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

Summer reading doesn’t have to be drudgery.

From Emily Gibbons at The Literacy Nest.

Seven Summer Reading Tips for Struggling Readers

When I think of summer vacation, I have visions of popsicles, playing in the sprinkler, lemonade stands, long summer evenings and lazy days reading in a hammock. As an educator, I know that for struggling readers, reading is often the last thing on their mind when they think of relaxation. But,  I also worry about summer learning loss or “the summer slide”. On average, students lose one month of school learning during the summer vacation. For students with dyslexia, the loss is likely even greater and will be more time consuming for them to regain than their peers. However, children with dyslexia have worked very hard all school year long and should definitely make time for fun and play. Striking a balance is key.

Here are a few tips for keeping reading a part of a balanced summer:

1: Don’t stop tutoring

It is tempting to “take the summer off” from tutoring, but in many cases, summer is a good opportunity to increase the amount of one-on-one tutoring your child is getting in order help them take a leap forward. Work with your tutor to schedule a time that allows your child to do activities important to them. Perhaps first thing in the morning is easiest, so they don’t feel interrupted. Or maybe early evening after day camp is a better time. If they need a break, consider taking a week at the end of the school year and a week before the new school year starts to recharge, but continue tutoring during the rest of the summer.

2. Make friends with your Librarian

Your local library is one of the best summer resources around. Most have a summer reading incentive program and special summer programming with crafts and special guests.   Work with your children’s librarian on helping your child reach their reading goal. Reading to them, listening to audiobooks (ear reading) and reading on their own should all be able to count toward the goal. Set aside a day each week to visit and check out books.

3.  Make a routine

Make daily reading a part of your family’s routine. Reading to your child, having them read to you or having “Family Reading Time” (everyone puts down their phones and picks up a book at a certain time each day) all help to ensure that reading doesn’t fall by the wayside on busy summer days.

4. Anything counts

Don’t hesitate if your child wants to read easy books, comic books, or listen to audiobooks. All of these are going to help their development as a reader in different ways, and they all have value. Podcasts are another great way to expand vocabulary and broaden your child’s knowledge about different topics.

5. Go Thematic

One way to make reading a bit more exciting for summer is to tie in books to summer vacation plans. Are you going on a boating adventure? Read books about boating and pirates. Are you going hiking or camping? Wilderness and adventure stories might be just your cup of tea. Keeping busy in the garden? Dive into some nonfiction books about insects and plants. Traveling to Prince Edward Island? Anne of Green Gables would make a perfect accompaniment to your travels. If you are extra creative, you can even tie in games and activities for lots of thematic summer fun.

6: Write with a purpose

It isn’t just reading that benefits from practice over the summer. Writing and spelling need an opportunity to stay fresh as well. Making a grocery list, sending postcards or letters to friends and family, and keeping a journal of summer adventures are all good ways of writing with a genuine reason.

7: Use technology.

Apps like Nessy for phonics games, or Epic for audiobooks are fun literacy reinforcements that kids of many ages can enjoy. Epic offers a special deal for signing up in the summer, so be sure to check that out!

I hope you will make a place for books and reading this summer and keep your child’s learning fresh, so they can hit the ground running when a new school year begins. Along the way, I hope you have a lot of fun sharing books and making memories. Don’t forget to have a popsicle and play in the sprinkler! After all, that’s what summer’s all about for kids (of all ages)!

Happy Holidays

Article by Jacki Reinert, Psy.D.

“As a child, the idea of Christmas meant cookies, presents, time with family, and of course, giving up TGIF’s Full House in favor of holiday movies. Everything from Scrooged to A Miracle on 34th Street to Home Alone, and every clay animated favorite served as the framework for my formulation of what the holidays truly meant; “It’s Christmas Eve. It’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year we are the people that we always hoped we would be.” Frank Cross’s commentary on Christmas set expectations high, and year after year, we hoped to top the magic and splendor of the previous year’s festivities.
As a parent, the holiday season conjures up warm memories of childhood, ignites aspirations to establish new traditions, and creates opportunities to share experiences with our loved ones, particularly our children. The magic of the holidays can also cultivate high expectations; to act nicer, smile easier, and to cheer more. These expectations more often than not exceed our capacity to truly encapsulate the hopes and aspirations we drum up in our heads. High expectations can pave the way for increased levels of perceived stress.
The American Psychological Association recently released its annual review, Stress in America (November, 2017), which indicates the United States has reached its highest stress level yet. Acute arousal stress in isolation can activate and enhance mobilization, sharpening our concentration and preparing our bodies to engage in challenging tasks, such as wrapping those last two presents and baking another round of cookies. This basic human reaction known as the “flight-or-fight” response has served us well, priming our bodies to flee or combat unsafe situations; however, our bodies can also overreact to simple, non-threatening situations, such as holiday pressure, financial difficulties, and increasing family demands.
Chronic stress has far more lasting and serious complications, particularly when it exceeds our ability to cope and leads to emotional and physical dysregulation. Stress is negatively related to our coping potential and our perception of control, which decreases use of problem-solving coping strategies and increases negative coping strategies, such as alcohol consumption and avoidance tactics (Rui Gomes, Faria, & Gonçalves, 2013). Individuals who experience elevations in stress and engage in maladaptive coping strategies such as drinking more alcohol, complaining, sleeping less, and consuming unhealthy foods which increase chances of becoming physically and mentally run down.
For parents, the added stress of the holidays and high expectations can have a significant impact on not only themselves, but those around them. Research suggests that adults are more likely to find family responsibilities stressful than they have in the past (APA, November, 2017). High expectations can make capturing the perfect holiday, particularly when parenting a child with special needs, a stressful time, leading to feelings of resentment (“I’m doing all of this and no one is helping me”), frustration (“I have no time to fit this all in”), and disappointment (“It seems like they didn’t have a good time”).
This year, I encourage you to lower your holiday expectations, increase self-care and self-compassion. While practicing self-care may be the furthest thing from your mind, the following may offer some reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
1. Expect that things will go wrong, and that’s okay. Someone will get sick, you might burn a dish, and yes, that’s okay. Avoid catastrophic thinking, a common cognitive distortion where we imagine and worry about the worst possible situation, either consciously or subconsciously. For example, your ability to prepare the perfect holiday dinner for twelve people is an act, not a representation of how good of a person you are. You are not the sum of how well-executed things are, how perfectly the house looks, how your children act.
2. Practice self-regulation and utilize coping skills. The easiest way to understand the subtle difference between these two concepts is to imagine yourself in a car, driving down I-90 into Boston and someone cuts you off. To access a coping skill to manage your anger, you would first need to pull off the highway, put the car in park, and throw on your hazard lights. Conversely, if you were utilizing a self-regulation skill, you could continue driving and manage your thoughts and feelings in the moment. Self-regulation is the ability to modulate our emotions and impulses, to keep ourselves in check, whereas coping is a process or actions that help you manage difficult emotions. Examples of self-regulation skills include diaphragmatic breathing (learn more here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFcQpNr_KA4&t=140s) and box breathing (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dP4Jxxhhzl0). Coping skills can include meditation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Bs0qUB3BHQ), and progressive muscle relaxation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nZEdqcGVzo).
3. Practice micro-moments of positivity. Research suggests that rather than pursue the perfect gift to demonstrate your love for a family member, seeking out opportunities to be present and make a meaningful connection have a more lasting effect (Heshmati, Oravecz, Pressman, Bathcelder, Muth, & Vandekerckhove, 2017). Crawling into bed and reading a holiday book with your children, or complete a small craft together can have a more lasting impact that securing a sloth Fingerling for them. You can read more about micro-moments here: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence
4. Opt outside! Research suggests that spending time in nature can have significant effect on mood (https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/09/568834440/what-s-better-than-expensive-presents-the-gift-of-presence) and can increase sun exposure and the benefits of Vitamin D. Locate a winter wonderland hike here: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/health/2016/01/11/winter-hiking-massachusetts/
5. Finally, don’t forget about self-care. Self-care is a deliberate act to support and nurture your physical and mental health. Taking care of yourself not only helps you but those around you. There are several TED talks highlighting the benefit of self-care: https://www.ted.com/playlists/299/the_importance_of_self_care 
Enjoy your holidays everyone.

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)

FIVE CLASSROOM PRACTICES YOUR DYSLEXIC KIDS DON’T NEED

From Emily Gibbons at The Literacy Nest

“Being fair doesn’t ALWAYS mean doing the same thing for everyone. 
The minute we as teachers and parents let that sink in, we can begin to free ourselves of some of the things that felt like non-negotiables, but honestly, should be for a dyslexic child. So here are five things they do not need. Why? It’s all about leveling the playing field.

FYI- This is an opinion post based on working with dyslexic children for 16 years and speaking with hundreds of teachers who work with them.

1. The Same, Weekly, Spelling List And Test As The Rest Of The Class
Weekly spelling tests are great for kids with excellent rote memory. You get your words on Monday, you practice all week, cram on Thursday night and test on Friday. The cycle starts all over the next Monday. We don’t create successful spellers in this cycle. And if you have dyslexia, you need a structured approach to phonics and spelling that focuses on one pattern, rule or skill at a time. Too many lists go home that teach TOO MANY RULES.  It’s difficult to teach spelling skills for mastery when there are too many skills within one list.

2. Timed Math Fact Tests
This is another rite of passage in many classrooms as is the weekly spelling test. Kids need practical strategies that will help them build flexibility and fluency with their math facts. Rote memorization of facts is a source of stress for many children with dyslexia. Anyone under stress knows one thing: learning will not happen with fear. Give tools, practice things like skip counting and looking for patterns in multiples, instead.
3. The Same Homework
When I was a classroom teacher, I was guilty of giving out the Monday packet to be completed and turned in by Friday. There is a great debate going on about giving homework at all.  Cutting the quantity for a dyslexia child is leveling the playing field when you consider the amount of time and mental energy it takes to get through a single homework assignment, especially after a long school day. For older students, cutting quantity might be easy to do when you have been assigned a report. But the pathway to get there can be reformed with assistive technologies.

4.  Unsupported Sustained Silent Reading
Let’s be clear. SSR is NOT the same as structured independent reading time within a literacy block. SSR is futile if a child is reading a book that is too challenging or abandoning books every day. No one wants to see a struggling reader left out to pasture in a manner of words. Teachers need to assist children with appropriate book choice and then check in with them through mini conferences or use of a sticky note or reading log. This should happen more frequently for dyslexia readers. Dyslexic readers should have access to audio books as much as possible.

5. Marked Down For Spelling Errors
I see this happening a lot with dyslexia kids. Listen, they know they have a hard time with spelling. Circling a bunch of spelling errors in red or purple or marking them down will not help them improve. I will say, however, as an O.G. teacher that holding kids with dyslexia accountable for the lessons that have had explicit phonics instruction is a good thing. We teach for mastery in O.G. If my student has mastered the FLOSS Rule, then I will expect them to try their best to apply that rule in their writing. The key is to have accountability in spelling in small doses, not overwhelmingly long lists of rules.”
http://www.theliteracynest.com/2016/11/five-classroom-practices-your-dyslexic.html

Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment

This fall, my friend Sara and I taught a community education class on Dyslexia and received many positive comments from those that attended, so we decided to do it again.

 

Here are the details:

Dyslexia – Knowledge, Awareness, and Empowerment

Dyslexia is a learning challenge facing many children.  Come learn about dyslexia and other learning difficulties.  The main objective of the class is to discover tools and attitudes that will empower students with learning struggles.  This is a great survey course for parents and instructors.

Classes are Monday evenings at Ordean East Community School on Feb 22th, 29th and March 7th from 6:30 to 8:30pm.

 

Click here to sign up.

 

 

I will also be hosting a community education session:

 

Struggling Learners – What a Parent Should Consider

 

Is this year hard for your child? How can you help your child be more successful at
school? Homework takes hours and we’re still in elementary school, should it be this
hard? We’ll talk about reasons why kids struggle, how to help and how work with his/her
teacher.

 

This class is Tuesday, Feb 9th at Lincoln Park Middle School from 6:30-8:30pm.

 

Register here.

Thoughts from Fernette Eide MD at Dyslexic Advantage……..

From the University of Washington: “Structural brain differences between children with dyslexia and dysgraphia and children who are typical language learners have been observed…Researchers say the findings prove that using a single category of learning disability to qualify for special education services is not scientifically supported.”

In a recent misplaced effort by the American Psychiatric Association, the latest update of the DSMV proposed lumping dyslexia under the general category of SLD or Specific Learning Disability. The problems are multiple, but the practical dilemma faced by students and teachers is that if differences aren’t named or recognized, chances are the solutions aren’t either.

Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 8.41.22 AMWhat Berninger and her colleagues have found are different neural signatures for dyslexia and dysgraphia: “contrasting patterns of white matter integrity between dyslexia and dysgraphia was the greater perpendicular radial diffusivity in seven brain regions on the right in dyslexia but left in the dysgraphic group.” Discussing this research, Berninger added: “the two specific learning disabilities are not the same because the white matter connections and patterns and number of gray matter functional connections were not the same in the children with dyslexia and dysgraphia — on either the writing or cognitive thinking tasks.

Federal law guarantees a free and appropriate public education to children with learning disabilities, but does not require that specific types of learning disabilities are diagnosed, or that schools provide evidence-based instruction for dyslexia or dysgraphia. Consequently, the two conditions are lumped together under a general category for learning disabilities, Berninger said, and many schools do not recognize them or offer specialized instruction for either one.

“There’s just this umbrella category of learning disability,” said Berninger. “That’s like saying if you’re sick you qualify to see a doctor, but without specifying what kind of illness you have, can the doctor prescribe appropriate treatment?”

“Many children struggle in school because their specific learning disabilities are not identified and they are not provided appropriate instruction.”

Read the Berninger group’s  original research paper HERE.

Read The Problem with Schools Not Identifying Dyslexia.

There are other interesting tidbits in the paper, for example the observation of “the dyslexia group’s strong functional connectivity than the control group during resting state (default network)”. The authors interpreted this observation only in a negative or deficit-focused framework, but of course, the default network has a strong role in creative problem solving and mental simulation.

 

http://blog.dyslexicadvantage.org/2015/05/20/got-science-dyslexia-and-dysgraphia-are-different-and-why-sld-should-rip/