Praising Teens for Effort May Backfire​

In searching for information on growth mindset, I came across an interesting article in Education Week that posits praising teens for effort can actually backfire. It is a natural tendency for parents and teachers to praise effort, so how can we shift that when we're talking with teens? First, let's define growth mindset: it's the idea that hard work, dedication, and perseverance are important elements when learning something new. Rather than focusing on natural talent or "brains," growth mindset encourages students to recognize how continued effort toward a goal, along with resilience in the face of setbacks, is the most important part of learning. Researchers discovered that adolescents, who, as a rule, question what adults tell them, have a tendency to dismiss feedback when adults praise them for working hard. This leads them to not believe that their hard work can enhance their skills. Like much of teenage behavior, this often exasperates adults. So what can we do? The article quotes mindset researcher Mary Murphy, who has the following suggestions: 1. Focus on giving students chances to reflect on what they're learning. Ask them to track their growth as they learn a concept or skill so they can watch their progress unfold. 2. Talk with them about how mistakes are natural and necessary as part of learning. Explain that mistakes are what help them recognize what they still need to learn or work on. Tell them about your own mistakes, especially recent ones, that you've learned from. Best of luck to you as you navigate those tricky teen years with your child!​

Kids and Screen Time

Common Sense Media recently published a study on the use of screens by tweens and teens. I recommend their site both for excellent content and for their guides to and reviews of tv shows, movies, apps, and books. If you've ever wondered what the heck TikTok is, look no further. Find the Common Sense Media here, where you can read the full report or check out their key findings. This article is a good round-up about their findings around screen use. Things I found interesting: • more than half of all kids have a smart phone by age 11.• 8- to 12-year-olds average five hours of screen time a day.• teens average 7.5 hours of screen time daily. What does that mean? Screens are everywhere, we use them a lot, and they're becoming more ingrained in our daily lives. But they don't have to take over. You get to decide what rules you will impose around smart phones, laptops, and tablets in your home. The article suggests that you enforce balance based on what makes sense for your family. Further, and I think this is one of the most important, model the kind of screen use you'd like your child to have. If you want them to put their phone away or on silent during dinner, do the same. If you want to have a screen-free hour every evening, make sure you're not checking your email or texts during that time. And especially for students with ADHD or executive function challenges: try to encourage that phones are off/not in the room during homework time. I know this is a huge struggle for most families, and I suggest you take it one day at a time. Ask your child to try it just for an hour or 30 minutes at first. And have empathy. I think most of us with smart phones have trouble leaving them off or in another room for any period of time. One of my teenage students, who was initially reluctant to part with his phone for any reason, recently tried putting his phone in another room while he wrote a paper. This was after his parents, counselor, and I suggested it. He noticed that he was a lot more productive, and he hopes to implement this strategy each time he has a paper to write. Baby steps, right? ​

Learn How ADHD Can Manifest​

It is ADHD awareness month and I wanted to highlight some of the aspects of ADHD that are not as obvious as the hyperactivity, lack of focus, and impulsivity that people usually connect with ADHD.  ADHD can affect relationships.  Some students with ADHD experience low self-esteem for a variety of reasons. They may have difficulty cultivating friendships and can struggle to relate within their family system as well. If you notice this in your child, consider connecting with a good therapist to help them build their social-emotional skills.  ADHD often occurs in conjunction with other mental health and learning challenges. Students with ADHD may also struggle with anxiety and/or depression, dyslexia, processing disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and speech and hearing issues, among others. ADHD can affect sleep. People with ADHD can struggle with snoring, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. ADHD may also affect circadian rhythms, meaning students may stay up late and then want to sleep in, which doesn't match well with school schedules.  If you'd like to learn more about ADHD, ADDitude Magazine is a good resource.​

How Touch Typing Helps Dyslexic Students​

Touch typing is a skill that can be a game-changer for dyslexic and dysgraphic students. Often, these students find it easier to type than to write by hand, and once they become proficient typists, writing papers becomes just a bit easier. Many state tests are administered by computer, and most middle and high school teachers expect typed work from their students. But touch typing is not always taught in schools, and dyslexic students often need extra practice to master the skill. Here are some excellent resources for free or affordable touch typing programs recommended by the International Dyslexia Association. Click the link above for longer explanations and reviews of each program. Use the links below to check them out. Typing Club and GCF Learn Free both have clean, easy-to-use formats. Free Typing Games is a little more cluttered with ads, but has great timed tests.  Typing ClubGCF Learn FreeFree Typing Games ​

Why Structured Literacy Works for Dyslexia​

October is Dyslexia Awareness Month, so today I wanted to explain why a structured literacy approach, like the Orton-Gillingham approach I use, is the best way to help students with dyslexia. If you'd like to see this in visual form, click here for a great infographic created by the International Dyslexia Association. You will hear instructors talk about how decoding is important when learning to read. Structured literacy helps students decode words by teaching them how to break words down into their smallest parts and then understand the sounds and the meaning of those parts. The Orton-Gillingham approach is excellent for teaching decoding because it is explicit about the structure of words and instructors are systematic when introducing this structure to students. Each skill builds on the next, and instruction spirals back often for review to strengthen students' knowledge. I hope that eventually all teachers will learn and use structured literacy to teach reading, as it works well for all students, not just dyslexic students. With a structured literacy approach in every classroom, students with dyslexia would struggle less during the crucial years when they are learning to read. For a deeper dive into the pieces of a structured literacy approach, check out the infographic linked above. Photo credit: Kimberly Farmer​


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