Having trouble getting some special needs students excited about reading? Consider classroom or individual props. Connect math, science, and social studies to literature. This benefits all students, as do typically brain friendly approaches. The student above loves to read but while we are making our way through “The Hobbit,” these slip ons are FUN!
I’ve posted a four-part series on overcoming phobias through Reid Wilson’s program, which uses current brain research to change the way you respond to fear. As a Christ-follower, I had prayed in desperation for 12 years that God would heal me. I tried to worship my way through panic attacks. I tried biofeedback and meditation on God’s word.
I felt in my heart that God was going to heal me, but how long would it take? And what if I “lost” the healing when I was on the freeway? At its worst, I immediately fainted when I tried to drive on any road with more than two lanes. All my fears seemed valid. After all, I would crash and kill someone if I fainted. How could possibly God help me? When would he help me?
Several years ago, God began my healing by showing me how much fear runs through my brain all the time, not just on the road. If you watch the video below, you’ll understand why. Desperately, I contacted a psychiatrist, who referred me to a weekend workshop offered by Reid Wilson (offered that very weekend and I was able to get in!). I hoped for a miracle but nearly ran out of the building as I realized that this was something I had to do. But thankfully, I was not alone in this. God was with me. His Spirit encouraged me that I was made for freedom.
The wonderful aspect of this freedom to drive is that I don’t have to be phobia- or fear-free to be FREE! I recognize that my brain is simply doing what it was made for, that my amygdala is trying to protect me. I love the intricacies of God’s creation in my brain. He has made a new way for me to enjoy his splendor. He has given me a new way to glorify his hand on my life.
Am I weak in faith if I am afraid? I am like the man who cried out to Jesus, “I believe! Help me in my unbelief!” I don’t have to “keep” my faith; my Savior does it all for me. From beginning to end, I am safe in His arms.
Part of my story is shared below. Of course, my name is misspelled. There may be 24 different ways to spell Katharine but Jesus knows who I am!
Step four of overcoming anxieties and phobias, as taught by Reid Wilson, is to transform fear into something more helpful. This makes powerful use of current brain research that changed my life forever. In this step, you are activating the fear neural circuitry so that you can generate a new fear-free circuitry! (Click here for previous posts.)
In my case, a driving phobia was crippling me. Sure, I needed a chauffeur (usually my dearest teaching widower) but it was much worse than that. It was torture, no matter who was driving. My clever amaydala translated the fear of jumping out of the car while driving to a fear of jumping out of a car no matter what.
What happens in step four? You practice kicking butt. I told my amygdala that NOTHING was more important than freedom. Freedom from fear and freedom to drive with joy. Freedom to drive to work. Freedom to pick up my widower from the airport. Freedom to drive any time, in any vehicle, on any road. Even the highest bridges or most lanes. Freedom is more important than the feelings of fear that still pop up. Scary feelings? Beh. I like the feeling of freedom!
Be sure to check out Reid’s online course when it becomes available this fall! You can do this!
Okay, this third step in Reid Wilson’s program to shed worries and phobias was not what I wanted to hear.
I had attended his small group workshop with a few other folks, desperate to overcome my fear of driving. Over 12 years, my world had shrunk to two-lane roads and occasionally, the driveway. I knew I was losing this battle, so I went to the workshop praying there was something AMAZING that he could do to change my life.
Step three involves what you or I can do. It’s a determination to listen to a different voice in your head. The other scary noise will be there, but the voice you listen to is different. My amygdala did not like it at all. It still doesn’t. I was uncertain that I could tell my brain the truth about driving, that I could practice making that truth the strongest voice. But I did and it was the most AMAZING experience!
See, I was imagining this workshop and wondering how Reid was going to get in the car with me and make this work. What if the other folks had driving phobias, too? How would he help all of us? The great news is that I didn’t need him with me. I headed right out for the freeway, in a downpour of rain, and shouted in a new voice. I’m kinda glad no one else was in the car.
Was I still scared? Yes. But was I training my brain in a new and exciting way? Yes!
Previously, I wrote about a wonderful cognitive behavioral therapy approach to anxiety and phobias developed by Reid Wilson. The first step is understanding how our brain works to protect us and in that process, may not be helpful at all.
The second step in dealing with these issues is to step away from the noise and false signals. In my case, my brain was very eager to tell me all the “dangers” associated with driving. I might kill my family. I might crash into other cars and kill those folks. I might drive myself off the road. I might even throw myself out of the car. My brain had gotten so good at “protecting” me that I would faint if I drove on anything but a two-lane road. How’s that for safety? This second step also focuses on your motivation to stop the noise, the crazy thoughts that pass for reality. In truth, when Reid told me to simply tighten my chest instead of relaxing, the fear of fainting (vasovagal syncope) had no way to hold me back from freedom.
This fall, check out Reid WIlson’s online course (not yet available). Learn how to be free of noise in your head!
If you are looking for a perfect summary of how to teach all year, but also want to fire up your jets for the start of things, TeacherVision’s Ultimate Back-to-School Guide is for you. It lists nine areas to consider, including self-awareness, persistence, and real world effectiveness. But this guide is much more than a list. It’s inspirational and has multiple links to apps, books, and online resources for each area that will support your teaching experience- and make you more effective.
The first area reviewed is one of the most important to me: self-awareness. Did you know there’s an app for that? Well, actually, much more than that. One inspirational quote in this section comes from Daniel Goleman, who has been at the center of the emotional intelligence field for years. “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.”
As a teacher, our job is to not only improve our self-awareness but also that of our students. As I noted in an earlier blog, Marianne Hardiman says that “setting the emotional climate for learning may be the most important task a teacher embarks on each day.”
Reid Wilson’s approach to cognitive behavior therapy changed my life. No longer trapped by a driving phobia, I drive anywhere and everywhere, sometimes still telling my amygdala to give it a rest. Reid now has a new online course which I can guarantee will change your thinking about anxiety! The course is called “Stop Worrying: Powerful New Tools for Anxiety Relief.”
Why am I so convinced that this course will be life changing? Two reasons: Because it is founded on the latest brain research and Reid Wilson is an expert in this field. The video below explains what happens in your brain when you come across something scary, like a snake. Watch it and be amazed at how fabulous your brain is- and how that amazing brain can make a mess of fear.
More info on this course to follow!
Research continues to support the use of specialized instruction for rewiring the young dyslexic brain, changes which persist into adulthood. A new study reported by the Dana Foundation found significant improvement in reading AND changes in the brains of 24 dyslexic children over an eight-week summer reading program. The changes occurred not only in the brain’s language areas, but also areas which allow monitoring of sensation and movement. The study used a Lindamood-Bell program, similar to one with which I also have positive experience. The cool part is that changes occurred so quickly.
I have seen such rapid changes in reading performance with youngsters I’ve taught. I’ve seen as much as three years reading growth in less than 10 months for some kiddos. And in other cases, that growth occurred in three months! I would identify developmental readiness, small group size, and administrative and regular classroom support for pull-out sessions as key factors to speedy improvement.
Ok, I am starting a list of things that leak. Feel free to add your own. I am not including body parts other than the brain.
- Complex instructions to kiddos spoken in the midst of asides and other students’ comments.
- Classroom lectures that last 30 minutes.
- Classroom lectures that last 20 minutes.
- Social skills instructions that are not practiced in real world situations.
- Tips for dealing with bullies that don’t include adult supervision and support.
- Phonics instruction presented by teachers who have no scope and sequence.
- Phonics instruction presented by teachers who never learned phonics skills.
- Ditto #6 and #7 for phonological instruction.
- My brain after less than 8 hours of sleep.
- My words after a strong cup of tea.
Even this dehumidifier leaks- but into the sink, not the subfloor, like our dishwasher.
From TED talks to neuroscience journals, the consensus on improving memory is clear: make information fun, meaningful, and visual-spatial, while training the brain to focus. Most of the videos I’ve watched emphasize memory of facts, dates, spelling, and playing cards (Not sure that minors need to memorize decks of cards in less than 5 minutes but it might help with Hearts or Spades.) Did you know that there are memory athletes who compete in how quickly they can memorize hundreds of names?
While we are not only teaching facts to be memorized, these athletes do have some useful tips for the load of information required at each grade level. Multiplication.com, for example, effectively uses a story-mode with unusual characters to support memorization of times tables.
An ancient Greek strategy uses places (“loci”) to help store information. For example, you picture the words or concepts you want to recall in familiar places, attached to a vivid story. To memorize the six syllable types, I could walk up my front steps to find the door has turned to glass. It is CLOSED so I whack the glass to OPEN it. As soon as I walk inside, I see an unfamiliar band playing in the hallway but can’t hear anything. And how did they get in my house? I step closer and notice they are all wearing band tee shirts saying SILENT E, which is weird, right? I run to the kitchen and grab my phone to call the police, keying in my cLE password (c for consonant). The police send a special V-TEAM to sort things out, but those guys end up in the hallway playing with the Silent Es! I’m about to give up when some lady on a motorcycle revs out of the living room! The loud RRRR sound scares everyone away!
Okay, that’s a bit lame, but I guarantee that if a student or class create a picture story using spaces in the school building, they will remember all of the syllable types. And just imagine the fun they’ll have! Where does the meaningful part come in? Guiding students to understand the benefits of learning those syllable types or multiplication facts. Learning about memory and how to improve it. Helping them make connections with previously learned material. Practical and social applications, like being a student memory jock. And maybe some of your kiddos will end up in memory triathlons!