Browsing Category

Culture

Culture Motivation Reading

Best Friend Books

February 15, 2018

The Beauty of Repeated Readings

I recently had the opportunity to hear one of my favorite literacy experts, Lester Laminack, speak on the topic of reading stories multiple times.  Repeated reading is a subject that I have touched upon previously during our discussion of interactive read alouds.  However, Dr. Laminack reminded us that repeated readings of books are so much more than just another instructional tool in our teacher toolboxes.

He stated that we have “best friend books.”  These books, like best friends, are the ones you turn to time and time again.  These books can bring us comfort in times of turmoil due to their dependability.  We feel confident reading them, because we already know the conclusion by heart.  Students naturally uncover the more complex themes and meanings in books they adore over time since they spend so many hours in these texts!

Lester made an interesting point during his speech.  He said that schools and teachers are perhaps doing “something” unknowingly to discourage the re-readings of books.  How do we know this?  Simple fact: Parents send us students who LOVE to hear the same stories over and over.  Schools send back students who do not like to reread.

Think of any toddler you have ever met.  If you have read to a young child, you know they request the same books to be reread over and over again, sometimes until you are blue in the face.  Something happens when kids enter schools, though, claims Laminack.  Kids are suddenly bored by the same old books, or they refuse to reread a book on their own.  Are we as educators discouraging repeated readings?  Do libraries let students renew the same book multiple times?  Do teachers encourage students to “pick a different book on their level” or choose a variety of books to take book tests over?  Do we bore students to death with repeated fluency probes?  Is the education system subliminally sending the message to our kids that rereading is bad?

This is all food for thought.  Make sure you encourage your students to read what they are interested in reading, and advertise Best Friend Books in your classroom, too!  You know we all need our BFFs!

Culture School Psychology

Discovering Dyslexia

February 12, 2018

Dyslexia is so dear to my heart I can’t believe I haven’t written a post on it before now.  I think it’s because I’m worried I won’t do it justice.  There are so many myths out there about Dyslexia, and my main objective is to dispel them in this post.

When you first saw the word, Dyslexia, you probably thought “seeing words backwards” or something similar.  Please erase that thought from your memory and replace it with the following information:

Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is based in the brain- not the eyes.  People with dyslexia struggle with our foundational reading skills- reading words and decoding.  It also goes on to impact their reading fluency and reading comprehension because they cannot access the text due to their basic reading skill weaknesses.

They aren’t visually seeing the words any differently than anyone else, instead their brain is not processing the information the same as a typical reader.  This makes it a laborious and frustrating process because they have to start from scratch every time they encounter a word.  This is why sometimes it seems like they’re reading backwards because they will guess and over rely on their sight word vocabulary.  Another common idea is when a child reverses letters that means they have dyslexia.  It’s actually quite common for kids to reverse letters up until around 3rd grade.  Sometimes people with dyslexia continue to reverse letters, whereas some never struggle with reversing letters.

What leads to these difficulties?  People with dyslexia struggle with phonological processing with a main deficit is phonological awareness.  Phonological awareness involves being able to hear, identify, and manipulate the sounds that make up words in our language. It is one of our best predictors for reading ability because the better you are orally hearing and manipulating sound the better you will be with pairing the sound with the letters that represent them.  The good news is we can increase phonological awareness skills with appropriate intervention…I’ll have to save that information for another post.  If you can’t wait- start researching Orton-Gillingham or Multi-sensory structured language approach.

Phonological Memory and Rapid Naming are the other two phonological processing areas individuals with dyslexia can struggle with.  Phonological memory is our short-term memory for things that we hear.  This can make learning new information take longer, and decoding longer words can be more intense.  Rapid Naming is the time it takes us to get information from our long-term memory out.  For example, how quickly can you name random letters on a page.  If someone’s retrieval time is a deficit they will need more time and shorted assignments to help them show you what they know.  Their reading fluency might always be slower than their peers as well.  Sometimes people have difficulties in all 3 processing areas while others struggle with 1 or 2 areas.

There are many specific learning disabilities, and dyslexia is the most common.  However, since the break down occurs with the foundation of reading it goes on to impact all areas of reading and can impact spelling, written expression, and vocabulary.  This can lead to some difficulties in identifying the exact cause of academic difficulties.  Unfortunately, not all school psychologists have received appropriate training in identifying dyslexia.  It can vary from state to state and district to district.  One clue can be if a student has no problems understand if material is read aloud versus when they read it. Typically, listening comprehension and verbal skills are strengths in individuals with dyslexia.

While there is a general profile of dyslexia, it’s on a continuum so there are differing levels of severity.  However, if you’ve met someone with dyslexia you’ve probably noticed that they’re very bright and excel in other areas.  This is because everyone with dyslexia has average or higher intelligence.  This can lead to early difficulties with identification because sometimes children get labeled as unmotivated or lazy instead of people realizing they have an underlying learning disability.  This is because you can easily tell they are smart and capable of doing well.  Due to their brain processing information differently, they will need to be taught how to read differently.  It will take them longer to “retrain their brain.”  However, they are fully capable of learning to read, but it is a lifelong condition.  There is no “cure”, but their skills can improve and they can learn coping strategies.  I’ll save more on this for another post.

Both males and females can have dyslexia, and people have it all over the world- it’s not specific to English.  Also, people of all backgrounds can have dyslexia.  One thing we have to make sure they’ve been given access to appropriate instruction.  We wouldn’t want to label someone with a disability if they haven’t been exposed to an appropriate opportunity to learn the skills.  This is why several states are using a Response to Intervention or RTI approach to identify specific learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

There’s so much more I want to share about dyslexia, but I think this is enough on the basics to hopefully dispel any myths you may have heard and give you a broader idea of what it actually is.  I encourage you to check out the International Dyslexia Association’s website for more information.  Also, check back in the future more specific information from me on dyslexia.

Culture Featured Homeschool

12 Picture Books that Instill Biblical Truth

December 5, 2017

The Christmas season is upon us! This is truly one of my favorite times of the year, and some of the things that I especially enjoy are all of the wonderful children’s books that we pull out for this special season. Now, we have our fair share of fun, silly, and just generally amusing Christmas stories, but the ones that I adore, are the ones that share about the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether these books are relating the nativity story or conveying a modern tale of someone sharing the love and story of Jesus, these books are gifts that so beautifully reinforce the truths I am trying to teach my children.

I love these books – and the number of these books grows each year; however, we really only pull these treasures out for the month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the rest of the year they are barely touched. The problem with this is I want to be reading my children literature that supports Biblical truth throughout the year – not only during the Christmas season. So, I’ve compiled a list of 12 of our favorite picture books that instill Biblical values and truth – and can be read all throughout the year.

And if your kiddos are loving the Christmas books, why not gift them with a book that will support you in your teaching of Biblical values all throughout the year?

Below I have listed 12 of our favorites, with a few short notes about each one. The links below are affiliate links, but that is truly for your convenience! We simply love each of these books and I wanted to share them with you!


You Are Special by Max Lucado – This is one of the well-know Wemmicks series books. And if you haven’t heard of them, check them out – seriously, each of is excellent. In this book, we meet the Wemmicks, who become obsessed with stars (good marks) and dots (bad marks). The main character, Punchinello becomes entirely wrapped up in what others think of him, until he has a meeting with his Maker, and is reminded that he is special because he was His. This is a beautiful story with a powerful truth. The book is a little on the longer side for a picture book, but both of my boys have loved these books since they were young!


If Only I Had a Green Nose by Max Lucado – This is another in the Max Lucado Wemmick’s series. I really could list each one, but wanted to add some variety to my list 🙂 In this story we again meet Punchinello, who makes every attempt to fit in, only to find that as soon as he makes a change, the fad that is “in” has changed. He learns about the importance of being content with who he is and how his Maker crafted him, rather than looking for worth in the eyes of others. Good Good Father by Chris Tomlin – Both of my boys love the song “Good Good Father,” by Chris Tomlin, so when this book came out we had to check it out! In the story we meet Tucker, a little bear who is seeking help from the King. He travels to see him, meeting several animals along the way, who each tell him one great thing about the King. As he gets closer to the castle, he has doubts about whether the King would want to see him. Yet the King appears offering sweet Tucker an abundance of love. This is a precious story about the great love of our God.
God Knows My Name by Debby Anderson – This is a delightful book that even the youngest readers will enjoy. On each page Mrs. Anderson conveys truth about all that God knows – from the number of hairs on your head to the number of stars in the sky. She talks about how God knows just what you’re feeling and how he cares for things in His creation. The pictures are colorful and inviting. It is evident that Mrs. Anderson was a kindergarten and first grade teacher, as young kids are drawn to her text. I also appreciate that she includes several scripture references to go along with her writing.

The Prayer That Makes God Smile by Stormie Omartian – This is a beautiful book that teaches children about prayer. It talks about different times that you can pray, things you can pray for, ways you can thank the Lord in your prayers, and the truth that God hears our prayers. She then talks about the best prayer of all – asking Jesus to come into your heart and be your Savior. Now, I have to warn you – if you’re reading this as a parent to your little one for the first time, be prepared to have tissues ready. I wept the first time I read this to my little guy, and still get teary eyed every time I read it. This book is rather lengthy for a picture book, but the pictures are adorable and the message of the book is powerful! The Oak Inside the Acorn by Max Lucado – Yes, this is another Max Lucado book, but not a part of the Wemmicks series. He just has so many excellent children’s books! This book shares the powerful truth that God created each of us with a purpose. And while it may be tempting to look around at what others have or can do, we must cling to the truth that God has a purpose for each of us, as this oak tree learns.


The Blessings Jar by Colleen Coble – This is a great one for little ones – especially as a gift from a grandparent. In this board book, Punky Grace is having a rough day – and a case of the grumpies. Then, her grandmother takes her on an adventure, looking for all of the little things she has to be thankful for. Soon, her blessings jar is filled to the top, and her grumpies have gone away. This is an adorable picture book with a great message about being thankful!

God Loves Me More Than That by Dandi Daley Mackall – This is another great story for little ones, with an important reminder for every reader. The story works in sets of 4 lines, where the first three lines rhyme and the final line in the set reminds us that God’s love is bigger, higher, deeper, etc than anything! With its colorful, child-friendly illustrations, this is a delightful book that teaches about how much God truly loves each one of us!


The One Year Devotions for Preschoolers by Crystal Bowman  – This has been a favorite in our house! Over the past few years both of my boys have loved this little devotional, so much so that our copy is literally falling apart. Each day has a child-friendly devotion that centers around a topic preschoolers may face – having a rough day, making new friends, when you’re afraid, etc. The illustrations are simply adorable, and each devotion has a verse and a rhyming prayer to share with your child. This is a great way to start teaching your kids to spend time with the Lord each day.


It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst – In this story we meet Little Seed and Little Fox, both of whom are dealing with fears. A beautiful friendship is formed, and as changes begin to occur and fears creep in, they continually remind each other that the farmer is good and the farmer is kind. As someone who personally deals with fear and worry, this story was a lovely reminder of the good and kind Father we serve. And just as Little Seed and Little Fox learn to trust in the farmer – and that things will we okay – this story encourages each reader to trust in the Lord, even in new or even scary circumstances.

Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young – Penned by the same author as the Jesus Calling devotional for adults, the Jesus Calling Bible Storybook weaves kid-friendly versions of Bible stories with a Jesus Calling style devotion at the end. The short devotion written by Young is written as though God is speaking to the reader, but can easily be modified if you think it may be confusing to young listeners. The combination of stories, devotions, and colorful illustrations make this a delightful read for kids!

With You All the Way by Max Lucado – Now, this one seems to be a little harder to find, but both of my boys love it so much, I had to include it! It tells the story of three knights (probably why my boys love it) who are all on a quest to win the hand of the King’s daughter. However, they must travel through the forest of the Hope-nots in order to succeed, with only the King’s song to guide them. Which knight is successful – the strongest, the fastest, the smartest? It is the one who chooses the right companion for the journey knows the King’s song well enough to hear it above everything else. This is a wonderful story that illustrates the way the Lord is with us in all things, and it is by learning to listen to his voice that we can have victory. There’s one page that may be a little scary for the youngest readers, but such a gret story with great truth!

**BONUS**
Now, you’ve got the list of 12 awesome books, but there’s one more resource I want to share with you! I’m not an affiliate or anything, but my kiddos have enjoyed this so much, I simply had to share it with you! It’s the Clubhouse Jr. Magazine for Kids. It’s published by Focus on the Family and is such a fabulous resource. It contains stories, activities, coloring pages, snack ideas, and more for your kids! This magazine is created for kids ages 3-7, but there’s also another one for older kids called Clubhouse Magazine. We’ve only gotten the Jr. version but my boys love it! They definitely look forward to receiving it in the mail each month – and it’s a gift they receive all year long! I hope you’ll check it out!

I hope you’ve enjoyed these resources and are encouraged to check some of them out further. I’d also love to hear your thoughts. Comment below with your favorite from the list – or leave a comment and let me know other books that you love that teach Biblical truths – I’d love to check them out!

Classroom Community Culture Uncategorized

Celebrating Student Birthdays

September 9, 2017

When I was a kid celebrating my birthday at school was always my favorite part of the year. My mom would always bake and ice sugar cookies and put them in fancy little bags for my classmates which made me feel like a rock-star! Even though I was a relatively shy kid I loved having my classmates tell me how pretty my cookies were and having the class sing to me (even as a kid I liked being the center of attention!)

These days it’s very common to have school-wide policies that don’t allow cupcakes or cookies in the classroom. Whether it is because of allergies or just too many lime green icing stains on the carpet it is easy to celebrate your student’s big day without rainbow cupcakes with those fancy plastic rings.

BIRTHDAY POLICIES

Make sure that your parents know about your policy for birthday treats right away. My first year of teaching I had a birthday during the first week of school and I wasn’t sure what to do when a parent showed up early with a big tray of cupcakes. Setting expectations at open house or within the first week will help make birthdays a fun (not stressful) experience!

Things to think about:

  • Will you allow food treats? If so, do they need to be store bought or is homemade okay?
  • If you aren’t going to allow food treats can parents send in other treats like pencils, stickers, or toys?
  • Or, would you prefer to celebrate by having the parent donate a book or game for the entire class to enjoy?

TEACHER TREATS

Most teachers celebrate their students by treating their students on their special day. I have seen so many adorable (and inexpensive ways) to celebrate your students’ special days. My favorites include birthday balloons which are a paper balloon shape attached to a pixie stick or a curly straw.

Teachers can also celebrate their students without a gift. You could let your student sit at a special birthday chair, give them a birthday badge/sash/button to wear, or even just let them have a special job that day.

CELEBRATING WITH CLASSMATES

In addition to feeling the love from their teachers, classmates also LOVE to celebrate their peers’ birthday. Whether that is by singing, making cards (hello authentic writing experience!) or doing a word bubble like this idea from Tracie Stier-Johnson. Regardless of how you celebrate your student’s birthday I am sure it will be a memory they will have for years to come!

8f72528356dad22b31c54f5594ce8306

How do you celebrate student birthdays in your classroom?

Creativity Culture Morale Uncategorized

Making Positives Outweigh Negatives

September 4, 2017

If you’re like me you can be hard on yourself and not always have the most optimistic or healthy outlook.  I hate this about myself- there we go another negative.  I wonder why I have the tendency to focus on the negatives rather than the positives.

For example, I recently cleaned my bathroom mirror and instead of looking at all the fresh clear reflections I stared at the one tiny spot I missed.  I was upset with myself for not being more thorough and missing it.  Then I thought why am I not proud of myself for making the effort and making 99% of the mirror sparkling clean?

At work, sometimes I think I judge my entire performance on my mistakes or oversights rather than the successes or new helpful ideas.  Late one night I realized I had forgotten to prepare for a meeting I had the next day.  I felt upset with myself for the next few days.  Why couldn’t I have been more kind to myself and focused on all of the meetings I have prepared for in a timely manner?

It is so easy to negatively judge yourself by one silly little error or oversight instead of celebrating your hard work.  So now when I think of a negative or something I want but don’t have I make myself stop and think of 3 positives in my life.

Part two of this post is for you to use this thought process at school with your students.  Of course when children get in trouble and break school rules parents are informed.  However, we need to make even more of an effort to inform parents when children follow the rules or go above and beyond expectations.

We need to show ourselves love and compassion but also everyone around us.  Sometimes this might be easier said than done.  It’s easier for me to be compassionate to myself when I miss a spot on the mirror, but it might be harder when I realize I forgot to prepare for an important meeting. Just like it might be easier to recognize the good behavior of your kind student who is always on the honor roll versus the student who is always going to the office for bad behavior.

Just like we want ourselves to focus more on the positives in us and our life the students we work with and their parents want that too.  If you can try to send more positive notes home and make more happy phone calls home, it can lead to a more positive day for you, your students, and your families.

You might have to be more creative with finding the positives on some days and with some children, but if you look hard enough it will be there.  Personally, even on the worst day, you can find something positive about yourself and your life.

Changing thought patterns takes time and practice.  So be gentle with yourself when you are being negative and change it to a positive as quickly as you can without beating yourself up for being negative!

I’ll start right now.  Normally, I procrastinate on writing my posts, but today I am writing this at the beginning of the month instead of the end of the month.  I am proud of myself for being more positive and proactive in my life! Now I think I’ll go tackle that smudge on the mirror!

Culture Morale School Psychology

Gratitude

July 17, 2017

Everyone wants to be happy!  We are always looking for new ways to increase our well-being and happiness.  Some things we don’t have control over, but one thing we always have in our control is our outlook.  We can spend our time being jealous or negative or we can be grateful for the positives in our lives. This will not only change how we feel emotionally but can have physical benefits, like a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure.

Just like anything else it takes practice to incorporate regular gratitude exercises into your life.  Start simple- every morning write or say 5 things for which you are grateful.  You could keep a gratitude journal by your bed or favorite chair.  There are apps on your smart phone made for tracking gratitude.

Remember you can start with simple things like being grateful for a home to live in, a bed to sleep in, family, your job, the shoes on your feet, etc.  You can create affirmations where you repeat a phrase(s) a few times a day related to something you’re grateful for.  For example, I like to say “I am thankful for the opportunity to impact lives of children.” You can extend your positive gratitude outlook with others by making sure to thank others and let them know you appreciate their efforts.  It can be as simple as letting the barista know how good your coffee was or letting someone know how kind they were to open the door for you.  It’s really just putting a little more detail into your normal “thank you.”

Sometimes I like to take an alternative look on gratitude.  One of my favorite sayings is there are always pros and cons.  For those cons in your life, if you’re creative enough, you can find an alternative way to be grateful for them.  For example, I’m a very anxious person which I hate.  However, my anxiety has also caused me to be very hard working and a good planner.  For those reasons I am grateful that my anxiety has been part of my journey.  Maybe you hate how quiet you are, but that makes you a good listener.  Maybe you don’t like something about your appearance but that’s lead to you using humor to make friends easier.  Maybe you get angry too easily but that makes you passionate and an advocate for others.  Whatever your cons are try to view them in a more grateful manner.

If you’d like to help your students gain this valuable life skill, check out the Gratitude Works Program through the National Association of School Psychologists:  https://www.nasponline.org/research-and-policy/advocacy-tools-and-resources/school-psychology-awareness-week-2016/gratitude-works-program

You can start by simply having your students write letters or draw a picture for someone for which they are grateful.  Students can verbally share with a partner each day something they are grateful for.  For older students consider gratitude journals.  You can even start a gratitude club or have a whole assembly to celebrate gratitude!

I am grateful you took time out of your busy and important life to read this.  I hope it helps you in your daily life, and if it does please pass on your gratitude to others!

 

Culture Morale School Psychology

R Word and ID

July 3, 2017

A person who has an intellectual disability has significantly below average intelligence and difficulty with basic life skills.

The majority of people have an IQ score of 85-115, falling within the average range where 100 is perfectly average.  A person who has an intellectual disability will have an IQ that is 70 or less falling in the extremely low range.  Another way to say basic life skills is adaptive behavior which will also fall at 70 or less.  These behaviors help us take care of ourselves and function independently in different environments.  It includes skills like being able to feed yourself, dress yourself, communicate your needs, complete household chores, complete a job application, etc.

It is important to remember that just because a person has an intellectual disability does not mean they cannot do any of these things or that they cannot learn. 

People who have intellectual disabilities are still people, like us, who have their own strengths and weaknesses.  However, these students will likely need more supports and more time to learn.  Their progress will likely be much slower than their peers, and at some point, they may reach a level of understanding and have difficulty increasing knowledge or skill in particular areas.

While their IQ and adaptive behavior scores are below 70, there is still a continuum of abilities below this range.  For example, you may have met someone who has an intellectual disability who has a job, is able to live at home with minimal support, and can communicate well verbally.  You may have also met someone with an intellectual disability who is nonverbal, cannot read and needs help with basic skills like eating and using the restroom.  This is why it is so important to get to know the individual!

An intellectual disability can be co-morbid, meaning it can go along with another condition more frequently than by chance.

A person with Autism may also have an intellectual disability or someone with Down Syndrome may have an intellectual disability.  However, someone with an intellectual disability may not have another condition just like someone with Autism may not have an intellectual disability.  This is another great example of why you have to get to know the individual.

Sometimes the term intellectual disability causes confusion because Mental Retardation is the older out dated term.  The word “retardation” was, unfortunately, used in a derogatory manner causing the need for a more representative term to be used.  If you learn nothing else from this post, please please please do not use the r-word anymore.  Even if you are making what you think is a lighthearted joke to someone – don’t use the r-word.  It can cause pain, anger, and other negative feelings.  There is a wonderful campaign to help end this use.  If you would like more information on “Spread the Word to End the Word,” please visit: http://www.r-word.org/

People who are intellectually disabled play a vital role in our society and within their own families. 

They are still capable of learning and making a positive difference in the world.  They can achieve great things when people believe in them and give them appropriate support and tools to maximize their strengths!


*Disclaimer- if anything in this post has offended you and caused you emotional discomfort, please know that was not my intention.  My goal in writing this post is to raise awareness and acceptance to help educators better understand disability categories included in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Please feel free to comment if you have any recommendations on how to better accomplish this task.

Art Culture

Famous Fine Artist’s!

April 20, 2017

Art education is a very broad term when it comes to educating students about the arts. This includes photography, graphic design, visual, and book arts. This is a lot to cover and include in lessons during a school year. My goal is to expose my students to various types of art throughout the course of their elementary years with me. There are a few go-to artists I teach my students about every school year because I feel they encompass what it means to be a fine artist. Below is a list of artists I include each year in all of my lessons. Some of them I have briefly written about because, not only are they my favorite, but there is something about each of these artists I believe my students can relate to.

My Go-to Artists

Cindy Sherman– Sherman is an American photographer and film director. She’s most famous for portraits of herself dressed as other roles or characters such as an author, director, make-up artist, hairstylist, and model. Cindy Sherman’s photography is great inspiration for a photography lesson in the classroom. Also, her success as a woman shows students and young ladies that not all artist are men and only painters; there is a place for women in the art world as well. In today’s age children and even adults take selfies or download apps that filter or change our faces into animals or another person.

Frida Kahlo– Frida’s work moves and motivates me more than any other artist known to man! I love and admire her confidence as a woman and her outlook on life regardless of the unfortunate events that have happened to her. I love showing some of her portraits to my students when we are learning about self-portraiture and how to convey an autobiography in the picture with visual imagery. She is also a major topic during Hispanic Heritage Month in my art room.

Andy Warhol– Warhol was an American artist who was a leading figure in the Pop Art movement, which is one of my students’ favorite art eras to learn about each year. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertisements which became more popular in the 1960’s. Warhol used a variety of media, including painting, silk screen printing, photography, film, and sculpture and all of those are visible in his artwork. Warhol’s work has inspiration behind many printmaking and advertisement lessons I do with my fourth and fifth-grade students each year.

Even though these aren’t all of the artist I teach my students about, I feel that these artists listed and described are so relatable to my students. Their artworks are a huge inspiration behind numerous art lessons I have created to engage my students and to incorporate pop culture.

Vincent van Gogh

Claude Monet

Pablo Picasso

Georgia O’Keeffe

Jackson Pollock

Keith Haring

If you could incorporate an artist inspired lesson (reading, writing prompt, arts and craft activity) into your grade level classroom who would it be? Why?

Assessments and Data Culture Language

Comprehension Knowledge

April 13, 2017

As a School Psychologist I spend a lot of my time administering standardized tests, writing up the results in a report, and explaining the results to others.  Often times there are just so many different processing areas to review that I have to briefly summarize them rather than going into more depth on each one.  My hope is to share a different processing area with you each month in an effort to increase your background knowledge and make psychoeducational evaluations more meaningful to you and your students.

Comprehension Knowledge

One of my favorite processing areas can be referred to as Comprehension Knowledge or Crystalized Intelligence.  This is basically the knowledge you get from your culture, life experiences, and what you have been exposed to in your life.  If you have been to museums, had your parents read a book to you, been exposed to vocabulary through conversations, or sat in a classroom, all of these experiences would be linked with your comprehension knowledge.

This knowledge differs from culture to culture because it is based on the information and skills that a particular culture values.  Thus, this knowledge is how well an individual has learned this content and mastered important skills.  Back to why it is one of my favorite processing areas is because you can actually increase this area!  This area grows over time as you are exposed to new life experiences and lessons in school.  As you will find out later, many cognitive processing areas cannot be taught or manipulated. They have to be accommodated for or a student has to learn a coping strategy.

 “This area grows over time as you are exposed to new life experiences and lessons in school.”

It’s important to think about your students and how much exposure or enriching experiences they may have had, especially for children with lower social-economic statuses.  If a student is worried about where their next meal may come from or they are being raised by a single parent working three jobs, they may not have the energy, time, or means to be exposed to culturally diverse learning environments.

Crystalized Intelligence

If a student has weak crystalized intelligence, it may negatively impact their ability to understand math word problems due to poor vocabulary.  They may also struggle to learn math processes due to difficulty listening and following sequential instructions.  In writing, their lack of vocabulary, background knowledge, and poor language development will hinder their ability to adequately express themselves.

A weakness in comprehension knowledge can harm a student’s ability to understand what they read independently.  Their lack of life experiences, poor background knowledge, and limited vocabulary make it difficult for them to gain meaning from written text.  This can even impact understanding directions.

How can you support students with weak comprehension knowledge?

These students will benefit from instruction semantics and vocabulary.  Using pictures and visuals paired with vocabulary words to make it more meaningful.  These students need concrete examples to build their knowledge base.  Strategically placing these students in the classroom so their comprehension can be closely monitored.  A peer tutor can also serve to support them.  If you are unsure if they understand the directions or task have them paraphrase the directions back to you to ensure understanding.  Help these students learn to advocate for themselves by asking for clarification if needed.  The student can have a glossary of pre-taught vocabulary and important terms to use as a reference.  A word bank can be used to help support written expression.  You can expand their vocabulary by restating their statement with a more sophisticated word or explanation; thus, you are modeling this skill for them.  Students can use a thesaurus to expand their spoken and written vocabulary.

These strategies are supported by research.  I want to hear from you as the experts in the classroom dealing with real life schedules, curriculum, standards, and students on what strategies you have found to be the most beneficial in working with the students who struggle in this area!

Culture Featured

People First

April 3, 2017

I am a wife.  I am a daughter.  I am a dog mom.  I am a friend.  I am a School Psychologist.  While I am all of these; I am so much more.  I cannot be defined by one thing or one word.  There are several people in the world who have the same “I am” statements; however, if you were to meet all of us, you would soon find how alike, yet different we are.

People First Language

This is why it is so important we use people first language.  You may have heard the saying “If you’ve met one person with Autism, you’ve met one person with Autism.”  While individuals on the Autism Spectrum have a common set of characteristics, they also have a wide range of strengths, weaknesses, needs, wants, and interests.  This is why saying comments like “he’s autistic” can be so hurtful and harmful.

Just as if you were only to tell people I am a wife, they would have no knowledge of all the other aspects of who I am.  All of my individuality would be lost; I would be lost.  I would be solely defined by one part of who I am.  Who wants that?

Almost one in every five people have a disability.  This is why it is so important to use people first language not only at school but at home, the mall, the grocery story, and everywhere you go in your life.  When you put the person first it helps acknowledge their needs and leads to understanding, but it also helps eliminate generalizations and discrimination.  This language is part of a bigger movement to help change the way people with disabilities have been historically represented and treated to a more inclusive and accurate portrayal.

If you want to be known for who you are versus all the labels assigned to you, then use people first language.  For example, instead of saying “he is Dyslexic” say “he has been diagnosed with Dyslexia.”  So remember the golden rule to treat others how you would like to be treated- as a person first.