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.