Half Way There…

I am thrilled to report that I have made it halfway through Level II training! Of course, I can’t seem to get anything done unless I lock myself inside the “office” of our tiny apartment.  My husband is extremely supportive, and is helping me to find the time to complete my work, even if it’s reeeeeally late at night.  Our daughter, on the other hand, is not quite as willing to share her precious “Mommy Time”, which is why most of the work is done after she’s in bed, after the dishes are washed, after the clothes are folded.  Finally, after our little home is quiet, I plug away at my homework.

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Here’s a clue as to where I’ve been spending a large portion of my time lately.

Each time I sit down to work, I have to shift my thinking.  For the time being, I have to turn off my wife/mother/waitress brain and turn on my student/therapist brain.  This is time for me to grow and learn, and hopefully become a better therapist, educator, and learner with each interaction I share with other professionals.

I find it so refreshing to be reunited with others who are at a similar point in their journey.  I use the word “similar” rather than “same”, because it is clear that we all bring varying experiences and personalities to the table.  For me, the empathy we share as we discuss our insecurities about our inexperience, is a balm, and then we can leave them at the door.  We need not be ashamed that we don’t have years upon years of experience, because we are reminded that we all had to start at the beginning and move forward.  The best part is that we all had a different starting point, and we are able to share our past experiences with one another in order to help each other grow.  Some of us are principals, some are teachers, some are parents who want to help their own children, some are purely curious about the concept of Educational Therapy.  We come from private schools, public schools, private practices, and homes all over the world.  Some are naturally leaders, while others are learning to become leaders.  Regardless of our starting points, we are all working together to get the hang of this next level of our profession so that we can become stronger therapists and our students can become stronger learners.

Reading to Your Kids: Where to Start

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.   ~Emilie Buchwald

I can not stress enough how important it is to read to your children!  If you’re reading this, you probably already agree with that sentiment.  Some of the most common complaints I hear are “I’m tired of reading the same books over and over” and “My kid just doesn’t like books”.  Well, my friend, I urge you to try again!

The Read-Aloud Handbook is a must-have for any parents or teachers who are sold (or maybe not sold) on the idea of reading aloud to children.  It was given to me as a Christmas gift when I was pregnant with my daughter, and I have loved having it!  Since we have been taking regular trips to the library, this book stays in our reading bag for quick reference.  I find it much easier to navigate the library when I have a plan (especially with a bouncing two-year-old)!

As I began researching, however, I realized that my copy is outdated.  I have the fourth version, which is wonderful, but a seventh edition was released this year!  My copy is from 1995, so needless to say, it doesn’t have all the latest information on books and technology.  It is helpful nonetheless, and I highly recommend snagging a copy of your own!  Make sure to get the new version, of course.

Jim Trelease has masterfully combined all you need to know about how and why to read aloud to your children with a comprehensive treasury of all the best read-aloud books for kids ranging from infancy upward.  Not only does the author talk about how and why to read to your kids, he also addresses our nation’s obsession with television.  I found this to be a particularly helpful chapter for my family.

The treasury section of this book is broken down into nine categories:

7th edition released 2013

  • wordless books
  • predictable books
  • reference books
  • picture books
  • short novels
  • full-length novels
  • poetry
  • anthologies
  • fairy and folk tales

What are some of your favorite books to read to your children or students?  Can you think of any children’s books that you read for your own enjoyment?  Please share them with me!

Great Big Baby Steps

If you have ever had the joy of watching a child achieve a goal, you’ll understand what happened in Therapy Station #1 this week.  Progress is being made and goals are being reached!  When my student first came to me, she appeared to be a typical, fun-loving fifth grader.  However, she was really struggling in school, especially with math.  “Katie” was to be moving on to sixth grade the following year, but her parents were concerned about what that meant for her academically.

Keeping in mind that we’ve only been working together since March, here are a few points of improvement we are currently celebrating:

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    card given to me by “Katie” around session 18

    Buzzer technique:  Katie has grown in the area of auditory discrimination and memory.  She is able to apply learned strategies to find the letters listed on the Morse code page and she rarely struggles to determine whether she heard a long “buzz” or short “buzz”.  She is able to “build” words in her head up to eight letters in length.

  • Blue Book technique:  Katie is slowly learning to understand and apply spelling patterns.
  • Map Skills technique:  When we began this technique, Katie knew very few states and mispronounced several of them.  We began with the western United States and have been slowly moving eastward.  Her directionality is improving, and she is slowly learning to apply strategies and pronounce states correctly.
  • Dictation and Copy technique:  I have seen a great deal of improvement in this area!  Katie is consistently using proper paragraph form and proper punctuation.  When she began, she was only able to recall a few words at a time and frequently asked me to repeat or told me she didn’t know what I said.  Now she is able to recall sentences up to seven or eight words in length.  She is improving her visual discrimination by using the finger-to-finger strategy to check for mistakes in her paragraphs.  Perhaps the most notable improvement during Dictation and Copy is an increase in her stamina.  She is able to maintain focus and push through the difficult parts, rather than getting frustrated and shutting down.
  • Rhythmic Writing technique:  Katie still struggles to remember the counts (verbal cues that coordinate with her hand movements) for rhythmic writing, but her form is improving.  Her cursive is OUTSTANDING!  Each time I meet with her, it seems to get neater and more uniform.  When she was asked to write capital and lower case letters during initial testing, nearly all of them were printed, and they were varying sizes.
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I keep this card on my refrigerator at home. It’s a constant reminder of why I decided to become a therapist.

Today, she mentioned that her mom was impressed with how her handwriting has improved.  I invited Katie to open her composition book to the beginning, and we marveled at change in her fine motor skills.

  • Math Block technique:  One of our big focuses this summer has been fractions.  We had to go all the way back to square one, so with the help and guidance of a few seasoned therapists, we did just that.

And that brings me to what happened in Therapy Station #1 this week.  Not only is Katie adding and subtracting fractions, she is doing it with a great attitude.  She lets me know when she doesn’t understand something, and if she gets an answer wrong, she keeps her cool and corrects it.  I am so incredibly proud of her!  This is a HUGE step for her, since so much of math is built on fractions!

I can’t wait to keep you updated on her next big successes!  Have your students jumped any great hurdles this summer?  Feel free to brag about them!

Summer is Upon Us…

Rhythmic Writing motifs

Rhythmic Writing motifs

It’s that time of year again…kids are itching to get outside and celebrate summer.  Can we blame them?  It’s beautiful outside!  I want to be right out there with them.  However, I will happily be joining my colleagues in

the classroom this summer, learning how to become a better therapist.  I’ve signed up for the Level II course, the Search & Teach workshop, and the Math Workshop.  I’m thrilled to gain new techniques to use with my student!  (We currently do the 5 core techniques, along with a few others.)  My hope is also that, with more training, I will be able to work with more students with varying needs.

I will also be working closely with my student this summer (twice a week), so she can get a boost before diving into middle school.  This is good news for both of us–she won’t miss a beat with academics and therapy, and I’ll get to apply my new skills immediately!

Here’s what I’m expecting to learn this summer (taken from the course syllabi):

NILD Educational Therapy materials

NILD Educational Therapy materials

NILD Educational Therapy Level II:

  • how to question students effectively
  • developing an understanding of mediated learning
  • how to interpret test results with emphasis upon prescribing an appropriate individualized program
  • knowledge of Level II techniques
  • skills of pacing, transitions and bridging
  • gain an improved understanding of cognitive functions
Search & Teach:
  • identify 5 and 6-year-olds who may be vulnerable to learning difficulty
  • how to provide profiles of individual strengths and weaknesses in the foundational skills necessary for reading success
  • pre-reading skills to address the needs of young learners who may be at risk for learning difficulty
NILD Group Math Workshop:         <——  I’m especially excited about this one!
  • how to teach foundational math concepts that every student must know
  • recognizing the stages of number development
  • fun activities that develop number sense
  • how to motivate a reluctant student who is afraid of math
  • how to strengthen math confidence in students

Have you signed up for a course yet?  If you’re interested, you better act quickly!  Courses begin soon, and they are filling up fast!  Did I mention you can get GRADUATE CREDIT for taking some of these courses?  NILD is teaming up with Regent University to offer three graduate credits for $300.  If you didn’t already know, that is a great price!

Not Just Another Text Book…

I’ve got a fantastic book for you today!  This week’s gem is Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture by Kathleen R. Hopkins.  This book is unique in that it was written by one of NILD’s very own.  Dr. Hopkins was instrumental in establishing NILD community-based centers and was the executive director of the National Institute for Learning Development from 1991-2013.  She remains actively involved with NILD by presenting workshops to educate others on how to help students go beyond tutoring and develop their abilities to learn and succeed.  In short, she knows what she’s talking about!

I’m warning you–this is not just another text book.  I absolutely love this book.  It makes me want to take action!  In Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture, Dr. Hopkins uses the beautiful analogy of a skylight to illustrate the freedom of moving beyond intellectual limits and expectations which are placed on individuals.  While it is packed with rich information, this book is anything but dry.  The author fills each chapter with a wealth of practical applications and fables to engage the reader.  She also involves readers by offering classroom activities to test theories and strategies.

Teaching How to Learn in a What-to-Learn Culture is inspiring, thought-provoking, and empowering.  It challenges educators to take inventory of their teaching styles and their expectations of students.  Perhaps the greatest quality this book possesses is the writer’s personal experiences.  She shares how she came to be a lover of learning.  Dr. Hopkins has not lost her sense of wonder or hunger for knowledge.

Do You Have a Child or Student Who Struggles with ADHD?

If you haven’t already done so, head over to Amazon.com to pick up these awesome resources!  These two ebooks, “Family Strategies for ADHD Kids” and “School Strategies for ADHD Kids” make up the “Winning the ADHD Battle” series.  The best part:  they are both available for FREE borrowing with a Kindle device!  If you’d rather purchase them, they only cost $3.99 each.  To be fair, I haven’t read them yet, but I have looked at the reviews.  Out of 36 reviewers, 34 gave 5 stars!  I’ll be grabbing both of these today while they’re still free; I love free books.

All Eyes On Me

Last week I had my first round of what I like to call “fishbowl therapy”.  It was a normal day with my student, except for one thing:  I was being watched.  As an essential part of the mentorship program through NILD, I am to be observed and critiqued on my performance as an Educational Therapist.  Yikes!

My mentor let me know a few days in advance that she would be observing me, so I had time to mentally prepare.  However, as any educator can tell you, things in the classroom (or therapy room) rarely go according to plans!  Some of the items being noted were:

  • Pace:  Did I spend an appropriate amount of time on each technique?
  • Core Techniques:  Were they performed correctly?
  • Mediation:  Did I ask questions to allow the student to discover her own learning, or did I “give” her the answers?
  • Intentionality:  Was the lesson intentionally planned for the student?
  • Reciprocity:  Am I developing a rapport with the student and creating a positive learning environment?
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feeling like these fish: watched

Since I only meet with my student for 60 minutes instead of a typical 80-minute session, I knew that pacing would be the biggest issue for me.  In fact, I’ve already discussed this issue with my mentor.  I’ve even made some adjustments, such as beginning with the weaker areas to make sure they are covered in a session.  So what went wrong this time?  I froze!  I completely forgot about rearranging the schedule to maximize my time, and it just kind of happened willy-nilly!  I felt like the session started strong, but there came a point that my student struggled to memorize a list of words for homework.  That’s when I realized that she wasn’t using the strategy we had discussed several times because she didn’t know how.  At that point, I took the time to break it down and work through the strategy with her.  It was more important that she understood the things she was working so hard to learn, than just doing the work.  And it was definitely more important than my score.

Two techniques and 36 minutes down.  Three techniques and 24 minutes to go.  Oops.  That’s when things got exciting!  I turned up the dial on “intentionality” and integrated the topics we addressed during the first half of the session into the second half.  Instead of just discussing how to make a story to remember a list of words, I had her repeat the first sentence of her story and write it down in proper paragraph form.  Then she checked for errors and moved on to the second sentence.  It wasn’t a perfect rendition of the Dictation and Copy technique, but we only had a few more minutes to work with, and it helped to solidify the story she came up with to memorize her Blue Book words.

After all was said and done, my mentor, Lynn, was quite encouraging.  She said, “I don’t know why you were so worried; I think you did great!”  She handed me the rubric she had taken notes on, and I found lots of positive feedback.  She said I am strong at directing the student with questions, waiting for the student to respond, and changing my original plan to meet the needs of my student (intentionality).  I need to work on pacing the lesson, assigning homework instead of doing the whole lesson together, and starting with the weakest area to ensure that it is covered.

When I got home, my husband asked me a great question, “Would you rather work in an environment where you are observed, given valuable and productive feedback, and provided abundant support; or would you rather work in an environment in which you have all the privacy you need and are not critiqued on how you do things, yet receive no support, no feedback, and no direction?”  Of course I prefer the former!  Being observed is rough, but it is so valuable and incredibly necessary in order to grow professionally.  I’m relieved it’s over, but I am so grateful for the feedback!