Strategies for Teachers

    Forced Choice Technique

    From NASAT "The purpose of this technique is to limit the behavior of students who try to negotiate everything."
    Click this link to read the article.

    Proximity Teaching

    From NASAT "The purpose of this tool is to establish a structure around a student who is unable to maintain control over his/her behavior."
    Click this link to read the article.

    Teaching Academic Content and Literacy to English Language Learners in Elementary and Middle School

    4/1/14
    The What Works Clearinghouse has released an update on teaching English Language Learners. Their initial report was released in 2007. They new report was published in 2014 and includes new and updated recommendations for English Language Learners in grades Kindergarten through 8th grades.
    Click this link to read the pdf of the report.

    If you have a question or a suggestion to share, email it to ddemarle@yahoo.com

    Strategies to improve listening

    From Edutopia - 5 strategies to improve listening. I am not overly fond of the 1st suggestion but like to the other four.
    Click this link to read the article.

    Study Strategies

    A NY Times article on what research suggests are key components to helping students learn material. The article compares 'folk wisdom' techniques with research proven methods to help children learn.
    Click this link to read the article.

    Strategies for teaching Math

    This NY Times article explores the latest neuroscience research on how the brain learns math and discusses new math programs that have been designed to use the information from this research to bolster the math learning of preschoolers and students in Kindergarten. The article focuses on a the Building Blocks program which is being used in the Buffalo City Schools.
    Strategies for teaching Math.

    Music

    Use music in the classroom.  Music can be used for multiple purposes.  In elementary classrooms or in self-contained classrooms, playing a song can be the perfect way to speed transitions. Most songs are 3 to 4 minutes long, and most children can tell when a song is winding down. Teach your students to be in their seats by the time the song ends.  Some research suggests classical music can help the brain perform better with math tasks, so use that to transition to math class. For older students, have them have a chance to play a piece of their favorite music (of course monitor for content before playing the song).  This will show your students you appreciate their tastes and allow them to express themselves.  The availability of IPods, and MP3 players make the use of music very simple in a classroom setting.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    School Prep

    Summer is the optimal time to refresh and plan ahead for the new school year. To help with this process, it is important to take the time to actively reflect on both the highs and lows of the last school year.   What worked particularly well? What didn't work? Teaching is a challenging profession, and in the day to day buzz of classroom life, it is hard to step back and think about the classroom as a larger unit, traveling over time.  Did your ship reach its intended port, or did it get blown around day to day and never quite reach its final destination? Did the students mutiny, or where you run aground by that math unit that they never quite got? While there are many great teaching tools, organizational systems, curriculums, lesson plans, they all ultimately are directed and led by you the classroom teacher.  The fact is you are your best teacher.  In medicine and business, the doctor or business leader is forced to constantly ask did it work, are we making progress. and if the answer is no, then the problem has to be fixed.  Summer is the time to actively process the last year and take the lessons you learned and prep for next year.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Daily journal writing

    Daily Journal Writing is also know as dialogue journals. Many schools engage in an activity know as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read). The idea is that students need to read everyday. While I wholly endorse this strategy, I strongly encourage teachers to employ the DEAW (Drop Everything and Write) strategy. Reading and Writing are the cornerstones of academics, but parents often can and do get their children to read at home. They may at times need reminders about how important reading is, but when reminded they can sit and read with a child. Writing is a much more daunting task for many children due to the many cognitive skills needed to write. Many parents, however, find it extremely difficult to get children to write at home. The child who balks at reading, will often downright refuse to write at home. As such while reading is fundamental, schools can help children tremendously by having children write for 10 minutes everyday. Dialogue journals are a great way to accomplish this. In this approach the child writes in a journal everyday, and the teacher then writes a short reply. The teacher uses this opportunity to model correct writing and to model more complete language or vocabulary for the child in a nonjudgmental format.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Consistency

    Consistency The use of consistency cannot be over emphasized in working with children. Imagine trying to learn your math facts when every day 2+2 equaled a different number. Consistency in classroom routines and in the use of instruction allows children to feel safer, to know what to do to achieve success, and to adapt to the teacher’s teaching style. Children lose motivation when expectations and rewards are inconsistent. Imagine that every two weeks when you receive your paycheck the amount varied from zero to a thousand dollars. Not knowing how much you would get paid would lead to stress, superstitious behavior, and finally finding a different job.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D.2009

    Rules

    Many children with specific disabilities have difficulties following what would seem to be obvious and clear rules. These children can often be perceived as rude or as purposefully oppositional. Before those assumptions can be made, however, it is important to clarify if a rule was not followed due to a problem with the rule, with a child being unable to follow a rule, or whether it was due to a child understanding the rule but choosing not to follow the rule. This is important as unless we know why the child did not follow the rule we cannot teach the child the skills they need to follow the rule the next time.

    Rules work best when they are used to tell students what we want them to do. Several years ago, I was doing teacher training in an urban school. As I walked into the school I looked at the list of rules posted on the wall. The No. 1 rule listed stated the number one expectation “Don’t bring guns to school”. So clearly the number one expectation of these students was that they were hoodlums who would bring guns to school.

    This is not the message we want to sent to children.  My three number one rules for any classroom are as follows:
      • The No. 1 rule in every classroom is “Learn”
      • The No. 2 rule is “Respect other people’s learning”
      • The No. 3 rule is “Take chances – make mistakes”.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Color coded handouts

    Students can greatly benefit when teachers use a color coding system in the classroom. This can be as simple as tests are on a cream colored paper, handouts on light blue, and study sheets on a light green. This enables students to more easily keep track of papers and materials. These color coded systems can be more complex, for example Social Studies materials are light blue, Science is light green, etc..
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Activate Past Knowledge

    Preteaching techniques are some of the most effective ways to spur student interest and to prime the pump of past knowledge. This helps connect the new material with past knowledge and ideas. It can also help by encouraging generalization across settings, particularly if the students are encouraged to think about what they know about a subject from their home settings. There are numerous ways to trigger past knowledge. These can include cognitive webbing techniques, word association games, or simply reviewing key vocabulary and past terms before beginning a new topic.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2008

    Give children a printed Cognitive Toolbox

    This consists of a list of the different tools we have taught them to complete specific tasks. There can be hundreds of such lists, and we must choose the right one for each child. Essentially however, the idea is when you go to approach a task around the house, it is often helpful to grab your toolbox to see what options you have, as this reminds you of your options, “Oh, the needle nose pliers will probably help here.” We often teach children strategies and then are surprised when they do not apply them. However when we give a child a list of strategies to think of, they often will then use the strategy. This simple technique can be used for specific academic tasks such as reading, writing, spelling, as well as for classroom behavior. As an example a child who may always be asking for help may do well with a list posted on their desk that says:
    If I don’t know what to do. Try
    • Reading the directions
    • Looking at the board to see if directions are written there
    • Think back to what the teacher just said
    • Look at the teacher to see if they are giving any hints
    • If allowed ask my neighbor
    • Think of what I did the last time
    • If I still don’t know, raise my hand to ask the teacher
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2008

    Fidget toys

    Children with attentional difficulties and other diverse learners often get in trouble at school for fidgeting with pens, papers, etc. Rather than fight the child’s nervous system, a more helpful technique is to give the child Teacher approved fidget toys. This means that the toy is provided under the teacher’s direction. It also means that as a teacher you should pick toys that don’t drive you crazy. The rationale for fidget toys, is that for some children the effort to listen and not fidget is too much and they stop listening and instead focus on not fidgeting. The second rationale is that it works! The majority of children will listen better and take better notes if allowed to fidget. It is important however that this be under teacher control. There are hundreds of possible toys. These include clothespins, rubber bands, koosh balls, bean bags, playdough, pipe cleaners, wicky sticks, surgical tubing, etc.. It is very important however that before giving these items to children that the teacher specifically teach the child how to use these. Three general rules are: If it gets thrown it is gone; if it is used inappropriately it is gone; and you need to be looking and listening at me to continue to use it. If an error occurs, remove the toy, but only for a brief time. Many teachers find it helpful to have a box of fidget toys in the room, for students to grab as they enter the room. Don’t worry however, about a class of twenty-five children fidgeting continually all year. After the novelty of the first week wears off, only the children who need it will continue to use it.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D.2008

Strategies for Parents

    NY State Driver’s Manual for New Dads

    From the Democrat and Chronicle - A state agency says it has published a resource guide for new and expectant fathers in time for Father’s Day. New York’s Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance says the “Driver’s Manual for New Dads” has been distributed to hospitals. It covers topics ranging from establishing legal paternity to changing diapers. The booklet emphasizes the importance of fathers being involved in their children’s lives and being a good partner to the child’s mother. More than 40,000 of the brochures are being distributed to birthing hospitals across the state."
    Click this link to read the pdf.

    Toys versus gadgets and the importance of Language

    4/23/16
    Kids of all ages need to be engaged in conversation and with language with others. For younger children, this is typically their parents. An important study, however, that came out around the Holidays reported that when kids are playing with gadgets, parents and children engage in less actual conversation. This is not good news. This might seem helpful when we are talking about moody teens, but it is not. It is also very bad news with younger children who need more language and not less.
    Click this link to read the article.

    Nursery Rhymes and Early Reading

    4/1/14
    An informative article for parents and teachers on the importance of rhymes and nursery rhymes for young children and early elementary age children.
    Click this link to read the article.

    Getting picky kids to eat

    I have a number of picky eaters, and some very picky eaters, in my practice. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with being a picky eater, if… a child is eating a well rounded diet. Unfortunately those two statements tend not to go together.
    Increasingly science is revealing the importance of a well rounded diet. Indeed a recent study found that children who eat mainly processed and fried foods are at higher risk for showing symptoms of anxiety and depression versus children who eat a variety of foods including fish, and vegetables. We also know the importance of protein and of eating foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids (green leafy vegetables, nuts, and oily fishes) in the role of brain development. Unfortunately many picky eaters are not eating salmon on a regular basis.
    So here are general tips for getting a picky eater to eat.
    Don't take no for an answer. It really is that simple, although if they have been picky for years, it is not that easy. No parent should be a short order cook in their own house. If you are eating fish and a salad, then they should be eating fish and a salad.
    Establish a New Habit. If your child has been a picky eater for years, then you need to get them back into the habit of eating a variety of foods. In these cases, a parent can make a side dish for a child (ex. noodles). However, in most families with picky children that simply means that the child will eat the noodles but nothing else. So if you make a separate side dish, then the child must take a "no thank you bite" of the main dishes before eating the noodles. Over time two months or so, the no thank you bite gets bigger and bigger and the side dish smaller and smaller.
    Market your meal - As corny as it sounds, presentation is vital. We eat food because it looks good, smells good, and we have heard that it is good. So don't just throw the food on a plate and say "here" but talk it up. If you have a child that does not like their food to touch, but eats their food, then don't worry about it. That's a different problem, and they are after all eating.
    What are you eating? Model what you teach. If you never try new foods, your child will be more likely to not want to try new foods. So model for your child some adventure in your palate. Also talk about new foods you have tried, in a positive way. If you were out last night at a restaurant then tell them about the new food you tried, and paint an attractive picture so they will want to try it in the future.
    Get your kids involved in making the meal, and shopping for it. Pull a chair up to the counter and let your kids help make that meal. Getting them involved in making the food will actually help them get excited about eating it. Similarly take them shopping with you, and better yet take them out to a farmer's market with you.
    Go for a walk or get some exercise before dinner. This will naturally make them hungrier when they sit down to eat, and exercise helps reduce anxiety and increases mood. So they will be less anxious and happier when they sit down to eat, and more willing to try new foods.

    Sleep

    Making sure your child gets enough sleep is an extremely important, but under appreciated aspect of effective parenting.  Children learn better, behave better, and are more pleasant to be around when they get adequate sleep.  Many times in my practice we can improve a child's overall school and home performance by changing a child's sleep behaviors so that they get enough sleep.  Part of this process is following good sleep hygiene.  Here are some of the steps involved in making sure children get enough sleep
        Set a regular bedtime and set a regular sleep time.  Many of my patients have reasonable bed times but then spend anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours actually falling asleep.  Unfortunately some of children are lying in bed watching TV or playing a video game during this time, which prevents them from falling asleep.
      • No TV's or video games in the bedroom.
      • De-caffeinate. Drinking caffeine (soda, pop, tea, or coffee) to stay awake during the day can keep a child or adolescent up at night. Do not allow caffeinated beverages starting six to eight hours before bed.
      • De-stress. Many individuals find falling asleep much easier if they relax before bed.  This can include taking a hot bath, meditating, and/or to reading before bed.
      • Exercise. Exercise has a number of benefits including by relieving muscle tension. Because exercise can make you more alert, try not to do vigorous exercise right before bed time. Gentle upper-body or whole body stretches can be helpful in transitioning to sleep.
      • Make your bed a sleep haven. Don't have your child do stressful homework or other activities in bed.  They can then learn to associate the bed with these activities.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Independent Reading

    Parents and Teacher often struggle with choosing books for children to read.  Sometimes we find a book a we think a child will enjoy only to find that they are not reading it.  Sometimes this is due to the fact that the book is too hard for a particular child.  To judge if the book is at a student’s reading level is to use the five finger check.  To perform this check, pick a page from the book and have the child read it aloud.  Hold up a finger every time the child comes across a word he/she cannot read.  If there are more than five fingers up at the end of the page, the book is too hard for the child.  If the child is enjoying the book, however, that does not mean that they cannot read the book, but it does mean that they should either listen to it on tape (see resource section) or read it with aloud with you. 
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D.2009

    Summer Math

    Math like reading also needs to be worked on over the summer.  It can be harder, however, to fit in than reading.  Math. like reading, also builds mental muscles but different mental muscles, then reading.  Math can be worked into everyday life, because it is in everyday life.  The easiest ways to do this is through baking, cooking (1/2 cup here 1/4 cup here, and of course with money.  Having students keep a budget, check book, account ledger are also great ways to practice real world math.  There are also webpages and books (see resource page) that can be helpful. There are also a number of commercially available books and workbooks that can be helpful. Whichever tool you use, daily math practice helps build skills and builds brain skills.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D.2009

    Summer reading

    Just because school's over doesn't mean all learning is over with.  Summer is an opportunity to have great family experiences but also to have summer reading.  Concentration and focus are skills, and skills can be learned.  Yes children focus on their electronics but they need more challenging work to keep those mental habits strong. Reading and writing are some of the best techniques to build these skills.  Many local libraries have reading challenges over the summer that can be used to engage reluctant readers.  Journal or diary writing is a great way to get kids to flex those mental muscles.  In general, even though it's summer all children should still be asked to spend an hour a day on reading and/or writing.  
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D.2009

    Read in front of your children

    Children learn from watching what you do. If you talk about reading, but they only see you sitting and watching TV, then you are teaching them to sit and watch TV. Although you may spend your work day reading, children need to see you reading the paper, reading magazines, and reading books. They also need you to read to them, but many of us stop doing that once, our children learn to read. So go to the library and get 2 books out – one for them and one for you.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Connectedness

    Increase the amount of connectedness in your child’s life. Connectedness can be defined as having a sense of belonging. Children of course need to feel connected to their family, but children who are struggling also need to feel a sense of belonging with groups beyond the family. The more individuals that the child interacts with and feels a sense of connectedness to, the better for the child. Indeed research that has investigated the idea of resilience indicates that one of the protective factors for children is having another individual (adult) who believes in them, and inspires them.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Highly Effective Directions

    In addition to the steps for given directions, discussed below parents can also add a few points to directions they give their child to now move to giving them highly effective directions Highly effective directions incorporate three key additional components. Parents who use highly effective directions first state the desired behavior, ex. “Stay by my side in the store”. They then state the positive consequence for complying with the request “Stay by my side in the store and we will get a snack when we are done”. They also state how the child will please the parent when the follow the request. ex. “Stay by my side in the store and I’ll be so happy we will get a snack when we are done”.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2009

    Directions

    All children benefit from clear and concise directions or requests. Children with particular disabilities, however, require directions to be short, clear, and concise to increase their chance of complying with the requests. Particular types of directions are more likely to be followed by any child. Effective directions:
      • are short and to the point
      • are clear and concise
      • are statements and not questions "Pick that up” vs. “Would you pick that up for me?
      • are given in close physical proximity to the child
      • use prompting systems (written notes, pictures, post it notes) to serve as reminders of the direction.
    © Daniel J. DeMarle, Ph.D. 2008



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