Welcome to the first episode of The Exceptional Educator!
I’m excited to launch a new format for delivering actionable teaching strategies to learning specialists and parents – the podcast. The Exceptional Educator will feature master teachers, authors, thought-leaders, and researchers for in-depth discussions about the best ways to reach every student in the classroom, regardless of ability or learning difference.
I can’t think of anyone better than my good friend and mentor, Pamm Scribner, to kick off the inaugural episode of the show.
Pamm is a world-class teacher and specialist helping kids with ADHD find success in school and life. Pamm is a Board Certified Educational Therapist, and a certified PEERS Coach through the UCLA PEERS Clinic. She is also an instructor for the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) Extension: Educational Therapy Certificate Program and an educational consultant for schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. She has extensive experience supporting students with executive functioning disorders and assessing and treating learning disabilities. An all-around-good-person and volunteer in her community, Pamm has been an inspiration to me, and I know she’ll inspire you as well. Please enjoy!
When students come to work with me, I ask them to do the tasks that are hardest for them. Then I ask them to do those tasks again and again. All this after a full day of school, where these same students fight tooth and nail to keep up with their classmates.
I can’t help but feel complimented when my students run down the hallway and burst through the office door to see me (…to the frustration of the accountant and architect next door. Sorry about that!). Bar none, the biggest reason my students are excited about our educational therapy sessions – games. Kids love games. We know this, but it can be easy to forget the power of play.
We all know that academic learning time (ALT) is hugely important. Some research indicates that kids only spend about 20% of their day successfully engaged in academic tasks (Archer & Hughes, 2010). Twenty percent. Good heavens! Think about it – kids feel successful and excited when playing, which in turn boosts their attention and retention. Games are the secret sauce for ALT. This is why I want to share with you five of the top-requested, most-played games I use every week in my practice.
Do you work with older elementary students who reverse their letters? Do you know middle school students who still invert the letters b and d? This free book of worksheets and activities is for you!
This eighteen-page download includes 5 free activities for teaching correct letter orientation for the letters b and d:
Activity 1 – Handwriting Practice
Activity 2 – Visual ID Game
Activity 3 – Finding Letters
Activity 4 – Word Reading and Dictation
Activity 5 – Sentence Reading and Dictation
Each activity includes detailed instructions as well as content-rich activity pages.
In case you missed it, my previous post, What Tigers Can Teach Us About Letter Reversals, is an exploration of why letter reversals happen, and some of the best-researched interventions for teaching children correct letter orientation.
I know you’re probably wondering about this tiger thing, but first, a story…
Several months ago, I received this email from the teacher of one of my 4th-grade students:
Emma has been reversing the letters “b” and “d” in her writing. For the most part, I am able to decipher what word she is trying to spell, but it’s often difficult for her peers to read her words. I understand that this is part of her dyslexia, but is there anything I can do to help her in this area?
Emma is a creative writer whose stories brim with voice and vim, but it can get confusing when dad is spelled b-a-d. With her energy and creativity, I can see her working as a successful television writer someday.
In order to help students like Emma avoid letter and number reversals, it’s important to first understand why some students make this common mistake. Let’s dive into the research.
Have you heard that kids shouldn’t read too many graphic novels? That they’ll lose a taste for “real” literature? That they’ll never become independent readers?
Telling students not to read graphic novels is like telling kids not to eat their vegetables.
Graphic novels can be a silver bullet. Struggling reader? Read a graphic novel. Dis-fluent reader? Read a graphic novel. Strong reader who’d rather be playing video games? You get the picture.
The just-right graphic novel can transform a reluctant reader into a confident bibliophile.
Last June, I was working with a second grader with severe dyslexia. She was finally decoding accurately, but she still read slowly. On the last day of school, we spent a few minutes reading Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper byKazu Kibuishi. She was hooked. A week later, her mom came in concerned. Sarah hadn’t wanted to go outside or play. Instead, she’d spent the past week devouring all five books in the series. Fast forward one year — this student’s reading fluency is at grade-level.
Every year I hear from parents and teachers who are concerned that their students are reading graphic novels. These are just a few of the concerns I’ve heard:
I’m a risk adverse gal. As a child, I used to watch on as my friends shimmied to the tops of towering oak trees. Me, I kept my two feet firmly planted and considered the probability of my friend breaking a limb if she toppled from the tree’s branches.
I would have stayed in a comfortable job, earning a regular salary and benefits. Two feet, firmly planted. Circumstances, however, compelled me to launch a private practice.
I’d finished my master’s degree. I’d jumped through the hoops with my post-graduate work. I just wasn’t interested in going back to school for a teaching credential, so classroom jobs were out. At the clinic where I worked, I kept less than a quarter of the student’s fees. Someone was making money, but it definitely wasn’t me. No one was hiring educational therapists. So I screwed my courage to the sticking-place, and tentatively, cautiously, started the climb towards building my own practice.
That first year was painful – money was tight and I was worried about the business’ success. Honestly, there was just a lot of ego on the line. Mine. Everyone knew that I had started this business. What if I failed? What if I was ineffectual? Turns out, a well-developed fear of failure can provide potent motivation. I kept climbing.
Today, I love my practice. I love that it allows me to make ethical decisions, to prioritize my own well being, and to be flexible. Honestly, the view from those branches is pretty darn sweet.