Saturday, April 13, 2013

How would you like to go to school here?

If we value our children, we will create our most beautiful spaces for education.  We would not build in tsunami zones, either!  For inspiration, check out this school design in Sweden!  I would like to visit a school in action that has an open design to see how it works for teachers and students.  What do you think?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dyslexia and Creativity

Have you watched Piper's TED talk in dyslexia?

Recent article in The Wall Street Journal --A version of this article appeared April 2, 2013, on page D1 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Dyslexia Workarounds: Creativity Without a Lot of Reading.

Celebrities who have spoken out about having dyslexia:

  • Actors: Orlando Bloom, Whoopi Goldberg, Anthony Hopkins, Keira Knightley, Henry Winkler
  • Director: Steven Spielberg
  • Lawyer: David Boies
  • Writers: John Irving, Wendy Wasserstein, Philip Schultz
  • Politicians: California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy
  • Scientists: Nobel Laureate Carol Greider, Paleontologist Jack Horner
  • Historical figures believed to have had dyslexia: Leonardo da Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin
Source: WSJ reporting

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

B.Y.O.D or B.Y.O.T. or U.D.!?!?

Nothing like education to spit out endless acronyms, so if you are in the know, you are smart! While educators have been talking about Universal Design, and sometimes implementing accommodations, modifications, and technology into their entire classrooms so that all students can find what works to support their learning, we now have NO EXCUSE with ubiquitous technology and amazing software and apps! Bring your own technology or device - B.Y.O.T. - is here!  Let's use it! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ghotit At It Again!

Check out Ghotit, the spell checker especially useful for dyslexic learners.  Looks like they have added features to their software. Not only will Ghotit check your spelling, grammar, and punctuation, you can also listen to words and their definitions to help make your selection. Plus, there are other features, such as word prediction for writing....Let me know if you use this!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Using Audio to Support Reading Comprehension

Thanks to technology, integrating audio support for reading is even easier for classroom teachers to integrate as part of their Universal Design.  Check out Learning Ally - formerly RFB&D.  Multi-sensory input coordinates neural networks to more accurately process information.  Classrooms that incorporate iPads, or computers, can incorporate text-to-speech software as well as speech-to-text, to add tools for learning for each and every student.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Comprehension Strategies

I love the information available for us!  Here are a couple good articles on strategies for improving comprehension and working with students who have delays in the language system! Plus, these strategies are useful for all learners.  I love the LDOnline website as a huge repository of information and an excellent starting place for researching ideas.

Check out this article on Helping Children with Learning Disabilities Understand What They Read.

And, if you haven't already signed up for emails from Reading Rockets and Ad Lit!  you're missing out on more great resources!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Our Wonderful Port Townsend Marine Science Center

Check out this post from the PTMSC!  Inspiring and may entice you out on a cold, wet, night beach walk....
 The Tides of February

Feb 28 Thursday - Roger Schank on Cognitive Science and Saving Schools on Classroom 2.0

Join Classroom 2.0 tonight Thursday February 28 for a discussion with Roger Shank, author of 
Teaching Minds: How Cognitive Science Can Change Our Schools--

"From grade school to graduate school, from the poorest public institutions to the most affluent private ones, our educational system is failing students. In his provocative new book, cognitive scientist and bestselling author Roger Schank argues that class size, lack of parental involvement, and other commonly-cited factors have nothing to do with why students are not learning. The culprit is a system of subject-based instruction and the solution is cognitive-based learning. This groundbreaking book defines what it would mean to teach thinking. The time is now for schools to start teaching minds!" (Publisher's description.)

While I don't agree that our schools are all failing, today's webinar title caught my eye - I have yet to check out Roger and his book, but I know first hand the amazing progress students make when the instructional focus is on building underlying cognitive skills necessary for learning.  Student's intelligence can be developed. Students can learn just about  ANYTHING and EVERYTHING with passion and creativity.  And, btw, as a by-product of developing intelligence, they can master standardized tests.

Must be a good morning - along with the email notice of the Classroom 2.0 webinar this morning, Diane Ravitch takes a stand in the Washington Post on the Common Core Standards- (rotten to the core?--everyone eating the same apple? an apple a day keeps the learning away????) Actually, very eye-opening information about the origin of the current learning standards model - the Common Core. Whatever you think about Common Core Standards, Diane has some relevant points and interesting information on how we ended up with them.

The old adage in education--if they don't get it, repeat it louder, slower, and longer! --seems to still be at work in our thinking or our lack of thinking in how to reach all of our students.  With a focus on learning and cognition, creativity and passion, we can nourish student's ability to learn. 

Now, this sounds like a nice statement - but wait---I KNOW THIS!  Working as an Educational Therapist for over 15 years, I have had the privilege of working closely with many students in a one-on-one environment, where assessment includes ongoing observations of student's performance, and direct, individualized instruction incorporates multi-sensory activities.  With as few as 10 hours of assessment and 10 hours of directed, atypical, one-on-one instruction, the MAJORITY of struggling learners can jump several grade levels in their performance.  If we are serious about student achievement, then I know we have time for 20 hours of individualized work with every student who needs it! Schools have students 180 days a year, at least 6 hours a day for twelve or more years.  Instead of heaping on more and more classes and repeating material from year to year, we can address learning directly through cognitive science strategies, preparing the students for intellectual growth, and mastery of skills.

At the same time the we organize our resources to provide individual, direct instruction to our struggling learners, we can integrate many learning strategies and accommodations to support LEARNING in the classroom so that more students are successful without special intervention. Students can personalize their own box of learning tools, and decide which tool to use for which task.  Technology--- BYOD environments, a plethora of apps,  provide multiple multi-sensory routes for students to read, research, write, and coalesce learning.  See Ira Socal's ToolKit Theory posts.

Practicing and mastering skills then becomes a series of successes, students become "motivated" ---(the only motivator is success) and they quickly become engaged in taking on new challenges, not afraid to make mistakes as part of their learning process. We are wired to learn - when will we trust this? Classrooms - both teachers and students - desperately need FUN for SUCCESSFUL LEARNING.  Check out Larry Ferlazzo's links on developing a positive emotional climate for learning!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Use Imagination for Learning!

Check out this engaging article which highlights the importance of imagination as a learning tool!
Just what the Common Core Standards need!

Boy Playing Superhero

Friday, February 8, 2013

Training the Educators


I am passionate about learning!  Why? I know learning happens!  I witness so many individuals incredible perseverance living with all sorts of learning challenges, such as dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, NLD,....I am lucky to be a part of overcoming their learning challenges.    First, assessment is critical in understanding and demystifying learning difficulties. Students are working and trying, many times harder than their more successful peers and they need to know why!  Second, appropriate instruction facilitates learning and the processes we need for efficient and effective learning.

Conversely, I know when learning isn't happening, or happening with undue strain and stress, that I need to take a look "underneath" the tasks at hand to figure out the underlying cognitive pieces that need building and supporting.  So, many times---usually much more quickly than anyone expects---by providing direct instruction in the cognitive processes needed to do certain tasks, say, read or write, as part of reading or writing instruction, I can facilitate leaps in student learning.  And, this, if you haven't experienced it, is REALLY FUN! If my students don't exceed expected growth in a year, I know I am not doing my job.

Like Sal Khan said in his presentation in Seattle at Town Hall this week, when we don't teach to mastery, we set up students to fail.  He used a building analogy.  We start with a foundation that is, say, only 80% up to code.  It passes. Then, we go ahead and build the first floor, hoping that the bad corner won't affect the structural integrity of the building.   Oh, well, the first floor is 74% up to code, so let's go for the second floor....and so on.  At some point, the structure will crumble. We build failure into our system, when we can build success. 

On the other hand, if we address underlying processing difficulties, including sensory integration, fine and gross motor development, automatic visual - auditory processing, direct instruction in language, along with strategic study strategies as we are learning reading, writing, and mathematics, we can teach to mastery and students can build a solid foundation for creatively pursuing their goals and interests.  While our focus on standardized tests needs rethinking, we can help students succeed  and pass standardized tests.


Again, I was lucky to teach some in-service classes for the North Olympic Peninsula AmeriCorps volunteers, all of whom work with students in schools and for various before and after school programs,. Very impressive group of dedicated,  service-oriented young adults, who accept the challenge of believing success is a possibility for their students. Yet, even with 100% willingness to try, in order to integrate new strategies takes practice and on-going reinforcement.  The first shifts in thinking are as simple and as profound as examining learning as opposed to finishing a worksheet.

So, my goal in offering training classes is to facilitate a collaborate learning community that supports and trains  tutors,  teachers, and parents so that students experience success.  Ideally, we start with in-service trainings for several weeks, and then, continue to meet with tutors and teachers every  few weeks for on-going training and consultation. We take time for closer examination of their hardest to reach students.  What is working? What is not working? How do we provide effective instruction for this student? for this group of students? etc.  Through a year-long, on-going training, consultation, and facilitation, we can together dramatically impact student achievement.  Mostly, every child deserves the right of enjoying school and of surpassing their highest expectations.  And, as the AmeriCorps volunteers know, we all have to have more FUN getting there!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pasi Sahlberg and GERM Theory

Pasi Sahlberg introduces the GERM Theory prevalent in all aspects of education in our country today--the Global Education Reform Movement and he highlights how the Finnish educational system differs.

Furthermore, as a response to globalization, educators need to rethink the ways teaching and learning are organized in schools, promote appropriate flexibility at school level,
creativity in classrooms and risk-taking among students and teachers as part of their daily work in school.
  - Pasi Sahlberg Teaching and Globalization
Another interesting article by Pasi Sahlberg Education Policies for Raising Student Learning: The Finnish Approach.  


Friday, January 25, 2013

Training for North Olympic Peninsula AmeriCorps

I am having fun planning the second of two 3 hour training sessions for the North Olympic Peninsula AmeriCorps volunteers who work with students, tutoring in schools and extended school programs. We are lucky to have so many compassionate, intelligent, educated, and dedicated volunteers to work with our struggling students. To get everyone started in the morning, or for a study break to wake up those brain cells, try this!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Join JUMP MATH Classes

Following the fall series, JUMP Math classes continue for 5th - 8th grade students. New students welcome, as each set of ten sessions can be taken independently. This series, we will be delving into patterns, algebra, number sense, and more. JUMP improves skills, confidence, and mathematical thinking skills. 

New classes starting Wednesday January 23,  meeting once a week on Wednesday afternoon for ten classes ending March 27  $15 per class/ $150 per session includes materials.

January 23, 30, February 6, 13, 20, 27, March 6, 13, 20, 27

Session One: 5th - 6th Grade   4:00

 Session Two: 7th - 8th Grade   5:00

Have fun with math! Improve your skills! Challenge your understanding! Sharpen your genius!

"We are ecstatic about the math progress our son is making with the JUMP math program.  Melinda is a remarkable teacher!  Her combination of enthusiasm and special training have made River feel very comfortable diving into the world of math and he is now excited by his math classes with her. He leaves the JUMP sessions energized and his confidence in math has built dramatically in only one month of working with her.  Melinda's tools and expertise are ideal for helping students develop real, integrated understanding of the concepts.  We couldn't be more pleased and it is a great relief to have found a curriculum and teacher that really make MATH classes both an emotionally safe and intellectually adventurous place to be."  --Crystie Kisler