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National Special Education Day: Instruction for Twice-Exceptional Students

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The second day of December marks an important day in education. National Special Education Day may be widely unknown to most people outside of the classroom; however, its significance is notable. This special day, which officially began in 2005, marks the anniversary of the signing of our nation’s first special education law passed in 1975. IDEA, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, ensures that students with disabilities are entitled to Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) that suits their specific needs.

But what does this mean for twice-exceptional (2E) students? This type of unique learner, once referred to as GTLD (gifted/talented and learning disabled), requires specifically differentiated instruction beyond the typical special education accommodations. So what does this type of instruction look like in the classroom? Take a look below to see how best practices can ensure the success of twice-exceptional students.

Twice-exceptional, previously referred to as GTLD, means that a student has been identified as gifted and also meets the criteria for an IEP or 504 plan. These students could have Asperger’s, vision or hearing impairment, ADHD, or an emotional or learning disability. While we know that every learner is unique, twice-exceptional students have an even more complex need for differentiation. These students often experience difficulties in processing speed, working memory, written expression, executive functioning, attention and self-regulation, and social skills. While these struggles could obviously interfere with learning, the flipside of 2E students is their unique strengths. Students are often articulate, advanced readers with advanced verbal skills. Their gifted verbal abilities mean that these students would greatly benefit from tasks and assessments where their mastery is measured orally. Instead of a research paper, essay, etc., provide these students with the opportunity to present their findings verbally, organize a speech, or participate in a debate. A simple spoken exam or assessment could prove much more beneficial than a written response or multiple choice test.

Because twice-exceptional students acquire knowledge and concepts quickly, they may appear bored or aloof in class. They are known for rapidly acquiring conceptual knowledge and have a natural ability to think critically. Because of this, review activities, rote memorization, and tasks involving simple recall are not preferred. These sorts of tasks have the potential to cause twice-exceptional students to “check out.” Anything that seems repetitive, elementary, or mundane will likely be received as irritatingly simple, causing 2E students to zone out or avoid the task all together.

2E students are typically inquisitive and thrive when exploring, questioning, or investigating. These students often have strengths in problem-solving. So, provide them with hands-on learning opportunities—tasks that allow them to deconstruct, build, or question the functionality of something, and play to their strengths and interests.

Twice-exceptional students tend to think that others see them as lazy, unmotivated, or stupid—this could not be farther from the truth. These students simply have different learning needs. For instance, 2E learners often find easy tasks to be difficult and difficult tasks to be easy. They may be able to build a perfectly proportional model bridge; however, if asked to explain how they arrived at the dimensions mathematically, they may struggle greatly. In these instances, the students simply “knew” how to complete the task or skill—but they will not be able to provide a detailed explanation of how they did it, or why. Because of this ability to simply “do,” 2E students thrive when given choices and differentiated opportunities to display their talents. This sort of strength-based learning means that they should be given opportunities for acceleration and enrichment, creative independent study, and study groups with other GT students.

The Science Behind Movement: How to Use it at Home

Movement and kinetic strategies have been hot topics of conversation among educators, developmental psychologists and researchers. Without getting too far into anatomical terms and rhetoric about how the brain works, scientific research supports one major claim about movement and learning: the same part of the brain that processes movement also happens to process learning, attention, and memory—the cerebellum. So in the same way that regular physical activity strengthens the muscles, movement similarly helps construct and strengthen neural pathways. Educators are finding great benefits to the application of movement—the concept of kinetic learning can also be applied at home.

When helping your child review study material for an upcoming assessment, add some aspect of movement to the routine. This can mean reciting information while jumping on the trampoline or juggling a soccer ball. Clapping or patting to keep rhythm while memorizing notes can enhance recall as well. Practice multiplication flashcards while allowing your child to bounce a ball or jump rope while keeping a steady beat. Simply pacing while studying is another small tweak that allows kids to focus solely on the material while moving continuously and methodically.

Parents may find it beneficial to start small with kinetic learning strategies—like providing a stress ball for the child to squeeze while working. The distraction level is minimal, but the concept of movement, focus, and memory still applies. Items like fidget spinners, cubes, or eraser putty, so long as they are being used properly, will have the same effect on focus and attention.

When encouraging summer reading, consider the option to listen to the book. This allows reluctant readers the opportunity to move about while listening to the text on a smartphone, play away, or other audio device. Audiobooks allow struggling readers to follow along while listening to the story. But, for restless or reluctant readers, audiobooks allow for walking, jogging, or virtually any light activity while enjoying a story.

A well-known practice—rewriting notes or study guides—promotes the same reasoning behind kinesthetic learning. The act of physically handwriting the notes, concepts, or definition repeatedly goes further than typing notes. The movement, even at the slight level that handwriting provides, helps to boost memory and recall.

In the same way that sensory tables allow toddlers and preschool-aged children to engage in messy sensory play to develop fine motor skills, cooking can has a similar effect on older children. With parent supervision, children can practice any number of skills while moving about the kitchen mixing, measuring, and whipping up snacks. Equivalent fractions, cause and effect relationships, following instructions—all of these skills take place in the kitchen while children get to move around the kitchen. If encouraging the little ones, allow them to stir cookie dough or hold the mixer on low—even the combining of ingredients can be a great learning experience that incorporates movement for little ones.

Combine movement-based games with learning at home for a fun-filled family game night! Practice vocabulary terms, historic dates, physics terms, etc., while playing charades. Pictionary is another option for the artistically-inclined. For board game lovers, plan a Scrabble match or Boggle challenge, where wordsmiths can spell and strategize while moving game pieces or rolling dice.

High Leverage Practices for Special Education: Collaborative Methods at Home

In part one, we discussed the four different categories of high leverage practices (HLP) and how educators utilize these practices to drive instruction and learning. Whether in a physical classroom or not, the goal of HLPs is to ensure that young learners are engaged, supported, and challenged. Now that we’re all in the throes of virtual learning, where much of our schooling is happening at home, it’s helpful for families to be able to adopt and modify various high leverage practices for their own use.

 

Collaboration is key, especially since much of the learning is currently happening outside of the classroom. Students are no longer experiencing a fully monitored, structured school day, which makes collaboration and open communication all that much more important.

 

  • Goal statement: Since the aim of collaborative HLPs is to ensure that all members of the child’s support system are on the same page, working towards the same goals, parents should use a goal statement as a starting point when reaching out to teachers. Whether in person, on the phone, or via email, parents should make a point to advocate for their child’s learning goals and reiterate them as needed to provide teachers with reminders about where they’d like their child’s learning to be headed.
  • Check-in: Yes, students receiving special education services already have formal documentation concerning learning goals, but it never hurts to remind the team of those goals along the way. Teachers can easily become overwhelmed throughout the quarter with IEPs, 504s, and numerous other learning plans for individual students. And while teachers are legally obligated to offer modifications and accommodations, the learning goals may receive less attention. This is why parents should make a point to check in regularly with their child’s teachers to ensure that everyone is aware of and working towards the child’s learning goals.
  • Reevaluation: These check-ins also allow for data updates, recent observations, and discussions about reevaluating or resetting goals if necessary. Be sure to ask for quantifiable updates, such as Lexile level, Map scores, attendance and participation, writing samples, etc.
  • Point person: To simplify the task of reaching out, especially with middle or high school students who have multiple teachers, parents can plan to send a weekly or biweekly email to their child’s counselor or special education case manager. This person will act as the point of contact and will be sure to disseminate all vital information to the teachers, while keeping you in the loop about all of the replies.
  • Student accountability: Bring your child into the collaborative effort by asking him to help track his own progress towards the goals set at the beginning of the year or quarter. It’s much more probable for a student to strive for success when he’s been part of the goal setting process. Involving your child in these discussions ensures that he’s taking ownership and feels invested in the effort he’s putting forth.
  • Positive reinforcementConsider small benchmarks or checkpoints along the way and make a point to acknowledge when goals are achieved. No matter your child’s age, kids benefit from positive reinforcement and thrive on recognition for a job well done.
  • Open communication: Another high leverage form of helpful collaboration is to connect your child’s teachers with any other “key player” on your child’s educational team. Teachers must have parental permission to correspond with pediatricians, therapists, psychologists, tutors, and even older siblings regarding a student. Therefore, if you want certain professionals to cooperate, you must first provide permission and then facilitate that correspondence. Remember, it takes a village, but you have to put all of the villagers in contact with one another, first.
  • Support groups: Another collaborative HLP that parents can modify for use at home is to facilitate a small virtual study group or neighborhood support group for certain ages, subjects, or classes. Reach out to neighbors about how their child is fairing with virtual learning. Ask if they are using any specific programs, tools, or methods that they find particularly helpful. During these times, many parents are finding that distance or virtual learning is all about trial and error. So why not collaborate with other parents in your neighborhood to help carry the load?

What We Can Learn from Students with Learning Disabilities

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A learning disability indicates that there is an issue or difficulty with acquiring knowledge or grasping concepts, information, or processes. Because of our common understanding of students with learning disabilities, it is unfortunately typical to view a disability as a disadvantage in the classroom. While this can and certainly is the case on some level, what we often neglect to notice are the advantages that come with what we consider a disability. Yes, learning disabilities make certain skills more difficult, but they also bring many unique perspectives to the classroom. Perhaps viewing these disabilities more as differences would open our eyes and allow for a more optimistic outlook.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) exhibit periods of difficulty focusing, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. These symptoms vary from person to person, but can notably interfere with learning. But, believe it or not, ADHD symptoms may also have their own unique benefits. For instance, hyperfocus occurs when children with ADHD are able to hone in on one specific activity or task for long periods of time. Whether this form of hyperfocus comes about athletically, artistically, technologically, etc., students that practice channeling their attention and excess energy find great success in their interests.

Furthermore, having adapted to managing the ADHD symptoms over time, children learn to self-check and recognize when their level of attentiveness dips and peaks. Children with ADHD are often forced to think or learn a little differently. They become experts at streamlining information, honing in on significant details, and gauging their own comprehension. This sort of self-awareness helps students play off of their strengths and develop creative means of achievement.

Students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder are also highly sociable and friendly. Because they are prone to being talkative, their verbal language skills are often higher than those of their peers. Storytelling, public speaking, and debating are some of their common social strengths.

Dyslexia/Dysgraphia

Dyslexia, a learning disability that affects a reader’s ability to decode, comprehend, and read fluently, certainly presents its own challenges in and out of the classroom. Reading levels can range from below grade level to nearly illiterate—which is not only frustrating for a child, but greatly discouraging, as well. The advantages of dyslexia are widely unknown, as the disorder is seen as a major educational roadblock. However, there seem to be undeniable benefits. Since reading presents a major challenge, some believe that the following behaviors are a means of compensating for the gaps in reading. For example, students with dyslexia typically thrive at tasks involving abstract thinking, creativity, and holistic or “whole picture” thinking. Children with dyslexia also display strengths in reasoning, problem-solving, and persistence.

Similarly, dysgraphia, a disability that affects written language, also has its own unique benefits. Since motor skills affect pencil grip and the ability to master written language, children with dysgraphia compensate by sharpening their listening skills. These learners are masters of recalling oral details, memorization, and storytelling. These conversationalists thrive in social situations and are often helpful problem solvers.

Ready, Set, GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!!! Learning Styles and Techniques: Part 4 of 6

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When it comes to learning strategies, styles, and techniques, learning cannot be explained as a “one size fits all” method. As much as we are told that there are kinesthetic, auditory, visual, and read/write learners, learning processes and preferences are truly more complex than these labels. While there are truths to the different categories of learners, we cannot assume that each young learner fits perfectly and fixedly into one specific category. In fact, depending on a learner’s strengths and weaknesses, he or she will employ different techniques from different categories to best suit the task.

Consider this personal example: a learner, like myself, with a propensity for reading and writing would likely excel in tasks involving creative writing techniques, close reading skills, vocabulary, etc. In the mathematical realm, however, this same learner may need to employ a different learning style. One may assume that a word problem would suit this type of read/write learner. However, for a learner such as myself, the wordiness of a math problem actually got in the way of comprehension. Instead, I would employ visual strategies, such as sketching, diagramming, or graphing to visually break down the word problem.

Depending on the task, a strong learner will know how and when to employ different strategies. This type of fluidity in learning styles takes practice. For instance, in the above example, a read/write learner like myself would likely read a confusing word problem many times before realizing that a visual illustration would actually be more beneficial.

Thus, the best way to help young learners is to provide them with numerous learning strategies and techniques. Then, let the learner decide which different strategies are helpful in certain circumstances. Below are just a few strategies organized by learning style.

VISUAL

  • Use diagrams, illustrations, and graphic organizers to visually conceptualize a task. For instance, a visual learner may benefit from a prewriting outline before beginning a lengthy essay assignment.
  • Color code when taking notes to visually organize information on the page; this can also help with memory.
  • Highlight key words when reading or studying to help retain the information.
  • Rewrite notes or perform task demonstrations to better see and memorize the information after the initial lesson.

AUDITORY

  • Restate the information in your own words to solidify comprehension and memorization.
  • Create mnemonic devices while studying.
  • Organize information into a song, rhythm, or rhyme to help recall.
  • Reread information aloud.
  • Ask and answer questions aloud during lessons or lectures.

KINESTHETIC

  • Pace or move about while studying notes to help with memorization.
  • Fold the corners of textbook pages to refer back to important information.
  • Stand while reading or reciting.
  • Take small, frequent breaks when working on large assignments.
  • Reenact the concept or task; this is especially helpful for science labs, physical or athletic skills, or theater-related tasks.
  • Sit on a yoga ball while reviewing material or studying for extended periods of time.
  • Use a line-reader or cover the text on the page when reading; this helps kinesthetic learners focus on a text line by line instead of getting overwhelmed by a wordy page.

 

Looking to empower your child to succeed? Learning Essentials’ Brain Camp teaches students practical step-by-step ways to study, organize, manage time, prepare for tests, and use executive functioning strategies— essential skills for today’s academic environment. Click here to learn more or enroll: https://learningessentialsedu.com/workshops/

Ready, Set, GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!!! Learning is a Process: Part 3 of 6

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What exactly does it mean to learn something? How can we know that we have adequately learned it? Are there better or more effective ways in which to learn? These are just a few questions surrounding the art of learningand what better time to ponder these thoughts than at the start of a brand new year of learning? Now, of course, just as every child is unique, each child’s learning style is equally unique. It’s time that we learn a little more about the process of learning.

Learning is a processbut what does this mean? Obviously, children do not simply learn by hearing something. Unfortunately, the human brain is not a recording device or database. Instead, truly learning something involves severalsometimes manydeliberate interactions with the concept.

Let’s use baking as an example. Before learning to bake a cake, the amateur chef will need to be introduced to the concept of cake. The chef may take a bite, look at a photo, or watch a how-to video about cake baking. This introduction prepares the chef for what is to come and ideally demonstrates the end goal or product—a cake.

After tasting a cake sample, the chef will seek to know more about the cake before baking his own. For instance, he may research different flavor combinations, baking methods, or icing techniques. By seeking further information, the chef begins to better understand cake and how it is made.

Next, the chef will attempt the task of baking a cake. Taking all of the knowledge that he’s compiled, the chef will now actually get his hands dirty and try baking a cake on his own.

After baking, the chef will obtain feedback from taste testers. Ideally, these taste testers should be expert chefs who have experience baking cakes or at least some novice chef peers who know how a good cake is supposed to taste.

Taking the feedback into consideration, the amateur chef will now look back at the recipe and baking techniques and make adjustments based on his reflections.

The chef can decide to circle back to any previous steps to perfect his cake. Perhaps he needs to taste other types of pastry, take an extra baking class, alter the ingredients or measurements, or read another cookbook. Either way, the chef continues to work towards his goal of creating a delicious cake. And, since a cake can never be too delicious, the chef’s learning is never finished.


Just as the amateur chef’s journey to the perfect cake is a process, children’s acquisition of knowledge and new skills proceeds in a similar fashion. Learning does not occur in one fell swoop; it is not instantaneous; it is not a uniform recipe or sure-fire set of instructions. Learning takes time, intrinsic motivation, creativity, and patience. When children struggle to learn something, frustration arises. It is important to let your child know that learning is a process that involves trial and errorfailure is a necessary step in this process. No matter the setbacks, we must teach children to overcome and persevere.

Because, just as the amateur chef knows all too well, triumph after failure is even sweeter!

Looking to empower your child to succeed? Learning Essentials’ Brain Camp teaches students practical step-by-step ways to study, organize, manage time, prepare for tests, and use executive functioning strategies— essential skills for today’s academic environment. Click here to learn more or enroll: https://learningessentialsedu.com/workshops/

Ready, set, GO BACK TO SCHOOL!!!! The Binder. Part 2 of 6

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Sticking with the August theme of organization for back-to-school, let’s focus our attention on a middle school staple: the binder. Melodramatic? Maybe. Essential? Yes.

When it comes to transitioning into middle school, organization is key. Consider this: Middle school is likely the first time that students are encountering things such as late bells, lockers, crowded hallways, confusing schedules, and different classrooms and teachers for each class. Not only are they new to the content and the building, but the middle school model of homerooms, study periods, and moving from class-to-class with the appropriate books and materials is completely new, as well.

That said, binder organization is an extremely important part of the middle school learning curve. Here are some tried and true tips from a teacher about handling binder organization.

1. Consider your child’s schedule. Most of the time, a student’s school day is separated by morning and afternoon classes, with lunch in the middle. Before and after lunch are often opportune times to visit the lockers since the grades transition to lunch at different times. This means that the hallways are less crowded, and students have a little more time to swap out books, binders, and materials. Many students find it beneficial to have two binders—a morning binder and an afternoon binder. The only caveat here is when the typical school schedule is disrupted by delays, early dismissals, assemblies, etc. When this happens, it’s important that students be aware of the schedule and plan to have necessary assignments in the correct binder at the right time. Again, this type of organization comes with practice.

2.  Tabs are your friends. When doing back-to-school shopping, be sure to include tabs or separators on the list. They do not have to be pricey or ornately designed—just ensure that your child can easily set up a tab or label for each class. It may be helpful to include a “parent signature” tab for items that need to be signed and returned to school. Furthermore, a homework or “due tomorrow” tab may help to ensure that homework comes home and is returned for credit. This type of organization will help students submit homework quickly and efficiently at the start of class without missing any important instruction. True story: I’ve watched countless students spend the better part of my class furiously shuffling through mounds of crumpled papers searching for last night’s homework—this doesn’t have to happen.

3.  Purge papers as often as necessary. Of course, at the end of the marking period, middle schoolers are prompted to clean out their binders. However, binders overflow or “explode” long before the end of the term. Encourage your child to purge any unnecessary note sheets, practices, or scratch papers to maintain an organized binder. Colored mini sticky notes or flags are helpful when identifying any papers that should be kept all year. For example, during the first week, I give my students a few documents that they should hold onto for the duration of my class. I encourage students to “flag” or write KAY (keep all year) at the top as reminder of which papers should not be purged.

4.  Consider a pencil pouch. Again, as with the tabs, these do not have to be expensive or elaborate. Most pouches can be purchased for a little more than a dollar. In fact, it may be better to keep this item small and simple, as to save room in the often “over-stuffed” binders. Items to include range from writing utensils, erasers, and white out, to zip drives, band-aids, and mini hand sanitizer. It’s also a good place to stash a $5 bill in case the need for emergency lunch money occurs—and trust me, it will.

Looking to empower your child to succeed? Learning Essentials’ Brain Camp teaches students practical step-by-step ways to study, organize, manage time, prepare for tests, and use executive functioning strategies— essential skills for today’s academic environment. Click here to learn more or enroll: https://learningessentialsedu.com/brain-camps/

Summer Slide, Part II

Incentivizing reading can be a great way to jumpstart young learners’ motivation during the summer. Of course, the larger goal is for children and teens to garner intrinsic motivation for reading and learning down the line, but until that point, parents can encourage the practice with small, consistent incentives.

Here are a few examples to get you started with incentivizing young learners this summer:

  • Set up a tally or sticker chart to track that your child reads something every day. Whatever that “something” might be could vary from child to child. Perhaps it’s the comics in the morning paper, or a cupcake recipe for an upcoming family reunion, or the closed captioning or subtitles of their favorite TV show. Whatever the stipulations may be, holding children accountable for tracking their reading is a good way to begin combatting the summer slide.
  • Camouflage research skills by asking for your child’s help. Depending on age, the research questions can begin very simply, such as, “What is the weather going to look like later tonight during your baseball game?” Or, “What are the showtimes for the movie that you want to see this weekend? Are there better options for showtimes at a different theater nearby?” For older learners, parents can encourage middle and high schoolers to research places to visit, local attractions, events, or summer festivals, or even long-weekend options for a mini-family vacation. Guide their research by providing some critical guiding questions and reputable websites for perusal.
  • Research free educational events, activities, or programs in the area over the summer. In addition to many school-sponsored events and resources, the internet has a plethora of free educational websites that allow students to access digital games, tools, and practices from their living room. School and local library websites are great places to start when combing through reputable online educational resources. Many sites, like Scholastic, Flocabulary, NewsELA, ReadWriteThink, and Edutopia allow students to filter the materials based on interests, grade level, Lexile level, text length, etc. Virtual field trips also provide students with opportunities to see and experience locations that may otherwise be inaccessible.
  • Take learning outdoors to utilize the summer weather and natural surroundings. Simple activities such as planting flowers or herbs, visiting a state park or zoo, or starting a neighborhood initiative is a great way to show children that learning takes place everywhere—not just within the classroom. This also allows learners to take an active role in their learning, instead of the typical passive learning that we often see in schools. For older children and teens, parents can encourage financial competency and budgeting by helping middle and high schoolers begin a neighborhood dog walking, lawn mowing, yard sale, or recycling project. In doing this, children a practicing essential skills and strategies, while gaining a sense of independence and responsibility as well. The cash flow is always a great incentive, too!
  • Encourage literacy skills by providing your child with a photo journal for summer activities and travels. Children might use a smartphone or Polaroid camera to capture important memories or events over the summer. Then they can provide written captions, reflections, and other personal insights to accompany the photos. The photo journal also acts as a great memento for looking back on summer memories.

5 SIMPLE Steps to Combat the Summer Slide with Reading

For those who are not immersed in the world of education on a daily basis, the term “summer slide” may conjure up nostalgic memories of sunny afternoons at the pool.

For academia, however, summer slide is a dreaded term—one that is not associated with a relaxing pool day at all. Instead, summer slide refers to the loss of academic skills and knowledge over the course of the summer months when students are not in school.

Statistically, summer slide poses a greater threat to students of lower socioeconomic standing, or those considered “at-risk” and most adversely affected by the achievement gap. Research suggests that summer slide is a larger factor for students who may not have access to educational experiences, materials, and books over the summer.

But the grim truth is that regardless of a family’s income, any student is susceptible to the loss of knowledge and skills while being out of school for the summer months.

Some research indicates that summer slide could mean a loss of 20-30% of the information gained over the previous school year.

So yes, the summer slide is a valid concern for educators and parents to consider.

Fortunately, there are many ways to combat the summer slide.

For children and teens, summer reading packets, math booklets, and the like are most often met with groans. Summer is supposed to be a time of freedom from stress; it’s a time for adventure and exploration!

So, if parents truly want to sell a child on schoolwork during the summer, they really must package it appropriately.

  • Provide an ample amount of what teachers call “student choice.” 

Children are much more likely to invest their time and attention in a book or learning activity if it involves an aspect of interest. Additionally, a sense of agency and independence comes with children and teens having a say in what they would like to read or participate in.

Ask your children what they are interested in reading. Start with identifying fiction or nonfiction, then genre or topic, and narrow down from there. Once you have an idea of their interests, take your kids on a field trip to the local library and find a book together.

  • Provide various modes of texts (not just books)

Parents of reluctant readers will want to provide multiple modes of texts as well. Consider purchasing the audiobook or ebook so that your child can listen while following along.

If lengthy chapter books bring your child a sense of dread, expand literature options to graphic novels, magazines, or adapted versions of the classics.

Again, the more a young reader has to choose from, the more likely he or she is to land on something pleasurable.

  • Plan for activities that relate to or expand upon parts of the curriculum from that previous school year. 

Children are always surprised when topics or facts from the classroom suddenly apply in “real life.” Parents can check the school district’s website for curriculum materials or email the child’s teachers to review the major concepts, novels, or skill sets that students were to have mastered that year.

With that knowledge, parents can select materials or push children in the direction of texts and activities that incorporate those skills.

For example, if parents know that their middle schooler read The Diary of Anne Frank over the winter term, they may want to select from sub-genres involving WWII, Holocaust survival stories, or other autobiographical works that feature a strong, young narrator.

  • Get the whole family involved in summer learning

Consider starting a weekly family book club, in which each member reads the assigned pages and then participates in an informal chat about their thoughts on the chapter or events so far. The key to keeping the momentum and enthusiasm going is to ensure that the book talk remains as informal as possible.

Throw pillows and blankets around the living room, set out snacks, or use the night as an excuse to have a pizza party while discussing the book. Since a movie night can be a great incentive for children, think about choosing a book that also has its own film adaptation.

  • Connect the reading material to real-life experiences.

If a child is starting middle school next year, provide her with YA book options that feature a preteen navigating through middle school.

If soccer camp is on the agenda for the summer, find reading materials—nonfiction, fiction, or biographical—that center around soccer, soccer players, or the history of the sport.

The secret to keeping kids reading is to keep the material fresh and relevant.

 

Signs of Dyslexia by Grade Level

According to the International Dyslexia Association, anywhere from 15-20% of the world’s population has a reading disability marked by symptoms of or relating to dyslexia. Since it is a language-based learning disability, dyslexia can impact a child’s reading, writing, and speech in various ways. While the symptoms and signs are vastly different from one learner to another, there are age or grade-specific indicators that parents can make note of for future discussions with doctors, special educators and specialists, if necessary. These are by no means tell-tale signs that your child has a learning disability; however, they could be reason enough to seek an evaluation by a professional.

 

Pre-K

Before kindergarten, many children are just beginning to explore language in all forms. With that exploration comes inevitable blundersyoung learners will mispronounce and misspell words quite frequentlybut this is no cause for concern. Instead, early signs of dyslexia in toddlers and preschoolers are often of the auditory form, meaning that parents will hear these subtle issues before they’ll see it. Listen for the following:

  • Children may tell a story out of order or even retell a story or scenario that does not fit a chronological sequence.
  • They may also lack transition words or phrases, such as first, then, after, later, last, etc.,  when telling a story.
  • Children with early signs of dyslexia may begin speaking noticeably later than their peers. They may speak only in certain situations when prompted and/or only when they feel comfortable.
  • They may forget common words for everyday items or concepts.
  • They may be unable to grasp simple rhyming concepts, even with single syllables, such as dime, time, lime, crime, etc.
  • They may orally mix up syllables for common or everyday words. For instance, they may say “listpick” instead of “lipstick” or “caxi tab” instead of “taxi cab.”
  • They may add unnecessary or nonexistent vowels to consonant blends when pronouncing certain words. Here is what that might sound like:
    • “Fullufy” for fluffy
    • “Beraid” for braid
    • “Gulasses” for glasses
    • “Falower” for flower
    • “Sinack” for snack
    • “Sakunk” for skunk
    • “Teruck” for truck
  • Conversely, early learners may also have difficulty separating sounds, as well as blending them. If a child struggles to distinguish the two sounds in the word “no,” nnnnn—oooo, then there could be a potential problem.

 

Elementary Age

Since children are under somewhat of a language microscope in their early elementary years, dyslexia is more often diagnosed during this time. These are the formative years in terms of reading and writing, which is why it is that much more obvious when a child is struggling with a language disability. Signs include:

  • Difficulties pertaining to phonics, meaning the relationship between letters and sounds; they may pronounce p as b or d.
  • Elementary-aged children may struggle to read sight words, which are high-frequency words that appear in everyday reading and writing. These words are typically abstract and essentially have to be memorized, meaning that they do not have physical images to accompany them or their spelling. The expectation is that students will memorize and recognize these words automatically as they learn to read and write. Examples of some sight words include and, or, the, of, is, with, but, that, by, if, can, were, them, was, has, so, etc.
  • While reading, students may substitute certain words while reading or spelling. These are often synonymous terms or words that are in the wheelhouse of the intended term, such as “mom” instead of mother, or “home” as opposed to house, “kid” instead of child, etc.
  • Some learners may invert numbers or confuse mathematical signs; they may confuse a multiplication sign for an addition sign or a subtraction sign for a division sign, etc. 
  • They may invert letters when writing or reading. This often occurs with letters such as m and w, n and u, p and d, q and b, and s and z.