Not exactly helpful

I have found that when you have a child struggling with something….academic, health, behavior, etc….it’s tempting to turn to the internet to look for a quick fix.

In March the New York Times had a short article about dyslexia, Video Games may Aid Children with Dyslexia.

Students trained (?!?) in action video games showed that they had improved reading scores. WOW!  Time to get to Target and load up on all those Wii games I say N-O to.  That’s it?  I can just shove my boys in front of the Wii with ACTION (non-action games didn’t have as dramatic of an effect) games and they will read well? Done and done.

But wait, the last paragraph of the article is this:

“The correlation between attention improvement and reading improvement was very high,” said the co-first author of the study, Simone Gori, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Padua. “The change in attentional abilities translates into better reading ability.”

Wait, is this news?  Of course your reading will be better if your attention is better, isn’t that the trick I wrote about yesterday?

I would argue that instead of plopping your child in front of a video game and hoping that they become a better reader (they won’t), they go outside and exercise to increase attention.  Shouldn’t the goal be healthy children who are confident about their reading skills and engaged in learning….instead of children nagging about needing to play more video games and THEN they will do their homework.

The New York Times has published many articles about the benefits of exercise, even while Phy Ed. and recess time are being cut.  In the last paragraph of Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter by Gretchen Reynolds she writes:

“But for now, the takeaway is clear. “More aerobic exercise” for young people, Mr. Kuhn said. Mr. Hillman agreed. So get kids moving, he added, and preferably away from their Wiis. A still-unpublished study from his lab compared the cognitive impact in young people of 20 minutes of running on a treadmill with 20 minutes of playing sports-style video games at a similar intensity. Running improved test scores immediately afterward. Playing video games did not.”

Hiking in Glacier

Get outside and play!

Advertisements

2 ends of the spectrum

Yesterday I wore shorts on my morning run. Today I hit off on the alarm and went back to sleep after I looked at the weather report and it said “WINTER STORM WARNING!”  Sometimes I just can’t deal with the continual shift between extremes and I want to shut down.

This was the scene on our front patio this weekend, ice melt next to sidewalk chalk.  Two ends of the weather spectrum are flip flopping.

winter and spring

This is also the life of a person with dyslexia, it operates at two extremes.  Even though my brain operates like this, I find it very difficult to teach to two extremes.

One of the essential pieces of teaching a student with dyslexia is progressing very SLOW through basic skills.  The student needs to gain automaticity so their working memory isn’t overloaded. When automaticity is achieved they can take in new knowledge instead of focusing on how to sound out a word or spell a word.  The more profound the dyslexia, the more practice and repetition is needed.

At the same time that basic skills are incredibly difficult, these children are also very intelligent and outrageously curious.  Many times critical thinking skills are well developed at an early age.  Children who can’t remember that -ed is placed at the end of a past tense verb can remember and put knowledge together about history (or another complex subject) very easily.

And that is where the difficulty lies.  I believe that basic knowledge of how to read and write are essential for education (I was a first grade teacher after all!), and the rest will follow.  How do you teach a very bright child that is yearning for more and more knowledge but takes a month of daily practice to learn the -ed ending? How do you keep him stimulated but teach the basic skills without completely boring him and even worse, having him believe that learning is the equivalent to shoveling snow in May (aka: horrible and to be avoided)?  Luckily, history and -ed both deal with the past tense.

To keep motivation up #2 is starting a project about Russian history.  Worksheets, flashcards and drills, while essential to helping him gain the amount of practice he needs, quickly bore him and he daydreams easily.  Also, I think he was getting a little tired of my blank stares when he would ask me questions about the political motivation of Stalin before, during and after World War II and I would answer with a weak, “Ummm…. let’s Google that.”  When I had no idea how to find Chechnya on a map (without Googling it) I realized I needed a little Russian history too.

Throughout this month we will flip flop between the complex history of Russia and summarizing what he learns by writing sentences in the past tense.  He will be practicing the skills he has learned this year with the Wilson Language System (syllables and suffixes) while learning about a subject he is interested in.  Check back throughout May and I’ll share other projects I come up with to help him review his basic skills from 4th grade.