Sunday, January 13, 2019

Free Technology for Teachers: How to Find, Download, and Borrow Books from the I...

Not specifically about learning disabilities today, but I want to share this - access to thousands of public domain resources.  In my browsing, I found notes for books your high school might have for required reading and tons of primary sources students could use for history projects.  More for fun, I was also interested in the genealogy resources, old (old!) movies and cartoons.

Free Technology for Teachers: How to Find, Download, and Borrow Books from the I...: On Tuesday hundreds of thousands of works entered the public domain . That includes early movies, pictures, early audio recordings, and ma...

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Dyslexia and Fonts / Type

Research strongly supports that a major part of dyslexia is a weakness in phonological processing - perceiving and manipulating small sounds - indicating that dyslexia is not primarily a visual disability.  Nevertheless, I like this infographic (click on the title / link) on changing typeface for people with dyslexia - because I think following these suggestions would help any one of us with ease of reading. It's a good thing to remember this as I work with students.
The Effect of Typography on Dyslexics

Sunday, December 30, 2018

I Am Grateful For.....

As the 2018 year ends, here is a list of some of the school programs I am grateful for in my work  with students with learning disabilities:

1- The library - I have used this especially as a resource for finding "just right" books for my students.  The summer reading incentives keep them reading.  And sometimes its a quiet place to work with students when other spaces are unavailable.  Reading aloud in a corner is never a problem. 

2- Ed Tech Support - To troubleshoot needed computer issues and programs, to assist in finding new programs for students, and to brainstorm how tech can make my instruction easier.  In working with other adults, ed tech support has helped me with ways to communicate and collaborate on shared reports.  For myself, this support has helped me to be more organized.  I have so much more to learn.

3- Social Emotional programs - I wish I could be all to my students, and help them with all their needs that affect literacy, but I cannot. I am grateful that these programs help my students with important social understanding and communication skills.

4- STEM - Many of the students I help love scientific inquiry, but do not always have access to advanced thinking skills because their literacy skills interfere.  STEM has helped them develop confidence to think like a scientist.

5- Curriculum development  - In curriculum planning, I am grateful that all kinds of learners are taken into account. Reading is just one mode of learning, and I am glad that curriculum development includes all modes of learning.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Dyslexia - Random Thoughts

Here are a few snippets that have come up recently in my consults regarding dyslexia:

1- Dyslexia is on a spectrum - you can be mildly, moderately, or severely dyslexic

2- Phonological/phonemic awareness deficits are a part of this condition

3- Accurate speech/articulation skills are important to imprint phonological awareness skills

4-I see many students who do not have a systematic sequence for forming printed letters

5- Syllable segmentation is an important skill in decoding science and social studies texts

6- Packaged reading programs are important, but we also need to step back from them to make sure our students can generalize to the reading demanded of them in their curriculum

7- #6 also helps students build their reading confidence.

8- As literacy experts, we all have our favorite programs.  That does not mean we can put other programs down, if they are solidly research-based.

9- Teaching the decoding and also meaning of prefixes, suffixes, and roots will expand a student's vocabulary as well as reading ability.

10- Spelling (encoding) should be taught in conjunction with decoding lessons.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Phonemic Awareness 101

Phonemic Awareness is awareness of small units of sound, such as the /p/ in the word "pig." The individual sound is called a "phoneme." This skill is addressed without print, and is a precursor - actually a prerequisite - for decoding. This should be addressed in every first grade classroom.  Here is a shortcut guide to what activities to look for:
- rhyming
- alliteration - does the student enjoy picture books and word plays that repeat the same first sound?
- segmenting - breaking a word into individual sounds c-a-t "cat"
- blending - giving the student the sounds (c-a-t) can they come up with the word?
- phoneme isolation - when given a word orally, can the student identify the first, last, middle sounds?
- phoneme deletion - asking the student to take one sound away: for example, say "cat" - now say it without the /k/ sound ("at").

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Giving Directions

Giving clear, simple, and repeated directions to students is highly important.  If I have a class of students with very different strengths and weaknesses, it is even more important - and will help all students.  I know many people will read this and say to themselves "well, of course...."  But however simply I  break my directions down,  I realize I can probably break them down even more.

It's easy for me to assume that the students can infer a step - but then I realize I have been exposed to this lesson a whole lot longer than they have! - So they don't have the background to infer what to do next.

I make my directions clear and brief. If there are multiple steps, writing them as well as saying them is useful - students can refer back to the directions, thereby increasing their sense of independence and control.  Lately I have seen some veteran teachers asking specific students to repeat the directions in a very effective way.  Done every day with different students, no one feels singled out - its just part of the routine.

For long term assignments in upper grades, I love it when I am helping a student and the assigning teacher has given them a handout with expectations, a  sequenced timeline. You would not believe how often students come to me asking for help on these long term assignments but are unable to clearly explain what they have to do.

I try to put myself in the students shoes.  There are things that I am just learning - such as a new computer procedure - where I really need to have steps written down and everything explained.  Another situation where I see this need in myself is when I am consulting with medical doctors.  In both cases, the experts often talk too fast for me and I can't retain everything.  Fortunately, I can ask them to repeat, ask for clarification, and even ask for written instructions.  Our students don't yet have the self-advocacy skills to do this, and sometimes don't have the opportunities either.  So we - the education expert - must provide this for them.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Dyslexia: What to Look For

Here is a nice - short but important - article on signs of dyslexia:  Watch Out for These Red Flags  These "red flags" help alert us to the need for further intervention and possible referral for full diagnostic testing. 
For example, most PK-K students love engaging in nursery rhymes and rhyming games.  A child who does not "get it" and enjoy this may be at risk. 
At the elementary level, most people think that letter reversals or letters out of sequence in spelling may be a sign.  Although this is true,  think of it as a sound awareness issue - what is the sound difference between the /b/ and /d/ sounds, and what is the order of these sounds?
In middle school, is the student aware of common prefixes and suffixes, and can they chunk them to figure out unfamiliar words in science and social studies?
And don't forget that - even at the high school level -we still have to be on the alert to signs that may point to dyslexia.  A review of a student's history may point to a reading disability even though it has not been diagnosed earlier.