Tuesday, November 11, 2014

NEW Desktop App Now Helps Even More Struggling Readers

Over the past few years, a number of our readers have inquired as to if or when there might be a Reading Focus Card APP developed to help even more struggling readers. Today, it is our great pleasure to announce that we now DO have such an application for use with computer desktops and Microsoft Surface tablets. This app will open new doors and eliminate many hurdles for a great number of challenged readers and struggling learners when they attempt to read online web pages or digital documents.

A Brief History of the App

The glimmer of this software idea came to us way back in 2003---even before the word app was commonly used for a software program. The idea remained on the drawing board here at Brennan Innovators until 2009 when the first patent was issued for our low-tech reading tools, the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759). When orders for these physical reading tools began to arrive in increasing numbers, we started saving some of that revenue in preparation for possible app development. At the same time in 2009, a second patent application was submitted---this time, for the Reading Focus Card app idea.

In 2013 when that second patent was issued for this application by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, we felt it was (finally!) the appropriate time to turn our attention to the actual creation of the application. We began working with a clinical psychologist who understood the hurdles faced by challenged readers, a developer of special needs apps and an experienced educator to create a digital version of the physical, low-tech Reading Focus Cards first invented and prototyped in 1998.

The Reading Focus Cards App---Digital Tool to Help Even More Readers

The work of developing this idea born in 2003 has been most exciting, and now we finally have a practical DESKTOP app for Windows PCs, Macs and Microsoft Surface tablets that will provide needed digital READING SUPPORT for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, autism, eye strain/visual stress, convergence insufficiency, low vision, Down Syndrome, stroke recovery/TBI issues (aphasia) and other conditions that can affect reading success.

The Reading Focus Cards app (Patent 8,360,779) provides the following:

1. Allows a user to change nearly all features of the digital reading tool. A reader can
increase or decrease the height and/or width
of the digital Reading Focus Card itself as well as those of the Reading Window Filter. This means that as much or as little text can be covered or uncovered on a webpage or digital document. It also means that the reader can choose what filter color through which he will read text.

2. Enables the user to change the colors of the tool features, allowing a user to view a chosen card color covering text not to be viewed AND to read text through a selected and more comfortable, colored filter. Other options for tool modification or adjustment are also provided via the application's Toolbox (disappears when reader chooses).

3. Is also compatible with and supports touch-screen technology (where applicable). A reader can interact directly with the digital tool to move it over text on a desktop screen with either fingers, a mouse or the arrow keys. If a user's hardware does not have a touch screen, then the mouse and arrow keys will provide the movement of the digital Reading Focus Card over the text needing to be read--at the speed desired by the reader. Regardless of hardware capability, the application stays on top of the text while in use, which eliminates further frustration by an already-challenged reader.

Now, ALL readers can enjoy more reading success with both the low-tech, customizable Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759) for physical books, documents, etc. AND the high-tech Reading Focus Cards app (Patent 8,360,779) for much more FOCUSED online reading of nearly all digital media (webpages, e-books, PDF files, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets & more!)

Parent Testimonial

Recently, the parent of a teen son provided these comments about the NEW Reading Focus Cards desktop app:

He chose a dark blue (reading) window with a black card. I like the fact the window can be widened or made smaller to fit an individual word on the screen (PDF). He read words individually that way. Then we widened the window to see the whole sentence and reread. It was much easier than pointing at the screen so he wouldn't lose his spot.

You, our loyal readers, have been most supportive of our efforts to help challenged readers and learners since this blog's inception in 2010. Hopefully, our re-doubled efforts (along with your continued support) will now go toward helping even more struggling readers---regardless of age, ability or the media format presented. Thank you for that great support!

Happy Reading---NOW for EVERYONE!

To learn more about the Reading Focus Cards app (Patent 8,360,779), please visit http://www.focusandread.com/page/488513590.

Direct links to access app download:
1. 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

2. For Windows PCs: Visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs are provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

3. Another option to access this Windows PC version: Visit Gumroad.com at
Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards

For more 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 & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

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

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Raising Awareness & Providing Supportive Resources for Dyslexia

Many of our loyal readers already know that we often present information in this blog on the topic of dyslexia and other reading challenges. As we conclude Dyslexia Awareness Month here in the U.S. and begin Dyslexia Awareness Week 2014 (November 3-9) in the U.K., we thought it timely to present an article here about what dyslexia actually is and some helpful resources to support families challenged with it.

First of all, what IS dyslexia? The International Dyslexia Association provides the following definition:

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment, and in its more severe forms, will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations or extra support services.
(Source: International Dyslexia Association---Please see links to follow.)

Dyslexia affects approximately 20% of the population in the U.S. (1 in 5 individuals). For some individuals who have never been diagnosed, dyslexia is a hidden disability which may result in underemployment, difficulty navigating academic environments, difficulty on the job and decreased self-esteem or confidence. Even those who have been diagnosed are likely to struggle with reading or writing in some aspects of their lives. Dyslexia is a specific reading difference and does not reflect low intelligence. In fact, there are many bright and creative individuals with dyslexia who are challenged throughout life with reading, writing and/or spelling. Often, however, with appropriate teaching methods, dyslexics can learn successfully.

This week, we have a large basket of resources to help. In our list, you'll discover some of the best tools, books and support organizations to provide the help needed for individuals of ANY age struggling with dyslexia. We hope you will take advantage of at least a few of these resources. Someone's future could depend on it!

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
(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 (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 the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called "Reading Focus Cards."
(No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

2. Another option to access this Windows PC version:
Visit Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards

3. 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

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 Gift of Dyslexia
by Ronald D. Davis, Eldon M. Braun; Penguin Group-USA (1997)
(first published May 1, 1993)

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

Dyslexia 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/

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 47 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. - See more at: http://wrightslaw.com/#sthash.ajmQK87L.dpuf
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/

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

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

FREE Literacy Apps for ALL Kinds of Struggling Readers

The month of October is always an "active" month for us, and this October 2014 definitely did not disappoint! It has been a very busy week here at Brennan Innovators with quite a number of parent phone consultations, the continuous packing and shipping of Reading Focus Card orders and the finalizing of preparations for a new product launch! Yes, a new product (unlike anything we've offered previously)! Next week in our blog article, we'll be telling you all about it, too. (Patience, patience, please!)

Traditionally at this part of October, parents and teachers are also meeting for the first conferences of the school year to discuss student progress. Also by this time in the semester, it can be fairly apparent to an educator if a student is experiencing issues with one or more reading skills. There might be a problem with focus and attention or fluency. Comprehension or retention of what is read could be issues. Parents may notice that it takes "forever" for their child to complete reading or written assignments at home. Other red flags might be raised, and solutions are urgently sought to help the challenged reader improve the deficient reading skills.

This week, we wanted to respond to a large number of email and phone requests as well as the many recent searches on our blog for "struggling reader apps." We thought we'd even take it a little further and offer a list of FREE apps in this often-requested category. In addition, we wanted to provide these apps for ALL kinds of challenged readers---for young, new readers, adolescents, middle-school readers, low-vision readers and even an application for teachers of struggling readers.

So, we hope that you will take a minute or two to survey the list of FREE iPad and Android apps we have created here for struggling readers in your life. We also hope you will discover at least one of them that will offer your child or students the help needed to read with much more success Oh, yes, and don't forget to check back here next week for that new product announcement! We think you'll be glad you did!

FREE Literacy Apps for Struggling Readers

8 Apps For Struggling Adolescent Readers (for Android & iPad)
by Hope Mulholland, Te@chThought
FREE apps that provide e-books, audiobooks and more for challenged teen readers can be found here.
http://www.teachthought.com/apps-2/8-apps-for-struggling-adolescent-readers/

Free App: One Minute Reader (Android & iPad)
If you have a child struggling with reading, download the free One Minute Reader app for iPad on iTunes. This app from the respected Minnesota-based company, Reading Naturally, contains a placement process to decide what reading level is right for your child and includes one FREE story from each level.
For Android: http://filedir.com/android/books-reference/one-minute-reader-3899592.html)
For iPad: http://oneminutereader.com/

Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch-Optimized for iPhone 5)
by Hooked on Phonics
This FREE app is based on the award-winning Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read system. Millions of kids have learned to read using Hooked on Phonics. Now, we are proud to introduce our exciting new digital reading program!
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hooked-on-phonics-helping/id588868907?mt=8

Phonics Genius (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch)
by Innovative Mobile Apps
Over 6,000 words grouped by phonics sounds! This FREE app is an excellent resource for teaching phonemic awareness!
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/phonics-genius/id461659980?mt=8

iCam Magnifier (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch-Optimized for iPhone 5)
FREE low vision app from Clarix (iCam is a low vision magnifier and reader for your iPhone or iPad. It features 5 high-contrast false color modes, as well as black and white, and color. If you struggle with reading, iCam can help magnify printed text. With an optional light, use it in dim lit rooms, restaurants, home, etc. It can be used to read menus, receipts, pill bottles & more.)
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/icam-magnifier/id628567362?ls=1&mt=8

Fluency Tutor™ for Google (Android)
by TextHelp, Ltd.
Fluency Tutor™ for Google is a FREE, easy-to-use reading and assessment tool that helps busy teachers support struggling readers.
Great for time-stretched teachers, Fluency Tutor™ for Google lets students practice reading aloud at their own pace.
Make reading aloud more fun and satisfying for even your most reluctant students. It’s also great for early readers and individuals learning English as a second language. (Student app is used in conjunction with the Teacher app.)
Teacher App: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/fluency-tutor-for-google/ejajakfhhhhkifioabcekjjlhpoiijfa (available from the Chrome Web Store)
Student App: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.texthelp.fluencytutorstudent (available from Google Play)

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

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

BEST Literacy Apps for Kids

Last weekend, we had the great privilege of attending the “2014 Literacy for All Conference: The Community Reads” presented by the Harris-Stowe State University College of Education and the St. Louis Suburban Council of the International Reading Association. Brennan Innovators has participated and exhibited at this annual conference for the past five years, and each year, the speakers have been excellent.

We want to especially thank Dr. Betty Porter-Walls, faculty member at the university, for organizing and presenting this event all of those five years. Her enthusiasm has always been infectious, and as a result, attendees have always left the conferences re-inspired, re-energized and ready to promote literacy in their classrooms in new and exciting ways. With Dr. Betty's brand of organization, preparation and enthusiasm on tap once again, this year was no exception.

The session topics at the conference were timely yet practical. From “Tips to Make a Guided Reading Program More Effective” [K-6] by Dr. Sam Bommarito to "Using Favorite Read-Alouds to Develop Curriculum [PK-3] by Ms. Julia Auch, the conference offered much to the educators who attended last Saturday's event.

We spoke with many teachers that day who took time to visit us at our Reading Focus Cards' exhibit table. A number of them commented on the increasing number of challenged readers coming to their classrooms. A few educators mentioned that students are so easily distracted when attempting to read a selection. Others cited that their students need some type of sustained visual stimulation (i.e. pictures, color, graphics or technology) to stay on-task or to effectively learn concepts. These were only two of the reasons why conference attendees visited us at the event. We demonstrated and allowed the teachers to interact with the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), our low-tech tools for challenged readers. We appreciated their high level of interest in wanting to help students who struggle to read.

More than a few times, the attendees requested apps and tech tools to assist with building reading skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency---in addition to help with focusing and tracking. We provided them with handouts that included strategies and website links to aid them.

Because of the teachers' requests and a similar demand experienced recently with our other clients and customers, we decided to provide our blog readers this week with a list of literacy apps for educators and parents to help children build some of those all-important reading skills. We included both iPad and Android apps in the list and grouped them into different reading skill categories. We have found these to be some of the most frequently recommended reading skills apps currently available. We believe the apps in this list will definitely do much to entice reluctant readers to begin reading, keep unfocused readers engaged, and provide the colorful visuals to get students excited about reading everyday---all while improving reading skill levels. We hope you and a struggling reader you know will benefit from the use of at least one of them!

FREE Literacy Apps for Kids

Apps for Phonemic Awareness

ABC Magic Reading 1 - Short Vowel Words (FREE)
by Preschool University
This sampler app can help your child’s future reading success by giving your child key reading skills practice.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-reading-magic-1-short/id416896853?mt=8

100+ Top Apps for Phonemic Awareness (for iPhone/iPad---FREE & various prices)
A long list of iPhone and iPad apps to help increase phonemic awareness for various grade levels.
http://appcrawlr.com/ios-apps/best-apps-phonemic-awareness

50+ Top Apps for Phonemic Awareness (for Android---FREE & various prices)
A collection of Android apps to help increase phonemic awareness for various grade levels.
http://appcrawlr.com/app/search?_src=sort_&max=12&q=phonemic+awareness&query=best-apps-phonemic-awareness&prefix=top-apps&price=&device=android&sort=&trigger=deviceChange

Apps for Phonics

ABC Magic Phonics (FREE)
by Preschool University
This app will help your child learn the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, which are necessary for reading. Learning the sounds of the letters gives your child the tools for reading and helps them become better readers. A matching phonetic photo image is matched with each letter to help your child learn the sound of each letter.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-magic-phonics/id404048724?mt=8

ABC Pocket Phonics: Letter Sounds & Writing + First Words (Price: FREE & $6.99)
by Apps in My Pocket Ltd.(For iPhone and iPad)
This "universal" app teaches the basics of reading and writing to young children.
Lite version (FREE): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-pocketphonics-lite/id302689971?mt=8
Full version ($6.99): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/abc-pocketphonics-letter-sounds/id299342927?mt=8

Sight Word Flip It (Price: $3.99)
by ReadingResource.net
Sight Word Flip It was carefully designed by two reading specialists who have taught 100s of children to read. Not many literacy apps can make this claim! Sight Word Flip It offers an effective and engaging way for kids to learn high frequency sight words.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sight-word-flip-it/id675328955?mt=8

Starfall ABCs (Price: $2.99)
by Starfall Education
The "ABCs" section of Starfall.com's well-loved website is now available as a universal application for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Our activities motivate through positive reinforcement and play. (Note: App contains the ABC letter section only, NOT the whole website)
https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/starfall-abcs/id395623983?mt=8

Apps for Fluency

Read With Me Fluency (Price: $4.99)
by sleek-geek inc.
Many educators have been looking for a system that would actually decrease the workload required for student reading assessment. This app appears to meet this need.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/read-with-me-fluency/id635704413?mt=8

Fluency (Price: $2.99)
by Michael Tillyer
Teachers can help students become better and more confident readers with this app. Children use the power of self correction to improve their own reading skills.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fluency/id474403640?mt=8

K-12 Timed Reading Practice Lite (FREE)
by k-12 Inc.
This app allows readers in grades K-4 to practice fluency, the ability to read smoothly and quickly (timed).
https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/k12-timed-reading-practice/id384484818?mt=8

Reading Focus Cards (Patent 8,360,779) (for Macs & Windows PCs---Price: $5.99)
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 FOCUS, FLUENCY and VISUAL COMFORT for 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 the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called "Reading Focus Cards."
(No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

2. Another option to access this Windows PC version:
Visit Gumroad at https://gumroad.com/l/ReadingFocusCards

3. 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

For more information on customizable reading tools to improve focus and attention, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

Image courtesy of:
Clip Art Lord at http://www.clipartlord.com/free-tablet-computer-clip-art/
Brennan Innovators, LLC at www.focusandread.com

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Test-Taking Tips for Students with Dyslexia & Other Reading Challenges

We've turned a new calendar page and are suddenly finding ourselves already in the chilly month of October here in the Midwest! Where does the time go? Leaves have turned russet and crimson as the fall season surrounds us, and for many students, the mid-term exam season is also quickly approaching.

On or about mid-October, many high school and college students will be taking their mid-term tests. Now is the time to prepare WELL for them. We have a few tips to share with you this week that could make the mid-term season much more successful (AND even less stressful!), especially if you are a student with dyslexia or other reading challenge. We hope you will read and review these tips, making plans to follow through on their use. If so, you will be well-prepared for the mid-term season, even if essay questions are included in the exams.

How to Do Your Very BEST When Taking Tests or Exams

1. Ensure that you are provided the appropriate accommodations you are entitled to receive. These accommodations might include extra time given for taking the test. You might also be permitted the use of a low or high-tech device, a scribe, a larger font format or colored paper for reading. Perhaps there is a provision that no points can be deducted a test or exam for poor spelling. However, be aware that there may be a time requirement or deadline in your state or country by which such exam accommodations must be in place, Get everything organized well ahead of such a deadline.

2. Be clear about you what you will be trying to achieve before entering the exam room. Motivation, defined goals, review of practice exams and asking many questions prior to the test session will help you know exactly what the instructor's expectations will be.

3. Just prior to the exam, listen to audios of the text you are studying. You can do this on an e-reader or any computing device with text-to-speech capability. Go for a long walk or exercise while you are listening to make the learning multi-sensory. The extra oxygen provided to the brain and body as a result of this activity will be a positive, too.

4. Practice developing your expressive writing skills to prepare for the test. Review and re-read past essay questions, discussion papers and study notes. Use speech-to-text software and begin speaking with your computing device the way you would do so to answer a question about this topic on your exam. Flesh out your ideas, find quotes to support your arguments and use examples from the text or story to further enhance your writing. Consider saving and emailing these docs. or notes to your teacher to confirm if you are on the right track. If possible, obtain the teacher's feedback and then re-write accordingly. You will improve as you progress. All this practice and preparation will most definitely help on the day you actually begin taking your exam and reading the essay question for the first time.

5. If you are a literal person or a student whose strength is not in creative writing, devise a plan as to how you might answer an essay question. First, prepare and memorize a set of 5-10 useful quotes you could use to make your point in this essay question. This approach will help to demonstrate that you have read the text and can relate to what the author or character meant by what was said or written in the book.

When beginning to write an introductory paragraph to an essay, you might want to have an opening sentence followed by three general comments that relate to the exam topic or question. In the second paragraph, a plan to expand on one of the general comments with an example of how this is demonstrated in the text might be a good plan. Then consider using a quote to emphasize your point. A concluding paragraph should reiterate the main points you wish to convey to the reader.

6. If you are really creative and a divergent thinker, you will also need a plan to ensure you get your message across in a succinct and effective manner. During the testing session, consider drawing a quick mind map on a piece of note paper just before you begin writing. This will help keep you on track and increase the possibility of writing an essay of much better quality.

7. If time permits, carefully re-read your essay, checking for appropriate punctuation, grammar and spelling to the best of your ability.

8. For last-minute crammers, consider using Wikipedia (make sure content is accurate, however) and Sparknotes. There are other helpful resources such as these, too.

9. Remain calm and practice some good breathing exercises to help with relaxation prior to and during a test or exam. However, remember that an exam is just an exam. Pass or fail, it is not the end of the world. Life is a journey. There may be some speed bumps in life that slow us down no matter who we are or what our strengths or weaknesses are. Just prepare WELL and DO your best. That is all anyone could ask.

We wish you ALL much test-taking SUCCESS this mid-term season!

Sources and Resources for Test-Taking Tips

The Ten Minute Tutor
Liz and Andrew Dunoon are the husband and wife team who have designed and created The Ten Minute Tutor. Together they have set forth to make learning to read and spell, faster, easier and more enjoyable for everybody. They claim that The Ten Minute Tutor program turns sad and frustrated children into happy, enthusiastic children… and takes the worry and stress away from you, the parent.
by Liz Dunoon
http://thetenminutetutor.com/

SparkNotes
When your books and teachers don't make sense, we do. Study guides and discussion forums offered on various academic subjects. Literature section includes brief analyses of characters, themes and plots.
http://www.sparknotes.com/

For more information on customizable reading tools to improve focus and attention, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Brain-Training Games & Apps to Improve Executive Functions

The 21st century is nearly 15 years old, and it has become increasingly apparent that the student skill sets needed both now and in the future are and will be vastly different from those skill sets of the last century.

Success both in and outside the classroom now and in the years to come will depend on the ability of students to acquire information at increasingly accelerated rates. As teachers and parents, we now and will need to help students develop the skill sets required to analyze new information as it becomes available, to flexibly adapt when facts are revised and to be technologically fluent (as new technology becomes available). Success will also depend upon one's ability to collaborate and communicate with others on a global playing field -- with a balance of open-mindedness, foundational knowledge and critical thinking skills in order to make complex decisions using new and changing information.

There is a buzz word frequently heard these days in educational circles (and among some parents) that relates to all of this. The term is executive functions. The executive functions are those skills that would enable a corporate executive to be successful -- the ability to be flexible, interpretive, creative and have multidimensional thinking. Examples of this would include planning, risk assessment, informed decision-making, deductive and inductive reasoning, critical analysis and delay of immediate gratification to achieve long-term goals. These executive functions provide the tools the brain then uses for organizing, connecting, and prioritizing of information and tasks, attention and focusing, self-monitoring, self-correcting, accurate prediction, abstraction, and creative problem-solving.

This week's article will provide you with a list of websites AND apps with brain-training games. By accessing and interacting with these games, it is possible to significantly improve one's executive functions. The resources listed here with their direct links will address memory, focus and attention, language, reasoning, visual-spatial and other critical-thinking skills. If you or a child you know is struggling with any of these executive functions, these games could help make a positive difference. We hope you will try at least one of the resources here. Please let us know if you have discovered and utilized other good brain-training resources that might be beneficial to children or adults with executive function challenges, and we will add them to the list.

Websites for Brain-Training Games

Piece of Mind (FREE)
This website is actually an online, scientific, brain-training game center! Improve your memory and train your brain with a variety of FREE challenging, interactive and enjoyable mind exercises suitable for both kids AND adults!
http://www.pomindcake.com/

HAPPYneuron (FREE 7-day trial with the opportunity to subscribe)
There are several different types of memory: "Working memory" processes information over a span of about 15 seconds; "short-term memory" retains information for up to about 60 seconds; and "long-term memory" stores information indefinitely. Sustained practice with memory games helps to strengthen your memory functions. In addition to memory games, this website also provides FREE brain games to help improve focus/attention, language, reasoning and visual-spatial skills.
http://www.happy-neuron.com/brain-games

MyBrainTrainer Exercises (Subscriptions available at $9.95 and up)
This site provides a collection of brain-training exercises to help improve executive functions. It also includes other features to help log progress with such skills.
http://www.mybraintrainer.com/exercise/

Brain-Training Game Apps

10 iPhone Apps that Boost Brain Function
by Martina Keyhell (for Smartphones/Mobile Applications)
Your iPhone may be able to actually boost your brainpower! These 10 apps are great brain-training apps that can increase brain function, actually making you smarter!
http://www.sitepronews.com/2013/01/31/10-iphone-apps-that-boost-brain-function/

5 Must-Have Apps for Improving Executive Functioning in Children (May 2014)
from the Beyond BookSmart Blog: Executive Functioning Strategies
There are a variety of powerful apps and technologies for improving executive functioning in children who may have weak executive functioning skills. They provide some support and scaffolding that can enhance children's overall executive functioning. The key is for parents and educators to identify areas of executive weakness and then to find apps that practice and support those skills. The following are five favorites for supporting planning, working memory, organization and time management.
http://www.beyondbooksmart.com/executive-functioning-strategies-blog/5-great-apps-for-improving-executive-functioning-in-children

Five apps that could help sharpen the brain
by Jessica Naziri, Los Angeles Times
This article provides titles and direct links to 5 brain-training apps (Lumosity, Mind Games, Critical Thinking University Think-O-Meter, Brain Trainer Special & Fit Brains Trainer).
http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-brain-training-apps-20130802-story.html

More Brain-Training Sources & Resources

Tips and Strategies to Improve Executive Function Skills and Working Memory
from Brain Balance Achievement Centers
This article provides excellent ideas to promote and improve executive functioning skills.
http://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/2014/03/improving-executive-function-skills/

Improving Executive Function: Teaching Challenges and Opportunities
by Judy Willis, M.D. (via Edutopia.com)
In this article, Dr. Judy Willis, a neurologist, explains executive functions, the tools the brain needs and uses to organize, connect, and prioritize information and tasks, solve problems and much more.
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/improving-executive-function-judy-willis-md


Games & Strategies to Improve Executive Functions
from Help for Struggling Readers blog
This is an earlier article from our blog (July 2013) with additional brain-training resources.
http://helpforstrugglingreaders.blogspot.com/2013/07/games-strategies-to-improve-executive.html

Games and Apps for Improving Executive Functions in Children with ADHD
by Randy Kuhlman, PhD
This SlideShare presentation from the CHADD 2013 Annual International Conference on ADHD provides good information on how games and apps can support, practice and help acquire executive functions.
http://www.slideshare.net/rklearningworks/games-and-apps-for-improving-executive-functions-in-children-with-adhd-28120311

For more information on customizable reading tools to improve focus and attention, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

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

Monday, September 15, 2014

BEST Resources for Dyslexia

Dyslexia can affect children and adults of all levels of intelligence and ability. However, very often, individuals with dyslexia possess an above-average intellectual level.

It is important to address the unique symptoms of dyslexia as well as accommodate individual learning challenges so that the persons affected can progress in the classroom, in the workplace and in life. Doing so will enable them to actually reach their potentials. Persons with dyslexia often have exceptional talents and gifts that can positively influence their lives and our world. If we use the right strategies and accommodations to help dyslexics, not only will the 1 in 5 persons affected with dyslexia benefit, but all of society will enjoy the positive results of addressing their learning needs.

Dyslexia Vocabulary & Definitions

Visual dyslexia is the term used for the specific learning disability called visual processing disorder. This form of dyslexia is the result of immature development of not only the eyes, but the entire neurological process that receives and manages information from the eyes to the brain.

A child's eyes that are not fully developed will send incomplete information to the brain. This incomplete information then results in poor comprehension of what the child has read or poor memory of visual information. Sometimes this process results in number and letter reversals as well as the inability to write symbols in the correct sequence. However, this does not always occur. In other words, letter reversals are not an automatic indication of this type of dyslexia, as some may believe.

Phonological (auditory) dyslexia is the specific learning disability involving poor auditory processing. The more severe condition is called Auditory Processing Disorder (OPD). This form of dyslexia involves difficulty with sounds of letters or groups of letters. With this form of dyslexia, sounds are usually perceived as jumbled or not heard correctly.

Dyspraxia refers to the learning disability term sensor-motor integration. It is a widely pervasive motor condition characterized by impairment or immaturity of the organization of movement with associated problems of language, perception and thought. Typically, the child affected by dyspraxia may appear clumsy with poor coordination.

This learning challenge called dyspraxia is separated into several groups. True dyspraxia is a lifelong condition that, to some degree, can respond to consistent, early and structured intervention. Developmental dyspraxia reflects neurological immaturity. It is evidence of a delay rather than a deficit that can be resolved over time with appropriate treatment. However, only time will determine the difference.

Verbal praxis refers to the weaknesses observed in the mechanisms of speech production which can cause articulation to be impaired and expressive language to be inhibited. Speech production and articulation are not considered learning disabilities but should certainly be addressed by a speech and language therapist.

Dysgraphia is the term referred to as an inability to hold or control a pencil so that the correct markings can be made on paper. These symptoms most often manifest themselves in poor letter formation in printing or deficient cursive writing skills. When talking about a specific learning disability, these symptoms would be identified as immature, fine-motor development.

Dyscalculia refers to an impairment of the ability to solve mathematical problems, usually resulting from brain dysfunction. Persons of any IQ can be affected and often have difficulties with time, measurement and spatial reasoning. Dyscalculia can be detected at a young age. Because of this, measures can be taken to ease the problems faced by younger students by implementing specific strategies or modifying the teaching methods. However, because dyscalculia is not as well-known as other learning disorders, it is often not recognized nor addressed.
(Source: TYPES OF DYSLEXIA by Understanding Learning Disabilities: http://www.understanding-learning-disabilities.com/types-of-dyslexia.html---Please see active link to follow.)

Our purpose here is not only to inform our readers about the semantics of dyslexia but also to provide helpful resources to aid in addressing the unique learning needs of those affected. We have gathered together here some of the links we believe might be most beneficial. We hope you will agree and use them to help a struggling dyslexic child, teen or adult.

BEST Resources for the Dyslexias

Top 10 Resources on Dyslexia
by Reading Rockets via LDOnline.com
Resources and links to help you learn about dyslexia and how to help a reader challenged with its symptoms.
http://www.ldonline.org/article/42331/

TYPES OF DYSLEXIA
by Understanding Learning Disabilities
There are several types of dyslexia (or learning disabilities) that can affect the child's ability to spell as well as read. The types are identified by the nature of the problem within the central nervous system or brain.
http://www.understanding-learning-disabilities.com/types-of-dyslexia.html

Accommodating Students With Dyslexia
by Cecil Mercer, EdD via NCLD (National Center for Learning Disabilities)
Teaching students with dyslexia across settings is challenging. Listed here are some accommodations that general education and special education teachers can use in a classroom of heterogeneous learners.
http://ncld.org/students-disabilities/ld-education-teachers/accommodating-students-dyslexia

Types of Accommodations(for Dyslexia)
from Davis Dyslexia
Different kinds of accommodations that can be provided to dyslexic students when studying and taking exams.
http://faq.dyslexia.com/cgi-bin/faq_wiki.pl?Types_Of_Accommodations

For more information on customizable reading tools for various reading problems, please visit:
www.FocusandRead.com Tools for struggling readers of all ages!
www.BrennanInnovators.com Info & support for struggling readers
314-892-3897

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