Monday, May 31, 2010

Letters are Everywhere! - The Alphabet in June

Can you work out what everyday objects make each letter? Some are quite tricky but I love the daisy Y!
Click on the picture to make it larger...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Self-Esteem Comes First - Drawing the Inside Out..

We've long known that when students feel good about themselves, they are much more likely to become better achievers in the classroom. Fostering can do attitudes and building students' confidence by setting them up for success and providing positive feedback along with frequent praise are essential tools for both teachers and parents.

Think about yourself, the more confident you feel, the better you feel about the task at hand and your ability to do it. When a child is feeling good about themselves, it's much easier to motivate them to become more confident learners in the classroom.
A good starting point to approach the issue of self esteem with a struggling learner is to ask them to draw a picture of how the feel about their learning. I did this recently with some of my students. The idea of drawing "feelings" can often be a hard one for children to grasp, especially with a concept such as learning. However, after some initial chat they really began to offer ideas about what image could be used to show a feeling.
As you would expect, some of the images in the drawings of children who find learning a real struggle are quite negative. The images I was really interested in though were those depicting some positive feelings that the children had about their learning. 

We use many different types of assessment throughout a child's school life to gauge where they are now and what the next learning steps will be. Although this offers an important insight into progress, occasionally, something as simple as getting a child to draw their feelings provides a whole host of starting points from which to tackle the very important issue of their self esteem.
Have a look at their drawings below. The positive images are often hard to spot but the reassuring thing is that they are there. It is often through a simple task like this that it is possible to find the best place from which to start building up that child's self-esteem. Learning at school often feels like a massive slog for children that struggle. If we, as parents and teachers, are able to identify a starting point (no matter how small) from something that the child themselves has produced, we are on our way to helping that child succeed.
(Click on picture to see a bigger image)

When this picture was explained to me the child concerned said that "my learning feels like a huge tidal wave coming after me, my feet are tied to the ground and I can't get away. There is always a big black cloud above me that follows me around"
The positive images are the child surfing the tidal wave in the sunshine as they feel that sport is something they are on top of that makes them feel good about themselves. The person on the cloud represents the extra support that they get from their teachers to help overcome the difficulties.

In this drawing the child has represented feelings of frustration about writing with a figure sat with its back to us surrounded by sharp red lines. Below this is an image of a person with steam pouring from its ears (an image that was repeated many times in different students pictures) 
Reading and sport are something that this child felt in control of and so are surrounded with curved blue lines. Drawing seems to be a strength too!

This student explained "I love to learn but I am not always good at it and that makes my heart sad." There is a little figure saying "omg", (oh my goodness!!) and this is how they feel about much of what was asked of them at school. There is a jail with a figure trapped inside "I feel trapped when I don't understand something." The purple rainbow is the starting point for raising self esteem here. This represents how this student feels about learning on their good days. They have a very positive outlook despite finding reading and writing difficult. It is this aspect of their attitude to learning that makes providing support easy and one which makes them a wonderful student to have.

This picture depicts how a  student  feels when everything seems to be against them. "Things go in one ear and come out all muddled up. When I don't understand I get really angry. I don't know how to stop being angry and things get worse"
Here we see the steam coming out of the ears again and very angry and worried expressions on the faces drawn. The images of a knife through a heart and a tiny figure holding a huge gun represents how this student feels about being asked to do things that they don't want to do. When we spoke about this it was really focussed on writing. The green field represents sport and the rainbow and sunshine how this student feels about their reading. Again, here are our starting points to begin to raising self esteem. If we can get the student feeling even more positive in these areas we are then much better placed to move on and tackle those problematic issues around learning.

Before we can begin to deal with any issues around learning, raising self esteem must come first...

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sister blog!

Take a look at the new "sister blog" to The Learning Den. It sets out where we are now and where we are heading on our journey to become a Dyslexia Friendly School. There will be a permanent link to this on the Learning Den side bar.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Spelling made fun..

Check out these great ideas from Room 2 for making 
spelling less of a chore:-
And why not revisit this old post in the Learning Den to 
add to the fun!

Voices when we read...

Do you hear a voice when you read to yourself? Recent research in the UK suggests that many dyslexic learners do not.

Internal dialogue is the name given to the voice we all talk to ourselves in, privately, inside our own heads. When we read a book silently to ourselves often we can hear our voice reading it or sometimes we may give different characters voices of their own.

I have always assumed that this was the same for everyone until recently when I had a conversation with someone who said they never hear "a voice" when reading, they simply take in the information and see pictures in their heads. They directed me to a newspaper article (below) which I found extremely interesting....

Mind set: Gary Chevin is learning to develop his own inner voice when he reads

"As Gary Chevin watched his wife Carol reading a newspaper, he had a sudden realisation. Diagnosed as severely dyslexic at seven, he had always struggled to read. Gary noticed that Carol was reading without moving her lips, which seemed odd to him as a dyslexic. 'She told me she was reading in her head,' says Gary. 'I asked what that sounded like and she said it was like a voice. 

'I have never heard a voice in my head - ever. I was so shocked I nearly fell off my chair.' Gary,50, was stunned to learn that when 55-year-old Carol read a letter, she would hear the writer's voice, rather than her own, in her head - and that in her dreams, people spoke. 'It all seemed so alien to me. I have the reading age of a five-year-old so I never read. If I dream, I have visual dreams. They are always totally silent.'

Most people use their inner voice subconsciously. But for those who find they do not have one, it can be a revelation. 'I now understand my actions a lot more,' says Gary, a former builder from Stoke-on-Trent. 'I follow my emotions because I don't have a voice in my head analysing what I'm about to say or do.'

Professor Rod Nicolson, head of work psychology at the University of Sheffield, has been studying dyslexia for many years and was inspired to investigate internal speech after meeting Gary at a conference in 2004. He believes he has found a link between lack of inner speech and poor reading ability.

'Children start off having to say every word out loud,' he says. 'At some stage, as their reading improves, so does their ability to sight-read [to read in their heads] and that is the stage at which reading really takes off. 

By the age of eight or nine, most children can read in their heads. The development of the inner voice seems to be automatic for most people, but our data suggests a link with fluent reading, in that the process of learning to sight-read actually helps inner-speech develop.


For this you need two people - one asking the questions and the other doing the test. If you find any of this difficult, it may indicate problems with reading.
Ask the person to say numbers one to 26 out loud, then to say them again, but saying one out loud and two and three in their heads, with their tongue clamped between their teeth. 
They must not move any part of their body, such as nodding their head or using their fingers.
The correct sequence would be 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 25. They must complete it within 25 seconds.
Using a pen, tap on the table, say, ten times and ask the other person to count the taps in their head, applying the same rules as above.
'Everyone assumes everyone else is the same. However, we have found not everyone has an inner voice and in those who don't, literacy levels are often poor.

'But we have also found a lot of children with dyslexia who have well-developed inner speech.' Prof Nicolson believes that like ordinary speech, there are different degrees of fluency of inner speech. 'It's probably "use it or lose it",' he says.

Dr Kate Saunders, of the British Dyslexia Association, says the idea that some dyslexics have no inner voice is new. 'It is possible there may be a link with dyslexia for some individuals, but we shouldn't make any sweeping statements,' she adds.

No one knows for sure what causes dyslexia but 'at risk' signs can be detected in children as young as three. There is evidence from brain-scan research that when dyslexic individuals read, key areas on the left side of the brain important for the processing of language are not as activated as they should be. Consequently, those with dyslexia struggle with reading, spelling and writing and can have difficulty making the link between the written word and the phonetic sounds in words. Early diagnosis and well-structured, multi-sensory phonics-based teaching programmes can help.

Dr Saunders says 30 to 50 per cent of those with dyslexia also have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a medical condition affecting how well someone can sit still and focus. It is believed that many of those with ADHD may also lack an inner voice.
Prof Nicolson is seeking volunteers who suspect they have little or no inner speech to undergo Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), a non-invasive brain scan using a powerful magnetic field, radio-frequency pulses and a computer to measure tiny metabolic changes in the brain. It should detect when someone is using internal speech. 'So far our research has been based on simple tests we've devised ourselves,' he says. 'Using an FMRI scanner will provide a strong test for our theory.'

For Gary, there is still hope. He has software that turns his speech into type on his computer, and vice versa. Listening to emails via his earpiece has helped him develop an inner voice, although he has to concentrate to hear it.
'I feel so sad when I think of what I went through at school,' says Gary, whose two grown-up children also have dyslexia and no internal speech.
'I hated every single day. Many schoolchildren are still struggling and more research is needed to help them.'
(Source: UK Daily Mail, Health section 04.04.10)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Alphabetical Countries!

..Did you know that for every letter of the alphabet there is a country beginning with that letter? See if you can spot one in this song that probably isn't real!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Letters are Everywhere! - The Alphabet in May

Next time you are in a car behind a truck see what letters you can spot!
(click on the picture to make in bigger)