Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on strategies.

12 Strategies for Overcoming Test Anxiety

With finals around the corner, many students are becoming anxious about end of the year exams. Although a small dose of the jitters can provide some motivation, larger degrees of anxiety can virtually cripple many young learners. 
What is Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety is a product of fear or worry about a test or quiz.  In fact, a student that struggles with test anxiety may know the material, but he or she can not access the information during the examination due to this enfeebling mental state.  
What are the Causes of Test Anxiety?
Test anxiety can manifest from a number of root causes?
  • Questioning ones own abilities can create the fear that you will do poorly or even fail a test.
  • Distractions by other students, noise, or even ones own internal thoughts can make it difficult to concentrate.
  • Physical symptoms can also hinder students.  Short breaths, fast heart rates, nausea, headaches, and body sweats can make it difficult to recall answers.
  • Mental blocks can also make it difficult to recall learned information from ones memory.

How Can You Beat Test Anxiety?
Here are a few strategies that can help:

  1. Create a distraction free study environment.  If students prepare for tests with full concentration, they will learn the material quicker and better.
  2. Be sure to have students review all class materials.  This includes class work, homework, notes, prior tests, and projects.
  3. Create study materials and encourage students to show their approach to their teacher to assure that all the content is addressed.
  4. Form a study schedule so that students can prepare for tests over time.
  5. Encourage your students to get a good nights sleep before the test.
  6. Ask your students to consume a nutritious meal before the test and avoid sugary and starchy foods. Sugar and starch require a lot of energy to digest and can make it difficult to concentrate.  In contrast, foods like meats, eggs, nuts, and vegetables can help to energize the brain. 
  7. Help your students make a conscious effort to take deep breaths and relax any tense muscles while taking a test. 
  8. Teach good test-taking strategies to your students such as: doing the easiest questions to enhance confidence, answering every question – even if you are not sure of the answer, using all the time allotted, and eliminating answers that are definitely wrong.  To learn more strategies, CLICK HERE
  9. When taking the test, encourage your students to ask for clarification when needed.  Although teachers will not provide answers, they can often clarify confusing words or questions that can help lead students to the correct answer.
  10. Instruct your students about memory strategies such as mnemonics and hooking to aid recall during the test.  If you would like to learn more about memory strategies, CLICK HERE
  11. Consider teaching your students the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  This method unites acupressure and dialogue to relax the mind and body.  It also helps to relieve any lingering energy blockages due to past trauma or struggles.
  12. Consider doing a mindful meditation with your students before the test to help calm the mind, relax the body and enhance confidence.  This strategy will help students become aware of their anxiety, observe the way they are feeling and then choose to let it go. 
I hope you found these strategies helpful.  If you have any other ideas, please share them by commenting below this blog.

Using a Geoboard to Help Students with Dysgraphia


Recently I discovered the geoboard and now I love to use this product to develop mathematical skills, visual spatial skills, visual reasoning and fine motor dexterity.  In fact it is great for my students that have dysgraphia.

What is a Geoboard?
A geoboard is a math manipulative that students can use to explore basic shapes and geometry such as perimeter, area and coordinate graphing.  It consists of a wood board with evenly spaced rows of nails or a plastic board with protruding pegs around which string or rubber bands are wrapped.

How Do I Use My Geoboards?
Due to the popularity of rubber band bracelets, one can get a huge variety of colorful rubber bands in many different sizes.  I have organized mine into sectioned plastic boxes so that my students have many options to choose from.  Here are a number of fun activities that I offer my students in my own private practice.

For my young learners I use the geoboard to:

  1. learn the formation of letters and numbers.  It is a wonderful tool to use when students struggle with letter, number or symbol reversals.
  2. instruct about the many shapes – triangles, squares, rectangles…
  3. develop spatial skills where students copy a design I create on another geoboard or from a picture of a design that I created on a geoboard.
For my older students I use the geoboard to:
  1. develop writing skills.   Players create images that they then described in writing so that another player can create the image by following the directions.
  2. teach and review coordinate graphing.
  3. teach and review the plotting of points on a coordinate plane.
  4. creating, line, frequency and bar graphs.

If you too are using a geoboard, I would love for you to comment below this blog.  Also please share if you are using the geoboard in other creative ways.

Click on the image below to purchase on Amazon:

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.

Using Positive Reinforcement to Shape Behaviors in the Classroom

With large class sizes and unruly students, teachers can be prone to leverage
motivation through punishments.  For
instance, eliminating recess or after school detentions can serve as a
negative consequence.  However, this outcome
often only creates anger and frustration. 
So, instead of employing penalties, try utilizing an approach in which
privileges are earned through positive reinforcement.
Many students are not internally
motivated to complete homework, sit at their desks for hours at a time, and listen
to lectures. While integrating multisensory methods may help, issues of
avoidance and complaints often indicate that there is an overwhelming agenda.
Students can tire, and when organization, time management and planning are not
helping as they should, external motivation, or an incentives program may prove
to be an effective remedy to increase productivity and improve students’
attitudes.
With an incentives program, students
can earn points for completing activities, tasks or exhibiting appropriate
behaviors.  Points are recorded which can
then be “cashed in” for rewards.  Small
rewards can be earned in a day, whereas larger rewards may take weeks or even
months.
Many teachers feel that it is
inappropriate to reward a child for completing schoolwork.  However, as adults, we are paid for work and
would not complete the tasks without such compensation.  Therefore, earning rewards can be a practical
learning tool for students that will help prepare them for the workforce.  Moreover, students often develop a sound work
ethic.
What
are the Steps?
1)    Identify
the problems and define goals.
2)    Reveal
motivating rewards and assign each with a point value.
3)    Select a
number of tasks for which points can be earned. 
Try to limit it to 5 tasks.  As
success is reached, new tasks can be substituted into the program.  
4)    Decide the
number of points that each of the tasks will earn.
5)    Record
daily points.
6)    Once every
few weeks, review the tasks and rewards and revise as needed.
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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com, & www.learningtolearn.biz

Free Visualization Game: For Improved Reading, Writing, and Memory

Developing your student’s ability to visualize can provide them a “secret weapon” that can enhance learning capacity, improve memory and spark creativity.  In fact the research shows that visualization improves reading comprehension, creative writing abilities and the encoding and retrieval of math, history and science concepts.

Free Visualization Game:
I recently
finished a book that reviews the history and research behind visualization and
then provides teachers everything they need to assess and teach this complex
skill.  In celebration, I wanted to share
one of my favorite games, Picture This
and Draw
. The best part about this particular game is it not only develops the capacity to visualize, but works on verbal reasoning, expressive language, visual memory, fine motor integration, spatial skills, attention to details, and the ability to follow directions.  This game is one that I enjoy
playing with my own students.  In fact, I
played it this past week.  
Jenna and I went to opposite sides of the room with two pieces of paper and some colored markers. We each drew images on one piece of paper and then described our pictures in detail on the other piece of paper.  We hid our illustrations and then shared our descriptions with one another.  Our next task was to recreate the images by generating our own visualizations from the words and then drawing it on a blank piece of paper.  Once we finished, we compared the new drawings to the originals and analyzed the results.  
Jenna’s image is depicted to the right.  Please note that it is important to keep images very simple.  Below you will find a full description of the game.
Picture This and Draw:

Materials:
·     
Paper
·     
Colored
pencils or magic markers
Group Administration:
·         
Draw
a simple image, with no more than 3 – 6 very simple elements. 
·         
Have
one student or the teacher describe the image to the other students verbally or
in writing.  Use as many details as
possible. 
·         
Describe
the size, color, number, shape and the location of the objects on the
page. 
·         
Next,
have each student produce a drawing of his or her visualization based on the
description presented. 
·         
Make
sure each student can not see what the other students are drawing. 
·         
When
all the students have finished, share the drawings with the group and discuss
which student’s drawing is closest to the description. 
·         
Discuss
ways the presenter could have done a better job describing the image. 
·         
Review
each drawing and discuss what each student could do to improve his or her
visualizations. 
Individual Administration:
·          
You
can also play this game one-on-one.   
·          
Begin
by going to opposite sides of the room so that each player can not see each
other’s work (each player should have a set of colored pencils or magic markers
as well as two blank pieces of paper). 
·          
On
one page, both players should make very simple drawings with no more than 3 – 6
elements, as in Jenna’s image pictured above. 
·          
Then,
on the other page, each player should describe, in words, the image they drew
with as much detail as possible. 
·          
Next,
the players should share with each other the description of the image they
drew, while still concealing the drawing. 
·          
Each
player reads the other player’s description and completes a drawing based upon
it. 
·          
Finally,
the players compare their images and discuss in what ways improvements could be
made to the written descriptions, as well as the drawings.
If you would
like to learn more about the history of visualization and also access
assessment materials and many other fun activities and games that will teach
this needed skill, please come check out my new publication Mindful Visualization for Education as well as my two Teaching Visualization PowerPoints.


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

Strategies for Teaching the Different Types of Angles and Lines

Using multisensory instruction always makes a lesson more
engaging and fun for students.  In fact,
one of my favorite learning modalities to integrate into instruction is
kinesthetics or movement.  For many
learners having to sit still is not conducive for learning, and other children
just need to get their bodies moving and their blood circulating form time to time to fully
focus on a lesson.

One of my favorite topics to teach are the different type of
angles and lines.  I like to cover these concepts
with a multisensory and interactive PowerPoint that I created, then I get the
students to use chants as well as their bodies to encode the information.  Just this week I created a free YouTube video,
where I share some fun activity ideas for lines and angles. 
If you like the video and would like to also acquire my multisensory
PowerPoint presentation, Click Here to learn more.

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  

                                          Follow on Bloglovin

Color-Coded Writing: A Scaffolding Approach for Word Formation

Many young learners struggle with the sizing and formation of letters.   In addition, writing across the paper in a straight line can be challenging.   For these students, I like to offer a color-coded scaffolding approach that provides support and also brings the fun factor into the learning process.  I call it, Color-coded Handwriting and it helps my students master this difficult, fine motor task. 


What’s the Process:

  1. I offer my students color-coded paper as well as color-coded letters.  
  2. I tell my students that all the letters have to match up with the colors.  
  3. I share with my students that the colors represent, “the sky – blue, the grass – green, and the ground – orange.”  Letters that are green, such as the lowercase letter “o” are called grass letters, tall letters such as “t” are grass and sky letters, and letters such as the letter “g” are grass and ground letters.  All letters rest on the line below the grass. 
You Can Make This Yourself, or Purchase it Ready Made:
You can make the paper and letters with hand writing paper and highlighters, but if you would prefer to have the paper and letters already made for you, you can purchase my publication, Color Coded Handwriting for only $4.99. This downloadable, printable PDF comes with color-coded upper and lower case letters, as well as a variety of lined, color-coded templates in small, medium and large.  Furthermore it offers a two column option that is ideal for spelling words.  Finally, this product suggests a fun game-like activity.  
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  

                                          Follow on Bloglovin 

Working Memory, Hemisphere Integration and Attention Building Activities

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

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

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

What is Working Memory?

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

What is Hemispheric Integration? 

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

What are Attention Building Activities? 

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

Why I Created and Use These Activities with My Students? 

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




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

Midterms and Finals: Free Strategies and Handouts for Success

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

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

The Number Ladder: Turning Addition and Subtraction from Top to Bottom

I have never understood why the number-line extends horizontally from left to right.  Young learners often confuse their left from right and others have trouble remembering which way to travel when trying to solve simple addition and subtraction problems.  However, when viewing a vertical number-line, it makes conceptual sense that going up would equate with adding, while traveling down would result in subtraction.  Furthermore, when solving multi-digit problems, we teach students to line up numbers vertically.  Therefore wouldn’t it be best to commence instruction with the number-line extending up-and-down?

Turning the Number-line Into a Ladder
To make the learning process even easier, I like to change the number line into a ladder that travels up into the sky.  This way, when students are instructed to add, they climb up the ladder and when they subtract they descend down the ladder.  What’s more, when students eventually learn about integers, the number line can descend down “into the ground.”

Free Game that Teaches this Concept:  
I love to use a staircase to help students really understand the concept of adding and subtracting. If you would like a free game that is ideal for kinesthetic learners as well as a copy of my Number Ladder, Click here

I Also Offer Two Publications:

  • If you want to purchase an interactive PowerPoint that teaches adding and subtracting whole numbers as well as a PDF file with activities and games, Click here.  
  • If you would like to purchase an interactive PowerPoint as well as a PDF that teaches all about adding and subtracting integers and also offers two games click on the image to the right or Click here

Cheers, Erica

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multi-sensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  
Follow on Bloglovin