Dr. Warren’s blogger articles on teaching advice.

Student Learning and Confidence can Skyrocket by Changing One Approach

Student Learning and
Confidence can Skyrocket by Changing One Approach

Many teachers fear the moment when a student will ask them a
question that they do not have the knowledge to answer.  This uncomfortable situation can cause
some teachers to change the subject, others will construct a roundabout
explanation, a few will make a guess and several may even discourage their
students from asking questions altogether. 

Students Learn to “Fake it”
When a teacher is unable to admit their lack of knowledge,
it sends a disagreeable message to the class. 
Students can usually tell when a teacher sidesteps a question and many
are dismayed when given faulty information or when questioning is discouraged.  They pick up on the insecure energy and
learn that it is shameful to admit that they, “don’t get it” and instead they
learn to “fake it” and give others the impression that they know the
information or understand what they are hearing when, in fact, they do not. 
However, there is another way to handle this situation that will benefit
both the teacher and the students.
Release your own Fear in the
Learning Process
teachers must demonstrate a love for and confidence in the learning
process.  The first step to this
practice is to release any fear associated with the learning process.  A close second is to be comfortable
seeking assistance when gaps in knowledge arise.  Both these skills are best learned vicariously through
demonstrations.  Therefore,
educators must set an example for students to follow so they can feel safe and
comfortable asking questions. 
It’s Okay to Say, “I Don’t
So what’s the big deal about teachers admitting their lack
of knowledge when a student asks a difficult question?  Are they afraid that they will look unintelligent?  Do they fear that one of their students
could have the answer, but this would undermine their authority?  I, too, had this fear at one time and
over the years I have discovered that it is not only okay to say, “I don’t
know,” but, in fact, there are enormous benefits.
But How Can Your Lack of Knowledge
Help the Class? 
Showing students that you do not have the answer can be a
critical learning tool.  
It shows that you are a life long learner.
It shows that you appreciate questions that
expand    your knowledge.
It exemplifies that admitting your lack of
knowledge can start the process of finding the answer.
It provides an opportunity for you to share the
process of acquiring knowledge.
It encourages interactive learning and a
cooperative environment where students can feel safe sharing knowledge.
It teaches students to be curious.
It teaches students how to think critically.
It teaches students how to be inquisitive, confident
But How Can Teachers Integrate
this into Their Classrooms?
Teachers must release their own fears and tell students the
truth.  Personally, I like to word
it, “I’m not sure about that, let’s figure it out!”  After that, educators need to:
1) Always nurture confident queries.  Encourage students to ask questions.
2) Continually demonstrate how to find answers.  This can be done by asking those around
you (students and colleagues), searching the internet, consulting a book and so
3) Constantly cultivate an environment that celebrates and
supports exploration. Praise students for asking questions and
independently finding the answers. 
Create a question box for those that are shy, and let students volunteer
to answer the queries with their own knowledge or by volunteering to do the
4) Repeatedly, show your students that teachers, too, are
comfortable admitting what we don’t know. 
Then find the answers or allow others to help you find the answers.  Always provide gratitude and positive
feedback to those that help.
If you have any other ideas or anecdotes I would love to
hear them!
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.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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Learning Place Value with Pompoms and Pill Boxes

a tactile, visual and experiential component into math instruction can bring
the “fun factor” into your lessons. 
In addition, incorporating multisensory dynamics into lessons makes them
more memorable and concrete. 
activity is great for math centers, a classroom activity or individual
I teach place values, I like to engage my students with colorful pompoms and
pill boxes!  You can usually find
pill boxes and bags of assorted pompoms at a Dollar Store.  With a few color coded labels, that
cover the days of the week, your pill boxes can be transformed into pompom
compartments.  I like to put a
single color in each compartment and I color code the labels to match.  This makes it easy for students to
reassemble the activity for the next person.  Also, make sure to vary the number of pompoms in each
partition.  I like to make a variety
of difficulty levels for the students and use the seven boxes as follows:
· Millions, Hundred Thousands,
Ten Thousands, Thousands, Hundreds, Tens, Ones
· Hundreds, Tens, Ones,
Decimal, Tenths, Hundredths, Thousandths
· Decimal, Tenths, Hundredths,
Thousandths, Ten Thousandths, Hundred Thousandths, Millionths

also like to provide a laminated sheet so students can record answers with a
dry erase marker or I place the answer sheet in a dry erase pocket.   Students can check their answers
with an answer sheet or a barcode on the back of the pill box.
you would like this activity, you can create it yourself.  However, this activity, as well as the
score sheets, are included in my popular publication, Place Value Panic Game, and Instruction. To learn more, 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 and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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Main Ideas and Supporting Details Instruction, Activities and Games

Many students struggle with main ideas
and supporting details.  What’s
more, they often find the instruction and activities associated with these
abstract concepts to be boring.  I
have just finished a new, main idea and supporting details product that offers
engaging, multisensory, and mindful lessons, handouts, activities and
games.  A charming, cartoon-like
character, Main I-deer, will walk your students through the process in a fun
and memorable way.  To top it off,
I have included two card games (beginners and intermediate) that can be used
for group work, learning centers or individual remediation.  
Come check out a free image as well as
a preview document.
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.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

Sight Word Jewelry

As the saying goes, “Out of sight out of mind.”  Well, now tricky sight words can remain “in sight” and tailored to each individual student’s needs.

Kids love to make and wear their own jewelry.  So, here is a fun project that your students will be sure to enjoy that will also help them to master difficult sight words.    Links can be added or subtracted as they come across new, challenging words and master others.

Here is the process:


  • contact paper
  • permanent markers
  • paper clips
Step one: Cut the contact paper into small strips.
Step two: Write the difficult sight words onto the contact paper.
Step three: Peal of the backing and wrap the contact paper around one of the paper clips.
Step four: Link another paper clip onto the first and then wrap your next sight word onto the new link.
Step five: Continue the process until it is long enough for a bracelet or necklace. 
I hope you enjoy this project.
I would love to hear your thoughts!!
Cheers, Erica

Learning Center Ideas: Free, Fun Phonics Activities

It’s wonderful when giggles of joy and excitement ring
through the classroom as young students eagerly learn the skills needed to be
proficient readers.   Learning
centers or reading centers are often the place where this can happen, but the
trick to tickling your students attention often lies in multisensory,
interactive activities or games. 

Here is a fun phonemic awareness activity I designed that
you can make with old recycled pill or vitamin containers and other common
household goods.  It’s a wonderful
learning center idea that will help students blend phonics sounds into words.

Collect and clean old vitamin or pill
containers. I like to use the clear, colorful ones.
Decide upon the playing pieces.  I use a 1 inch hole puncher with thick
cardstock, large lima beans, or wooden craft discs. 
Place consonants, blends, digraphs, word endings
or more onto both sides of the playing pieces.  I like to color code the pieces to match the color of the
container so that clean up is quick and easy.
Label the containers as illustrated or as you
     How to play (2-4
The object of the game is for players to select “a pill”
from each container and try to make a word by blending the sounds.  If a player can make one word or more,
they write down the biggest word on a score sheet and collect one point for
every letter used in their word. 
After each round, the playing pieces are returned to the appropriate
container.  Players shake the
bottles and then select new pieces.  After ten rounds, the winner is the player with the highest

If you like this game, you will love my newest Reading Games 2 publication.  Come check it out! There, you can also download a full, freebie sample board game! http://goodsensorylearning.com/reading-games.html

Cheers, Erica

10 Strategies that Transform Passive Learners into Active Learners

forearms prop heavy heads and eye lids become fatigued and weighty. Information fills the room, but
the restless audience remains impervious as attention is stolen by fleeting thoughts
and boredom.  If this is a common
scene at your school, most likely the learning environment is passive.  Although a passive learning environment
can accommodate large numbers of students, it is often an ineffective scholastic
milieu.  In contrast, an active
learning environment should have the opposite effect on students.  This way of teaching encourages
creativity, self directed learning, mindfulness, interaction, discussion and
multisensory ways of processing. 

So what can I do to nurture active learning?
Help your students understand the difference
between active and passive learning.
Encourage your students to complete the free
Passive vs. Active Learning Profile offered free here.
Let your students brainstorm things they can do
to become active learners. 
Allow your students to brainstorm things you can
do to help them become active learners.
Integrate active learning activities into the
classroom such as acting, small group work and hands on activities.
Incorporate fun learning stations in the
classroom, so that the students can move around and process with other peers in
smaller groups.
Encourage students to preview new topics by
watching YouTube clips or doing internet searches so that they come to class
with some prior knowledge.
Give students assignment options so that they
can make a choice on how they would like to demonstrate their mastery of the
content.  Make sure the different
options tap into different learning modalities. 
Consider the 12 ways of learning and teach in a multisensory fashion.
10)  Break the class into groups where they take
opposing positions on a topic. 
Allow one student from each group to facilitate the discussion.  The teacher can act as the judge and
can dole out points for good arguments, creative content and clever
If you found this blog and activity to be helpful, this is
just one of the many resources available in the publication, Planning, Time Management and Organization for Success: Quick and Easy Approaches to Mastering Executive Functioning Skills for Students

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.com  www.dyslexiamaterials.com and  www.learningtolearn.biz 

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Inference Activities Ideas, Freebie and Workbook Link

Inferences are often tricky to teach and challenging for
students to learn.  They are
abstract notions or concepts that are implied through language or images.  Therefore, concrete ways of learning
have to be placed aside and students have to learn to uncover hidden
messages.  Personally, I like to
use advertisements for my lessons.
Here are a number of strategies that can help you to teach
this skill:
Magazine advertisements often have hidden
messages to help entice buyers. 
Look at magazine ads and discuss the inferences.  Consider the colors, backgrounds,
expressions, layouts and more.
Likewise, billboards offer inferences.   Look at all the details in the
image and discuss what the billboards are trying to sell and what in the images
makes you want to buy that product. 
Similarly, television commercials can offer some
wonderful opportunities for students to practice their inference skills.  Again, ask yourself what they are
wanting you to buy and what strategies they use to tempt possible customers.
If you would like to purchase a product that has already
compiled images for you as well as other inference activities and a game, you
can come learn more about my product, Making Inferences: The Fun and Easy
Way.  You can even download a
freebie sampling of the activities!  http://goodsensorylearning.com/making-inferences.html

Compound Word Game, Making Connections, Also Develops Critical Reasoning, Mental Flexibility and Sequencing Skills

Developing language processing skills, critical thinking, mental flexibility, verbal reasoning and sequential processing abilities, is foundational in any elementary education.  What’s more, these lessons need to make the learning process engaging and fun.  I created Making Connections Compound Word Games to address these areas.  Learning specialists, homeschoolers, teachers and parents can now help students develop these skills!  Your students will love these brain teasers!  They can be quite challenging, so this product will offer a lot of fun for students of all ages.  I now even offer a free sampling, so come download it today!


Freebie Game for any Orton Gillingham or Phonics Based Reading Program

Come get a free copy!!  Kids don’t have to learn and practice new knowledge by plugging through long lists of words or completing worksheets.  I am a firm believer that the repetition they need can be achieved through fun and engaging games!  Puppy Party is one of my reading games that makes my students squeal with delight.  Kids travel around the game board collecting puppies while learning the short vowel  sounds.  The winner is the player with the most puppies. It is great for small groups, learning centers, or individual remediation.  It also works seamlessly with any phonics or Orton Gillingham based reading program.  

You can get a free copy of Puppy Party and learn about my other fun reading games by clicking here: http://goodsensorylearning.com/reading-games.html

Learning Style Inventories Can Help with the College Process

Here is an interesting article about how uncovering ones learning style can help with the college process.  It was printed in the New York Times –  Monday November 19th 2012. 

One great inventory to consider for this purpose is my Eclectic Learning Profile.  Come check it out:   http://goodsensorylearning.com/eclectic-learning-profile.html