Sunday, 31 July 2016

Summer Slip

Summer Holidays are a great time to get ahead if you 've been falling behind in school. But equally it's been a tough year and everyone deserves a break.

Parents and students should attempt to find engaging ways to keep using your reading and writing skills over the holidays. Keeping a blog / diary or writing lots of postcards to friends and family can help stop that summer slip.

READ things they find INTERESTING ! - it doesn't have to be 'War and Peace' to count - if they express an interest then help facilitate them in reading. Even i it is too hard for them - help them with the bits they can't do but then get them to read the bits they can. Then discuss it and what they found interesting about it.

Comic Strip Template for Kids PrintableCartoon templates : writing diaries or letters may feel a lot of 'unfun' work, but a new set of colouring pencils and a printed cartoon template (they can also cut pictures out of magazines if they don't feel their drawing skills are up to the task)  - http://www.printablee.com/post_cartoon-template-printable_290348/ 



Colouring books - some of the beautiful new colouring books inspire both mindfullness and increase fine motor control. While it might not be as good as writing it does increase penmanship and control which will improve handwriting. 


Jigsaw Puzzels - this is a good way of practicing both visual memory, and mental rotation. It can be quite difficult to sit and focus on a puzzel for a long time but if you start with a smaller number of pieces with an interesting graphic they can build up their 'staying power'. This may have a postive impact on their ability to maintain their concentration in the classroom when they go back in September.


Equally holidays often mean long car journies - or times without electronics.
This can be a time to engage with games that can help mold our thinking. 


20 questions  - asking a family member to guess an item in 20 questions helps develop top down processing skills and encourages using logic - as well as supporting their memory.
http://www.wikihow.com/Play-20-Questions


I Spy with my little eye...........
             something beginning with ..... 
             something ending in.......
             something with 'ai' in the middle 
Aways give the phonic sound of the letter to young children rather than the name of the letter ( - i.e.  'ah' rather than 'AYYY' ). This can help fill time over a long car journey while also helping with spelling.


I went to the shops and I bought ........
this is a memory game which can be made easier or harder though limitations. It is easier to add restrictions such as 'in alphabetical order' or 'only foods' it can be made harder by removing those limitations.


Give them a go - they are a fun way to help extend your kids abilities without feeling like you are imposing work during their holidays. 

Summer Revision - its never too early to start .......

It's true !

As much as you hate me and your parents saying it - starting early really does make the biggest difference. 

No matter how much extra time or how good you think you are at cramming nothing will have more impact on your grades than how well you understand your subjects. If you KNOW something you write a much better argument or exam answer than if you have to waste time trying to REMEMBER it. 

The good news is that there are now lots of fun ways to go about this.

Youtube and the rest of the internet are FULL of really quite informative and engaging videos that help provide information in a way that helps your memory. 

That doesn't mean you don't have to practice pulling all that information back out of your head - or make a few lists of names and dates that you will have to really go over to be able to remember them. But a few different videos can help make a boring text more interesting or help give another opinion  on a book that you hadn't thought about.

Here are some of my favorites 

Lord of the Flies
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tXpA3dIEtI

or Macbeth (a bit rude so not for sensitive ears )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-PKotyoxys

The summer holiday is a great time to relax but also to get ahead  - you'd be surprised how many great books are on the reading lists and how many have been turned into brilliant films (Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet will always be one of my favorite films)

Just remember that for every little bit you do now - its a bit that you will feel slightly ahead on next year. You will go to them remembering things better and understanding them more. When we understand things we are able to look for the hidden meanings or the implications - all this makes it MUCH LESS BORING 

its a win win

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Government Responce


Dear Dr Anna Pitt,
The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “Reinstate allowances regarding spelling for pupils with dyslexia.”.
Government responded:
We are committed to supporting pupils with dyslexia. The teacher assessment of writing will help to ensure that all pupils have a secure grounding in this subject and identify where support is needed.
We are committed to improving support for pupils with dyslexia. Our reforms to the special educational needs and disabilities system emphasise providing tailored support to meet pupils’ specific needs. The reforms encourage close working with parents and pupils to make sure the support that pupils need is identified early. We work with, and provide funding to, dyslexia organisations to help to ensure that these pupils get the necessary support.
It is essential that all pupils leave primary school with the skills to succeed in secondary school. Pupils who can spell quickly and precisely are able to write down their ideas fluently and accurately, freeing them to concentrate on the meaning of what they want to say. Spelling is therefore a vital element of the National Curriculum at both key stages and is included as part of the teacher assessments of writing in Year 2 and Year 6.
The new interim teacher assessment framework for Key Stage 2 (KS2) is designed to assess the extent to which pupils have gained a secure grounding in the National Curriculum before they move on to the next stage of their education. This will be assessed by the pupils’ teachers. In writing, to meet the ‘expected standard’ pupils must be able to spell most words accurately, using the detailed spelling rules and guidance in the KS2 programme of study. The statutory KS2 wordlists are made up of words that we know pupils frequently misspell.
These assessments form part of the information used to help teachers and parents understand how pupils are performing against national expectations. They also allow us to hold schools to account for how well they have supported all their pupils to reach the expected standard.
Assessment by pupils’ teachers at the end of Year 6 provides the secondary schools with accurate information on their new Year 7 pupils. The secondary schools can then effectively support all the pupils who did not meet the expected standard to achieve their full potential. They cannot respond quickly to these pupils’ needs if the assessment information they receive does not reflect accurately what pupils know and can do.
Our approach applies to all pupils, including those with dyslexia, because it is in these pupils’ best interests that teachers assess accurately what they can or cannot do.
Statutory assessments, however, form only part of the broader assessments that teachers continually make. Schools should report statutory assessment outcomes in the context of wider information about pupils’ overall achievements and progress across the whole curriculum.
Department for Education
Click this link to view the response online:
https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/124352?reveal_response=yes
The Petitions Committee will take a look at this petition and its response. They can press the government for action and gather evidence. If this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, the Committee will consider it for a debate.
The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee
Thanks,
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament
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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Lego Club

I meet lots of children who enjoy Lego.  It's a great way to develop non-verbal spatial skills and instruction following, and inspires children to be creative. 

I also always try to inspire children to read - no matter what it is they are reading.  

I've just found out that Lego.com run a Lego club.  When you are logged in you can see videos and games but you can also subscribe to their FREE magazine ! 

They send you it in the mail.  We all know how much we love getting old fashioned post and children enjoy the magazine too.  

All Free ! 
I don't often push products but this is one I feel is worth the effort :) 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Dyslexia Debate

The Dyslexia Debate

It is a devastating indictment of the US and UK educational systems that after 12 years of full time education as many as a quarter of all children leave school unable to read properly.  This huge waste of talent and the human and economic costs it engenders, is the motivation behind Joe Elliot and Elena Grigorenko’s book, The Dyslexia Debate.  But their suggestion that we should scrap the whole concept of dyslexia is profoundly misguided.  They argue that at present there is no way of deciding who is ‘dyslexic’ and who is a poor reader for other reasons.  So they claim that all poor readers could be called dyslexic.  Since this ‘diagnosis’ doesn’t help to improve their treatment, and, they say, it does more harm than good because its use diverts resources to a favoured few who can effectively ‘buy’ the diagnosis unfairly, they argue that the whole concept should be scrapped altogether
Here I argue, on the contrary, that scrapping the term ‘dyslexia’ would be a huge mistake.  A diagnosis of dyslexia relieves a child enormously of doubting his own abilities and feeling stupid, and more importantly, our progressively greater understanding of the neuroscience of reading, means that we are now close to being able to identify those with true developmental dyslexia in its original neurological sense, encapsulating its aetiology, which will enable us to develop more effective treatments, targeted to each individual.

The ‘phonological theory’
              A major problem has been that reading problems have been mainly studied at too high a cognitive level (see figure below), so that explanations have become almost tautologous.   Currently the most favoured hypothesis which purports to explain dyslexia, postulates that it is due to a ‘phonological deficit’; dyslexics cannot ‘decode’ the written word, ie they cannot successfully translate its letters into the sounds they stand for.  But this is really a tautology; the essence of reading is letter/sound translation.  So this phonological ‘theory’ is set at too high a level; it merely redescribes the fact that dyslexics find it difficult to read.  Hence it is not at all surprising that most poor readers have a phonological deficit.  Of course we cannot distinguish a subgroup of dyslexic readers on that basis.
The interesting question is why these children fail to learn to decode.   To find answers demands studies at a lower sensory processing level: why can’t some children identify letters and their order visually, why can’t they hear the separate sounds in words to match with the letters?  If the condition, dyslexia, does exist, then we ought to be able to find it by searching for the mediating sensory processing deficits that cause the problems.  Grigorenko and Elliot admit that greater understanding of the genetic and neurological mechanisms that underpin dyslexia ought to lead us to being able to discriminate dyslexics from other poor readers according to their underlying causes.  But they believe that our understanding is not yet detailed enough.

Discrepancy definition
Their greatest scorn is poured on the idea that searching for a discrepancy between reading and other cognitive attainments, as summarised in IQ measures, is a good starting point to define true dyslexia.  Following Keith Stanovitch’s provocative question posed 25 years earlier (Does Dyslexia Exist?), Grigorenko and Elliot repeat the claim that IQ does not predict reading ability, so that trying to detect discrepancies between them is like comparing chalk with cheese – irrelevant.  Furthermore it is alleged that whether a poor reader has such a discrepancy or not, they all suffer the same phonological problems which can be successfully treated in the same way - by concentrated phonics training.
In fact however, non-reading IQ does predict reading ability, accounting for about 50% of reading differences between individuals.  So one can identify a group of poor readers with low, average or high intelligence, but whose reading is far behind what you’d expect from measuring their non-reading abilities, or better still comparing their reading comprehension of written material with their oral comprehension of similar material read out to them.   True, their phonological disabilities are no different than in non-discrepant poor readers. However that merely says that they’re equally poor readers.  Phonological training usually does little to help them because they have more fundamental low level sensory processing problems. 



More and more evidence is now accruing that there are some children whose reading is way behind what you’d expect, because they have specific low level sensory processing impairments; these are the true dyslexics.  Their sensory difficulties seem to particularly involve ‘temporal processing’, ie visual and auditory sensitivity to changes in the environment.  Temporal processing underpins the ability to rapidly deploy attention sequentially, visually on the order of letters in a word or auditorily to hear the precise order of the sounds in it.  These rapid but precise shifts of attention are essential to form robust and readily recallable representations of word forms and sounds in memory.   Since they don’t only impact on reading, they explain many of the non reading symptoms that are frequently associated with dyslexia, such as poor visual search, mistakes in sight reading music, mispronounciations of multisyllable words (elephant as ephelant) and poor visual and auditory short term memory.
Because these temporal processing weaknesses are found only in children whose reading is unexpectedly lagging behind their other general abilities, and they can in principle be helped by appropriate sensory training, these findings offer the hope that we will soon be able to identify reliable ‘biomarkers’ that will unequivocally separate dyslexic from other poor readers, and thus contribute to improving their treatment.

Improved remediation
However these developments should not consign non-dyslexic poor readers to everlasting second class education as Grigorenko and Elliot fear; everybody sympathises with their worries on this score. On the contrary being able to diagnose dyslexia reliably should improve the efficiency and therefore the cost effectiveness of remediation, and therewith release funds for more targeted and efficient management of non-dyslexic children with reading difficulties; ie both groups should win.

Summary
To summarise the arguments – the key idea in ‘The Dyslexia Debate’ is that it is currently impossible to distinguish dyslexics from other poor readers because they all have phonological problems.  Because the diagnosis doesn’t help treatment and is obtained only for a favoured few the concept should be scrapped. 
On the contrary, I argue that it is not the concept of dyslexia that should be scrapped, but this phonological theory, because it is not really a theory; it merely repeats in different words that dyslexics have difficulties with reading.  What we need is an understanding of the basic visual and auditory sensory processing impairments that cause these difficulties.  When we understand these better, as we soon will, we will have a reliable means of identifying true dyslexics, and better still, this should lead to rational approaches to remediating every child’s particular difficulties. 
All children have a right to learn to read in any civilised educational system.  Abolishing the concept of dyslexia is not the right way to accomplish this.  Instead we should devote our energies to working out the individual causes of each child’s reading difficulties, so that we can best help each and every child, whether dyslexic or not.


 Written by Prof John Stein published in : Dyslexia Contact 2025 vol 34(3) – September p 12-14.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Update from - Accessing Books

Complementary resources to ‘Accessing Books - A Guide for Dyslexic Adults’

3 new resources that support dyslexics to engage with books are available from the Seeing Ear.  They are free downloads.  They complement the self-help guide ‘Accessing Books - A Guide for Dyslexic Adults’, detailed on this blog on 21 August 2015.

What are the contents of these resources?

1)    A list of book series for adults that are more accessible than mainstream books 
2)    A set of strategy flashcards that aim to help dyslexics to engage with books 
3)    An activity that dyslexics can use to identify accessible features of mainstream books 

Who are the resources aimed at?

·       dyslexic adults
·       people supporting anyone of any age to engage with books e.g. educators, library staff, family members 
·       learners and students e.g. adult literacy learners, students of English

Where are the resources available?
·       In pdf under the subheading ‘Guides by others’ at http://www.seeingear.org/resources/dyslexia 

·       In Word from the Seeing Ear library which dyslexics are eligible to join http://www.seeingear.org/our-library  
https://youtu.be/5ImEaEK3iKM


Today I received a link to this video from Steven Mcleish. A spoken word artist who I felt wonderfully summed up some of the experiences Dyslexics go through and the power with which they can contribute.

I found it quite moving 

have a listen.