Organize your Life!

One of the most frustrating parts of having executive functioning difficulties, is the lack of a clear organizational system. Simple, everyday tasks become difficult when you don’t know where to begin or worse…when you are ready to begin you can’t because you cannot find the necessary tools for the job. This can really get in the way of not just learning, but life in general. Those with poor organizational skills often end up late for school, appointments, social functions, etc.

Whether it is the child that is lacking in organizational abilities, or the parent (I’m guilty of this!) here are a few suggestions and strategies to help make things go a little smoother.

1.ROUTINE – Create a routine for your family. This is so important. Routines can easily become habits when they are DSC_0014-3Snap 2012-03-07 at 08.02.04consistent. This paves the way for leaning life-long strategies to help organize your life. Time management is always a valuable lesson. Making a schedule for your young children to follow can cut out a lot of family arguments as well. If children have assigned shower times and homework
times, there is no fighting over who goes next in the shower and yelling to turn the tunes down (depending on the age of your children). Always include homework time, a chore and free time in the routine. A balance is necessary. If your child doesn’t have time for these things, you may want to consider a shift in activities for better time management.calendar

2.FAMILY CALENDAR – Have a central family calendar that is posted somewhere with high visibility, like the fridge. I bought an “Mom’s Ultimate Family Fridge Calendar”. It comes with stickers for different activities and
appointments. You could also find many different DIY calendar ideas on Pinterest. It is way easier to plan events and activities when everyone knows what is going on.

2.PERSONAL AGENDA – Another important tool for children as students is the agenda. Many students are expected to carry an agenda for school each day. This
provides an essential daily means of communication between the parent and teacher. Phone calls and interviews are good for periodic checks, but in order for you to get the full picture on your child’s agendaschool day, an agenda routine is necessary. Some teachers and/or schools do not follow this policy. If that is the case it may be difficult for you to convince your child to consistently use an agenda, but give it it a try. It keeps them organized with assignments and homework and they can transfer any important days onto the family calendar at the end of the day.
Some teachers use blogs and websites to relay this type of information. That is great news! Make sure that checking the blog or website is built in to your child’s nightly routine.

3. ORGANIZE! – Organize and reorganize and reorganize! We finally get a room organized and then VOILA! All your hard is gone. Of course it is…it takes work to stay organized. Make sure you expect this to happen. Look for lots of ideas on how to organize parts of your house. I find most of mine on Pinterest or Google. It does take time to adjust to news ways of organizing your items, but it is worth it when you are looking. I use labels and pictures to help organize things at home and things at school. If you aren’t sure where to start, a FANTASTIC website for organizing your life is:

http://www.flylady.net/

 

This website really can help you clean and organize your entire house. She has tons of great ideas and even better – a routine to follow!

Most of my favourite ideas come from Pinterest though…

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4. GENTLE REMINDERS – Remember – everyone needs lots of reminders! That usually includes the parents too. It takes a lot of work to change a lifestyle. You can do it! Life will be so much easier in the end.

LD@School

Last week, all of the LDA Chapters across the province of Ontario had the opportunity to get together for a couple of days to network, share ideas, learn about new LDAO initiatives, and work on developing a consistent brand for LDAs across the province.  I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to attend, along with Shelley, who is one of our Board Members (Shelley is also one of our guest bloggers, check out her most recent post, Issues Facing Adult Literacy Learners).

It was great to hear about some of the innovative initiatives that other LDA Chapters across the province have been providing.  Between mentoring programs, entrepreneurial programs, having ambassadors and champions, publishing research in peer-reviewed journals, LDAs across the province are helping people with LD/ADHD achieve success.  Shelley and I came back from the meeting with lots of ideas of things we can try here in Windsor – Essex.

LD@School and TA@l’école

LD@SchoolIn my opinion, one of the most exciting things to hear about was LDAO’s new initiative, called LD@School (or TA@l’école in French).  This project is funded by the Ministry of Education, and is a website that offers free resources for educators who work with students with learning disabilities.  There is an English version of the website (www.LDatSchool.ca) and a French version of the website (www.TAaLecole.ca).  The websites are a work-in-progress, so new resources are being added all of the time.  There is currently:

  • various articles (written by LDAO staff and school board contributors);
  • English and French videos created in collaboration with Ontario educators;
  • practical summaries of strategies, practices, and approaches that educators can put directly to work in their classrooms;
  • sign-up page for upcoming webinars;
  • links to relevant websites with additional resources;
  • links to documents prepared specifically for educators from a variety of educational organizations; and
  • information relating to LDAO’s one-day Educators’ Institute being held on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 (there will be English and French workshops).

LD@School

LDAO is currently looking for inspirational youth with learning disabilities who would be interested in submitting a Success Story for the website.  If you are someone you know would like to share their story, please contact LDAO at info@LDatSchool.ca or info@TAaLecole.ca.

Help For Struggling Readers

ImageFrom research, a student’s phonological and phonemic awareness is very predicative of being able to learn to read.  Phonological Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate parts of words and syllables.  Phonemic Awareness is the ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.  For example, if you take the word ‘cat’ it has three phonemes: /c/ / a/ /t/.  Students who struggle with phonemic awareness will tend to struggle with reading. The good news is, that both phonological and phonemic awareness can be developed by explicit instruction and practice through numerous activities.

Many students identified with a reading disability are past the age where phonological and phonemic awareness is taught in the classroom.  These students benefit from one-on-one or small group instruction in these skills.  Student’s attending the LDAWE’s ABC123 Tutoring Program are instructed in these skills.  Through developmentally appropriate activities and play, students practice and improve upon these skills either individually with a tutor or in a small group of two or three students.

Parents of my students ask what they can do at home to support their struggling reader.  Some activities I suggest to parents include playing word games.  Reading books with rhymes is also helpful.   I’ve put together a list of my favourite games, computer sites and iPad apps that help students improve their phonological and phonemic awareness.

Games

Scrabble Soup

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Chunk Stacker

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Reading Rods

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Rhyme Out

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Rhyming Bingo

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Websites

Turtle Diary

PBS Kids Island

Starfall

iPad Apps

Montessori Letter Sounds

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Word Wizard

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Bob Books #1 – Reading Magic

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PBPhonics 1 to 3

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ABC Spelling Magic

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What have you tried for your struggling readers?  Is there anything you would recommend?

Strategies for Success: Making this school year a positive one for your students with ADHD

It’s hard to believe that another summer has gone by and that it’s time for school once again.  I’ve always loved the beginning of a new school year.  It’s a refreshing new start and an opportunity to begin with a clean slate.   Image In a few short weeks, the ABC123 Tutoring Program at the LDAWE will recommence for the new school year.  For me, it’s always an exciting time as I prepare new language and math activities in anticipation of the students I will be working with and also freshen up some of my existing material.   Soon, I will be seeing my students that I have gotten to know very well over the last three years and I will be meeting new students that are joining the program for the first time.   My students are all diverse, with their own unique talents and their own set of challenges.  It’s a busy time especially in the beginning as I begin to map out the program in ways that will help each individual best.  One of the challenges I face is not the materials I prepare or the individual assessments I make.   The most difficult part of my job is managing the classroom with so many students, many of who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). “Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurobiological disorder that can be noticed in the preschool or early grades of school. ADHD affects between 5-12% of the population or about 1 or 2 students in every classroom.”

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Individuals with ADHD will have at least one symptom that includes: Hyperactivity, Impulsivity and Inattentiveness.  (Read more about ADHD signs and symptoms at the LDAO website: http://www.ldao.ca/introduction-to-ldsadhd/introduction-to-ldsadhd/what-is-adhd/)  It can be a very busy and loud classroom environment and can be an enormous challenge for even the most seasoned teacher.

I believe that teachers can make the difference for students with ADHD and can contribute to a student’s success in school.  How a student feels about himself/herself is important and feeling confident and positive about their capabilities can help them achieve greater success in school.  I’ve had the opportunity to try various techniques and classroom management strategies that I’ve read about or learned in other teacher’s classrooms.  Over the last three years I have narrowed those ideas down to a few key strategies that work well with my students and help create a positive learning environment for everyone:

  • Create classroom rules with students and display them where everyone can see them.  Students are great at coming up with rules and will take ownership of the rules when they participate.   They are aware of what is acceptable and unacceptable in a classroom environment.  Get them involved to get them on board with the rules.
  • Refer to the rules when a student is not displaying appropriate behavior.  I take it a step further and help the student understand what it is they should be doing instead.

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  • Provide clear instructions.  Breaking down instructions into smaller parts can help keep students stay focused and on task.  Giving too much and saying too much can be overwhelming for any student including a student with ADHD.
  • Provide frequent breaks.   Let’s face it; working hard on school tasks can be too much sometimes, especially for students who struggle.  Giving frequent breaks can let them blow off some steam or just relax until they are ready to get back to their work.
  • Provide fidget toys or objects.  I have a small bin of squeeze toys and balls for my most fidgety students.  Having something in their hand helps eliminate some of that energy they have and helps them focus on what they are doing.  My rule is that as long as it’s not distracting to others they can use these objects freely.
  • Use positive reinforcement.  I never want to embarrass my students or punish them for their behavior when I know they have trouble controlling their impulsivity and hyperactivity.  I set some goals for each student to work on and reinforce the desired behavior with praise, small prizes or free time.
  • Never single out a student.  I try not to single out my students or call attention to their ADHD.  If I need to speak to them about a behavior I do it discreetly or privately.  I also used secret signals with students to let them know when they are off task or when they need to refocus.  The last thing a student who already feels alienated from their peers needs is to be humiliated in class in front of their peers.
  • Come prepared with lots of patience and kindness. Go with the mindset that students with ADHD can have a hard time learning because of impairment to their executive functions.  As teachers we need to be patient and help them navigate through this.  It’s not their fault; they are not lazy or stupid.  Be kind.  Put yourself in your student’s shoes.  What if this was you? What if this was your child?  As a mother it helps me look at my students as “my kids” and to treat them the way I’d want my child’s teacher to treat him.

I love the time I spend with my students even if it is a challenge at times.   I frequently remind myself that even though I have worked with many students with ADHD they are all unique. Image Strategies that work with one child may not work with another.  As a teacher I know I need to be flexible and to treat each student as an individual.  I also know that at times I may not have the answer, and I may need to reflect on that.  I do try to have fun and not sweat the small stuff; it makes for a more relaxed environment where students are not afraid to be themselves and are more open to learning in a classroom community.

What strategies have you used in your classroom with your students? 

STUDY SKILLS

English: A Student of the University of Britis...

In my last blog  on Assessment, I discussed different assessment strategies that teachers can use for all students in their classrooms.  In this post, I’ll be focusing on strategies to help develop appropriate study skills.

I have found over the years no matter what grade level there is something most students lack and that is proper study skills. This goes across the board for students of all ability levels and is something they really cannot get too much of. Simple accommodations are all important skills for both the student/ child’s academic and working career and should be taught and reinforced early on and throughout their schooling. This way it will become second nature and will no doubt help them improve.  These accommodations can be as simple as:

  • a quiet, distraction-free work environment,
  • reviewing assignment (proofreading) before handing it in,
  • time management of assignments (through an agenda or calendar),
  • organization (colour-coding, different binders for different subjects), and
  • taking good concrete notes.

Things like homework calendars for organization, understanding the particular disability and using either adaptive technology or other tools to address the specific need.  For example:

  • Comprehension – through making connections, prediction, graphic organizers, visualization, and explaining difficult words.
  • Spelling – through use of adaptive technology and computer programs designed to help.
  • Retention issues – visualization, graphic organizers, using melodies to memorize, having child recall information in a variety of modalities and often.

Another important strategy is using specific instructions and repeating them often so that it minimizes miscommunications. Having the students/ children  repeat the instructions back in their own words is also a great tool for you to assess whether or not the student/ child really understands what you are trying to explain.

In my next blog post I will discuss why communication between teachers and parents is essential for the child’s success.

Do you have any suggestions about study skills or strategies that have worked for you?

Children With Learning Disabilities: How We As Teachers and Parents Can Help Them Reach Their Goals!

assessment

As an Educator, I’ve had the opportunity to teach several students who have Learning Disabilities. I understand the importance of accommodating the student in a way where they are not set apart or centered out in front of their peers.  Youth and adolescence is hard enough without the added stress of being teased or isolated by their peers due to something that is beyond their control and already, unfortunately, has a negative stigma attached to it.

I have found that many of the strategies used to help assist and accommodate those students with Learning Disabilities are actually beneficial to the entire student population. Below I will address some of these strategies in hopes that educators and parents will not only gain some different techniques to use, but in hopes they will use these strategies for their entire classrooms or helping all siblings at home with homework. No differential treatment, yet the student/child with a Learning Disability receives the help they need to be successful… to me it’s a win/win and a confidence booster! It’s worth a try is it not?

ASSESSMENT

To start, I believe it is important to explain to students:

1)      Why the material is important,

2)      What the learning goals are, and

3)      What the expectations are for each level (teachers out there will be familiar with the exemplars provided in the curriculum and there is no reason not to share these rubrics with your students).

Teachers should develop an easy to understand guide for how the children will be assessed before the task is assigned. Creating examples of Quality work yourself is a great idea. Never single out a student and show their work to the class as an example! This is a big no -no in my book, even if you are using it for praise, you do not know if the student feels embarrassed by this or whether or not his/her peers will react negatively to them  (ie: “teachers-pet”).  Some children will begin to realize who the “smart” kids in the class are and instead of assessing their own work based on the criteria and their own goals and personal improvements they could develop self defeating attitudes rooted in perceived incompetence.

In my next blog post I will discuss study skills that are essential for success.

What strategies have you used for assessment in your classroom?  What has worked for you?  What hasn’t?