Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Audiobooks May Help Your Struggling Reader

Since having kids, I've become a fan of audiobooks. Staying awake to pick-up a book and get past a page is difficult, but listening to audiobooks has been a life saver. I can actually keep up on books in my ever growing wishlist. I can also see the benefit for students to be read to as long as they follow along. I can remember my father reading to me at night, such classics as "Treasure Island" and "The Hobbit." I like the advice given here by Stowell Learning Center for students.
Audiobooks May Help Your Struggling Reader Keep up with the Class and Be More Independent
Does your child dread or avoid reading textbooks because the pages seem too dense, the chapters too long, or words too hard? Having textbooks on audio allows students to spend less time struggling with homework, and more time understanding and absorbing the material.

It also frees you up from having to do the reading for your struggling reader and helps your child be more independent.

Here are two resources available to schools and parents for a nominal yearly fee (may be free to schools) that will allow students with learning disabilities to access their textbooks on audio

Learning Ally: www.learningally.org
Bookshare: www.bookshare.org

Here's HOW to get the most out of audiobooks:
Have your child or teen read along in their textbook as they listen. Using their finger under the line of text may help them to keep their place and allows them to touch, see, and hear the words simultaneously.

This action helps students notice vocabulary, see how words look while accurately hearing them read, and increases attention and comprehension.

Research reported by Learning Ally states that students show the following improvement with the use of audiobooks:

Improved reading comprehension: 76%
Increased interest in reading: 76%
Improved reading accuracy: 52%
Increased self-confidence: 61%
Increased motivation: 67%

Audiobooks are a valuable resource and support for struggling readers.

It is important to recognize, however, that these resources do not correct the reading problem.

Most reading and spelling problems can be permanently corrected by identifying and developing the weak, underlying learning skills that are getting in the way of the student learning comfortably and efficiently.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Food Play for A Picky Eater

We have a picky eater, and even though we went through OT for 6 sessions, our progress was still slow. After some time, I took a day off work to attend a picky-eaters class through OT and decided to give more effort to the eating habits of our youngest. However, the method has helped all 3 (ages 2, 4, and 6) of our boys. So I thought I post some of the games we played while eating dinner.

We always eat dinner together and had already worked on keeping the kids at the table for 15-20 minutes with a timer. So the next step was to deal with the actual food presented. Some simple rules: everyone participates, including the adults. The kids don't have to eat everything, it's just getting the kids to touch and play with the food so they get comfortable with the tactile sensations.

Day 1
I served chicken, rice, corn and apples. We all took a smell and described one thing we all could smell. Then we took turns listing the colors and shapes. This will be the first thing we do every meal before I ask them to do a game.

Day 2
I served mashed potatoes, hot dogs, mixed veggies and banana slices. I brought out the mini chocolate chips, gave everyone a few pieces of chocolate chips. They first were asked to make a face with the chocolate chips on a banana slice, or all of them. After comparing faces, I asked them to make a banana sandwich and eat them. The two year old did not eat the bananas, but he had fun making the face.

Day 3
We had mac n cheese, rice, grapes, and corn. I had a raspberry in the corn and the kids had to find the raspberry. Again, my two year old didn't eat the raspberry but he got his hands "dirty" by going through the corn. I have already noticed he is willing to touch more of this food. So of course, I am happy.

Day 4
We made spinach tortellini soup with rice and oranges and the boys had to spoon out as much as they could in 10 seconds. Then the boys had to hide rice on their spoon and cover it with spinach. We all took turns taking guesses to how much rice was on the spoon. My two year old didn't really understand what he was doing, but it was fun to see him copying his brothers.

Day 5
Quesadillas with chili and grapes, yum. We cut the grapes in half and tried to see who could build the tallest tower in 10 seconds. Then we dipped our finger in the chili and made faces on our quesadillas. It's always fun to see how creative the kids can get.

Some other games with food:
  • Build a house with pretzel sticks or carrot sticks
  • Finding marshmallows in mashed potatoes using your fingers
  • Sprinkling grated cheese over broccoli
  • Putting an orange wedge in your mouth and see who can hold it the longest before laughing
  • See who can put the most corn and peas on their fork in 10 seconds
  • I'm sure we will come up with more as time continues

Our adventures will continue, but I already see an improvement with the boys and their use of the utensils, touching the food, and asking "what game are we playing tonight?" I find myself planning a game as part of planning the meal, thinking, what I can I hide or have the kids make or do with this?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids

Two of my kids have SPD and I found this article very useful in understanding even more how their brains are wired to have difficulty with sensory input.  I am also hopeful that this information will make SPD a disability so the boys can qualify for more learning and therapy services to help them overcome their sensory issues. I hope you find this article as helpful as I do.

Breakthrough Study Reveals Biological Basis for Sensory Processing Disorders in Kids

The image shows areas of the brain that can be affected by sensory processing disorders. Using an advanced form of MRI, researchers at UCSF have identified abnormalities in the brain structure of children with SPD primarily in the back of the brain.
Sensory processing disorders (SPD) are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, yet the condition receives far less attention partly because it’s never been recognized as a distinct disease.

Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD
In a groundbreaking new study from UC San Francisco, researchers have found that children affected with SPD have quantifiable differences in brain structure, for the first time showing a biological basis for the disease that sets it apart from other neurodevelopmental disorders.
One of the reasons SPD has been overlooked until now is that it often occurs in children who also have ADHD or autism, and the disorders have not been listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used by psychiatrists and psychologists.
“Until now, SPD hasn’t had a known biological underpinning,” said senior author Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging and bioengineering at UCSF. “Our findings point the way to establishing a biological basis for the disease that can be easily measured and used as a diagnostic tool,” Mukherjee said.
The work is published in the open access online journal NeuroImage:Clinical.

‘Out of Sync’ Kids

Sensory processing disorders affect 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children.
Graphic that says "Sensory processing disorders affect 5 to 16 percent of school-aged children."
Children with SPD struggle with how to process stimulation, which can cause a wide range of symptoms including hypersensitivity to sound, sight and touch, poor fine motor skills and easy distractibility. Some SPD children cannot tolerate the sound of a vacuum, while others can’t hold a pencil or struggle with social interaction. Furthermore, a sound that one day is an irritant can the next day be sought out.  The disease can be baffling for parents and has been a source of much controversy for clinicians, according to the researchers.

Elysa Marco, MD
“Most people don’t know how to support these kids because they don’t fall into a traditional clinical group,” said Elysa Marco, MD, who led the study along with postdoctoral fellow Julia Owen, PhD. Marco is a cognitive and behavioral child neurologist at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, ranked among the nation's best and one of California's top-ranked centers for neurology and other specialties, according to the 2013-2014 U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospitals survey.
“Sometimes they are called the ‘out of sync’ kids. Their language is good, but they seem to have trouble with just about everything else, especially emotional regulation and distraction. In the real world, they’re just less able to process information efficiently, and they get left out and bullied,” said Marco, who treats affected children in her cognitive and behavioral neurology clinic.
“If we can better understand these kids who are falling through the cracks, we will not only help a whole lot of families, but we will better understand sensory processing in general. This work is laying the foundation for expanding our research and clinical evaluation of children with a wide range of neurodevelopmental challenges – stretching beyond autism and ADHD,” she said.

Imaging the Brain’s White Matter

In the study, researchers used an advanced form of MRI called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which measures the microscopic movement of water molecules within the brain in order to give information about the brain’s white matter tracts. DTI shows the direction of the white matter fibers and the integrity of the white matter. The brain’s white matter is essential for perceiving, thinking and learning.

These brain images, taken with DTI, show water diffusion within the white matter of children with sensory processing disorders.  Row FA: The blue areas show white matter where water diffusion was less directional than in typical children, indicating impaired white matter microstructure.  Row MD: The red areas show white matter where the overall rate of water diffusion was higher than in typical children, also indicating abnormal white matter.  Row RD: The red areas show white matter where SPD children have higher rates of water diffusion perpendicular to the axonal fibers, indicating a loss of integrity of the fiber bundles comprising the white matter tracts.
The study examined 16 boys, between the ages of eight and 11, with SPD but without a diagnosis of autism or prematurity, and compared the results with 24 typically developing boys who were matched for age, gender, right- or left-handedness and IQ. The patients’ and control subjects’ behaviors were first characterized using a parent report measure of sensory behavior called the Sensory Profile.
The imaging detected abnormal white matter tracts in the SPD subjects, primarily involving areas in the back of the brain, that serve as connections for the auditory, visual and somatosensory (tactile) systems involved in sensory processing, including their connections between the left and right halves of the brain.
“These are tracts that are emblematic of someone with problems with sensory processing,” said Mukherjee. “More frontal anterior white matter tracts are typically involved in children with only ADHD or autistic spectrum disorders. The abnormalities we found are focused in a different region of the brain, indicating SPD may be neuroanatomically distinct.”
The researchers found a strong correlation between the micro-structural abnormalities in the white matter of the posterior cerebral tracts focused on sensory processing and the auditory, multisensory and inattention scores reported by parents in the Sensory Profile. The strongest correlation was for auditory processing, with other correlations observed for multi-sensory integration, vision, tactile and inattention.
The abnormal microstructure of sensory white matter tracts shown by DTI in kids with SPD likely alters the timing of sensory transmission so that processing of sensory stimuli and integrating information across multiple senses becomes difficult or impossible.
“We are just at the beginning, because people didn’t believe this existed,” said Marco. “This is absolutely the first structural imaging comparison of kids with research diagnosed sensory processing disorder and typically developing kids. It shows it is a brain-based disorder and gives us a way to evaluate them in clinic.”

Support SPD Research

Thanks to groundbreaking work from UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, a biological basis for SPD has been discovered.  There is much work to be done and a funding gap. We still need to:
  • Understand the genetic causes of sensory processing differences
  • Uncover risk factors for SPD
  • Measure the neurologic brain differences in affected individuals
  • Determine if current interventions are truly effective for brain plasticity
  • Develop new therapies based on scientific evidence
You can pave the way for a new era of sensory research and therapies by supporting UCSF’s scientific sensory processing team.
Learn how you can help.
Future studies need to be done, she said, to research the many children affected by sensory processing differences who have a known genetic disorder or brain injury related to prematurity.
The study’s co-authors are Shivani Desai, BS, Emily Fourie, BS, Julia Harris, BS, and Susanna Hill, BS, all of UCSF, and Anne Arnett, MA, of the University of Denver.
The research was supported by the Wallace Research Foundation. The authors have reported that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the contents of this paper to disclose.
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital creates an environment where children and their families find compassionate care at the forefront of scientific discovery, with more than 150 experts in 50 medical specialties serving patients throughout Northern California and beyond. The hospital admits about 5,000 children each year, including 2,000 babies born in the hospital. For more information, visit www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Staying on Track with School Work for the Holidays

I know I'm not the only one who gets excited during the holidays. I love going on special outings and watching holiday movies with the kids, but I also know consistency is the key to success during the busy holidays. Stowell Learning Center has some great ideas for keeping on track. (You can sign upo through Stowell to receive your own email tips too).
  1. Keep your Homework Routine
    If your homework routine has begun to fall by the wayside, re-establish it and make it non-negotiable.  Students fight things less when things are "set in stone."  Have a set time and place for doing homework.

  2. Acknowledge; then Move Ahead
    Kids will naturally be more distracted and excited at this time of year.  We can't make them not feel that way and really don't want to "squash" the excitement.  So it's important to acknowledge where they are and then move forward to what they need to do. 

    Here's how this might look:

    For a younger student:
    "You're super excited aren't you?  This is a fun time of year.  Right now, it's homework time.  How about if I help you get started?"

    For an older student:
    "You're anxious to talk to Sara about the party Saturday night, aren't you?  It sounds like it's going to be really fun!  Right now, it's the time we've agreed on to do homework.  Why don't you put a reminder on your phone to call Sara as soon as you're done?"

  3. Make it Fun
    Take advantage of the season

    For example, if you're studying times tables, spelling words, or vocabulary with your child, you might write each one on an index card and then separate them into Santa's naughty and nice piles.  Be a little silly.  Put the cards the student knows in the "nice" pile!  "Yea!  That one gets a present this year!"  "Awesome!  This one goes in the nice pile!"

    The ones the student doesn't know go in the "naughty" pile.  "Boo, he was bad this year!"  "No presents for him!"  This takes the emphasis off of the student not knowing certain facts or words and puts the blame, in a fun way, on the fact/word itself.  Be sure to go back and practice the cards in the "naughty" pile to try to move them to the other pile.

    Other examples:
    "How about if you try these cookies I've been baking after you finish this assignment?"

    Play Christmas music in the background.

    Read a Christmas/holiday story for the nightly reading.
Be creative, have fun, acknowledge and enjoy the excitement, all the while sticking to your homework routine!  Happy Holidays!

Remembering What You Read to Conquer the "End of Chapter" Questions

 As a teacher, it's not uncommon to assign chapter review questions, but many students struggle with going back and finding the answers. Some students just shut down and don't try because it looks overwhelming. I don't assign these types of assignments as much since it doesn't show me the data I need to see if students truly understand the chapter concepts. However, I love this technique offered by Jill Stowell from Stowell Learning Center. This technique is helpful for many worksheet-type assignments:

One of the more "torturous" kinds of homework is to read a worksheet or a chapter and then answer questions about what was read.

Why can this be so difficult? Because it involves so many of those underlying skills that cause students to struggle. It takes just one weak or missing skill to make life, and school, more difficult than it should be.  

Below you'll find a strategy to help your student remember what was read so that they can answer questions. It's really quite fun and will help in improving memory.
Conquering Those End-of the-Chapter Questions
A Student Study Tip for Remembering What You Read

A common complaint of students is that they cannot remember what they read when they get to the end of a chapter.

Answering those end-of-the-chapter questions (or worksheet questions) can be a real chore when students do not have good strategies for holding onto the information as they read, or for going back and finding it later.

Many students think that they just have to reread the chapter from the beginning over and over to locate the information.


In order to understand and remember what is read or heard, individuals must be able to visualize or make pictures in their mind, letting those pictures run like a movie. Three simple steps can be used to help students visualize, understand, and remember the information more easily.

These are:

  • Picture
  • Replay
  • Retell
So instead of just rereading, when your child is reading or listening, have him try to picture what is being said, to "make a movie" in his head. Then have him "replay the movie."

Replaying helps set the information into memory.

Have your child picture the information again, retelling it to you in detail as he sees it. Do this first with stories and oral directions. Then try it with content material such as Social Studies or Science.

When your child has questions to answer, have him rewind his "mental movie" to the section where the information can be found. Have him think, "Did I see that at the beginning, the middle, or at the end?"

If he can't remember, have him think, "What did I see at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end? Where does this question seem to fit?"

Once he has located a logical starting point, he can then go back and check in the book without doing a lot of unnecessary rereading.

Using this sequence will save a lot of time, especially after it becomes automatic. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Dyslexia & tackling worksheets

 I know as a teacher, I would not mind this strategy as long as I know the parent is working with their child. Enjoy this homework strategy from Stowell Learning Center.
Filling out worksheets is a breeze for some kids, but for those who find writing or spelling slow and laborious, a simple homework worksheet can take aaaallllll afternoon.

Students with graphomotor challenges (difficulty printing or writing in cursive) often find the lines on worksheets too short or too narrow for their uncoordinated and ballooning letters

If they are going to write legibly on the lines provided, they have to write each letter very intentionally and carefully, so even if they know the content, it will take them far longer than their friends to complete it. Often, kids with these kinds of challenges get overwhelmed and exhausted.

For students with dyslexic challenges, awkward letter formation, letter reversals, and spelling (which may have to be erased and corrected over and over) can make a simple worksheet seem to take forever, and the real learning in the assignment, the content, may become completely lost.

If your child fits one of these scenarios and your dining room table is the scene of nightly meltdowns over worksheets, you may want to get your child's teacher on board with the suggestion below.

Share the Writing
Tackling Worksheets When Writing or Spelling is Slow and Laborious

***Make sure you arrange with your child's teacher to use the following procedure.

Agree to have your student be responsible for writing the answers to a portion of the questions (for example, 2 out of 5), and then you (the parent) write the answers to the other questions as your student dictates.

This allows your child to take her time and write carefully and neatly on the items she writes, developing good habits.

It's important that students be responsible for part of the writing so that she knows that she is capable. She should know that the amount of writing she will do is being reduced so that she can focus on neatness and spelling.

Her best is expected!

Sharing the actual writing reduces the stress on students and allows her to focus more on the content. By having less actual writing to do, she can create better habits because she will not feel penalized by the amount of time it takes.

She will feel better about her work product because her own writing looks neater, and she might just have a little time left at the end of the day.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Studying for Spelling Test

Spelling can be very difficult for students. The method below may seem long and tedious, but it works & can boosts the child's self esteem. Sign up for more newsletter ideas from Stowell Learning Center. 

Is there any more common homework activity than studying for a spelling test?
For most elementary  school students, spelling tests happen every week.  Often this is a very discouraging "exercise in frustration."  

Because many times spelling is the clue that there are auditory processing issues.   Auditory processing skills can be trained through special programs that are far more than just "drilling" spelling words.
Until  those issues can be eliminated, below you'll find a technique that will help any student who has to study spelling words.  It won't fix auditory processing difficulties, but it will help to get through this week's spelling test.
Homework Tip
Homework Problem: 
Studying Spelling Words (Part 1)  
There are several strategies for studying spelling words.  
Many students have difficulty remembering spelling words.  Here is one easy, practical approach to studying for spelling words.
Homework Solution: 
Impress Spelling

Impress Spelling Technique -
  1. Write each of your child's spelling words on an index card in large print.
  2. Have your child trace each word using a thick crayon, pressing firmly as she writes each letter.  
  3. Have her put down the crayon and trace over the letters with her finger as you say them together. 
  4. Have her "take a picture" in her mind of the card so that she can look up and still see the letters. 
  5. Have your child trace over the visualized word, saying each letter as she traces it. 
  6. Play with the word - ask: What color are the letters? What is the first letter?  What is the last? 
  7. Have her spell the word from her visualized image, pointing to each letter as she says it. 
  8. Move the visualized image back to the paper and write the word exactly as she remembered it.
This technique uses the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels to anchor the word and it's spelling.  
NOTE - This technique sometimes seems to parents that it will take longer.  Getting prepped may be a bit longer, but this system is very effective at getting those words "down cold" in about the same amount of time most students spend studying.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Keeping Homework Supplies Organized

Has this happened to you? We are working on an assignment and students do not finish gluing and cutting. So they are told to go home and and finish. Then the student tells me, "I don't have glue" or "I don't have scissors." I've met these families and know their parents will get them whatever materials they need. Maybe there are other reasons why these students try to get away from completing their work.  


Missing Homework Supplies

It's hard enough for struggling students to start their daily homework.

But when you finally get them seated, get them focused, and get their assignments out of the backpack and ready to begin,

You discover that you're missing some vital supply item needed to complete that day's assignment.

It's like starting all over again. Go get the item, get the kid seated again, get the attention focused.

How many times has this happened?

Not having ALL the proper supplies is just another frustrating delay in getting homework started. DON'T let this contribute to the struggles.
Homework Solution:
Found Them!

Here is a 3-step process to fix this problem forever.

Step 1 - Make a chart of all supply items you might ever need for assignments

Below you'll find a list of items. Copy and paste it into a new document. Add any additional items you can think of. Once you've got the list, space out the items onto one sheet, print it and then take it to be laminated.

Step 2 - Buy a bin, case, or other container to keep all the items in.

A quick visit to your local craft or office supply store will provide you with a container that will easily hold all of the supplies your learner needs to more easily do their homework. Easy places to load up on supplies are Staples, Office Depot, Office Max, Target, Kmart or Walmart.

Now go buy all of these items and put them into your container. Oh, make SURE you buy a dry erase marker. We'll use it in step 3.

Because students learn in different environments, this supply box can be transported from site to site as the students' needs dictate.

Step 3 - Each week, grab your laminated list and take inventory.

Use the dry erase marker to circle or check any item that you need to replenish. Then pick up the items before you completely run out.

There is nothing as frustrating as just wanting to get the homework done, but a simple supply item isn't available. Save yourself the grief and take care of this "pest" once and for all!
Here is a list of supplies to get you started.  Add any others you can think of and then put your laminated list with your supplies.  You'll be REALLY glad you took the time to do this!

___ 8.5 x 11" lined paper
___ markers
___ crayons
___ highlighters
___ colored pencils
___ sharpened pencils
___ pencil sharpener
___ dry erase marker
___ dictionary
___ thesaurus
___ atlas
___ construction paper
___ index cards
___ blank paper
___ self-stick notes
___ hole punch
___ scissors
___ stapler/staples
___ a calculator
___ ruler
___ tape
___ an eraser
___ white out

Spelling Strategies for Kids

Spelling seems to be a constant issue for students from K-12 and up into college.
Here are a few ideas to add variation and practice to learning new or difficult words:

A. My son is in first grade and receives 6 words a week to learn and memorize. Every night he has to choose from a list of activities to complete his spelling homework. These activities include: 
  1. drawing pictures for each word,
  2. writing the words in 3 different colors each, 
  3. writing a sentence for each word,
  4. making flashcards,
  5. writing on the sidewalk with chalk,
  6. finding the words in stories,
  7. writing your own story with the words,
  8. list the words in ABC order,
  9. type your words on the computer,
  10. staircase the words,
  11. write the words and trace the vowels with red marker
B.  A spelling strategy that my son and I enjoy is hangman. I write the 6 words down and leave blanks I say the words out loud and my son tries to fill in the missing letters. If he gets a letter wrong, I add a piece to the hangman. This can be done on a piece of paper or whiteboard marker or with sidewalk chalk.

C. Here are two spelling strategies I like from Stowell Learning Center:

Say and Write

Spelling often "goes out the window" when students are trying to write sentences and stories. If your child is continually asking you how to spell words, or is misspelling words you're sure he knows, try having him "say and write."

The student should say each sound as he writes it. This keeps him from guessing and being impulsive. It helps him think about all of the sounds in the word.


To be a good speller, you must be able to think about the sounds in the word and have a mental picture of what the word looks like.

Here is a fun strategy for visualizing how words look. Use this to practice difficult spelling words. Break the word into parts if needed and then put it back together and practice the whole word.

  1. Look at the word.
  2. Look up and visualize the word on a large imaginary screen slightly eye level. The letters should be large.
  3. Point to each letter in the air and say the letter. Repeat 3 times to get a clear image of the letters. (Draw the letters with two fingers if needed in order to get a good image).
  4. Now point to and say the letters in random order as fast as you can. (If the student can do this rapidly, he is getting a good image of the word).
  5. If there are tricky letters that the student tends to miss or make mistakes on, have him make those letters especially large, bright, or colored in his image.
  6. Spell the word forward again and say the word.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

5 Things To Know Right From the Very Start of the School Year

As a teacher, I can appreciate a parent wanting to stay on top of assignments for their child. I can not always guarantee dates, but I can give parents a heads up about the type of projects to expect in the semester/year. 
I also find it helpful as a teacher and parent when check a students agenda or planner. If it's not required for a students to write the homework down in the classroom by the teacher, then the parent should require their child to write their homework down. If a student doesn't fill in the agenda properly, assign a consequence. You can even ask your student to get a teacher signature if you don't trust your child to write down the correct answer. Just remember it will be the students' responsibility to ask the teacher. And don't forget to reward follow-through as well!

I just learned about a free texting website for teachers: Remind101.com https://www.remind.com/. Teachers can sign-up for free and parents and students can sign-up to receive texts from the teacher. I usually send out reminders on dates for tests and projects. I like that I can also upload a document with the text. Parents and students cannot text back, but find it useful for being reminded about important events in the classroom. 

Here are some other things to consider at the start of the school year.I love how Stowell Learning Center explains how to help students who get anxiety when school starts.

These three "visitors" often arrive soon after school starts.

Why? Because students want to feel successful at school and they are afraid they won't be.

This week's homework tip is simple...it's about finding out what is going to be expected during the school year. If you want to be able to help your student you must know "what's coming."

There's nothing worse than finding out the night before that the insect collection is due tomorrow (It's that one time in life when you hope to find some ants in your house!).

Take some time to find the answers to these five questions and you'll be well on your way to having a great year."
5 Things To Know Right From the Very Start of the School Year

More than any other time in the year, the beginning of school is the time when teachers lay out their expectations. This usually happens through Back to School Night or a written class syllabus or calendar. Take advantage of these to find out:
  1. When will tests typically be given and how much will they cover?
    For younger students, weekly spelling tests are normal. How many words are there usually? What about math facts test? How many questions? How often?

  2. What long-term projects will be assigned and how much time will there be to complete them?
    Some teachers are on a constant long term "track" while others may assign just a couple of projects during the year. Find out the expectations and "ground rules" now so that you can plan.

  3. How much time does the teacher expect students to spend on homework daily?
    This is a VERY important question. If your child is spending lots more time than the teacher expects, find out why. It could be that the teacher doesn't know how much is being assigned. It could be that students need a little time to adjust to the new kind of work.

    But it can also mean that there are some learning issues that ought to be dealt with.

    Just keep comparing the teacher's expectations with the reality at your house.

  4. What are the expectations for AR (Accelerated Reader)?
    How many minutes a day / week or how many books per week / month? What grade level books should be read? What if your child can't keep up? What if the books are too hard? Ask the questions NOW so that you get a clear idea of the expectations.

  5. What does the teacher expect regarding use of the computer for research and final copies of written work?
    Each teacher has his / her own expectations. Get very specific when you ask to be sure. There is nothing worse than spending the time and doing the work only to find that it won't be accepted.
Really "dig" to get the answers. DON'T wait until things are a BIG problem!

Armed with this information, you and your student should set aside time to do some long term planning. It's always best to have plans written down, even if it is a "skeleton timeline."  This will help everyone know what to expect and provides a sense of security

Getting Started with Homework

My own son has trouble following through with instructions. I ask him to get his shoes on and ten  minutes later he is playing in his room with his shoes next to him, but not on his feet. This continues with other responsibilities like homework. 

I've made my own list of things for students (who act like my son) to get started in my class:
 1. Get out your agenda
2. Write down the homework
3 Get out your opening activity (DO NOW, Sponge activity) 
4. Answer the opening activity
5. Get out your homework

This list works well for my RSP, ELL, and easily distracted students. I have laminated these instructions on a flashcard. I tell students they are to be out on their desk every time they come to my class. Usually the students have these memorized after several weeks and give me back the cards. They are able to keep up with class and don't get behind in the first ten minutes of class. 

Stowell Learning Center has a similar tip that may work for your child:

Have you ever told your son or daughter to start doing their homework, only to find them 30 minutes later just wasting time, doing other things, or staring at the pile of homework but not doing it? 

This week's tip is all about getting started.

It used to baffle me why kids wouldn't sit down and just get their work done. Now, I understand...what's obvious to me is not obvious to them!

This is one of those tips that apply whether your child struggles in school or not.

If your bright child struggles in school, this won't make the actual work easier, but it will get them organized and moving forward.   

Homework Tip
Homework Problem:
"What do I do first?"

This may sound very simple.  In fact, the answer should be obvious to everyone.

Except we know that the set of skills known as the Executive Function Skills don't actually finish developing until about the age of 25.  That means what's obvious to adults isn't so obvious to students.

Even bright older children (yes, especially those in high school) put off getting homework started just because they aren't sure what to do first.  And often they don't really understand why they are procrastinating!
Homework Solution:
Getting the Homework Started -
A Quick 4-Step Plan
Use these 4 steps to get started and keep homework organized all the way through the process.
  1. Help your child look at ALL of the homework he has.  Together decide about how much time is needed for EACH assignment.
  2. Prioritize the assignments in order from hardest to easiest
  3. As assignments are completed, teach your child to check them off.  Seeing one's own progress (checking off the assignment) is very motivating.
  4. Help your child develop a habit of putting their completed assignments in an appropriate place in their folder and backpack.  Habits don't develop without practice, so lots of monitoring and praise is needed here.
While this is pretty obvious organizational "stuff," it actually involves a lot of skills that kids won't develop until later on in life.  Getting started now will give them a procedure they can use for the rest of their lives.