Sunday, 29 January 2012

Some Insight into Learning Disabilities

This week, in Special Education class we were introduced to learning disabilities (LD). I didn’t know much about LD initially, but I did manage to read the assigned reading before class. After reading the chapter, I thought I knew what LDs were. However, it was after this week’s class that I realized that I had only understood the technical definitions of LD, not what an LD student actually experiences. This was courtesy of our incredible instructor and Richard Lavoie’s F.A.T. City Workshop video. Its incredible that this video, although almost 30 years old, is still relevant and accurate today!

Through this week’s class I experienced LD firsthand. I watched in shock as Richard Lavoie started his workshop class with fast-paced, rapid-fire questioning of his students, expecting an answer to his question while students barely had time to process the question. I witnessed him “move on” to the next person after obtaining a correct answer and ridicule the incorrect answers. Overall, this was bad teaching practice, however, it was the rapid-fire pace of his questioning that disturbed me. I could barely keep up with his questions and then realized – this is what LD students experience every day! What seems to be a “regular” pace to everyone else is too fast for LD students due to issues with processing auditory information! WOW!

Lavoie then proceeded to demonstrate the difference between vision and perception, that is, seeing something versus actually perceiving it. I could try to explain the activity in detail, but my explanation would not do it justice. I must say that this was very enlightening for me and it really demonstrates the different ways people perceive things. You can check out that part of the workshop here:

Another activity that was eye-opening was participating in a round-robin story. We were asked to each say a sentence in order to form an interesting story…easy enough, and actually kind-of fun! We were then asked to repeat this, but our instructor started us off with “I am going to the bank to get some money”. Oh, and one more key point – we were told that we were not allowed to use any word with the letter “N”. May I suggest that you try this exact exercise with a few friends? It’s hard!! Each person participating in the game had to think carefully about every word they said, and they hesitated after every word. As I sat and listened, I truly had a “light bulb” moment. Some students with LD, must think about every word in a sentence and this results in hesitation and staccato-type sentences. Again, WOW!

I looked up Richard Lavoie on YouTube and found another class of his in which he explains reading issues that LD students, especially dyslexic ones, have. Once again, it was mind-blowing to see/hear his activities & explanations. You can view this class here:

Overall, Richard Lavoie’s techniques in teaching us what its like to have a learning disability are eye-opening. I highly recommend that you look up his videos on YouTube for an amazing insight into learning disabilities. My challenge now will be to learn how to effectively teach these students in a way that they understand and are engaged. Our textbook, “Special Education in Ontario Schools” (Bennet, Dworet & Weber) suggests a variety of in-class strategies including differentiated instruction, empathy and understanding and giving positive, frequent feedback. As well, a consistent systematic approach is important along with graphic/visual support, help in sequencing, help in dealing with print, and awareness of time constraints. Lastly, they suggest helping LD students with time management, making allowances for them and simplifying their environment. Overall, optimism, encouragement and trust are imperative.

I have yet to work with LD students and will most likely get this chance in a few weeks when I start my second teaching placement. I need to figure out how to put this newfound knowledge into actual effective teaching practices during my lessons. Should you have any tips or suggestions, please share! Thank you!!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

New Year, New Resolutions

Every New Year, I evaluate my goals and resolve to accomplish certain ones that year – yes, “New Year Resolutions”. While I never formally write them down, I do reflect on these resolutions and make a concerted effort to achieve them. This year I thought that I should share my thought process with you and take the daring step of actually sharing my resolutions. Oh boy, once I write anything out, I am accountable for it…that should help me follow through this year!!

I had the luxury of getting away for the holidays for some much-needed relaxation and family time. While enjoying myself on the beaches of sunny Ft. Lauderdale, I started to reflect on the many things I would like to accomplish in the upcoming New Year of 2012. I resolved that I needed to relax more, spend more time with my husband & children and schedule in more “me-time”. I was able to do all these things during our time away and I came back home feeling renewed, refreshed and optimistic. What a feeling!!

Then reality hit. Back to school and the craziness of being a full-time B.Ed. student while juggling being a mom & wife. What was I thinking?? Reality check: time to re-evaluate those dreamy resolutions! Here’s what I have come up with.

“Relax more” is not going to happen! However, I have resolved to get to bed most nights at a decent time, I am aiming for 11pm (as opposed 1am), since I am up at 6am every morning. In order to accomplish this, I need to work on my time-management so I am not completing assignments and lesson plans into the wee hours of the morning.

“Spend more time with my husband and children” – this is one that I definitely want to stick to, but I need to figure out how I can do this with my current schedule. What I have come up with is to spend more quality time with them. I will make time every day to actually play or read with my kids, even if its just for 10-15 min. I will also start scheduling “date night” so my husband & I can actually spend some special time together.

“More me-time” – I have the perfect solution for this one and it comes in the form of “me-time” at the gym! That way I sneak 2 resolutions into 1 – aren’t I clever?! I have the stereotypical, standard fitness resolutions and I’m scheduling in my workouts as if they were a class at school. Its working so far, but I’m not too sure how its going work when I’m in my 2nd teaching placement in mid-Feb…..

Ok, so that deals with my lofty resolutions dreamt up of at the beach. But that hardly covers it all! Back in class and in “teacher-mode” and I have some important professional goals as well. I have resolved to make a concerted effort to challenge myself to “think outside the box” and really apply different pedagogy to my teaching. I want my lessons to be more student-centred and inquiry-based. I want my students to experience inductive teaching strategies, experiential learning and indirect instruction. In my first teaching placement, I was focused on pure survival and I stuck to more traditional instructional strategies. For my next placement, I truly want to expand my teaching to incorporate the strategies listed above.

As well, I am determined to apply more technology to my teaching. For my next teaching placement, I want to set-up and maintain a class website and include use of some new technologies in the classroom such as Edmodo, Livebinder, Twitter, Facebook, LiveScribe, and/or Remind 101.

Whew! I dream big don’t I? Of course, I have more ideas and reflections that I could share with you but…..I don’t have time! Too much to do! 2012, here I come!