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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Executive Functioning Game: In or Out


I'm so pleased to announce the release of my new Publication: Executive Functioning Game: In or Out!  It is the first of a series of executive functioning games that I have been creating over the past six months.

Card Descriptions
All 30 cards include two images: an inner image and an outer image. There are six images: a car, a light bulb, an alien, a raindrop, a flower and a hand. In addition, there are five different colors: yellow, red, blue, green and purple. It is a complex matching game that requires players to remember and utilize rules to search for commonalities amongst cards. The black symbol in the middle of the inner image directs players to look at the inner image or the outer image. Then players compare cards from their deck to the image in the discard pile. The black cat is simply a distractor and has no other purpose in the game.

What Population of Learners Does This Serve?


In or Out is a fabulously fun game for anyone, but it also serves as a cognitive, remedial tool that strengthens executive functioning skills: working memory, attention to detail, management of distractions, stamina, response inhibition, as well as mental shifting and sustained attention. For remedial purposes, this game can benefit individuals with ADHD, learning disabilities, executive functioning disorder as well as those with head injuries and the elderly.

For 1 to 3 Players:
Initially, I play the game with my students and verbalize the process. I slowly scaffold the process over to them. Once they have it, we play against one another.

Where Can I Purchase the Game?
The game is presently available @ Good Sensory Learning as a digital download. You can also purchase it as a bundle with my other executive functioning games Focus, Memory Master and No Match Penguins. You can also purchase a set of all four decks of cards as a hard good on Amazon.

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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Asking Students to Sit Still Can Have Dire Consequences

Sitting and limited activity can have detrimental effects on the elderly, but did you know that this can also have negative consequences for children too? What we are discovering is that excessive sedentary behavior has serious health ramifications at all ages, and one of the biggest culprits that breeds inactivity is school.
Stuck seated motionless behind desks only to come home with a full agenda of homework, results in school children spending an average of 8.5 hours of their day sitting.  In fact, sitting increases after age 8 when school, homework, and technology consumes their time. What's more, youngsters are continually asked to sit still, as movement is often labeled distracting to classmates as well as the teacher.  These learners that wiggle and squirm in and out of their seats are often considered troublesome and some of these kinesthetic kids are even placed on ADHD medications to temper their excessive commotion and exuberance.
What are the Deleterious Effects of Sitting too Much on Kids?
Inactivity can result in a number of problems for school-age children:
  • Obesity: Sitting slows metabolic rate resulting in the diminished burning of calories.
  • Heart Disease: Sitting increases blood sugar and decreases the burning of fat.
  • Muscular Atrophy: Excessive sitting can cause ones muscles to degenerate.
  • Osteoporosis: Sitting can lead to poor bone density which is a precursor for osteoporosis.
  • Circulation: Sitting causes blood circulation to slow and blood can pool in the legs.
  • Inattention/lethargy: Sitting reduces the amount of blood and oxygen that reaches the brain resulting in a decline in cognitive performance.
What Can Teachers Do to Skirt a Sedentary Style?
  • Integrate activities into your lessons that allow students to get up and move around.
  • Encourage your students to get out of their seats at least once an hour and engage in a minute of exercise.
  • Provide adjustable desks for your students, so they have the option of standing or sitting on a tall stool.  Many schools are now using standing desks with a foot swing. See image below.
  • Use sites like GoNoodle that offers kinesthetic brain breaks for young learners.
  • Get involved with organizations like Let’s Move and https://www.designedtomove.org/
Bringing movement into your classroom will only help you and your students to improve attention, retention, motivation and alertness; but regular activity will lead to better test scores, improved behavior, and the integration of healthy habits.
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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Pros and Cons of Every Student Succeeds Act for Dyslexia

On Friday, December 10th, 2015 Barack Obama Signed the Every Students Succeeds Act. This new law now rewrites the No Child Left Behind Act and offers a number of changes that could have both positive and negative ramifications for students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.  As with any new law, the true pros and cons will be revealed over time, but here is a list of considerations.
Pros of ESSA
Cons of ESSA
The Common Core curriculum can be adopted by states, but it is no longer required.
Annually, 3rd through 8th grade students will still have to be tested in Math and English.  In addition, high school students will be tested once.
School accountability has shifted from the federal to the state level.  Now, states will be responsible for setting academic goals and evaluating their schools.
Now advocates will have to focus their attention on both federal and state mandates.
There is more flexibility in how accountability tests are administered as well as the testing format.
Only 1% of students (10% or students with disabilities) will qualify for alternate testing. With this cap, the testing needs of many students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities will likely be ignored.
Federal proficiency goals for schools and the penalties for the failure to reach them have been eliminated.
If alternative testing is granted, these students will likely receive “special diplomas” or no diplomas upon graduation.
The creation of a Comprehensive Literacy Center will focus on reading difficulties for kids with disabilities like dyslexia.  The center will offer information for parents and teachers as well as professional development in the areas of screening and educational tools.
If students with learning disabilities don’t receive the needed testing accommodations this could limit their accessibility to higher education.
ESSA will provide up to $160 million in grants on reading skills such as decoding and phonological awareness.
There are no opt-out options proposed in the law.  Each state will be deciding this matter.
States are now required to create a plan that reduces bullying, restraints, seclusions, suspensions and expulsions. This should be helpful as this often
impacts students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities.


The true test of this law lies in the specifics that will soon be defined by each state. Clearly, it will be important for advocates to speak with state representatives and be involved with the creative process so that the needs of students with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are addressed and supported.

Here is an image of the table that can be pinned.


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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Nurturing Grit and Resilience: Classroom Strategies for Success


Resilience and grit are two popular terms in education that are associated with student happiness, motivation, and academic success. These are learnable behaviors, thoughts, and actions that help learners cope with stress, face adversity or trauma, and bounce back from challenging experiences. Angela Duckworth proposes that the development of grit is an important skill to teach our students. In fact, Duckworth shows in her research that grit is a better gauge of academic achievement and success than one's IQ!


What is Resilience?  Resilience is an attribute or skill that helps us recover from negative events or feelings, cope with challenges and adversity, and take care of ourselves.


What is Grit?  Grit is the ability to maintain passion, motivation, and effort when developing a mastery or an expertise.   


Some of the Most Important Characteristics of Grit and Resilience Include:
  • Managing Emotions - being open to one’s feelings and able to modulate them in oneself.
  • Awareness of Strengths - cognizant of one’s talents or strong abilities.
  • Persistent Determination - continually pursuing a course of action despite difficulties or opposition.
  • Passion-Driven Focus - actively persevering with a powerful and clear intention.
  • Resourcefulness - acting effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations.
  • Personal Sense of Control - subjective awareness that one is initiating, executing, and managing one's own actions.
  • Ability to Reach Out to Others - pursuing connections and assistance from those around us.
  • Problem-Solving Skills - finding solutions to difficult or complex issues.
  • Bouncing Back - quickly recovering after a setback or when facing significant stress, adversity, or trauma.
Key points in the Research:
The research offers some important outcomes about resilience and grit in the classroom:
  • Students and can learn skills that can increase their resilience and grit.
  • Teachers start the transformational process by believing in themselves.
  • Teachers can change their own attitudes and improve connections with their students.
  • Teachers can learn to nurture and instruct these skills.


Teaching Strategies that Nurture Resilience and Grit:
There are a number of approaches that can help to culture resilience and grit in your classroom and create a sense of community.
  • Be present and find joy in being with your students.
  • Nurture caring and supportive relationships that make each student feel valued.
  • Offer guidance and high expectations in each student's potential for growth.
  • Present opportunities for creative expressions and critical thinking discussions.
  • Build community in your classroom, and provide opportunities for students to help one another.
  • Encourage students to ask for help.
  • Recognize and reinforce the expression of feelings.
  • Teach learners to see failures as opportunities for growth.
  • Help students to recognize and change negative and self-defeating behaviors.
  • Help learners cope with stress.  Talk about stress factors with your students in the classroom and brainstorm management strategies.


Classroom Activity Ideas:
  • Have your students complete and score a grit scale test.  Then watch Angela Duckworth's TED video and lead a discussion about how students can become more gritty.  
  • Once a week/month, sit in a circle with your students for appreciation dialogue.  Ask each student to express appreciation for another member of the classroom and share it aloud with the group.  Then ask them to share a personal accomplishment.  If they have trouble with this, ask the rest of the class to help.
  • Avoid negative labels such as incorrect or wrong.  Instead, use words like, "nice try" or "almost" and guide your students to the correct answer.
  • When grading assignments make positive comments about growth and effort.
                                       

Becoming resilient and gritty is a challenging skill for anyone to master.  However, employing this mindful approach can help teachers find joy in their profession, nurture a supportive community within their classroom, and help students to reach their true potential.

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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Number 1 Trick to Improving a Student's Writing

There are many effective strategies worth instructing that can improve a student's writing, but my number one, favorite strategy is teaching the effective use of a thesaurus.

What is a Thesaurus? 
A thesaurus is a book or online site that lists words in groups of synonyms or related concepts.

What are the Benefits of Teaching Students to Use a Thesaurus?
Teaching your students or children to use a thesaurus offers many gains and can be used to:
  1. Expand vocabulary - Using a thesaurus helps students increase their usable word choices.
  2. Avoid repetition - Consulting a thesaurus guides students to alternate word choices when they are concerned with the overuse of a single word within their composition. 
  3. Improve writing quality and sophistication - Utilizing a thesaurus assists students to select more appropriate or mature wording.
  4. Select descriptive words - Consulting a thesaurus helps students find more descriptive words that will enable their audience to better visualize their content.
  5. Impress your readers - Utilizing a thesaurus assists students in finding words that can impress their audience.
  6. Nurture a mindful approach - Using a thesaurus feeds an active, thoughtful and analytical approach to writing.
  7. Find words that are difficult to spell - Consulting a thesaurus assists in finding challenging words to spell when you enter a common synonym to the desired word.
  8. Make the writing process fun - Employing the use of a thesaurus is enjoyable.  I have always enjoyed using a thesaurus and find that it has nurtured a personal love for words.
Are There any Problems with Using a Thesaurus?
When used in a passive or rushed manner, students might select words that don't make sense in a composition or they may overuse the thesaurus and make documents sound awkward and complex.

What are Some Activities I can Use to Help Students Learn How to Use a Thesaurus?
  1. Provide a passage with a lot of word repetitions.  Ask your students to change the repeated words in the passage by using a thesaurus.  Once the students have rewritten the passage, ask the students to read them aloud and discuss the benefits of using a thesaurus.
  2. Highlight boring, simple words in a passage that are difficult to visualize.  With the use of a thesaurus, ask students to rewrite the passage with synonyms that conjure more visuals in the reader's mind's eye.
  3. Give your students a list of simple words and ask them to find other words in a thesaurus that are more descriptive.
  4. Ask students to find words in a thesaurus such as the word"Kind" and ask them to make a list of all the words that they didn't know that have the same or similar meaning.  They might come up with words such as philanthropic, benevolent, or one that I just learned by looking at the thesaurus - eleemosynary.
  5. Discuss how mindlessly selecting synonyms can get a writer in trouble because many words have multiple meanings. Then provide a game where your students have to take a mixed up list of words.  Ask them to place these words in order based on similar meaning.  For example, Sad = Down = Under = Lesser = Minor = Young = New.  Once the students are finished with the activity ask them to create their own.
I hope you got some good ideas!  If you have any more activities ideas, please share them below this blog.                                    
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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Light emitted by Technology Disrupts Sleep: Strategies for Students

Many students struggle to fall asleep at night, even though they are terribly tired during the day. Why is this becoming a common occurrence?  Daily, the average student spends nine hours using technology for enjoyment and school, and many of these hours are after the sun sets.  Although sunlight dims to relative darkness, children's exposure to light remains when they are planted in front of televisions, phones, computers, and other handheld, computing devices. What we are now learning is that this extended exposure to light is having detrimental effects on the natural circadian rhythms that have been established across time.  

What are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle of light and dark in an organism's natural environment.  The study of circadian rhythms is called chronobiology.  

Are Circadian Rhythms Important?
Circadian rhythms are key in determining the sleep patterns of humans.  Our body's have a controlling clock or suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) located in the hypothalamus that controls the production of hormones in the brain such as melatonin.  The SCN is located above the optic nerve and relays information to the brain about when it is light and when it is dark.  At night, it is the production of melatonin that causes you to get sleepy.  As a result, when light exposure continues into the night, the brain does not secrete the chemical messengers into the blood that induce slumber.

How Does Technology Effect Circadian Rhythms and the Sleep Patterns of Students?
We now know that it's exposure to blue light at night that often keeps students up late.  In fact, for the average person, reading on a tablet or computer before turning in can result in a later bedtime by about an hour.  What's more, excessive use of technology such as texting has now been linked to sleep problems due to the continued exposure to light and sounds late into the night.  

What Can Be Done to Protect Students from Light Emitted by Technology?

  • Discontinue the use of technology at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime.
  • Help children feel comfortable sleeping in darkness and limit the use and brightness of nightlights.  If nightlights are required, make sure to turn them off or dim them once children are asleep.
  • Purchase blackout shades. These shades limit outside light penetrating into rooms, so kids can sleep deeply until they need to awake.
  • Upload the free software Flux onto your computing devices.  Flux adjusts the computer's display to the time of day and limits certain wavelengths at night.  
  • Dim computers and televisions in the night hours.
I hope you found this blog post helpful.  Let me know if you have any additional strategies!

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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Solving Spelling Problems with Digital Assistants and Voice Search Technology

Challenges with spelling disrupt the flow of thoughts, distract the writer and often result in poor word choice.  Even though the author may have an excellent speaking vocabulary, their writing may suffer due to avoidance of words that are difficult to spell.  What's more, many poor spellers skirt writing altogether because navigating spelling potholes can be time-consuming, and they fear that others will question their intellect.

What Can Be Done to Help Poor Spellers?
The technology age offers a number excellent tools for struggling spellers.
  1. Speech-to-Text SoftwareSpeech-to-text is a type of software that transcribes the spoken word into typed words on a computer or handheld device.  Writers no longer have to be distracted by spelling.  As long as they enunciate their words clearly, all spelling will be accommodated via voice commands.  Macs come with this option for free. To learn more CLICK HERE.  In addition, there are many other speech-to-text options like Speech Recognition on Window 10 and purchasable software programs such as Dragon Naturally Speaking.
  2. Word Prediction Software: Word prediction software helps writers, during word processing, to "predict" a word they intend to type.  Word predictions are based on frequency of use, syntax, and spelling.  To learn more about this technology you can view a short video on ClaroCom Word Prediction and Co-Writer.
  3. Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now:  Google Voice Search/Ok Google/Google Now is a speech recognition option in Google's search engine. Available via the Chrome browser and Google mobile apps, Google Voice Search merged with Google Now to provide a voice-based personal assistant.  There are also a few tricks that can make the app even more useful.  For spelling in Google Voice Search, simply ask, "how do you spell____". Google will quickly return the correct spelling of the word and speak the spelling aloud too. 
  4. Voice-Recognition Digital AssistantsVoice Recognition Digital Assistants are programs that work as a personal assistant and knowledge navigator. This option uses a voice recognition interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web-based services.  My 4 favorite digital assistants are:
  • Alexa:  The Amazon Echo is a cylindrical device that offers, Alexa, a voice-recognition digital assistant that can spell words aloud, complete simple math, answer questions, share facts, tell jokes, provide the news, make to-do lists and more.  Click here to watch a video of Alexa in Action.
  • Siri: Siri is a computer program that works as an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator.  If you ask, Siri can you spell words for you aloud and provide a visual definition.
I hope you found this blog helpful.  If you  come across other helpful spelling devices.  Please share these resources below this blog.


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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

What is Brain Training or Brain Fitness and is it Helpful?



I am a learning specialist and educational therapist.  However,  I tell many of my clientele that I’m a personal trainer for the brain.  I help individuals of all ages to improve overall cognition, develop compensatory learning strategies and master optimal study skills.  I have seen, first hand the power of brain training.

What is Brain Training?
Brain Training, Brain Fitness, or Cognitive Remediation is the act of strengthening deficits in learning or weak areas of cognition.  This is typically done using activities that concentrate on specific areas of difficulty.  Just like a personal trainer or physical therapist can focus exercises on a particular part of the body, many learning specialists, educational therapists and learning coaches can help individuals of all ages to improve memory, visual processing, auditory processing, attention, executive functioning, stamina and more.

The Brain is Not Limited and Defined:
The brain is not inflexible and fixed.  Instead, it continues to grow, if exercised, throughout our lifetime.  Repeated brain training creates new neuro-pathways, clears the hurdles that trip the thought processes and helps the mind run smoothly and efficiently. In addition, early intervention can sometimes cure or remediate learning disabilities, assist the head injured in regaining skills and can even prevent diseases of the elderly such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.  The bottom line is that it is never too late.

How Should Brain Training Activities be Administered?
When instruction focuses on the area of difficulty, it’s important for the activities to be engaging and fun.  They need to start at a simplistic level that offers some challenge for the individual, and difficulty is increased as the participants experience success, thus keeping them in their zone of proximal development.  

Where Can I Get Brain Training Materials?
I have been creating cognitive remedial tools for the past nine years.  To learn more about my products go to Good Sensory Learning.  Otherwise, one of my favorite home-fun options is Lumosity.

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 and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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