require the same remedial process even though they struggle with the same academic difficulties.  Diverse combinations of cognitive processing weaknesses and deficits can unite to create the “perfect storm” that can cause challenges with reading, math, writing, spelling and more.  In fact, no two students have the same cognitive profile, so to provide the optimal solution, one needs to consider both a student’s strengths and weaknesses when designing a remedial approach.  

Occasionally, I like to present the questions emailed to me from parents and teachers.  This week, I will share an email that I received from a parent in England as well as my response.

Email received: 


Hi there:
Love the website!
Our son (age 8) is dyslexic and we have been told that he has a good visual memory (so he can easily spot a correctly spelt word and can even easily distinguish the correct meanings of similar sounding words e.g. sea and see). However, he has poor memory retrieval – so he has massive difficulties finding the correct spelling of a word. We have found that if he really concentrates and can think of a place where he has seen that word written previously, then he can eventually extract the word – but it takes time and is not a practical way of remembering spellings in a busy classroom. I wondered, which of your resources would be good to try to help him to build on the skill of word retrieval?
Many thanks
Here was my response:

Thanks so much for your email.  That is terrific that your son has a great visual memory, and it will come in handy.  I have a few suggestions:

1)  Develop his visualization capacity.  Visualization – which is a little different than visual memory (because your son has to conjure his own imagery) will help him become a better speller, reader, writer and will improve his long-term memory – auditory and visual.  I think it will be his secret weapon!  So the main publication that I recommend is Mindful Visualization for Learning: http://www.goodsensorylearning.com/teaching-visualization.html  I think the two of you will have a lot of fun with this.  It helps students develop their capacity to visualize through games that the two of you can play together.  
2) Exercise his word finding abilities by playing the game Spot it.  You can find it just about anywhere.  I purchased it on Amazon.com.  There are many versions and any of them would be great.  It is all about practicing quick retrieval.  I will place links to a few versions at the bottom of this blog.
3) Keep track of the words that your son finds tricky or difficult to recall.  Create a little book.  Each page can be devoted to one word.  Have him write the word.  Practice visualizing it (Once he thinks he’s got it visualized, ask him questions like: “what is the 3rd letter?”, and “Can you spell it backwards?…”).  Also on each page ask him to come up with a memory strategy.  For example, let’s take the word “what.”  Your son might notice that the word “what” has “hat” in it.  So his strategy might be – “What hat?”  Then he can do a drawing of a hat on top of the word “what.”  Make it a fun and creative project that integrates coloring, collage, and anything else that he enjoys… 
4) Encourage him to develop his keyboarding skills and use a computer for his written work.  A spell check will help him to see the words spelt correctly which will improve his spelling over time.  Also consider purchasing Word Prediction Software, or a device like the Franklin Spellers to assist him with the immediate process. 
Before long, he’ll be a wonderful speller!! Keep in touch and I’ll be happy to help if you have any more questions.  


Yours sincerely, Erica


In Summary: 

When considering the best remedial approach, investigate each student’s strengths as well as any reported difficulties so that a plan can be tailored to accommodate individual needs and achieve quick results.  Ideally, it is best to meet with families as well as review prior testing, teacher comments and other pertinent materials.  I hope you find this blogpost helpful.  If you have your own suggestions, please share them 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 to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Ten, Fun Games that Strengthen Visual Processing

Visual processing is an important cognitive skill for children to develop, and there are many fun games that help to strengthen this skill.  

What is Visual Processing and Why is it Important?
Visual processing is a visual cognitive skill that allows us to process and interpret meaning from the visual information that we see through our eyes, and it plays an important role in reading, math, and spelling.  

What Are the Cognitive Skills that Make up Visual Processing
Visual processing involves a number of cognitive components:

  1. Visual Processing Speed: the ability to process visual
    information at a rapid pace.
  2. Visual
    Scanning: 
    the ability to look at and absorb all parts of visual information
    and text.
  3. Visual Spatial
    Skills:
    the ability to mentally manipulate
    2-dimensional and 3-dimensional figures.
  4. Visual Spatial Reasoning: the ability
    to perceive the spatial relationships between objects.
  5. Visual Construction Skills: the ability to organize and
    manually manipulate spatial information to make a design.  
  6. Visual Memory: the ability to remember what is seen.
  7. Visual Motor
    Integration:
    the ability to translate visual perception into motor planning,
    sequencing, control, coordination and speed.
  8. Visual Synthesis: the ability to unite visual information into a coherent whole. 
  9. Visual Sequencing: the ability to determine or remember the order of symbols, words, or objects.
  10. Visual Closure: the ability to make sense of visual information when some of the image is missing.
  11. Visual Reasoning: the ability to find meaning and make sense out of visual information.
What Are Some Games that Can Help to Develop These Skills?
  1. Set: Set is a card game of recognition and deduction. Each card contains one of three symbols (squiggles, diamonds, ovals) in varying numbers (up to three), colors (purple, green, red), and degrees of shading. A player arranges 12 cards, face up, and all the players quickly discriminate “sets” of three cards linked by combinations of sameness or difference. This game works on visual discrimination, processing speed, reasoning, sequencing, and visual scanning.
  2. Tricky Fingers: Who can match the pattern card first?  Non-removable marbles are manipulated.  This game works on visual processing speed, motor integration, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  3. Spot it: Spot it is played with 55 cards, each decorated with eight symbols varying in size and orientation. The object of the game is to be the first to spot the one symbol in common between two or more cards. This game works on visual processing speed, scanning, motor integration, discrimination and memory.
  4. Logic Links: Each puzzle is comprised of a series of clues that instruct the player where to place colored chips to solve a puzzle. This game works on visual reasoning, sequencing, and visual scanning.
  5. Blokus: The goal of this game is for players to fit all of their pieces onto the board. The player who gets rid of all of their tiles first is the winner. This game works on visual motor integration, reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  6. Pixy Cubes: Pixy Cubes uses challenge cards for players to match or they can design colorful pictures with 16 colorful cubes.  This game works on visual motor integration, memory, processing speed, spatial reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  7. Q-Bits: Q-bitz will challenge your visual agility. Players puzzle over how to quickly recreate the patterns on the game cards using their set of 16 cubes. This game works on visual motor integration, processing speed, spatial reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  8. Q-Bits Extreme: This is the same game as Q-Bits, but the cubes are not all the same and the puzzles are more challenging. This game works on visual motor integration, processing speed, spatial reasoning, sequencing, construction skills, spatial skills, and synthesis.
  9. Blink: Blink is a quick game where two players race to be the first to use all their cards. Players quickly match cards by the shape, count, or color on the cards. The first player out of cards wins.  This works on visual processing speed, discrimination and scanning.





I hope you found this helpful.  If you know of other card or board games that you find benefit visual processing, please share them 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 to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Mastering the Vowel Teams Freebie

Would you teach your students a reading rule, if the rule only worked or was applicable less than 50% of the time?  The saying: When two vowels go a walkin’, the first one does the talkin’ is a rule that most learners know.  But if your students applied this to a comprehensive exam on vowel teams or vowel combinations, they would likely fail the test.  Clearly, this rule creates more confusion than good.

How Can Students Successfully Master the Vowel Teams or Vowel Combinations?

I like to use visualization strategies, hidden pictures, mazes and games to help my students master the concept.  What used to be a boring and tedious task is now fun and memorable.  
How Can I Learn This Strategy?
I’m offering a free sampling of my publication: Vowel Combinations Made Easy.  This will allow you to see some pictures as well as a maze that I use to entice my students.  The full publication also includes a number of engaging games.

I hope you enjoyed this blog.  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  

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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Teaching Handwriting: An Important Skill to Master

With the integration of technology into the classroom and limited instructional time, teachers spend less and less time on the teaching of penmanship.  In fact, many schools have stopped teaching script all together.  Instead, the instruction and practice time that was once used to refine printing and cursive skills has been reallocated to other tasks such as keyboarding.

What Are the Long Term Effects of Limited Instruction on Penmanship?
Because young learners are spending less time on penmanship, many students do not fully develop this skill, and their fine motor abilities suffer.  Therefore, when they write, they have to think about letter and word formation, leaving little to no room for listening, the formation of ideas or sentence structure.   In addition, we are seeing a number of adverse effects across areas of academics:

  1. Because student handwriting skills are not fully developed to a degree of automaticity, many students still need to concentrate on penmanship.  As a result, they have less cognitive space to devote to the complicated tasks of listening, writing and solving mathematical computations.  
  2. Note-taking skills suffer as students are concentrating on the act of writing instead of the academic content that the teacher is instructing.
  3. Poor penmanship can result in illegible notes and students can lose points on assignments that are difficult to decipher.
  4. Many students are less motivated to write because the process is labor intensive and tiring for the hand. 
  5. When students have poor penmanship, they are often shy about others seeing their work.
  6. Practicing penmanship also helps to develop fine motor dexterity, and strengthen the muscles of the hand. 
Areas to Focus on When Teaching Handwriting?
  1. Formation of letters: Teaching the proper formation of the letters is key to neat handwriting.
  2. Legibility of Penmanship: Helping students to learn the proper sizing and placement of letters and words is important too.  You might like to check out one of my products: Color Coded Handwriting 
  3. Speed of Penmanship:  Practicing penmanship also helps to increase a student’s ability to form letters quickly.  This can be key to developing comprehensive note-taking skills.

What Can We Do To Make the Process Fun?

  1. Consider the expression: “It’s all in the presentation.”  Be sure to make your activities sound fun.  For example, instead of calling an activity “learning script” or “learning cursive,” consider using a fun, exciting name such as “learning roller-coaster letters.”
  2. Strengthen fine motor dexterity by integrating fun activities such as mazes and coloring into a daily routine.
  3. Get tracing paper and let your students trace images and words.  Also, using carbon paper between an image and a blank piece of paper will allow kids to trace over images and reproduce them on the blank piece of paper.  These activities will also help to develop fine motor skills.
  4. Have fun making a collage of letters.  For instance, when teaching the letter “b,” cut out this letter from magazines and paste them onto a piece of card stock.
  5. Allow students to form letters and words out of fun tactile materials such as sand, marbles, shaving cream, clay and more.
  6. Consider reading my blog post: 5 Strategies that Make Learning the Alphabet a Lot of Fun.
I hope you found this helpful!  I’d love to hear your comments.

Teaching The Joy of Writing: A Scaffolding Approach

For many students writing can be
an overwhelming, taxing chore.   In order
to be proficient, students must be able to manage multiple tasks at one time,
and to juggle these responsibilities, the following must be developed to near
automaticity:
1.    
Conjuring up and organizing ideas.
2.    
Understanding and being able to implement basic
grammar and sentence structure.
3.    
Recording words through legible penmanship or proficient
typing.
4.    
Comprehending and utilizing various literacy
devices.
5.    
Knowing how to spell.
If a student struggles with any of the above tasks, their
writing will likely suffer.
How Can Students
Develop the Needed Skills to Automaticity? 
I evaluate each student’s current writing capabilities and note any difficulties. 
Then the two of us collaborate and write together. 
The student picks the topic.  It could be a story, a research paper, a blog, a book of poetry, a diary, a recipe book…  In fact, I have been known to write 20-40
page documents with young learners that are illustrated and later bound.  
I never came across a student that
didn’t have a wonderful imagination that could be unearthed, and I provide the
support needed so they can get those ideas in writing.  I offer a scaffolding approach, which gifts
the needed backing until the student can do each task on his or her own.  In the beginning, I am doing the majority of the work, but by the end, the student has taken over most of the tasks. This means that I first offer repeated
demonstrations, then I present recurrent verbal reminders – where I think aloud,
and eventually, I pass responsibilities on to them – when they are ready. 
What Are Some Examples of a Scaffolding Approach?    
1.    If spelling, penmanship and typing is a problem, I offer to be the secretary – so I can capture their ideas. 
2.    If organization is a problem, I help the student to shape their approach. 
3.    If sentences are simple and word choice is poor, I teach the student how to use a thesaurus and help him or her to learn how to visualize their ideas and “paint with words.” 
4.    If grammar and sentence structure is poor, I walk the student through the process.  For example if capitalization is a problem, I might say for each sentence.  “I start with a capital letter.”  After ten sentences, I say, “I start with a…” and let them fill in the blank.  Later I ask, “How do I begin my sentence?

5.    If they struggle with thesis statements, topics sentences and supporting details, we weave those concepts into the project.
I do offer three writing games that can also help to bring joy to the learning process.  Five W’s Detectives was created for my beginning writers, Show Don’t Tell helps students to develop creative writing abilities, and Word Shuffle assists students with the mastery of grammar and literary devices.  
I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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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11 Multiple Choice Strategies

With the end of the school year quickly approaching, many young learners are prepping for finals. Learning the content for these comprehensive exams is imperative, but mastering the strategies for approaching multiple choice tests can also serve as a means to elevate final grades.  

Why Should Students Learn About How to Take Multiple Choice Tests?
Due to large class sizes, increasing paperwork as well as common core curriculums, multiple choice tests are becoming the fast favorite of educational institutions.  Ironically, these are the most difficult tests to create, they are often poorly written and they commonly include tricky wording. As a result, test items can be a linguistic nightmare for some students.  They can become an obstacle course that can trip up learners with language based disabilities or weaknesses, making it virtually impossible for them to share their true knowledge of the academic material. What’s more, teachers are not properly trained on how to write and evaluate this testing format. For instance, if 50% or more of the class misses an item, teachers should discard the item as it measures one of two things.  Either the teacher did not adequately teach the material or the question was poorly worded.  Sadly, many teachers do not even have the power to eliminate items as many tests are mandated from the powers above.  So what can we do to manage this difficult situation?  We must train our students to be linguistically savvy and make them aware of the many looming booby traps that are embedded in multiple choice tests.


11 Multiple Choice Tips
Here are a number of strategies that I teach my own students:

  1. After reading the stem of each question, anticipate the answer before looking at the options.  Then match your answer with the best choice.
  2. Read each item completely.  Even if you think you have found the answer, study every option before moving onto the next problem.
  3. Eliminate options that are clearly incorrect so you can simplify the task.  Most questions have throwaway items.
  4. If you don’t know the answer, flag the item and come back to it later.  You might find the relevant information in other test questions.
  5. Options that offer broad generalizations are usually incorrect.  Watch for words like always, necessarily, only, completely, must, totally, never that make this option improbable.
  6. Options that offer qualified pointers are usually correct.  Look for words such as perhaps, sometimes, often, may and generally that make this option probable.  
  7. Be aware of words such as not, no and none as well as prefixes such as a, un, and dis.  These words or prefixes can change the meaning of the question. 
  8. Be aware of double negatives that make a statement positive.  For example, not atypical means typical and not false means true.
  9. Choose from familiar options and avoid unknown terms and wording.
  10. If you have to guess, chose one of the following: 
    1. Choose the longest answer.
    2. Choose the answer that is presented in the middle.
    3. Choose one of two opposite answers.
  11. If you get anxious, close your eyes, take a a few deep breaths and visualize successful results.

I hope you found this post and these strategies helpful.  If you have any thoughts or further ideas, please share them below this post.

To learn more about helping young learners develop executive functioning skills and acquiring other helpful handouts and advice, consider purchasing Planning Time Management and Organization for Success.  This publication offers methods and materials that guide and support students in the areas of time management, learning strategies, planning and organization.  It includes questionnaires, agendas, checklists, as well as graphic organizers.  You will also find materials that focus reading, math, memory, motivation, setting priorities and incentives programs.  What’s more, the materials accommodate learners of all ages from elementary to college.  Finally, I offer a free sample assessment from the publication too, as well as a free video on executive functioning.  To Access this Click Here

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com, www.learningtolearn.biz  

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