Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where has all the gross motor movement gone?

It seems that between school, homework, after school activities like T.V./video games, and our multiple methods of transportation children are becoming more and more sedentary. 

Is a sedentary life a bad thing?  I suppose it depends on who you are talking to.  For some, gross motor movement is a challenge, for others it is a necessity. 

However, gross motor movement does provide nuerological benefits, it is said to improve active working memory and problem solving.

Knowing that gross motor movement enhances activie working memory and problem solving where would you supplement your day with a little more gross motor movement?

Here are a few interesting websites that have ideas for including physical activity in the classroom:


Friday, July 8, 2011

The King's Speech

I had an opportunity to watch The King's Speech a few nights ago, what an amazing movie!  What was even more gratifying for me was I had chosen to review chapter 7 of the book "Mind over Muscle".  One of the forms of motor function mentioned in the chapter is oromotor (speaking).  The theme of The King's Speech is one man's attempt to overcome his speech impedement and all of the emotional undercurrents of that disability. 

A large part of the movie is the relationship between Bertie (the man to be King) and his speech therapist.  Bertie reveals layers of emotional baggage tied to his speech impedement and the speech therapist listens and eventually acts as a mentor, friend and therapist.

What is our role supporting kids?  Is it to be a diagnostician, interventionist, mentor...?


Spatial Perception

I wanted to make sure to create a section for spatial perception.  I am still trying to connect all the concepts I have floating around in my head about spatial perception, memory and output. 

One distinction, and it could be a small point, but I found it intriguing to think about is how spatial ordering contrasts with sequential ordering.  When things are sequentially ordered they enter your mind in a serial order; however, when the job of spatial ordering is at hand information needs to be taken in as a whole.

Spatial ordering involves such things as:

knowing left from right
working within the margins on a page
picturing chacters while reading
remembering where you put things

This distinction between serial order vs. taken in as a whole says something, but what does it say?


Friday, July 1, 2011

Chapter 6: sequential ordering

Several years ago I read about a math program that combined math concepts with dance.  I thought the program sounded really neat and at the time wondered how I could "sell" dance steps to teachers, let alone explain to students how dancing and math are related.  After reading about sequential ordering and perception in chapter 6 I can now see a connection. 
Mel Levine explains when parents suspect a possible dysfunction in sequential perception parents can teach their children rhymes, try an instrument that stresses serial ordering or try rhythmic dance.
If one were to teach a rhythmic dance with the steps of a math problem could it help students to better sequence the steps of a math problem and have the added benefit of helping students with general sequential deficits?
Here is a link to the article I read several years ago:
Here is their program:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chapter 5: Ways with words

I do enjoy reviewing material I was introduced to in school.  Just like my favorite books I read periodically, new information has different meaning every time I read it.  What was most helpful for me in this chapter was the section on the practical considerations of language development.  As Kristen pointed out earlier, a classical education seems to pair nicely with the concepts and developmental stages noted in this chapter.
Language developmental stages:
K-2: rhymes, sound system and decoding
3-5: understand and construct sentences, follow directions, and vary syntax
5th grade: reading to gather new information
Middle School: discourse, memory and language work in perfect harmony
High School: verbal ability is a precision tool for making sense of abstract and technical concepts.
Karen, I was struck by how perfectly the "Write Tools" goes with the ideas presented in this chapter.  For those of you unfamiliar with the "Write Tools" here is a link to the program  I had an opportunity to attend one section of the "Write Tools" training, active reading strategies.  I observed a lesson on summarization at three different grade levels.  At the three grade levels the students were given an article, they read through the article, and then the teacher modeled the two step process of writing a summary.  Two parts of the summary process adeptly blended verbalizing and writing.  Students are asked to "write out loud" and at the end of the process the teacher asks a few students to share their summaries out loud.
The "Write Tools" could be used as an intervention for students.  Many of the students I work with struggle with the writing process, they fail to extract meaningful information from the text they are reading and cannot think critically.  When they are asked to do a free write they can't do it.  I ask the students to summarize; they can't do it.  It would be so powerful for them to be able to have the skills offered by the "write tools" to use in the classroom.  I would really like to integrate more writing into the time I spend with students and can see now how beneficial it would be for the students I work with who have a language based disability.  I am wondering what impact it would have.  What has been your experience with writing in the classroom? 
On a separate note I really love the idea of posing thoughtful questions to students, i.e. Socratic seminar style.  I have started to try and pose thoughtful questions to my children at the dinner table.  It has been interesting to see their responses and it has taken my relationship with my children to a whole other level.  I have found topics they care passionately about are much easier for them to discuss.  Other topics, I need to give quite a bit of background knowledge before we can have a meaningful conversation.      

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Using what we know about memory is one of the most practical ways to immediately improve learning gains in my estimation.  The transfer from short term, into active and then long-term memory is a delicate patterning of rules and procedures.  However, if applied effectively could significantly impact learning.   
What if one whole group intervention we put into place were lesson plans that followed the rules and procedures for efficient memory processing?  What would those lesson plans look like?  How would lesson plans designed to capitalize on transferring information from short-term to long-term memory impact instruction and learning? 
I know personally when I start teaching I quickly get lost in the hustle and bustle of the day.  Some of the best advice I got as a new teacher was "more is less".  Although I would like nothing more than to teach my students the things they need to grow quickly I know from experience it does not work.  I find the more intentional I am and the less I try to "cover" the more students seem to learn.  What has been your experience transferring information from student's short term memory to their long term memory?   

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Attention Control-Chapter 3

Thanks Kristen for the blogs first comment!  This is the first blog I have done so I think the only way you can participate is to "comment".  I am not sure how we balance individual needs with the needs of the whole class.  My approach will probably be to use the information and ideas from the book as the year progresses.  Right now I am in the grammar stage with the information I hope to move to the logic stage throughout the year as I plan for the year and encounter new learning needs.

Chapter 3-Attention Control
Everyday I see the delicate balance between the attention controls of our students.  It was extremely helpful for me to see the attention system broken down into three controls: mental energy, intake, and output. 
Attention control categories are helpful because I could use the categories to talk with teachers about how to scaffold and monitor these skills in the classroom.   While all of the areas are extremely important I feel like this is one of the areas we need to get a handle on or students will loose ground quickly.  A student's inability to develop their attention controls will affect their capacity to develop in all other neurological areas. 
 I can already think of some 3rd grade students who would be overwhelmed by the prospect of monitoring all three attention controls, but I think students could be directly taught most of the skills required for attention control.
Mental energy controls consist of four functions, while teachers cannot control one of the functions (sleep) it would seem we can help students with three of the functions.  How do you think teachers can control for alertness, mental effort and consistency in the classroom?  All aspects of Intake control could potentially be taught, even satisfaction control.  As with intake controls, output controls would be directly taught and scaffolded for students.  Can you think of one strategy you could use to teach or monitor one of the sub-functions of mental energy, intake or output control?