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Featured Teacher on Teacher Time 123

What an exciting morning! An amazing blog called Teacher Time 123 has posted me as their feature teacher! Click here to see the feature piece. Teacher Time 123 is a fantastic network for teachers, with resources to inspire you and help you get creative in the classroom. It shares lesson plans, resources and even inspirational stories. Make sure to stop by Teacher Time 123 to check out their resources!

Featured Teacher

My name is Marisa Kaplan and I have a lot of favorite books. Since I am an avid reader of children’s books, I figured I should start with an inspirational quote from one of my favorite books. Ishis about a boy named Ramon who discovers that there is more to art than drawing inside the lines. This book sums up my philosophy on teaching. I teach a wide range of children various subjects and material but this lesson is one that always seems to stick.

Lesson: Just as there is more to art than drawing inside the lines, there is more to life than thinking inside the box. Let your creativity roam free!

I am a native New Yorker and over the years I have taught at a variety of schools in NYC. Although I am certified in both general education and special education, my heart and the bulk of my experience lie in special education. I have taught students ranging in age from infants (mommy and me classes) through sixth graders and have found different characteristics to love about each age/grade level. Being a special education teacher, I have worked in many different academic settings. My favorite teaching memories all take place in my CTT (Collaborative Team Teaching) classes. I have had such incredible luck with co-teachers and they have all inspired me tremendously along the way.

This year I decided to take a break from the classroom and test-drive some other avenues in the field of education. At the moment I have my hands dipped into a few different projects and I am loving every minute of it. I am a part-time consultant for the Cooke Center for Learning and Development, which means that I get to work with a team of teachers to build upon their strengths and support areas for growth in the classroom. The Cooke Center is doing some fantastic work and I am proud to have joined their team. My teachers are amazing and the kids make me smile every time I see them. I work 1:1 with students, supporting their needs outside of the classroom. I am also the creator and writer of EdGeeks.com, which is a platform I use to share ideas with families and teachers in hopes of bridging the gap between home and school. The best thing about EdGeeks.com is that I get to write every day and writing has been my favorite subject to learn and teach forever!

When I think back about how I got to where I am now, I feel lost. I never thought I would be writing a blog or consulting other teachers. I can’t really say exactly how it happened but here are a few things that helped me along the way:

  • I said yes to every opportunity along the way that would make me a stronger teacher
  • I made sure to learn as much as I taught
  • I saved every lesson plan, chart, idea I ever had on a hard drive just in case I needed it later
  • Made sure to reboot when I felt uninspired…always remember, teaching should be the most inspiring job in the world.

I don’t really know what to call myself anymore. Teacher, educational architect, freelance educator…but one thing is for sure. I LOVE what I do.

Thank you so much Teacher Time 123!

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Home-School Connection: What’s the deal with A.D.H.D?

This article was written by a wonderful school psychologist who also happens to be an amazing friend. She works primarily in student assessment and is a wealth of knowledge on many different areas of student needs both in the classroom and at home. Her ideas truly offer us ways to bridge the gap between home and school. This is my longest post yet…and while I thought about breaking it into two sections, I didn’t want to make my readers wait to read the second half. Yes, it is long but it is informative and sends a message of hope to all of us out there working with children who have been diagnosed with ADHD.

What’s the deal with A.D.H.D? by, Emma Savino, M.A., C.A.S, NYS Certified School Psychologist

We’ve all heard someone self-diagnose themselves with ADHD; “I can’t focus today! I’m so ADHD!” The truth is, we are all inattentive or become restless at times.  Most of us have the self-awareness and cognitive control to bring ourselves back to reality when this occurs.  However, about 10% of the population struggles with maintaining focus and conforming to environments that require controlled behavior on a daily basis.  Imagine how tiring that would be for someone who has limited control over their impulses, attention, organization and ability to remain still.  Now imagine that person as a child stuck in a classroom for 6 hours each day behind a desk.  This is a daunting task for many children in our classrooms.  Some feel that ADHD is over-diagnosed (which it probably is), however, it does exist!  What separates those with true ADHD from those with attention difficulties depends on the frequency, severity and length of time behaviors have been present.  For these individuals, there is hope! We can treat ADHD just as we treat medical disorders, through various modifications and behavior management systems in home and school settings. This helps create a better and more productive work environment for everyone involved.

What is ADHD? Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurobiological disorder characterized by inattentive and hyperactive behaviors that are developmentally inappropriate.  These behaviors tend to interfere with daily life, impacting school performance, social relationships and productivity.

When do children display these behaviors? ADHD can manifest at an early age.  Be sure to rule out developmentally appropriate behaviors.  Kids are inattentive! That’s just a fact of life.  My professional opinion is to seek help if behaviors persist through 1st grade.  I do not feel comfortable assessing a child in pre-K or kindergarten for ADHD.  First grade is where students usually begin to be required to function in more structured settings.  If you (parent or teacher) are actively teaching self-control through the use of a structured routine and other direct teaching strategies in which the child is not responding, further investigation into ADHD may be warranted. Be sure that these behaviors are impacting your child across various environments.  If behaviors are specific to one setting (i.e. the classroom) modifications in that particular setting may be all that is needed to see improvements in behavior.

*It is also important to rule-out learning disabilities or any medical problems that may contribute to inattention/hyperactivity. If you have concerns about your child’s performance, contact your school district to find out how you can refer your child for evaluation to assess these areas.

Who can diagnose ADHD? School districts can use screening tools to determine frequency and significance of behaviors, however, cannot diagnose.  Once this information is gathered, school districts will typically recommend you share the data with an outside medical professional.

Although your general pediatrician can diagnose ADHD, I recommend follow-up with a neurologist, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist.  These individuals have more training in this area and may be able to conduct additional assessments to determine whether a diagnosis is warranted.

Guidelines for Diagnosis The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) is the mental health professional’s bible.  This manual outlines behaviors associated with various disorders.  Individuals must meet a specific number of criteria, occurring for a pre-determined length of time. For ADHD, symptoms must be present for 6 months and be disruptive to daily life or are considered developmentally inappropriate. They also must be present across at least two settings.  There are three different ADHD diagnoses (the term ADD is no longer used):

a. Predominately Inattentive Type: This describes the child who is inattentive and does not display significant hyperactive behaviors.

  • Inattentive symptoms can include:
    • Trouble organizing activities.
    • Trouble keeping attention on tasks or play activities.
    • Is often easily distracted.
    • Does not give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work, or other activities.
    • Loses things needed for tasks and activities.

b. Predominately Hyperactivity Type: This describes the child who is hyperactive and does not display significant inattentive behaviors.

  • Hyperactive/Impulsive symptoms can include:
    • Fidgets with hands or feet or squirms in seat.
    • Runs about or climbs when and where it is not appropriate.
    • Has trouble playing or enjoying leisure activities quietly.
    • Is often “on the go” or often acts as if “driven by a motor.”
    • Trouble waiting one’s turn.
    • Interrupts or intrudes on others.
    • Blurts out answers before questions have been finished.

c. Combined Type: This describes the child who displays both inattentive and hyperactive symptoms.

Recommendations for Teachers and Parents

General Recommendations:

  • Be patient with your children with ADHD.  The calmer and more collected you are, the more they will respond to you and follow directions within the classroom or household.
  • Provide these children with visually stimulating and interesting material such as maniuplatives, to help catch their attention.  You can also allow a student to hold an object in their hand while working (i.e. stress ball, play-doh, etc.).  This can sometimes help increase focus.  However, this technique should only be used if the item itself does not become a distraction.
  • Students with ADHD often suffer from deficits in working memory or “immediate memory.”  This is where we initially process information and then store the information into our short or long-term memory.  When we repeat a phone number in our head in order to remember it as we get to the phone, we are using our working memory.  Individuals with attention problems may struggle with using their working memory.  Therefore, always break up instructions into individual steps.  Writing down these steps on paper can also act as a visual reminder.
  • Teach organization! If your home and classrooms are organized, the more likely your child will be organized.  At home, organize toys into categories and colored bins.  You can also label these bins and put pictures on them displaying what’s inside.  For school books, color code folders and binders into separate subjects.
  • Attention to task and school performance for a child with ADHD can fluctuate.  Some days you may notice this child is “on point” or they may score high on a test.  This is normal for these children so it is important to expect patterns of fluctuating performance and attention. Again, be patient.

Recommendations specific to teachers:

  • Have the student sit in close proximity to you.  A simple tap on the students’ desk may be enough to redirect them to task.
  • Reward this student when they are focusing.
  • Provide them with movement breaks throughout the day.
  • DO NOT take away recess as a punishment or for the student to catch up on work.  These children (wait a tic; all children) NEED recess.  Recess is not a significant amount of time to keep the student from participating.  What is recess nowadays, anyway? Fifteen to thirty minutes? Let the kid play!
  • Use visual schedules so the student knows what to expect each period during the day.  This can be posted on the child’s desk or in the front of the classroom.
  • Rules should be clear, concise and their implementation should be consistent.  The student will eventually learn your expectations and this leaves no room for surprises.If and when you have the time, work one-on-one or in a small group with these children.  Attention can significantly increase with less distraction in a smaller setting.
  • Expressive tone of voice when teaching will help keep your student’s attention.

Recommendations specific to parents:

  • Homework can be challenging to finish with any child.  Create a homework routine.  Complete homework at the same time each day.  Have a “homework box” near where your child completes their work to avoid disorganization and interruptions during homework time.  This box should include ANYTHING that your child could possibly need to complete homework and small projects.
  • Medications:  Medicating your child is a big decision and is solely your decision.  I’m not going to speak too much on this matter because the truth is if you are considering medication, you really must speak to a medical professional about benefits and side-effects.
  • Encourage healthy eating!  You are what you eat, right? Good foods that act as fuel are the healthy ones!  These foods can help improve focus and productive energy.  Therefore, avoid sugary foods that are going to make your child MORE hyper.  Have a healthy snack waiting for them when they get home from school.
  •  Limit video game time.  Many parents think their child does not have ADHD because their child can play video games for hours! However, the intense stimulation provided by video games is making your child’s brain happy, but is not necessarily good for them.  Although a child can partake in a healthy amount of video game playing, try to get them to do something more productive like build a sculpture out of blocks, play with a friend, create artwork or help you with chores around the house.
  • Let your child play! Take them to the park and let them play outside.  Use play time as a reward for your child.  As long as all of their school responsibilities are fulfilled, they should be playing, running and jumping to release that energy, particularly after being cooped up in school all day.
  • Keep open communication with your child.  Do not keep their ADHD a secret from them.  Many children with ADHD have average to above average intellectual abilities.  Therefore, there is a good chance they know they’re different! Educating your child about their strengths and areas for growth, and working with them to determine what works best to manage inattention and impulsive behaviors will only benefit them.

In closing, remember this when working with these children:

  • There is no cure for ADHD, but managing the disorder is possible.
  • Be sure that inattention/hyperactivity is significantly impacting your child before searching for a diagnosis.
  • Ignore behaviors that are not causing disruption to others or are not jeopardizing safety for anyone. If you try to correct each and every problematic behavior, you will go crazy.
  • Use every opportunity to teach your child.  Teachable moments occur everyday and many of the skills that children with ADHD lack can be taught directly with repeated practice.
  • Take a deep breath.  Remember, you are working with a child and they need your help; and hey, they keep you on your toes, right?  Accept the challenge and do all you can to create enriching experiences and environments for your child.

Resources: http://www.chadd.org/  – This website is a great resource to learn about ADHD and connect with other parents or adults who have been diagnosed.  They also offer a bi-monthly magazine that you can subscribe to so you can stay informed.

Emma also highly recommends this book for parents and teachers that are working with children with ADHD:

[amazon-product image=”http://ws.assoc-amazon.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&Format=_SL160_&ASIN=1843106515&MarketPlace=US&ID=AsinImage&WS=1&tag=edg0b-20&ServiceVersion=20070822″ type=”image”]1843106515[/amazon-product]

 

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Guest Blog at Edutopia: Creating a Strong Parent Community

Today’s post is from my guest blog on Edutopia. Edutopia is such an incredible resource for the educational community and I am honored to be on it!

Hands down, teaching children is the most incredible and rewarding occupation that exists. That being said, teaching is a complicated profession for many reasons. There are so many variables that can impact a teacher’s year including: class size, administration, supplies and resources, colleagues, class makeup and of course families!

A supportive parent can be a teacher’s best friend. The only thing that could be better than that is a supportive group of parents! I have taught in a variety of educational settings and have worked with students ranging from toddlers to sixth graders. I can assure you that the support of family members has a strong correlation to a student’s success in learning and to the classroom community no matter what the age of the students.

As teachers, we can encourage our parents to become involved in meaningful ways. Here are some ideas that we can suggest to our families. Please suggest any others in the comments section below.

List of Helpful Parent Activities: Pre-K

1. Offer to come help out during lunch or an art project
2. Donate used books or art supplies to your teacher
3. Come in to do a “Guest Read Aloud” for the class
4. Make sure to read with your child at least 30 minutes a night
5. Support mathematical learning by intertwining counting into your daily routines at home (ex: counting socks in the laundry, counting eggs while cooking, etc.)

List of Helpful Parent Activities: Lower Elementary

1. Come show your support for writing during a publishing party
2. Offer to help out during publishing by typing up students’ stories
3. Stay late one morning to share about something you are really good at. You could even be a guest teacher for your particular area of expertise
4. Support your kids with homework responsibility and organization by asking them to see their homework each night to check for completion and understanding
5. Always be prompt for the start of class, distractions are very tricky for teachers!

List of Helpful Parent Activities: Upper Elementary

1. Read at home with your kids. Even though they are in sixth grade and may be strong readers, the texts are tough and getting tougher!
2. Come in for Parent-Teacher conferences and bring between one to five specific questions about your child’s progress
3. Ask the teacher questions. By middle school, the content is getting trickier so if you aren’t sure how to support your child at home, just ask
4. Email about a time when you used a resource from the teacher. It always makes us happy to hear the success stories. (Ex: I had a family email me about a website I had recommended. They said it had really been supporting their son and it really put a smile on my face)
5. When behavioral situations occur, make sure to stay calm and have a proactive tone rather than a negative one. Always try to work with the teacher and maintain a united front

A classroom community is built on trust. Our kids need to trust us and we need to trust each other. That is when the best learning happens.

An Amazing Memory

The best family memory I have is of a time when the entire class community was together during a publishing party. This was a second grade collaborative team teaching class and my co-teacher and I had printed compliment cards for the stories. One student did not have a family member present. Another parent walked up to him and wrote his first compliment card. That sparked an incredible idea — all of our families began writing compliment cards for multiple children — not just their own. The ultimate family member demonstrates a true interest in the classroom community rather than only in their own child. In my mind, this memory represents the ultimate classroom community.

What are some other ways that parents can be supportive?

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