Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on teaching advice.

10 Great, Free Typing Games


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

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

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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The Secret to Motivating Students

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

Teaching Students to be Mindful and Conscious Learners

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

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

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

How Can This Skill be Taught?

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


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

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

Kinesthetic Learners: 10 Empowering Approaches

When learning, some students find it helpful to sit quietly
at their desks, while others find that movement helps them to maintain
attention and encode information.  The needs of the latter group often
remain unaddressed in the classroom because behaviors such as tapping a pencil,
fidgeting, leaning back in chairs and asking for repeated bathroom and water
breaks can be annoying to the teacher as well as peers.  Many of
these students are kinesthetic learners and having to sit still and listen can
be virtually impossible.  So how can
teachers empower the often-conflicting needs of their kinesthetic learners? 

Here are 10 suggestions:
1)    Incorporate movement into the lessons.  Allow students to move from one “learning station” to the next where short, interactive activities can engage the students. 
2)    Permit kinesthetic learners to sit on the side of the classroom, so if they need to move around or stand, it won’t distract the students behind them.
3)    Allow your students to have a one-minute kinesthetic break in the middle of class where they can do a brain break activity, stretch, shake out their bodies or even do a few jumping jacks.
4)    Allow kinesthetic learners to stand from time to time.
5)    Integrate kinesthetic activities such as acting out lessons or let your students create plays that illustrate the concepts.
6)    Teach your students appropriate kinesthetic movements that they can make while sitting at their desk such as bouncing their legs under the table.
7)    Never take recess away from a kinesthetic learner. 
8)    Have a kinesthetic corner in your classroom where students can go to stretch on a yoga mat or roll on an exercise ball.
9)    Consider placing information to be reviewed onto balloons or balls so that the students can review material by passing the props to one another.
10) Consider getting chairs that allow students to bounce.  I have a Zenergy ball chair in my office, and I find that students that need movement love this seat.  Just be sure to place the kinesthetic learners on the sides of the class so that their bouncing doesn’t distract others.


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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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  

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The Teacher Assessment Cycle: Becoming A Better Teacher

Wouldn’t you like to be the first person to know if your
lesson was a flop or your students misinterpreted your words or
intentions?  Whether you like it or not,
your students are continually evaluating your teaching materials and
instructional style.  Their opinions
travel quickly to peers, parents, tutors, advisors, and school
administrators.  Frequently, the last person
to hear this feedback is often the actual teacher.  In fact, this negative chatter, and exaggerations
can turn a minor incident or criticism into a big ordeal.  What’s more, the spread of negative gossip
can create lasting misconceptions.
Listen to Your Students Ideas and Opinions:
Allowing your students to evaluate your classroom materials,
assignments and approaches can provide the needed feedback right to the source
– you, the teacher. You will be surprised at the value of your students’ critiques.  My students have inspired some of my best
materials.
How Can Teachers Gather This Information?

·     Utilizing a questionnaire with a Likert Scale
can allow you to assess your students’ feedback quantitatively.   This
can be done for assignments, projects, lessons and more.
·     Offer a suggestion box, where students can
anonymously submit their feedback. 
Weekly, you can review the comments, and if needed, discuss the advice
with the class.
·     Allocate 10 minutes a week for students to
discuss their ideas, favorite lessons and materials as well as critiques and concerns. 
How Can Teachers and Students Benefit from The Teacher
Assessment Cycle?
·    Students know what is “cool” for their
generation, and they can help keep you abreast of the motivating fads.
·    Students can discover how to be mindful of what
they are learning and to generate and share their creative ideas.
·    Students will learn the value of accepting
feedback.
·    Students can be empowered participants in the
design of the curriculum.  In fact, if
your students feel that they have a voice in your approach, they will be more
motivated to complete the work. 
·    Students come to your class with a wealth of
experience and knowledge, and they are their own best experts.
·    Students can develop their critical reasoning
skills.
·    Students learn through example, and they will
often imitate the behaviors of their teachers. 
Therefore, if you listen to your students, they will be more apt to
listen to you. 
·    Students can learn communication skills.  If inappropriate or hurtful words are
expressed during an evaluation, you can use this as a lesson tool.  Teach your students how to turn negative
criticism into positive advice.   The
class can practice how to communicate their feelings in a way that gets their
message across without hurting the recipient’s feelings and also achieving their
desired outcome.
·    Students might make you aware of issues that you
innocently overlooked.  For example, just
yesterday when I was working with a student, Maddy.  She had to complete a portfolio assignment
for her math class, and one of the requirements was to make the presentation as
colorful as possible.  Maddy was troubled,
as she did not have access to a color printer, while many of her peers
did.   She was afraid that she would be graded down
for this and spent a lot of time hand coloring the images, knowing that her
attempt to mimic a color printout was second rate.   At the
end of the assignment, the teacher allowed Maddy to rate this project and make
recommendations for the future.  Maddy
was pleased to communicate her concerns and shared that some students in the
class could not afford a color printer.  In
another instance, I learned that, “some Native American Tribes consider it to
be taboo to show students animals such as snakes or owls.”  This was valuable feedback, because I often
use images of animals in my lessons and was innocently unaware of this
offensive behavior.
Clearly, accepting student
evaluations will help you to be a life-long learner, an expert on your students’
needs as well as better, kinder, teacher. 
I would love to hear your feedback.  If you would like a free copy of Dr. Warren’s printable assessments, 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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Multisensory Teaching Accommodates the 12 Ways of Learning

To be a true
multisensory teacher, it is important to be aware of all 12 Ways of Learning.  The Eclectic Teaching Approach merges the
theories of cognitive styles, multiple intelligences, information processing,
and multisensory learning to reveal 12 diverse and distinctive ways of processing
and encoding information. Each of these learning modalities lie on a continuum
and individuals have their own profiles that are based on cognitive strengths,
preferences as well as exposure to each methodology. By learning about the Eclectic Teaching Approach, teachers,
therapists, parents and even employers can be more mindful of their expectations
as well as their lesson or training approach. Then, by evaluating preferences, instruction
and assignments can be tailored for groups or individuals resulting in optimal
learning.

What are the 12 Ways of Learning?

If
you would like to view a FREE Prezi on the 12 Ways of Learning, 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.  

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10 Ways to Release Worries in the Classroom

With stringent
common core demands, burdensome homework, and competition for high test grades,
many students spend a lot of time worrying about school performance.  However, many of these children do not
know how to manage stress, and it can lead to sleepless nights, panic attacks, temper
tantrums, health concerns, a case of learned helplessness, and even clinical levels of anxiety and depression.  So, what can we do to help children manage the academic load
while keeping a level head?
Help your Students Understand the
Negative Side Effects of Worrying:
1)   Worrying Interferes with Learning and Makes
it Hard to Concentrate:  
If
students are worrying, they are easily distracted and will likely miss
important directions and academic content. Here is a great NY Times article on this: Click Here
2)   Worrying has a Negative Impact on Memory:
Research
suggests that stress and worries make it difficult for the brain to access
memories.  In fact, prolonged
stress can cause an excessive amount of cortisol production in the brain which can even shrink the hippocampus – the memory center of the brain. To learn more about this go to: Click Here
3)   Worrying also Makes us Stressed, Unhappy and
Unhealthy: 
Negative emotions can harm
the body and lead to illnesses and diseases.  Harvard News and WebMD offers more on this.
Help your Students Manage their Worries:
1)   Integrate Movement into the Classroom:  When your students’ attention wanes,
offer short kinesthetic brain breaks. 
Also, encourage your students to get involved in sports and other
physical activities.  Exercise has
been shown to reduce stress.  In
fact, children that exercise regularly are better able to cope with
stress.  Come read more in this NY Times article.  
2)   Manage the Homework Load Across Classes:  Be sure to communicate with other
teachers so, each day, homework loads are manageable for your students.

3)   Give your Students “Personal Days” with
No Homework: Once a week, offer your students a day with no homework.  Brainstorm with them how they can best
use this free time.

4)   Create a Worry Box: Many students are not
able to share their worries because they are embarrassed or they are afraid
that their fears will be criticized. 
If you offer your students a worry box, where they can write down and
submit their concerns, it will allow you to address the issues individually or
as a class.

5)   Teach Time Management Skills:  Break long assignments into manageable
chunks with clear expectations and deadlines.  Also discuss time management with your students and brainstorm with them ways to prepare for assignments, projects and test in advance.
6)   Offer Short Mindful Meditations: Before
tests and other stressful events, offer your students the option of
participating in a short mindful meditation.  Here are two free meditations offered on YouTube that focus on stress relief: Meditation 1  Meditation 2.  
7)   Offer an Organized System for Catch-up:  When a student misses a day or more of
school, it can be difficult for them to manage the work load when they return.  As a result, create a system where
missed content, handouts, class notes and homework can be available on the
internet, through email or attainable from a peer or advisor. 
8)   Return Assignments and Tests ASAP:  After your students turn in homework,
classwork and completed tests, be sure to return the graded material as soon as
possible.  Also, offer them the
opportunity to learn from their mistakes by providing comprehensive comments or setting
up a one-on-one session with you or support staff.
9)   Provide Extra Credit for Test
Corrections:  Encourage your
students to learn from their mistakes by offering extra credit or additional points on
their test grade for completing comprehensive test corrections.
10) Set an Example:  Students
can learn how to let go of their worries if you too exhibit this behavior.  Think aloud and let them
hear how you can take a stressful situation and manage your own worries. 
Share the Following Statistics with your Class and Discuss Them:

If you have any other ideas, I would love to hear your thoughts!
Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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