Wednesday, July 22, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long!---Part 5

Part 5: Needed Key Skills for Next Year's Curriculum
(The last in a series of 5 articles)


This is the fifth and concluding article in our series entitled No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long! Previous articles in this series addressed the following topics:

A. Part 1: Build a GREAT Book List!
B. Part 2: Reading and Learning Games That Count!
C. Part 3: Discover MORE Reading & Learning Activities to KEEP Them Engaged!
D. Part 4: FREE & Low-cost Educational Field Trips for Families

This week in Part 5, the last article in the series, we wanted to conclude by addressing the skills that will be required in grade levels K-12, so that parents and teachers can use the summer months as a good time to effectively prepare both students and themselves for the coming school year.

Many of our readers here may be more than aware of the current controversy over CCS, better known as the Common Core Standards. More than a few parents and some teachers are concerned about how this push to standardize specific academic goals for each grade level across all 50 states. As in the past, each state does have its own expectations at each grade level for language arts, reading and math skills. From state to state, however, those expectations and standards required can vary significantly. More than a few groups are anxious about the fairness of this potential standardization of the country's academic standards. We at Brennan Innovators are most concerned about how these state standards could impact the students challenged with special needs. What levels will they be required to reach in order to be promoted to the next grade or academic level? Will enough flexibility be allowed for these students who learn differently? How will this be fair to these students?

We wanted to raise further awareness about these state standards but also provide resources to allow parents and teachers to access information about what levels of achievement are considered appropriate for each grade level. We thought it prudent to list links to websites not officially affiliated with CCS as well as those links from the CCS sites. This way, our readers should have more information to form their own conclusions, as we attempt to present resources from more than one side of what is currently a hot-button issue across the nation.

At the same time, we do recommend that you consult with other educators, school administrators and other qualified individuals about the important skills to be learned and the main units of study to be presented in your students' or children's NEXT grade level. Viewing and possibly sharing such a "preview" list with your children could very valuable. Students will be able to get a bird's-eye view of what to expect AND how the summer vacation period can be an important time to use for preparation. Please refer to the list here as a guide for keeping the summer's reading and activities on-track.

Resources for Needed Key Skills for Next Year's Curriculum

Grade Level Expectations for Language Arts/Reading and Mathematics by State
Expectations for each grade level in language arts/reading and math for each of the 50 states. Direct links to individual state resources included here.
http://programs.ccsso.org/content/pdfs/GradeLevelExpectations.pdf

List of State Education Departments and Related Math Documentation---from helpingwithmath.com
Math skills by state with direct links to state information. FREE printable math worksheets also available on this site.
http://www.helpingwithmath.com/by_grade/education_depts.htm

BrainPOP Educators' Academic Standards Tool
Helpful online search tool that can be used to find the academic standards for specific subjects and grade levels.
http://educators.brainpop.com/academic-standards/

State Standards—Specific Learning Guidelines for Each Grade
by Rynette R. Kjesbo, M.S., CCC-SLP (a Handy Handout from Super Duper, Inc.)
Each state has its own set of standards for academic achievement. This FREE, printable handout for parents gives information and resource links in order to find out what the academic standards are in an individual state.
http://www.superduperinc.com/handouts/pdf/293%20Content%20Standards.pdf

Standards in Your State
Forty-three states, the District of Columbia, four territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) have adopted the Common Core State Standards. The map here provides information about the process each state and territory followed to adopt their new academic standards. In addition, links are provided to state and territory department of education websites that provide information about how the standards are being implemented, plans for aligned assessments, supports for teachers, and plans to help all students succeed.
http://www.corestandards.org/standards-in-your-state/

The FREE K-12 Academic Standards Digital Library---from Academic Benchmarks
Over 8 million standards searches have been conducted on the Academic Benchmarks site since 2004, with more than 2 million searches in 2010. This digital library includes 3 sections: Standards Authority Search tool, a Standards Document Collection and a Standards Digital Deployment Report.
http://www.academicbenchmarks.org/home/

The Common Core Is Tough on Kids With Special Needs from The Atlantic
The standards don't allow enough flexibility for students who learn differently.
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/02/the-common-core-is-tough-on-kids-with-special-needs/283973/

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long!---Part 4

Part 4: FREE & Low-cost Educational Field Trips for Families
(The 4th in a series of 5 articles)


For the past several weeks, we have been receiving many great comments from our readers about our summer series of articles here. Thank you to all who have given us such positive feedback. These comments have been most inspiring for us to "keep on keeping on" here for parents and teachers who want to help children prevent learning loss over the summer vacation period.

We've even heard from some of our subscribers in other parts of the world who plan to use the online resources for the children they serve. A few have mentioned that the materials, information and support we've presented in the articles are not readily available in some locations outside the U.S. and Canada. We're pleased that what we do here to help families and educators maintain literacy and learning skills is making a difference---nearly everywhere!

The previous articles in this series provided information to help you:

A. Part 1---Discover how to Build a GREAT Book List!

B. Part 2---Create a collection of Reading and Learning Games That Count! to further promote literacy in order to prevent summer learning loss.

C. Part 3---Learn how to Discover MORE Reading & Learning Activities to KEEP Them Engaged!---ALL summer long.

This week, we are adding to this list of ideas and resources with the fourth installment in our series---FREE & Low-cost Educational Field Trips for Families. This list includes links to help you find events and resources available in your community that will help promote and support critical thinking, problem solving, the arts (plays, art shows, craft demonstrations, etc.) and other areas of educational interest to children of all ages and their families.

As you may know, these are the kinds of things that help prevent summer learning loss (and at other times of the year, too!) These resources should make for a wonderful collection of local family field trip ideas that will also help encourage good quality time for parents and their children. Happy Reading AND Learning!

FREE & Low-cost Ideas for Educational Field Trips

1. Explore and discuss your local architecture or take a walk around town to locate some of the best buildings in your community. See if you can discover the oldest and the newest building in your area. You can also look for different shapes and colors in all the buildings you visit.

2. Find FREE museums to visit in your area.

3. Compare the current landscape with old aerial photographs of your community or of the nearest major city. This is a great way to show children how things in your area have changed over time.

4. Visit your local seat of government. This works well with units of study in civics, history or government.

5. Take a tour of your local churches or a cathedral (where possible). Many churches have very interesting histories and have contributed much to their local communities.

6. Take advantage of free community events - air shows, vintage car rallies or historical re-enactments.

7. Take a nature walk and collect items for your homeschool or classroom's nature table. Even a local park can unearth some wonderful finds.

8. Visit your local farm or orchard. Take advantage of pick-your-own programs and pricing. Take advantage of picking your own pumpkins, strawberries, apples or blackberries when in season. Combine these experiences with a learning unit on farming or gardening.

9. Explore different environments in your area (if possible). See how many various land formations or environments you can discover---beaches, wetlands, highlands, lakes, agricultural areas, etc.

10. Experience pond dipping or bug hunting. Butterfly or dragonfly catching is a favorite with many children.

11. Visit bird sanctuaries or animal rescue centers - or at the very least, go feed the ducks at your local park (where permitted).

12. Open gardens - many areas hold Open Garden Days, where people open their home gardens to the public. Discover programs like this in your community.

13. Take advantage of free performances - Street performances or theatre in the park.

14. Visit art galleries or free art exhibitions - Some local art groups have regular exhibitions in local churches or other locations.

15. Visit nearby art studios. Many areas run an 'Open Art Studio' scheme where artists open their studio doors to the public for a few days a year. This is a great opportunity to meet the artists and talk about their work.

16. Ask to visit a local craft group - Craft groups are usually very interested in sharing their skills and welcome visitors in their communities. Try your local groups in spinning, quilting, weaving, pottery and painting.

17. Visit some of your local businesses. They are often happy to arrange visits by families or small groups. If you have to visit one of these business in the course of your day, then why not turn it into a field trip. Some suggestions might include the following:

-Pet Store - Make a list and price up everything needed when caring for a pet BEFORE adopting one.
-Grocery Store/Supermarket - Encourage the children to look at package branding, differences in item prices or nutritional values of various foods.
-Library - Take a look at how books are organized or categorized.
-Art Store - Check out the different art mediums and ask how they are used - some stores will be happy to demonstrate.
-Fire Station - Discover the training required to become a fireman or learn about how to prevent fires in one's home environment
-Veterinarian - Learn what is required in the education of a doctor who cares for animals
-Real Estate Agent - Learn what is involved in this occupation
-Travel Agent - Discover free information, brochures and resources about cities and countries

18. Visit your local Chamber of Commerce or Visitor's Center. These offices can give you ideas and alert you to upcoming events. Make sure to sign up for their email list so you won’t miss anything!

19. Tour a local college or university. They often have special events for the public such as free movies, tours, and lectures. These are events that you can sometimes discover from the newspaper---so keep an eye out for them!

20. Visit a nearby greenhouse. Such locations often give tours and let children plant their own potted flower for a minimal charge.

FREE & Low-cost Resources for Educational Field Trips

1. The Field Trip Factory: A great resource for FREE field trips in your local area is The Field Trip Factory. They help organize and arrange field trips to local businesses that offer special programs for students. Since the rising cost of bus transportation is always an issue, they offer suggestions for bus funding and even have some sponsors that completely fund the field trip – bus and all!
http://www.fieldtripfactory.com/

2. A Virtual Field Trip with Skype: With a webcam, a microphone, and a computer, you can talk with another family ten miles away or around the world. ePals is an online pen pal matching service for teachers, home educators and classrooms that use Skype. It is free to have an online video conference, and it is a great way to expand your children's or students’ knowledge of different areas and cultures in your community or in the world.
http://www.epals.com/#!/main

3. Factory Tours USA: 562 tours and counting! This site celebrates American imagination and industry. What better way to appreciate those qualities than to visit and tour America at work. The information on this site is maintained by many people throughout the United States who enjoy visiting American industry. Click here for more information about becoming a contributing member for Factory Tours USA.
http://www.factorytoursusa.com/

Sources

3 Ideas for Free and Low-Cost Field Trips---by Brandi Jordan
http://blog.reallygoodstuff.com/3-ideas-for-free-low-cost-field-trips/

Field Trip Ideas for Homeschoolers
http://www.homeschooling-ideas.com/free-field-trips.html

Free and Low Cost Field Trip Ideas---by Tonya Prater
http://www.reallifeathome.com/free-and-low-cost-field-trip-ideas/

Fun Field Trip Ideas
http://www.lessonplansplus.com/Field%20trip%20ideas.html


For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long!---Part 3

Part 3: Discover MORE Reading & Learning Activities to KEEP Them Engaged
(The 3rd in a series of 5 articles)


Our first two articles in this series presented good ideas and resources to help you Build a GREAT Book List! and create a collection of Reading and Learning Games That Count! to further promote literacy and prevent any learning loss---all summer long. This week, we are adding to this list of ideas with a third installment in our series---Discover MORE Reading & Learning Activities to Keep Them Engaged!

Create a list of go-to activities to keep children interested in reading and learning. Think about including activities that will also promote and support independence, improve critical thinking and problem solving in addition to building vocabulary, reading skills and general background knowledge in your child or students. Because many parents will be at work on summer weekdays, etc., children will sometimes be in the care of grandparents or other day care providers. Choosing and creating a ready collection of engaging literacy and learning activities will encourage more productive thinking and provide children with some degree of structure for their summer days. Be sure to include clear directions and helpful information that will go a long way in the ease and consistency of use for these activities---especially for those times when parental presence or assistance is not possible. Again, this will also add to the element of independence for your child, something that becomes more and more important as a child moves through the elementary grade levels.

To help you get started in creating a great list of reading and learning activities to span various content areas (another important point to keep in mind), we have provided a categorized list of such resources to follow here. Most of these resources will be FREE or at very low cost. We hope our research efforts here on your behalf will make easy work of a task that could take days or weekso complete. We also hope that your children or those you assist in your classroom will benefit from these resources, promoting better literacy and learning skills---ALL summer long!

1. Activities to Help Build Vocabulary Skills

Collection of Vocabulary Activities (FREE)
A variety of links provided by Scholastic Books with activities and related resources to help build vocabulary skills for students in K-8.
http://www.scholastic.com/browse/search/teacher?VT=2&channelOnly=true&Nty=1&Ntx=mode+matchallpartial&_N=fff&Ntk=SCHL30_SI&query=vocabulary+activities+k-8&N=0&No=0&Ntt=vocabulary+activities+k-8

Most Popular Vocabulary Games (Online)
1,000 FREE English vocabulary-building games---the FUN way to build vocabulary skills! Includes English language games, foreign language games and literature games.
http://www.vocabulary.co.il/

Activities to Build Vocabulary and Word Skills (FREE)
These activities will help your child or student build a better vocabulary.
http://www.reading.org/Libraries/books/bk476-4-Athans.pdf

2. Activities to Help Build Reading Comprehension Skills

Super Teacher Summer Worksheets (FREE)
Printable summer puzzles, reading comprehension passages, and activities. Many of the summer worksheets in this collection are aligned with the Common Core Standards and also includes math, writing and problem-solving activities.
http://www.superteacherworksheets.com/summer.html

Reading Passages for Summer Reading (FREE)---from ReadWorks.org
Comprehension units, novel study units, reading passages for grades 6-8, lesson plans and more!
http://www.readworks.org/reading-passages-summer-reading

Summer Reading Worksheets and Printables (FREE)
These summer reading worksheets help make learning engaging for your child! Browse through and download our summer reading worksheets to help supplement your child's education.
http://www.education.com/worksheets/summer-reading/

3. Activities to Help Build Math Skills

Top 10 Best FREE Math Resources on the Web---by Kristen Hicks, Edudemic
Students who find math boring now may just need to be given a new way of looking at it. Naturally, the internet has come to the rescue with a wide range of math resources designed to help students see how math can be fun and useful. Here are some of the best ones out there.
http://www.edudemic.com/top-10-free-math-resources-web/

Summer Activities at Math Goodies (FREE)
Research shows students lose about two months of math skills during the summer, especially for some at-risk students. Some schools have math packets to prevent the summer slide. But the packets get lost and so does the child's motivation. So what's the solution? Visit Math Goodies this summer! Math Goodies has plenty of fun activities for kids, teachers, and adult learners. Use their "goodies" either online or off line!
http://www.mathgoodies.com/summer/

11 Everyday Ways to Learn Math While Having Fun (FREE)---by Lindsay Hutton, Education Network
Math is everywhere, not just in the classroom, and summer is a great time to learn how math relates to the real world. It's more than just addition and subtraction worksheets---it's everywhere you look. Keep your child learning this summer with these ways to find math in daily life.
http://school.familyeducation.com/summer-learning/math/70200.html

4. Activities to Help Build Critical-Thinking & Problem-Solving Skills (Includes STEM & Science Resources)

Problem Solving Printables---from TeacherVision
This is a collection of worksheets and activities that promote problem-solving skills. The resources here include some math problem solving activities, as well.
https://www.teachervision.com/tv/tvsearch/site=TV&type=printable&keywords=%22problem%20solving%22&excl=43236|6734|29063|54642|59268|7270|54135|59880|44661&fmt=adv&title=More%20Problem%20Solving%20Printables&termname=teaching-methods-and-management

Critical Thinking Activities for Kids---from JumpStart
Kids are open and willing to learn new fundamental skills as long as they are taught in a fun and entertaining manner. JumpStart’s critical thinking activities are therefore a great way to engage students and encourage critical thinking and logical reasoning skills in them!
A. Activities for younger children: http://www.jumpstart.com/parents/activities/critical-thinking-activities
B. Worksheets for older children: http://www.jumpstart.com/parents/worksheets/critical-thinking-worksheets

STEM: K-8 Engineering---by Leah Shaffer
General Information about STEM and STEM classes for Levels Pre-K to Gr. 8. As more K–8 programs focus on science, technology, engineering, and math, teachers are finding that chaos creates learning opportunities.
http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/stem-k-8-engineering
Activities & Printables: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/search/teacher?query=STEM+student+activities&as_values_09487=&channelOnly=true

Intel® Education STEM Resources---K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering & Math
Intel believes that young people are the key to solving global challenges. A solid math and science foundation coupled with skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving are crucial for their success. To help educators foster the next generation of innovators, Intel provides STEM curriculum, competitions, and online resources to encourage students' interest and participation.
http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/education/k12/stem.html

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Saturday, May 30, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Summer Long!---Part 2

Part 2: Reading & Learning Games That Count! (The 2nd in a series of 5 articles)

Our first article in this series presented good ideas and resources to help you Build a GREAT Book List as the first step in preventing Summer Learning Loss. This second article in our series will enable you as a parent, teacher or care giver to add interesting reading and learning games to the mix of educational resources, further promoting literacy and learning all summer long.

What child or teen doesn't like a board game or video game? Why not incorporate the "game idea" into summer learning or enrichment? Either you, your child or student, depending on age level, can design and create the games. However, if you prefer or if time is limited, ready-to-use reading and learning games are widely available for FREE or at a low cost both online and in parent-teacher supply stores. (Please see the lists of resources to follow this article.)

The reading and learning games you select should keep in mind the various learning styles and individual interests of the child(ren) or student(s) who will use them, as well. Create a list of game resources that will appeal to boys as well as girls and will provide variety, too. Try to incorporate all content areas into the games list. Be sure to include games that involve art as well as literature and history as well as critical thinking or problem solving games in the collection. This will also add to student preparedness for the fall term and provide more background knowledge for the child, something often found to be lacking in many students with reading and learning deficits. (Please see Other Related Resources to follow this article.)

Also consider including games that support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), too. These additions will help prepare a child or student for STEM or "Maker" programs currently being developed in many schools and in homeschool settings. Allow for readers and learners to choose the literacy or educational games they wish to make and play from a grouping or collection of options. Children are likely to participate in a more engaged fashion if they have a choice in what they might be do able to do. They will also develop more ownership of a game project if permitted to choose from an array of choices, especially with older children. These factors will combine to help increase learning success AND retention of what is learned.

In this week's article, we have gathered a number of game resources (both physical and digital) to help you develop your own list of reading and learning games to prevent the Summer Slide in your child or student(s). We hope these reading and learning games will not only keep brains sharp over the summer months but also provide some excellent resources to better prepare students for their next grade level in school---while also having FUN all summer long!

Physical Reading & Learning Games to Help Prevent Summer Learning Loss

How to Make Educational Games (FREE)
by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.
Learn how to make educational games that are entertaining and fun. Get the whole family involved in making and playing games that challenge their minds while they have a good time.
http://lifestyle.howstuffworks.com/crafts/other-arts-crafts/educational-games.htm

Seven Ways to Build Your Own Educational Games (FREE)
by Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers
There are hundreds of places to find educational games and quizzes on the Internet. That said, sometimes you still cannot find quite what you're looking for. In those cases you're better off creating your own games. Here are seven good tools you and your students can use for creating games.
http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2010/11/seven-ways-to-build-your-own.html#.VWnmokYxRDo


Free Kids' Educational Games (FREE) from TheKidzPage.com (FREE)
All kinds of printable math, word, logic and memory games (some are online & not printable)
http://www.thekidzpage.com/learninggames/index.htm

PRINTABLE LEARNING GAMES (FREE)
Fill-ins, Mixed Words, Mazes, Magic Squares, Crossword Puzzles, Word Squares, Sudoku Puzzles, Word Links, and others. (SKIP the Word Searches, as they rarely provide the "brain benefits" that the other games do!)
http://www.thekidzpage.com/learninggames/learningprintable.htm

Printable Board Games from education.com (FREE)
Printable board games are a fun and challenging way to help your child learn! Great for practicing math, reading, critical thinking, collaboration, fine motor skills, and more. Just download, print, and let the fun begin!
http://www.education.com/worksheets/printable-board-games/

Fun and games: 8 summer reading activities for kids with learning disabilities (FREE)
by: Valle Dwight
Help your child keep reading skills strong over the long, lazy summer.
http://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/summer-reading-activities-for-learning-disabilities/

Digital & Online Reading & Learning Games to Help Prevent Summer Learning Loss

Online Games from Read | PBS KIDS (FREE)
Practice reading skills this summer with PBS KIDS reading games, videos and more.
http://pbskids.org/read/

Word Games, Puzzles and More---from Summer Reading at New York Libraries (FREE)
Fun & Games, Dinosaur Dive; Geology Quiz Your Noodle – Do you know the hard facts about rocks and the Earth? Undersea Treasure Hunt – Watch out for the octopuses!
http://www.summerreadingnys.org/kids/kids-word-game-puzzles/


Best Educational Apps for Kids of All Ages (Priced from $.99 to $4.99)
by Erin Dower
Looking for high-quality, educational apps for your toddler, preschooler, or school-age child? These award-winning and noteworthy mobile apps help kids of all ages learn a thing or two during tech time.
http://fun.familyeducation.com/mobile-apps/kids/68734.html

20 Free Educational Apps for Kids (FREE)
by Erin Dower
Mobile apps can be a life-saver, but the cost of buying them can add up. These 20 mobile apps aren't just educational — they're FREE to download on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Android mobile device.
http://fun.familyeducation.com/mobile-apps/online-games/69665.html

STEM Video Game Challenge | PBS KIDS Lab (FREE)
A short list of online games that support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) for ages 3 to 8 years. The 2012 National STEM Video Game Challenge contest was open to four different categories: Middle School students (5th grade – 8th grade), High School Students, College students and Teachers/Educators. Participants who wished to produce games as part of the PBS KIDS category were encouraged to develop games for children ages 4-8 that focus on early math skills. This project is part of the Ready To Learn Initiative, and funded by a grant from the U.S Department of Education.
http://pbskids.org/lab/show/stem-video-game-challenge/


STEM | Games for Change (FREE)
Excellent lists of online STEM games (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) categorized by age (for 7 to 18 & up).
http://www.gamesforchange.org/game_categories/stem-2/


You Can Go Anywhere! from PBS Kids (FREE)
Get ready to go places with PBS KIDS this summer 2015. From reading to geography, summer learning can take kids anywhere! Each week you can share learning with your children with our suggested games, videos, and daily tips. We've also created related activity sets for you to download and take anywhere.
Week of July 20 - August 2:
Explore And Count With THE CAT IN THE HAT. Count up the points when you explore Clatter-Clang Island from THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT! Practice map skills with THE CAT IN THE HAT. Use map skills when you help the bees get back home in THE CAT IN THE HAT KNOWS A LOT ABOUT THAT'S Beehive Follow Me! Brush Up On synonyms and antonyms with WORDGIRL'S Maze Mania!
http://pbskids.org/learn/summer.html

Math Games That Give Your Brain a Workout! (FREE)
Math, logic and word games to challenge your brain and keep it sharp! Kids who play these math games learn multiplication, fractions, addition, geometry, algebra, problem solving and more! Math Playground has 100s of fun math games and more!
www.mathplayground.com/games.html

Games from PBS Kids(FREE)
300+ FREE online reading, adventure, math, health, sci-fi games and more (for nearly all content areas)!
http://pbskids.org/games/

Super Games: Art Games (FREE)
Welcome to Super Games, the number one place on the Internet to find the free flash games to dazzle your eyes and blow your mind! We've got tons of Popular Games from all over the web, and with brand spanking New Games coming in every week, there's no way to ever be bored at Super Games!
http://www.supergames.com/games/art/


Art Games from GameHouse (FREE)
Create a masterpiece of fun with the best art games at GameHouse! Have you ever wanted to be an artist among the likes of Van Gogh, Degas, and Michelangelo? It’s easy! All you have to do is assemble the pieces of the world’s greatest masterpieces of art in Super Jigsaw Great Art. Play this and a variety of other high quality art games and computer art games today.
http://www.gamehouse.com/art-games

Online Games for Critical Thinking & Problem Solving (FREE)
by Laura Ketcham & SmartTutor Education Programs
Article listing and describing FREE online games that are a fun and interactive way for children to learn about critical thinking and problem solving, especially during the summer months.
http://thinkonline.smarttutor.com/online-games-for-critical-thinking-problem-solving/

Other Related Resources

Background Knowledge and Reading Comprehension: The Evidence Grows
by Robert Pondiscio and The Core Knowledge Blog
Researchers looked at dozens of variables to determine which instructional factors were associated with student reading achievement. They found the most important factor in reading achievement was the frequency with which the teacher used materials from other subjects in reading instruction.
http://blog.coreknowledge.org/2009/07/06/background-knowledge-and-reading-comprehension-the-evidence-grows/

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

No Summer Learning Loss Here! Resources to Help ALL Season Long!

Part 1: Build a Great Book List! (The 1st in a series of 5 articles)

It's been called The Summer Slide for some years now. Unfortunately, this phrase has nothing to do with child's play or any equipment found on a local playground. More recently, however, you may have heard the term Summer Learning Loss, which refers to any loss of knowledge, cognitive skills or even reversals in academic progress, commonly due to the extended, educational gap known as the summer vacation period.

At the beginning of each new school year, some educators take this summer learning loss in stride, building weeks (or sometimes more than a month) of review into their classroom schedules.

At the same time, however, there are other teachers who prefer to provide wise guidance for students and their families prior to each summer vacation time. Before dismissal on the last day of the school year, these teachers share resources with students' families to help maintain (and even improve!) their young pupils' reading and other cognitive skills over the summer months. Some homeschooling parents, especially those who choose to unschool during the summer months, have been using various educational resources in this way for many summer seasons---and with much success, too!

At times, these resources might be presented by educators in a special email message with resources that are hyper-linked and ready for use. Another method of presentation could be a simple yet comprehensive list or booklet of resources to keep children's brains sharp over the summer vacation period (not more than 4 or 5 pages, please). These resources might include the following items:

1. Recommended book list(s) with both fictional & non-fictional titles
2. Recommended reading & learning games (both physical & online offerings)
3. Well-vetted list of other reading & learning activities with brief descriptions (or links to more info)
4. Suggestions for no/low-cost educational field trips student families can make in-town
5. List of the key skills & main curriculum units to be learned in the NEXT school year

Because sustained, silent READING is so critical in preventing summer learning loss, the first order of business will be to build a great book list for students, appropriate for the age, grade level, interests and reading levels of the children. The list of recommended books you create should take into consideration and include ALL the reading levels in the student group---from challenged to gifted readers and everything in-between, too. Remember to include biographies and how-to books in addition to science fiction and choose-your-own-conclusion books, etc.

This week, to give you a head start, we are providing some good resources to help you begin building a customized book list. It will be most important that parents help students start the summer by establishing some type of daily reading routine. We hope our resources to follow here will be just the right amount of motivation needed to help you locate the best books possible, customized specifically for your student group or children. We believe you'll discover some excellent book selections there to start creating a great book list.

Over the next few weeks, we'll be providing additional resources for each of the other 4 recommended lists you'll want to create to help prevent summer learning loss in your students or children. For example, in next week's article, we will help you jump start your list of reading and learning games (physical and virtual) with the best resources we know to be available. Then the following week, the article will be all about other great reading and learning activities. We will continue each week in this way until all 5 articles are published with their respective resources to help you assist your children or students throughout the summer.

We're not at all advocating that you set aside your family's summer FUN here. We're simply suggesting that reading and learning be mindfully INCLUDED in students' summer vacation times. It is indeed possible to READ, LEARN and PREPARE this summer for the next school term AND have FUN doing so. It's one of the BEST ways we know to PREVENT summer learning loss!

Happy Reading---AND Happy Summer, everyone!

Recommended Book Lists (with Fictional & Non-fictional Titles)

Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberymedal

Caldecott Medal & Honor Books, 1938-Present
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecotthonors/caldecottmedal

Previously Published Literature Lists
(Literature Lists for K-12 published by the California Department of Education)
As with any work of literature used in the classroom, educators should read and evaluate the book to determine its appropriateness for students. Parents using the lists will want to consider factors such as the child’s particular interests, independent reading ability, motivation, and level of maturity.
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/rl/litrlprevlit.asp

Summer Reading Lists (for K-12)---from TeacherVision
Vacation time is the perfect time to read, read, READ! Check out these lists of super-entertaining books, from classics to fun picks, for you and your students. Enjoy the site's slideshows on summer reading to find the best of the best children's literature for your child or students.
https://www.teachervision.com/reading/summer/6101.html

Books & Resources (from 1996 to 2015)
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K–12 (OSTB Award Seal)
Reading science trade books is the perfect way for students to build literacy skills while learning science content. The books that appear in these lists were selected
http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/rl/litrlprevlit.asp

Baby Brown Reads
The books listed here celebrate, encourage, and promote literacy among African-American children.
http://www.brownbabyreads.com/booklists.html

Hispanic Heritage Booklists---from ColorĂ­n Colorado
The following link provides children's book lists that feature both fictional and non-fictional titles about Hispanic Heritage organized by topic that can be used all year long! Many books on our recommended lists are bilingual or are available in Spanish. Also, you can access additional Hispanic Heritage titles for young adults and other recommended resources there.
http://www.colorincolorado.org/read/forkids/hhm/

Other Related FREE Resources

Fight Summer Loss With These FREE Learning Tools---from MetaMetrics
As summer break arrives, students will leave the classroom and many may begin to slip in their reading and mathematics abilities. This slip has become known as summer loss. MetaMetrics has developed several FREE tools to help parents and educators combat summer loss.
http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=2e034b60c66ea054d7eb44348&id=b8744d50fc&e=1bd9583c14


8 Resources to Prevent Summer Learning Loss---by Jean Fleming from NWEA
Both teachers and administrators can make a big difference in thwarting summer learning loss, particularly for students with limited access to expanded and summer learning opportunities. Explore these FREE online resources and share them with families so that summer is a time of learning and growth.
https://www.nwea.org/blog/2014/8-resources-prevent-summer-learning-loss/

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BEST Apps for Sensory Processing Issues

SPD Apps for ALL Platforms

We often hear the words Sensory Processing Disorder or the acronym SPD used to describe a child's or adult's challenges that involve the 5 senses. Yet, what does that really mean? What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Sensory processing or integration is the ability to perceive (by using our senses) and respond to our environment – both internal and external in an appropriate manner. It is consistent and grounded with awareness and attention. It is neither overly responsive nor dulled. As human beings, we all have our issues, both our sensory preferences and things that we avoid. That is what makes us who we are. It becomes problematic if it interferes with our ability to function and interact appropriately within our environment.

Sensory Processing Disorder is the newest term for, and is used synonymously with, Sensory Integration Disorder, Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SI Dysfunction) and Dysfunction in Sensory Integration (DSI).

Currently, sensory integration is still being used to describe the theory and treatment, based on the original work of A. Jean Ayres. (Please see resource to follow below for more information on Dr. Ayres' work.)

Sensory Processing Disorder is used to define and describe the disorder and its dysfunctional symptoms - in hopes of making this a universally accepted "medical diagnosis" - thus enabling insurance reimbursement for evaluation and treatment.

We receive and perceive sensory input through sights, sounds, touch, tastes, smells, movement and balance, body position and muscle control. Difficulty taking in or interpreting this input can lead to devastating consequences with:

1. Interactions with others
2. Daily functioning
3. Social and family relationships
4. Behavioral challenges
5. Regulating emotions
6. Self-esteem
7. Learning


Over the past several of years, there have been more than a few technological developments and contributions made to assist parents and teachers in helping children and adults with SPD. This week, we wanted to provide our readers with a list of apps and other resources to further help them in their efforts. Here is such a list that includes Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and Android apps for Sensory Processing Disorder. We hope our parents and teachers will find them beneficial for their children and students who struggle with these SPD issues.

BEST Apps for Sensory Processing Issues

Sensory Integration Therapy (FREE---for Android)
by SensoryTreat
This app is specifically designed to help parents and OTs manage sensory diet. OTs can easily build daily routines that families can adhere to and receive reports on therapy progress. Helping parents turn sensory diet from chores to fun activities, which blend easily into family daily routine. This SensoryTreat app makes a sensory diet fun & easy!
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sensorytreat.sensorytreat

Best Apps for Sensory Processing by Jo Booth (FREE & various prices---for iPad, iPod, iPod Touch and iPhone)
by Angie & Technology in (SPL) Education, Part of @AppyMall Network
Sensory processing or integration is the ability to perceive (by using our senses) and respond to our environment – both internal and external in an appropriate manner. It is consistent and grounded with awareness and attention. It is neither overly responsive nor dulled. As human beings, we all have our issues, both our sensory preferences and things that we avoid, and that is what makes us who we are. It is really only problematic, if it interferes with our ability to function and interact. Here are some of Angie's favorite apps for working with sensory processing.
http://www.techinspecialed.com/2014/01/22/best-apps-sensory-processingself-regulation-jo-booth/

Apps for Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism and Video Task Cueing, QR Codes & iBeacons
by Lon & No Limits to Learning
The apps by Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers Bloom $3.99, Air $1.99 and Trope $3.99 work for iPhones and iPads. The Scapes app $11.99 is for iPads only. Scapes looks more like a construction and creative workstation with more working parts. These apps are currently used for self-regulation and calming.
http://nolimitstolearning.blogspot.com/2015/03/apps-for-sensory-processing-disorder.html
For more information on these apps, please visit http://www.generativemusic.com/trope.html

Sensory Apps (Set #1---published in April 2011)
by Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP
Sensory apps used with students having attentional, behavioral or mental health challenges help calm, refocus or motivate students. Here are some favorites of many occupational therapists.
http://otswithapps.com/2011/04/23/sensory-apps/

Sensory Apps (Set #2---published in May 2012)
by Carol Leynse Harpold, MS, AdEd, OTR/L, ATP
Are you familiar with the Autism Apps App – a comprehensive list of apps used with and by people diagnosed with autism or other special needs?
Autism Apps is a FREE app with over 30 categories of curated apps providing information and links to reviews, videos and purchase of them. One of the categories listed in the Autism App is “Sensory”, providing suggestions of apps with visuals and auditory effects.
http://otswithapps.com/2012/05/23/sensory-apps-2/

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
This article describes an innovative, overlay-type app that can open new doors and eliminate many hurdles for a number of challenged readers when to attempting to read web pages, e-books, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and more on a Mac or Windows PC. This app can help decrease or often eliminate the OVERWHELM of TOO MUCH TEXT on a digital screen. The customization of this application for desktops is virtually infinite (user can adjust color, transparency, size of the digital tool components and more to meet needs). The application can be especially helpful for challenged readers of any age with ADHD, sensory issues, dyslexia, autism, stroke/brain injury issues and other conditions affecting reading ability. (App download links included in the article.)
http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590

Other Helpful Resources for Sensory Processing Disorder

The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center
A thorough explanation of the behaviors and developmental concerns that exist for some children, which may have seemed almost impossible to understand or manage. You can take the information and resources provided here to positively influence, understand, validate, "treat", support, and help your child or others who are behaviorally and emotionally "imprisoned" by their ineffective perception and interpretation of sensory input.
http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/

Health & Parenting---Sensory Processing Disorder
by WebMD
General information about sensory processing disorder from one of the most trusted websites for medical information. Includes information about treatment options, too.
http://www.webmd.com/parenting/sensory-processing-disorder

A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR
from SPD University---Sensory Processing Disorder Education
Information and bio about the work conducted by Dr. Anna Jean Ayres ((1920–1989), an occupational therapist and developmental psychologist known for her work in the area of sensory integration dysfunction, a term she coined in the 1960s to describe a theory used in occupational therapy.
http://spduniversity.org/jean-ayres-biography/

For information on customizable sensory-appealing, low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
HubSpot.com at www.hubspot.com and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

BEST ADHD Apps for Better Focus

Overwhelmed by too many tasks or projects you need to complete in the weeks ahead? Struggling to pay attention at work? Has your child's teacher mentioned that he often daydreams during class time? Attention issues and focusing challenges are often two of the key symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that can make it harder for you or your child to stay focused in order to complete tasks or assignments.

Today, ADHD is one of the most common neurodevelopmental problems in childhood and adolescence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in its latest statistics that more than 1 in 10 children in the United States live with ADHD. Many of these children will also continue to deal with ADHD and its symptoms as they get older.

At the same time, there are tools, strategies and apps that can help with the management of ADHD and its related issues. If your child is struggling to get through his homework or you yourself are having a difficult time focusing at work or at home, you can find help with the following apps that include setting up reminders, creating to-do lists and improving focus and concentration for better reading comprehension. We hope you will find them helpful!

BEST ADHD Apps for Better Focus

StayFocusd (a Chrome extension)
This FREE productivity extension for Google Chrome restricts the amount of time one you spend on time-wasting websites.
https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji

The Pomodoro Technique involves breaking up work into timed, 25-minute chunks (known as pomodoros), separated by short breaks to help improve concentration. Here are several apps based on this technique:

a. Focus Booster (FREE trial without credit card)
This app helps eliminate the anxiety of time and enhances your focus using the Pomodoro Techinique. Boost your productivity using the Focus Booster digital Pomodoro timer. Simple time management removes the stress of timesheets from your day, while you achieve more.
https://www.focusboosterapp.com//

b. Pomodoro Desktop 0.31 (for Macs)
Developed by Ugo Landini
Pomodoro Desktop is a FREE desktop application for time management on your Mac OSX. This desktop app is a simple but effective way to manage your (coding) time, and it's based on the Pomodoro Technique. Pomodoro stays silently on your status bar. You can only start/stop it or make interruptions. Pomodoro discretely notifies you of important time events, using Growl or spoken notifications.
http://mac.softpedia.com/get/Business/Pomodoro-Desktop.shtml

c. Pomodoro Desktop Version 1.0.0.12 (for Windows)
From Mill Square Software
FREE time-management application. Another Pomodoro supporter, this app helps you avoid procrastination and finish tasks.
http://download.cnet.com/Pomodoro/3000-2124_4-75024062.html

The Best ADHD iPhone & Android Apps of the Year (FREE & paid options)
Written by The Healthline Editorial Team (Medically Reviewed, February 27, 2015)
These 14 smartphone apps for children, teens and adults can do everything from setting up reminders to creating to-do lists to improve concentration.
http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-adhd-android-iphone-apps

7 Awesome Apps for ADHD Children (FREE & paid options)
By Nick Politelli, Learning Works for Kids (October 5, 2013)
These recommended apps offer ways to improve or support key cognitive skills such as focus, organization and working memory (executive functions) — common problem areas for kids with ADHD. The apps range in purpose and functionality, providing a variety of ways for kids to be more organized, attentive and productive in academic and everyday tasks.
http://learningworksforkids.com/2013/10/7-awesome-apps-for-adhd-children/

The 30 Best Apps for ADHD Minds
By Eric Tivers, ADDitude Magazine
Use the power of these smartphone apps to manage ADHD symptoms ranging from distractibility and disorganization to poor sleep and overflowing creativity.
http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/11135.html

Best Apps For Kids With Adhd On iPad
By RMS Mobile Games Admin (March 17, 2015)
A list of app links for parents, teachers and other adults to help children with ADHD. Also includes apps for special needs, autism and other learning differences.
http://www.rmsmobilegames.com/best-apps-for-kids-with-adhd-on-ipad/

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779) (for Macs & Windows PCs)
From Brennan Innovators, LLC
This DESKTOP app for Windows PCs and Macs provides practical READING SUPPORT for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, autism and other conditions that can affect reading success. It improves FOCUS, FLUENCY and VISUAL COMFORT for better CONCENTRATION and RETENTION when reading digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets & more.) The app's innovative technology allows it to float on top AND stay on top of nearly any underlying application. It can be moved over text on a computer screen by the fingers, mouse or arrow keys as needed. In addition, the Reading Focus Card app supports touch-screen technology (where applicable). (This desktop app is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers.)
1. For Macs (desktops & notebooks):
Visit the Mac App Store at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12 or search for the app called Reading Focus Cards.
2. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
Visit Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs are provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

Sources:

The Best ADHD iPhone & Android Apps of the Year from HealthLine.com
http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-adhd-android-iphone-apps

The Reading Focus Cards App (Patent 8,360,779) from Brennan Innovators, LLC
http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590

For information on customizable low-tech & digital reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info and support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com