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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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A Multitude of Resources for Dyslexia at Dyslexia Reading Well

I am so pleased to feature an interview with Michael Bates: the creator of the Dyslexia Reading Well website and the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide 2014-2015 (Click here to view more details). As a parent of a dyslexic son, Michael has created a wonderful and heart-felt site packed with valuable resources for individuals with dyslexia, parents, teachers and more.

_______________
Erica: Why did you create the Dyslexia Reading Well website?

Michael: Because there is overwhelming need for it. There are literally millions of parents with kids who struggle to read, many dyslexics themselves.  I am convinced that most of those parents (and many teachers) desperately want to help their children, but are not finding the kind of information and advice they need; my website is intended to help them.  I know for fact that many parents are struggling, because I was one of them. I wish we had caught the dyslexia in kindergarten or grade one instead of grade 5—it could have made everything much easier for my stepson. 

Michael Bates


As a parent, community and even a society, we have to take the problem very seriously. Lives can be derailed and destroyed by reading disabilities. For example research shows that our prisons are full of struggling readers.   While there are some good websites out there already, they are tiny compared to the scale of the problem and the need.  I felt that reaching even a few parents would make the site worthwhile; but today, seeing the number of daily visitors, and the kind emails I receive every week, I know that many people are benefiting.  This feedback is extremely rewarding.      


Erica: Why did you create the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide?

Michael: Even though I try to make the website easy to navigate, I recognize that parents have very limited time and can’t get to every page that may be of interest.  So I pulled together what I thought to be the critical information parents need and assembled it into one easy to read guide.  It’s not a short guide at 80+ pages, but I think it is very easy to navigate and as an e-book, very portable.  To be sure, there is more that parents need to know beyond the guide, but if I had been referred to this guide when we first discovered that my stepson was struggling to read, it would have put us on the right path, helping us avoid false starts, unhelpful programs and wasted money. That’s what I hope it can do for other parents.  

Erica: What types of resources can parents find in the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide?


Michael: The guide is meant to present the essential information: definitions, lists of symptoms and signs and an explanation of causes.  There is also some information on assistive technology since that is now so important for every student. But where I think the real value of the guide lies is in the resource lists. First there is a table of reading programs that work best for dyslexic students and an explanation of why they work (the critical content and methods).  This can help parents find a reading program that will make a real difference.  
Sample pages from DRW Parent Manual

Second there is a state by state list of schools, tutoring centers and community groups. This table will point parents to local resources.  For example, I had no idea that there are so many schools for dyslexic kids until I started building my website.  Also most parents don’t know that there are very active support groups such as Decoding Dyslexia and the International Dyslexia Association that have branches in most every state. My guide helps parents discover those critical links and connections which in turn will lead to more information and support. Finally there is a state by state list of legislation relating to dyslexia. In some states there is legislation requiring schools to assess young readers for dyslexia or laws requiring teachers to be trained for teaching dyslexic students. By knowing ones state mandates (and other states) parents are in a stronger position to assess how their school is performing or where their child might be better served.   

Erica: Will you be updating the guide yearly or creating other guides?


Michael: My plan is to make minor updates on an ongoing basis (two already since October) and then make one major annual overhaul before releasing the next edition each October in conjunction with Dyslexia Awareness Month. 


One of the benefits (and challenges!) of authoring an e-book is that it can be kept current with the latest science, news, product releases and policy changes that are going on.  I am also currently working on a guide for U.K. parents and after that one for parents right here in Canada.  Finally, I am thinking about creating other guides for teachers and students.
Erica: What kind of feedback have you received about the Dyslexia Reading Well Parent Guide?


Michael: The feedback from my Facebook page and through the website has been very positive and encouraging.  It’s not yet on Amazon, where it will be publicly reviewed, but it should be soon.  Of course as an author, I see room for growth in future editions. For example, I look forward to adding content on Individualized Education Plans, homeschooling, and new assistive technology, which is always in a state of flux.  
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If you are interested in viewing a free sample or getting the guide,  Click here to view more details! You won’t be disappointed.


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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Our Golden Anniversary – Celebrating 50-Years Married to Dyslexia

I’m so pleased to feature this heart-felt and beautiful piece by my dear friend and fellow dyslexic, Stan Gloss.  Stan provides a glimpse of his “marriage to dyslexia” and shares his life’s challenges as well as his most recent realization that dyslexia is in fact a gift.

A
golden anniversary is an amazing milestone to reach in any relationship.
 It is even more remarkable when your marriage is to Dyslexia.
 Although this can be a challenging relationship, you can learn to work
together to create success.  Please join me on my 50-year journey with
Dyslexia.
My
relationship with Dyslexia began in 1963.  My mother spoke to our family
doctor, Dr. Gregory, because she was concerned that I was struggling in school
with reading and writing. Initially he sent us to an eye doctor to check my
vision.  After a comprehensive assessment, I was diagnosed with a “lazy
eye.”  To treat this condition, a special screen was attached to our
family’s 19” black and white TV set.  I had to wear huge glasses that
swallowed my face like the ones from the first iMax movies. To see the whole TV
screen, I had to concentrate on using both eyes, or half the screen went black.
Even watching TV became work.  My eye did get stronger but my reading and
handwriting did not improve.  In fact it got worse, and because of this, I
began to fake asthma attacks to stay home from school to avoid feeling anxious
and humiliated.
Next,
my mom and I were sent to a Neurologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston. After
a lot of poking and prodding and having to stand around in my underwear, my mom
and a strange doctor talked about me like I was invisible.  From there, we
were referred to the Reading Research Institute in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
 At the Institute, I met Dr. Charles Drake, who would go on to establish
the acclaimed Landmark School in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1971.  After a
battery of psychological tests, he reported his finding to us. “You have
Dyslexia.” With those words, Dyslexia became my silent partner.  Dr. Drake
advised me, “Your relationship with Dyslexia is not going to be easy, but with
hard work you will learn to flourish together.”  Dr. Drake should know, he
was happily married to Dyslexia too.
Sadly,
my teachers and principal had no concept of Dyslexia and refused to accommodate
us.   For them, my diagnosis was just an excuse for being stupid and
lazy.  Their answer was always, “just try harder.” I tried and tried and
nothing changed. This became a frustrating, vicious cycle.  Albert Einstein
best describes this pattern, “ Insanity is doing the same thing over and over
again and expecting a different result.” I quickly learned, it was best to try
to keep Dyslexia “in the closet.” However, as the school years
continued, I could no longer hide my Dyslexia.  Red marks slashed across
my papers and kids giggled as I stumbled to read aloud.  Peering over the
shoulder of the girl in front of me, I compared my small insignificant blue
star to her giant golden seal.  I felt ashamed and defective.
 Dyslexia and I wrestled and clashed through the school years and what
resulted was a lot of scrapes and scarring.  I blamed Dyslexia for
all my bad grades, a 714 combined on the SAT’s, and the rejection of every
college I applied to except for my father’s alma mater. To say I was in a
dysfunctional relationship was an understatement.  I hated Dyslexia, but a
divorce for irreconcilable differences was impossible.
What
do you do when it seems like the world is against you?  Where do you find the
strength to keep going?  The key to my survival was finding mentors and advocates.
 They coached me to stand strong when nobody else believed in me.  The
two most important people were Dr. Gregory and my mom. On the one hand,
Dr. Gregory was my mentor.  I became his little apprentice. I would spend
time after school sitting on his knee while he stitched up cut fingers, looked
under the microscope at blood cells and read chest x-rays.  When I was
with him, I felt excited and smart.  On the other hand, my mom was my
advocate.  She fought the school system every step of the way. When they
tried to hold me back a grade or limit my future by pulling me out of the
college track, they invited a battle that they would never win. My mom
was an unyielding force,
but I was still in the trenches.
To
hold my ground at school, I had to sacrifice playtime for tutoring. Saturday morning cartoons were traded for tedious drills.  Strict nuns in
their scary habits and shiny black shoes instructed me at the Cardinal Cushing
Reading Clinic in Boston.  My reward for enduring the tutoring was riding
the subway home alone from Boston.  For me the Boston subway system was an
amusement park.  I bought my token from the man in the booth, inserted my
coin, pushed through the turnstile and entered a magical wonderland of
adventure.  I loved riding in the front of the trains and trolleys, imagining I
was the conductor driving through the symphony of orchestrated lights. Between stops, I slid down the escalator handrails and raced back up the
descending stairs.  Fresh-popped popcorn was a common treat at the
Government Center T stop, as well as weaving between people to catch the next trolley.
When I was in the subway, I was free, independent, and in control.
If
school and tutoring was not challenging enough, Hebrew school and my Bar
Mitzvah became an impossible burden.  After a long day struggling through
school, I went home and traded my school books for Hebrew books. Mrs. Gutell
whisked us away in her carpool to the next town.  Reading English from left to
right was difficult, but reading Hebrew from right to left became my
worst nightmare.  In my second year of Hebrew school, Dyslexia and I could
not take it any longer, so we dropped out and my mother acquired a tape
recorder and another tutor.  Mr. Copeland was a rather portly, older
gentleman with suspenders who taught at MIT.   Each week he recorded
a couple of new lines for me to learn and practice.  I listened to the
recordings over and over again.  Eventually, I memorized my entire Bar
Mitzvah and proudly delivered it in front of my family, friends and the temple
congregation.  
I
made my next breakthrough with Dyslexia my first year in college studying to be
a respiratory therapist.  At the end of my first semester, I volunteered
at my local hospital in the Respiratory Therapy Department, and this became my
classroom.  Watching the respiratory therapists controlling the life
support machines, treating asthmatics, and bag breathing patients during a
“Code Blue” became my best way of learning.  Once I made the connection
between the real world and what I was studying, there was no looking back for me.
 I began to stop blaming Dyslexia for holding me back, and with that I
moved forward – fast forward.
With
these learning strategies in hand, together we completed Bachelor’s and
Master’s degrees and all of the coursework toward a Ph.D.  At 24, I was
named the youngest Assistant Professor at Quinnipiac University. By 28, I was
the Chairman of our Department. After that, I worked in the medical
device market collaborating with Anesthesiologists. Now, I am CEO of my own
company building the super-computers that scientists use to accelerate
discovery.  For those who knew about my Dyslexia and me, they continually
commented about and complemented our accomplishments. However, I still felt I
was in a struggling relationship.
They
say when the student is ready the teacher will appear. One day my sister shared
a book call  The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain.  Drs. Brock and Fernette Edie’s words
artfully reinforced that a relationship with Dyslexia is a blessing. For
the first time, in my life, I fully accepted my Dyslexia.  It reminds me of
a verse from the David Crosby song, Long Time Gone. “But you know, the darkest
hour, is always just before the dawn.”  Now I reflect on my first fifty
years with Dyslexia. A long time has gone, but the dawn has risen on my next
fifty years.  Moving forward, I embrace Dyslexia as my amazing gift, and I
hope my journey shows others with Dyslexia a path to acceptance and
empowerment.

I hope Stan’s story inspires you, too, to recognize the gifts in dyslexia.

The CodPast Celebrates the Cool and Creative side of Dyslexia

I’m so please to feature and share an interview with Sean Douglas and his Codpast!  Sean is an internet broadcaster with experience in broadcast TV news, public relations, corporate communications and podcasting.  After Sean was diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult and met other successful dyslexics, he created the Codpast, to share those stories and more with the public.

My Interview with Sean:


1)
Can you please give us a brief description of The Codpast?
The Codpast is a media portal which consists of three online radio shows (podcasts), a blog, news articles and videos.  The main purpose of The Codpast is to celebrate the cool and creative side of
dyslexia.  We hope it will be a place where
people can come to hear positive stories that they can identify with and pick
up tips and advice.  Ultimately though, we hope it will be a place where people
can come to find compelling and interesting content.
2) I
understand that you were diagnosed with dyslexia as an adult.  What impact
did this have on you as a person and a professional?
At the time it didn’t have a huge impact, as I already knew I was
dyslexic.  The diagnosis just meant I had
confirmation and a certificate to prove it.  At that point, I was a news
cameraman which utilized a lot of my
dyslexic strengths, so once I got the diagnosis I kind of just forgot about it.
3)
Many individuals with dyslexia have genius qualities.  What do you believe
are your most amazing talents?
I’m extremely organized.  I wouldn’t say this is a talent, as it is
something I have to work at incredibly hard. However having everything organized
is what allows me to function in the kind of work I do now.  For instance I have
about 12 email addresses.  Most people would see this as a huge pain but for me
this is great.  I see each inbox as a folder, so for me this is actually a
system where emails automatically sort themselves into the correct folders.  This is a bit time consuming to set up but once it’s up and running is saves me
hours.
4)
What are the ways that dyslexia creates challenges for you?
Reading and writing are challenging.  Writing emails
takes forever and takes a huge amount of energy, especially when
trying to convey a complicated concept.  As the world now relies more and more
on text-based communication, this is a bit of an issue.  Whenever possible, I will give someone a call.  Even if it takes me a
few days to get hold of
someone on the phone, I know that in a 5 minute conversation I can achieve what would have taken me
hours
of email writing.

5) What can people learn from your website and podcasts?
I really hope people are inspired and entertained when they come
to my site or listen to the podcast.  I try and keep the
guests as varied as possible, so hopefully there will be many guests that
people
can personally identify with.  I also want to make the site quite fun and
contemporary, so we do things like our Top 10 videos.
6)
Who were the two most interesting people you interviewed and why?
Every story we have featured so far is different, but two that
standout for me are Episode 5 with Aakash Odedra and Episode 6 with Peter
Stringfellow.  I think Aakash’s story shows how important it is to accept your dyslexia. He had achieved so much in his life, but it wasn’t
until the age of 21, he had an incident with his passport which forced him to accept that dyslexia was a part of him.  This
allowed him to take
his career to the next level.
Peter’s story was a pretty epic rock
and roll tale, incorporating the Beatles, Marvin
Gaye
and Stevie Wonder.  But at its core, it reinforces the fact that in life things
don’t always plan out the way you thought they
would.  Although it may be difficult at the time, in hindsight these mishaps are
generally the things that push you in a new direction you may
never have thought of.
7)
What have you learned from creating the Codpast?
Producing the Codpast I have learnt a hell of a lot about myself and
how dyslexia has shaped the person I am.  It’s great connecting with other dyslexics and realizing there are other people
that do some of the weird and quirky things that I do.  When you realize there are a whole group of people doing the same
things as you, they suddenly become less strange.

The self-awareness that I have gained from
producing The Codpast has also given me the confidence to be less apologetic
about being dyslexic.  It’s also made me more
pro-active in doing
things and obtaining information in the ways that best suit me and yield the
best results.
8)
What can people do to support your effort?
The best thing that people can do to help the show keep going is to
spread the word.  I would love people to tell their friends,
retweet and share our posts on Facebook and Twitter.  Another thing that really
boosts the show’s visibility is when people subscribe to the show on iTunes and
leave 5 star reviews; this helps the show get on the
featured list on
iTunes.  There is also a donations page and any donations large or small really
supports this cause as, at the moment, I fund the show myself.

I also had the great opportunity to Skype with Sean.  We had fun sharing our passions and experiences.  One area that Sean discussed was the different types of assistive technology that he utilizes.  Here is a list of his four favorites:

  1. ClaroRead:  ClaroRead is text to speech software for the internet as well as scanned books and documents.  It includes visual tools such as colored text, highlighting, and it offers an enhanced spell check, homophone check and thesaurus.  ClaroRead can even read the words as you type.
  2. AudioNotetaker: Audio Notetaker offers a visual and interactive form of note-taking where audio, text and images are used to create comprehensive notes.  
  3. Global AutoCorrect:  Global AutoCorrect allows you to focus on your writing as it automatically corrects your spelling as you type. 
  4. Encrypted dictaphone:  This device records audio and is converted to another form that can not be easily understood by anyone but the authorized parties.  
Sean also shared a video of a recent speech that he gave at the Moat School in London on how Dyslexia has impacted his work life.  Thanks Sean!
So, please check out the wonderful free podcasts and other goodies at Sean’s site, and share this gem with your friends and loved ones.  To learn more go to: http://thecodpast.wordpress.com/


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 Free Ways to Improving Visual Tracking for Weak Readers

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

10 Free Ways to Improve Tracking:

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

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

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

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Developing Writing Skills for Students with Dyslexia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Email received: 


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

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

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


Yours sincerely, Erica


In Summary: 

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

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

When reading, do you ever find it difficult to track from one line to the next?  This can be tricky for anyone when reading small text, but for many struggling readers, it remains to be a pervasive problem.

A Better Solution
In the past, students have used a finger, highlighter or bookmark to keep place.  In addition, some Apps, such as Dream Reader, will even highlight a line of text or even individual words when text is read aloud.  But wouldn’t it be nice to drop some of those tools and be able to visually scan text with ease? BeeLine Reader, offers a new, ingenious concept that can morph text on the internet and your electronic devices with the use of color.

I was recently contacted by Nick Lum, the founder of BeeLine Reader, and once I saw his

Nick Lum

innovative concept, I asked if I could interview him for this blogpost:

1) What is the history of BeeLine Reader and why was it created?

The idea behind BeeLine Reader is to adapt reading—which has historically been done on printed paper—for the digital era. Digitization has changed so many things about how we interact with written material: emails can be sent much faster than snail-mail, and you can fit a thousand ebooks on a handheld device. But despite these advances in the way we transmit and store written material, the way in which we ingest it is basically the same as it was on paper. Why is this? We never used to read in color on paper because printing in color is expensive. But on smartphones and tablets, color is costless. So the question becomes: is there anything you can do with color to make reading more efficient? The answer is yes, and this is precisely what our technology does. Our eye-guiding color gradients are designed to take advantage of the way your visual processing system works when you’re reading. This wasn’t possible—or at least practical—on paper, but on digital devices its a snap. We’ve created several tools that make this concept a reality, and in the last year readers all over the world have read millions of pages using BeeLine Reader.
2) Do you have your own personal interest in BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine Reader started as an idea for making digital reading more efficient, but we quickly learned that it is much more than that. The reaction from the accessibility community—which we did not set out to target—has been tremendous, and it has changed the way we approach the technology. We have heard so many stories from people young and old who have struggled to read for their entire lives, and it is has been an incredible experience to work with them on products that have such a deep impact on their ability to read, learn, and work.

3) What populations are served by using BeeLine Reader?

BeeLine’s technology is designed to help all readers, but it is particularly helpful for readers with vision impairments, dyslexia, and attention deficits. Vision therapists and dyslexia researchers are doing studies to better understand how BeeLine is interacting with various cognitive and visual differences to generate extraordinary gains for certain populations of readers. 

4) What are your long-term goals for BeeLine Reader? 

Ultimately, we want to see BeeLine adopted as part of universal design and accessibility. Although BeeLine has potent benefits for the accessibility community, it is helpful for the vast majority (over 85%) of readers. Interestingly, it works in every language we’ve tried it in, and we have users reading in 100 languages. Given this broad appeal, the long-term goal is to have BeeLine integrated with many devices and platforms so that it can be used by anyone to read anything.

5) Do you have a testimonial that you would like to share?

We’ve received many emails, tweets, and posts from users who find BeeLine to be helpful for them. Some of our users have reading difficulties, and others are unimpaired readers who simply enjoy being able to read a bit easier and faster:
  • “Wow, It feels like the first time I tried glasses. It completely removes any chances of me missing a line. I have a low dyslexia and this just works. Thank you!!”
  • “Do you have any idea how helpful this is for dyslexia? OMG I can follow this text! The words and lines are not blurring together! I can READ!”
  • “I don’t think you understand just how awesome this is, as someone with ADD, I have a lot of trouble reading. This was the first time I have ever read a paragraph uninterrupted.” 
  • “As someone with sight difficulties, this is amazing. I wish all books were like this, I may read a lot more.”
  • “Having tried BeeLine Reader and found that it makes reading both easier and faster, I really wish I could use it with all of my readings [as a PhD student at Berkeley]. Honestly, it might be the best improvement since I started wearing glasses.”
6) Do you have any links that you would like me to use?

Our website is www.BeeLineReader.com. Our free browser plugins are at www.BeeLineReader.com/install, and our PDF converter is at www.BeeLineReader/pdf. It might be worth mentioning that we’ll have an iPhone/iPad app released within a few weeks. People can sign up for our mailing list (on our website) to get updates on new product releases, scientific studies, etc.

Being dyslexic myself, I have already been using the technology, and I couldn’t be more excited about spreading the word to my followers and associates.  I want to personally thank Nick for reaching out to me and for creating this truly outstanding product. 

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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Dyslexic Advantage Webinar on Multisensory Teaching for Students with Dyslexia

Dear Friends:

I wanted to share a link to a free webinar on Multisensory Teaching. The hosts, Drs. Brock and Fernette Eide, the authors of The Dyslexic Advantage and The Mislabeled Child, are international experts on dyslexia and learning differences and they interviewed me as a guest speaker. This online event took place this August and you can view a youtube version of the webinar at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nVXwqyxTbPs

Cheers, Erica

Early Detection of Dyslexia

Early intervention is key as it can remediate and work around upcoming academic difficulties.  This is a very important approach for students with dyslexia.  Recent reports suggest that dyslexia impacts 5-10 percent of the population.  Now wouldn’t it be wonderful if this condition could be detected before children learned to read? Weaknesses could be strengthened and appropriate teaching methodologies could be selected, making the process of reading successful the first time.  This could save the educational system a fortune and these young learners could sail through elementary school with an intact self-esteem.

MIT News Reported, on August 14th, 2013 that research suggests that brain scans may help to diagnose dyslexia.  Differences in the size of the arcuate fasciculus, the brain structure that unites two language processing areas, is now detectable.  To learn more about this and their continued efforts, CLICK HERE

I hope you you found this helpful!  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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