Tuesday, January 5, 2016

BEST Dyslexia Tools, Resources & Support for Parents & Teachers-2016

Happy New Year 2016 to ALL our good readers! We're hoping that this coming year will be your BEST one yet in terms of helping the challenged readers you know and serve.

Although we provide dyslexia tools and resources to our many customers and clients throughout each year, we do make it a point to emphasize awareness of and share even more resources for dyslexia with everyone each time we begin a new year. With the incidence of dyslexia currently estimated to be 1 in 5 individuals, it is essential that parents, teachers and other adults become aware of these statistics so that they can better address the needs of the many individuals with this specific learning challenge each day of every year.

You may already know dyslexia to be a brain-based, learning difference that specifically impairs a person's ability to read. Individuals challenged with dyslexia typically read at levels significantly lower than expected even with normal or average intelligence. Although the symptoms and experiences of this learning difference can vary from one person to another, the common characteristics of dyslexia are:

-Difficulty with phonological processing (phonics understanding, phonemic awareness or manipulation of sounds)
-Challenges with spelling and/or
-Difficulty with rapid visual-verbal responding

In persons with adult-onset or acquired dyslexia, it usually occurs as a result of brain injury or in association with dementia. However, dyslexia may have been present in childhood or adolescence but was never identified until adulthood. Children who experience the symptoms listed above here should be considered candidates for dyslexia testing and evaluation by an appropriate medical professional (a behavioral or developmental optometrist, a developmental pediatrician, or other certified dyslexia specialist). Dyslexia can be inherited in some families, and recent studies have identified a number of genes that may predispose an individual to develop dyslexia.

To start off this New Year 2016, we wanted to provide our readers with current and helpful resources to assist parents, teachers and other adults as they work with individuals challenged with dyslexia. We hope you will find these resources of benefit to you or someone you know.

Dyslexia Resources & Support Organizations

The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity
The Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity serves as a nexus for research on dyslexia, and is as well a leading source of advocacy and information to better the lives of people with dyslexia.
http://dyslexia.yale.edu/

DyslexiaHelp---University of Michigan
This website offers much information about dyslexia together with research, success stories and other related resources for parents, teachers and students.
http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/

The International Dyslexia Association
This well-known organization provides general information and support for persons with dyslexia. The following link presents an online Dyslexia Self-Assessment for Adults
http://www.interdys.org/AreYouDyslexic_AdultTest.htm
FAQ page: http://www.interdys.org/FAQ.htm

Decoding Dyslexia
Decoding Dyslexia is a network of parent-led grassroots movements across the country concerned with the limited access to educational interventions for dyslexia within the public education system. We aim to raise dyslexia awareness, empower families to support their children and inform policy-makers on best practices to identify, remediate and support students with dyslexia. For more information and to learn if your state has an affiliate branch of this organization (currently all 50 states do), please visit the link provided here.
http://www.decodingdyslexia.net/

National Center for Learning Disabilities (Section on Dyslexia)
The National Center for Learning Disabilities improves the lives of all people with learning difficulties and disabilities by empowering parents, enabling young adults, transforming schools, and creating policy and advocacy impact. The link to follow here provides general information, dyslexia symptoms/warning signs categorized by grade level and resources to help parents and teachers.
http://ncld.org/types-learning-disabilities/dyslexia

Wrightslaw Special Education Law and Advocacy
Parents, educators, advocates, and attorneys come to Wrightslaw for accurate, reliable information about special education law, education law, and advocacy for children with disabilities.
http://wrightslaw.com/

Dyslegia: A Legislative Information Site
This website is maintained by Davis Dyslexia Association International to report and track pending legislation in the United States. This blog-based web site is a resource for sharing information about legislative initiatives, as a forum for discussion and exploration of policy issues, and as a communications tool to encourage citizen participation and involvement with their representatives in government.
http://www.dyslegia.com/

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
This website provides basic information about dyslexia as well as supportive resource links.
http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dyslexia/dyslexia.htm

College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)
Organization of developmental (behavioral) optometrists, medical professionals who can test and evaluate as well as diagnose and treat dyslexia and other vision-related reading challenges. A "locator tool" for such diagnosticians in your area is available on the website.
http://www.covd.org

Homeschooling With Dyslexia!
This excellent website and blog written by Marianne Sunderland provides resources for parents and homeschooling families of children who do not learn by traditional methods. Includes a ‘Quick Start’ Guide and FREE digital e-course about teaching children with dyslexia.
http://homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com/start-here/

Dyslexia Resources & Support
Pinterest board with 650+ dyslexia resources---ALL in 1 place!
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/dyslexia-resources-support/

Helpful Dyslexia Tools & Apps

OpenDyslexic Font (FREE)
Created by Abelardo Gonzalez
OpenDyslexic is a new, open-sourced font created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. It is being updated continually and improved based on input from dyslexic users. There are no restrictions on using OpenDyslexic outside of attribution. FREE download via this link.
http://opendyslexic.org/

The Reading Focus Cards---Low-tech Reading Tools for Books & Documents
(Patent 7,565,759)
From Brennan Innovators, LLC
Sensory-appealing and customizable reading tools and solutions for challenged readers of all ages. Made in the U.S.A.
www.FocusandRead.com/products

APP---Overlays! (for OS X 10.8 or later---Price: $6.99)
Created by Abbie Gonzalez
Use to help with reading or sometimes to help following large tables and lists of data. Battle the wall of text, eyestrain and distractions with this on screen overlay to help you keep your place!
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/overlays!/id868499627?mt=12

APP---Reading Focus Cards(Macs & Windows PCs---Price: $5.99)
(Patent 8,360,779)
From Brennan Innovators, LLC
This DESKTOP app is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. This 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 promotes more FOCUSED online reading of almost ALL digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets & more.) In addition, the Reading Focus Card app is compatible with and supports touch-screen technology. The application can be moved on the screen over text by the fingers, mouse or arrow keys as needed.
1. For Macs (desktops & notebooks):
Visit the Mac App Store and search for Reading Focus Cards or go directly to
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12
2. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
Visit Gumroad.com OR the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards.(No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)
https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards

Best Books for Dyslexia

Overcoming Dyslexia: A New and Complete Science-Based Program for Reading Problems at Any Level
by Sally Shaywitz, M.D.; Vintage (2005)

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy: The Special Education Survival Guide
by Pam Wright and Pete Wright; Harbor House Law Press (2006)

The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain
by Brock and Fernette Eide M.D.; Plume (2012)

Dyslexic AND UN-Stoppable - How Dyslexia Helps Us Create The Life Of Our Dreams And How YOU Can Do It Too
by Lucie M. Curtiss, R.N. and Douglas C. Curtiss, M.D., FAAP

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

10 Helpful Steps for Test-Taking Success

Whether it's a unit test, mid-term or final exam that's looming, we know you'll experience much more success if you plan for it. Here are ten of the most helpful steps to improve your test-taking success (presented in a bulleted format for your convenience and ease of use):

1. Think Positively AND Prepare for Success!
Consider the coming test or examination as an opportunity, a chance to demonstrate what you have learned and what your now know. The test may be a challenging opportunity, but you CAN do this.

2. Create a Plan for Success
a. The week before the test, ask your teacher about the following:
1.) Will the material for the test be from the textbook only? From class notes? Other?
2.) If a math test is planned, will it be possible to use a calculator?
b. If you've been absent, ask friends about material you may have missed.
c. Make a list of the most important topics to be covered.
1.) Use this as a guide when you study.
2.) Highlight the topics you know will require extra time for you to study.
3.) Allow for extra time to study those most challenging topics.

3. What to Do the Night Before the Test
a. Remember that cramming for a test or exam really doesn't work, no matter what other students may say.
b. If you've followed a study plan, the night before the test should be a time when you do a quick review and get to bed early.
c. Your brain and body require sleep to function well, so avoid staying up late or “pulling an all-nighter.”

4. What to Do the Morning of the Test
a. You will actually think better and more productively when you have a full stomach, so plan to eat a nutritious breakfast the morning of the test.
b. Arrange to arrive at school early.
c. Make sure you have everything you'll need for the test:
1.) Scratch paper
2.) Extra pencils and/or pens
3.) Erasers
4.) A calculator, ruler, reading tools, apps and other aids or accommodations (if permitted).
d. Do a ten-minute power study or quick review of important points right before the test, so your brain will be “in gear” from the beginning of the testing session.

5. What to Do at Test Time
a. Quickly scan through the test before starting.
b. Read all the test instructions CAREFULLY!
c. Understand how the test is scored:
1.) Do you lose points for incorrect answers?
2.) Or is it better to make guesses when you're not sure of the answer?
d. Make sure you are marking answers correctly.

6. Manage Your Time Well
a. Answer the easy questions first. This can be a time saver AND build your self-confidence.
b. Allow for more time near the end of the testing period for focusing on the most challenging part of the test.

7. What to Do with a “Mental Block”
Tricky problems or test questions can knock you off balance. Don't get worried or frustrated. Here are some practical things to do when you “get stuck” during the test:
a. Reread the question to make sure you understand it, and then try to solve it the best way you know how.
b. If you're still stuck, circle it and move on. You can come back to it later.
c. What if you have no idea about the answer? Review your options and make the best guess you can, but only if you don't lose points for wrong answers.

8. What to Do with Multiple-Choice Questions
The process of elimination can help you choose the correct answer in a multiple-choice question.
a. Start by crossing off the answers that couldn't be right.
b. Then spend your time focusing on the POSSIBLE correct choices before selecting your answer.

9. Neatness Does Count!
Look over your test to ensure that your work is neat and answers are clearly written. If your 4s look like 9s, that could be a real problem on a math test. Be sure that your writing is legible and that you erase your mistakes. For machine-scored tests, fill in the spaces carefully and in the appropriate places.

10. Am I Finished Yet?
When you complete the last item on the test, remember that you should then:
a. First, check the clock and go back to review your answers.
b. Make sure that you didn't make any careless mistakes (like putting the right answer in the wrong place or skipping a question).
c. Then, spend the remaining minutes going over the most difficult problems before you turn in your test.

Follow these practical test tips, and you'll know you did your best! Then celebrate your success!

Sources & Related Resources:

1. Top Ten Test-Taking Tips for Students---from TeacherVision
https://www.teachervision.com/study-skills/teaching-methods/6390.html

2. Top 10 Study Tips---by Maximillian Hart, Test Taking Tips
http://test-taking-tips.net/top-ten-study-tips/

3. Top 10 Test-Taking Strategies---from CollegeTips.com
http://www.collegetips.com/college-classes/test-taking-strategies.php

4. Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
CUSTOMIZABLE app (for Macs & PCs) that helps challenged readers and learners of ALL ages & abilities (especially helpful for persons with ADHD, dyslexia, low vision, autism & other issues that can affect reading success). This desktop app promotes more FOCUSED reading and studying whether ONLINE or OFFLINE.
Macs: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12
Windows PCs: https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards

5. The Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759)
Sensory-appealing and customizable reading tools and solutions that help challenged readers of all ages with printed media (physical books, worksheets & documents.)
www.FocusandRead.com/products

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

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

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Collection of ALL Kinds of Reading Resources, ALL in 1 Place!

We know that parents and teachers have only so much time to research, locate and review materials and resources to help the challenged readers they care about and serve.

Wouldn't it be a great thing if a SIZABLE collection of ALL kinds of reading resources could be available and easily accessible in ONE place? We certainly think so! That is why this week, which is the midpoint of the first academic quarter for the school year, we have decided to provide you with a list of CATEGORIZED reading resources here to help you meet the needs of the struggling readers (and other readers) you know, courtesy of our Pinterest boards!

These resources are some of the most popular and effective reading resources we know for children and teens who experience various issues when they attempt to read. We hope you will take just a few minutes now to quickly review the categoried board links AND "Follow" those relevant to you and your child(ren) or students.

If your time is particularly limited this week, please feel free to simply "Follow" our entire Pinterest page at https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000, as it includes MANY other boards with educational resources for special needs, parenting, teaching, homeschooling and much more. We hope you'll re-visit our page often because we pin relevant resources there daily with a TOTAL of 137 boards at this writing!

Happy Reading----AND Pinning, everyone!

A Collection of ALL Kinds of Reading Resources---ALL in 1 Place!

Help for Struggling Readers---Resources, Links, and Activities for Challenged Readers
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/help-for-struggling-readers/

Good Books for Girls
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/good-books-for-girls/

Book Lists for Boys
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/book-lists-for-boys/

Rockin' Reading Resources
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/rockin-reading-resources/

Reading Resources GALORE!
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/reading-resources-galore/

Literacy
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/literacy/

Dr. Seuss We LOVE!
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/dr-seuss-we-love/

Decoding Resources
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/decoding-resources/

Dyslexia Resources & Support
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/dyslexia-resources-support/

Dyslexia Tools
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/dyslexia-tools/

Low Vision Resources & Support
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/low-vision-resources-support/

Reading Tools for Kids---Tools and Strategies to Help Children Who Struggle to READ
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/reading-tools-for-kids/

Reading Technology Resources
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/reading-technology-resources/

Reading Apps to Help Kids
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/reading-apps-to-help-kids/

Vocabulary Fun
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/vocabulary-fun/

All About e-Books
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/all-about-e-books/

All About Books
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/all-about-books/

Summer Reading Resources
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/summer-reading-resources/

GREAT Places to READ!
https://www.pinterest.com/brennajn2000/great-places-to-read/

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

Images courtesy of: Clker.com: www.clker.com/clipart-book-2.html and
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

5 Tips to Help Your Child Tame Those ADHD Symptoms

This will be the first week back to school for many children across the country after the long summer break. Many students will be excited to start a new year. Others will be more than a little reluctant, and a significant number of children will be very anxious about returning to a new classroom at a higher grade level. This can be especially true for children challenged with focusing and attention problems or ADHD. At the same time and not surprisingly, the parents of these students may also be experiencing the same feelings, dreading the morning routine with a child who struggles to follow directions, complete tasks on time and prepare for the classroom, each and every day of the school year.

What can parents do to help better prepare their children or teens with these ADHD symptoms AND in so doing, experience a better academic year? We have made a list here of 5 tips to help. None of them are difficult. However, each of the tips WILL require consistency and the needed time to follow-through on each of them.

1. Incorporate Plenty of Exercise into Your Child's Day Every Day! Always allow for a good amount of daily exercise. It need not be strenuous, but consistent exercise that benefits all muscle groups and provides good aerobic benefits will go a long way in helping your child to get and stay focused in the classroom this year. About 60 minutes of walking, running, climbing or other safe activity is recommended each day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These minutes can be broken down into smaller units of 10 to 20 minutes at a time to accomplish the daily goal.

2. Allow for Scheduled Breaks to Help Your Child Decompress. This can be especially important during stressful or homework times. A pause of 5 to 10 minutes from homework can make all the difference in both decreasing stress and improving attention levels for your child or teen. If needed, time the length of these breaks, too, so that they do not become "lunch hours" or "extended playtimes." For some children, a quick run to the backyard fence could also provide just the right amount of energy release to enable more focused reading or study upon their return to work.

3. Stimulate & Improve Focus with Worthy Learning Activities. Seek out meaningful learning activities and resources appropriate for your child's intellectual level. The internet offers a wide variety of these resources and so often without any cost to you. We have provided a few links to follow this article that you might find helpful for this purpose. Take a look at all of the resources before choosing the best one(s) for your individual child's learning style or interests. Be aware that maintaining some structure during school break and vacation times may go a long way in keeping your child or students in the "learning groove," especially when ADHD is a challenge. Choosing "worthy" activities for these more relaxed times will be helpful.

4. Make Use of Valuable Tools to Keep Your Child On-Task at Home & at School. There are helpful reading aids and other tools to help improve focus and attention both in and outside the classroom. These aids are available online and in some school supply stores. Some tools may assist your child or student with work that involves physical books and worksheets while others will be helpful with online reading and study. We have provided a few resources for you in the list at the ndo fo this article. Getting and maintaining a student's attention and focus is a hurdle that can be scaled with the right tools for each individual's learning style and needs.

5. Check in with Your Child at Least Once a Day. Have a brief but meaningful chat with your child each day. It may be your own personal challenge, but please turn off the omni-present phone and really look at your child without your own distractions getting in the way. Just 5 minutes where you give your child your undivided attention can be priceless and serve as an excellent example for the child to learn how to properly discuss or interact with another person. You will most likely notice your child relax and become less stressed or "hyper" after these few minutes together. Those precious moments together may actually affect you in the same positive way!

Resources to Help Tame Those ADHD Symptoms

How much physical activity do children need?
From The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Daily exercise for children is essential. Other related information is provided here.
http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm

Better Behavior at School: Help Teachers Manage Your Child's Distractions and Impulsivity
From the Editors of ADDitude Magazine
Share these winning strategies with your child's teachers to keep your student focused and on his best behavior in the classroom.
http://www.additudemag.com/slideshow/17/slide-1.html

How Your ADHD Teen Can Thrive in High School
By Jill Murphy & Cynthia Enfinger
11 Tips for High School Success: High school demands better study skills, time-management tools, and organization skills in order to succeed. Use these tips to master those high school classes.
http://www.additudemag.com/resource-center/adhd-in-high-school.html

GREAT Reading & Learning Resources for Your Family's Spring Break (or Anytime!)
This article includes alternatives to the traditional "Spring Break" or other vacation time. In addition, you will discover many resources to keep kid's brains engaged even when away from the classroom for either a short or extended period.
http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2015/03/great-reading-learning-resources-for.html

Keep Kids Far from the "Summer Slide": Stressless Summer
From Kidlutions.com
You can help your child avoid the “summer slide” with just a little information and some careful planning. The tips and resources included with this article have been provided to help you do just that. Choosing to follow through on all or just a handful of the ideas here will help keep your child far from the “summer slide” this year!
http://kidlutions.blogspot.com/2013/07/keep-kids-far-from-summer-slide.html

Helpful Focus & Tracking Resources for Challenged Readers
The right strategies and resources for students with attention and focusing issues when reading can go a long way in helping them manage specific symptoms or even improve their reading experiences. This article addresses these needs with some resources specific to focus and tracking. The information presented here can go a long way to help positively affect the level of reading success for many struggling readers.
http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2014/05/helpful-focus-tracking-resources-for.html

Helpful Focusing Tools for Books, Technology & More!
This article presents information about a group of low-tech and sensory-appealing literacy tools that help improve focus, tracking, fluency and comprehension (for readers of all ages---children, teens & adults). These tools can be inexpensive solutions for readers with ADHD, dyslexia, autism and other issues that sometimes affect reading success.
http://www.focusandread.com/blog/post/3649064

APP: Overlays! (for OS X 10.8 or later: Price: $6.99)
Created by Abbie Gonzalez
Use to help with reading or sometimes to help following large tables and lists of data. Battle the wall of text, eyestrain and distractions with this on screen overlay to help you keep your place!
- Keep your place in huge walls of text, tables and lists.
- Pick the color, height and transparency that helps you read better.
- Use a lightly colored overlay or a completely solid line to help you keep focused. Pick what works for you!
- Easily access preferences from the menu bar icon.
- Works in full screen applications, and even over virtual machines.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/overlays!/id868499627?mt=12

APP: Reading Focus Cards (for Macs & Windows PCs: Price: $5.99)
(Patent 8,360,779)
From Brennan Innovators, LLC
This DESKTOP app is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. This 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 promotes more FOCUSED online reading of almost ALL digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets & more.) In addition, the Reading Focus Card app is compatible with and supports touch-screen technology. The application can be moved on the screen over text by the fingers, mouse or arrow keys as needed.
1. For Windows PCs: Visit Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards
2. For Macs: Visit the Mac App Store and search for "Read and Focus" or go directly to
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-and-focus/id920617853?mt=12
More information: http://www.teacherswithapps.com/research-based-literacy-tool-evolves-helpful-app-struggling-readers/

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

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