Category Archives: > Parent Interest

Teaching Students about Their Learning Strengths and Weaknesses

by Michelle Garcia Winner, Social Thinking

Over the years, I have observed so many students get upset by the fact they had “autism” or “Asperger syndrome” or “ADHD.” While they could verbalize these terms aloud, they still didn’t seem to understand what their learning challenges actually were.

I have also observed many adults explaining to students that the reason they were having difficulty socializing, studying, and learning was because they had “autism” or “Asperger’s syndrome”, or “ADHD.” I thought this was a really abstract way of explaining to students with limited abstract thinking how best to understand their own learning challenges. I also have observed that many of our smart but socially not-in-step students were using their label as an excuse for not working at learning new ideas; they interpreted the fact that they had a diagnostic label as a reason to not continue to learn.

I have also been inspired by the writings of other professionals who describe learning abilities and challenges within a framework of “multiple intelligences” (see Howard Gardner). Essentially this means that each of us have different types of intelligences and we each have our strengths and weaknesses with regard to our own brain’s design.

Strengths and Weakness Lesson

The lesson I developed is about teaching our students and adults how to understand their social learning challenges in the context of their overall abilities and then how they can use their strengths to learn more strategies related to their weaknesses. I have done this lesson with students as young as eight years old and as old as they come.

The lesson is very simple. To save explaining it all with words, see the chart below.

Strength and Weakness Graph

Here are some basic things I do as I develop this type of chart with the student:

  1. Each chart is completely personalized for the person I am developing it with. It is not about recording test scores that purport to show competencies. The chart is about how the student perceives his or her own strengths and weaknesses. For this reason, you create the chart using any areas that are individualized to the student.
  2. To determine the ideas/areas to post on the chart, take time to talk to students and listen to what they enjoy doing and what they feel they do well.
  3. Always start by graphing out their strengths. It is good to show many perceived strengths. Again, strengths are not about listing academic tasks exclusively. If a student says she is really good at playing a specific computer game or Legos then we make that a category and talk about what number to give it on the chart.
  4. It is also important to find some areas where students perceive they are just OK – their skills are not good or bad. They perceive themselves to be similar to the average person in that area of functioning, or a “5” on the scale. With kids, you can use language such as:
    • “First tell me what you think you are really good at compared to other kids you know.” After you and the student have listed three to five areas on the chart then say,
    • “Now tell me something you are just OK at – you’re like most other kids during playing or learning.”
    • “Now tell me some things that your brain doesn’t make easy for you…things you have noticed most other people can learn easier than you.”
    • Who talks a lot in your class?
    • Who doesn’t tend to do their homework?
    • Who is really good in math?
    • Who is super friendly?
    • Who is mean?If students aren’t used to thinking about how they function compared to others, I will shift gears to explore the idea that we all think about what others around us are doing. At this point, I will ask the student to tell me things like:

    By having this discussion, you help them notice that they are aware of others’ strengths and weaknesses. This often helps them put their own abilities in perspective.

  5. If students can’t answer the questions, I go back and suggest ideas similar to my earlier conversation with them. Ultimately I am doing this to help them put their learning challenges in context. Our students with social emotional learning challenges are usually not good at spontaneously describing what they don’t do well; this is not something people usually talk about. Some ideas I ask them to consider include:
    • How do you do with keeping track of your homework assignments and doing the homework?
    • How do you do with writing paragraphs or reports (writing short responses on paper may have been a strength, while writing longer information is often a challenge)
    • How do you do making guesses about what you are reading?
    • How do you do with playing in a group?
    • How do you do with getting into a group?
    • How do you do talking to other kids?
    • Or I may just ask them about their “social skills”

    It’s important not to overwhelm students when discussing things that are harder for them to do. This is uncomfortable for most of us! Choose some main idea to explore based on what concerns exist with a particular student. At this point, students are usually willing to list these as weaknesses compared to the other areas on the chart.

  6. What to do if students rate a weakness as a perceived strength?I routinely make a chart of my brain’s strengths and weaknesses so they experience their teacher/leader admitting to weaknesses. Then, I’ll write the area they mentioned as a strength on the chart and pause there to discuss it more in the context of the others’ strengths. More often than not, students decide it should be listed as a lower number on the scale. However, I have worked with students who are genuinely afraid to list something as a weakness. In those cases I reassure them that everyone has weaknesses, including me. On rare occasions, I have said to a student, “Actually, this is an area that you are not as good at and this is why you are here today.” Then I lower the ranking on that social area on the scale compared to the other areas listed, while explaining that it is expected and OK that people have learning weaknesses.
  7. If you are familiar with the teachings of Social Thinking® you will also be able to explain how socially-based learning weaknesses (organizational skills, written expression, social relationships, reading comprehension, etc.) are all related. Making this connection with our students helps them see how they don’t have all that many weaknesses. Instead, there is a weak root system that leads to different areas of weakness. (For more information on this please read about the ILAUGH Model of Social Thinking in the book Inside Out: What Makes Persons with Social Cognitive Deficits TickThis concept is also the focus of the article, Social Thinking – Social Learning Tree.”)
  8. You will find your students are usually pretty honest about themselves. It is often amazing how they are willing to talk about the fact they have strengths and weaknesses when it’s presented this way. When they have strengths in language and learning facts, we can then explain how these abilities will help them learn more information in the areas where learning is not as easy or natural to them.
  9. Once the chart is completed, I then go on to talk about what it means to have a learning disability: that the student has relative learning weaknesses compared to their strengths or even the “OK” areas of learning. Remarkably, many of our students don’t understand what learning disabilities or differences are, so they react to their weaknesses with anger rather than understanding they can usually use some of their learning strengths to help them in their weaker areas. I have worked through anger about learning differences much more successfully using this scale.
  10. You will find that your students/adults are much more willing to discuss how they learn, what they are good at, and what they are not so astute at learning in this context, compared to simply talking to them about the fact they have ASD, AS, ADHD, etc.
  11. Once you’ve reached this point with students, the next step is to discuss specific things they can work at learning to boost their area of weakness to a higher number on the scale. I also explain that they likely will never get their weak area as high as their strong areas, because their strengths are what their brain is naturally good at learning. But they can improve how they do in their weaker areas as long as they work at learning!

Once you make the chart you can refer back to it session after session. It is also a helpful tool when explaining to parents/caregivers what our students’ labels really mean in terms of their learning abilities.

A note on language: The language-based explanation, “Your brain doesn’t make this easy for you,” helps many of our students put their challenges in context. Make sure you regularly point out when they are doing things their brains do make easy for them, and not only talk about their areas of weakness or areas that need improving.

Final, final note: The “art” of teaching is critical in this lesson. Stay in step with your students emotionally while you go through this lesson. Spend some significant time talking about what they are good at and pretty good at, rather than rush to their weaknesses and then spend all your time on this area. Remember, our students are often really talented when we are not demanding they participate in socially-based situations. Take time to celebrate the many things they do well to give them the strength to talk about what they don’t do as well.

Source: https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Teaching+Students+about+Their+Learning+Strengths+and+Weaknesses&utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=article_teachingstudentsabout

[My note: Social Thinking is a terrific resource for families and professionals dealing with children who have socializing challenges.]

for Orton-Gillingham reading, writing and spelling help in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

Keep Up With Homework: Tips

for Orton Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH, see below

At Understood.org, Amanda Morin makes these four suggestions (I’ve added a comment or two):

1] Catalog by Class: students can use different colored binders/folders for each separate class. Make headers on papers showing topic and date. Utilize file pockets; identify which pockets will keep ‘pages to be dealt with,’ ‘pages to hand in,’ ‘pages to be filed into a binder/folder.’

2] Have one dedicated space at home where student stores school materials: it’s difficult to stay organized if notebooks, notes, textbooks and writing utensils are scattered through the house.  Have a dedicated desk if possible, but if not, a shelf or cabinet where these can always be found.

3] Create a system for study materials: the system might be as simple as a shoebox filled with paper, pencils, highlighters, staplers, clips, scissors. After finishing work, you or your student restocks the supplies and sharpens pencils for next time. A lot of time is wasted searching for these things.

4] Type up class notes: if a student types notes, they are easier to read. But typing them also helps build memory.  In addition, if he emails them to himself he’s got them at school in case he forgets to bring them to class. Or: use a cloud service (e.g. Google Drive or Dropbox) to access school documents from anywhere with an Internet connection!

source: https://www.understood.org/en/school-learning/learning-at-home/homework-study-skills/at-a-glance-4-strategies-for-keeping-up-with-studying?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=understoodorg

Amanda Morin is a parent advocate and former teacher, and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 (call or text).  Or Email: aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.

Thanksgiving: ADHD Tips

By Lexi Walters Wright at Understood.org

[Reading tutoring in Columbus OH: see below]

Interrupted Schedules

If your family is traveling for Thanksgiving, your child may be sleeping in a strange place and following an unfamiliar schedule. Even if you’re hosting, your family’s routines may be disrupted. That’s rough for kids with ADHD.

DO This: Stick to your child’s routines as much as possible. Try to arrange travel or guest schedules so that he eats and sleeps when he usually does. And prepare your child in advance for any disruptions you foresee. Give him an overview of what will be happening beforehand, and then remind him at each stage what’s coming next.

Waiting for the Meal

When the whole holiday is centered on a single meal, the hours beforehand can feel like eternity for children with attention issues. The anticipation may make them bored or cranky, which can lead to squabbles—or tantrums.

DO This: Before Thanksgiving, enlist relatives’ help to line up some morning activities. Could a grandparent or uncle take your child to the park? Might some older cousins set up a family game for the younger kids? Let the kids know in advance what’ll be happening when. This way dinner won’t be the only thing for them to look forward to.

Company Commotion

If your Thanksgiving involves a lot of people, your child may feel upset by the noise and activity. And kids with attention issues may get frustrated if they’ve settled down to read or work on a project and the hustle and bustle distracts them.

DO This: Whether you’re home or away, find your child an “out” spot. Agree on a place where he can go for a set period of time to be alone and listen to headphones, play a game on his phone, or read.

Preoccupied Parents!

Young kids with attention issues often need constant direction from adults. That’s hard when you’re trying to finish making Thanksgiving dinner and can’t stop to play with your child.

DO This: First, try to get as much as possible done before Thanksgiving Day. Make what you can in advance, buy the pies, go potluck for side dishes. That way, you can set aside time to check in periodically with your child. And delegate. Is there a relative who’d be happy to oversee your child for the morning? Give him coloring books, art supplies, puzzles or a new DVD so he can keep your child occupied while you’re busy.

Take Turns Talking

Kids with attention issues may talk nonstop before, during and after dinner, annoying guests. If your child is impulsive, he may interrupt family members’ stories to tell his own. If a grandparent challenges him, he might say something rude.

DO This: Before Thanksgiving, role-play appropriate ways your child might start, join and end conversations with guests. Consider coming up with a code phrase or signal you can use to clue him in if he starts taking over the conversation.

Sitting Still through the Long Meal

Lengthy holiday meals are especially tricky for children with attention issues, who may find it hard to sit through “grace,” let alone a multi-course meal. Add unfamiliar foods and grown-up discussions, and you’ve got the makings for a meltdown.

DO This: Relax your expectations. Thanksgiving isn’t the day to expect perfect behavior, so seat him at the kids’ table. He’ll do best with some parameters, such as not interrupting the adults. But let him wander between courses. If he’s a teen, see if he wants to be “in charge” of keeping dinner fun for the younger guests.

~thx Understood.org

https://www.understood.org/en/family/events-outings/holidays-celebrations/common-thanksgiving-challenges-for-kids-with-attention-issues?view=slideview

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ eNotes Quick Study Tip: Solving Chemistry Equations

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From eNotes, which provides study guides for students (and resources for teachers as well) here are some tips for solving chemistry equations.

Solving chemistry equations isn’t easy for most students.  But practice and determination will give you confidence.  eNotes asks you to keep these three tips in mind as you do your chemistry homework.

  1. Take a moment to organize the equation before you pull out your calculator to do the math.
  2. Pay close attention to the units to make sure they are canceling correctly.  If units aren’t canceling correctly, then your answer won’t be correct.
  3. If you do a question multiple times before getting it right, make sure you look at the incorrect attempts to see where you went wrong.  Did you invert a conversion factor?  Forget to convert from kJ to J?  Miscalculate a molar mass?  This will help you make a mental checklist of potential problems in other equations.

eNotes want you to know that if you get really stuck, Editors are standing by and ready to help.  You have options for access to this help, you can choose monthly or yearly subscriptions.

eNotes is giving away an Amazon Kindle Fire every month in 2012.

Like them on Facebook as well!

Visit eNotes at http://www.enotes.com/lit/study-guides?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=december

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH: Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Linguists Say Girls are Pioneering Vocal Trends

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Douglas Quenqua in the NY Times reports that linguists are far from calling the “Valley Girl” trend called uptalk and the use of “like” in sentences as markers of immaturity and stupidity.

They are now explaining that young women use these embellishments in much more sophisticated ways than people realize.

Says Penny Eckert, professor of linguisitcs at Stanford

A lot of these really flamboyant things you hear are cute, and girls are supposed to be cute.  But they’re not just using them because they’re girls.  They’re using them to achieve some kind of interactional and stylistic end.

In December, researchers from Long Island University published a paper in The Journal of Voice.  From an admittedly very small sample — recorded speech from 34 women ages 18 to 25 — they found evidence of a new trend among female college students: a gutteral fluttering of the vocal cords they have called “vocal fry.”

Vocal fry is best described as a raspy or croaking sound injected (usually) at the end of a stentence.  Says Quenqua, it can be heard when Mae West says “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime;” or when Maya Rudolph on Saturday Night Live imitates Maya Angelou.

Nassima Abdelli-Beruh, a speech scientist at Long Island University, says we shouldn’t scoff.  “They use this as a tool to convey something.  You quickly realize that for them it is as a cue.”

And another linguist, Carmen Fought, professor at Pitzer College, says “If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid.  The truth is this: Young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.”

“It’s generally pretty well known that if you identify a sound change in progress, then young people will be leading old people, and women tend to be maybe half a generation ahead of males on average,” according to Mark Liberman, linguist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why Women?

Some linguists suggest that women are more sensitive to social interactions and hence more likely to adopt subtle social cues.  Others feel women use language to assert their power in a culture that has asked them — in days gone by — to be sedate and decorous.  A third theory is that young women are simply given more leeway by society to speak flamboyantly.

“Uptalk”

It is well established that female vocal fads eventually make their way into the general vernacular.  Starting in the 1980s in America (after possibly emigrating from Australia), “uptalk” was common among Valley Girls. 

In the past 20 years, uptalk has traveled up the age range and across the gender boundary, according to David Crystal, a longtime professor of linguistics at Bangor University in Wales.  “I’ve heard grandfathers and grandmothers use it.  I occasionally use it myself.” 

The same can be said for the word “like,” when used in a grammatically superfluous way, or to add cadence to a sentence.  It has found its way into Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition, which explains that people use ” like” in a sentence “apparently without meaning or sytactic function, but possibly as emphasis.”

“Like” and uptalk often go hand in hand. There are studies that show uptalk can be used for many purposes, and sometimes to dominate a listener.

Cynthia McLemore, linguist at Penn, found that senior members of a Texas sorority used uptalk to make junior members feel obligated to carry out new tasks. (“We have a rush event this Thursday?  And everyone needs to be there?”)

Vocal fry, also known as “creaky voice,” has some history.  Dr Crystal cited it as far back as 1964, when he noticed it was a way for British men to denote their superior social standing.

In the United States it has been gaining popularity since 2003, when Dr. Fought detected it among the female speakers of a Chicano dialect in California.

Actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Reese Witherspoon have used creaky voice when portraying contemporary American characters (“Shallow Hal,” “Legally Blonde”). 

What does it denote? Ikuko Patricia Yuasa, lecturer in linguistics at UC Berkeley, calls it a natural result of a woman lowering her voice to sound more authoritative.

But it can also be used to indicate disinterest, which teenage girls are fond of doing.

According to Dr. Liberman,

It’s a mode of vibration that happens when the vocal cords are relatively lax, when subvocal pressure is low.  So maybe some people use it when they’re relaxed and even bored, not especially aroused or invested in what they are saying.

Dr Eckert says that language changes very fast, however.  Most people — particularly adults — will almost surely make mistakes when they try to divine the meaning of new forms of language used by young women.

“What may sound excessively ‘girly’ to me may sound smart, authoritative and strong to my students.”

For Douglas Quenqua’s article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/28/science/young-women-often-trendsetters-in-vocal-patterns.html?_r=1&ref=science

Note: Every Tuesday the NY Times has a Science Times insert, chock full of great reports from the world of research as well as little known facts to intrigue any student!

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com.

+ Central Ohio Free Parent Seminar on Writing Problems

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Marburn Academy in Columbus is inviting parents to a free seminar on “Getting It Down On Paper: The Solutions to Student Writing Problems.”

  • Date: Tuesday March 6
  • Time: 7:00-9:00 pm
  • Marburn Academy: 1860 Walden Dr, Columbus OH 43229
  • Reservations required: bdavidson@marburnacademy.org
  • Or phone 614-433-0822

Often students with learning differences have no trouble coming up with creative ideas, but they may struggle with expressing those ideas in writing.

Parents of children who wrestle with writing will find that this seminar offers  insight into the reasons why some children learn to write easily and others don’t.  They will be hearing about practical answers for remediation.

Earl Oremus, Headmaster of Marburn Academy, is a nationally recognized speaker on education, learning and learning differences. 

Oremus will explain why some children learn differently, why it is so important for teaching methods to match each child’s learning needs, and what works best when writing is being taught.

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

+ Generating Ideas “Outside the Box”

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Great article in the Times this morning on creativity:  Suntae Kim, Evan Polman and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks wanted to know if there is any psychological truth to metaphors such as “think outside the box,” and “on the one hand; on the other hand…”

Researchers had already found that someone holding a warm cup of coffee tends to perceive a stranger as having a “warmer” personality.  Other studies have shown that if a person is holding something heavy, they tend to view things as more serious and important… more “weighty.”

But the authors asked 102 undergraduates at NYU to complete a task designed to measure innovative thinking.

The type of task was to (for example) generate a word (“tape”) that related to three clue words: “measure,” “worm,” and “video.”

Some students were randomly assigned to do this while sitting inside a 125-cubic-foot box that we made of plastic pipe and cardboard.  The rest got to sit and think outside (and next to) the box.

…We found that those thinking outside the box were significantly more creative: compared with those thinking inside the box, they came up with over  20 percent more creative solutions.

 In another study students were asked to think of original used for particular objects made of Lego blocks; but they had to do it while walking along a fixed rectangular path indicated by duct tape on the floor — marking out an area of about 48 square feet.  Other students were allowed to walk as freely as they wished.

They found striking differences.  Those who walked freely  were better at generating creative uses for the objects — coming up with over 25 percent more original ideas.

Such creativity was assessed in terms of fluency (the number of ideas generated) flexibility (the number of unique categories that described the generated ideas), and originality (as judged by independent raters).

On the one hand…

The researchers found that something similar happens when thinking about a problem “on one hand and then on the other.”

 Forty undergraduates from the University of Michigan were asked to lift and hold a hand outstretched (“as you might when addressing an audience from a stage”) while generating novel uses for a new university complex.

Some were asked to lift just one hand.  others were asked to switch between hands.

Among students who were allowed to switch hands (literally on the one hand, on the other hand) they found a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of uses generated.

The authors feel they are close to finding some sources of creativity.  

By showing that bodily experiences can help create new knowledge, our results further undermine the strict separation between mind and body — another box that has confined our thinking for a long time.

Additionally, the authors say, even though researchers are only starting to grasp how catch-phrases shape how people think, it may now be possible to prescribe some novel suggestions to enhance creativity.  For instance, perhaps if we’re performing a job that requires some “outside the box” thinking — it may be literally a good idea to avoid working in cubicles.

Suntae Kim is a doctoral candidate and Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks is an associate professor, both in management and organizations, at the University of Michigan.  Evan Polman is visiting assistant professor of management and organizations at NYU.

For the entire article, visit http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/when-truisms-are-true.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Suntae%20Kim,%20Evan%20Polman&st=Search

Orton-Gillingham tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards 614-579-6021 or email aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com