Part 2: {Secret} signs of a cognitive weakness

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This is part two in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses. Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card.

Kristen Thompson, brain training expert. Photo by Jen Harris Photography

Most parents and teachers know the typical warning signs of a learning problem: declining grades, apathy, noticeable shifts in mood. “But for many children, like Jenny (featured in part one of this series), the signs that something’s amiss are much more subtle,” shares LearningRx owner and former Cobb County, Georgia, teacher Kristen Thompson.

Here, Kristen shares some lesser-known telltales of cognitive weaknesses: 

  • Completing homework is a struggle and takes an inordinate amount of time.
  • Looking several times at something while copying is necessary.
  • Remembering and independently following multi-step directions is a challenge.
  • Solving math word problems causes frustration. (Math skills are directly connected to cognitive skills.)
  • Responding with, “I don’t get this!” or “What should I do first?” is common.
  • Reading comprehension is weak; the “big picture” is often missed.
  • At test-time, recalling facts and remembering what was studied is difficult.
  • Asking for things to be repeated is a regular occurrence.
  • The student’s sense of direction and map-reading skills are weak.
  • The ability to readily “get” jokes or understand others’ senses of humor seems hindered.
  • Jigsaw puzzles are avoided or deemed “too hard.”
  • Organization of materials and time is elusive.

“The good news, however, is that the brain can be trained to overcome any cognitive weaknesses that might be causing these behaviors,” shares Kristen.

The first step, according to Kristen, is identifying exactly which cognitive skills are being impacted by a weaknesses. For more information on each of these different cognitive areas, stay tuned for part three in this series.

Click here to take a quick online quiz to determine if your child is displaying these warning signs.

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Filed under Academic Success, brain training, cognitive weakness, Critical Thinking, Home Schooling, reluctant readers, School Readiness

Part 1: The {true} story of overcoming a cognitive weakness

by Suzanna Palmer 

This is part one in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! 

meet Jenny

Eight-year-old Jenny doesn’t fit the profile of a child with a learning disability. She receives high marks in school and praise from her teachers. She’s considered one of the smartest kids in her class and consistently scores in the 90th percentile on standardized tests. But last year, halfway through the second grade, Jenny became increasingly frustrated during afternoon homework sessions.

“Finishing assignments, especially math, would take a really long time,” recalls Jenny’s mother, Sherry. “As I explained things, she would say over and over, ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.’”

To compensate for her struggle to learn new material, Jenny spent countless hours on homework each day, and as a result, continued to do well in school. But despite Jenny’s apparent success, Sherry had a feeling something was amiss: “I just knew in my gut something was wrong.”

Following her instincts, she had Jenny tested at a center called LearningRx that helps children overcome cognitive weaknesses. The tests revealed that Jenny did indeed have processing weaknesses that were impacting her ability to organize and recall information.

 a path of action

Over the next five months, Jenny participated in activities designed to retrain her brain to think and respond efficiently. The three weekly sessions, each an hour-and-a-half long, worked miracles. By the end of her training, Jenny’s cognitive test scores had improved by leaps and bounds—as had her ability to listen, remember and follow directions.

Although now-third-grader Jenny is finished with her training, she and her parents are still reaping the rewards. They no longer dread homework, and her mother reports that Jenny’s maturity level and relationships have also improved tremendously.

“There is a total difference in her personality,” Sherry concludes. “She is capable of understanding and remembering things we say to her. She’s not frustrated anymore. In a nutshell, LearningRx gave me my daughter back.”

 Stay tuned for Part 2 in this series: secret signs of a cognitive weakness (and how to identify them). 

Jenny’s success was found through the LearningRx. Call 770-529-4800 or visit www.learningrx.com/kennesaw for more information.

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Filed under Academic Success, brain training, cognitive weakness, Critical Thinking, Reading, reluctant readers, special needs

two comment winners!

We have TWO comment winners for this month–woohoo! Just for commenting on a post, Jennifer and Erin scored themselves a $20 gift card to The School Box. Now aren’t they smart?

Erin commented on  “Best Teacher Organization Ideas, Part II”:

This is so cute. I used to end up finding all of my Halloween stickers around Christmas and leftover Christmas stickers in February. This would definitely help! Another good way to use the shoe holders (for younger classrooms) is to hold that change of clothing on the bathroom door so that it is always nearby in case of an accident. Just label each pocket with the child’s name and roll up their clothes for a quick way to get those dry clothes. I have also mounted one of these shoe holders sideways, low on a wall, to make mailboxes for each child!

Jennifer commented on “Best Teacher Organization Ideas, Part II”:

I just ordered some organizers online and am hoping to get my professional books organized. I have been keeping one pack of stickers with the things I grade in my data notebook. Those stickers correspond to the holiday coming up so it helps me stay streamlined.

You can see all comments on this post here:

http://newsletter.schoolbox.com/2012/09/10/best-teacher-organization-ideas-part-ii/#comments

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Learning Sign Language {3 great resources}

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 gift card from The School Box! 

by Diane Burdick, Ed.S.

I’ve been interested in sign language since as early as I can remember. As a highschooler I was in the sign language club, and the college I attended held free sign language classes every week, where I learned both basic and more advanced sign language words and concepts.

Although I took the classes more than 10 years ago, I still use my sign language skills at church and in my community. If you’re interested in learning sign language, pursue it! You’ll probably be surprised by how many opportunities you’ll find to use this ability once you have it.

Here are three great resources for learning and mastering sign language:

1. SigningFamilies.com

SigningFamilies.com offers lessons (for a small fee), as well as free video tutorials on YouTube. While the material is mostly geared toward children, adults can also benefit. DVD topics include teaching babies, toddlers and preschoolers sign language, as well as teaching sign language for emergency situations. Online classes include ASL (American Sign Language) basics, classes for kids, and adaptive sign language for people with special needs.

2. LifePrint.com

American Sign Language University on LifePrint.com teaches basic techniques like letters, common words and fingerspelling, as well as the importance of using body language and facial expressions when communicating with the hard-of-hearing. Bill Vicars, the facilitator of the course, also gives guidance on how to learn ASL even if you don’t interact much with the deaf community.

3. ASLPro.com

ASLPro.com offers free information for sign language teachers, and is specifically geared to be a classroom resource. Contents of the site include a main dictionary, a religious dictionary, conversational dictionary, as well as ways to teach ASL to babies.

These resources are a great starting point for learning sign language. I’d also encourage you to check with your local community center or church for class availability. Learning sign language is a lifelong skill you’ll always treasure.

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Filed under Academic Success, Service Learning, special needs

Identifying Bullying: National Bullying Prevention Month

Comment on this post to receive a $20 School Box gift card! A winner will be drawn at the end of the month. 

by Diane E. Burdick, Ed.S.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. First, let’s just lay it out: bullying and relational aggression (either through passive measures or overt intimidation) is not normal and is not okay. No matter the circumstances, meanness and bullying are never warranted.

Words hurt, too.

It’s also important to note that bullying isn’t just physical– especially in our world of text and social-media bullying. The old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” is simply dead wrong. When a peer treats another child cruelly, it can have long-lasting impacts. Bruises can heal, but the emotional scars of bullying can last a lifetime.

And, bullying is unfortunately very common. A NCES study from the U.S. Department of Education reported that more than 31% of students between the ages of 12 and 18 were bullied at school.

But, most parents and teachers aren’t even aware of when it happens. Why? Unless your child confesses to being bullied (which is rare), the signs can be difficult to see. So, just what should parents and teachers look for?

Top signs that something’s wrong at school:

• Social anxiety

• Peer rejection

• Lowering grades

• Loneliness or depression

• Absenteeism

• Complaints of poor health

• Decreased use of electronic media

What should you do next? 

Inform: Once bullying has been identified, teachers and parents should report it to the proper authorities; this includes school administration and other teachers, coaches, or bus drivers who supervise both the bully and the victim during the day.

Document: If possible, parents should document when and where the bullying reportedly occurred. Include dates, times and locations of the incidents, as well as names of witnesses. In cases of bullying over the Internet, print transcripts of e-mails or chat sessions that can serve as proof of the incidents.

Address: Then, address the issue with both children. There is a lot of shame involved in being bullied, so reinforce to the victim that they did nothing to cause or deserve the treatment. This is a hard truth to believe, so keep reinforcing it. As for the bully, ensure that consequences are carried out by the administration, parents, or–hopefully–both. If everyone commits to working together, the cycle of abuse can be stopped.

For tips to share with kids who are being bullied on how to stand up for themselves, see this article from kidshealth.org

Source: nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011316.pdf

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Filed under Behavior Management, Bullying, Classroom Community, Uncategorized

best scarecrow we’ve seen all fall

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. A winner will be drawn at the end of the month! 

Does your school hold a scarecrow-decorating contest between the classes each fall? Well, if it does, here’s a little lovely that’s sure to win the blue ribbon. And if it doesn’t, this idea will still turn your classroom into the talk of the town (or school).

Here’s the gist: rather than creating the typical man-of-straw out of a predictable flannel shirt and old jeans, why not turn your entire door into one? We love this idea from Laurie Butler.

Photo by Laurie Butler

supplies:

bulletin board paper in orange, yellow, brown and black

directions:

1. First, cut a large floppy hat from a piece of orange bulletin board paper. Don’t worry about making it perfect– lumps add a nice rumpled scarecrow touch. A band of lighter orange and a sunflower complete the fall look.

2. Next, cut several strips of yellow paper in varying lengths. Glue these under the hat to make the hair.

3. Once dry, mount the hat/hair to the door frame.

4. To make the face, add two black circle eyes and an orange triangle for a nose. Cut a wobbly, lopsided “u” shape for the mouth, and add a few “stitches” to the mouth and around the nose. Adorable!!

To finish off the decor around the door, create a wooden “fence” out of brown bulletin board paper and add a student-created pumpkin patch below. Voila! Blue ribbon, fo’ sho’.

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Filed under Bulletin Boards, Classroom Decor, Crafts, Fall, Thanksgiving

fall printable placemat + shared reading idea!

comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 gift card from The School Box! 

Who doesn’t love a good free printable? Especially ones as cute as these! Click the images below to download a {free} printable version of these super cute fall-themed ideas. Enjoy!

Thanksgiving Placemat

source: www.paperglitter.com 

activity: So cute for the class Thanksgiving party! The children can complete, color, and use at their place at the table. How cute would these be laminated? {click the image for a downloadable pdf}

Printable Thanksgiving placemat

Fall Shared Reading Activity

source: kinderlatino.blogspot.com

activity: After practicing these predictable sentences together during shared reading, give this sheet to the students to practice reading on their own. They can color the corresponding pictures after they read the sentence. We love that kinderlatino provided the sheet in both Spanish and English, too! {click the image to download.}

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Filed under Fall, Holidays, Multicultural Community, Thanksgiving

a foolproof way to introduce poetry {to middle schoolers}

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are picked each month. 

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

The first year I taught, I was faced with the daunting task of introducing poetry to a class of too-cool-for-school eighth graders.

I was young, naive…and therefore optimistic. I had grand visions of unearthing a poetic genius from this unlikely crew, and I just knew that they would connect with the authentic voices of Langston Hughes, e.e. cummings and Maya Angelou. If I could get them to keep an open mind.

Which–for eighth graders–is a big if.

Sure enough, when I announced the unit on the very first day, the word poetry was met with groans and rolled eyes. I knew I had to change the students’ perceptions. Clearly, they were thinking of poetry that’s limited by rules and rhymes.

I wrote the word “poetry” on the board and asked them for a definition. As they called out phrases (“it rhymes,” “it’s all mushy and lovey-dovey,” “boring”), I wrote them on the board. Every one of them.

Then I told them we were going to read some of my favorite poems. I pulled out the overhead projector (dating myself here :) and put up an overhead with a long poem on it. We started reading it, and they were still groaning. It was a love poem.

But, what they didn’t know was that it was actually a song; I’d typed out the lyrics to a song by Boyz II Men (dating myself again). But I kept that little secret to myself and just let the students tear into the “poem.”

Then, without saying much, I hit play on my CD player (phew, I’d have been really embarrassed to have to type cassette deck), and the song

There- ha! At least my photo is up-to-date. :)

started playing. It took my students a minute to catch on, but when they realized that they were listening to the “lame” words on the screen being sung by their idols…well, let’s just say I had them hooked on poetry.

After the song was over, I pointed out the obvious: music is poetry. If you like music, you like poetry. And so, with that revelation in mind, I erased their previous definitions of poetry from the board and asked for new ones. This time, they filled the board with phrases like “songs are poetry,” “meaningful,” “you can connect with it,” “sometimes it tells a story,” etc.

By the end of the poetry unit, I was right. They had connected with Hughes and Angelou and cummings. And…quite a few unlikely poetic geniuses had also been unearthed.

To search for song lyrics for your poetry unit, check out www.allthelyrics.com.

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Filed under Motivation, Poetry, reluctant readers

teaching kids (and yourself!) how to excel at public speaking

by Jessica Reynolds and Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card. 

Did you know that when polled, Americans consistently rank public speaking as their number one fear, even above death (which is number two)? Why all the willies? Well, lots of reasons: fears of freezing up, going blank, being the center of attention, losing face….

So, when teaching our youngsters how to speak in front of others, we need to minimize fears and bolster confidence. Here’s how:

1. Pick an engaging topic. 

Whenever you are asked to speak, the organizer of the event will likely assign you a general topic to talk about, but you can present a clever or creative perspective or angle. Just because they tell you to talk about gardening, for example, doesn’t mean you have to give a step by step tutorial. Most people know how to plant a garden, but fewer people know secrets of fertilizing or the different fertilizing options. Maybe talk about starting a neighborhood share program where participants bring their fruits of their labor and mix up what is there, each taking a portion of what everyone contributes.

Opting for a creative approach will make you feel more confident in your material, and will also result in a highly engaged audience. 

2. Write out a plan. 

Put your speech into writing, even if you plan to talk off-the-cuff without reading your notes. Here’s how to start your plan:

Come up with a catchy beginning:

The beginning can be something like a joke, ice breaker or anecdote. In order to gain the audience’s attention, you need to make an impression in under one minute or people will begin to tune you out. Grab them early on and hold their attention for the duration!

Put the meat in the middle:

The middle of your speech should be the meat and potatoes of what you have to say. Use strong word imagery to connect with your audience. Visual aids can help you stay on point, like posters or PowerPoint. But, don’t write your speech entirely using these aids, or you will end up reading from your slides…a sure snooze-alert! Know your stuff, and present it communicatively with enthusiasm and animation. It’s also a good idea to make sure your visuals are easy to read at a distance.

Leave an impact with your ending:

Your conclusion should make an impact. It should touch the emotions of people in some way that they will always remember what you told them.

If you are speaking on gardening and composting, you can end with a story about how you learned to garden from your late grandmother, for example. Ending with a personal story makes what you have to say special and full of thought. Then, when people leave, they’ll take your knowledge with them–both because you presented it expertly and because you inspired them with a memory of your own. 

3. Prepare for all variables. 

As with anything, be prepared for the unpredictable. Think about all the variables that could hinder you from giving your speech. Technical glitches usually rank among the top snafus, so have a back-up plan just in case there are electronic malfunctions. You worked hard on this! Your words need to be spoken!

Then, dress for the occasion and be confident. Speak up! No one wants to struggle to hear you, nor do they want to look at a messy messenger. A crisp, clean appearance and well enunciated words will make you all the more successful.

And afterwards, celebrate! Congratulate yourself on a job well done. 

Jessica Reynolds loves spending time with her family and living life through photography and art. She has spent considerable time running her own businesses while raising her kids. Currently, she blogs for postersession.com.

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Filed under Academic Success, Reading, technology

Comment Winner!

We have a lucky comment winner who just won a $20 gift card to The School Box simply for commenting on one of the posts on A Learning Experience. Congrats, Sahara!

Original Comment: 

On post: “Best Teacher Organization Ideas, Part I”

Author: Sahara Jordan- Georgia

Comment:

Wow! What a great idea! Now I can really organize that drawer full of supplies on my desk “that I thought was organized ” lol. I’m going shopping for a toolbox… thanks for the wonderful idea Elizabeth! I can’t wait for the other posts. :)

 

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