Summit Writing Academy Blog
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Finding Your New Groove During the Coronavirus
You're in the middle of dancing to your favorite song when someone changes the music on the station. You can't go back to your favorite song, and the station is no longer playing your kind of music. The new music is not your style at all, and the moves you know won't work with the new beat. When will your favorite songs be available? No one knows.
1. Losing Your Normal
When you were a teen and joking around, changing the station was a prank. You could get back to the music you loved. Perhaps that's the same for you when you first heard of the Coronavirus. It was something happening somewhere else. It was a blip on your radar, one wrong song in your favorite playlist. The truth is now in our faces. The Coronavirus has stolen our normal. It's not our playlist anymore.
2. It's Okay to Be Angry
What started as suggestions of self-isolating, have turned into government regulated rules. It feels like we've got two left feet. We don't know what moves are okay to make, the instructor keeps changing the choreography, and it's hard to keep up. How do you learn new dance moves when the music keeps changing?
Dr. Denise Pope of Challenge Success (https://www.challengesuccess.org) says that kids need P.D.F. - Playtime, Downtime, and Family time. These will help them process their emotions during this stressful time. During playtime, they can experiment with new norms. Downtime gives them time to think about what's happening or take a mental break. Family time is critical as your kids look to you to let them know that it's okay to be angry at what's happening, that you love them, you're there for them, and together you're going to get through this.
3. A New Groove
You'll find your new groove - something that works with the new music. Once everyone settles into their new roles, responsibilities, and routine -you'll discover that you're dancing a new dance - a dance that makes sense with this new rhythm of life.
How do you find your new groove?
1. Acknowledge that things are different. Don't try to recreate your old life in the new normal.
2. Make a list of the most important things you and your family need to do. (It's probably less than you think.)
3. Create a routine around those important things. Include downtime, playtime, and family time.
4. Write out the routine - try it, adjust it, repeat... until you like your new groove.
What's important to your family? What will your new groove look like?
[Reading Time: 5 minutes]
If you've never read Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad books, you're missing out. While these early readers are funny when you read them as a kid, they take on new meaning when you read them as an adult.
The story, "The Garden," demonstrates how we sometimes expect our kids to grow. Frog has a beautiful garden. Toad sees Frog's garden and wants one too. So, Toad plants some seeds, waters them, and then expects them to grow into a beautiful garden - immediately.
When the seeds don't start growing right away, he does all sorts of things to hurry the process - including singing to his seeds in the pouring rain. Like Toad, when our best efforts seem to yield no results, we get frustrated.
In the story, he starts yelling at his seeds, "Now seeds, start growing!" Nothing happens, so he yells louder.
(If you need a laugh, take a few minutes to watch the video clip.)
"The Garden" from "Frog and Toad Together" by Arnold Lobel
False Growth Mindset
When we have a false growth mindset and only praise our kids' efforts, it's like Toad yelling at his seeds.
The problem is, they need time and the right conditions for growth. Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford University, suggests that for kids to develop a true growth mindset, we need to help them discover that with the right strategies, hard work, and resources, they can create success.
True Growth Mindset
When I was in middle school, we had to participate in the Canada Fitness Program. I could manage the sit-ups. No problem. I could get through the push-ups. But, long-distance running - no matter how much effort I put into that race, I was always dead last.
And by dead last, I mean that all the other kids were already relaxing in the gym and my teacher was still waiting for me outside.
The teacher could have told me to give up because I wasn't built to run. Instead, that teacher praised the fact that I finished the race.
Regardless of the time it took me to do it - I finished.
And because I was praised for finishing the race, every year when it came time for that race - I finished. Not because I loved running, but because I knew that finishing was important. And that finishing was an accomplishment in itself.
I was motivated to do better and knew that if I didn't change something, I'd get the same result the following year. So, I practiced running, I asked for help with running techniques (apparently all running is not the same!), and I made sure I had the best running shoes we could afford.
Each year, my time was a bit better. Each year, I was still dead last. And, each year, I was praised for my effort and for finishing the race.
Although I will never be a runner, I took that growth mindset and applied it to other areas of my life.
Nurturing a Growth Mindset
Just like my gym teacher praised me for finishing the race, rather than focusing on the amount of time it took me to run it, we need to help our kids focus on the hard work, strategies, and resources that lead to success.
What does hard work look like for your child? For a child that is skilled in many areas, hard work might involve expanding their thinking and not taking the easy answer - even if that answer works — pushing beyond the boundaries of their usual thinking. For a child that struggles academically - hard work might mean completing a small task independently.
When building a growth mindset, see the task and then look for the character skills, the critical thinking skills, the creativity that can be developed through completing the task. When you see beyond the task, you've hit on the praiseworthy things.
Sometimes the assignment isn't actually about the task, but about the character-building that comes from completing it. Sometimes it's about diligence, or having a good attitude while doing something you'd rather not be doing, or persevering through a difficultly. Perhaps it's about learning how to ask for help, or learning when to modify a task so that success is possible.
Develop the habit of correctly praising and it will nurture the seeds of growth mindset in your child. As their brain starts connecting hard work, strategies, and resources to success, you'll start to see them embrace a true growth mindset. And, like Toad's seeds, eventually, they'll grow and develop into something beautiful.
Growth Mindset Phrases
- Wow! Because you've been diligent in studying your multiplication tables, you were able to figure out this more complex problem.
- Hey! All that time you spent learning geography has paid off! When Mr. Smith was telling us about his travels, you were able to talk intelligently with him about where he had been.
- That cover letter you wrote helped you get the job. All that writing practice paid off. You were able to communicate why you were the best person for that position.
- Hey! Baking is just another science experiment. Let's make a hypothesis. We are out of baking soda, but you need to add something to the cake to make it rise. What else could you use?
- You changed the way you studied for that last exam, and your grade improved. It seems like you're on to something.
- Hmmm, that didn't work so well. What else could we try that would give us a different result?
According to the Society for Neuroscience, dyslexia is a language processing disorder that affects up to 5-15% of Americans. That’s 14.5 - 43.5 million people.
It's highly likely that you know someone that is dyslexic to some degree. Because it presents itself in such a variety of ways, every dyslexic student may require a slightly different set of technology tools to help them navigate the written word.
There are three primary tools and skills available to empower dyslexic students to become more independent in their learning. An example shown on the Don Johnston Human Learning Tools website showed how a dyslexic grade 11 student went from silent reading at a fourth-grade level to reading using audible technology at the 11th-grade and 12th-grade levels.
In this article, we’ll look at three available tools for assisting dyslexic students, text to speech, dictation, and touch typing.
But before we dive into the tools, we need to figure out what is causing the trouble in the first place.
Perhaps when someone says dyslexia, you're thinking letter reversals. However, it's a lot more than that. According to the article “Dyslexia and Working Memory” published in Psychology Today, Jan 15, 2016
"When it comes to writing, students need both verbal working memory and phonological awareness skills to blend the phonemes of a word, combine words to make a meaningful sentence, and finally remember what they want to say in order to write it down."
Perhaps you've gone to the kitchen and looked in the fridge only to question what you went for in the first place. Your working memory failed you. But usually, if you stand there sifting through your thoughts, something will trigger a memory of why you are standing there and what you needed.
Imagine doing that with most words on a page. Now, in addition to that scenario happening as you decode each word, you need to know the meaning of the words you already read and hold them in your mind in the correct context as you figure out the rest of the sentence. Exhausting, I'm sure.
So, when offered the option of text to speech, a new world opens. One text to speech format that you're probably familiar with is audiobooks. This is a growing industry - not just for the convenience of commuters, but also a great resource for dyslexic learners. More books are becoming available every day.
In addition, to complete audiobooks on services such as audible.ca/ audible.com, Kindle gives you the option of having the book read to you. And whether you’re a Mac user or PC is your preference, there are a variety of screen readers available to assist you on almost any electronic device.
Although the text to speech option opens the world - what about the printed word in the wild? Not all print is screen-based, what about handouts at conferences, slides during presentations, and forms that need completing at the dentist’s office.
Sight vocabulary is still required and is often only achieved after dedicated and grueling, regular practice.
The beauty of the text to speech opportunities is that vocabulary is built and can be used when using the next tool - speech to text.
People with dyslexia are not limited to their written vocabulary. Remember all the vocabulary that was learned by listening to audiobooks and text to speech tools? With speech to text software, you can speak, and the words will appear as text on the screen.
Now, of course, it is not exactly that easy. Users need to train the machine to understand their voice first, and there will still be errors - it is a machine after all. Nevertheless, users with an understanding of writing structure can correctly punctuate and format their work using spoken commands.
Once the text is complete, users can then use the text to speech feature to have their work read back to them, thus enabling them to be independent in revising their work.
A few tools students find helpful in augmenting the speech to text tool are Spell Check and Grammarly (or a similar tool).
Writing is always a process, and although it will take a dyslexic learner longer to write their composition, it is possible. And, even with all the tools available, a human proofreader at the end of the process is prudent regardless of your written language skills.
The final tool we'll talk about is touch typing. Although not technology-based, touch typing is an invaluable skill for any writer.
For people with dyslexia that have a good handle on basic spelling and phonics, touch typing is a final step of independence.
Touch typing allows students to get words on the screen without consciously thinking about typing each word. It enables them to get ideas on the page without announcing them to the world in their raw, unedited form.
To aid their working memory and increase the benefit of touch typing, people with dyslexia do well to create an outline before writing.
The outline serves as a kind of external working memory. It keeps the writing organized and reduces the working memory required to do the actual writing. With an outline, touch typing helps students get their messy first draft done with less stress.
Technology is opening the text-based world to dyslexic students in ways we couldn't have imaged 50 years ago. And, although text to speech, speech to text, and touch-typing have been highlighted as tools for dyslexic learners, they offer new opportunities for crafting the written word for us all.