Tuesday, February 10, 2015

10 Favorite Hacks for Teaching Special Learners

It's a challenge. I know. Teaching those kids with special learning needs.

Josiah has a little bit of everything.

I don't have any easy fixes for you. I don't think they exist. Like with most things in life good things take time and consistency.

And chocolate.

I do have a few tricks I have employed over the years with success. Just remember this. You have to do what is best for your individual and unique child. Pay less attention to the way a curriculum is taught and more attention to learning styles. Don't put your homeschool in a box.

Is your child constantly distracted? I get it! Josiah is my only. It doesn't matter. These kinds of kids can be distracted by anything. And everything. I learned this trick a long time ago when I taught school.

I had a particularly busy child I needed to isolate so he could concentrate on his own business during seatwork time.  I found that a pattern cutting board worked wonders! They are foldable and inexpensive. It provides an easy partition against the distractions of the room. You can buy one some place like Hobby Lobby (use a 40% coupon).

I love music. I taught elementary music for a very short period of time. Playing classical music during the day is another trick I implemented even when I moved to a kindergarten classroom. I would occasionally hear my students humming Bach or Chopin. It is still one of my favorite tricks for our homeschool day. I have a few favorite playlists on youtube. I would suggest just searching for a classical study playlist. Another tip is to find one that actually lists the music being played. That way you and your students can become familiar with the composers. This article has wonderful ideas for implementing music in all kinds of ways. I was inspired to add even more music to our day. Not only does it help soothe and calm, but it can assist with memory. I have my eye on some memory aids for math using classical music. This most likely will be a purchase very soon. As it is I play classical music almost daily during our school time.

When we discovered that Josiah was dyslexic I had already spent so much time and money on reading programs that just weren't meeting the need. I was beyond frustrated. Sometimes it just take time. Josiah certainly has improved with age. One thing that seemed to work for him was playing online phonics games. It helped him work through some things in a fun environment. We used a free site called starfall.com. A few paid sites were even more successful. Reading Eggs and Reading Kingdom were most effective for us. I also utilized phonics videos from youtube. The Electric Company has a whole channel.

Josiah is very much a kinsthetic learner.  When he got to be a certain age I caved into to the teaching practices that said that children of a certain age weren't supposed to rely on manipulatives and sensory activities. I brought out the worksheets that I had banished from my home while he was younger. Shame on me. I have nothing against worksheets, but they aren't as effective for Josiah as those hands-on experiences. Josiah is now 13. I still use playdough in our lessons. He spells words with it or creates historical figures or events. This site has a really great printable list to give you an idea about what you might keep in your homeschool cabinet to help make a great hands-on learning environment.

I found that I had to pay close attention to what kind of font something was written in. He was confused by really decorative fonts. If I thought it was cute it probably wasn't practical. Even the font in this particular font is not the best for a dyslexic. Notice the a's or g's. Josiah still struggles with reversal. I started to created our own reading sheets when I could. I use this Primary Penmanship font and I've just started to use this dyslexie font.  I print out scripture, poetry and reading selections from old readers and books. Old-Fashioned Education has many old readers you can use. I love these readers from Yesterday's Classics. We still read out of them for practice.

Speaking of practice, something Josiah has struggled with is being comfortable reading aloud. His reading is halting and unsure. I have started having him read picture books to me. He can better pay attention to punctuation and story. We talk about flow and personality and engaging the listener. Have your child pick out his or her favorites to read. Sometimes I will have Josiah read the same ones over and over. A good thing to try is to pick out a certain passage in the book. Practice reading them together with certain emotions. "Read it now like you are sad." I also will model it for him and he must mimic my tones and inflection.

I adore Audio Books. I felt early on that I didn't want Josiah to miss out on the wonderful stories I had enjoyed so much as a child and later as an adult. I have always read aloud to Josiah, but utilizing Audio Books has allowed me to have more time to do what I need to do. I do have to admit that I sit down on occasion with my doodle pad in my lap and enjoy the story right along with Josiah. There are so many free options for enjoying audio books. I'm a bit particular about my audio book experience. The librivox site is always a good resource (though they depend on volunteer readers...which has mixed results). Youtube also has audio books online...even some of the BBC Radio Dramas and the Focus on the Family Radio Theater recordings. Another good resource is Homeschool Radio Shows. Audible is a paid subscription. I used it for a time and got good quality audio books of The Hobbit and all of the Eragon books. Of course, there is the wonderful public library. One more great resource and then I'm done. I love StoryNory.com. Fairy Tales, poetry, classic books...there are 100's of stories on this site read by actors.

Math. Ugh. This is our trouble spot right now. I have found some good tips on Dianne Craft's website. This lesson plan on math was particularly helpful.  Josiah has difficulty with the abstract. He thinks literally. He has had difficulty connecting the math processes with his life...which really is how he learns. The Life of Fred books have been a lifesaver! They are short. They tell a story. They are funny and they won't break the bank. I also found a really old arithmetic textbook that teaches in word problems. It's ironic that my dyslexic learns math through word problems. We will often draw out the whole story on the whiteboard.

My last Hack is one I have posted about before. It is Menu Math. Basically, I have a folder of menus from all over town. We can create all kinds of scenarios.  He takes mom and dad out for supper.Dad wants a burger, fries and a chocolate milkshake. Mom wants a bowl of chili and a chocolate shake with caramel. And whipped cream. And a cherry. And extra cheese on the chili. I have needs.

Now I'm hungry! This post is part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew Round Up. Several of us have posted all kinds of ideas for Special Learners. Go check it out by clicking on the banner below.

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