General Adaptations for a Child with Visual-Spatial Processing Issues

This is part 3 of a series of 6 posts about Visual-Spatial Processing Issues (and other related learning differences). Links to the other posts in this series are found at the bottom of this post.

General Adaptations for a Child with Visual-Spatial Processing Issues

(Remember that if your child has other “special needs,” the adaptations suggested in these posts may also be very helpful for your child’s particular issues.)

child climbing stairs step by step

 

 

 

 

 

The topics covered in this post are:

  • Getting started and filling in the gap
  • Practice visual-spatial skills
  • Provide a suitable learning environment
  • Make learning materials easy to use
  • Teach “tricks” on how to understand material better
  • Working with the school team
  • Working one-on-one with your child

Getting started and filling in the gaps:

  • Explain to your child, in simple terms, about her learning differences, ways they affect her learning, and that “adaptations” will help her learn. For each new adaptation you introduce, explain why it will be helpful.
  • Carefully watch your child work through school-type exercises and note where “gaps” in knowledge and understanding have developed. Set aside the current work and help your child fill in those gaps before trying to carry on with more complex concepts.
  • Focus on your child’s personal interests and passions. They will provide the motivation, not to mention the essential “background knowledge” of a topic, which is so important to success in math, reading and writing.
  • Recognize that parental involvement is very important! You are in many senses your child’s best tutor and teacher, as you know your child so well–and you have already taught your child so many important, basic skills, probably without even realising it!

Practice visual-spatial skills:

  • Provide frequent practical opportunities to differentiate left and right, as well as concepts like backward, forward, under, over, around–and north, south, east, west, etc. Talk about them and point them out as you go for walks or drives; put them into practice in all kinds of daily activities.
  • Assist your child with identifying how similar objects have differences by talking them through before starting a problem: for example, discuss colour, form, shape, size, pattern and position.
  • Work together on practical tasks involving directionality; for example, go outdoors and use map-reading to find a given location.
  • Since your child will likely have difficulty with a “look and learn” approach, assume you do have to “tell” (explain, show, discuss) in clear verbal terms. Associate each of your explanations with concrete (“real life”) situations and experiences.
  • Instead of expecting your child to free-sketch designs, allow copying/tracing of geometric and other designs, or provide outline pictures for which the child can fill in details. This is also good practice for your child in recognising, sorting out, and organising visual details.
  • Assist with whole/part relationships. Help your child perceive and integrate the relationship between an object and its parts. Give practice with puzzles, models, Lego, construction kits, and games that emphasise spatial reasoning, mental rotation, and subtle visual details.
  • To build self-determination, independence, and confidence as a learner, encourage your child to share knowledge with others when she can.
  • Help your child learn to find patterns in visual information and combine them into a meaningful whole. Practice with simple visual patterns, mazes (starting with simple ones), lots of practice with pattern worksheets/workbooks, and use of Tangram tiles to create patterns and pictures.
  • Provide lots of practical opportunities to arrange materials in space. Start with large materials, such as helping organise furniture in rooms at home, or helping the teacher reorganise the set up of desks in the classroom. Move to somewhat smaller objects, such as organising her closet by sorting her clothes in different ways–by type of garment, seasons, colours, etc. Or reorganise the kitchen cupboards. Gradually introduce smaller, more complex tasks.

Provide a suitable learning environment:

  • Allow your child to work in a quiet, uncluttered place for better concentration; provide earplugs or headphones if needed.
  • Pair the child with a peer buddy some of the time. Working together and taking turns “teaching” each other can be both helpful and fun.
  • Rather than using a “planner book” with pages for each day or week (which can seem cluttered and overwhelming), purchase one of those large-scale monthly wall calendars so your child can quickly and clearly recognise completion dates for assignments. If possible, use clear, simple “picture stickers” to mark upcoming events (for example, a simple picture of a camera for school picture day) and assignment deadlines (for example, stickers with simple plus and minus signs for math; stickers with pictures of books for reading; etc.)
  • Help your child keep his workspace clear from distractions. Remove all visual clutter that is not totally necessary to the task at hand. Ensure he clears his desk completely before beginning a new task. Then help him assemble just the materials needed for the current task.
  • Sit close beside your child (not across from) when demonstrating how to do something, so she is seeing your demonstration from the same viewpoint as if she was doing it herself.
  • Allow small breaks every 15 to 20 minutes to relax her brain and prevent frustration from building up.
  • Provide for repetition, review and over-learning of facts, through extra practice at home, help from an EA at school, and one-on-one tutoring. But arrange for recreational breaks between school time and tutoring/homework/review time.
  • Teach your child how to organise information in her own outlines, checklists, concept maps, etc. At first, you will be introducing adaptations, but it is very important for your child to also learn how to develop and use her own adaptations.

Make learning materials easy to use:

  • Break complex information or instructions into small steps, and do one step at a time.
  • Especially in the early grades, provide lots of activities with manipulative materials. Start with larger materials that are easier to handle and to organize. Use materials that are organized in clear ways, such as by bright colours. Allow use of manipulatives when doing math tests.
  • Arrange to have instructions or assignments provided in written form (on worksheets or in workbooks) rather than expecting the child to copy from the board. Your child may have difficulty copying information correctly, so using a worksheet or workbook that has some of the basic steps already clearly included will help her focus on other key steps she needs to learn. Gradually include less and less pre-done steps.
  • Write out steps for doing various skills. Break down projects into clear and concrete steps. Help your child create a personal reference notebook or binder which he can refer to whenever needed.
  • Encourage your child to think of adaptations that she would find helpful, and have her add them to her list of adaptations in her personal reference binder.
  • Simplify layouts and arrangement of visual-spatial assignments. Provide plenty of “white space” on a page and avoid clutter. Use larger print and fewer words. While lots of children love colourfully illustrated worksheets and workbooks, plain, simple, well-spaced ones are better for children with visual-spatial processing difficulties.
  • Enlarge visual materials using a photocopier.
  • Don’t require your child to use visual strategies he finds confusing (webs, diagrams, charts, etc.). Introduce concepts in other ways, and once he understands them clearly, then start using graphic visuals, with very simple ones to start.
  • Cover up the worksheet questions the child is not working on currently, with sticky notes or blank paper, so she can focus on just one exercise at a time.
  • Emphasise the use of language to explain concepts and procedure. Explain verbally all new skills, concepts, graphics, and visually-based information and tasks. Back up the verbal instruction with clear, easy to read, step-by-step written instructions. Use numbered boxes and colour codes. Place written checklist instructions in clear plastic envelopes, and provide erasable markers to check off each step as it is done. When a task is completed, erase the marks and reuse the sheet for the next exercise.
  • When teaching brainstorming and planning techniques, use very clear, well-organized, simple mind maps. Avoid methods such as writing ideas scrawled all over the page.

Teach “tricks” on how to understand material better:

  • Show your child how to underline with coloured pencils, or highlight with different coloured markers, key words and key aspects to be remembered.
  • Use a ruler or white piece of cardboard to eliminate potential distractions on a page. Make a “frame” from white cardboard so your child can “scroll” it down the page, focusing on only a couple lines at a time.
  • Your child needs to learn study skills just as any other child does. Over time, introduce methods such as using index cards, filling in her planner/calendar, creating outlines, and so on. You can provide samples and model them to start with, but you want your child to become self-sufficient. Experiment with and then focus on study methods that work well for your child.

Working with the school team:

  • Request that your child be given oral exams and/or have a scribe during exams, if possible.
  • Be sure to attend school team meetings about your child–parent-teacher interviews, IEP planning meetings, etc.
  • Ask for the child to be allowed to rewrite tests if necessary. At home, prepare by going through the test the child had difficulty with and figure out what the child’s problems were. Then reteach and practice those steps before test rewrites.
  • When your child has to remember visual materials like graphs, diagrams and maps, help with developing verbal memory strategies such as making up a rhyme to help with, for example, recall of locations of various cities or provinces.
  • Ask for extra learning support for academic subjects, especially for written output, reading decoding, and visual spatial reasoning in math. If the school cannot provide enough one-on-one help, ask for pointers on how you can help your child at home, and/or hire a tutor qualified to help with these issues.
  • Request that your child be allowed separate sittings for tests in a quiet space with a helper available.

Working one-on-one with your child:

  • Focus on stronger learning styles, for example, verbal learning vs visual-spatial learning. Translate abstract visual information into meaningful verbal information or more concrete visual information to help with comprehension, generalising and retention–and then encourage verbal feedback. For example, a visual math problem could be broken down into a series of written steps to read, or could be modeled. Then encourage the child to respond and practice by talking through the steps of a problem by saying it aloud and explaining it.
  • Discourage “thinking of/picturing the answer in your head” and instead insist on the child writing down and/or talking through the problem step by step.
  • Provide one to one assistance, such as personal discussion, dictation and scribing so the overall work is less challenging and frustrating (but over time increasingly require more and more personal effort, step by step).
  • Use a patient, gentle, encouraging approach. Break the work down into mini-goals/steps and give verbal rewards for small successes. Praise for effort as well as accomplishment; recognize when the child is trying her best.
  • Don’t immediately reprimand the child for “forgetting” or for seeming “unfocused.” Instead, first consider that these behaviours may indicate that the material is too complex and needs to be broken down into smaller, achievable and realistic steps and goals.
  • Consider continued consistent (but not overwhelming) practice and support during summer and other holidays.
  • If your child finds one method easier than other methods, allow her to use the method that works for her rather than forcing her to use methods that are too frustrating. If a particular method is necessary as it is a building block to more complex work, first use the “easy” method and then gradually introduce the other method step by step. Explain how it will be useful in future.

In the posts in this series, we look at:

– the definition and symptoms of visual-spatial processing issues
– diagnosis of visual-spatial processing issues–and other learning differences
some general suggestions to help a child with visual-spatial processing issues
reading adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues
writing and spelling adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues
math adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues

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Diagnosis of Visual-Spatial Processing Issues

This is part 2 of a series of 6 posts about Visual-Spatial Processing Issues (and other related learning differences). Links to the other posts in this series are found at the bottom of this post.

Diagnosis of Visual-Spatial Processing Issues–and other learning differences

Remember that if your child has other “special needs,” the adaptations suggested in these posts may also be very helpful for your child’s particular issues.

See the first post in this series for a list of possible markers or symptoms of visual-spatial processing issues.

Diagnosis:

Some of the issues we have discussed in the previous post about visual-spatial processing issues can be related to other causes including physical problems and other problems. If you notice that your child seems to be having a number of symptoms of visual-spatial processing, you will want to get professional advice and direction. Such help may be available through your child’s school, or from a private educational psychologist. You may be asked to have a physical examination done first to eliminate eyesight or other issues. If your child is in school, the school team (teacher, EAs, school psychologist, etc.) will also be involved in the process of determining a diagnosis and deciding what adaptations are most useful.

ADHD and Anxiety Disorders:

Does my child have ADHD or anxiety disorders as well?
Realise that attention and behavioural problems may actually be related to the frustrations of your child’s SLD (severe learning disability); don’t just assume your child is ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Be patient; solving the visual-spatial issues may, in turn, solve these other issues.

Likewise, realise that learning struggles can cause anxiety and “fight or flight” responses, and thus these are not necessarily indicative of an anxiety disorder. When a child lacks confidence with academic work, anxiety and frustration can emerge when feeling overwhelmed.

If your child seems to have some of the markers for Visual-Spatial Processing issues, but also other problems that don’t seem to be listed, it is possible that other learning differences are also involved. Again, it is important to work with your school team and/or qualified professionals!

In the posts in this series, we look at:
the definition and symptoms of visual-spatial processing issues
diagnosis of visual-spatial processing issues–and other learning differences
some general suggestions to help a child with visual-spatial processing issues
reading adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues
writing and spelling adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues
– math adaptations for children with visual-spatial processing issues

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Visual-Spatial Processing Tips and Solutions

Visual-Spatial Processing Issues

This series of posts will discuss what “visual-spatial processing” difficulties involve and how parents (and teachers and tutors) can work with children to adapt to these learning differences. If your child has other “special needs,” the adaptations suggested in these posts may also be helpful for your child’s particular issues. This first post will define visual-spatial processing issues.

 

 

What Are Visual-Spatial Processing Issues?

A child (or adult) with “Visual-Spatial Processing” issues has difficulty in organising visual information into meaningful patterns and understanding how the patterns might change as they rotate and move through space. A child with this learning difference/disability (LD/SLD) will have difficulty with activities such as:

  • identifying visual details and their spatial arrangement; for example:
    • determining whether or not things are an exact match
    • identifying changes in things over time
  • comparing and contrasting visual information quickly
  • working with abstract concepts such as pattern recognition and map and graph interpretation
  • “seeing in the mind’s eye” or “getting the picture”
  • determining directions, including left and right
  • finding ways through mazes and following complex directions
  • picking out and recognising even simple patterns
  • estimating and comparing lengths and distances
  • learning to recognise, remember and use letters and numerals
  • reading charts, maps and blueprints, and extracting needed information
  • significant difficulty and frustration with penmanship, artwork, spelling, phonetic decoding skills, leading to avoidance of class work
  • visual information may seem disconnected and the child may perceive only parts of the information, totally “missing” some of the visual details
  • if gaps develop in basic arithmetic and geometry skills due to inability to keep up with other children, more advanced math may become very difficult; the same type of gaps can occur with other literacy skills including reading and writing

What This Series of Posts Will Cover:

In the posts in this series, we look at:

If you have tips or experiences to share, please feel free to comment! Thanks!

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Beach Story Using Collective Nouns

Collective nouns at the beach!

While we’re on a theme of “summer” topics, here’s a fun exercise I created the other day on Quora. It’s a beach story using collective nouns. Why not sit down together as a family and see how many collective nouns you can discover in this story? A couple of them are a bit tricky!

Here’s the collective nouns story!

In the summer we like to go the beach. It’s a great place to people watch. We’ll almost certainly see a flock of tourists enjoying the sun and sand, and we’re likely to see a class of students from the Community Rec Program learning about the flora and fauna of the beach and lake. We’ll see a crew of sailors waving at us as they pass in their sailboat. Sometimes a troupe of dancers or actors will come to the beach gazebo and entertain the crowd of spectators. While we love our beaches, you might need to watch out–there is a small pack of petty thieves who like to grab any valuables they see lying around. A staff of employees from the city’s summer youth workers program watch out for them, though, so it’s pretty safe. We might join an audience of listeners sitting around enjoying the music of a band of musicians or a busker or two. Occasionally, a panel of experts will wander along the beach, discussing ideas for new walkways, boat launches or

While we love our beaches, you might need to watch out–there is a small pack of petty thieves who like to grab any valuables they see lying around. A staff of employees from the city’s summer youth workers program watch out for them, though, so it’s pretty safe. We might join an audience of listeners sitting around enjoying the music of a band of musicians or a busker or two. Occasionally, a panel of experts will wander along the beach, discussing ideas for new walkways, boat launches or piers, and their possible environmental impact. If the experts have already given the go-ahead, we might instead see a gang of labourers putting those ideas into action.

Another fun thing to do at the beach is watching the birds and animals. We’re certain to see a flock of seagulls swooping over the beach looking for picnic scraps, while sometimes we’ll see a flight of geese overhead heading north or south on their migratory routes, depending on what end of summer it is. In midsummer, we’ll see gaggles of geese pecking at seeds in the grass. We will certainly see a raft of ducks paddling in the water, and sometimes a game of swans. You might even spot a murder of crows, or more likely, hear them squawking from the trees. Sometimes the sky will suddenly be filled with a murmuration of starlings startled out of their hiding places.

If we walk out on the pier and look down into the deeper water there, we might see a shoal of fish, and sometimes there’ll be someone reeling them in with a rod and then heading off home with a catch of fish. Be careful where you spread your beach towel and lay down–you don’t want to set it by an ant hill and encounter an army of ants. And don’t get too close to a pool of still water or a marshy spot–you’ll soon be surrounded by a swarm of flies, mosquitoes, or

If we walk out on the pier and look down into the deeper water there, we might see a shoal of fish, and sometimes there’ll be someone reeling them in with a rod and then heading off home with a catch of fish. Be careful where you spread your beach towel and lay down–you don’t want to set it by an ant hill and encounter an army of ants. And don’t get too close to a pool of still water or a marshy spot–you’ll soon be surrounded by a swarm of flies, mosquitoes, or

Be careful where you spread your beach towel and lay down–you don’t want to set it by an ant hill and encounter an army of ants. And don’t get too close to a pool of still water or a marshy spot–you’ll soon be surrounded by a swarm of flies, mosquitoes, or dragonflies. Watch out! In some spots, there might be a swarm of wasps, attracted by colourful flower gardens or by the smell of sweet summer treats brought by beach goers.

We might even see a herd of urban deer nibbling the flowers from the carefully designed gardens in the park next to the beach. At some of our beaches, we’ll see teams of horses go by on the street, pulling tourists in buggies on tours of the city. Once in a while, someone will come by with a litter of kittens or puppies in a box, hoping to sell them or give them away.

Part of the pleasure of going to the beach is enjoying nature. While most people go during the day, some prefer to go in the evening, bringing along a stack of wood, then sit around a campfire watching the waves and roasting marshmallows. When the fire dies down, they will lay on the sand and look up into the night sky, gazing at galaxies of stars. Lowering their gaze just a tad, they’ll see the saw-like tips of a forest of trees on the tops of nearby mountain ranges, black against the moonlit sky. In the daytime, we’ll sometimes see a fleet of sailboats skimming along the gentle waves of the lake, although we’ll see them return to the marina when a towering cumulonimbus of clouds along with clouds of dust whipping up from the sand indicate an afternoon

In the daytime, we’ll sometimes see a fleet of sailboats skimming along the gentle waves of the lake, although we’ll see them return to the marina when a towering cumulonimbus of clouds along with clouds of dust whipping up from the sand indicate an afternoon thunderstorm is approaching. We’ll quickly gather up our loose beach items and stash them in the trunk of the car so they don’t blow away; then from a safe spot, we’ll watch the storm come in, waves crashing on the beach and cascades of brilliant thunderbolts lighting up the sky, followed by downpours of rain. We might snap lots of pictures in hopes of getting some good ones for our album of photos.

On a sunny day at the beach, we’ll either slather on sunscreen or we’ll search for a shady spot to relax, perhaps in the shadow of a hedge of bushes or under a grove of trees. We’ll probably take along with us a basket of fruit just picked fresh from our famous orchards, along with other picnic foods and utensils. If we don’t bring our lunch with us, we’ll have to buy snacks from one of the beach vendors, and that will require a wad of bills! If we’re going to stay at the beach for the day, we’ll bring swimsuits and towels, a pack of cards, a collection of books, or for the more lively folks among us, a wagon-load of pails and shovels or beach toys like frisbees and beach balls. If we’ve driven to the beach, we’ll be careful to take care of our bunch of car keys as they are so easily lost in the sand. We’ll keep an eye on the little folks, as they’re just apt to wander off to the city’s flower beds and pick a big bouquet of flowers for mommy, much to the dismay of the gardeners chasing after them. If we get bored, the fishers among us will start telling fish stories, most of which will be a pack of lies.

If we’re going to stay at the beach for the day, we’ll bring swimsuits and towels, a pack of cards, a collection of books, or for the more lively folks among us, a wagon-load of pails and shovels or beach toys like frisbees and beach balls. If we’ve driven to the beach, we’ll be careful to take care of our bunch of car keys as they are so easily lost in the sand. We’ll keep an eye on the little folks, as they’re just apt to wander off to the city’s flower beds and pick a big bouquet of flowers for mommy, much to the dismay of the gardeners chasing after them. If we get bored, the fishers among us will start telling fish stories, most of which will be a pack of lies.

Finally, at the end of a wonderful day at the beach, we will wearily pack up and head home, where we’ll gratefully sink into our beds for a good night’s sleep, dreaming of beaches and all the collections of things we find there.

How did you do?

How many collective nouns did you find? Share your score in the comments!

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Summer Reading and Book Reports

Some twenty years ago or so, while I was homeschooling my children, I wrote an article about “Creative Alternatives to Book Reports.” With summer coming, encouraging your children to read a wide variety of books is a great way to avoid the “boring summer day blahs.”

Now you can of course just let them read the books–or you might want to have them do a book report. A book report? In summer? Why, oh why? Well, if you’re talking about traditional book reports, I’d have to agree. But there are so many fun activities that children can do during or after reading a book, that could make that summer reading even more adventuresome. In fact, these ideas are great activities year-round!

This popular article has been posted before in another of my blogs and in homeschool newsletters, is available as a booklet with extra ideas, and has even been translated into Dutch and published in a Dutch educational magazine! Since summer holidays are almost here (or maybe have arrived already where you live), this might be a good time to check out all these entertaining alternatives to book reports, which make fun summer learning activities.

Creative Alternatives to Book Reports

Halfway through grade one, my adored, grandmotherly teacher saw fit to promote me, in one dizzying moment, from a member of the earth-bound Turtles Reading Group, past the Bluebirds in the treetops, to join the soaring Eagles. It was an epiphany! I could read! And from that moment I loved books. Every new book was an adventure, filled with anticipation, excitement, joy. Until one day, a dark shadow fell. Another teacher, more Draconian, assigned my first Book Report.

Now theoretically, The Book Report is supposed to be a wonderful educational device. The eager Book Reporter displays reading ability, comprehension of plot (both action and literary development), recognition of theme, understanding of vocabulary, knowledge of literary devices, understanding of characterization, ability to compare the book to other literary works, and of course critical thinking skills. (Often most importantly, The Book Report also proves that the teacher assigned the curricular reading requirements!).

Some children, blessed with a learning style and upbringing conducive to the traditional classroom, gamely plough through the book and produce the required composition. Yet despite a good mark, the drudgery and dread of the Book Report often manage to destroy the joy of reading.

Unfortunately, for many children, even the glory of a good mark is often unattainable. Most resort to a thinly disguised plagiarism of the cover blurb or introduction; a few energetic souls even go so far as to borrow from Coles Notes. Some watch the movie version, but the teacher is almost sure to catch on, as the movie is rarely the same as the book. And then there are those who simply give up, whose learning styles, or reading level, or fear, make the Book Report an impossible goal. And the inevitable long-term result, for many, is not only a dread of Book Reports but a life-long avoidance of reading books.

Still, assuming that Book Report skills are important (some disagree), what alternatives are there? Should we simply encourage our children to read for enjoyment, and hope they develop those skills as they read? Should we use an oral discussion approach? What about children whose learning styles, interest areas, and natural abilities are radically different from those inherent in the Book Report approach? Does the purpose for reading a particular book affect the need for analysis? Can we learn and demonstrate reading skills in other ways? Do we really need to test such skills at all?

For now, let’s assume you do want to help develop, or test, your child’s reading skills (or perhaps you are required to provide “evidence” to your educational authority). You, as a parent, know your child better than anyone else. You know their interests, their learning styles, their reading and writing ability, their special talents. Now it is time for you to think creatively. What methods can you use (or, better yet, let your child choose) to develop or test reading skills? Below I have listed a wide variety of suggestions. I have given just a brief description of each; it is up to you and your child to choose what is interesting and will work for you both. The most important thing is to have FUN with the approach you choose, so that your child never loses the joy of reading!

Alternative Book Report Ideas

  • Draw an action illustration, paint a mural, or create a comic strip, of a key event in the book.
  • Create a book jacket or design a poster, with illustrations and blurbs, to advertise the book.
  • Make a carving, sculpture, or another type of model of an event or person in the book.
  • Design a coat of arms or a pennant to symbolise the main elements of the book.
  • Use a collage of words, colours, and pictures to describe the book.
  • Make a diorama, create a graph, or draw a map to show the time and setting of the book.
  • Create an interesting title page to introduce the book.
  • Create a photo album of pictures relating to the novel and/or make a travel brochure.
  • Make a diorama, mobile, or a set of postcards relating to the book.
  • Create a bulletin board display.
  • Design a secret code to tell about an important part of the book.
  • Make baseball cards to identify characters and their “stats”.
  • Make an activity book with games, puzzles, jokes, riddles, etc.
  • Practice and videotape a dramatic reading of part of the book.
  • Design a game (board game, Trivial Pursuit type game, card game, game show, etc).
  • Convert a scene in the book into a puppet show, pantomime, skit, radio play, or drama; create the props, sound effects, etc, and perform the show.
  • Create and tape a television talk show segment to interview a character from the book or an actor/actress from the movie version.
  • Adapt a song to become a theme song for your book.
  • Make a movie ad campaign with magazines, posters, toys, etc.
  • Invent new words for vocabulary in the book (example: cat=purr pet, book=looker).
  • Pretend you are a creature from the book; act like the creature; make up conversations that would be of interest to that creature.
  • Change sentences or lines of conversations in the book into rhymes.
  • Design a web showing a biographical sketch of one or more characters.
  • Choose a cast, of modern day actors and actresses, or of people you know, for a movie version of the novel; including photos or sketches, and tell why each is perfect for the part.
  • Make a character sketch chart, including a sketch of the character, relationship to other characters, personality, favourite things, sports, hobbies, pet peeves, etc. (Or make a “magazine” featuring the characters).
  • Write a letter to the author (or the main character) about the book.
  • Invent a new adventure for the characters, or write a new ending.
  • Do a “You are there” newspaper story of a particular event.
  • Create two or more different kinds of poems about characters, events, setting, etc in the book.
  • Write a promotional, press conference, or radio announcement to publicise the book.
  • Write a review of the novel for the book section of the newspaper.
  • Devise riddles, a crossword, or a word search of important events, characters, and objects in the book.
  • Compose a telegram about the novel, with a 20-word limit.
  • Construct a timeline to illustrate events in the book (for a challenge, make it 3D).
  • Make a cookbook of recipes from the time and place of the book; cook some of the foods.
  • Create costumes from the time and place of the book.
  • Conduct a survey and share the results.
  • Make a collection of personal items one of the characters might have owned, and share the significance of each item.
  • Using the information in the book about a character, write a biography, using your own creative ideas to “fill in the blanks”.
  • Choose one or more objects (real or imaginary) mentioned in the book, and describe them in more detail, including appearance, function, size, materials, etc.
  • Imagine and write about, or act out, what might have happened if a character in the book had made a different decision or choice.

What other great ideas do you have for activities that can be used alongside reading? Why not share them in the comments? Thank you!

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Summer Tutoring Ideas

Should you consider tutoring for your child in the summer? Here are some thoughts:

Why are you considering tutoring?

  • Report Card Shock: Did your child’s final report card shake you up and you believe only a tutor can rescue your youngster? Will tutoring during all or part of the summer holidays actually help and encourage your child, or will it make her even more antagonistic toward learning? Figure out with your child the reasons for being behind before you decide upon tutoring or another solution to the problem.
  • Summer Learning Loss: Are you afraid your child will “lose what he’s just learned” over the next couple months? September classes are usually mainly review, so unless your child was already behind, there may be better summer alternatives than tutoring. If you do want review, consider the 2 to 3 weeks before school starts again, rather than early summer).
  • “I’m so bored!” Do you dread hearing those words? If so, will tutoring be the best way to keep your child occupied?
  • Punishment: Are you punishing your child by threatening him with summer tutoring? If so, what might be the long-term results for his attitude to learning and education?
  • Your child loves school and/or learning: Does your child miss school during the summer? Is it studying she misses or is it other aspects like time with friends or fine arts or similar classes? Is there a particular subject (or topic) she’d love to dive into or just a “buffet selection” of different subjects?
  • Babysitting: Are you thinking of tutoring as a method of “babysitting” while you’re at work, when summer camps and visits to the grandparents don’t fill up the schedule?

Would tutoring or some other solution be best for your child? What kinds of tutoring are best during summer holidays?

  • Students need a change of pace. They have been in school for nine to ten months and are looking forward to a holiday. Check around and see what kinds of learning alternatives different tutors offer. Standard tutoring sessions just like during the school year? Or…
  • Educational “day camps” offered by local colleges or community recreation programs? Or residential camps that include learning options?
  • Summer school programs offered by the local school district–or by private tutoring companies or even by individual tutors. These are usually offered as half-day or full-day programs running for at least a week at a time, and often up to a month or more. Unlike traditional tutoring, these are generally group programs–and while your child may not get quite as focused one-on-one attention, the longer hours and continuous days/weeks will provide just as strong a program. And because you’re sharing the cost with other group members, the hourly rate will probably be lower, or you may be offered a flat rate for the program (don’t expect refunds for days missed, though).
  • Outdoor learning: In pleasant climates, tutors may be willing to teach your child outdoors in a park or similar location, which may make it more palatable for a child who is really opposed to summertime tutoring.
  • Interests and passions: Seeing as it’s summer, consider a different approach. Does your child have a special interest, even passion? Can you find a tutor (or perhaps even become your own child’s best tutor) who will take that interest or passion and develop it into a study that involves all kinds of “subjects” that are wrapped up in that topic? Every topic in some way involves math, reading, writing–and even science, social studies, fine arts, physical education, languages, and more. It may involve more planning than ordinary tutoring (and therefore an extra cost) but it may also be the perfect way to introduce your child to the joy of life-long learning, and provide a positive attitude and self-motivation to continue learning. If you can find another child who could take this path with your child (a good friend, perhaps), the cost could be shared. A wonderful way to spend the summer learning!
  • Group sessions: Even traditional tutoring can be more fun and acceptable in summer if your child can participate in group sessions. Ask your tutor if he or she offers group sessions your child can join, or if you know of other children who your child would enjoy working with, see if your tutor would be willing to take on a group (with the costs shared among the group members–a larger group will have a higher overall cost, but divided up could be considerably less than individual hourly rates). If you have more than one child requiring tutoring, the tutor might be willing to work with them at the same time, for a reduced price per child (for example $30 per hour per child, or $45 per hour for 2 children–depending on the tutor’s usual rates).
  • Family holidays:  Consider finding ways to make your family vacation, and indeed your entire summer, into a learning experience while still being fun. (See this post for some great specific examples!). And when you’re looking around town for things to do with the family at home, choose activities that are not only fun but have learning opportunities.

If you decide on tutoring, how should you prepare?

  • Talk it over with your child. Discuss the reasons tutoring is needed, or what alternatives might be better. Even with tutoring, what type will be best?
  • Subjects and/or topics: Decide what specific subject(s) or topic(s) the tutoring should focus on. Better to start with something that is really vital; you can always work on other things later.
  • Documents: Don’t let the kids toss out their school work if they’re going to have tutoring; bring it to the first tutoring session, along with report cards and other relevant documents such as psychoeducational assessments, related medical information and IEPs (Individual Learning Plans).
  • Travel/transportation: Will the tutor come to your home, or will you need to plan your child’s transportation to the tutor’s office or other location?
  • Insurance and contracts: Tutors usually require clients to sign contracts laying out the plans, costs, times, location, etc. If you want “extras” such as having the tutor travel to your home, or if you want the tutor to take your child on summer “field trips” you will need to sign a form agreeing not to hold the tutor responsible for any accidents, etc. Extra travel or requirements for extra insurance may increase your tutoring cost.
  • Missing appointments: Summer schedules can easily be more interrupted than the rest of the year. Be aware that if you miss tutoring appointments, you will likely still have to pay. Some tutors charge ahead in the summer for this reason. Plan carefully so you won’t miss appointments.
  • Tutors need holidays too: Be aware that tutors need holidays, too. They’ve been working steadily during the school year (quite often during winter and spring breaks as well) and they have a right to take summer holidays. Ask if there are times when the tutor is not available and plan alternatives for those times.
  • All-day tutoring: If you are hoping for all-day tutoring, or even half-day tutoring daily for a week or more, plan well ahead. Tutor schedules for summer start filling up in the spring, so if you have requests like this, make sure you make reservations well ahead.
  • Week or month-long all-day programs: Make sure you are clear on requirements for lunches, snacks, etc.

What are your summer plans? If you want more suggestions or are looking for summer tutoring in the Penticton area, please feel free to contact me. Let’s chat!

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Posted in family learning, life-long learning, parent-tutoring, passions and interests, summer tutoring, tutoring, tutoring costs, unit studies | Leave a comment

Home Math Tips: Unit Studies

Summer is coming and most children are delighted to escape all that September to June learning–and some especially are happy to escape math! (And even in you are reading this in the middle of the “school year” and you are hearing those “math moans and groans,” you’ll want to read this, too, because it can be used anytime.)

Maybe you as a parent are happy to escape math, too–or…. on the other hand, maybe you’re worried that your child will forget all the math learned in the last months, or maybe you’re wondering how you can help your child upgrade math skills without all that moaning and groaning. Whatever your situation…

Unit studies might be the perfect way to make math fun, useful and exciting for little scholars … and for parents, too!

What is a unit study? Basically, it’s when you take an activity or topic–ideally, one of personal interest to your child–and you explore it broadly, bringing in all kinds of related “subjects” instead of the usual teaching method of focusing on one subject at a time. So if your child (and maybe you) are “allergic” to the word “math,” you can use unit studies to pursue math without even using that dreadful term!

How might a unit study incorporating math work? Here is an example unit study activity perfect for summer to show you how to start; you can use it as inspiration to create unit studies on topics or activities that your child really enjoys.

  • Camping and road trips! Is your family going on a camping trip this summer? How could you “sneak” math into camping? Here are some possibilities:
    • Planning the trip: get out the map and together plan the road trip.
      • How far is it from home to the camping spot?
      • What are the distances between places along the way?
      • How long will it take if you assume an average 80 km per hour?
      • Does Google Maps’ estimate agree with yours?
      • What if you decided to take some side trips or a less-traveled route?
      • What if there is road construction; how much will that slow you down?
    • Costs for supplies before and during the trip:
      • What camping supplies will you need to buy before you leave? How much do they cost?
      • Check out flyers for sale prices. How much money can you save if you shop the sales?
      • What will be the difference in costs if you make sandwiches at home before you leave, or buy lunch at a fast food joint along the way–or at a nice restaurant?
      • What is the difference in price between buying sunscreen (or any other product, for that matter) at a big box store at home before you leave, or forgetting about it and having to buy it at the campground canteen/convenience store?
    • Along the road: Camping is a great time to leave those electronic games and devices behind–but what will the kids do on that boring road trip on the way to the camping ground?
      • You’ve already done that planning map work–now watch for road signs telling how much farther to the location: then calculate how far you’ve already come.
      • Before you start, check the mileage on the car; now compare your calculation with the car’s calculation. Are they the same or different? What might account for differences?
      • Bring along a road map of Canada or both Canada and United States. Watch for car licence plates from different provinces and states. Locate them on the map. Using the map scale and a ruler, figure out how far that province/state is from your location “as the eagle flys.” Then figure out how far it is by road. What is the difference? Why does that happen?
      • When you stop at gas stations, note the differences in the cost of gas in different locations. Where does it cost most? Least? Why does that happen?
      • Have the kids watch for signs with numbers on them and write down the numbers. Who has the largest number? The smallest number? Watch for buildings and count the number of stories. Make up other number games like this. (Just remember–don’t mention “math!”)
      • What other road trip ideas can you think of?
    • At the campground: 
      • Which campsite is the best size and shape for your needs? Will a site fit your tent and car or camper? Not sure? Take out a tape measure (you brought one, right?) and do some measurements to figure out the best layout for your equipment.
      • You’ve brought a 20-foot rope to use for a clothesline. There are 4 trees in and around your campsite. Which 2 trees should you hang it from? Use the tape measure to figure out the best choice.
      • Bring a thermometer along, too. Check the temperature at various times of the day and decide, based on temperature, what would be the best time of day to do various activities.
      • What kinds of trees are found in the camping area? Not sure? Get out the guide book of trees and plants you’ve brought along and identify the trees. Measure the circumference of the tree and compare it to the averages listed in the guide.
      • Then it’s breakfast time. How many eggs and sausages do you need to take out of the cooler to make breakfast? Or if you’re making pancakes and you forgot the measuring cup for the ingredients, how else could you measure successfully?
      • Did you notice that sometimes the shadow of your tent or camper is large and other times it is smaller? Why not do some measurements (height of the tent/camper, length of the shadow) and use the Pythagorean theorem to determine the other “side of the triangle.” Check with your tape measure and/or a rope. While you’re at it, why not figure out the angles? Cool! Geometry is fun! (Just don’t mention it’s math!).
      • Going fishing? Weigh those fish, measure their length, record the information–and have a contest to see who gets the biggest one. While you’re at it, use your fishing guidebook to learn more about the fish, and maybe even do a “dissection” (Exciting!).
      • Swimming in the lake or river? Bring along a suitable thermometer and check the water temperature at different times of day and in different locations to decide the best times and places to swim.
      • What else can you think of?
  • Congratulations! Like all good unit studies, on your camping trip, you’ve not only studied math, but you’ve dipped into nutrition, economics, ecology, geography, language arts, biology, exercise…. Way to go! Lifelong learning!

So what if you’re not going camping? What else will you be doing as a family? What are your child’s biggest interests? Much as I hate to say it, even electronic devices have tons of mathematical connections (beyond just playing the games themselves or watching videos)–though I think summer (or any other time of the year, for that matter) is a perfect time to do other things, right? What about sports, animals, home-built rockets, mechanics, cooking and baking, art?

We live in such an amazing world, and with a little imagination, I’m sure that you can easily envision all kinds of ways to take your child’s favourite activities and topics and secretly mine them for all kinds of mathematical concepts and practical applications–as well as their connections to all kinds of other “subjects”!

What other unit study ideas can you suggest for exploring math? Please share them in the comments! Thank you!

Other posts in this series:

Games and family fun
Manipulatives
Charts and tables
Books and workbooks
Online sites
Tips for kinesthetic learners
Unit studies

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Posted in life-long learning, math, math games and activities, passions and interests, unit studies | Leave a comment