student at whiteboard

Learning

Fostering a Growth Mindset

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Friday, November 15, 2019

female Landmark Middle School student

By Adam Craig and
Kristine Burgess, contributor

“The greatest teacher, failure is.” (Yoda, The Last Jedi)

Wise words when developing skills to become a Jedi Knight, a successful high school student, or a master of virtually any skill in the universe. Unfortunately, it is much easier to smile and nod, while Yoda speaks the truth, than actually live out the painful, yet rewarding journey of trying something over and over again … refusing to give up or surrender … pressing forward with a “not yet” mentality.

Navigating math class is one of those journeys that can bring out the best and worst in all of us. Some love math’s structure and certainty: “Every problem has an answer.” Others have struggled to find that answer so many times, they categorize math as a chore to be avoided at all cost. However, math is not meant to be something that you are either good or bad at, finding answers that are either right or wrong. Math was invented to make sense of the world. It is a language that requires explicit instruction and strategic intervention.

In a Growth Mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.

In response to the cries of many students, claiming that they “are not good at math,” the Math Department where I teach adopted language and methodologies to foster a mindset of growth and perseverance. Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of motivation and professor of psychology at Stanford University, coined the phrase, “Growth Mindset.” In a Growth Mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. 

Dweck has brought attention to research that shows how our brains are like a muscle that needs to be pushed in order to develop. She also shed light on the fact that new neural pathways actually grow when we persevere through a difficult task and eventually “figure it out.”  Khan Academy has collaborated with Dweck to provide free resources to educators interested in promoting these concepts in their classrooms.

The Reading Department at my school also strategically promotes a Growth Mindset in their classes. Kristine Burgess, Reading Department head, described this process as follows:

For many of our students, reading class is an area of stress and anxiety—focusing attention on areas of challenge and deficit. The language of growth, the esteemed value of mistakes, and the constant reassurance that with every challenge new pathways form in the brain proved to be helpful for our students to think both abstractly and concretely about difficulty.

One student in a reading class heard this language being used and said, “Hold on! That’s what we talk about in math class. This isn’t math class!” And that’s where the rubber meets the road. The need to grow is not a math thing or a reading thing … it’s a life thing!

What can we do to help foster a growth mindset within our learning communities?

The biggest change that we, as adults, can make in this regard, whether at school or in our homes is modeling a growth mindset ourselves. So, we should push ourselves to try new things, make mistakes, normalize mistakes by laughing about them and/or reflecting aloud, and try again. One can’t get around the importance and power of showing students what this process looks like. It will be a struggle … and the struggle will “be real” … but it will also be REALLY worth it!

Free online resources:

Adam Craig is head of the Math Department at Landmark High School, and Kristine Burgess is head of the Reading Department at Landmark High School.

Tags:  Carol Dweck growth mindset

Community Service As Experiential Learning

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Monday, October 7, 2019

landmark high school students community service project

By Rev. Bill Ferguson

From elementary school through college, community service has become a staple in the academic world. One doesn’t have to think too hard to understand why. Community service connects. To serve means to interact with the people around us, whether by raking the yard of an elderly person, serving dinner to those less fortunate, or running a fundraiser.  

Community service, by nature, is collaborative; it requires people to work together for a common goal. Our ability to relate to, work with, and enable others is fundamental to what it means to be human. Strengthening students in these areas is invaluable, and it could not be more important in a world that tends to dehumanize, polarize and isolate, particularly through social media. 

"There is something fun about work when the context is serving others. It’s a win-win scenario where the recipient benefits in obvious ways, while the provider of the service benefits in ways that are not so obvious but just as important."

Community service is experiential learning. Involvement in community service becomes a part of us in ways that traditional classroom learning cannot. Ask a student what he did in algebra a year ago, and he’ll struggle to give you an answer. But ask someone what they did at Special Olympics last year, and they will recount it very easily. Why?  Because experiencing the event has made it a part of the student. Community service applies all of the modalities for learning. We use our hands to perform the task and our mouths and ears to strategize how it will be done (not to mention the use of executive functioning). We witness the process and the end result. The whole thing is an experience: the sound of chopping vegetables, the smell of fresh air at a Special Olympics event, the feel of polar fleece while making blankets for the homeless and the chatter that accompanies it. It is all hands-on; it engages every aspect of our being so it becomes a part of who we are.   

An Uplifting Experience for All

Finally, community service is like chicken soup—it’s good for the soul!  There is an intangible goodness to community service that revives the spirit. My motto for community service is “Work Is Fun!” There is something fun about work when the context is serving others. It’s a win-win scenario where the recipient benefits in obvious ways, while the provider of the service benefits in ways that are not so obvious but just as important. Community service is uplifting to the spirit. It is rewarding because it is morally and fundamentally the right thing to do.

Rev. Ferguson joined Landmark School in 1983.  He left to attend seminary in 1987 and returned to Landmark in 1991. He began the chaplaincy in 1996 and the community service program around 2000.  

Tags:  community service experiential learning

Being an Efficient Homework Helper—Part II: Strategies, Organization, and Dealing with Fatigue

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Wednesday, September 25, 2019

By: Regina G. Richards
This is the second installment of a multi-part series about helping children manage homework. The first post is about establishing good habits creating an optimal learning environment and the third motivation and tools.
This article originally appeared in http://www.ldonline.org/

Basic Strategies

One of the best gifts that we can give to our students is an appreciation of and ability to use strategies. Strategies enable us to pre-plan and organize activities and tasks. We use strategies to pull in our processing strengths while compensating for processing weaknesses. This ability is very beneficial in a wide range of situations throughout our lives.

Some strategies are obvious, such as mnemonic phrases. Students learning music use the mnemonic "Every Good Boy Does Fine." The first letter of each word in this phrase stands for the notes on a music staff: E, G, B, D, F. The mnemonic "Never Eat Shredded Wheat" can help students remember directions in sequence: N for North; E for East; S the South; and W for West.

"One of the best gifts that we can give to our students is an appreciation of and ability to use strategies. Strategies enable us to pre-plan and organize activities and tasks. "

Other strategies are less obvious. For example, if you have dinner plans for 6 p.m., you need to determine how long it will take to get to the restaurant so you know when to begin your travel. You also need to determine how long it will take you to get ready so you know when to start preparing. This time-orientation strategy helps us pre-plan an activity backward from the goal and is valuable for determining how much time is needed. It can be used in planning any project. It is wise to encourage your child to use a time planning strategy such as this.

As we help our students use strategies, we initially need to model how to use the strategy and then provide practice. The end goal is for students to develop independence in automatically using strategies. No two people have the same learning style and every individual is a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, a strategy that is extremely beneficial for one student may not be useful for another. In developing a toolbox of strategies, parents can help their students learn when and how to select the appropriate tool. Some valuable resources for tools can be found in the books noted in the References section at the end of this article.

Organization

Some ideas for helping your student organize their book bag or backpack follow. To help increase your child's follow through, initially you may want to check the bag every few days, providing comments and suggestions to help maintain the organization.

  • Use different colored folders for different subjects.
  • Have a special place for papers that need to come home.
  • Have a special place for papers that will be returned to the teacher.
  • Develop a consistent routine for your child to replace homework in the appropriate spot in the book bag immediately upon completing it.
  • Have a specific place for your child to place the book bag when it is ready to return to school and encourage your child to use this location consistently. It is valuable to have them place the book bag in this location the night before.
  • Praise your child for following through with the routine.

Understanding the task

Review the basic assignment with your child to ensure that they understand what is required. Many children miss the overall message or global concept. Visual organizers, also called mind maps, are very efficient in presenting the global view in a concrete visual manner. Below is an example of a visual organizer comparing frogs and toads. It identifies some characteristics of each, as well as characteristics similar to both.

Figure 1: A comparison mind map provides a global view in a visual format.

In previewing the assignment with your child, be alert to their understanding of vocabulary used. Misinterpreting vocabulary words is a frequent source of frustration for students. Many books describe various forms and use of graphic organizers, including those listed in the References section below.

Fatigue Issues

Students may often interpret feelings of fatigue as boredom or a desire to escape the situation. There are many different types of fatigue and, consequently, many reasons for it. Exploring the reasons is beyond the scope of this article. However, it is helpful to have some basic strategies in your "Parent Tool Kit." Then you may select a tool to help your student manage their feelings of fatigue during homework time.

If your child continues to ask you for help even though you are confident that the task is within their skill level, you can play a game with them. Begin by placing 10 pieces of candy in a bowl. Tell them that every time they ask you for help, they will give you one piece of candy. When the candy is gone, you will not help any more. Assure them that they will keep whatever pieces of candy remain in the bowl at the end of the homework time. When playing this game with your child, be sure that the task is within their ability to work independently. You may vary the number of pieces of candy, depending on the task.

Another important component of encouragement is to provide statements of demystification (as discussed in Part One of the series). These help remove the mystery of why one task is difficult while another is easier while increasing your child's understanding of her processing strengths and weaknesses.

Use concrete statements to emphasize strengths, such as:

  • "I saw that drawing you did; you are really great at that kind of artwork."
  • "Very few kids your age can draw like this; you have wonderful talent."

Use concrete statements relevant to your child's struggles, such as:

  • "Many kids struggle because they do things too quickly without thinking enough. This may get them into trouble or cause them to do schoolwork too fast and carelessly. Sometimes you are like these kids because you do things too quickly. Let’s try and slow down.”

Use concrete statements relevant to your child's efforts to overcome their specific difficulties, such as:

  • "I like the way you have continued to work at this when the other kids have already learned it. It's particularly hard to do something when you're the last to get it done, but you have persisted — and you are almost there."
  • "I can see it’s hard to keep working on that letter, and you are continuing to persist. Thank you."

In the book, Eli, The Boy Who Hated to Write, Eli describes multiple benefits he experienced due to the impact he felt from encouragement. As parents and teachers, we need to listen to our children about this very critical point.

Regina G. Richards, MA, is a board certified educational therapist and former director of Big Springs School, specializing in multidisciplinary programs for language learning disabilities. She teaches regularly at University of California Riverside Extension.  She’s written several books, among them The Source for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia; The Source for Learning & Memory; Eli, The Boy Who Hated To Write; LEARN – Learning Efficiently and Remembering mNemonics, Visual Skills Appraisal2; and Classroom Visual Activities2. She is active in her local IDA branch, is a past president, and is the parent of an adult son who experiences dyslexia and dysgraphia and is currently successful in business, working with computers.

References

Brooks, R. and Goldstein, S. (2002).  Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope , and Optimism in Your Child.  Amazon.  

Levine, M. D. (1990).  Keeping A Head In School: A Student’s Book about Learning Abilities and Learning Disabilities.  Educators Publishing Service (eps.schoolspecialty.com).

Richards, R.G. (January, 2008). Being an Efficient Homework Helper: Turning a Chore into a Challenge. Written for LD OnLine (www.ldonline.org ).

Richards, R.G. (2001).  L*E*A*R*N – Playful Strategies for All Students.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

Richards, R.G. (2003).  The Source for Learning and Memory Strategies.  Pro-Ed Publishing (https://www.proedinc.com).

Richards, R.G. and Richards, E. I. (2008).  Eli – The Boy Who Hated to Write.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

Tags:  homework homework strategies Executive Function organization

Being an Efficient Homework Helper—Part III: Motivation and Tools

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, October 1, 2019

father and son working on homework

By: Regina G. Richards
This is the third installment of a multi-part series about helping children manage homework. The first post is about establishing good habits creating an optimal learning environment. The second post covers homework strategies and dealing with fatigue.
This article originally appeared in http://www.ldonline.org/

Some children need external motivators to help maintain focus on the task. Some useful suggestions include homework contracts, devices to help monitor time on task, or rewards. It is important that you are setting realistic goals for your child and that they are not overly stressed in their area of a learning disability. Some children, for example, take longer to write by hand or to calculate sums so you need to be realistic about time allowed.

Contracts

Homework contracts may take many forms. Write the contract with your child, making sure it is within your child's ability level. Focus on one goal at a time. Examples follow.

  • "I, Johnny, will complete my homework without argument for five nights in a row. When I accomplish this, I can watch 30 extra minutes of TV."
  • "I, Susie, will mark off a square on my chart each night that I complete all my homework assignments. When I have marked off five squares, I will select a reward from my list."

The criteria in your contract should change as the child's skills change. Furthermore, it is important to be specific regarding your expectations regarding homework completion. Indicate definite starting and stopping points as well as minimum requirements.

Monitoring Time on Task

A timer is a useful device for monitoring time on task. It makes the passage of time more concrete for your child. Identify a reasonable time for your child to complete an assignment (or a given part) and set the timer to ring after that time. It is useful for your child to be able to observe the passage of time, on either the timer or hourglass. Example statements follow:

  • "You have agreed to practice typing for five minutes every night. This means five minutes with good focus. I will set the timer and if you focus and practice appropriately the whole time, you will be done. Remember, I will have to restart the timer if you fool around in the middle."
  • "You have a half-hour to complete this part of the assignment. I'm setting this timer for 30 minutes. If you finish your homework correctly by the time the bell goes off, then you will get X reward (or sticker)."

If your child is earning points or stickers for appropriate follow through, you may want to allow them to earn rewards for a given number of stickers. To phase out their dependence on the stickers, require a larger number of stickers for a reward as they becomes more responsible.

Spinner

Young children respond well to games as motivational aids. You can develop a customized game spinner by using cardboard and brads, or you may purchase blank spinners from an educational supply store. Fill in each section of the spinner with a reward. Use tape so that you can occasionally change the awards. Be sure to vary the prizes on the spinner so that some are more desirable. You may want to have a space marked "no-win."

Establish criteria with your child, such as completing a homework assignment appropriately or finishing all of the homework tasks for the evening. When your child meets the criteria (i.e. completes the task), allow them to spin the spinner and earn the reward indicated. Be sure to use an appropriate positive statement such as, "Great job tonight! You've earned a spin on the spinner."

To phase out dependence on the spinner, change the rewards to points. These points will then accumulate towards a specific prize. Increase the number of points needed to earn the prize as your child becomes more responsible. An example of a spinner follows.

homework task spinner

Mistakes Can Be Valuable

Learning from mistakes

Another critical tool for parents to have is to help their children learn from their mistakes. This is important because too many students are afraid to be wrong. We give our children a valuable gift by helping them understand that mistakes are valuable because they help us learn how to adjust and improve our approach as we move through a task.

Robert Brooks and Sam Goldstein in their book, Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength Hope and Optimism in Your Child, devote a whole chapter to learning from mistakes. They discuss various obstacles that interfere as well as some valuable guiding principles for parents to keep in mind. Following is a summary of Brooks's and Goldstein's Obstacles and Guiding Principles:

Obstacles to a Positive Outlook About Mistakes

  • Temperament and biological factors
  • Negative comments of parents
  • Parents setting the bar too high
  • Dealing with the fear of mistakes in ways that worsened the situation

Guiding Principles to Help Children Deal With Mistakes

  • Serve as a model for dealing with mistakes and setbacks
  • Set and evaluate realistic expectations
  • In different ways, emphasize that mistakes are not only accepted but also expected
  • Loving our children should not be contingent on whether or not they make mistakes

Use Growth Mindset statements (instead of Fixed Mindset statements) as in the following graphic.

growth mindset chart

Regina G. Richards, MA, is a board certified educational therapist and former director of Big Springs School, specializing in multidisciplinary programs for language learning disabilities. She teaches regularly at University of California Riverside Extension.  She’s written several books, among them The Source for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia; The Source for Learning & Memory; Eli, The Boy Who Hated To Write; LEARN – Learning Efficiently and Remembering mNemonics, Visual Skills Appraisal2; and Classroom Visual Activities2. She is active in her local IDA branch, is a past president, and is the parent of an adult son who experiences dyslexia and dysgraphia and is currently successful in business, working with computers.

References

Brooks, R. and Goldstein, S. (2002).  Raising Resilient Children: Fostering Strength, Hope , and Optimism in Your Child.  Amazon.  

Levine, M. D. (1990).  Keeping A Head In School: A Student’s Book about Learning Abilities and Learning Disabilities.  Educators Publishing Service (eps.schoolspecialty.com).

Richards, R.G. (January, 2008). Being an Efficient Homework Helper: Turning a Chore into a Challenge. Written for LD OnLine (www.ldonline.org ).

Richards, R.G. (2001).  L*E*A*R*N – Playful Strategies for All Students.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

Richards, R.G. (2003).  The Source for Learning and Memory Strategies.  Pro-Ed Publishing (https://www.proedinc.com).

Richards, R.G. and Richards, E. I. (2008).  Eli – The Boy Who Hated to Write.  RET Center Press (http://www.retctrpress.com/).

Tags:  homework organization homework strategies Executive Function

Empower Students with Innovative Learning

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, January 26, 2017 Byline:  By Melissa Davidson

game pieces

"The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video-game design and game elements in learning environments."

Students staring off into space, sleeping at their desks, fidgeting in their chairs... These behaviors are as common as old-school styles of teaching, and finding ways to engage students remains an age-old dilemma.

Now more than ever, teachers are being challenged to step up their game. The rub comes when many schools (and teachers) are evaluated based on the results of students’ standardized tests.

Teachers are required to teach a set amount of curriculum before standardized tests are administered, which lends itself to a classroom that’s more “teacher-centric and student learning is stifled,” according to George Phillip, an Indiana social studies teacher and department chair.

But in today’s world of learning and teaching, more innovative approaches are being used in the classroom. Here are four ways to empower students:

Game-Based learning

For a generation addicted to gaming, anything taught through digital methods can be an effective tool for engaging and educating. The gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video-game design and game elements in learning environments.

Teachers and other education specialists can design games in a way that balances academic subjects, such as history, with the strategies, rules, and social aspects of playing a game.

From teaching youngsters the alphabet and tactical skills to budgeting skills and math, game-based learning can incorporate challenges, points, levels, leaderboards, and other "awards" as incentives.

Exult Corporation predicts that gamification will be a $10-billion industry by 2020. Many of these games are relevant to real-life situations and will help children learn to make informed decisions.

Game-based learning can also be done as collaboration between learners and educators. This type of game creation enhances the playing experience and can lead to a depth and scope of game that is not available through other types of gaming.

Learner-Generated Video

Game-based learning can be combined with the trend of learner-generated video to encourage student participation and measure the effectiveness of the games.

For example, in elementary school, a student can assess themselves prior to starting a game, such as Spellodrome or Mathletics, and again after engaging with these games for a month to measure their progress and determine whether these games have improved learning.

Statistics show that a learner is likely to remember 50% of audio-visual content, as opposed to just 10% of textual content, according to ClipChamp.

Greene and Crespi (2012) showed that incorporating learner-generated video into course content can produce a richer understanding of the subject matter for students. This is partly because a number of steps are involved in the video-creation process. Students must first gather information and learn the subject content, write a script, read and memorize it, create the video, conduct multiple takes if necessary, and finally, edit the video.

Peer-Created Work

Work done by other students can sometimes be more motivating than a teacher-assigned task. Digital tools allow students access to various types of work created by others. When students realize someone their own age created something amazing, it inspires them to do the same, according to an article in Mind/Shift.

At the 2015 International Society for Technology in Education conference in Philadelphia, author and former teacher Alan November, pointed to the work of fourth graders who reimagined a California school project of re-creating the state’s Spanish missions.

Some students did the project in Minecraft, expressing their creativity through digital media that excites them.

Global Lessons

Teaching tolerance and understanding of other cultures using technology, plus good-old fashioned maps and multicultural children’s books, creates more empathy for the world and people around them.

Empower students to create change by researching why a natural disaster, such as the earthquake in Haiti, had a huge effect on Haitians. It’s an opportunity to teach cultural history, get students involved, and turn a global issue into a socio-political and historical lesson and then into social justice.

Another example is the work of Kathy Cassidy, a first-grade teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, who used social media, specifically Twitter, to help her students communicate and learn with other classrooms around the world.

Under the Twitter handle @MsCassidysClass, her students shared their work with a global audience, such as this sample of one of four LEGO experiments. Without a doubt, technology is changing the face of education at every level. The switch from traditional textbooks to tablets is becoming more common, especially for college students who prefer to interact with the text, take notes, and highlight material on a tablet.

However, traditional books aren’t going away, and some students still prefer actual textbooks. Either way, in our digital age, critical skills taught will empower students to be engaged and interactive.

About the Author:

Melissa DavidsonMelissa Davidson is a full-time freelance writer with a B.A. in Journalism from the the University of Montana. In a former life, she was a newspaper reporter for several publications throughout the west. When she's not hovering over a keyboard writing about health, wellness, and social issues, she can be found riding and running on mountain trails with her dog, Romeo, in full pursuit.

Tags:  Alan November empowering students encourage class participation game-based learning gamification innovative teaching Landmark School Learner-Generated Video making informed decisions Minecraft motivating students teaching tolerance

Prevent Summer Learning Loss Before It Happens

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Tuesday, May 30, 2017 Byline:  By Joanna A. Christodoulou

boy reading

"Reading must be integrated into summer activities."

Reading activities during the summer can play an important role in helping students maintain their reading skills. Summer slump, or the potential for academic skills to regress during school vacation, is a concern for many students.

Children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, may be at a higher risk of summer slump than their peers (Christodoulou et al., 2017). More generally, children who may also be more vulnerable to summer slump are those who take a vacation not just from school, but also from engaging with text during the summer months. These reduced reading experiences may be because students don’t enjoy reading; they may not feel good about their reading skills; or they have limited access to the library or books at home. In addition to options to enroll students in summer reading instruction, camps, or related activities, other programs are available to families at little to no financial burden.

Parents can help by considering three goals.

First, parents and children can set a reading intention together about what to achieve during the summer. A reading intention can describe what to do and how it will be done. The focus does not have to be on the total number of books read, but can also be on what each child wants to learn about (e.g., the solar system, gardening, etc.). Creating a certificate or written agreement that both parents and children sign can offer a fun way to support this commitment. This goal can also be achieved through summer reading programs offered locally in libraries or community centers.

Second, identify the correct reading level for your child. To do so, you may seek assistance from your school or library staff. One rule of thumb for texts appropriate for a child to read independently is that they read five or fewer words incorrectly for every 100 words in the text. Independent level texts can be read by the student on his/her own, or students can read these texts aloud to others. Keep in mind that texts that are more challenging should not be excluded from summer reading lists as these may be great candidates for parents and children to read together. Identifying your child’s reading level for books she or he can read independently and those she or he can read with a partner is an important goal to aim for before the end of the school year.

Third, parents can identify their child’s areas of interest. Collecting topics that are intriguing, exciting, informative, and of interest will be key to selecting high interest reading material that children are motivated to read (Kim, 2007). More importantly, the motivation to learn about high-interest topics by reading can help struggling readers overcome some barriers; this is a common trait shared among successful adults with dyslexia (Fink, 1998).

Several organizations offer online texts for students with dyslexia. TextProject offers free books across a wide range of reading levels. Bookshare is a free online library that offers ebooks for students who have challenges accessing print. The Perkins Library offers free reading resources (e.g., audio, large print books, playback equipment) for Massachusetts residents with reading disabilities. Learning Ally offers audiobooks that can be useful for pairing with texts (i.e., listen and read at the same time) that students may otherwise have some difficulty reading independently.

In addition to supporting positive reading experiences during the summer months, families may consider contributing to research efforts aiming to improve outcomes for struggling readers. Supporting area researchers is a way to empower families and children with reading disabilities or difficulties, advance the science of reading, and meet other community members invested in supporting reading development. These opportunities range in their time commitment, gift card and prize offerings, and location. More information can be found on the website of the Massachusetts Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.

For children with language-based learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, in particular, summer vacation provides an opportunity for positive reading outcomes, but to achieve this, reading must be integrated into summer activities. To access appropriate texts, families can visit the local library, enjoy book swaps with neighbors, or explore online reading opportunities.

Christodoulou, J.A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A.J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J.D.E. (2015). Impact of intensive summer reading intervention for early elementary school children with dyslexia. Journal of Learning Disabilities.

Fink, R. (1998). Literacy development in successful men and women with dyslexia. Annals of Dyslexia, 48, 311–346.

Kim, J.S. (2007). The Effects of a Voluntary Summer Reading Intervention on Reading Activities and Reading Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99, 505-515.

About the Author:

Joanna A. ChristodoulouJoanna A. Christodoulou, Ed.D. is Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

More information: beamstudies@gmail.com

Facebook link: http://bit.ly/BEAMteam_FB

Tags:  dyslexia language-based learning disabilities LBLD learning disabilities reading struggling reader summer summer reading summer regression summer slide summer slump

Being an Efficient Homework Helper: Turning a Chore into a Challenge

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Thursday, September 19, 2019

parent and child doing homework at table.

By Regina G. Richards
This is the first installment of a multi-part series about helping children manage homework. The second post covers strategies, organization, and dealing with fatigue, and the third motivation and tools. This article originally appeared in http://www.ldonline.org/

"The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882, U.S. poet, essayist and lecturer)

Homework is a constant for most children — it is always there. And for many children, it is often a chore. Just the concept of "homework" can cause multiple anxieties and negative feelings. To assist parents and students, this series of articles presents some tools to help turn this chore into an enjoyable challenge. It focuses on some general preliminaries, basic strategies, and motivation.

To begin, we must keep in mind the characteristics of our own children, because each child has his or her unique strengths, weaknesses, and needs.

When embarking on any project, there are first some questions we need to ask ourselves. These apply whether the project is a page of math facts or a full report.

  • We need to make sure we understand the project: what is the child trying to do?
  • We need to assemble our tools: what materials will be needed for this project?

Working successfully with our children on schoolwork requires respect, and respect begins with understanding. If a child struggles with and/or resists homework, ask yourself, "Why?" As you discover the reasons, share them with your child so he or she better understands the issues. Doing so takes the mystery out of struggles or frustrations. Pediatrician Mel Levine calls this "demystification," which he describes as eliminating mystery by explaining the child's strengths and weaknesses and guiding them to develop more accurate personal insight.

"Working successfully with our children on schoolwork requires respect, and respect begins with understanding."

Students may struggle with and/or resist homework for a variety of reasons. These may include any of the following:

  • Your child is experiencing some aspect of a learning disability or learning difference.
  • Your child is inefficient in a skill needed to establish a solid foundation related to the concept and/or task.
  • Your child struggles to process one or more components of the task.
  • Your child lacks or is not using the appropriate strategies or tools.
  • Your child is experiencing fatigue, either processing fatigue or general fatigue.

As parents, we should attend to how our student approaches the task. Help them identify and sort through the different components and determine the needed sub-steps. You can delineate these using a concrete chart or graphic organizer.

Many students express the idea that homework is "stupid" or a "waste of time." Even if you do wonder about the value of the given task, it is critical to communicate an optimistic belief that homework positively affects achievement in school and teaches many valuable skills critical for success throughout life. For example:

  • Following directions
  • Independent work habits
  • Time management
  • Use of strategies
  • Follow-through
  • Responsibility

Keep in mind that you and your child are laying an important foundation that will guide their routines for years to come. Starting in early elementary school years, each child begins to establish habits for time management and task completion.

Preliminaries

Location

Establishing a consistent workspace is a critical beginning. The precise location for doing homework does not matter as long as it is free from distractions. For example, trying to read a chapter in the middle of the kitchen while a parent makes dinner and siblings run in and out creates a recipe for failure. In the early grades, you and your child should select the homework location together, identifying a place where you can be close by and available for help. As the child matures, she can be more independent in selecting his own workspace.

"Establishing a consistent workspace is a critical beginning. The precise location for doing homework does not matter as long as it is free from distractions. "

Supplies

At the beginning of each school year, help your child create his own Homework Survival Kit with the necessary supplies. If the child receives accommodations for learning disabilities at school — such as a particular pencil grip, a type of paper, or an electronic speller — try to allow their use at home too. Children should learn to take care of the supplies in their Homework Survival Kit, therefore sharing is not advisable. Your child, even at age five, should have a large calendar with enough space to note assignments. This is a critical habit that students will need to use through high school and college.

Lighting and posture

Use of an appropriate writing posture should be encouraged. Therefore, a desk and chair of appropriate size are necessary. The desk should have adequate lighting. Some children enjoy reading in a different position, such as in a beanbag chair. Ensure that there is also adequate lighting by that location.

General environment

Keeping in mind that each student may have different needs and preferences, following are some ideas to help students enhance their ability to focus while doing homework:

  • Quiet or soft background music
  • Silence
  • Small crunchy snacks, sour candy, or chewing gum
  • Carbonated beverages (preferably without sugar)

Regina G. Richards, MA, is a board certified educational therapist and former director of Big Springs School, specializing in multidisciplinary programs for language learning disabilities. She teaches regularly at University of California Riverside Extension.  She’s written several books, among them The Source for Dyslexia & Dysgraphia; The Source for Learning & Memory; Eli, The Boy Who Hated To Write; LEARN – Learning Efficiently and Remembering mNemonics, Visual Skills Appraisal2; and Classroom Visual Activities2. She is active in her local IDA branch, is a past president, and is the parent of an adult son who experiences dyslexia and dysgraphia and is currently successful in business, working with computers.

Tags:  homework parenting language-based learning disabilities organization Executive Function

The Importance of Summer Reading

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Sunday, May 19, 2019

student reading a book outside

By Kristine Burgess

Over the school year students receive instruction that should focus on developing skills and making academic gains, but what happens when they leave school for the summer? In order to prevent regression of reading skills in the summer months, it is essential that students engage in summer reading. Oftentimes, school systems have a summer reading requirement, but summer reading should go beyond assigned reading. Students should also be encouraged to read materials of interest to increase their motivation toward reading.

The purpose of summer reading is not only to prevent regression of skills but also to reinforce retention and growth of reading skills. Research continues to support the fact that the best way to improve reading is to practice reading. Therefore, students should be encouraged to read both silently and orally over the summer months to continue developing their reading skills.

According to the Texas Literacy Initiative, a student who reads 21 minutes per day outside of school reads almost two million words per year. A student who reads less than a minute per day outside of school reads only 8,000-21,000 words a year (2002). In addition to basic word exposure, increased reading leads to the expansion of background knowledge and vocabulary. Generally, students with a language-based learning disability (LBLD) have less experience interacting with text, and, as a result, their vocabulary, word knowledge, and background information suffer compared to non-LD students. Therefore, students should be encouraged to take every opportunity to increase their exposure to and with vocabulary, a range of reading topics, and texts of varying difficulties to increase word exposure.

Interacting with Text Boosts Comprehension

Ideally, students should be asked to interact with their reading text in a way that provides for feedback and increased comprehension. In order to interact effectively with the text, a more successful reader could read with the student and provide feedback on decoding errors, overall fluency, and comprehension strategies. Additionally, students could be asked questions about events and characters from the text, which would showcase their level of understanding.

At the end of the day, parents should not have to engage in a large battle with students over summer reading. For the very reluctant reader, parents and school systems should encourage graphic novels, game directions, project manuals, and the like as potentially worthwhile summer reading in addition to assigned novels. While many students will be resistant, what they are reading is far less important than the fact that they are reading.

 

Kristine Burgess is the head of the Reading Department and a teacher at Landmark School.

Tags:  summer slide language-based learning disabilities literacy summer reading

Moving Beyond “Struggling Reader” Labels

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Wednesday, March 6, 2019

By Katherine K. Frankel

In a recent interview with Education Week, author Jacqueline Woodson, the Library of Congress's 2018­–2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, discussed her concerns about labels like “struggling reader.” She argued that these kinds of labels are harmful because they perpetuate the mistaken idea that a reader’s abilities are static rather than dynamic. Drawing on her own experiences, Woodson explained:

“I know if I was raised in this day and age, I would have been labeled a struggling reader. But what I know now is I was actually reading like a writer…What gets translated is ‘you are not as good,’ and that gets translated into our whole bodies. That’s where the danger lies” (Iasevoli, 2018, para. 5).

Woodson’s words of caution resonate with me on multiple levels. In elementary school, I too would have been labeled a “struggling reader” if the term had existed at the time. As a high school teacher, many of my students considered themselves to be “struggling readers” based on years of hearing this and similar terms applied to them. In my research, I have documented the negative impact of labels as experienced by adolescent readers. For example, I have seen how labels contribute to deficit thinking by focusing on what a reader cannot do. I have seen how labels locate reading difficulty as an individual problem that lies within the reader, rather than as an instructional- or societal-level problem that may be understood and addressed collectively by students, teachers, and parents working together. And, like Woodson, I have seen how labels oversimplify the act of reading by implying the existence of a static “good reader” / “poor reader” dichotomy that does not accurately reflect the complexity of reading.

Moving Beyond Labels 

As an alternative to labeling readers, we can instead engage in conversations and practices that reflect current understandings of reading as a dynamic process. Below, I offer three recommendations for how to do this, accompanied by guiding questions. My hope is that these questions will serve as starting points for students, parents, and teachers to engage in more robust conversations about reading that move beyond labels.

Focus on understanding the conditions under which readers are most successful.

  • What kinds of texts, broadly defined, do we read (for example: novels, graphic novels, magazines, song lyrics, maps, recipes, emails, text messages, social media posts)?
  • What kinds of texts do we most enjoy reading?
  • Why do we read these texts? What makes them so enjoyable?
  • What do we do when we encounter difficulties while reading them?

Be precise about when and why readers might require additional support with particular texts and tasks.  

  • What are the specific combinations of texts, tasks, and contexts that give rise to reading difficulties for particular readers? For example, the reading processes and challenges that a reader might encounter while comparing and contrasting multiple historical documents in preparation for writing a timed essay in school likely differ from those that same reader encounters while reading a young adult novel for pleasure at home and then texting or talking about it with friends.
  • What happens when these text/task/context combinations change? For example, does a reader gain more understanding of those same historical documents when she has opportunities to reread and discuss key concepts and vocabulary with her teacher and classmates? Does she communicate that understanding differently when she has opportunities to articulate and debate her arguments prior to writing an essay?

Emphasize that all readers experience reading challenges under certain conditions.

  • What text/task/context combinations give rise to reading difficulties for more experienced readers (for example: parents, teachers, siblings)?
  • What do experienced readers do when they encounter difficulties (for example: reread, look for key vocabulary, combine information from images and words, write down questions, talk with another reader, etc.)?

Finally, I urge students, parents, and teachers to advocate for policies and practices that take a more nuanced perspective on reading, a perspective that allows us to recognize and build from readers’ strengths and that reflects the complex and dynamic nature of reading.

Reference:

Iasevoli, B. (2018, February 5). Stop using the label ‘struggling reader,’ author Jacqueline Woodson advises [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2018/02/stop_using_the_label_strugglin.html

Notes:

Thank you to the graduate student literacy educators enrolled in my Spring 2019 adolescent literacy course for their thoughtful feedback on an earlier draft of this post. For a more extended discussion of alternatives to labels and labelling, please see Frankel, K.K., & Brooks, M.D. (2018). Why the “struggling reader” label is harmful (and what educators can do about it). Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 62(1), 111-114. SEDFACULTY

Katherine K. Frankel, PhD, is an assistant professor of literacy education in the Boston University Wheelock College of Education & Human Development. Formerly a Landmark High School teacher, she now teaches graduate-level courses in reading/literacy and conducts research in classrooms and one-on-one tutoring contexts in partnership with middle and high school students and their teachers.

The Five Components of Reading: The Keys to Unlock Reading Proficiency

Blog Type:  Learning Date Posted:  Monday, February 25, 2019

By Meghan Sebens

Reading is an integral part of our culture and has been for many millennia. While our social and academic lives are constantly infused with reading, this ability does not develop innately. ​The ability to read is shaped by the material we engage with, by our own internal processes, and most importantly, by the instruction we’re given. When we tease apart the concept of reading, we’re left with five vastly expansive underlying components. Although these areas range from pre-literacy skills to deep understanding of complex texts, they do not necessarily fall on a sequential spectrum. In fact, solid instruction covers many of these areas within a single lesson.

Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate the sounds (phonemes) within a spoken word. While this component of reading does not actually involve written text, it is fundamental to the skill of decoding. Some students may not need direct instruction in order to develop phonemic awareness. However, if phonemic awareness is not intact, difficulty will persist until it is remediated. Phonemic awareness instruction may consist of various wordplay activities. Can you show the number of sounds in gush (hint: it’s not four!)? Can you take out the /f/ sound in flip? Students build the ability to control sounds, and even syllables, within words. Without this capacity, phonics instruction will be incredibly challenging.

Phonics

Phonics knowledge is the understanding that letters correspond to certain sounds. While in some languages, like Italian, a single spelling exists for each sound, in English, the 26 letters of the alphabet represent roughly 44 different sounds. Furthermore, English contains approximately 360 different combinations of letters to spell those sounds. The rules of phonics for English are more complex and varied than many alphabetic languages. Teaching phonics is incredibly important, especially for students who do not naturally synthesize the many rules of the English language. A systematic approach toward phonics helps students recognize expected patterns in English from the very basic to the more complex. First, students must apply these rules to reading and spelling tasks in isolation. Once patterns are reinforced, they are ready for varied practice and application in context.

Fluency

The skill of reading fluency spans from words to connected text. At the word level, fluent readers are able to read words with automaticity, or accurate and fast word recognition. Within connected text, students can accurately and efficiently string words together to form phrases and passages with ease. Fluent reading should sound natural, like a conversation. Appropriate (not fast) pacing, accurate word recognition, and phrasing and expression that demonstrate an understanding of the text are all subgoals within fluent reading. Each individual student may need a different focus for instruction. Activities that build rate include repeated readings, listening to model readings, and chunking text into phrases. Accuracy can be addressed through error handling, word analysis and automaticity drills, and decoding practice. A student can increase prosody (phrasing and expression) with phrase-cued text, poetry, and reader’s theater. While one student may need to use repeated readings to establish appropriate pace, this may be counterproductive to students who approach reading too quickly. Relevant instruction and building self-awareness are important factors in addressing fluent reading.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the understanding of word meanings. Although text is not the only place that children gain vocabulary, explicit instruction in vocabulary leads to consistent gains in reading. Teaching vocabulary can be accomplished by constructing word meanings and other associated information (e.g., synonyms, antonyms, examples), training students to use context clues, as well as familiarizing them with the morphological structure of words (prefixes, roots, suffixes). It is important to take into account the frequency and usefulness of terms selected for study. Words that cross a variety of domains (i.e., different classes or situations) can be practiced more and provide a higher benefit for the student’s knowledge base. Categorization helps students to connect like vocabulary terms and organize information more efficiently.

Comprehension

Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading. It may begin with recall of stated facts from the text but generally stems far beyond this simplistic notion. Students should be able to engage with the text in order to draw inferences beyond the stated material, connect novel situations to their own lives or other readings, analyze broader themes, and more. In order to accomplish this, students need to be taught to independently use strategies that allow them to attack written material at a deeper level. Summarizing, visualizing, and questioning are just a few strategies that teachers may incorporate into comprehension instruction. Students must learn to identify comprehension gaps and use a variety of tools to reconstruct the author’s intended meanings. Some readers make the necessary connections from speech sounds to symbols almost imperceptibly, learning to manipulate phonemes, recognize words and phrases, acquire vocabulary, and extract meaning from passages with ease. For others, the sub-skills of fluent reading must be identified and explicitly taught. The degree of intervention and the recipe for effective instruction can be as individualized as the human brain, but research has shown that the five areas above, in combination with principles of effective teaching, are essential keys to reading proficiency.   For further information on the five components of reading and instructional strategies, I encourage you to review the National Reading Panel Report - Practical Advice for Teachers.

Ms_Sebens

Meghan Sebens, M.S.Ed., is the reading supervisor, the testing coordinator, and an academic advisor at Landmark’s Elementary•Middle School.

Tags:  reading stages of reading reading comprehension decoding vocabulary fluency phonics

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