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August 26, 2017

Making a List and Checking It Twice

                I wonder if Santa is aware that he is using his brain efficiently each time he makes his list and then goes back and checks it twice.  Our brains love lists. Lists allow us to get all of those little things we need to get done out of our brain and onto paper (or our electronic notepad), where we can begin to focus on them.  When all of those things remain in our brain, we become stressed by the task of remembering everything and because of this, feel overwhelmed.  We are then more likely to fall prey to our procrastination cues (see June 3rd blog for more on procrastination cues).  When we make a list of tasks that we need to accomplish, we relieve stress on the brain because we have dumped out all of those tasks and created room for more important things, like learning math or science.  In this blog, we will discuss how to use lists most efficiently to support success in learning or in other areas of our life.

                If you ask a highly productive person how they get so much done, you will likely learn that they make a list of what they need to accomplish.  This list may be a simple daily To-Do List or it can be a complicated plan for the day, week, month, or year.  The important ingredient is that the list is written down, is no longer filling up your attention in your brain, and is easily accessed.  Students are often overwhelmed by the number of assignments they need to keep track of along with their work, sports, and social schedules.  Making a list of everything is the first step to actually accomplishing any of these things.

                You might be saying, “I make the list, but then I am overwhelmed by the number of items on my list!”  Now, you need to take the second step when utilizing the list strategy.  Each day, you need to choose two items from your list that are the most vital things you need to get done.  If you do nothing else, these two items will make a significant impact on your success for that day.  For example, on Friday, I had a long list of things that I needed to get done at work.  I decided that completing my “Weekly Update” to my program staff and returning phone calls were the two most important items to complete- continuing my regular means of communication with staff and addressing the needs of prospective students and partners.  Having done these two items, my stress decreased and my attention could begin to address additional, less pressing tasks on my list.

                Here’s what brain research says is the best way to go about making that list- create your list the night before.  Why?  Your brain can then work in diffuse mode as it works through the list to determine the best way to address it.  By the morning, you should have a good feel for your two most important items, as well as how you will knock them off your list.  Making a list ahead forces you to pause and reflect before finalizing your game plan. 

                Consider making a weekly To-Do list where you can get a big-picture perspective on what you need to do.  Put everything on your list- assignments, due dates, work schedules, events, a favorite TV show, practices, everything.  This weekly (or even monthly) list will help you to stay focused on the big goals.  From this weekly list, create you daily To-Do List.  Consider listing your leisure activities as well, since leisure time assists in your overall success and happiness.  Scheduling your quitting time is a way to assure that you will have time for your leisure pursuits.  Those who schedule in fun activities are the most productive (Oakley, 20140.  The fun stuff is on the list and your brain is working just as hard to find a way to accomplish the fun-stuff as it is working on the jobs!

                If you are still having trouble getting your two must-do tasks done, consider breaking each task into three micro jobs.  List these small jobs and savor the moment when you get to cross each micro job off your list.  The act of completing even the smallest job adds to your feeling of accomplishment and mastery over procrastination (Oakley, 2014).  Try doing the most difficult or least-liked job first. No matter how you go about working on your To-Do List, make sure that you “celebrate” each item that gets done!

                So, Santa did the right thing by making his list and then revisiting it to make sure those not-so-naughty children remained on the good list!        

Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240  
 





July 30, 2017  

   
Working with your Working Memory

                Your working memory is the part of memory that you are working with right now- the immediate, conscience process.  For example, when you need to remember a phone number, you may repeat the number over and over to yourself until you can write it down.  You are consciously trying to keep that piece of information in the front of your memory.   Researchers believe that we can only hold about four chunks of information in our working memory at a time.  As a result, your working memory can get filled to capacity, and that is why you might “choke” or freeze-up just when you need to perform.  In our last blog, we discussed steps to build chunks of knowledge that help to make room in our working memory.  In this blog, we will discuss more strategies for freeing up the working memory.

                I have been in many team meetings where the school psychologist or intervention specialist discussed the working memory and suggested “helps” for the student struggling with basic math- a number line taped to the desk for addition and subtraction problems, using math fact tables, a calculator, etc.  These “helps” allow the student to focus on the math processes and not get bogged down by the math facts that are not yet fluent.  Memorizing math facts is critical to opening up the working memory and allowing the brain to focus on the process.  I often observe college students who are struggling with the math facts and so they have little working memory room to grapple with the process.  Lack of math fact fluency slows down their progress.  I haven’t seen formal research, but it is widely believed that lack of math fact fluency correlates to difficulty with higher level math.  When you know your math facts fluently, there is minute working memory space used to retrieve the fact and the working memory can focus on the higher level process being presented.  If math facts are an issue, use retrieval practice to help build chunks- repeatedly quiz yourself on the facts you struggle with.  Don’t look at the answer until you work it through in your head- go back and think of a lower fact that you know, then add up, for example.  When you think you got it, test yourself on other facts, then repeatedly return to trouble facts.  You can do this in the car, on the bus, while waiting for a lesson to start, anywhere.  Don’t stop testing when you think you have mastered the problem facts.  Keep going over and over them throughout the day or week.  Remember the analogy of the pianist who practices that same string of notes over and over (last blog)?  It is the same with any skill that is difficult.  You must over practice (or over test yourself) until you have moved the fact (or process) into long-term memory and out of your working memory.  Voila’!  You have more room in your working memory to learn something new!

                 When you practice any new skill by testing yourself in this manner, you are putting the “testing effect” into action.  Testing of any kind, with or without feedback or the correct answers, deepens the neural connections in your brain and enhances long-term memory (Roediger, 2006).  Practicing anything improves your ability and practicing testing is no different.  When you practice testing yourself, you get better at the skill of testing and the skill you are testing.  Although practicing without feedback has shown that your skills still deepen, while you are studying, you want to check your answers in the back of the book, in your notes, or on the back of the math fact card.  Giving yourself feedback will speed up the process.  Also, working with peers and getting feedback from them is another strong method for deepening understanding and creating those essential chunks of knowledge. 
        
                  Remember that doing mini-tests, also known as forced recall or retrieval practice (covered in more detail in earlier blogs), is the best method for increasing learning and creating more space in working memory.  Passively rereading notes or problems is an inefficient method for studying and will take much longer when trying to master new knowledge.  The quicker you can move learning into long-term memory, the quicker you have space in your working memory for new learning that is being presented to you right now.  Start testing yourself!

Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240 



  
July 14, 2017

Help Me!  I’ve Choked!

                Most of us have experienced it.  We practice for a test, a game, or a performance, and then right when we want to show off our best, we choke.  We just can’t seem to find the solution, make the winning free throw, or hit that high note.  It’s easy to say to someone, “Shake it off!”  In fact, this phrase is said so frequently that I found the cutest card that has a photo of a big wet dog in the middle of a big shake, throwing water everywhere.  The inside note says, “Shake it off!”  Rather than telling someone to shake it off, wouldn’t it be better to tell the person the best ways to prepare so that they may never choke, again?  This blog discusses the process of creating chunks of learning in the brain that can be readily retrieved when we need it most.

                You are in the middle of a challenging math course and there is a test on Friday that you need to pass.  You have new formulas and processes to master and you are dreading Friday.  Research shows that the following steps are effective for retaining and retrieving the formulas and processes you need to be able to perform on Friday’s test:

1.  Using paper and pencil, work out a key problem all the way through, even if you think you can skip the easy parts by doing them in your head. As you work through each step, ask yourself if it makes sense. 
2.  Work out the same key problem again.  Barbara Oakley, in A Mind for Numbers, relates this to musicians who would never just play through a song one time.  As you work on each step, begin to notice if you are thinking ahead to the next step.  Are you beginning to get in tune with what you need to do each step of the way to the solution?
3.  Now, let the diffuse brain kick in.  Go do something different like listen to music, talk to a friend, or shoot some hoops.  Your brain is internalizing the processes (Oakley, 2014).
4.  Do that same problem again before you go to sleep.  As you sleep, your subconscious will continue to work on the problem.
5.  As soon as you can after you get up, work that problem, again.  This time, focus on any aspects of the process that is difficult or confusing.  Focusing on the hard stuff is called “deliberate practice” and can be seen when a musician or singer continually repeats that same string of notes.  This is the most important part of productive studying.
6.  Now, add a new problem and work on it in the same way.  The first problem was your first chunk of learning and now by working the second problem methodically, you will create your second learning chunk, and so on. These chunks become related and interconnected in the brain as you deepen your learning.
7.  In between your chunking activities, do forced recall exercises- force yourself to recall the steps you found difficult.  This step using forced recall strengthens your ability to recall key information when you need it for the test. (More information about these steps can be found in A Mind for Numbers by B. Oakley)

        I show the following video to my students and all express new appreciation for the role of forced recall in their study routines-  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFIK5gutHKM

        A week of studying using these steps will lay a foundation for future learning, rather than simply memorizing only for Friday’s test.

       On a final note, I never gave that “shake it off” card to anyone because it always seemed to be making too light of a given situation.  But, I think sharing these steps would offer hope and new motivation to work past “a choke” and really be able to “shake off” bad study habits and replace them with great study habits.
      
Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240 


June 3, 2017

Breaking the Procrastination Cycle

          In our last blog, we offered many strategies to help you break the procrastination cycle.  Hopefully, you tried one of the new strategies and are finding that you are more in control of getting your important tasks done.  In this blog, we want to discuss what happens to the procrastination cycle when you implement just one new strategy or behavior.  We will help you to understand how and why the cycle changes.  This new knowledge will empower you to continue to use your new strategy and as a result, increase how much work you get done each day- resulting in more study time and grade improvement!  If you haven’t yet implemented a new strategy, go back to the last blog and choose a strategy before reading on.

          Changing just one behavior will change your patterns of procrastination.  Procrastination happens because we react the same way every time to a certain cue.  For example, we hear our cell phone alert and we check our texts.  As a result of checking our texts, we go into a routine such as spending the next 15 minutes texting back and forth.  We get a reward from the interchange and so we repeat this routine the next time we hear our cell phone alert us to a text.  Most of us get texts from lots of people, so we continue to respond and continue our routine.  We also believe that we need to talk to our friends, and that if we don’t, we’ll miss out on something important.  We continually follow this cycle of cue, routine, reward, and belief  perpetuating our procrastination cycle.  When we react differently to the cue, such as when our cell phone alerts ( same cue), we turn off our cell phone for 20 minutes before we respond to a text ( new response to the cue).  We then complete 20 minutes of work (new routine) and get the reward of getting some work done ( new reward).  We postponed communicating and nothing changed, so our belief that we need to keep in constant and immediate communication changed ( new belief).  We can then reward ourselves with checking our phone and being in control of when and how we respond to a procrastination cue.  We create a new behavioral cycle, which leads to another new belief that we need to complete work before we reward ourselves with a pleasurable activity.  Think about your procrastination cue.  What cycle do you follow in response to your cue?  What can you do differently in response to your cue? (Cue, Routine, Reward, Belief Cycle, Oakley, 2014)

           Procrastination often begins because we feel accomplishment when completing a task, any task.  Making a snack, sharpening a pencil, watering a plant, even cleaning a closet can be part of a procrastination pattern because these tasks bring a feeling of accomplishment.  I had a friend who had the cleanest house in the county while she tried to work on her master thesis.  She cleaned instead of getting down to working on the thesis because cleaning brought a feeling of accomplishment while the thesis brought a feeling of frustration. Often, we find ourselves doing almost anything other than the task that needs to be completed.  (If you go back two blogs, you can read more about why we do this- Blog title   Procrastination Hurts!)  By changing our response to our own procrastination cue, we can create a new pattern of behavior leading to new accomplishment and success.       
  
Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240 




May 21, 2017

Beat Procrastination!

          Did you feel any “pain” this month from procrastinating?  You were probably not aware of the pain, but more than likely you were aware of the stress and anxiety associated with those tasks you keep putting off.  We all procrastinate- some of us a little and some of us a lot!  We now know that each time we procrastinate, the pain sensors in our brain fire-up ( to learn more, read the last blog! ).  In this blog, we are going to jump right into strategies you can try to help you combat procrastination and relieve the stress and anxiety that results from procrastination.  Although we have been talking mostly about struggles related to reading, math, and science, procrastination can creep into many aspects of our life and these strategies can help.

Think about something you want to get done and try one of the following:

Strategy #1- Top Procrastination Buster-  Set a timer for 25 minutes and work steadily on your task for only 25 minutes.  When the timer sounds, step back and survey your progress and then take a break.  Use these 25 minute work spurts to knock out the task a little at a time.  Utilizing breaks will allow your brain to continue working on the task which will help you complete the task more effectively or with deeper understanding. 

Strategy #2-  To attack a big reading assignment, use sticky notes to break down the task into smaller reading assignments.  Place the stickies at strategic stopping points.  Each time you reach a sticky note, celebrate your accomplishment and take a break.

Strategy #3-  Many people procrastinate because they are concerned that the they can’t finish the final product.  Stop thinking about the product and instead focus on the process.  Short bouts of working on the process will result in a completed final product. 

Strategy #4-  Put in time on your studies (or task) everyday, even if you are simply organizing your materials.  If you keep the subject or task in the forefront of your attention, you will work more and more on it because your brain will keep thinking about it between work sessions.  Each time you return to work on it, it is easier because it is all fresh and active in your mind.  Two hours a day will also give you the benefit of keeping up, and you don’t have to miss out on fun activities!  I personally can vouch for this system as a means I used to achieve higher education and not miss any of my family obligations and fun.

Strategy #5-  Turn off your cell phone and internet during all work sessions.  Our world is filled more and more with electronic distractions and these are often used to avoid what we need to get done.

Strategy #6-  If you find it difficult to get started, take a short, brisk walk or run.  Exercise helps to clear the mind.

Strategy #7-  Eat a snack before you start working so that you aren’t distracted by your hunger.  You also won’t have the excuse to leave your work to get a snack because you are hungry.

Strategy #8-  Break your tasks down into small goals and set a reward when each smaller task is complete- maybe 10 minutes of TV (don’t forget to set a times, so you don’t ever reward yourself!).

Strategy #9-  If electronic distractions are a problem for you, set a timer so that you don’t find yourself hours later playing a game or communicating with friends when you were suppose to be working.  Give yourself ten minutes with electronics, 25 minutes with work, ten minutes with electronics, and so on.

Strategy #10-  Savor what you get done!  Having done years of family laundry, I hate folding clothes.  I have made the task more pleasant by watching how the basket of clothes shrinks and shrinks with each item folded.  Using this strategy, I am rewarding myself throughout an unpleasant task.  If you get a few math problems done, sit back and reflect on how well you did!

          By choosing one of these strategies and employing it consistently, you will build a new habit instead of procrastinating.  Try something new today! 
In the next blog, we will go more into detail on how these strategies work.

Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240 

               

  

April 29, 2017

Procrastination Hurts!

                Have you ever found yourself putting off an unpleasant task even though you know you would be better off just getting it done?  Perhaps right now, you are reading this blog rather than getting started with a job like your research paper or math homework!  Did you know that if you were under an MRI and thinking about that dreaded paper or homework, that the pain centers in your brain would be firing (Lyons and Beilock, 2012)?   That’s right!  You actually feel pain when you think about the task, but do nothing about getting started with the task.  Brain researchers believe that this feeling of pain is what causes the pattern of procrastination so many of us experience (Boice, 1996). 

Here’s how it works:  It’s Friday night, and you have ten difficult math problems to be turned in Monday morning.  You think about those ten difficult problems, you feel anxiety, your pain centers fire up, you momentarily think of something pleasant you’d rather do like texting your friend, you spend 30 minutes texting (more pleasure), then you go to the video site your friend told you to check out, you watch videos for another 30 minutes (more pleasure), and by that time you are so distracted that you decide to go for a ride to clear your mind (more pleasure).  When you experienced pain associated with the math problems, you found a pleasant activity to avoid the pain.  On Saturday morning, a similar pattern starts but this time the pain has increased because you are closer to your deadline and you try harder to relieve the pain.  Each time you avoid the math problems over the weekend, you convince yourself that you don’t know how to do them anyways, and you tell yourself that you will never be very good at math, so why try.  With each cycle of procrastination, your pain associated with the task increases, you avoid the pain with a momentary pleasant activity, and your procrastination patterns solidify. 
           Now, here’s the crazy part of partaking in our procrastination patterns.  When we actually start the avoided task, the pain centers quit firing and pleasure centers fire instead!  You read that right!  The act of just getting started with a task removes all of the pain associated with that put-off task.  With procrastination, we avoid pain by creating our own short-lived pleasure moments when we could permanently relieve that pain by starting the task that is causing the pain in the first place!  Human nature is a confusing thing.

           After procrastinating all weekend, the math problems are still not done and cramming is the only option.  In our last blog, we learned that cramming actually wastes time and effort as we complete the task on a very surface level and with less success.  Our learning is difficult and we may conclude that we aren’t cut out for challenging math classes or careers.  The reality may be that procrastination has interfered with our success, not an inability to learn difficult content. 

            If you are challenged with procrastination, reflect on the pattern of procrastination described in this blog and ask yourself if it rings true for you?  Spend time examining your procrastination patterns and learn what triggers make you avoid an unpleasant task.  Become aware of how procrastination is negatively impacting your perceptions of success.  Ask others if you are procrastinating and allow them to offer you insight into your patterns.  In the next blog, we will learn effective strategies to change our patterns of procrastination. 

Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240 

    
  

  

March 28, 2017

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Study Time?

          When a student is struggling in middle school or high school, an adult will inevitably ask, “Are you studying enough?”  Most students will answer with an emphatic, “Yes!” In fact, many struggling students who want to do better and desire to learn will experience frustration with the amount of time they spend “studying” while their grades and school performance remain unchanged.  In this blog, we will look at better ways to use study time and in the process, learn how to study less and with more effectiveness. 
         
          Many students fool themselves by thinking that spending time reading the pages of a book equates to learning the content.  Even reading and rereading pages doesn’t correlate to gaining understanding of the content.  An effective method for reading is to read a paragraph, look away, stop and think briefly about what was just read, evaluate understanding, reread that paragraph only if necessary, and then move on to the next paragraph.  Another, even more effective reading method is to read a paragraph, decide on the main idea of the paragraph (which is not always the first sentence) and highlight only that sentence or phrase. Students often make the mistake of highlighting too much information which is as effective as not highlighting at all.  Many students falsely believe that the act of highlighting causes the content to be absorbed into the brain.  The most effective method of reading and absorbing is to read a paragraph, stop, think, and evaluate understanding, reread if necessary, highlight the main idea, and summarize the most important information into one sentence or phrase written in the margin or on a sticky note.  Here’s what you just accomplished-  you read it, absorbed it, and prepared for an upcoming test by writing down the most important information.  You did this all at one time instead of spending time reading and rereading, going back to take notes, and deciding what was really important in an over-highlighted text.  When you need to study for the big test, simply return to your highlights and margin notes, but instead of just rereading these, quiz yourself on what you remember and then check your understanding by consulting the highlights and margin notes.  If you have trouble recalling key information, then reread that single paragraph.  In addition, students who experience a wandering mind while reading, will benefit from practicing these effective reading methods.  These methods force the brain to attend to the content. 

Note-  Rereading can be effective if you space out your readings.  Each time you return to reread, you will absorb something new and at a deeper level, but when do students have the time to leave hours and days between reading to create an effective spaced repetition strategy?  

          ​ How does this apply when working through math or science problems?  After you read about a math or science concept, look away from the book and recall what you can about how to do the problem.  Ask yourself what you understand and don’t understand.  Reread the concept, evaluate your understanding and proceed to the next concept only if your recall was complete.  If recall is not complete, reread and work out a problem independently, evaluating understanding and confusion.  Forced recall is the key (discussed in more detail in an earlier blog).  Students fool themselves into thinking they understand how to do a problem by following along with the example presented in the book.  From this faulty strategy, the student can only assume that they understand the problem when the solution is in front of them, but not when they have to find the solution on their own.  The author did the work, not the student.  This also applies to the answers at the back of the book.  If a student simply checks their understanding through the given answers, they may mistakenly assume that they understand all parts of the problem.  Try the problem independently, evaluate what you don’t understand, check the solution at the back of the book to help with clearing up your misunderstanding.  Try another problem independently and evaluate if your understanding is clearer.  Then check your answer.  In this method, the student uses the solutions to deepen learning, not to fool themselves into thinking they understand.  A student can also come to an instructor with a clear perception of what they do and don’t understand.  Instructors are happy to help a student who has put this amount of effort into their own learning.  Working through the content in this method will save time and increase student success because the focus is on gaps in understanding.  Finding gaps in understanding is the key to all good study strategies.  
      

Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240  



March 12, 2017

Sleep on It!

                Has anyone ever told you to “sleep on it” before making an important decision?  It turns out that this is very good advice.  Brain research tells us that sleep plays a significant role in decision making, as well as in learning, processing, and enhancing the quality of our life!  You may be saying, “I already know this.  The more sleep I get, the better I feel and the better I perform.”  But, do you know what sleep does for your brain and how to maximize the effects of sleep?  Read on for better brain functioning!
            We now know that we must do more than just close our eyes and drift off to sleep if we want to “sleep on it” and wake up with a clearer understanding of our decision.  We actually need to follow a few steps to get the full potential of our sleep:

 1.  During the day or evening, you must devote focused time working through the decision (or math problem, the subject of an essay, or what you are going to do next time that cute guy or girl at school says hello!)
2.  Just before falling to sleep, put the decision “in your mind” by thinking about it a little and telling yourself to work on this problem while you are sleeping (Erlacher and Schredl, 2010).
3.  Upon waking, immediately bring your decision (or whatever you asked your brain to do) to your attention and become aware of any new insight or clarity.

                For myself,  I find that my clarity comes not immediately upon waking, but while I am getting ready for the day.  I attribute this to my brain being in the focused mode when I purposefully bring the issue to my attention upon waking and then my brain going into a diffused mode while I am getting ready (if you need definitions of focused and diffuse mode, read the last two blogs).  I use this “sleeping on it” process regularly now that I understand how it works and how helpful it is in my daily decisions and responsibilities.  I feel like I have a little more time in my day because I am letting my sleep do some of the work for me, and I can get on with what needs to be done with more clarity and confidence.  I use this method for planning, working through people problems, and especially when I need to dive into something I have never done before.

                Here’s why sleep works-  Focused brain time followed by diffused brain time allows the brain to process information and create innovative connections with old information.  This is an example of synthesizing, a concept you may have heard from your teacher.  During sleep, your brain erases trivial memories and ideas and at the same time strengthens areas of importance, so the solution becomes clearer.  Your brain goes over and over what you are trying to learn (or decide), strengthening your grasp of the concept (Ji and Wilson, 2006).  Sleep also “cleans out” your brain.  While we are awake, our brain accumulates toxins.  While we sleep, our cells shrink allowing fluid to move between our cells washing away those toxins (Oakley, 2014).  The less you sleep, the more those toxins build up.  The more toxins, the less clearly you think causing the brain fog you may have experienced when sleep deprived.  Think how counter-productive it is to stay up all night cramming for an exam!  Practicing short study periods followed by a good night’s sleep will get you further along in your studying than doing all of your studying in one night. 

                             Getting a good night’s sleep might be the edge you have been looking for!


Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240


  


February 19, 2017

      Get Ready to Learn!    
 
                We learn all of the time, but how often do we ever consciously prepare to learn?  Learning to prepare our brain can significantly ease the way for learning new and difficult concepts.  For example, I am often surprised when I talk to struggling readers about how they begin the process of reading a textbook.  Most just start at the first chapter and begin reading.  When I talk about previewing the entire book before reading, many look at me like I just told them something absurd, time consuming, and unnecessary.  After I explain what happens in the brain if they preview before reading, it’s like a light turns on and from that point on, they are hooked on previewing.  In fact, as they practice this skill, many begin to make connections in other areas of life or school where previewing or “pre-learning” helps them to master new concepts. 
               Here’s what happens in the brain when you preview or pre-learn.   In the case of a new textbook, the student looks at the Table of Contents, skims for interesting photos and illustrations, reads a few captions, reads the subtitles, skims for bolded vocabulary words, and checks to see how long or how difficult the text appears.  Each time the student previews one of these areas of a new book, the brain scans its memory stores for something the student already knows about the topic.  The brain begins to make connections and pull-up stored, related information.  Making connections jump-starts the learning process.  The more tidbits of information we have stored in our brain, the easier our brain will make connections.  (Children who have lots of experiences, lots of conversations, and lots of people reading to them have a natural hand-up on learning because they have more information to pull-up and make connections with.)  Even when the student is no longer previewing the textbook, the brain continues to make new and different connections in the background (That’s the diffuse brain we learned about in the last blog continuing to work for us!).  The student is increasing their learning effortlessly by simply previewing a textbook rather than doing just the hard part of reading the chapters.  Students report that their future reading of the text is easier and more engaging because of previewing before reading.
                  A student who learns science and math concepts easily, often automatically prepares to learn more than a student who struggles with difficult math and science concepts.  The stronger student previews material, reads the text, researches related materials on-line, talks to others about the concept, and generally immerses themselves in the new concept quite naturally without effort.  Often this happens because there is a deeper interest in the concept and more background knowledge.  As he or she learns more, their background knowledge increases, and their interest deepens even more. Contrast this with a struggling student.  There may have been little interest and background knowledge to start with.  The student doesn’t naturally do what the stronger student does, so the struggling student doesn’t immerse themselves, doesn’t build those connections, and continues to struggle.  Often, the struggling student has a mind-set that they aren’t good at this new concept anyways because they don’t know how to bridge the gap between strong and struggling.  Barbara Oakley’s research in A Mind for Numbers has found that preparing to learn and using the brain efficiently is more important than the focused study time all students are familiar with.
                  The struggling student needs to do more background knowledge building than the strong student to bridge the gap between what the strong student knows and understands and what the struggling student knows and understands. 

Here are some of the pre-learning strategies a struggling student can use:
1.  Preview the text, chapter, or unit of the book.
2.  Read and reread the chapter or unit, but leave an hour or more between readings (a day between readings is very effective).
3.  Google the concept or related research.
4.  Read an article on the subject.
5.  Watch a YouTube video on the subject.
6.  Listen to a TED Talk on the subject.
7.  Talk to someone knowledgeable.


                 You may be thinking that it takes a lot of time to do these things.  You are right!  The struggling student needs to leave time for building background knowledge, time for focused study time on the new concept, and time to allow the brain to work while in diffuse mode between these other activities.  The key is to give the brain plenty of time to absorb new learning and make new connections. 

    
Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



February 5, 2017

The Einstellung Effect

          In the last blog, we learned about the focused and diffused modes of the brain.  For many, this was a new idea, and new ideas are often difficult to grasp.  If we accept the difficulty and proceed patiently with new ideas, we can actually increase our learning of the new idea.  Often students get stuck because they expect complete understanding as soon as they are introduced to something new.  They can be so focused on learning everything at once that they actually block out a better or different way of perceiving the new information (Oakley, 2014).  This is called the Einstellung Effect.  It can be translated as “installing”, or we can think of it as installing a roadblock in the way of looking at the idea.   This often happens in science when our first hypothesis is misleading.  It can also happen in math and even in our personal life.  We hold to a particular solution and keep focusing on the same method to get to the solution, not allowing new and better ideas in (Gobet, 2008).  Students get stuck because they want to get through the assignment to get a good grade in the class, but instead they can be installing a roadblock in their understanding. 

          To remove the Einstellung roadblock, a learner needs to take a new approach.  A new approach can be found when you turn off your focused thinking and turn on your “big picture” diffuse mode.  You can do this by reading about the scientist behind your science assignment, going back to read the math textbook, googling the concept (something you might have just done to look up the Einstellung Effect), watching a math video on Kahn Academy, or talking to someone on the phone about a solution.  All of these strategies add background information to help your brain make new and novel connections for you.  Building background knowledge in any field increases learning success.

          When my college students have expressed concerns over getting stuck in one of their courses, I have often suggested the following: 
1.  Study the subject, math problem, or vocabulary words intensely for 45-60 minutes or so. 
2.  Walk away for a short break, maybe 30 minutes. 
3.  Return and study again with less intensity and for a short period of time, maybe 30-45 minutes. 
4.  Leave the studying for a long period, maybe overnight. 
Each time the student returns to the studying, the concept should come more easily and more clearly.  The key is to keep returning to study more.  Others might suggest a 25 minute on and 25 minute off cycle.  Remember during the diffused, relaxed brain mode not to enter into another focused activity like a video game, or even internet surfing depending on how intensely you go about it.

          If you are experiencing the Einstellung Effect in your studies or life, take some time to build background knowledge on your topic and get a new perspective.  Then, step away and give your brain a chance to relax. You may begin to realize that you go through the focused and diffuse modes many times throughout the day.  You will also likely notice that you have your most creative and “aha” moments during those diffuse mode times.   With this second look at focused and diffuse modes, I hope you deepened your understanding and added new strategies for effectively increasing learning.
  
Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240




January 22, 2017

There are Better Ways to Learn

            With the new year, comes a new blog series.  In previous blogs, we focused on literacy.  Now, we will transition to a focus on improving how we learn new information, especially when learning something challenging like math or science.   The learning strategies and research you will read about in this series can actually help anyone become better at anything.  There are common learning, practice, and study skills effective for all new learning situations.  This blog series will share some of this research.

             Have you ever had the experience of racking (yes, that spelling is correct) your brain to remember where you stored a document on your computer?  Out of frustration, you leave the task and take up doing something else.  When you return to looking for the document, more often than not, you can easily remember just where you stored it.  Have you ever struggled with finding just the right words when writing?  I have found that each I time I turn away from the writing and pursue something different, I return with fresh words that flow easily.  These are common examples of how we use our brains in a focused mode versus what Barbara Oakley in her fascinating book, A Mind for Numbers, calls the diffused brain mode.  With these two examples, we focused intently and then stepped back to allow the brain to relax.  When the brain is in that relaxed or diffused state, it can continue to work on a task even when another activity has taken its attention.  Research shows that actively utilizing the diffused mode of the brain can significantly increase your efficiency when problem solving or learning new tasks.  When in the focused mode, the brain makes few neural connections.  It sticks to the concepts you are guiding it to focus on.  On the other hand, when you allow the diffused brain to take over, your brain makes many neural connections as it filters that focused information throughout the brain allowing old ideas and new ideas to come together in unique ways (Wilson, 2010).   To learn about and be creative in math and science, we need to strengthen and use both the focused and diffuse modes (Immordino-Yang, 2012).

              You may not consider yourself to be naturally inclined towards math or science.  You also may assume that your child may not be, either.  Brain research shows that the way we learn difficult concepts may be as important as our natural tendencies (Oakley, 2014).  Oakley believes that by using the focused and diffuse modes, anyone can learn math and science concepts with deeper understanding.  When struggling with new learning, take a break from the focused attention you are applying.  Try a short walk, listen to some music, or clean up a room.  Just be careful not to jump into another focused activity like a video game- that would create a continued state of focus and it would prevent the brain from making new connections.  I am now going to walk away from this blog, check the laundry, and come back to proof-read before publishing…………………. Just as I expected!  The diffuse brain took over and brought better wording for my final revision- I hope you agree!

   Let us know what you think of this blog at cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

  
December 31, 2016

Good Readers Ask Questions

            Did you try the “think aloud” reading activities suggested in the last blog (Dec. 10, 2016) to help your struggling reader?  In this blog, you will learn how good readers ask essential  questions while reading. 
 A good reader must ask questions of the text as they read.  Such questions keep a reader engaged with the text and help the reader to monitor their understanding of the text.  Here is an interesting learning theory tidbit-  When we are confused about something, simply formulating a question about it can actually answer that question without any further effort.  When applied to reading, asking questions about the text keeps the reader focused on their understanding of what they are reading and motivates the reader to resolve misunderstandings.

           A basic question readers must ask is, “What did I just read?” A good reader should briefly stop after each paragraph or so and ask this question.  As a reader gets into more difficult text, such as in high school or college, this question helps the reader to monitor how well the paragraph was understood.  Sometimes, a reader finds themselves reading and rereading the same words without thinking.  Asking this question and then answering it requires forced recall.  It will often break the cycle of reading words without thinking.  A brief written summary of the paragraph in the margin of the book or on a sticky note is an effective method of forcing recall of what they just read.  Here is another interesting learning theory tidbit- Forced recall is one of the most effective strategies for studying important information (Reodiger, 1978).  Multiple readings are much less effective than reading and recalling.  (Those short written summaries can then be used to review before a test.)

           It is also important to be aware of when you are confused in your reading.  A good reader asks, “What was confusing about what I just read?”  For example, while recently reading a story about Hurricane Sandy in Reader’s Digest, I was confused about how a named person fit into the chain of events.   If I had not focused on my confusion, I would not have stopped, thought about the person, and then checked back in the story to resolve my confusion.  Often, readers will just keep reading without resolving their confusion and so their comprehension suffers.  Asking and answering questions increases the reader’s awareness for the need to resolve confusion.  Sometimes, poorly written text is the cause of the confusion.  (Even textbooks can be poorly written.)  By asking questions, readers learn to recognize poorly written text.

          Asking questions does not come naturally to struggling readers.  As discussed in previous blogs, struggling readers may need to see how questioning works by having a good reader model it for them through a read aloud.  Even high school students can benefit from modeling.  Continue focusing on what is happening in your own thoughts as you read to your child by asking questions and resolving text confusion out loud.  You may notice that your own enjoyment of reading increases as a result.
  

Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

  


December 10, 2016

What is Reading?

            Have you ever asked your child, “What is Reading?”  Most children will respond that it is figuring out the words, but few children will put importance on figuring out the meaning of the words.  We need to help children understand that reading is thinking about text to make meaning as they decode the words.  Decoding alone will not engage children in text so that they will want to keep reading.  Teaching children how to engage with text is often needed, especially with struggling readers.
      
          In the last blog, we discussed making predictions about what will happen in the story (fiction) or what will be learned in the text (non-fiction) based on the title.  Making predictions is one way for children to engage with the text and support comprehension.  In this blog, we will take another step into comprehension with the practice of making connections with text.  Can you recall a story that really spoke to you?  A story that reminded you of a familiar experience or person, and as you read the story, you vividly pictured that experience or person?  This is making connections with text.  Such connections make you want to read another story by this author and it spawns your enthusiasm for reading.  Many children need modeling to understand how to engage with text.  They need practice making connections, so they too can develop an interest in reading. 

            To model making connections, I encourage you to read aloud to your child, even with children who can already read to themselves.  Choose a book rich in vocabulary and imagery such as something by Patricia Polacco.  She tells warm tales about her family and heritage as she shares her upbringing among a large extended family.  As you read such a book to your child, stop and share who the characters remind you of in your family.  When the characters play hide and seek in the woods, stop and tell about a game you played as a young child.  Ask your child if a character brings to mind anyone or anything in his or her own life.   As you read aloud, engage in a “think aloud” so your child can “see” what is happening in your mind as you read.  As you connect with something in the text, put it into words and share it with your child. 

             The novelist E. L. Doctorow says, “…any book, if it is good, is a printed circuit for your own life to flow through.  You are imagining the words…and you are thinking of the various characters in terms of people you’ve known, not in terms of the writer’s experience, but your own.”  When your child interacts with the text, reading becomes important (Harvey, 2000).  Active reading, such as happens when your child makes personal connections to text, changes how your child interacts with text.  Your child begins thinking about what he or she is reading.   Thinking about text is reading and is the active practice of comprehension.  As you read aloud to your child and you share your connections, you are modeling comprehension for your child.  Often, comprehension is an abstract concept for a child, but your modeling and sharing will offer concrete practice in comprehension. 

  
  
Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

  
  


September 30, 2016

Improve Your Child's Comprehension Through “Thinking Alouds” 

          We have all heard how important it is to read to our children.  Reading to children develops their vocabulary, their interest in books, and their knowledge on many topics, to name just a few of the good things that reading does for our children.  Did you know that you can also develop your child’s comprehension if you learn to “think aloud” as you read his or her favorite book?  A “think aloud” is sharing what you are thinking about as you read. 
         Comprehension happens inside the head.  It is not something a child can see, and so comprehension can be a mystifying process to a struggling reader.  Comprehension can also be described as an inner self-dialogue about meaning (Block & Israel, 2004).  Think about how hard it is for a struggling reader to develop an effective inner-dialogue while reading if they can’t see it happening in a good reader.  You are a good reader, and you can help your child “see” what is happening in your head while you read.
         Try this-  Before you start reading a book to your child, read the title and tell your child that you like to make a prediction about what you think the book will be about (fiction).  If the book is non-fiction, make a prediction or statement about something you hope to learn based on the title.  Share your prediction or statement and ask your child to share what they think is coming in the text.  Then think about what you know about the topic or the title and share this with your child.  Tell your child that good readers take inventory of what they know and don’t know about a topic so that they can learn more and enjoy the book more as they read.  You have just verbalized the cognitive processes that you do automatically when you pick up a book.  You have modeled those processes for your child and have begun to learn the art of a “think aloud” to help improve your child’s comprehension.   You have already taught your child important information about being a good reader and you haven’t even opened the book, yet!       

Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240

 
 
    
September 2, 2016

Building a New Neural Pathway to Help Your Child Read and Spell Sight Words

               
          Often, students struggle with reading and spelling Sight Words.  These words are also called High Frequency Words.  These words are special because we can’t sound out these words- How would you sound out w-a-s? or o-f?  or c-o-u-l-d?  No wonder kids have trouble with these words!  For the most part, kids are instructed to memorize these words through their visual memory.  This works for some kids, but many others need additional strategies to master the reading and spelling of these difficult words.  Visual memory can become “full” or overwhelmed as more and more words bombard our kids.  We want to create a new way for the brain to remember these words- a New Neural Pathway. 

A Multisensory Strategy to Create a
New Neural Pathway f or Remembering Sight Words (and other words such as vocabulary)

Steps to Success:

1.   Write one Sight Word on each of five index cards (three is also fine if your child is struggling with five words).  Write it big and with red marker.  The red color reminds kids that these words can’t be sounded out like other words.
2.  Have your child trace the word with his or her finger, saying the letters aloud and finishing with reading the word as they underline the word with the finger.
3.  Repeat step two with another finger.
4.  Repeat step two using the red marker tracing directly onto the card.
5.  For the fourth repetition, have the child write the word on another piece of paper with the red marker or pen, saying the letters, and finishing by reading the word.

NOTE-  Make sure that your child reads the letters each time, looks at the card as they read the letters, and finishes by reading the word.  Also, make sure they ARE NOT SOUNDING OUT THE LETTERS.

     In this manner, your children are seeing the words/letters, hearing themselves read the letters/words, feeling themselves say the letters/words in their mouth, and feeling the letters as they trace/write them.   As a result, your children are creating new neural pathways for the brain instead of using only the visual memory.

Alternatives- Use big paper instead of smaller index cards.  Use a dry erase board for step four.

          Let us know what you think of this blog and literacy strategies at   cjudge@sugarcreekeducationalconcepts.com.  

Blog Author-  Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT


Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240




    

August 6,2016

Some Final Thoughts About Reading Fluency

          There are a few more things I would like to say about Fluency before moving on to another subject regarding literacy.
          Fluent reading comes together without conscious thought for most of us, but for those who struggle with fluency, practice is needed.  Think about the skill of driving- we do many things simultaneously like braking, checking mirrors, steering, changing the radio, talking to someone, etc.  These behaviors are automatic once we have been driving for awhile.  When we were learning to drive, we needed to think about each step and practice each step.  I can remember learning to drive a car with manual gear (a stickshift).  If I wasn't thinking about each step, I stalled out the car with every gear change.  It is the same with reading.  A reader needs to practice the act of reading over and over until certain words are known automatically, punctuation is attended to when reading aloud, and less known words are decoded quickly.  Getting beyond basic reading skills takes a great deal of careful attention and practice.
          Beginning readers need to read word by word reflecting the fact the reader's mind is consumed with trying to process each word.  In contrast, a strong reader processes words automatically, as if without effort.  Research shows that the eyes of even good readers linger instantaneously as they process each word and even each letter.  The difference is that strong readers do it automatically while weaker readers need to consciously focus their attention on the process.  The more the reader reads the same words and sounds over and over, the more automatic this process will become.  
          Here's something interesting-  some learners can do a new skill after only 2 or 3 repetitions, others need 12 or more reps, and still others need 44 or more repetitions to learn a skill.  Now, let's relate that to reading.  One child will learn a high frequency word after only a few times seeing that word, but the struggling reader may need to see that word 40 or 50 times before the word sticks and can be identified the next time they see or spell that word in text.  That's only one word!  Think of all of the words we need to know automatically to be good readers.  In the next blog, I will address ways to increase these repetitions and how to create a new neural pathway, other than the visual pathway, to learn to read and spell these words.
     I find research about learning fascinating, and I hope you do as well! Let us know what you think or need!

Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT
Sugarcreed Educational Concepts


    
Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240



July 15, 2016

A Little More About Repeated Reading to Increase Reading Fluency

         Now that you have learned about Repeated Reading and have hopefully included it into your daily routine to support your struggling reader, you should be seeing an improvement in your child’s reading fluency.  Learning a little more about this strategy will help you to understand why it is so beneficial to your child’s reading success.
         Struggling readers are typically reading below grade level.  In school, text a child is expected to read is often several grade levels harder than his or her current grade level (especially science, social studies, and math text). For this reason, students need to be exposed to grade level text and above in order to be successful and confident readers. Repeated Reading is a research-based method to provide this exposure.  You might be asking yourself,  “Isn’t it too much for my child to read a level that they are not ready for?”  Or you might be asking, "Why not just let my child proceed at his or her own pace in reading level?  Why expose him or her to higher level text?"  There are several reasons to expose your child to challenging text.  First, you want his or her vocabulary (reading and oral vocabulary) to be challenged.  He or she may not be able to read the text independently, but that doesn't mean that he or she can't understand the vocabulary.  Secondly, they will also see more sophisticated sentence structure in higher level text which will enrich their writing.   Finally, you never want to underestimate your child's ability to pick up words, vocabulary, and spelling through challenging text.  Repeatedly seeing the same words will increase the likelihood that your child will be able to read those words in new text. 
       Many schools have small group reading instruction where the child gets the opportunity to master their instructional level and move to a higher instructional level.  This is very important!  While you child is mastering his or her instructional level, the class as a whole is expected to be reading at grade level or above and the class keeps moving forward.  There is a gap between where your child is currently and where your child is expected to be.  This gap will increase if an intervention is not in place.  Repeated Reading can address the gap and close it over time. 

        Here is another simple Repeated Reading method you can try-
1.  Read the challenging text for one minute to your child as the child follows along.
2.  Reread the same text for one minute with your child as you set the pace and demonstrate good expression and attention to punctuation.
3.  Your child reads the same text for one final minute independently.  Repeat phrases or sentences if it is not read fluently.
Three minutes a day can make amazing gains! 

As always, let us know how you are doing and if we can support your progress!

Mary Bower, M.Ed., COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts (contact info. below)

  

June 8, 2016


Repeated Reading to Support Fluency and Reading Comprehension

       In the last we blog, we promised to give you a research-based method for improving Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension Repeated Reading is an easy and effective method to achieve these goals.  (You may want to reread the last blog to refresh your memory.)

Here is how to do Repeated Reading with your child:

1.  Read a paragraph (or sentence by sentence or a few sentences at a time) aloud to your child as you make sure they are carefully following with their eyes.  Don't slow down for your child.  Instead, you set a normal pace with expression and good pauses at periods and commas, etc.
2.  Reread the same passage as your child tries to read with you as you set the pace.  Be careful not to slow down too much and don't allow your child to race you.
3.  For the third reading, your child reads the same passage by him or herself.  If a sentence is choppy, if the child doesn't stop at punctuation, or if expression is not used, have the child repeat the sentence.

  You want this to be a positive experience.  Your child should be experiencing high levels of success because the text is familiar to them after three reads.  You can do use this method for just a short amount of time each day so that the experience remains always positive.  Read a paragraph or two each day, a whole page, or work through a book in this method.  It is better to do small amounts of successful reading, than push forward and have the child dread the experience.  If you do a little of this method each cay, these small  lessons will add up to lots of gain in reading fluency!

   You can track your child's fluency progress by letting them read a paragraph each week by themselves before you start the repeated reading.  You should notice that your child recognizes more words automatically.  You should start to see a gain in reading confidence as well as fluency and prosidy (reading with expression).

Give this method a try and let us know how it works for you.  If you have any questions, you can contact us!


Mary Bower, M.Ed, Master Teacher, COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor (contact info. below)





May 22, 2016

Lack of Oral Reading Fluency May Be Why Your Child Struggles with Comprehension

          Oral Reading Fluency is the ability to read "like you speak".  When we speak, we accurately choose words to communicate, we use a rate of speech that keeps the interest of the listener, and we use expression to help make our point clearer.   Oral Reading Fluency is the same thing while reading out loud-  words are read accurately, are read at a steady rate (not too fast and not too slow), and are read with appropriate expression.  (Expression in reading is known as prosody.)   You know a reader lacks fluency when you notice that he or she has to sound out many words, there is difficulty with Sight Words (also known as High Frequency Words or Word Wall Words), and their reading sounds choppy, hesitant, or robotic.  
          Oral Reading Fluency is highly correlated to comprehension.  If you are wondering why your child doesn't comprehend what is read, lack of Oral Reading Fluency could be the problem.  In a study conducted by Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, and Jenkins using four comprehension measures, Oral Reading Fluency was shown repeatedly to be highly correlated to good comprehension.
         You may be thinking that the struggling reader will catch up if he or she would just spend more time reading.  Well, according to the National Reading Panel Report from 2000, www.nationalreadingpanel.org , reading alone will not significantly impact the fluency of a struggling reader and thus will not address comprehension problems.  Here's why-  When a fluent reader reads for ten minutes, he or she reads about 2,000 words while the struggling reader only reads about 500 words for the same amount of time.  The fluent reader will get stronger while the struggling reader will not read enough words to make up the difference.  Their fluency will not improve fast enough and their comprehension will continue to suffer.

          Now that you are asking how you can improve your child’s Oral Reading Fluency, look for the next blog in about two weeks for a research-based answer!

Mary Bower, M.Ed, Master Teacher, COGT
Sugarcreek Educational Concepts Certified Orton-Gillingham Tutor (contact info. below)
  




5-7-16

Dear Friends,

Every two weeks we will be adding insightful blogs about education on this page. We encourage you to visit this site to gain insights into educating your child as well as education in general.

Enjoy!

Christopher J. Judge
Owner/President, Sugarcreek Educational Concepts

46 East Franklin Street, Suite #1, Bellbrook, Ohio 45305
937-848-3260

15 South Main Street Suite #12, Springboro, Ohio 45066
937-748-8240