Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spelling Strategies for Kids (adults too!)

Here are two strategies for helping kids be better spellers from Stowell Learning Center:
Spelling Strategies
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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making Sure Homework Is Turned In

Here are some tips from Stowell Learning Center to "Making Sure Homework Is Turned In:"

This week we'll cover the other big hindrance to getting credit for homework... making sure the homework is turned in.

This seems so obviously easy - to get completed homework turned in - but it's a VERY BIG obstacle for some students.

This is a HUGE frustration to parents who spend their evenings making sure homework is completed and correct. Not to get credit for it can be the "straw that breaks the camel's back."

Organization Strategy
Getting Homework Put Away and Turned-In
Students with attention challenges often experience the frustration of working very hard to complete their homework, and then losing it or forgetting to turn it in. Good intentions and reminders from others are not generally enough to solve this problem.
Each student needs to have a PLAN for putting homework away and getting it turned in, and it must be practiced and monitored until it becomes a habit.
The strategy below for putting homework away and getting it turned in can be applied to any number of areas where a new habit needs to be created.

  • Both you and your child should determine EXACTLY what should be done with homework when it is completed.
  • When your child finishes an assignment, ask, "What do you need to do with your completed homework?"
  • Your student should talk through the process out loud saying, "I've finished my math homework so I put it in the math section of the folder." Once this is a stable procedure, have him mentally talk himself through the process.
  • Discuss how homework is collected in each class. Have your student visualize, and then, out loud, talk through the process of turning in his homework in each class. Have him mentally hear the teacher asking for the homework at the beginning of class, visualize himself putting the homework in the designated homework box, etc.

    Example: (Verbalize to parent while visualizing)
    "I'm walking into math class. I go to my desk, which is in the third row and I sit down and put my backpack down next to me on my left side.

    "I'm opening my backpack and taking out my folder. I go to the math section and take out my math homework. I put the math homework on the right front corner of my desk.

    "When the teacher starts to talk, I look right at her and hear her saying to pass our papers to the person on our left. I see myself picking up my math homework and handing it to Sam who sits next to me."
Starting with one or two classes, have him visualize and verbalize turning in his homework in detail just before going to bed at night and before going to school in the morning.

This should be done every day until the he is successfully and consistently turning in his homework in the given classes. Then he can begin to visualize and mentally (instead of orally) rehearse the process and can add on more classes when ready.

Despite how simple it seems to turn in your homework, the above process will make it automatic.

Keeping School supplies Organized Throughout the Year

Have your homework supplies been depleted through the school year? Read on to learn some tips from Stowell Learning Center. Sign-up to receive homework tips through email on their website.

Does every afternoon seem like a treasure hunt?

Are you forever looking for sharpened pencils, lined paper, rulers, calculators, dictionaries, colored pencils, etc.?
We know that homework can be a stressful time without having to play "Hide & Seek" every day!

This is the time of year to replenish all your school / homework supplies so that homework time will be less stressful.
So below is a way to make sure these daily last-minute searches are over.
To better homework experiences at your house,
Homework Tip
Homework Problem:
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

How to complete those end-of-chapter questions?

How do you complete those end-of-chapter questions? Here are some ideas from Stowell Learning Center:

One of the more "tortuous" 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
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.

Some tips for improving organization and communication with students, teachers, and parents

Here are some tips for improving organization and communication with students, teachers, and parents. Sign-up for homework tips from Stowell Learning Center.

 Homework Problem: 
Missing Materials

It happens far too often.  Math book, spelling words, science notebook, reading folder, vocabulary worksheet; at least one of these necessary things fail to make it home after school with your child so that homework can be completed.
It can be soooooooo frustrating!  You sit down to help with homework only to find the book, the paper, the chart, or some other vitally key element is not even's still at school.  Grrrrrrrr!
And then the scrambling starts.  Do we race back to school on the chance that the teacher is still in her classroom?  Do we call a friend?  Or should I just send my child to school tomorrow knowing that he'll get another incomplete homework assignment?
Homework Solution:
Binder Reminder
Most teachers are more than happy to help with this solution as long as you make it easy for them.
Here's what to do:  Make a list of any and all of the materials your child may need to take home from school and write them on an index card.  Next, laminate the card or wrap it in clear packing tape.  Then, ask your child's teacher to attach the card to the upper corner of your child's desk and help to implement a simple routine.
When homework is assigned throughout the day, ask the teacher to use a dry erase marker to circle the item your child will need for that assignment.  When it is time to pack up at the end of the day, your child should erase the circles for each item ONLY after he places it in his backpack.
This will not only help your child to develop independence, but save you from any more after school scavenger hunts!
Make SURE you reward the teacher with a personal thank you note (an email does NOT count!).
*Note: I had a co-worker say this would only work for elementary. I disagree. Make 6 different sections (1 for each class) on one sheet of paper in a sheet protector or on the front cover of the binder that the teacher can easily mark and is easy for the parent to read as well. Most teachers are open to communicating this way as long as the student remembers to come up to the teacher at the beginning or end of class.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Getting the Most out of Daily Reading with Less Fuss and More Enjoyment

A tip from Stowell Learning Center, dealing with moody kids and getting them to re-focus so they can get their work done. Sign-up for weekly tips form Stowell Learning Center. 

Is reading a challenge for your student?

Helping make reading at home easier is going to "pay off" as they get older. The reading gets harder as kids get older.

Most students are required to do daily reading. Usually, this is "free reading" or reading for AR (Accelerated Reading) tests.

For slow or struggling readers, what is supposed to be an enjoyable activity can turn out to be very stressful.

Below is a simple technique that takes the pressure off of the student, while exposing him (or her) to books he really wants to read.

Here's to making this the best school year ever.

Getting the Most out of Daily Reading with Less Fuss and More Enjoyment

Have your student use his finger to point under each word as you, the parent, points above each word. Read the passage slowly but fluently together. If the student doesn't know a word, be sure (s)he says it correctly after you say it.

When you get to a punctuation mark, just tap twice.

This strategy takes the stress off of your student while giving him the opportunity to see, hear, say, and touch each word accurately.

This technique has been proven to improve reading comprehension with just 10 minutes a day of practice!

When students get comfortable with this technique, they can use it for studying and test taking by pointing to each word as they orally or mentally say it, tapping twice at punctuation.

This simple little technique increases accuracy and attention to words and meanings. Give it a try for a few days and watch the improvement.

Not in the Mood for Homework? Try an "Infinity Walk"

A tip from Stowell Learning Center, dealing with moody kids and getting them to re-focus so they can get their work done. Sign-up for weekly tips form Stowell Learning Center. 

Fifth grade can be an unbearable year socially for girls. They find themselves "in" or "out" of small groups of friends on almost a daily basis, so parents never know which daughter they're going to pick up from school - the one that's giggling or the one that's sobbing.

A child who's sobbing or feeling upset or rejected for whatever reason is not a good candidate for smooth sailing during homework time that day.

The goal of this exercise is to change the mood or attitude of students that just aren't in the frame of mind to focus on school or homework.

GENTLY, give it a try and see if you can help your child achieve a different "state."

Bad Attitude? Not in the Mood for Homework? Try Taking an "Infinity Walk"

The Infinity Walk is a simple but quite powerful technique developed by Dr. Deborah Sunbeck. In fact, she has written two books about it. (Infinity Walk: The Physical Self and Infinity Walk: Preparing the Mind to Learn).

Have your child walk in the shape of the infinity sign or an 8 lying on its side. If your child has trouble walking that shape, you can put down two hula hoops or two shoes spaced wide apart for him to walk around.

The student should walk the infinity sign over and over without shoes on. Coach him in a quiet, slow voice to notice the feel of his feet on the floor, to let his shoulders and face relax, and to walk and breathe slowly.

This repetitive movement activates many connections in the brain that help a person to feel more focused, emotionally in control, and ready for learning. Typically, you will want to do Infinity Walk for 3 to 5 minutes to help your child focus and feel refreshed and ready for learning.

When your child is sad, frustrated, angry, or otherwise emotionally engaged, do Infinity Walk until you notice a change in facial and body tension. This could take as much as 10 minutes or more. Once you've seen the shift, you know your child is more mentally available and ready to begin or resume homework.