Learning Sessions – Making the Most of Fast ForWord

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Fall is definitely in the air – crisp, clean and clear.  For those of you starting Fast ForWord or returning after a break, we have set this year’s 3 part series:

  * October 15, October 27, December 1; 8:30-12:00 at Schou-TLC

Each session will build upon each other (from neuroscience basics, how the program fits, what it does, reading reports and implementing timely interventions).

*Please email me if you have not signed up (sd41). 

There are a host of topics on webinars that you may be interested in taking advantage (click here):  

  • 2015 Dyslexia Research and Remediation (October is Dyslexia Month)  
  • Literacy for ELL 
  • Autism: New Research and Interventions
  • Inside the Brain of the Struggling Reader

When Opportunity and Resources Meet = Success Happens

newyear2015Connecting a ‘just right’ opportunity to engage in independent deeper thinking and a resource that allows that to happen is a challenge. When the two meet, it’s almost magical, especially when it can include students who struggle with reading and writing. For these, time is spent mostly on the mechanics of reading/writing, leaving little cognitive energy for deep thinking. While some resources require a strong commitment to mastering the tool (I’m thinking Kurzweil 3000 – still the master of all reading/writing supports – click here for information), others may offer similar experiences with less need for front-end learning.

I wrote about Rewordify before in a previous post so I won’t go into the ‘how to’s here.  Upon first blush, the online site may look rather simple. Dig a little deeper and you will find other layers worth exploring. Its basic premise is that any text can be pasted into the box and it will return a simplified version – very quickly I might add. One of the options deserves highlighting. Retaining the original word within the text, while offering a simpler form provides two things: increase of comprehension and increase of vocabulary. Sitting side by side, relationships between the difficult term and easier one is visually connected. As well, the integrated dictionary allows access to almost all of the words in the selection. And finally, the content can be printed and stored.

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If you have not had a chance to explore this application, you may be surprised at how useful it can be for many students. It is free, though it requires access to the internet. (*Note: You do not need to register to use the site.)

Writing is another challenge that some of our students struggle to get their thoughts down on paper. While I believe that access to computers provides a wider range of choices, there is an application using ipads that offer a basic level of support with regards to word prediction and integrated reading (*this is not speech-to-text).  For those of you already using the computer version (you’ll see this as similar), GoQ Software has developed an ipad version. Named iWordQ Ca (I’ve been waiting for the Canadian spelling and French is included!), the cost of $25 may be worth it. iwordq_writeIt offers a very simple text editor (no images) for writing connected with anticipatory word prediction software. Definitions with examples, pop up with a tap of the finger. You can even add your own words into the lexicon thus including any specialized content vocabulary (think science, social studies). Typed words and sentences can be read back giving you a bit of quality control on the actual writing.   Reading mode gives the writer a chance to do some more proofreading as well as revision.  You might also use it for oral practice by speaking alongside the reading mode, if the end goal is a presentation. (*Note: Speech recognition is only found on the newer ipads. Need wifi access for this app to work.)
For those of you who know me really well, you’re waiting for why I like this app over the many that are out there. That can be seen in the Export feature – multiple ways. Writing is a complex form of communication needing opportunities to engage in a variety of other formats. iWordQ Ca can save files in the app, send to a Dropbox account as well as open in many other apps such as Google Drive! Our Google Apps for Education accounts marry nicely with this process, thus allowing for the inclusion of collaboration and dialogue, images, hyperlinks, charts or slides. Oh, did I forget printing too?

question mark personOur goals drive the use of any application. These apps add to the communication realm. However, I wonder if we should be asking wider questions such as… how will these serve to enhance deeper thinking processes, how will they create independence for the student, how will they bring connectedness and collaboration with classmates, how will they support self regulation?
Hope you get a chance to explore these or cause you to ask more questions. I’d love to hear how you’re using these applications or other apps in your classroom.

Interventions – Positive Steps in the Right Direction

red flagThose pesky red flags made your heart sink. And they were doing so well.  At some point every student reaches this wall.  Actually this can be seen as a good thing.  It means that both the student and the program have located the area of need, that point where the student missed along the journey of reading. This can be seen as a fabulous opportunity.

Strategies for intervention come and go. The question is what strategies will support the student in the most positive, most targeted, most efficient manner? Consider the following:

  1. Check the Completion History Report. It gives you a quick way to see individual progress and may offer insights in preventing those flags from popping up. “Prevention is easier than intervention.” 
  2. Check the Error Reports – what story do they tell? Ensure you have a clear understanding of the issue at hand. 
  3. Check in with the student – what story does the student tell? This is a perfect time to connect and make this a “connectedness” time. “Relationship is everything.”
  4. Only after the three above, check the blog Interventions section of the exercise for specific ways to support. (*You might also talk to your colleagues in other buildings using the same program. They have strategies that have worked for them.)
  5. Interventions may require more time than one session. Take the time needed. (*Sometimes the issue really is that we don’t spend enough time to allow for the learning to occur before placing the student back on the program.)
  6. Don’t be disheartened if the flag doesn’t disappear immediately. If the student has been stuck for some time, it will take a while. Make a mental note to encourage both the student and yourself.

Secret to the Universe When Motivation Wanes

silhouettecircle_201403Many times I’ve been asked “how do you motivate students”? This is usually during the time when the newness of the exercises wear off and it’s clearly drudgery that takes over.  This might happen during week one (sigh) or perhaps pop up in week three.  If you’re lucky, you won’t see the effects for quite some time.

One of the challenges of any program especially one using technologies, is that teachers expect the program to be the motivator and all they have to do is get the student into the building.  While Fast ForWord does have embedded bells and whistles, when you hit the wall, it just isn’t enough. No amount of pings, pops or flashy action figure is going to encourage you once you’ve heard the dreaded ‘clunk’ for the tenth time.

My secret to the universe is really no secret at all.  It is simply … “relationships“.  Relationships that build from being the champion of the individual student.  It is overt and open and honest, not simply implied.  In good times and bad. Students need to know that you are the ‘wind beneath their wings’, especially when they get tired and frustrated. The act of learning to read is a strenuous workout for the brain (equal to a marathon run). Knowing that you have a safe harbour to rest, gain strength and much needed encouragement goes a long way.  Put another way, Bev Ogilvie says,

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“connectedness makes the world go round. It brings out creativity and helps everyone around us flourish. … It engenders hope, rekindles our inner light and allows us to feel joy. Our power comes from who we are, not from what we do or what we have.” [ConnectZone.org. p.162]

These words ring even more powerful as we race through our busy days. Sometimes I feel it takes super powers to stop, remind ourselves to purposefully and intentionally take the initiative to connect deeply with our students, to listen with open hearts and in doing so, help them feel they have a belonging place. Relationship is foundational to the process of learning. However I have no right way to go about this. How do you go about building relationships or connections with your students?  Would love your comments or suggestions.

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App #10 of “10 Apps to Countdown Season”

App #10: Partner a beautiful image that you’ve drawn or photographed with interactivity and you’ve got Thinglink. These rich interactives provide another way to curate and organize information. I’ve written about this before using the SAMR Model as an example (developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura, Ph.D) and also here where I was participating in CLMOOC.

Thinglink offers interaction tools that tag photos or images with a a whole group of content, adding a layering effect. The system is built on the use of tags to add more information like audio, other images, web links, video, text information and anything else you might think you wish. Images can be from multiple sources and even a collage of images built through a program like Picmonkey (see App #8) or Pic Collage (app on ipad).  That leads me to think, why not use this as an infographic to visually showcase statistics. Swap PowerPoint with Thinglink and see where it takes you. Use Thinglink to connect all your flipped videos on your blog.  Or have students explain their science experience  or self assessment through sequenced captions. Teacher-Librarians – have you considered this as a tool to teach research skills or how to vet the mountains of information found?

Simple tips: Sign up for a teacher account. Search inside the site and you’ll find other interactives giving you more ideas.

Hover over the image and click on the icons to see messages for the holiday season.