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Reading with Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the way that children see letters and numbers on paper.  They see all the letters and numbers, but they see them out of order and jumbled.  Many people with dyslexia describe it by saying that the letters seem to float around the page.  Because reading requires that a child sound out letters in order, children with dyslexia have a difficult time learning to read.  If your child struggles with dyslexia, here are some strategies that may help.

Point to Beginning Letters

As your child reads, have them point to the first letter of each word they come to.  Be patient as they practice this skill.  It may seem simple to you, but remember if the letters are out of order in their minds, it will be difficult for them to repeatedly identify which letter comes first.  Pointing to the first letter of each word will help them remember to start sounding out the word with that letter.  That in turn will help them sound out the word correctly.

Highlight Each Line

It can also help for children to be able to focus on only one line of writing while reading.  You can do this in several ways.  One simple way to do this is to hold a bookmark under the line they are reading.  Their eyes can then follow the edge of the bookmark so that they don’t get lost in the page.  You can also purchase a reading guide strip for them to use.  The guide strip has a colored strip in the middle that fits over one line of printing.  The child reads only what is in the colored area and then moves it down to the next line when they are ready to continue.

Experiment with Colors

As weird as it may seem, experimenting with various colors of both backgrounds and texts can benefit children with dyslexia.  You can change both the background and text colors within reading programs on computers and tablets.  You can also buy tinted plastic reading sheets that change the color of a printed page.  It is different for each child, but you may find that a certain combination of colors gives your child an easier time reading.  Play around with different combinations and see what works.

Dyslexia affects each child differently, and it does make reading challenging.  Not every strategy will work for your child, but you can help them learn to read efficiently.  What other strategies do you use to help your dyslexic child read?

Photo by:  Lori Greig

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Online Learning Games for Review

With the end of the school year coming closer to an end, required content curriculum for classes is winding down.  Online learning games can be used to make connections with previously taught curriculum as a recap for the school year.  Here are a few websites that students can access to play online learning games.

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Sheppard Software

Sheppard Software has many free and fun web-based learning games.  Most of the games are aimed at pre-K and elementary students, but there are also learning games for middle and high school students.  They cover all of the major subject areas including math, reading, language arts, science, and social studies.  The games have great animation that will be highly engaging for students.  The directions are very explicit and the students should not need much direction in completing the activities.  Providing your students a list of the games that they should play during this activity will help students to review material that was learned throughout the year while building stronger skills in those areas.

Play Kids Games

Play Kids Games also has a variety of interactive online learning games.  One advantage to this website is that teachers can create their own classroom pages from this site for free.  Teachers can take their own content, like vocabulary words, and add them into the games.  The page is then setup with the fun and interactive games based on the content the students are learning in their classroom.  So far, only the online vocabulary-based games can be modified.

Do 2 Learn

Do 2 Learn is an online learning game website designed specifically for special needs kids.  The free games include learning colors, numbers, emotions, sequencing, and vocabulary.  There are also two sing-a-long animation sections to teach students about important concepts related to safety and speech sounds.  In addition to games, there are programs and activities available for a fee that are very useful resources in the special needs classroom.  These activities can be used throughout the year and then can be used at the end of the year to repeat very important concepts.

Teaching Learners with Multiple Needs

The blog, Teacher Learners with Multiple Needs, has a great post about learning games that students with special needs can play using switches.  Games range from learning letters and vocabulary to matching, math, and money skills.  All of the games use fairly simplistic motions, which make them great for use with switches.  Some are just for fun and getting the students to use the computers and get use to using a switch, whereas other are more curriculum based.

There are many online websites that are offering free learning activities for students.  Always make sure t o play the games fully before asking your students to play to ensure that they will be able to play. You need to let them know i not to select advertisements and be sure that it covers the content that you want them to be reviewing.

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By NatalieMaynor

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What in the Word? Wordle in the Classroom

Worlde is a free Web 2.0 website to create visual word clouds.  Students and teachers can paste text such as papers, notes, or even text from a webpage and the words are then arranged into a picture with the words that are used the most appearing more prominently on the page.  Students can then change the font type, font size, color, and choose various word layouts and variations.  Students can then either print their results or save their results to the gallery.  When the student saves their results, a link is created that can then be shared online via email or they can use the embed code to integrate it on another website like a class website or blog.

wordle

Students will be engaged using this technology.  Teachers can share Worldes with their students or students can create their own Wordles based on a class activity to then share with the class.  One great part about Worlde is that there is no need for students to create an account and it is very easy to use even for elementary school students.

Classroom Activities for Wordle

Transforming words into a visual display can help students with many language arts and communication skills.  For example, students can visually see the main idea of a story, the most frequently used words used in a student paper for vocabulary extension, to show the important concepts to be covered for an assignment by turning the directions into a Wordle, or for a comparison and contrast on two pieces of literature.  This can definitely help with differentiated instruction for special needs students.

There are many resources available online that have inventive ideas for incorporating Wordle in the classroom.  One presentation called 50 Ways and Tips to Use Wordle in the Classroom provides ideas of how students and teachers can use Wordle in the classroom.  Here is another resource link of 20 more ways to use Wordle in the classroom.

One example is to input a chapter or section from a book or poem and create a Wordle.  Students can then view the Wordle and have a class discussion on the literary choices, vocabulary, main idea, or word choices of the author.  Another activity idea would be for the teacher to input student papers (without name) to share with the other students in the class.  Topics could be covered about word choice, frequency of words, students could try to determine the topic of the paper or provide feedback via constructive criticism.

An idea for the beginning of the school year would be for a teacher to create a Wordle based on classroom expectations or a syllabus.  The more prominent words would then display the importance of the words used in the documents.  A creative hands-on way to use Wordle is to use it while developing a classroom poll.  For example, ask students what their favorite colors are and enter the text as they respond.  After all of the students respond you then show the results to the students and then they can visually see which answer was selected the most and the least.  It could also be used as an activity to have students guess what they will be learning about or to guess who has written the piece.

There are so many creative ways to use Wordle in the classroom.  Have you used Wordle in your classroom?  Feel free to comment and share your Wordle activities.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Reading Rockets – Launching Students into Better Readers!

Reading Rockets provides online reading resources for teachers, parents, librarians, and other school professionals.  This site is sponsored by PBS.   The homepage of this site provides links for all types of users to find information about teaching students how to read.  This includes a FAQs section that features a new reading-related question every day, links to blogs on best practices in teaching reading and top literature picks for kids.  There is also general information including book lists, reading strategies, and research-based guides.  I particularly liked the Video and Podcasts section which included informational videos about various hot-topics in reading education such as how to get students engaged in reading in this digital era.  There were also video interviews with some of the most popular authors today.

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For Parents Page

The For Parents Page provides specific information about reading strategies that parents can implement with their children.  There are ideas for working with younger children who are learning to begin to read along with school-aged children who can read together with family or friends at home.  There are great links and ideas provided for seasonal reading like winter fun reading or how to help improve reading over the summer.  Another section on this page provides parents with tips on how to communicate with the teacher about reading and academic progress in the classroom.  There are also gift ideas for books to buy children of various ages, reading levels, and interests.  One of the most useful sections on this page provided information for parents to determine weak areas and help their struggling reader.  One of these links is a great television show to encourage these struggling readers from ages 7-12 through music, animation, and fun kid-related concepts on PBS also called Reading Rockets.

Teachers Page

The For Teachers Page offers reading strategies and lessons for the classroom.  Some of the information is the same for both teachers and parents including information on how to help struggling readers, access to the Reading Rockets blogs on children’s literature and best practices on reading.  It also has the flip-side of information about how teachers can communicate and build meaningful relationships with parents.

One of the differences in the teacher page is that there is information about professional development opportunities that can be used to further your educational reading knowledge.  Much of this information is presented through webcasts on various reading topics like tutoring programs, ELLs, summer reading, teaching writing, and students with disabilities.  One of the video professional development links is available online and is also aired on PBS called Launching Young Reader.  This series is hosted by famous actors and actresses and covers top authors, illustrators, and books for children along with reading strategies and family activities to encourage reading based on the latest research.

One of the most useful pages under the teacher’s page is the classroom strategies page.  They provide an annotated list of all of the reading strategies broken down into the main reading categories.  You can quickly see when the skill should be used before, during, or after reading.  When you select the strand you are teaching about, it provides you with an explanation of what the skill is, examples of how you can incorporate it into your classroom, books that you can use to teach this skill, differentiated instruction options, and the research data that backs the strategy.  I would recommend this page to all teachers no matter what subject or grade level they teach now.

This is a great website to learn about reading instruction and how you can implement strategies to help children both at school and at home to become lifelong lovers of reading.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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4 Reading Tips for Students from a Real Author

Rick Riordan, author of novels about Percy Jackson, an ADHD and dyslexic character and father to an ADHD and dyslexic son, has a lot of experience working with students with learning disabilities.

reading

Rick has turned his story into a five-book series. From all that he has learned from his writings and his experiences with his own son who deals with learning disabilities, Rick has come up with four important tips about helping students with learning disabilities with reading.

Model reading at home

Since children look up to their parents in many things they do, it is important that they set a good example about reading while they are in their homes. If parents can set aside a time where they dedicate to reading, either to their children, or with their children, kids will see that reading is an important thing to do and can be fun, especially with the whole family. It can also be the starting point for great discussions or talks.

Match your children with the right books

Each child has their own set of interests and hobbies. It is important to let them pick and choose the types of reading material they want to read. By taking note on what they are interested in, you can discover new reading material that will keep your kids engaged and interested in reading.

Create a productive environment for reading

While children are reading, they should be focused on the task at hand. Many children with ADHD and other learning disabilities can focus better when there are fewer distractions, but a simple object, like a stress ball or eraser. It is also important to help them find a comfortable spot, like on a sofa or in the backyard where they can enjoy the area around them.

Most importantly, keep the long view

Having learning disabilities may bring up some obstacles, but should not shut down any dreams or goals for students with them. There are so many examples of very successful people with ADHD and dyslexia, among other disabilities. Staying focused and continuing reading can help these students learn and grow!

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Labor Day Activities for Students

Today, many schools are already in session before the Labor Day Holiday.  Students look forward to Labor Day as their first long weekend of the year, an official ending of summer, or even as the beginning of the football season.  This signifies the end of breaks and that school is back in session for a long stretch, without breaks.  However, many students don’t know the origin or meaning of Labor Day.  This week, it would be great to include a lesson on Labor Day, sharing the history and original meaning of the holiday.  There are many craft ideas, projects, and historical lessons explaining and importance of Labor Day.

labor day

Adaptations for the activities below for special need students would include providing reading material at the student’s lexile level, providing assistance for project activities like cutting, pasting, drawing, or providing direct instruction or easy to follow instructions.  For inclusion classrooms, pairing a helpful student with the student with special needs can help both students to be more successful with the activity.

Reading Passages & Articles about Labor Day

Education World has created an annotated list of educational Labor Day resources.  The site also contains a short explanation of the history behind Labor Day.  The first link they provide has a short article about unions, teamsters, the government involvement in labor legislation, and the American workers.  This article can be printed out and used for a guided reading activity in class.  The article is written for children, which makes it easier to understand than some sites written for adults, like Wikipedia.  The fourth resource provided on the list is more for high school students.  It provides a series of lessons about freedom, political struggles, strikes, legal rights of laborers, unions, and women entering into the workforce.  The 6th resource provides information and photographs about child labor.  This would be a resource where each child could receive one picture and write a story behind the photo.

Activities & Projects about Labor Day

The Labor Day activities on the Apples 4 the Teacher site include reading and writing lessons, but also fun hands on activities to learn more about Labor Day.  This includes coloring sheets, word searches, worksheets, and other printables.

Enchanted Learning has a page full of fun-filled Labor Day activities.  Crafts include a labor collage, building a town out of recycled materials including paper towel rolls and tissue boxes, printable activity books, puzzles, vocabulary worksheets, alphabet games, and coloring pages.

Incorporating Technology with Labor Day Activities

Other activities that students could complete about Labor Day while infusing technology into your classroom include:

  1. Watch a YouTube clip from the History Chanel about Labor Day and having students write a blog post or short response using a word processing program.  You could then upload their papers to Wordle and visually see the important facts and main ideas in a visual representation.
  2. Have the students use Art Pad to create a before and after drawings of what they through Labor Day was before they read the page on Wikipedia on Labor Day and then again after.
  3. Create short video clips about Labor Day using Flip Cameras, edit them on Movie Maker (comes free with Windows), and then upload their videos to Teacher Tube to share will other classrooms.
  4. Have the students play one of the popular online games that involve labor related activities, like Diner Dash, Lemonade Stand, Nanny Mania, or Fish Tycoon.  After they play, and advance to more difficult levels, you can discuss multi-tasking, taking breaks, and how challenging that job may be in real life – and how all workers deserve a day of rest.  Link to Games

Article By: Laura Ketcham

Picture By: Robert Couse-Baker

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Summer of Reading – Camp for Deaf Students

For students who cannot hear, sometimes learning to read can pose a challenge. Luckily, a Murray County summer camp is showing students that they don’t have to be sitting in a classroom to learn the skills necessary.

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In Sulphur, Oklahoma, campers who are deaf may have challenges for even some of the simplest tasks like painting or acting. Not being able to hear a sound is the most obvious reason for this. Even a task like reading, which can be hard enough for all students, can be ten times harder for students who are unable to hear the sounds or spoken words.

The Oklahoma School for the Deaf is holding its fifth year as the host of a summer reading camp. The goal of this summer camp is to help those students who may be deaf or hard of hearing improve their reading skills and learn new ones, all while having a fun and memorable summer.

In addition to practicing their reading and literacy skills, students who attend the camp also get the chance to socialize and interact with students who are just like them and have similar challenges or differences. It is a great way for students with these challenges to know that there are others who are just like them and that they are not alone in their differences.

In addition to their improved reading skills, the staff at the camp hopes that students leave with more confidence and self esteem. With a summer full of learning and new friends, there is no reason why they shouldn’t!

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The Write Stuff – Encouraging Writing in the Classroom

Encouraging Writing Across the Curriculum

writing

Struggling readers and writers who exhibit developmental delays may benefit from authentic and meaningful reading and writing experiences on the web.  The Internet has been denoted as a tool that encourages students to participate and interact actively with their learning.  Various reading and writing disabilities include dyslexia and dysgraphia, along with difficulty with vocabulary, reading comprehension, decoding, spelling, or expression.  As part of a balanced language arts program, teachers should be encouraged to teach both phonics and whole language lessons.  These lessons can be infused with technology to increase student motivation.  Below are examples of ways that teachers can incorporate authentic reading and writing experiences incorporating web-based applications.

Email Pen Pals

There are many different ways to get started with email Pen Pals in the classroom.  One way would be to connect with another teacher who teaches approximately the same number of students.  They could be local, in another city, state, or even country.  Depending on your goals for connecting with Pen-Pals, you may want students who are the same age, older, or younger.  For students who are struggling with reading and writing it would be imperative that the students they are corresponding with are good writing role models for the students.

One student and teacher friendly site that helps to make school safe pen pal connections around the globe is ePals Global Community.  Teachers and students can sign up for this free service to be connected with other teachers, students, and classrooms for authentic learning experiences.  Classrooms can complete projects together, become email pen pals, or interact via video chat software like Skype.  The students can share their experiences, lessons, and lives in a safe environment.  This type of activity infuses reading, writing, and expression.

Another resource that I just found as I was browsing through the twitter-sphere is a Google Doc Spreadsheet that was created as part of a presentation at ISTE 2010.  This ‘live’ document has a list of teachers who are interested in making connections this fall with other teachers and their classrooms for pen pal interactions either via email or video chat software.

Blogs

My very first post on MangoMon was about encouraging students with special needs, including reading and writing deficits, to blog.  This is definitely a great way to get your students to read and write.  Students can create their own blogs, respond to a blog that their teacher creates, or read and comment on other blogs that interest them.

One student and teacher friendly blogging site is Edublogs.   This site offers a management system for classroom to create and review your students’ blogs.  This service also has extra safety features including blocking adult content.  It will also be easier for students in your classes to connect with one another along with other students around the world in a safe environment.

Online Reviews

Students can actively be involved online with reading and writing by creating and/or reading online reviews.  Many sites allow users to post a review on products, books, movies, and services.  For a classroom assignment, students can post online book reviews of the books they have recently read.   The most popular book sites including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders all have sections for reading and posting reviews.  Here is an example of a book review by teachers, students, and other readers of a top children’s book for 2010:  Al Capone Shines my Shoes.  Another way that this idea can be implemented into the classroom is to have students read reviews of a book before they decide to read it.  This way the student can make an informed decision based on their preferences if they believe they will enjoy the book.

Final Note

By incorporating the various online resources above in your classroom to encourage the development of reading and writing skills, the teacher will have to put on the “facilitator hat” on.  However, the teacher should be actively involved in assisting the students by building the skills needed to close their learning gaps.  Activities should also be infused with phonics instruction during these different activities.  Strengthening phonic skills will help with overall reading and writing development.

Other Resources for Authentic Reading & Writing Online

1.       Wikispaces – easy to use site that encourages online collaboration

2.       Google Books – read and preview popular magazines and books

3.       StoryJumper – create free online children’s stories (you can include your own pics & art too!)

4.       StoryBird – create collaborate online books

 

-Article by Laura Ketcham

Picture By: pedrosimoes7
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Magazines Encouraging Struggling Readers #SPED #ESOL

 

Students who are struggling readers typically find that they are not interested in reading ‘long boring books’ that their teachers assign to them.  One way to get these struggling readers to read would be to engage them with child focused, high quality magazines.  There are many magazines that are geared for the younger readers.  The short articles with games, puzzles, and crafts can help to engage the reader to learn more about that specific topic or subject.

Some magazines that young readers will be interested in are Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard, Zoobooks, Sports Illustrated for Kids, National Geographic for Kids, Highlights and American Girl.  These magazines should be included in a comprehensive classroom library.  During free reading, having these magazines as options can engage the struggling reader.

When these students read about a specific topic they are interested in, they can then find other books, both fiction and non-fiction, about that same or similar topic – in essence making the transition from magazine to book.  This fun reading can give them an incentive to start reading longer, more challenging books.  Magazines should not be used as a crutch, but as a spring board to broaden a child’s reading.  Many of these magazines also have different versions for different age groups of kids – babies, toddlers, and young children.  These magazines engage the kids with both entertainment and learning.

Magazine Companion Websites

All of the magazines mentioned above also have companion websites.  On these websites,students can read more about different subjects and topics covered in the magazine along with being able to play games, watch video clips, solve riddles, and complete different activities and crafts.  On their websites, you can also view past issues of the magazine or parts of current articles without subscribing.  Many sites also include teacher and parent companion materials

Currently on the Ranger Rick website, there is information about the Oil Spill in the Gulf.  This was a topic covered in this month’s magazine.  This extension provides a way for children to learn about the spill, how it is affecting the animals, and what they can do to help – but at their level.  The Your Big Backyard website has different summer activities and crafts.  On the Zoobooks website, kids can play a variety of  games along with visiting a virtual zoo, guessing different types of animals, and access to an animal directory.

The Sports Illustrated for Kids website has videos, blogs, articles, and photos of the current happenings in the sports world.  This site also has sports related online games, some of which have students learn different sports trivia in order to win the game.  The National Geographic Kids website has very similar activities on their site except the focus is on animals, people, and places.

Highlights has two different companion websites for their magazine. Highlights Kids has games, puzzles, crafts, stories, and science links. Highlights Puzzlemania contains a variety of different puzzles for kids to solve including Sudoku, story twisters, code cracking, and answering trick questions.

The American Girl website has two sections – one for shopping for American Girl dolls & accessories and one for online play.  The online play section includes activities, games, quizzes, and information about the different dolls.  Each of the different dolls has a story about them.  These stories can encourage the girl’s to learn more about that topical focus.

Overall, great kids magazines have a place in the classroom to encourage struggling readers with engaging high-quality level-appropriate stories and articles.  Subscriptions are inexpensive and should be added to your classroom wish lists for the coming school year.

-Article by Laura Ketcham

Photo from mclib

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Online Summer Reading Sites for Students with Special Needs

Schools urge that students continue to read over the summer to help to maintain and build their reading skills in preparation for the next school year.  Many districts also provide online reading applications, like MangoMon or Learning Today, along with reading lists with high-quality novels for summer projects and book reports.  Below is a list of websites with online reading games and activities and booklists that you can pass along to parents for summer reading for students, including students with special needs.

Education World Links for Summer Reading

Education World has a page devoted to summer reading lists.  They have compiled lists of recommended reading for K-12 students from various schools around the United States along with the International Reading Association.  They also have a site link for students to upload their book reviews for the books they read over the summer.

Sunshine State Young Readers Award Site

The Sunshine State Young Readers Award website has an updated annotated list of the top books for young readers and grades 3-5.  This list provides the titles, authors, a photograph of the book coves, and a short synopsis of the novels.  The annotated list is of books that have come out in the past few years.  They also have archived lists of previous year’s top awarded books, which would also be great for summer reading.

Emerging Reading Activities with Starfall

Starfall is a great online program for younger students who are learning to read.  This site provides interactive fun games and reading passages with promotion of basic reading skills including letters, phonics, and phonemic awareness.  This site is easy to use even for the youngest of learners and special needs students.

Kaboose Reading Games

Kaboose has a page on their site devoted to reading games.  There are games for K-5 learners.  The games include word puzzles, anagrams, spelling, reading comprehension, word searches, parts of speech, nouns, vocabulary, and even practices for foreign languages and Lexile levels.

Reading Rockets Tips for Parents

Reading Rockets is a PBS site devoted to building reading skills for children.  The have an article with great tips for parents to encourage summer reading.  They include traditional ideas like reading aloud to your child and encouraging them to read novels, but also think outside the box by including reading into your everyday activities like reading road signs or reading the signs at the grocery store.  They also encourage allowing children to read the ‘popular’ books along with books on tape as other methods to encourage struggling or uninterested readers.  They also have a Summer Reading section on their site with information for teachers, parents, videos, articles, blogs, activities, and downloadable materials.

All teachers should provide interesting reading activities, options, novels, and resources as part of a going-home package before the end of the school year.  This can help many students to maintain the skills they have learned throughout the school year and even give them a head start for the next grade!

-Article by Laura Ketcham

-Picture by Wesley Fryer

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