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Patricia W. Newhall, Associate Director of the Landmark School Outreach Program, wrote an article for the May/June issue of LDA Newsbriefs.
Students with learning disabilities are at a profound disadvantage. Instruction in explicit skills diminishes as they progress to higher grades, but the pressure to cover more and more content increases.
In addition to literacy skills, these students need to develop study skills and self-regulation skills to help them plan, execute and then be able to evaluate how they’re doing. So, parents: what can you do to set this in motion?
The easiest skills to introduce at home are materials management, and time management. But you want these routines to carry over through the school day. Communicate with your child’s teacher about what works best for your child. Request that teachers support your effort so your child receives consistent messages.
Managing Materials, Time and Information
No study skills instruction will cure learning disabilities. But “Routines” can make a huge difference in performing better in school and feeling — actually being — more in control of their learning.
- The Bedroom — Divide it into zones for sleeping, playing, dressing, and reading. Mini-zones if they share a room. (This breaks the seemingly overwhelming task of cleaning and organizing into manageable pieces.) Take photos of each cleaned zone, so your child knows what it should look like (many children do not carry a mental picture of what a clean room should look like; they’re at a loss when given the global instruction “Clean your room!”)
- The Homework Area — Establish a designated place for your child to do homework; a desk with a file drawer to store school papers is ideal. Light it well. It should be quiet and neat. Nothing should be on the desk but the materials needed for that night’s task; relevant reference books and a cup for pencils are permanent. Put a bulletin board nearby for a calendar, reminders and motivational notes.
- The Backpack — A backpack should be large enough to carry everything needed and a 3-ring zip-up binder (essential for kids who struggle with organization). Provide the binder with a pocket folder for each class (dividers are fine, but papers tear at the holes; folders stay put). At the front put two folders — color coordinated — one marked “To School” (for homework) and one marked “To Home” (for announcements and graded, finished work). Once a week, without fail, work with your child to clean out the folders; then staple and store finished work in a home file.
- CALENDAR — Often a child has no “picture” of what a day or a time means. These next two pieces require patience and consistency but the rewards are enormous. Work with your child to create a monthly calendar that includes chool events, family events, scheduled activities, appointments. Update it frequently; keep it posted where your child can refer to it.
- Daily Schedule — Work with your child to use the monthly calendar and the homework assignment book to create a daily schedule. A sheet with time printed in 15- or 30-minute intervals and a corresponding line to write on works well. This element of time management is the most important (and rarely taught). This requires children to coordinate what often seem to be unrelated parts of their lives — home and school. It provides them with a concrete visual representation of their time.
Then, celebrate success. It’s a fact that success breeds success! The benefits of these routines will put your students in control of their learning. Researchers highlight a feeling of self-efficacy that contributes to academic competence. This can only begin to develop when students know they have the skills to rise to a challenge.
source: adapted from Patricia W Newhall’s article in the May/June 2008 issue of LDA Newsbriefs. www.ldaamerica.org. Newhall is Associate Director of the Landmark School Outreach Program, and the author of “Study Skills: Research-Based Teaching Strategies”, available online at www.landmarkoutreach.org.
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