Tag Archives: Study Skills

Part 3: Identifying cognitive skills

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

This is part three in a four-part series on cognitive weaknesses. Comment to win a $20 School Box gift card!

In this four-part series, we’ve been discussing cognitive weaknesses. So far, we witnessed a student success story and examined some hidden warning signs of a cognitive weakness–or a breakdown in the brain’s ability to carry out a critical cognitive skill. So, just what are these all-important cognitive skills? Essentially, they are the brain behaviors responsible for learning.

Here’s a rundown of the critical cognitive skills, and how each impacts a child’s ability to process information: 

Attention Skills:

A student’s ability to attend to incoming information can be observed, broken down into a variety of sub-skills, and improved through properly coordinated training. There are three primary types of attention:

Sustained Attention: The ability to remain focused and on task, and the amount of time we can focus.

Selective Attention: The ability to remain focused and on task while being subjected to related and unrelated sensory input (distractions).

Divided Attention: The ability to remember information while performing a mental operation and attending to two things at once (multi-tasking).

Memory:

The ability to store and recall information.

Long-Term Memory: The ability to recall information that was stored in the past. Long-term memory is critical for spelling, recalling facts on tests, and comprehension. Weak long-term memory skills create symptoms like forgetting names and phone numbers, and doing poorly on unit tests.

Short-Term / Working Memory: The ability to apprehend and hold information in immediate awareness while simultaneously performing a mental operation. Students with short-term memory problems may need to look several times at something before copying, have problems following multi-step instructions, or need to have information repeated often.

Logic and Reasoning:

The ability to reason, form concepts, and solve problems using unfamiliar information or novel procedures. Deductive reasoning extends this problem-solving ability to draw conclusions and come up with solutions by analyzing the relationships between given conditions.

Students with underdeveloped logic and reasoning skills will generally struggle with word math problems and other abstract learning challenges. Symptoms of skill weaknesses in this area show up as questions like, “I don’t get this,” “I need help…this is so hard,” or “What should I do first?”

Auditory Processing:

The ability to analyze, blend, and segment sounds. Auditory processing is a crucial underlying skill for reading and spelling success, and is the number one skill needed for learning to read.

Weakness in any of the auditory processing skills will greatly hinder learning to read, reading fluency, and comprehension. Students with auditory processing weakness also typically lose motivation to read.

Visual Processing:

The ability to perceive, analyze, and think in visual images. This includes visualization, which is the ability to create a picture in your mind of words or concepts. Students who have problems with visual processing may have difficulty following instructions, reading maps, doing word math problems, and comprehending.

Processing Speed:

The ability to perform simple or complex cognitive tasks quickly. This skill also measures the ability of the brain to work quickly and accurately while ignoring distracting stimuli. Slow processing speed makes every task more difficult.

Very often, slow processing is one root of ADHD-type behaviors. Symptoms of weaknesses here include homework taking a long time, always being the last one to get his or her shoes on, or being slow at completing even simple tasks.

To identify specific weaknesses within these cognitive skills, visit learningrx.com. For tips on strengthening cognitive skills, stay tuned for part four in this series. 

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Filed under Academic Success, Assessments, brain training, cognitive weakness

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

DIY Scratch-Off Card {love this!}

Looking for a unique Mother’s Day gift idea? Or a fun post-testing diversion? Or a creative way to review for the next big test? Check out this cool idea from Diane Burdick, M. Ed. 

{And let us know what you think. A comment below could land you a $20 School Box gift card. We like to reward loud mouths.}

If you’ve ever received a scratch-off card in the mail, you know the anticipation of selecting a spot and rubbing the coating off the paper…all in hopes of winning a special prize or discount. If you think those scratch-offs are only for the retail-minded or lottery-blinded among us, think again. Scratch-off solution is something you can make at home or school to create a fun craft activity (or greeting card) with your children.

Materials:

Cardstock

Drawing materials

Scissors

Contact paper (clear)

Dishwashing liquid

Metallic acrylic paint (from the craft store)

Small, flat paintbrush

Here’s how to make a greeting card:
Other options below, too. 

  • Create a card out of cardstock by folding the cardstock in half.
  • Decorate the card with a design, and then think of a message that could have three possible answers. For example, the outside of the card might say, “Guess how much I love you?” Then, inside, draw three circles. Inside one, write “To the Moon.” In another, write “To the Moon and Back.” And in the final circle, write “To Infinity and Beyond.” You will cover these three circles with scratch-off solution.
  • To make the solution, mix together one part dishwashing liquid with two parts metallic-colored acrylic paint in a disposable cup.
  • Apply a thin coat of paint to the contact paper with a small, flat paintbrush.
  • Allow the paint to dry for at least one hour, and then reapply one to two coats until paint is not streaky, allowing to dry between coats.
  • Cut the painted contact paper to the appropriate size and shape (so, circles in this case). Then peel the backing off the contact paper and apply the painted “stickers” to the correct spots on the card.
  • Make sure to put a penny down in the envelope with the card, so the recipient can scratch off their choice and see the message underneath.

Other Fun Options:

  • Reward Cards! Make scratch-off reward cards for your class. Using notecards, write various rewards on each (extra computer time, skip one problem on Math homework, serve in a class leadership role, bring a stuffed animal to school, etc.) Distribute the cards to deserving students, and let them scratch off to discover their reward. Students LOVE this!
  • Review Game. You can make up your own version of scratch-off bingo using cards you make, customized to your lessons.
  • Coupon Book. Instead of a traditional coupon book for Mother’s, Father’s or Grandparent’s Days, help students create a scratch-off card with chores the child can do or sweet messages the child writes.
  • Teacher Cards. Parents: create a card for your child’s teacher that lets the recipient choose a scratch-off square (or two) listing helpful things your student could do for the teacher. Include age-appropriate tasks, such as empty the pencil sharpener, erase the board, pick up trash from the floor, or collect trash after snack.
  • Principal Thanks. Or create a similar card for the principal, sharing the child’s favorite things about the school: What do I love most about P.S. 212 Elementary School? The teachers are nice (one scratch-off square), the playground is really fun (another), the principal is the best ever!! (the final option).

So cool, right? We’ve even seen scratch-offs used in wedding save-the-date cards, bridal and baby shower invitations, and shower games. So, now that you know how to make your own, go get crafty!

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Filed under Activities, Art, Behavior Management, Holidays, Study Skills, Test Prep

Does Music Make You Smarter?

By Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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

The nursery rhymes your mom sang to you when you were little. The hokey pokey at a childhood birthday party. The song you jammed out to while driving your first car. The first dance at your wedding. The nursery rhymes you now sing to your own children. There’s no denying it: music is a powerful part of our lives. But…can it actually make us smarter?

Research says yes. While loud, cacophonous music has been found to–of course–be a distraction and impediment to learning, music done the right way provides a slew of academic benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Body-Mind Integration

When playing a musical instrument, singing a song or learning a dance step, children experience a unique melding of mind and body. In the brain, this means that neurons are firing away, brain activity is moving across both hemispheres, and sensory integration is occurring. So, how does this equate to the classroom? Sensory integration (using and interpreting the senses simultaneously) is crucial for reading, writing and math.

  • Spacial-Temporal Reasoning

Spatial-temporal reasoning is the ability to visualize spatial patterns in one’s mind. It’s a skill needed for engineering, architecture, art, science, games and math. So, how do you improve spatial-temporal reasoning? Through music, according to the MIND Research Institute. MIND did a study where children were engaged in a series of computer games involving math problems; simultaneously, they received musical keyboard training. What researchers discovered was further proof of the “Mozart Effect”–the idea that listening to a piano sonata enhances spacial-temporal performance. Why? Music has a structural pattern that mimics math: listening to patterns and symmetries in music aids in concepts like counting and fractions. The takeaway? Music makes kids better at math.

  • Social/Behavioral

Music has also been found to aid in mood improvement. This concept is a simple one: happy music = happy kids. Calm music = calm kids. Wild music = wild kids! Students take social cues for appropriate behavior from the music they hear.

Incorporating Music at Home and School

So, music is clearly beneficial. Now, how can you easily incorporate it into your classroom and home?

  • CDs: An obvious answer is the good ol’ CD player. Play songs in the car, when your children are your captive audience. One rule: You control the dial! You may even be able to sneak in some Mozart here and there.
  • Instruments: If you are able to provide music lessons for your child (and if they’re willing to participate), lessons are wonderful, especially during the formative elementary and middle school years. But, if formal lessons aren’t in the cards (or budget), opt for some simpler alternatives, like a tambourine, rhythm sticks, or a hand drum.
  • Music Programs. There are also several stellar, research-based programs out there specifically designed to combine music with learning. One of the best is Rock ‘N Learn, a series of over 50 CDs and DVDs that uses music (like really fun, hip music) to teach everything from division to phonics to Spanish. Not only does Rock ‘N Learn set concepts to a catchy tune (read: aids in memory), but it also makes learning very positive for children (read: fun). The CDs and DVDs are affordable, too, ranging from $10-$20 each.

The moral? More music = more learning. Now that’s worth singing about!

Sources: Keith, Kimberly. http://childparenting.about.com/cs/k6education/a/mozarteffect.htm

MIND Research Institute: http://mindresearch.net/cont/programs/prog_stmm_desc.php

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Filed under Academic Success, Math, Music, School Readiness

Interactive Math Warm-Up Idea

Comment on this post to win a $20 gift card to The School Box! One winner is selected each month.

by Elizabeth D. Cossick, M. Ed.

So, you’re looking for a fun way to begin your math class each day. It needs to be quick, engaging and easy to execute. Well, look no further because we’ve got a great one that students of ALL ages love–and it seriously couldn’t be easier.

Materials:

Mini white or black boards (one per child)

White board marker or piece of chalk (one per child)

Activity:

  1. Pass out white/black boards and respective writing instruments to your students. Tell them that they will use their board to participate in some fun math races.
  2. Then, simply call out math equations that are on-par with your class’s ability level or current topics of study. Everything from simple addition to complex long division and algebra equations will work for this activity.
  3. The students solve the problems and write the answer on their boards as quickly as possible. When they have their answer written, they silently hold their board above their heads.
  4. Award small prizes daily (or keep track of points and award a larger prize, like a full-sized candy bar, to one “Math Champion” each month). Prizes can be awarded for: first correct answer, second correct answer, third correct answer (to keep students working even after the first board gets raised into the air), neatest writing, or best display of steps (if “show your work” is a necessary instruction).
  5. At the end of the activity, you can collect the boards or allow students to keep them in their desks for drawing and writing when they finish their work.

Your students will look forward to this fast-paced activity…almost as much as they’ll look forward to writing on their own white/black board!

Helpful Hints: Laminated pieces of white poster board, cut into 9 x 12 sheets, also make good erasable boards for use with dry erase markers. They may have to be replaced after a few months, but they’re cheap and easy to make. And, old (clean :) socks make great erasers, as well as holders for chalk and white-board markers.

To purchase mini white or black boards and pens/chalk, visit The School Box…or check out these links:

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Filed under Geometry, Math, Motivation, Multiplication, Test Prep

Carvin’ Up Some Great Informational Writing

by Kelli Lewis

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Gotta teach informational writing this year and need a way to spice it up a bit?  How about teaching it during the month of October and having your students learn about pumpkins…while carving them in the process, of course!? Consider this fun twist on traditional expository writing assignments: Have your students create instructional books about pumpkins, along with a step-by-step “How-To Carve A Pumpkin” guide to go along with it.

Like the idea? Here’s a detailed lesson plan to follow. (This plan was created for first-graders and designed to take one day, but it could be easily modified for older grades, as well.)

Standards:

ELA1W2 b.) The student produces informational writing that stays on topic and begins to maintain a focus.

ELA1W2 d.) The student produces informational writing that begins to use organizational structures (steps, chronological order) and strategies (description).

ELA1W2 h.) The student produces informational writing that may include oral or written prewriting (graphic organizers).

Materials Needed:

The Pumpkin Book, by Gail Gibbons (available at The School Box)

-sticky notes

-chart paper

-markers

-web/bubble graphic organizer, for informational sentences

-pencils

-pumpkins: choose one of the following, according to your classroom’s needs: 1) small pumpkins for every child, 2) medium-sized pumpkins for each group, or 3) two large-sized pumpkins for you and a parent volunteer to demonstrate.

-carving tools

-large trash bag

-butcher paper/newspaper to lay down on the floor/table, underneath the pumpkins

– “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet for documenting (This graphic organizer should just have spaces for: materials, “First you…”, “Second you…”, “Next you…”, “Finally you…”)

Procedure:

  1. Ask your students: What is informational writing? What is a topic?
  2. Read aloud The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons.
  3. Reread the book again, using sticky notes to demonstrate how to take notes and copy an informational statement as you’re reading. Post the sticky note to the page in which you found it. Make as many ‘notes’ as you have room for on your web/bubble graphic organizer.
  4. Go back through the book and transfer your sticky-note information onto the web/bubble graphic organizer. Demonstrate this process to your class. Write each statement from the sticky notes onto the graphic organizer, around the topic “pumpkins” in the middle of the page.
  5. Have students return to their desks and copy your graphic organizer’s information onto their own graphic organizer. (For older grades, students could repeat this process independently with a second pumpkin story or book).
  6. Discuss the “step-by-step” processes for creating a jack-o-lantern.  Discuss the importance of listing the materials and being sure the steps are in order and nothing is left out. Discuss ideas with your students about what you would write.
  7. Record ideas, as you discuss, onto your “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet.
  8. Decide, as a class, what the “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet should say. Then, start to create the list of materials and steps.
  9. When it is complete, have your students copy it onto their own “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet.
  10. Now it’s time to carve!  As you carve, refer back to the the “How to Make a Jack-O-Lantern” sheet, made by your class, to see if the steps are in the correct order and that nothing was left out!

Happy carving!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

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Filed under Assessments, comprehension, Cooperative Learning, Reading, Writing

Fresh Ideas for Those Boring Ol’ Spelling Words

by Kelli Lewis

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Looking for some creative ways to help your children learn their spelling words?  Need something new next time your child has spelling homework and you’re tired of telling them to write them each repeatedly?

Here are two unique ideas that I have seen implemented in a few elementary classrooms:

Four Times Each

Okay, I know. Write the word four times…at first it seems boring, right? But here’s the catch. Your child will still write the word several times, only with a little more excitement! Create a simple chart with 10 rows (or however many spelling words your child has) and four columns (or you may want to create more on our own, after you see where I’m going).  The columns should each have one of the following listed at the very top: pencil, colored pencil, marker, crayon.  Have your child write each word under the particular type of writing utensil, in that utensil.  For instance, if the first word is “cat” then you child will write “cat” in pencil, under the pencil column; they will write “cat” in colored pencil, under the colored pencil column; they will write “cat” in marker, under the marker column; and they will write “cat” in crayon, under the crayon column.  Click here for a printable sheet to use!

Feel free to get even more creative and add more columns.  You could even put colors in the columns (red, yellow, blue, etc.) and allow the child a choice in which type of writing utensil is used, as long as it is the correct color stated in the column.

Spelling Pyramids (or Spelling Stairs)

Have your child make pyramids out of each of their spelling words.  Let’s say, again, your first spelling word is “cat.” Start by first writing the first letter of the word “cat.”  Then underneath that, write the first and second letter of the word “cat”.  Underneath that, you then write the first, second, and third letter of the word “cat.”  Obviously “cat” only has three letters so you’re then done with that word.  If it had more letters, you would continue on in the same way.  You can have your child make as many pyramids as needed.  Here is a quick example of this:

C
CA
CAT

Hopefully these ideas will help you breathe new life into your weekly spelling routine!

Kelli Lewis is an Early Childhood Education graduate student at the University of Georgia who often shares her wonderful ideas on A Learning Experience. (Lucky us!)

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Filed under Academic Success, Spelling, Study Skills, Test Prep, Writing

Study Tips for Students (Print This!)

Comment on this post and be entered to win one of several $20 gift cards from The School Box this month!

Those seeking some help in their study skills will find it in these invaluable tips.

Unplug. The Internet, video games and television are huge distractions. Unplug them if only for a few hours so you can actually get something done.

Find something to motivate you. Sometimes even something as basic as being hungry can help motivate you to get work done. Tell yourself you can’t do whatever it is you want to do until you’ve finished enough work.

Bargain. Sometimes it can help to bargain with yourself. Allow yourself one hour of fun for every two hours of work you do.

Set hours. Help yourself get into a studying routine by setting aside hours of your day to focus solely on your studies.

Have a set study place. Find a place in your home where it’s quiet and you can set your mind to working without interruptions.

Reduce outside distractions. From the phone ringing to family members peeping in, try to reduce the amount of things that can distract you and get you off track.

Get the hard stuff done first. If you have a particular assignment you’re dreading, tackle that first. The rest of your work will feel like a breeze after that weight has been lifted.

Take a stretching break. Get up and walk around every once in a while. It will help you feel refreshed and let you refocus.

Never study all night. Studying all night will let you go over more material but it won’t help you remember it. Studies have shown that studying and then sleeping on it is a far more effective method.

Start early. When you’ve got a major test coming up don’t wait until the night before to start studying. Give yourself a few days to tackle the information. You’ll be less stressed and remember it better.

These tips were adapted from www.onlinecollege.org.

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Filed under Academic Success, Study Skills, Test Prep