Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on teaching advice.

Teaching Mental Math to All Elementary Students

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

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

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

What Types of Mental Math Can You Teach Children?

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

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

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Why Copying from a Board is Ineffective for Dyslexics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Strategies that Strengthening Math Abilities for Struggling Elementary Students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Using Simple Images to Teach Math Concepts

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

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

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

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Problems Using Academic Assignments or Homework as a Punishment

In the heat of the moment, it is not uncommon for both teachers and parents to assign academic work as a consequence to inappropriate behaviors.  In addition, pleasurable breaks such as recess are often withheld when students are being unruly or they don’t complete classwork.  A punishment might involve a writing assignment, extra math problems or additional homework.

Why is This a Problem?
The issue with this method is that children associate negative consequences and punishments with academics.  So, for example, if Patty was told to write an essay because she exhibited inappropriate behaviors, the next time she has to write for a school assignment, she will likely associate the negativity she was feeling to writing in general.  In another instance, if Nick had to stay in from recess because he didn’t get his assignment done, he will learn to dread future assignments.

What are Some Better Ways to Handle Unruly Behaviors?

  1. Ignore bad behaviors and reward positive behaviors.  Surprisingly, many kids learn negative behaviors. For example, a child can learn that complaining and whining can get them what they want if someone at sometime gave into their demands.  In addition, if a child only gets attention when misbehaving, they may choose that negative attention is better than no attention at all.  So make a conscious effort to change this cycle and praise all positive behaviors with rewards, verbal appraisals and benevolent attention. 
  2. Use the Opportunity to Lead a Discussion and Lesson on Social Skills.  Interrupt the unruly behaviors and have a calming heart to heart discussion with your child or children.  If necessary, give a “timeout” where all involved spend 3-5 minutes sitting quietly to calm nerves. If it is a classroom, have the class sit in a circle.  Take some deep breaths and encourage the participants to let their bodies relax. Next, see if the students can identify the problem and then ask them to suggest solutions.  If they are a part of creating the solution, they are more likely to make the right decision the next time the situation repeats.
  3. Allow Kids to Earn the Things They Want.  Many children are given all the things they desire without having to work for it.  If however, children earn their belongings, they will value these items more and take pride in their accomplishments.

Let’s Flip the Coin and Associate Pleasantries with Learning
Clearly, we need to help students feel positive about learning.  Therefore, making an effort to associate academics with joy and fun is best.  What can we do to nurture this positive association?

  1. Integrate games into the learning process.
  2. Come up with fun and enticing names for lessons.
  3. Go multisensory and teach to all of the 12 Ways of Learning.
  4. Be excited about the material you are teaching.  Enthusiasm is contagious.
I think you will find the more you associate pleasantries with learning the more you and your children will enjoy the learning process.  I hope you have found this blogpost to be helpful.   If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments section 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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Teaching the Alphabet: Tailoring Instruction

One of my favorite things about being a learning specialist and educational therapist is creating a unique approach for each of my students.  Each learner comes with a one-of-a-kind set of strengths and weakness, as well as likes and dislikes.  Therefore, with the help of my students, I’m continually fashioning new instructional approaches and materials.  But meeting the needs of my students is just half my professional pie, as I also strive to assist and guide colleagues and parents in solving onerous, remedial needs.

Cracking Difficult Student Cases:
I often get emails from my followers asking for my advice about how to meet the needs of students that are challenging to remediate.  I recently received an email from a reading specialist asking me to help with a tricky case.  As my response could benefit others too, I decided to share my ideas in this week’s blog!

Teaching Peter the Letters:
Peter is four years and eleven months and is presently in preschool (student name changed for anonymity)

Here is a quick summary of Peter’s case from the perspective of his reading specialist  

“Peter is very willing to learn, and he has a good attitude…  He has almost no recall of letter naming and sounds.  I would present a multi-sensory activity where I would have him repeat the letter that I said while pointing to it on the magnet board.  Then I would have him pick out the letter from the letter cards on the floor.  When I asked him after he found it, to tell me the name of the letter, he would have already forgotten it.   His mom has been reviewing the letters A through F everyday at home, and he still does not remember them.  He only knows the alphabet in the song.  Peter cannot name the letters when out of order with accuracy.  He is not able to write the alphabet nor name the letters of the alphabet when being shown the letter.  I would say that he does have some letters memorized, yet I have not recorded which ones other than “r.”  The list is small…  He seems to have a weak visual memory and working memory…  I believe that he would benefit from the tactile/kinesthetic approach given that he is an athletic boy who has excellent control of his hand/eye coordination.”
Here is a quick summary from Peter’s mother:

“Peter is a lover of sports, primarily golf.  He currently takes private golf lessons and is unbelievable. He does not like to play contact sports, but enjoys watching them.  Peter also loves cars, the faster, the better.  He has 2 go-karts and has been driving them for 1 year.  He LOVES his friends and is a great playmate.  He also enjoys Wii and Legos. He can trace letters, but can not write them freely. He has been practicing writing his name for quite some time. We work on 7 letters at a time. (A-G). He does enjoy coloring… He has never been tested and to my knowledge, does not have attention difficulties.  He is so good behaviorally in school for the fear he will get in trouble. He does NOT like to be yelled at at all!!! Now, if he is paying attention, not sure.  He is a very sensitive child on all levels.  Peter is very gifted athletically and has a lot of self confidence in sports; however, his confidence in school this year seems to be plummeting; which worries me greatly!” 

Suggestions for Peter:
As Peter is very sensitive and his confidence in school is suffering, it will be important to bring the fun factor into learning.  I purposely asked for information about what Peter loves to do, and believe that integrating this into his lessons will help him find joy in the learning process, and it will motivate him to master his letters. Also, getting excited about these strategies and making a big deal about his accomplishments is key!

 Here are my recommendations:

  • Begin with one letter at a time.  The reading specialist can introduce the letter and Peter can

    work with that letter for the whole week.  If this method is too slow, he can do two letters a week, but work on them separately.  One letter for 3 days, the other letter for 3 days and then both letters for the final day.  

  • Use the App Touch and Write to help Peter have fun forming the letters.  
  • Create a “alphabet golf game.” Once Peter has learned a few of the letters.  Scatter the letters on a carpet.  When you say a letter, Peter must hit the golf ball to that letter.  As another option, multiple players may have to spell out a word such as “cat,” by hitting each letter with the golf ball in sequence while calling out the letters.  The player to do this in the fewest number of tries is the winner.  Since, Peter “loves his friends and is a great playmate,” this could be a great game for him when he has a playdate. 
  • Create activities for Peter to complete for each letter. Generate fun names for the activities to enhance motivation.

Here are 13 suggestions:  

  1. Create a colorful collage of the letter by asking Peter to tear out that letter from magazines.  
  2. Let Peter do a coloring activity for this letter.  Mr. Printables offers alphabet coloring pages at no cost.  
  3. Ask Peter to create both the capital and lowercase letter out of legos. 
  4. Outline a large copy of the letter or cut a letter out of black construction paper and ask Peter to turn the inside of the letter into a road by drawing white dashes (see image).  He can also add details around the letter when drawn on a large piece of paper, such as trees and houses.  Help Peter learn to form the letter properly by taking one of his toy cars and helping him learn how to properly trace the letter with his toy car.

  5. Let Peter come up with his own creative ways to make the letter by thinking of a word that starts with that letter and associating the image of that word with the letter.   For example, Peter could make the letter A look like an apple.  Allison McDonald from No Time for Flash Cards offers some great ideas.
  6. Let Peter make the letter out of cookie dough and bake cookies.  When eating the cookies, try to think of a word that begins with that letter.
  7. Help Peter use tape to draw the letter on a carpet and have Peter use a golf ball and a putter to trace the letter.  
  8. Create a printout of letters and ask Peter to circle only the letter that he is working on.  You can also use print materials such as magazines. Like a hidden picture, Peter may have to find all the letter Bs.  
  9. Help Peter take a picture of the letter in nature or around the house. To learn more about this as well as some other fun letter strategies, click here
  10. Take pictures of all of Peter’s creative letter creations and make a scrap book.  You can also

    take pictures and create a photo book in IPhoto or sites like SnapFish.  

  11. Create a song or rhyme for each letter.  YouTube offers a number of options.  Here is one about the letter B.  
  12. Create your own tongue twisters for each of the letters.  For example, Billy Butler Bought Buttery Biscuits.
  13. Once Peter has learned a few letters.  Place them on a balloon.  Toss the balloon to Peter and ask him the name of the first letter he sees.  Once he has mastered this, ask him to make the letter sound.  Another options is to ask Peter to think of a word that begins with that letter or ask him to act out a word that begins with that sound.
Cognitive Tools for Peter:
Because Peter’s working memory and visual memory appear to be areas of deficit, it is also important for him to build these skills through cognitive remedial games.  I have two publications in mind.

  • Reversing Reversals Primary – This publication develops visual memory, visual reasoning, spatial skills, auditory and visual memory, sequential memory, visual discrimination, tracking, attention to detail and more.  It is ideal for learners that exhibit confusion with letters and numbers.  Better yet, the game-like activities use animal characters, so the students won’t even realize that they are developing the foundation skills behind reading and math.
  • Working Memory, Hemisphere Integration, Sequencing and Attention Building Activities: Beginners – This publication helps to develop working memory, hemisphere integration, sequential processing and sustained attention.  Peter should try these activities after he has been working with Reversing Reversals Primary for some time and he has learned the letters and his numbers up to 20.

I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have some other ideas for Peter, 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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Turning Homework Into Home Fun

Motivating students to complete homework assignments can be tricky. After a long day at school, few learners look forward to tackling academics on their free time.  So what can we do to make the process less taxing, and possibly enjoyable?

Strategies for Turning Homework into Home Fun:
Who came up with the idea to call after-school assignments “homework?” Clearly, they were not thinking about the psychological sabotage embedded in that word.  I mean, really, who wants to take schoolwork home?  Here are a number of strategies that will help you to improve students attitudes and motivation, about home assignments.

  1. Don’t call home assignments, homework, but come up with a name that is more appealing and motivating such as home fun. Think like an advertising agency that is trying to sell a product, and be sure to create fun and enticing names for all your assignments and lessons.  For example, I never teach script or cursive. I teach roller-coaster letters! Furthermore, generate excitement about upcoming units by showing your own enthusiasm for the content.
  2. Bring the arts, music, and games into assignments.  Many students enjoy fine arts, acting, music, and making as well as playing games, so try to weave these into the curriculum. Encouraging these creative options can also bring the fun factor into learning and make academics more memorable too.
  3. Offer a number of assignment options.  Each student possesses different strengths, and they also have their own preferred ways of learning.  As a result, provide choices that allow students to share their knowledge while granting them the power to select an appealing approach.
  4. Limit the amount of homework.  Students are often cognitively spent after working all day long in school, and there is a lot of research that suggests that home assignments really are not all that helpful.  In fact, a Canadian family took this issue to the Supreme Court in their country, arguing that there was no evidence that home assignments improved academic performance.  They actually won the ruling and their children were exempt from all homework. 
  5. Offer your students extra credit for completing home assignments.  Many students are motivated to improve their grades.  Besides the ones that are doing poorly, are the ones that probably need the extra practice!

I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you have 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.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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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. 


  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


  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  

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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