Struggling writers

As always Dr. Richard Selznick has some important ideas, this time about struggling writers.  Here is his recent blog.

Open-Ended writing is usually not difficult for children on the “smooth road,”  the ones without the myriad of variables leading to school struggling.

For the “Smooth-Roaders” their sentences are complete and varied in style.    There is flow to their written stories generated and logic in their paragraphs.

With open-ended writing, children are given some type of prompt, such as, “write about your favorite trip,” or “write about your weekend.”

It is open-ended, because it can go in any direction.  The idea is that the children will tap into their creative selves and be able to express themselves on paper.

However, for those children on the rougher road, the ones with a variety of learning problems, open-ended writing is brutal on many levels.

Here’s an excerpt from a writing sample of an 8-year-old writing about his favorite vacation:

“Uurvl is a ghat pls for a sekal reris.  At first jassit park miat besley but the seord time you go it is cool…..Evening no it’s the slisy rias in the park it goes with Dr. serrl!  Thes saren is call serrl laanring.  Lastly, I’ll talk about the qrslins.  Tars go lef and rert and lef and rert and, you get the ideas. There are sehal rrenis why I love going to uurvl.”

Or there was the 9 year old who wrote a story to a picture that he had drawn:

“Once aqha time ther was a boy namd levi he lived in a hog house and it was so mosh fon. and he livel in lll borenrom lahe.  And he had loss of frahs and naders.  The End.”

In screenings of their cognitive and intellectual capabilities, both of these kids demonstrated at least average cognitive potential.

Neither child was classified or receiving any type of service or official accommodation under a 504 Plan.

When the parents questioned what they should do they were told by the school to “read to your child.”  There was also the veiled suggestion of putting the child on medication, “even though we are not doctors.”

For these children, reading to them or medicating them will not accomplish much relative to their fundamental inability to write.

Continuing with any open-ended writing will be particularly problematic,  as they have no concept of what a sentence is and their spelling is severely impacting their thought process.For them, the concept of what represents a basic sentence is not something they have been taught or internalized and they are in need of intense, focused remedial instruction,

I usually dwell in metaphors or basic images that help to put things to parents in down-to-earth terms.

The metaphor of taking them back to the shallow end of the pool is fully applicable.  They need to spend a lot of time in the shallow end of the pool (writing simple and basic sentences) and then incrementally moving out beyond, one baby step at a time.

Instead of encouraging creativity and “write what you feel,” they need to practice at the most simplistic levels building on a logical sequence of one skill leading to another.

http://shutdownlearner.com/writing-deficits-on-the-rough-road/

Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?

 

Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read? is an amazing podcast (and text) by Emily Hanford at APMreports (https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/09/10/hard-words-why-american-kids-arent-being-taught-to-read).  Decades of scientific research shows us how children learn to read.   Often teachers are uninformed about the science and, in some cases, they chose to ignore it. This documentary will share the science behind teaching reading.  Next, we need to tackle the same issue in writing.  For other educational podcast, check out https://www.apmreports.org/educate-podcast

2018 Teacher Training

2018  Teacher Training

Orton-Gillingham courses with Student Practicum

 

Congdon Park Elementary School

Duluth, MN

July 30 – August 10

Introductory Course

Registration

$1,000.00 before May 1, 2018

$1,100.00 May 1 and after

Scholarship available (limited, need-based)

Deadline April 27, 2017

Children can participate in the Reading Camp for 9 days.  

For more information: visit www.ogmn.org.

Introductory : for students in entering grades 1st – 3rd grade

Cost: $150.00 for 9 sessions (Scholarships available)

2 sessions to choose from:   9:30 – 10:25 or 10:30 – 11:25

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For more information and to register,

go to:    www.ogmn.org  or  call 218-340-7393

 

 

Orton-Gillingham of Minnesota is accredited by the

International Multisensory Structured Language Education Council (IMSLEC) and Approved by the International Dyslexia Association

Tantrum or Meltdown?

While I was at the mall this weekend, I saw a beautiful toddler having an all-out — tantrum or was it a meltdown.  To my eyes, it was a meltdown, and the dad was doing a great job being calm and lovingly while he carrying him out of the mall. So, what is the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown? And then, is there a difference in how to handle them?

Here is a nice chart from understood.org….

Hooks in a Mental Closet by Dr. Richard Selznick

As part of an assessment I recently asked 17- year-old near senior, Bethany, “Who wrote Hamlet?”  Looking bewildered, she said, “I have no idea.”

Then, when asked to define the word “tranquil,” she could not further no guess.  Bethany had no association to the word.

By the end of the assessment, it turned out that Bethany scored in the 16th%ile for word knowledge and the 9th % ile for fund of information and general knowledge.

In contrast, Bethany functioned somewhat above average on tasks that were nonverbal, like putting blocks together to make spatial patterns and while analyzing a series of visual patterns.

“I think I have ADD,” Bethany said to me.

“What tells you that,” I asked her.

“When I read my mind wanders.  I have no idea what I am reading.  In class I can’t follow what the teacher is saying and have no clue what they are discussing. It has to be ADD – I think I should be on meds. Most of my friends are on meds.”

I get that kind of thing a lot – kids thinking they should “be on meds.”

Even though Bethany may benefit from stimulant medication, what I do know is that one of the primary reasons Bethany does not pay attention in class or while reading is that she lacks what I call “hooks in the mental closet.”

We used to think of reading as a fundamentally one-direction process.  In this model words would go from the page to the brain.  Researchers in the 1980s and 1990s enlightened us that reading (and listening to class lectures) was more of a two-way, interactive process.

The fact is the more “hooks we have in our mental closet” (the researchers used different terminology, mind you), the better we comprehend what we are reading or understand what we are listening to.

These “hooks” also help us to pay attention.  While medication may help Bethany focus, she still needs to be building in background knowledge and word awareness to try and overcome her sense of feeling lost.

In short, Bethany needs to build in more hooks.

There are plenty of books on the market that may be helpful such as, “Words You Should Know In High School: 1000 Essential Words To Build Vocabulary, Improve Standardized Test Scores, And Write Successful Papers.”

I can tell you with pretty good assurance that Bethany knew about 15 % of the essential 1000 words.

Even if Bethany practiced two words per day for a year, she would be in much better shape with the 720 new words (365 words X 2) for the year that she could learn.

There would be 720 new hooks in her mental closet!!!

Takeaway Point

Hooks in the mental closet matter and may explain some of the reason your child is not paying attention or adequately comprehending. Try and build them in any way you can.

 

Make reading a priority this summer…..

With just a little over a month left of school, it’s time remember the impact that daily reading can make for students.  Shaywitz’s (2003) graph below says so much

For those who find reading a challenge, summer is the time when just a little bit of intentional, focused oral practice every day can help a student get them back on track and regain their confidence.

For those that find reading and writing especially difficult, it’s a great time for multi-sensory scientifically based instruction, sometimes referred to as Orton-Gillingham or Structured Language approach, with a tutor trained in these methods to solidify skills. It’s time to work on skills that are lagging behind their peers, without the fatigue created by spending the day in the classroom.  Students have a marvelous opportunity to make strong gains.

Whether you’ve planned some “academics” for your children or not, below are some ideas for summer activities. In addition, you could consider rewarding your child with an end of the week treat if they read at least a certain amount of time minutes for at least five days in the previous week (an old fashioned chore  chart works well for this).  20 minutes a day 5 days a week is less than 2% of summer vacation.  How much time do they spend practicing sports, playing computer games, or other things.  Make reading a priority this summer.

Below are some ideas to encourage and enjoy reading.  Need some ideas for “treats/rewards”? Try a DQ, a new book, a special dessert, and — a favorite at our house – having a picnic dinner.

  1.  Find a movie based on a book.  Watch the movie, then read/listen to the book.  Talk about the differences and similarities.
  2.  Go to the library and borrow some books and games.
  3.  Pre-read some of the books that will be part of next year’s reading.  (Get that list from the teacher before school ends.)
  4.  Do a read-out-loud book.
  5.  Make dinner together—read the recipe, measure the ingredients, learn about the chemistry of cooking.
  6.  Play board games and card games.
  7.  Encourage your child to read to a pet or younger sibling/neighbor.
  8.  On a rainy day, have your children curl up with comic books or magazines.
  9.  Have your child plan a dream day somewhere. Be creative: they could write about it, make a collage, research with a travel book, or just talk about their ideal day.  Make sure you share your ideas, too.
  10.  Have a TV/technology free day.
  11.  Once a week, “drop everything and read” for 15 minutes … everyone in the house has to participate.
  12. CREATE A READING HABIT!!!

 

Reference

Shaywitz, S. (2003).  Overcoming Dyslexia: A new and complete science-based program for reading problems at any level.  New York, NY: Vintage Books.

Scientifically Based Reading Instruction

This is a nice comparison from Dr. Louisa Moats in her article The Whole-Language High Jinks: How to tell when ‘scientifically-based reading instruction’ isn’t. We need Scientifically Based Reading Research driving our reading instruction.  (Moats. L., 2007, pg 18)

Just out December 2016.

Parent and Educator Resource Guide to Section 504 in Public Elementary
and Secondary School pamphlet was just published by the US Department of
Education, Office of Civil Rights.  It’s available at the following link
https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/504-resource-guide-201612.pdf