Monday, December 24, 2012

Happy Holidays from The Yellin Center

It’s the day before Christmas
And each year at this time
We have a tradition
Of blogging in rhyme

It’s also the last blog
We’re writing this year
As we take some time off
For holiday cheer

But before we adjourn
Until January 2
We want to say “thank you”
To each one of you

To our loyal blog audience
That seeks news and ideas
We’re grateful you followed us
All through the year

A thank you to teachers
Who have worked with our team
Supporting their students
Helping them reach their dream

We also appreciate
The dozens of schools
Who sought out The Yellin Center
For training and tools

To the families who see us
For evaluation and support
We’re thankful you let us
Assess and report

We promise to continue
To be there for you
With strategies, guidance, and
Advocacy too

So thanks to you all
For a wonderful year
And we wish you a holiday
Full of good cheer!

Photo: CC by Bob Jagendorf

Friday, December 21, 2012

500 Posts and Still Going Strong!

Today marks our 500th Yellin Center blog post and we thought you might like to know something about the folks who write our blogs and who have helped us to reach out to you with news, information, and the latest research findings and educational tools since we first began blogging in August 2009.

Most of our posts in the past year or two about reading, books, and teaching strategies have been the work of Beth Guadagni, a Yellin Center Learning Specialist. Beth earned her bachelor's degree at Vanderbilt University, double majoring in English and secondary education, and her master’s degree in literacy from Columbia University's Teachers College.She is a New York State certified reading specialist who taught English at both the high school and middle school levels before joining the Yellin Center staff.

Our blogs about special education laws, schools, and the latest research findings have generally been the work of Susan Yellin, Esq., our Director of Advocacy and Transition Services. Susan has been an attorney for over 25 years and brings to the blog the perspective of a parent of three sons, one of whom has learning difficulties. She is also the author of an award winning book, Life After High School: A Guide for Students with Disabilities and Their Families (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2010). Here at The Yellin Center she works with families seeking help to  understand the world of special education and to guide them as they make school decisions. She also works with college bound students with learning and attention difficulties as they move on from high school to post-secondary education.

Jeremy Koren, the Director of Communications at the Yellin Center gives our blog its "bells and whistles" and every so often will write a post on technology. Jeremy has been with the Yellin Center since its inception and, in addition to handling all of the technological aspects of our blog, especially the illustrations and video, is also the Yellin Center webmaster, responsible for our newly revamped website, our newsletter, and our Twitter feed. In addition to his many roles here at the Yellin Center, Jeremy will be adding a new one some time in the next few weeks as he and his wife Meghan, a former Yellin Center Learning Specialist, become parents for the first time.

Last, but certainly not least, is Dr. Paul Yellin, who contributes blogs on conferences and meetings he has attended, research that he has read, and issues of medical importance whenever his hectic schedule permits. 

We welcome guest bloggers and comments on our blog posts, and encourage you to sign up for our Twitter or RSS feeds to stay up to date. When you visit our offices, take a look at the bound volumes of past years' blogs in our reception area. It has been a privilege writing for you and we look forward to keeping at it for many years to come.

Photo: CC by minivan1411

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Musical Math

Flashcards and drills don’t feel like much fun to kids who are struggling to grasp academic facts. Tim Bedley, a veteran elementary school teacher, sought to combat this problem when he came up with the idea for his band Rockin’ the Standards, a talented trio who somehow manage to walk the line between being instructive and entertaining. Their surprisingly appealing math album contains tracks like “Parallel or Perpendicular?,“The Place Value Rap,” and “The 6’s Song,” tunes designed to help students remember basic mathematical principles and skip counting (enormously helpful for multiplication) in a way that sticks. Both the song lyrics and album are available for download. In addition, Tim's own website contains helpful resources for teachers, including videos on teaching techniques for a variety of subjects.

The band has also released a language arts CD, featuring songs like “Plural Y and F,” and “Parts of Speech.” Trust us, it sounds dorky, but parents and teachers should not be surprised to find themselves singing snatches of Rockin’ the Standards’ songs even when there are no kids in sight.

Watch a video of Rockin' The Standards below:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Opportunities for Young Authors with Scribble Press

Kids love to make up stories. Not only is helping them stretch their imaginations a lot of fun, it also builds important cognitive skills. One way to do this is to help them write their own books, and for families in New York City, this can be accomplished through a visit to Scribble Press. Children can visit the company’s  studio to make a book, experiment with a variety of art supplies, take a class, or arrange/attend a party. In the studio, kids write and illustrate their stories and then hand their pages over for binding. The professional-looking final product is available to take home the same day. Kids can also design their own puzzle, greeting cards, clipboard, lunch box, and more.

For families located outside the New York City area, or whose kids are too full of ideas to wait for a trip to the studio, Scribble Press offers an iPad app for designing books. Scribble Press for iPad  is a low cost app that allows kids to either pick and write from a template or design their own eBooks from scratch. They can actually “color” directly on the screen, making drawing easier than it is with one of the many web-based book creation sites which use a computer and a mouse. Best of all, kids can submit their books for publishing, and Scribble Press will print, bind, and ship their book to them.  An especially interesting feature is Scribble Press’s public ebook library, which allows other users to view books. This makes sharing with friends and family easy, and is a great source of ideas for children who aren't sure where to start. Some online products are free, but there are fees for most services, including printed books and all classes.

Whether you visit a studio or investigate the app, Scribble Press offers great options for budding authors to express themselves!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Rewards for Reading: Does It Work?

An article in Reading Today*, a publication of the International Reading Association, cautions against rewarding students for reading. The authors, Katherin Hilden and Jennifer Jones, of Radford University in Virginia, warn parents and educators that research has not found rewards to be particularly effective, and that if rewards are given, they should be the right kind.

Hilden and Jones discuss the two different kinds of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation comes from within a person. For example, a child may spend hours drawing or playing video games because s/he finds the experience rewarding. A common phenomenon in people who are intrinsically motivated is the sense of “losing track of time” as they pursue the chosen activity. When a person is extrinsically motivated, however, they behave according to external factors; extrinsic rewards can be tangible (a prize) or intangible (praise), and extrinsic motivation may even result from desire to avoid punishment or a poor grade.

Hilden and Jones cite studies which have observed students working for extrinsic rewards, then ceasing the desired behavior as soon as the reward is earned. This is hardly a trend that teachers attempting to instill a love of learning in students should be perpetuating. For example, one study found that students who were given either a book reward or even no reward at all for reading were more likely to continue to read on their own than students given points, trinkets, etc. as a reward for books read.

The authors make several recommendations about rewards, for example, offering rewards that are linked to the desired behavior, like giving kids books, bookmarks, or journals as rewards for reading. Another suggestion is to make the reward social, like allowing students to eat lunch in the teacher’s classroom at special readers’ lunches or to allow them time to share their reading with others. Hilden and Jones note that social collaboration has been shown to predict reading motivation among students in first grade. Finally, students can be motivated to read if they have choices. The authors recommend that a variety of reading materials, including non-fiction selections and magazines, be available to students. Children should also be allowed to use e-readers if they prefer them.

While handing out goodies is an easy way to recognize a job well done, parents and educators should think carefully about ways to teach students that reading is its own reward.

*Hilden, K. & Jones, J. (2011). “Rewards for Student Reading: A Good Idea or Not?” Reading Today, 29(2), 6-7.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

News: Noteworthy Special Ed Programs, Museum of Mathematics, RCSN Camp Fair, NYC Holiday Tips

The excellent website Inside Schools has identified noteworthy special education programs  in New York City Public Schools. Some of these offer preferential enrollment to students in a particular zone and others are open to all students in a district or an entire borough on a first come, first served basis. We've blogged before about Inside Schools and other resources for finding schools, and you may find that article useful as well.

A new Museum of Mathematics opens in Manhattan this Saturday, December 15th, right in our neighborhood, at 11 East 26th Street (between Fifth and Madison Avenues). And if that isn't a convenient location for you, the Math Midway program of the Museum offers traveling exhibitions in locations including Florida, California, the Pacific Northwest, and Upstate New York. The Museum is targeted towards fourth through eighth graders, but promises to have information that will also appeal to older visitors. 

Resources for Children with Special Needs, a New York City nonprofit is once again sponsoring a Camp Fair in January. This year’s event is set for Saturday, January 26, 2013. The fair features camps for children with learning, attention, and behavioral issues as well as camps for children with medical disabilities.
We know lots of families visit New York City during the holidays and we have found a list of family friendly activities in one of the iconic areas of the city -- Rockefeller Center, home to the famous Christmas tree. Besides the tree, you can take an NBC studio tour and visit the Lego store. Don't forget to dress for ice skating!
Photo: CC by SimonPix

Monday, December 10, 2012

Math Gender Stereotypes Start Early

recent study by researchers at the University of Washington looked at how boys and girls associated gender with math, and examined how these associations correlated with strength of gender identity. The study included 126 girls and 121 boys between the ages of 6 and 10 years. Using Implicit Association Tests (computerized tasks that measure strengths of association among concepts) and measures of self-report, they found that boys and girls both associated math more strongly with boys than with girls. Furthermore, boys associated "me" with "math" more strongly than did girls, and their association of "me" with "male" was stronger than was the girls' "me" with "female".

Two new findings emerged from this study. First, math-gender stereotypes which prior researchers had found widespread in adults were present even in these young children. In addition, elementary school girls showed a weaker identification with math than did boys on both kind of measures used in the study, and this gender difference was seen before the ages when differences in math achievement begin to emerge (generally middle to late elementary school).

So, what are the implications for these findings? The study authors note that because the gender differences in their study came before actual differences in math achievement, they may play a part in shaping achievement, since girls might conclude that they "don't belong" in mathematics, since it is a field for boys.

What can parents of girls do to build a sense of "belonging" to the world of math? You might want to take a look at the work of  Danica McKellar, actress and summa cum laude math graduate of UCLA, who has written such tartly titled books as Math Doesn't Suck: How to Survive Middle School Math Without Losing Your Mind or Breaking a Nail and Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape . Her books are designed to make math appealing to middle and high school girls who may need a push to get them interested in the subject.

The Girl Scouts recently published a study on girls and STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, which includes an extensive resource list of organizations providing programs and information to build girls' interest in these fields. These websites and programs can help extinguish the stereotype that the University of Washington researchers found to still be pervasive.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Flocabulary: A Novel Way to Learn New Concepts

Fact: Studying vocabulary flashcards is not as much fun as listening to music.

Why fight it? Trade in your vocabulary drills, math lessons, and science cramming for fun rap videos by Flocabulary. Available at their website or on YouTube, Flocabulary videos are catchy rap tracks that teach a variety of important concepts in a format that is palatable and memorable. For example, here is a sample of some lyrics from “Carlito,” a vocabulary-based track about the importance of standing your ground.  In the song, man named Carlito takes his dog for a walk and encounters “an evil, malevolent old man” who wants to steal the dog:
“The man looked ready to punch, he was truculent,
Pugnacious, ready to fight, belligerent.”

(Don’t worry, the story has a happy, and non-violent, ending.) This is what’s fantastic about Flocabulary – can you think of a catchier, clearer way to teach three SAT words in a single sentence?  Listening to this song a few times will cement forty words likely to be found on the SAT into a student’s mind. As a bonus, students can follow the lyrics as they listen on the Flocabulary website and click on words they may not understand completely to get the definition in a handy pop-up window. 

Flocabulary makes videos for students as young as kindergarten and covers topics found in some of the most advanced high school physics and literature classes. All of the lyrics are free and so are some of the videos, but for access to all of them users must pay a small subscription fee. Visit the Flocabulary website to see how these infectious beats can help your youngster master math facts, geometric formulas, Shakespeare, story elements, civics, globalization, and more!    

Watch a sample video below.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Scholarships for Students with ADHD

We are often asked about college scholarships for students with learning or attention issues, and find it frustrating when we have to answer that such scholarships are rare indeed. So, with the deadline approaching for one such program, and several others coming up, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at this topic.

The Anne Ford Scholarship and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship both have an application deadline of December 31, 2012. These scholarships were established by Anne Ford, former Chairman of the Board of the National Center for Learning Disabilities and her daughter, Allegra, whose challenges with learning and related issues were chronicled in the book Laughing Allegra. The Anne Ford scholarship is an annual $2,500 award for each of  four years for a student with a documented learning disability who will be pursuing a full-time bachelor's degree. The Allegra Ford Thomas scholarship provides a one-time $2,500 award for a student who will be enrolled in a two-year community college, a vocational or technical training program, or a specialized program for students with learning disabilities.

Shire, a pharmaceutical company that manufactures medications for ADHD, will offer a $2,000 scholarship and a year of coaching to fifty students who will be attending a college, university, technical school, or vocational school. Applications are due by March 27, 2013.

Learning Ally (formerly Recording for the Blind and Dyslexic) offers the Marion Huber Learning Through Listening (LTL) awards, which provide six scholarships for students with specific learning disabilities. Applicants must be a member of Learning Ally. The awards for the three top winners are $6,000 each and three special honors winners receive $2,000 each. The deadline for the next awards is March 15, 2013.

A helpful resource for scholarships and other financial aspects of college is available on the website of the College Board. Students and parents should also become familiar with FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Photo: CC by Tax Credits