Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pre, During, and Post Reading / Aiding Comprehension

Before Reading Activities
· To encourage the student to activate their background knowledge and experience
· To have the student make predictions about what the text will be about
· To set the purpose for reading
· To improve comprehension
Pre-Reading Strategies:
1) Graphic organizers or brainstorming to determine what the child knows already about the topic, wants to learn about the topic and later about what they learned once instruction was provided
2) Preview text – looking at the titles, subtitles, photos, etc.
3) Make predictions based on previewing of the text
4) Set a purpose for reading
5) If answering questions – read the questions first "prep the brain for its purpose"
6) Research general information about the topic to develop a basic understanding that more detailed information can later be attached to
7) Preview difficult vocabulary
During Reading Activities
· To assist a student in constructing meaning from text
· To develop connections to the real world
· To encourage a student's active participation, thinking and self-monitoring as they read
During Reading Strategies:
1) Graphic organizers
2) Reading response (journal, taking notes, highlighting, post-it notes in text, etc)
3) Check predictions and adjust them as new information is learned
4) Reading text aloud
5) Retell the text / information in your own words
6) Reread for meaning
Post – Reading Activities:
· To bring a sense of closure after reading
· To increase long-term retention of the material
· To apply new knowledge to already existing knowledge
· To draw conclusions
· To prepare for assessments
Post Reading Strategies:
1) Organizers
2) Writing connections
3) Assessments
4) Projects
5) Compare and contrast to other material/novels
6) Retellings

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reading Comprehension Strategies

Being a skilled reader is an important component of learning. A good reader follows certain steps along the way to increase their comprehension. Comprehension strategies aid students in being active participants in the process. Below is an outline providing strategies for improving text comprehension:
http://www.paec.org/fdlrstech/9SixComprehension.pdf (adapted from the work of Beal, Keene, and Tovani)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Graphic Organizers

A graphic organizer is a valuable tool for students. This tool is a visual diagram designed to assist students in developing / organizing their ideas, providing details and visualizing the connections between different ideas. Organizers also allow students to brainstorm prior to writing a full-length piece. It can also be used as a tool to study. An organizer can be used in any subject; it is just a matter of finding the right layout for a specific assignment. To help with the search for just the right organizer, I have compiled a list of my favorite websites which contain numerous types of visual layouts.
Valuable Websites for Graphic Organizers
https://bubbl.us/ (mind mapping organizing software)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Some Basic Questions About Reading Comprehension

Dear Friends,

     Our students are working hard reading books in the classroom and outside of the classroom with the Accelerated Reader program.  For some students, reading comprehension comes easy and for others a more structured approach helps them to navigate, understand and retain the details.

     Below are some very basic questions students and parents can ask each other when working on a book, or any kind of reading.  Often times these simple questions will lead to a discussion where more details of the story can come to light.

Thank you for all that you do and best wishes for great reading!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

1.  What was your reaction to the story?  Why?
2.  Who were the characters in this story?  Which ones did you like and why?
3.  What was the main problem in the story?  Did the problem get resolved?  If so, how was it resolved?
4.  When and where does the story take place?
5.  What did you enjoy most about the story?  Why?
6.  How does the story begin and end?
7.  Was there anything that you found confusing about the story?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Global Competence: A Visionary Framework for Students and Teachers

Dear Friends,

     Recently, I attended the Project Zero Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.  The conference was hosted by the Center for the Advancement and Study of International Education (CASIE) with Project Zero and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  

     While there, I had the very good fortune of attending many sessions with speakers such as David Perkins, Ph.D., Howard Gardner, Ph.D. and Veronica Boix Mansilla, Ph.D.  Their topics supported the conference theme of, “Educating for Today and Tomorrow; Arts, Ethics and Learning in the 21st Century.”

     Among the sessions I attended was a plenary session on “Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth for Today’s World,” by Veronica Boix Mansilla, Ph.D..    In her book, “Educating for Global Competence: Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World,” written with Anthony Jackson (2011), she offers several reasons for why our students need to be prepared to be active participants of positive change in the world.  She also talks about the four competencies that we can offer our students to empower them to be this agent of change.

     In this blog post, I will offer just the basics of this visionary framework that will shape our curriculum on the local, state, national and global levels.  I will share her insights on the three “forces” that are leading to a shift in how we prepare our students as well as the competencies themselves.  To learn more about her work and to download a free copy of the book, you can go to: http://asiasociety.org/education/partnership-global-learning/making-case/global-competence-prepare-youth-engage-world

     Mansilla and Jackson, (2011), point to the following “forces.”  These are taken from, "Educating for Global Competence, Preparing Our Youth to Engage the World."  This report was also written with and for the Council of Chief State School Officers EdSteps Initiative and Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning, Copyright 2011 by the Asia Society.  

     The “forces” Mansilla and Jackon’s report (2011) include that contribute to the need for Global Competencies include:
1.  The flattened global economy and changing demands of work.
2.  Unprecedented global migration.
3.  Climate Instability and environmental stewardship.

     From this, Mansilla shared with us, the "Global Competence Matrix" offering the four skills that students need to be effective agents of positive change in the world and how these skills filter throughout the curricular areas of school.  The "Global Competence Matrix", was created as part of the Council of Chief State School Officers’ EdSteps Project in partnership with the Asia Society Partnership for Global Learning in 2010 by the Council of Chief State School Officers, in Washington, DC.  They define Global Competence as, “the knowledge skills and dispositions to understand and act creatively and innovatively on issues of global significance” (Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010).

     The four skills noted in the Council of Chief State School Officers report (2010) are:
1.  Students investigate the world beyond their immediate environment.
2.  Students recognize their own and others’ perspectives.
3.  Students communicate their ideas effectively with diverse audiences.
4.  Students translate their ideas and findings into appropriate actions to improve conditions.

     This framework is visionary because it takes character education to a new level and standard.  The elements of this help us to empower students to know that they can help to make a difference not only in their local community but in the world too.  It helps them to have a greater compassion for the needs of themselves and for others and to see how they can work together to help the world.  It allows the skills of the classroom to be integrated and applied for good.  It also helps students to not only think about ways to help but encourages them to take action and to bring solutions to life, whether they are in Kindergarten or Graduate School.

     In this post, I have offered a very brief introduction to the Global Competency framework.  It is a small but important step in continuing to broaden the horizons, conversations, and teachings we offer our students.  I am encouraged by teachers and students that allow learning to go well beyond the walls of the classroom into the hearts of the world.  Wow!

Thank you,
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, November 21, 2011

Social and Emotional Learning

Dear Friends,
     One of the frameworks for understanding the emotional needs of children (and all of us) was created by Maurice Elias, Ph.D.  He, along with others, have defined Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).  Below is a simple framework, created by Dr. Elias, of the tasks that children need to allow them to feel successful personally, socially, academically too.  Our children and our students take their cues from us too.  As we learn so do they.
     In this overview of five basic categories and strategies, I have used some of the words from Dr. Elias as well as from his work in the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning.  I have also been lucky enough to learn about this topic from Dr. Joanne MacLennan from the College of Saint Elizabeth.  She works closely with Dr. Elias to infuse the elements of SEL into teacher and counselor training programs.
     I have added some tasks that I see as important in my work with students who are in Pre-School as well as those in Graduate School.  Of course, there are many more tasks for children and for all of us, but this simple framework offers a good stepping stone from which to begin.

Best Wishes for a Great Day!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Social and Emotional Skills Include:

Ability to recognize an emotion as it is happening
Ability to recognize the emotion before it is happening and be able to label it
Ability to recognize that several emotions can take place at once and to know how to see help to understand them and define them
Ability to label the emotion itself (anger, sadness, jealousy, happiness) and to not label it as “good” or “bad”
Ability to monitor the emotion(s)
Assertiveness and being able to voice one's opinions, wants and needs
Maintain a healthy self-respect and positive self-image

Self-Management (Managing Emotions)
Ability to regulate one’s emotions
Ability to "self-soothe" and choose healthy options for feeling better
Ability to delay gratification and work towards a goal
Ability to control impulsivity, acting out, etc.
Ability to choose tools that will help them to face, express, regulate and attend to their emotions
Optimism to know that they have the ability and the tools to change how they feel
Self-efficacy and responsibility to make the right choices
Ability to be resilient in difficult situations

Social Awareness (Understanding Others)
Ability to recognize and label emotions in others through verbal and non-verbal interactions
Ability to understand reasons for emotions in others
Empathy and compassion for others – ability to validate others’ emotional experiences and respond appropriately
Ability to have empathy but not take on the emotions of others
Navigating individual friendships as well as group situations

Relationship Management
Ability to establish rapport
Cooperation and the ability to compromise
Trustworthiness and respect for others
Leadership being able to lead in a positive way and to understand one's own style of leading
Ability to resolve conflicts in a positive manner
Infusing elements of Character Education that lead to positive and healthy relationships.
Understanding their ability to have a positive impact and that their presence matters

Problem Solving and Decision Making
Ability to understand emotional states for problem recognition
Ability to identify the consequences of one’s actions
Ability to use problem-solving steps.

Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning - Tools for Families - http://casel.org/in-schools/tools-for-families/
Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning - What is SEL? - http://casel.org/why-it-matters/what-is-sel/
Helping Children Cope with Stress - www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/fcs/pdfs/fcs457.pdf
Educators for Social Responsibility - www.esrnational.org
21st Century Skills -www.p21.org

Monday, November 14, 2011

Developing Resilience

Dear Friends,
     Christine Gorman, in an article in Time Magazine (January 17, 2005) writes, “Psychologists use the word resilience to describe the ability to bounce back from adversity.”  We know that sometimes we are able to cope well with change, tragedy or stress while at other times we struggle and may need to strengthen our skills of resiliency.
     The new field of Positive Psychology encourages us to develop and strengthen these particular skills.  Resiliency helps us to have an easier time in school, on the job, at college and dealing with the uncertainties of life.  When we are resilient we can adapt to the many demands of life and trust in our ability to be successful.  I have learned a great deal about resiliency from the www.fishfulthinking.com
website.  They even have a perfect little video to explain it.  Be sure to check it out!
     Below are some simple definitions of these elements of resiliency.  There are many more but this is a good starting place.  When we (and our students) strengthen and practice these elements in our lives we become confident in all that we do - and we can help others too.

1. Social and Emotional Awareness – It is important for everyone to be able to identify their feelings, understand how to express them and to learn to ask for help.  People who are resilient express a wide variety of feelings and learn how to talk about them, understand them and gain support when they need it.

2. Self-Discipline – It is important to learn how to control our impulses and modulate our needs and wants.  Self-discipline skills are transferable so when we learn to be disciplined for sports we can also learn how to be disciplined for academics.

3. Staying Positive and Hopeful – Having a positive and hopeful attitude can help us stay strong in trying situations.  This can also help us to think of new solutions and use our creativity.  It is important to believe in yourself and to know that your presence makes a difference to everyone.  Trust that you matter and that you can bring about positive change in your own life!

4. Self-Care - When we take good care of ourselves we have more energy to think clearly and to take the appropriate and positive action we need to achieve our goals.  It is important for everyone to give themselves proper rest, nutrition, hydration, playtime and stress relief.  Everyone needs to know also how to ask for what they need and to be aware of their needs throughout the day.

5. Using Creativity and Thinking Outside of the Box – Being creative allows us to be flexible in many different situations.  Things will not always go our way and so it is important to know how and when to bend, compromise or just “go with the flow.”

6. Celebrating Our Strengths and Talents – Everyone can shine because of their strengths and talents.  It is important for students to know the skills, talents and gifts they have and that those skills can make the world a better place.  We also want them to trust in their ability to learn new things too.

7. Compassion for Others – When we take time to explore the feelings of those around us, we know better how to offer the help and care that they need. When we can help we also begin to understand our ability to serve others and how we can be connected to others locally and globally too.

8.     Celebrating and Accepting Ourselves as We Are! - This is important too.  We need to accept where we are in this moment, good, bad or otherwise.  When we and our students learn to accept themselves and forgive themselves as well, they are able to accept others too.  And P.S. it is a good start to world peace!

     In a guidance lesson I created with our school librarian at a different school, we talked about the definition of each of these elements and how we develop them.  We also read the book Owen and Mzee, which explores resiliency and friendship. We also highlighted experiences that have helped us to become stronger, more flexible, and more capable.
     We also asked students to write a positive statement about their ability to be resilient.  We wanted to affirm that they have the ability to continue to develop skills that will help them throughout their life.  We asked them to complete the sentence, "I am resilient because........"  Of course, we had many brilliant and beautiful answers about their strengths on every level.  All of the drawings went onto a big bulletin board for everyone to see - even the teachers contributed too.  It was terrific!  You may want to check out some of the resources below:

Some helpful resources for you on resiliency:
www.fishfulthinking.com  - Great articles and videos on resiliency.
www.drrobertbrooks.com - Dr. Robert Brooks is one of the leading authorities on Resiliency.  His book, “Islands of Competence” is well known in counseling circles and explores how people become resilient.  His website has many informative articles and power point presentations you can download – one powerpoint, in  particular, “Raising Resilient Children and Adolescents: The Search for Islands of Competence” offers good information.
Owen and Mzee by Isabell and Craig Hatkoff – This beautiful book explores the amazing friendship of a baby hippo with an Aldabra tortoise.  The books reveals the strength of the baby hippo – who had been lost after the Tsunami.  It also explores the possibilities of friendships and the hope that they offer.  You can go to: http://www.scholastic.com/discussionguides where you can download a discussion guide for the book Owen and Mzee.  This guide is wonderful for teachers, parents and students and discusses more elements of resiliency and how to use the book as a way to teach this important topic.
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss – A great book about the journey of life and all of the places it takes us – like being left “in a Lurch, “in a slump” or getting stuck in the “waiting place.”  This book presents the tough parts of the journey in such a playful and encouraging way.  It reminds all of us – that we will get to where we are going.

Best Wishes to You!
Celebrate Your Strength!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ten Things We Know From Brain Based Learning

Dear Friends,
     I recently signed up for a free handout from Eric Jensen’s website,   www.jensenlearning.com .  The free handout is called, 10 Most Effective Tips for Using Brain Based Teaching and Learning, by Eric Jensen, copyright 2010.   The website and the handout offer simple straightforward information about Brain-Based teaching and learning strategies. 

     What I found most helpful about the handout, was that it offered a simple framework for understanding the vast amount of knowledge that informs this teaching science.  He offers information but also how to apply the strategies in the classroom in small, manageable ways.  The information about teaching applies to our work with children, adults, and those with memory or learning issues.  The strategies are applicable for teaching in the school classroom, the corporate training room, hospitals, day care centers, and more.

     I have summarized some of the information below from the handout.  The titles of each of the ten tips are mine, but the information belongs to Eric Jensen.  I hope that you will find this helpful in your work and in your teaching too.  It would be helpful to go to the website directly and sign up for the free handout as Jensen offers many valuable resources and citations of the most recent research.  Below are the ten tips that he offers for teaching and learning.

1.  We Must Move! – Brain based learning has affirmed for us that we must move!  We must infuse movement, recess, play, and physical education into our learning.  Moving, breathing well and having fun allow us to grow new neurons, integrate and retain information and strengthen our ability to focus too.  We know that exercise helps us to be more awake, have more energy, and release stress so that we are more available and present to learning.

2.  The Social Scene Matters – Eric Jensen writes, “Social conditions influence our brain in multiple ways we never knew before.” (Jensen, 2010).  This is true.  What we know is that when students feel accepted and affirmed in school, they are able to learn more and retain more too.  This concept pertains to friendships in and outside of school, family relationships, teacher relationships and more.  Students need to feel safe, loved, cared for, and free of stress in order to focus on learning.  This also lets us know that mentoring, buddy systems, and extra support, go a long way in helping students to feel successful.

3.  Neuroplasticity Rules – We know that the brain changes, adapts, and helps us learn in new ways.  Jensen reminds us that nature (genetics) and nurture (environment) matter as we train ourselves to develop our memory, processing, attention, and behavior.  It is important to trust the brain and the body’s ability to learn in new ways and to continually improve.  Jensen offers some helpful websites that strengthen memory and attentional skills.  These websites are helpful for learners of any age.  They include:

4.  Breathing Easy Helps Us Learn Easily – The research shows that stress gets in the way of our immune system, our friendships, and our learning too.  When students understand how to access relaxation skills and how to calm themselves down, they gain skills for life that enhance what they do in and outside of the classroom.  Students, like professional athletes, need to learn, practice and integrate skills like breathing, progressive relaxation, visualization, affirmations and more.  The key to being able to employ these strategies is to practice them often until them become automatic.

5.  Our Brains Are Differentiated, So Differentiated Learning Matters to Everyone – In schools we often hear the word “Differentiation.” This term refers to taking assignments and learning and differentiating them in the classroom to meet the needs of different learners.  Lessons can be differentiated by one of the multiple intelligences, interest, ability, learning styles, and more.  We often think that there are only a few students who benefit from differentiation while everyone else can learn in one particular way. 
      Jensen shares results of recent research that remind us that, “…almost 90% of human brains are atypical…”  This means that we all learn differently but have found strategies to adapt and compensate for learning in ways that might not come naturally for us.  This information is new and relevant as we learn how to differentiate for everyone.  I would like to add, that this is very challenging and work intensive for teachers.  Many teachers teach in this way and it requires more time, more patience, more creativity, and a dedication to new ways of teaching and learning.  Teachers should be applauded for reaching their students in new and nourishing ways!

6.  Smaller Bits of Information Are Better – We know that the brain learns better with smaller chunks of information.  When students are exposed to a huge quantity of information, or information that is complex, new, or irrelevant to their everyday life – it is harder to absorb.  The brain prefers small bits of information over a longer period of time with repetition in between.  The more complex the information, the smaller the amount of information there should be and the more it should be reviewed before being tested. 
      We often encourage students to study for several minutes every day instead of a few hours the night before.  The brain learns and retains more when given small amounts of information, several times over.  This also helps reduce stress as students won’t be procrastinating and staying up late too!

7.  The Arts Help with Smarts – Neuroscientists are studying the impact of the arts on the brain.  It is clear that arts such as visual and performing arts, music, drama and more, enhance not only learning but social and emotional intelligence, our sense of compassion and more.  Howard Gardner, Ph.D reminds us that when we strengthen any of our “intelligences” including those that involve the arts, we strengthen all of the other intelligences.  To learn more about Dr. Gardner’s work you can go here: http://www.howardgardner.com/

8.  Social/Emotional Learning Inside and Out Helps Us to Be Smarter – Howard Gardner, Ph.D. talks about Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Intelligences.  Maurice Elias, Ph.D., teaches us about Social and Emotional Learning and Daniel Goleman, Ph.D. talks about the concept of Emotional Intelligence.  All of these famous researchers in education highlight the importance of students being able to manage their own emotional states and to understand and work with the emotional states of others.  
     For some students, this information comes naturally and for others, it must be spelled out and practiced.  Some of the programs for schools include, “morning meetings,” guidance lessons, and in-the-moment teachings to help students understand social situations and how to engage in them effectively.  When students are confident and successful in their ability to understand their own emotions and engage socially, they are then able to focus on learning.  Their confidence in the social realm carries over to their confidence in learning.

9.  We All Can Improve – We have learned a great deal about how the brain can recover and be rehabilitated.  The information we have gained about traumatic brain injuries, learning disorders, strokes, and more, offer encouraging hope.  We have come to understand that the brain is capable of healing, growing, and learning in miraculous ways.  This helps us to know and celebrate that we all can improve and heal much more than was realized.  We can extend this hope to our students to affirm that they can learn in new ways and that they have an unlimited capacity to grow as a student.

10. Memory is Malleable – Jensen offers this information, “Every time you retrieve a memory, it goes into a volatile flex state in which it is temporarily easily reorganized.” (Jensen, 2010).  This lets us know that as students review information for tests and more, we need to make sure that they are reviewing properly and preparing with the proper information that will be tested.  It is important for students to review small bits of information, several times, but it must also be the correct information.

      Kimberly Borin
      Learning Specialist

Monday, October 31, 2011

Brain-Based Learning Study Strategies

Dear Friends,
     Here are some tips are taken from, Student Success Secrets by Eric Jensen.  In the book, he offers many strategies that help students to learn and be more attentive in studying.  He suggests:

  • Understand your own learning styles (multiple intelligences) and choose to study in the way that is best for you.
  • Use proper lighting, which includes low to moderate levels of natural lighting.
  • Allow the temperature to be between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Allow the surroundings to be pleasant and enjoyable.
  • Be sure to have plants close by as they help to purify the air and raise the levels of oxygen.
  • Drink plenty of water and stay away from coffees, teas and other caffeinated drinks.
  • Use aromas that heighten mental alertness.  These include: lemon, peppermint and cinnamon
  • Use proper study posture – do not study lying down on your bed!  It is also best to get up and move around to get some oxygen to your brain.
  • Be sure to take frequent breaks – this helps the brain to retain information and stay alert.
Please let us know if you have some helpful hints for studying.  We would love to hear what works for you!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, October 24, 2011

Simple Test Preparation Strategies

Dear Friends,
     Over the years, I have worked with students taking the NJ ASK, AP Tests, HSPA's, SAT Subject tests, GRE's and more.  Preparing for tests can be very anxiety provoking because there is so much at stake and so much to do to prepare - while still living life fully!
     Below are some simple strategies that I have used with elementary students - although some will work with graduate students too.  There are many relaxation strategies you can practice to help you throughout the preparation and the test itself.  You can find more information on relaxation strategies to practice on this blog.
     Here are a few elementary student strategies in the meantime:

The Night Before a Test or Competition
Get a good night’s sleep – go to bed early.
Be sure that you have studied the best that you can.  It is usually best to study a little bit each night over a long time.
Be sure to eat a good dinner.
Be brave, be proud of yourself for preparing well and believe in yourself.
Prepare everything that you will need for the next day – the night before so that you can be ready in the morning.
Use your imagination to see yourself successful.

The Day of the Test or Competition
Study one more time – just review your notes or word or whatever you will be tested on.
Be sure to eat a good breakfast with protein.
Be sure to leave on time with everything you need.
Bring healthy snacks and water.
Stay positive and know that you are always doing your best, believe in yourself and your abilities.

During the Test or Competition
Make sure that you have your own space during the test.  Be sure to ask your teacher if you feel you need more space.
Take a deep breath to help you relax and don’t forget to take several deep breaths while you are taking the test.  If the test is very long you can stretch gently in small ways by moving your head and neck, flexing your hands and feet too.  During a break you can also turn to the side and do a gentle twist but be sure to ask if it is ok.
Make sure your pencils are sharpened and be as neat as you can.  Be sure to put your name on your paper.
Believe in yourself.  You will do a great job!  Encourage your friends too – we all need some words that help us to believe in all that we can do!

Good Luck!
Kimberly Borin
Learning Specialist

Monday, October 17, 2011

Smart Websites About the Connections Between Learning and Movement

Dear Friends,
     Below are some websites that offer information and resources for learning and movement.  We are learning so much about how to strengthen neural pathways for learning – by cross body movements, relaxation, yoga, and more.  These ideas and exercises are good for everyone – of every age level.  You may want to check out some of the links below.
Have Fun!
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Working Memory

Dear Friends,
     Here is some information about "Working Memory."  Something we are all trying to work on!
The information was put together by Mrs. Turse.  It is a great explanation.  Please let us know if you have any questions at all.

Kimberly Borin
Kim Turse,
Learning Specialists

     What is working memory (WM)? Working memory is when the mind can hold an assortment of ideas long enough to complete a task. Working memory varies from person to person. A working memory is important because this is where information is worked with in order for the information to be transferred to long-term memory.

     A poor working memory could affect how a student learns. Research suggests that “10—15% of school kids have working memory problems.” (Holmes, 2009)  Just like our body needs exercise, our brain needs exercise to improve.


1) Chunking: break a lot of information into smaller pieces and only work with that amount of information—slowly connect new material to previously learned material.

2) Memory Linking: link items that you want to remember with an imaginary story— making a mental movie incorporating what you want to study. (see example @ first resource’s website)

3) Journey System: pick specific places and imagine what you are trying to recall happening in that place. (see example @ first resource’s website)

4) Mnemoics: come up with a silly sentence to recall a string of information. Example: In English, the 7 coordinating conjunctions are For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So = FANBOYS.

5) Memory Games and Memory Tasks: play games that encourage the holding of knowledge or practice memorizing a poem, song, or shopping list.

Additional Resources:

Monday, October 10, 2011

Simple Relaxation Skills for Children

Dear Friends,
     In school we want our students to be able to handle stress by practicing simple relaxation strategies. We may work with students individually to help them understand how to feel peaceful or we may work with the whole class. Below is a list of simple strategies that we can teach if children need them.
     We know that with practice, students can learn to calm down, ease anxiety and feel at peace easily when they need to. These are skills we want our students to have as they take standardized assessments, prepare for a big game, make a speech, or even interview for a job or college. Below are some very simple and basic strategies to help with relaxation.
     Relaxation Skills include:
Awareness of Body Tension and Feelings - First, we have students take a moment to see how they feel; physically and emotionally. Students are asked to notice how they feel while sitting at their desk. We ask them to notice muscles that feel tired, achy or energized. We also ask them to notice how they are feeling – happy, sad, concerned, tired, etc. We want them to know that they have the ability to change how they feel, but first they have to figure out what is happening and what it is that they need. We also encourage them to talk with a trusted adult if they need help with any of their feelings.

Postural Awareness - Students are asked to become aware of how they sit at their desks. We help them take notice when they may be slouching and when they are sitting up tall. We point out how much more oxygen and breathing is possible when students sit up straight with good posture. Sitting with good posture can also allow them to feel more alert and energized throughout the day.

Simple Breathing Techniques - Next, children are encouraged to take a deep breath. So often throughout the day – we don’t even think about our breathing and we forget how relaxing a long inhalation or exhalation can be. We practice taking a large inhale and then allowing the breath to “travel” all the way down to our feet as we exhale. This long exhalation is the key to relaxing. When students
are practicing just two or three breaths, we also ask them to notice sounds in the room, which also enhances their listening skills, concentration and awareness.

Progressive Relaxation - We also talk about Progressive Relaxation, which is used by professional and Olympic athletes, rock stars, corporate CEO's and more. Students are taught to tense muscles and then relax them while exhaling. We start with our feet and tense and relax knees, stomachs, backs, arms and shoulders. This simple act of tensing the muscles and relaxing them creates a more relaxed state as the body releases tension. Students notice a difference as they hold the tension in their muscles and then relax. This is also another good technique for managing emotions, preparing for a test or competition, or releasing fear or worry.

Imagination - When students are done relaxing – we ask them to use their imagination to thing about a peaceful place or an image of their “Best Self.” We encourage them to see their best self – in detail. The images that they share with us are always positive and encouraging. They have said, “I saw myself as smart and confident.” Or “I saw myself as being a doctor – which is what I would like to do when I grow up.” We also talk about how professionals use visualization to see themselves making the perfect foul shot, making a touchdown, or making the audition for a Broadway play.

Positive Self-Talk and Reframing - We also speak with students about positive self-talk. We want them to notice the words they use when speaking about themselves. If the words are negative we want them to know how to change those words to something positive. For example, if a student is saying, “I’ll never be good at math.” We want to help them to reframe the words into something positive like, “I am able to learn math in my own way and my own time. I am very capable of learning lots of new things.”

Stay tuned for more skills and information to help our students as the year progresses.
Best Wishes for a Relaxing Day!
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #7

Method #7: REAP Method (helps the students to make a personal connection and provides them with memory triggers to recall information for later use)

Step 1: Lay notebook flat – divide up the page (in two) and put in the headings Class and the other REAP

Step 2: In class only take notes on the right side of the notebook under the heading Class

Step 3: After class go back to the notes and create a trigger (words, picture or phrase) that may help you remember the class notes

Step 4: After class go to the REAP column and fill in “REAPING THE BENEFITS” – SEE BELOW

R(Relate class notes to own life)

E(Extend material to a world connection)

A( Actualize – how the information might work in the world)

P (Profit – how this idea in your notes helps mankind or the world)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review #4/ Executive Functioning / Skills

Dear Friends:
Hello again! I want to share another book with you that I found to be a valuable resource. The book is Smart, but Scattered by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare. It was published in 2009 by the Guilford Press in New York. In order to get through a day successfully one needs to be organized, focused, use their time wisely, learn from mistakes, be resourceful and resist impulses. These skills along with a few others fall under the category known as executive skills. There are eleven executive skills in total. **Everybody uses executive skills on a daily basis. Some individuals develop these skills slower than others. 
Having a learning difference can sometimes complicate and delay these skills. According to the authors, on average these skills fully develop in late adolescence and young adulthood, up to around the age of twenty. While children are in elementary and middle school more support is needed to foster the development of these skills. Simple tasks around the house such as chores, saving money for a wanted item or following multiple step directions are developmental tasks requiring the use of executive skills.
     The part of the book I found particularly useful was the section where the authors discussed ten principles for improving executive skills. An overview based on their work is below:
#1) If a child is deficient in a specific executive skill teach it directly. Provide the child close supervision and then fade the guidance in stages.
#2) Consider the child’s developmental level. One needs to understand what is typical at that particular age and match the task to the appropriate level.
#3) Move from external to internal – which means at first a parent or teacher may need to control the environment in order to build up the child’s confidence and understanding of the skill. Slowly, the executive skill will be internalized so that independence can be reached.
#4) Encourage the development of executive skills by changing the environment, task or the method in which one interacts with the child. The way you learn a skill may not be the way your student/child needs to be taught the skill.
#5) Children innately want to control the situation - use this to YOUR advantage. This means design the situation so that the teacher or parent is in control, but the child is learning some executive skills (and thinking they are in control). This can be accomplished by establishing routines and schedules, building in choice making opportunities, guiding them on how to negotiate (do this to get this) and practicing hard or demanding tasks in small steps.
#6) Modify tasks to match a child’s effort level. This aids on maintaining a sustained effort. For instance, complete an easy step, then reward, and then build upon each step slowly.
#7) Use incentives to foster development. Find what is rewarding for your child: praise, stickers, extended bedtime, etc. and use this to entice them to push themselves.
#8) Provide just enough support for the child to be successful. This will avoid the child from becoming dependent on the teacher or parent.
#9) Keep support and supervision in place long enough until the skill is mastered.
#10) When the decision is reached to stop supports, incentives, or supervision make sure to do it slowly.
**The eleven executive skills are: response inhibition, working memory, emotional control, sustained attention, task initiation, planning/prioritization, organization, time management, flexibility, goal-directed persistence, and metacognition. At a future date I will be doing a more in-depth look at each of the individual executive skills.

Have a wonderful day and think of all the executive skills you use to accomplish even the smallest of tasks.
Kim Turse, M.Ed.
Learning Specialist

Taking Notes - Method #6

Method #6: SQ3R (good for taking notes from text)

S: Survey – scan through the chapter – pay special attention to bolded words, titles, subtitles, pictures, charts, captions, etc.

Q: Question – Create who, what, where, when, and why questions that you can generate based on the main topics

R: Read – Read the text – if you think of another question – write it down in the question section

R: Recite – Record key phrases or facts that answers the questions created in the Q section

R: Review – do every day up until the test or quiz – review your questions and try to answer them – do orally, written, etc. – whichever learning style works best for you

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Taking Notes - Methods #4 & 5

Method #4: Roman Numeral Method

Title of Topic

I. Major Point #1

a) Minor point a (about the major point 1)

b)Minor point b (about the major point 1)

1. Detail about minor point b

2. Detail about minor point b

II. Major Point #2

a) Minor point a (about the major point 2)

1. Detail about minor point a

Method #5: Sentence by Sentence Method

· Write every fact on a different line and number each sentence.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #3

Method #3: Mind mapping

This works well with a computer software called Inspiration. If you do not have that software program - the method can easily be completed by hand. Incorporate color, key words, images, etc. to produce a visual representation of class information – good idea after you have the class notes. This is a great method for strong visual learners.

See example at website: http://litemind.com/what-is-mind-mapping/)

Benefits of Relaxation Skills

Dear Friends,
     There are many benefits to learning and practicing relaxation skills. Here are just a few. They highlight the importance of learning these skills not only for school, but for life too. I hope you will find the list helpful.
     Here is also a wonderful article about the benefits of relaxation written by Linda Lantieri for Edutopia. Click here: http://www.edutopia.org/linda-lantieri-how-to-relaxation
Wishing you a relaxing moment (or two),
Kimberly Borin,
Learning Specialist

Learning relaxation skills can offer students many benefits. These include:
· Balancing the mind and body and enhancing one’s knowledge of how to calm down the body and mind at will
· Increasing flexibility and strength within the body and in life situations like friendship and family issues, etc.
· The ability to feel calm in stressful situations like test-taking and job interviews, etc.
· Help with focus, attention and concentration in and outside of school
· Breath awareness, calmness and self-control, less psychological and physical distress
· Less aggressive behavior allows students to calm down and think through their reactions and actions
· Increased self esteem for students by helping them have more control over what they do
· Creativity mentally and physically
· Teamwork and cooperative learning
· Acceptance of personal limitations and learning to move beyond them
· Understanding of emotions and emotional strength
· Maintaining and building a healthy and flexible spine
· Teaching respect, compassion, sharing, and character education
· Embracing and accepting personal differences
· Laughing and having some fun!
· Understanding one’s own contribution to World Peace!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #2

Method #2: REDW (This method works well for a paragraph which is hard to understand)

R: Read (Read the section to get a basic understanding of some of the material or main idea)

E: Examine (After getting the main idea – look at each sentence – if you understand this sentence - write down the key point. If you DON’T understand the key point – write down any phrases or key vocabulary)

D: Decide (Decide – which words are important and work together – from above list of key phrases / vocabulary)

W: Write (Look at all the words you have written – see if they explain the main idea of the paragraph)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Taking Notes - Method #1

Study Skills: Taking Notes

Many people are not born great note takers. “Practice make perfect” is the motto associated with taking notes. A great habit to get into is to review your notes nightly or to rewrite/reorganize them. There are many methods for note taking and as a learner one needs to practice and fine tune the method(s) that works best.

Method #1: The Cornell Method

http://www.redlands.edu/docs/StudentLife/1Five_Methods_of_Notetaking.docx_UPDATED_7-09.pdf (resource below is taken from the above website)


Page # Today’s Date Layout of the page and where to write

Draw a line vertically down your paper, leaving 2 - 3 inches on the left and 6 inches on the right.

This allows you to take notes on the right-hand side of the page leaving space on the left to summarize the main point with a key word or phrase.

Organization of concepts

When the instructor moves to a new topic, skip a line.

Filling in blanks.

If you are not able to completely write down an idea before the instructor moves on to a new topic, fill it in after class - find a notebuddy.

Reviewing and Studying

After class, test your knowledge of the material by covering up the right side of the page, reading the key words, and trying to remember as much information as possible. Then check to see if you remembered it correctly. Also write page and day summaries. – at the bottom of the page


This is a simple and efficient way of recording and reviewing notes – it’s easy for pulling out major concepts and ideas. It’s simple and efficient. It saves time and effort because you “do-it-right-in-the-first-place.”