Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fun in the Summer? A case for academic summer camps!

Summer came and went; did you see it? As a kid, I remember thinking summer just flew by. But now that I own a learning center, I get to see summer in a different way. I like to think of summer as a great time to have fun learning! And there are so many ways to learn in the summer! Books at the beach! Museums! Tracking the weather on a graph! Keeping a vacation journal! Sending letters and postcards to friends and family! Keeping track of your laps at the pool! Map out the route to vacation! Keep a jar of spare change and count it every week to see how much money is in it! Write a play and put present it in the back yard! Have a lemonade stand! The ideas are endless!

In fact, there are so many great ideas, we came up with the idea of academic summer camps. I mean, why can't learning be fun? At our summer camps, our goal is simple: to teach and review skills, without letting the children know they are learning!  We love to come up with different themes for the camps, to motivate our students. We create "camps" with themes such as Dinosaur Days, Weather Camp, Shark Week, Lego  and The Cat in the Hat! We know the themes make students want to come. Once we get their attention, we know we can create learning experiences that don't feel like learning at all!

During summer camps, I love to open the door of the classroom and observe. I even take pictures to show parents. I love to see children sprawled on the floor or sitting together at the table, hard at work on a story they came up with on their own. I love to see them multiplying sets of penguin erasers or farm animal counters, when just this morning, they didn't even know how to multiply! I love watching them run across the yard, while our solar balloon gets higher and higher above them in the sky, demonstrating solar power! Summer is a great time to allow students to delve into interests, such as animals, weather, mysteries and fossils (while also practicing reading, writing and math skills!). The motivating themes hide the fact that real work is going on here. It's not just a science experiment. It's a story to write. It's a math problem to solve. As I move around the center, I am listening for students' comments. My favorite sound sounds like this: "Awwww....time to clean up and go home already?" "Don't worry, " the teacher consoles. "You can do more tomorrow!"

Last year, in Penguin Encounters, for example, our students measured and compared the sizes, weights, and speeds of various types of penguins. Students compared how far they could walk with an egg on their feet. They left camp with a book of penguin facts they wrote themselves. They added, subtracted, skip-counted, graphed and sorted penguins. They matched penguin types with habitats. They wrote stories about arctic animals and illustrated them. We taught more than writing, reading and math. We taught them about penguins. That's what they came for! In Spy Camp, students wrote mysteries.  They made their own secret codes and wrote messages to each other. They learned to study their fingerprints and how the police catch criminals. They solved the "Mystery Number" each day. They wrote riddles and dared their classmates to answer them!

This year, academic camps are in full swing again! In Extreme Weather, our students spent some time laying in the grass, sketching different types of clouds, after reading a book about clouds. They have checked their solar paper experiments. Everyone has made a different pattern and is excited to see what the paper looks like after being in the sun outside! As they write their journal entries about their solar paper experiments, the radiometer starts to twirl. The sun has finally found its way through the back window. Everyone stops writing and gathers around to see solar power on display! As the sun bakes down at it, the radiometer quickens. It spins faster and faster! The questions start flying: "How does it do that?" "Can we put it in the shade and see what happens?" "Will it ever stop?"

I close the door and go back to my office, content to know their questions will spur another day of learning! So, how does the radiometer spin? You'll have to come to camp tomorrow and find out!


What's inside!

Releasing the butterflies

Monday, September 9, 2013

It's That Time of the Year Again!

Welcome back to school! It's that time of year when mornings a crisp but afternoons are golden,  binders are clean and organized, and there is still enough sunlight to play after school before starting homework! We all know what it's like to face a fresh season, ready to set the world on fire! But often, after the new-ness of the school year wears off, kids hit a rut. How can you stay on top all through the school year?

Organization is key in all walks of life! Help your child create a system of organization. The more invested your child is, the better! Organization depends on many things. What is your child like? My daughter was an organized child. She liked to write her assignments down and complete them in priority-order. She used a desk, instead of her lap. She kept separate notebooks and a file box where she could save important information for use later. My son couldn't find his homework in the middle of the modge-podge he called a room. He often forgot to write his assignments down and his binder and folders looked like a paper-bomb had just gone off in his backpack. Where my daughter could function with stacking trays, file folders and a bulletin board in her room, my son needed to sort his papers and work on his homework in the dining room, where we could keep an eye on him and not allow his papers to get lost. We used a paper cubby labeled by subject and other topics such as "keep", "throw out" and "ask the teacher". Starting the year out organized is important, but it is equally important to stay on top of it. Children often do not have a natural ability to stay organized. They need guidance and modeling. For example, sometimes homework can be overwhelming after a long day of school. When a child says, "I have so much homework tonight!" Ask the child, "Would you like me to help you figure how what to start with?" Often, they do not know what to start with or they put off the task they feel is the most difficult.  It is also important for the teacher to help monitor organization. Ask if the teacher schedules time for notebook checks, locker and desk clean outs, and has students help keep the classroom orderly and neat.

It seems silly, but choose a homework start and finish time. As the school year progresses, children and families get busy with sports, family functions and holidays. Pick a time to begin homework and pick a reasonable time to stop, even if homework is not done. If too much homework has been assigned, let the teacher know. Sometimes, especially with departmental teaching, teachers do not consider or even know what others have given for homework. Sometimes, what takes one student 10 minutes, takes another 30 minutes. Be realistic about how long it should take for the night's assignment and pack up anything not finished so the teacher can adjust the amount of homework accordingly. If a child creates a habit of starting homework at a certain time, it will be easier to transition from another activity (TV, play, etc...) and the child will be less likely to argue or "dread" the task. Time your homework period in between preferred activities. For example, after play time, but before dessert or story time.

Homework can become monotonous. Allow movement breaks and, if your child is having a hard time with a skill or concept, try explaining or demonstrating things with hands-on examples. If a child has a trouble staying with a task, allow movements but limit them in number. You could provide a number of tickets that the child "turns in" to take a break. When the tickets are gone, the child must focus and finish his/her work.

Some children need complete quiet when working on homework, but others fare better with music. Research shows that certain types of music promote learning and productivity. While some children prefer music with lyrics, others may function better with only instrumental. In order to know whether or not music would be helpful, experiment. My son, with an auditory processing disorder used to tell us that he could hear every little noise in the house, including our small dog's nails click-clopping on the wood floor. Providing classical music in the background helped him focus on his work.

Should you check your child's homework for accuracy? Homework should consist of a review or reinforcement of a skill or concept that was taught at school.  It's usually hard for parents not to correct their child's work when they see he/she made a mistake. We want our children to understand the concept or skill being reinforced. There are times when parents must intervene and help their children complete an assignment. In fact, some times parents understand how their children think and approach work better than teachers, who are just getting to know your child. On the other hand, teachers want to know if a child is spending more time than typical completing homework. If a child is regularly having difficulty with homework assignments, it is important to let teachers know. In that instance, observe the child when working and allow the child to bring the finished assignment to school. Email or jot a not to the teacher, explaining what went wrong. For example: "Justin didn't seem to understand the math homework last night. It seems like he consistently forgot to regroup when necessary." Unless the teacher knows your child is struggling, she may move on before the child is ready.

Create a peaceful home environment, where children can share their concerns, worries and successes regarding school. Sometimes, children do not know the words to explain what is bothering them in school. Make time to review the day and ask leading questions. For example, instead of "how was school today?" try "What are you learning in math?" "What was the most/least favorite activity today?" Encourage children to share, but don't immediately contact the teacher if your child is upset about something. If your child is old enough, help him/her to learn how to discuss any problems with the teacher, perhaps role-playing or scripting out what the child can say. Follow up at home and find out what happened and discuss the matter with the teacher when you need to.

It's important that children have time and opportunities to focus on non-school activities, as well. Sports, art, music, crafts and other hobbies not only round out children's lives, but allow children to excel in something other than academia. A child might spend a lot of his time thinking "I'm not good at...math, writing, etc...", but having a chance to feel good about something they are "good at" makes everything feel better! Hobbies not only provide physical, creative and emotional outlets, they can help your child develop leadership skills, social graces, determination and dedication. Organized hobby activities can help children learn organizational skills and time management. My daughter, a gymnast throughout her school years, had to manage homework, school clubs and gymnastics practice 4 days a week. She learned out to use a schedule and manage long-term projects out of necessity.  She was busy, and the requirements for the gymnastics' team were rigorous. Yet she loved it and was willing to make it work. She benefited socially, academically, and physically. And at 26 years old, she still looks back fondly at her 13 years, knowing she learned life skills that continue to benefit her today!

Of course, there are many, many other strategies and helpful hints. Just as no two children are alike, not every technique or strategy works for each student. Sometimes, it's a matter of trial and error, observation and tweaking.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What We Can Learn from Racko

Every March at the Learning Lab, we host The Great Racko Tournament. It is an event happily anticipated by all students who meet the requirements for participation (that being--3rd grade and up). I teach each of my students to play Racko and encourage other tutors to do the same. Racko is a game of logic and strategy that is simple to learn. To win, put your cards in order from lowest to highest. The deck is made up of cards numbered from 1-60.  Ten cards are dealt and placed in the card rack in random order (you can't look!). Then each player takes a turn to draw a card that he/she can use replace the cards already in his rack.

It's excellent to watch children learn this game. The first few times they play, they don't understand it exactly. They try to replace more than one card at a time or they randomly pull out a card to replace, before they've even chosen a new card from the deck. I offer advice--"are you sure you want to do that?" And I hold them to the rules-"you can't do that." But eventually, they get it. I love to watch a student choose a card, then spend several minutes deciding: Do I want this card? Can I use it? Should I put it in this spot? Or that one? If I discard this, will my opponent use it? It's an excellent way to teach that kind of thought process.

I call Racko a "math" came since it involves ordering. But it's much more than that. For one thing, it makes our students excited to come to tutoring sessions. Moreover, it gives kids something to think about. Something to strategize about. It teaches good sportsmanship (I never throw games--I'm just as competitive as the kids are!). You can't always win. It teaches patience. It teaches turn-taking skills.

Sometimes, mistakes are made. You choose a card, replace a card and then...uh oh, you realize it wasn't a good plan. I make an effort to talk through my mistakes for the benefit of my students (Oh...I guess I should have thought about that move a little bit more). It makes me happy to see my students do the same thing. Part of the learning process is figuring out how to compensate for or rethink mistakes we make. In a game setting, it takes the edge off.  Sometimes I even lose at Racko! That's okay; I try to lose gracefully and expect the same of my opponents when they lose.

I've never had a student who didn't enjoy Racko once I taught them to play. That's where the Great Racko Tournament came from. This is a lesson in patience, sportsmanship, graphing, planning and happy anticipation. Each student plays 2 round of the game with me at each session. This keeps the playing field even. My wins don't count, but for each win a student has, he/she gets to color a square on the Racko graph. At the end of the month, the player with the most wins is the Champ! (Actually, we award first, second and third places--with medals, of course).

Students watch the graph all month, planning, anticipating, predicting what will happen. They try to develop new strategies and psych themselves up. Standing around the graph, students ask each other questions, congratulate one another, or comment on the standings in constructive ways. They learn about each other through this event.  Some of my students have even bought the game Racko (it's not easy to find) to teach their families and to play at home. That's good. Board games and card games are excellent ways to spend some free time.

Only one student can be the Racko Champ, but there are no sore losers. Everyone can win when it comes to learning new skills. And, win or lose, everyone has a good time.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Write Stuff

This afternoon I got an emergency call from a mom. Her daughter (my student) was in the throes of a full on research paper on the Rwandan genocide of the 1990's and couldn't figure out how to get started. Who can blame her? One thing I've learned as a tutor is: nobody teaches kids how to write any more! It's a real problem.

The problem starts with the thesis statement. Kids don't know how to write one. This is no easy task. A thesis statement tell the reader what you plan to tell them in the body of your paper, but doesn't give away your details or your sources. It's short and sweet, but must be concise and succinct. Most students feel (and some are told) the thesis is a single sentence. Most often, this is not the case. Like a sculpture, the thesis statement must be carefully and artfully molded, crafted into the introductory paragraph that holds it with delicate precision. To write the thesis, the writer must know what he plans to convince his/her reader of. It must grab attention, but not give anything away.

Our students are taught to infuse their writing with exciting and teasing attention grabbers. Because of this, too often, students begin their writing with something like this: "Do you want to know more about african elephants? Well read on to discover facts about this animal." This is a cute opener for a young writer, but won't work for the Rwandan genocide piece. Yet students have a hard time bridging creative writing to a more sophisticated style. Opening statements should be crafted out of facts that hit salient points, while enticing the reader to know more. Over the course of barely three months, close to a million Rwandans were killed in a massive genocide that pitted neighbor against neighbor, husband against wife. The paragraph should be clinched by the thesis statement. Now, ten years later, Rwanda struggles to pick up the pieces and move into the 21st century by ending poverty, improving infrastructures and becoming a competitive economy in the global community.

The best way to organize a paper is in a logical, sequential manner. Notecards are very helpful for this, provided they are used efficiently. Frequently, students arrive for sessions with notecards that are not effectively organized. Their goal may have been to accomplish the required "35 cards by Friday". Or they may be color coded by source. But the best way to organize notecards is by topic or paragraph. Once the thesis statement is established, students can be directed to develop topics for each paragraph. The question is: how can I prove my thesis statement? What questions must be answered? What arguments must be made? When this is known, notecards can be labeled by topic. This can be done either by using title headings (Events Leading up to Genocide), an alphabet or number system (#1 cards are all about global response to the genocide) or color coding (orange cards are all about the rebuilding of the country). Organizing cards in this fashion will come in handy for writing the outline and paper.

Notecards should contain the following: relevant facts for the topic, appropriate quotes for the topic, and page numbers. The back of each card should contain the citation of the work (e.g. author's name, publication title, date, etc...). This will be handy when using the cards during the writing process; simply type the quote or facts, page numbers, and then flip the card over for the citation.  Use more cards and write less on each card. It keeps the fact relevant (not everything is important enough to include) and helps limit facts and quotes that will be cited to the most powerful ones, making the paper more focused. Limit notecards containing quotes to only the one quote per card.

Learning to write is a tough skill. Making words flow is not easy. Using well organized notecards, writers can sort cards and organize the flow before putting it into writing. Once this is done, a draft can be started. Good writers read their drafts--out loud--to hear how it sounds, always editing and improving. Sometimes, more words helps the flow (instead of: The violence in Rwanda was widespread-perhaps- The violence in Rwanda was massive and widespread, touching every community and sparing none.) Other times, a more succinct message is appropriate (The global response was a failure.) All messages should be stated as facts, supporting the writer's argument, even when equal facts may exist that support another opinion. There is no substitute for a broad vocabulary. This is a time for the thesaurus. Some words are better than others (They ratified the new constitution. He denounced the new government.) Stunning is stronger than surprising; ridiculed is stronger than mocked or laughed at.

In text quotations are tough too. Students need practice with this skill; finding and inserting (and then citing) quotations that match their thought process is a high level skill. But once learned, it will be a lifelong asset. Student should be careful to choose the most fitting quote that makes the biggest impact (While studies are currently underway to obtain current and specific statistics, the National Reading Panel suggests, "...at least 20% of readers in third grade are reading well below grade level across the nation" (National Institutes of Health, 2001).

A strong conclusion brings the whole paper together. The conclusion should rephrase the thesis in a direct and conclusive manner, using some details from the paper: Too often, students begin this paragraph with "In conclusion..."  Worse, so many students insert the mighty "I" statements (I think the genocide in Rwanda was a horrific event, but I think the country has learned from it). Students must be taught to state their opinions without using the I-statement. This is hard for kids to learn. Instead, the conclusion might look something like: Despite a massive genocide which tore the country apart, the government of Rwanda has made great efforts to achieve its goal of creating a middle-income country by the year 2020. It should be concisely supported, not only with facts but conclusions drawn by the writer (This goal, while lofty, is already being acted upon, with Rwanda focusing resources on improving roads, developing tourism and planning for a university system. Real progress, however, will require a redoubling of efforts and resources.)

A great way to practice writing technique is to do it before the major paper is due. Practice with simple, fact-based topics (e.g. All About Dolphins; The Difference Between Lincoln and Washington; Mountain Gorillas in Danger). Use a topic that students find interesting and simple sources (limited to 2 for practice) that offer straight-forward information that is easy to read and understand. (A note here about finding reliable sources: a safe bet for students using the internet is to focus on government sources, .org sources and major publications sites--Time, Newsweek, BBC, etc...). Of course, it goes without saying that good writing comes good reading. Thoroughly review all sources and have students read with you to be sure they are comprehending. When reading on the internet, make use of features such as the computer's ability to define unfamiliar words and supply synonyms. Help children practice paraphrasing and summarizing in their own words. These techniques will be good practice for writing.

As students grow as writers they learn what a valuable tool writing can be. After all, the pen is mightier than the sword! (Edward Bulwer Lytton, 1839).

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reading: Myths and Magic

Is teaching a child to read "rocket science?" In many ways it is. Reading is not a "natural" skill but rather a set of complex skills that require direct instruction. Children develop oral language skills through listening and mimicking, but reading is much more difficult. Reading requires the brain to view and recognize orthographic symbols, associated each one with a sound, process the sounds quickly enough to "blend" them into a word and then access the meaning of the word so that it makes sense. And this development progresses through various stages, from word reading to phrase, sentence, and passage reading. Even more complicated, at the sentence and passage level, good readers are also making instantaneous observations, comparisons, judgments, corrections--well before the word is read.  Not surprisingly, these skills are all require adequate underlying processes. For example, the child must possess adequate vision and visual processing skills, adequate hearing and auditory processing skills, good memory skills and an appropriate attention span. No easy feat, right?

For hundreds of years, children have been learning to read under all kinds of circumstances. Yet in recent years, research has helped educators to realize that reading is not "magic." Children do not just "pick up" reading. It is a skills that requires the guidance of an experienced and trained educator.  We have also learned, through recent research, the methods matter. While there is a percentage of children who will learn to read no matter what the instructional method, there is an equal percentage of students who learn better through a direct, explicit, structured and sequential approach. In fact, there are some children who will not learn any other way. Moreover, we know that all children can benefit from a direct and sequential approach.

So...what does that mean? Consider math instruction. We would never even consider teaching addition or subtraction before we have taught students to identify and name numerals and identify and count quantities. That just does not make sense. Yet in many schools or educational centers, students are "learning to read" well before they have mastered basic letter/sound skills. They are memorizing sight words and stories. Further, the "hidden" reading skills are often never taught at all! These skills include: rhyming, syllable segmenting, word and sound counting, phoneme manipulation. Without these skills, our children lack the skills to unlock words. While they may be able to "sight" read to some degree and they may even be able to make use of context clues to guess words they have never seen before, children who lack the "tools of the trade" will, inevitably, suffer the consequences. And, since reading and spelling are reciprocal skills, poor reading skills will eventually affect spelling and writing as well.

So what's a parent or teacher to do? Supporting a child's reading development is not complicated at all. First, students need a solid understanding of the alphabet. They should be able to recognize, name and sequence all 26 letters--both upper and lower case (keep in mind that books are mostly lowercase and in order for a child to begin reading, he must be able to recognize and associate sounds with lowercase letters). Alphabet puzzles, index cards, magnetic letters and alphabet books will assist with this. Children also need a foundation in phonemic awareness skills. These are the building block skills for learning to read. To teach these skills, children require a language rich environment. Songs, rhyming stories (remember age-old nursery rhymes? These are the perfect tool for building rhyme and sound awareness), and simple games will go a long way toward building these foundational skills. Can your child supply a rhyme (In the house, I saw a _________)? Can she manipulate sounds to create a nonsense rhyme (exa meeny olla meeny ooowaa chawalla meeny)? Can he segment words orally into their syllabic parts (how many parts in bron-to-saur-us? Let's clap one time for each part.) Can she manipulate sounds (say donkey without the key; say raindrop without the rain; say cow without the /c/ sound)? Finally, students must learn the sound (or sounds) for each letter (or group of letters). This skill can be developed by associating letters with objects, pictures or names that begin with the target sound and can progress to medial and ending sounds (e.g. find a word that has the /o/ sound in the middle). These skills are easily developed by using a set of flash cards (store bought or hand made on index cards) to drill and review, match (e.g. the child places Tt on the table, Rr on the rug, Ss by the sink, Cc on the car, etc...) Students can also make their own alphabet books using pictures from magazines or their own illustrations. A "junk" box can be handy for making games where children can match letter cards--by first, middle or final sounds.

Once sounds are mastered, students will need to practice the skill of "blending" and segmenting real words. Ideally, students will beging with a controlled group of sounds (e.g. the short vowels and hard consonants) and gradually increase their sound knowledge to include complex spelling groupings (e.g. igh). To teach this skill, short vowel CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) words can be dictated to students who use the letter cards to spell words (no need to be able to form letters properly in order to read and spell). Alternately, as a more independent approach, objects (e.g. a toy cat, dog, box, cup, etc...) can be laid out and children can spell the words one by one then ask the instructor to check their work.
For added practice, a word bank can be made of the words the child spells. These cards in the word bank can be used for reading practice. Using the word bank, ask the child to: "show me the word rug,"  "show me cat" or lay out the objects and ask the child to "match the words with the objects they go with." Hold the word card up and ask the child to "sound this word out."

Students must also develop important visual awareness skills. On a basic level, students must know that print has meaning. Words in books or on signs or even on pencil boxes are there for a reason and they convey information. Students should also begin to develop their ability to visually recognize letter sequences. For example, student may recognize the word STOP on a sign or recognize the name of their favorite toy or cereal. The student should be able to match print visually (recognize a pair of matching words). This skill should begin to generalize so that a student can recognize that a word may be written in various sizes, colors, fonts or locations and for a variety of reasons. Students should also be taught to recognize words within words (or even similarities). For example, within the word shop is the word hop. Students must also be able to view letter sequences and use developing phonological awareness skills to decode or "sound out" the word. Again, these skills can be easily taught through games. Concentration can be played with familiar or unfamiliar words. To do this, make 2 sets of words (feel free to use different fonts or colors, etc...which adds another layer of discrimination), mix the cards up, place them face-down on the table or floor and take turns choosing two cards attempting to get a matching pair. Words can be written or cut out of magazines.

Basic sight words, which cannot be sounded out, must be taught visually. Therefore, building these skills is important. Using flashcards, student can visually match and/or sort sight words. Begin with only 2 or 3 words and allow the student to become comfortable with them. If the child is beginning to decode phonetic words, sight words can be paired with words from the child's word bank to make short phrases (e.g. the cat, a dog). Children can also hunt for sight words in magazines, cut them out and glue them on graphs or make a sight word book. If a child is struggling, visual shaping is a good approach to try. For example, make a set of color word card pairs, writing one set in black ink and the other set in the color of the word (e.g. write orange with an orange pen). Eventually, fade the colored set so that you have two black and white pairs. For number words, write the number on one set of cards. Keep in mind that the child may not be able to read the cards, but the goal is to match them visually. Word searches are other way to develop visual skills. As another idea, give the child several words written on post it notes and ask him/her to find the words in his/her favorite book. When he/she spots the word, the post it gets stuck to it. Or go on a word scavenger hunt. Make a set of word cards that match words in the room (or house or store, etc...). Give the child the words (start with 2 or 3 and expand) and ask him/her if he can find the matching words in the environment. You can choose favorite cereal names or snacks, appliance names (Sunbeam), toys (Barbie), etc... Label the environment. Write the names of objects or family members on cards and attach them. Above all, help the child to use these experiences to explore similarities among the words ("hey, I can see s-u-n in this word!") and discover patterns both visually and auditorially. Remember, the goal is not for the child to memorize any words. The objective is to build visual skills that will work in tandem with phonological skills to refine the process of learning to read.

Like anyone, children enjoy successes and every success enhances a child's desire and determination to learn more. Bob Books provide good early reading practice in a controlled and phonetic way. Another great way to expand early reading skills is to have children make their own books. Using controlled vocabulary, create a short, mostly phonetic book (e.g. Jan is a cat. Jan is red. Jan can run and hop. Jan can nap.). Incorporate sight words as the student acquires them. Then, allow the student to illustrate his/her book and read it!

Early development of  pre-reading skills is essential for strong reading skills to develop. However, it is equally important for parents and teachers to recognize when a student is struggling with reading and to intervene as soon as possible. Good reading skills can offer a lifetime of rewards!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Learning and Memory

Children who underachieve in academic settings are often mis-diagnosed. Lazy? Immature? Bored or disinterested? Low intelligence? Perhaps the real problem is memory. Researchers from Durham University surveyed over three thousand students and, shockingly, results indicated that 10% of students had poor working memory. Nationally, this equates to nearly a half a million children in primary educational settings. Working memory is the ability to hold onto information long enough to use, store or organize it. Students with poor working memory may appear to have difficulty attending to lessons, following directions and comprehending material. They may have trouble solving multi-step math problems or calculating problems with multiple steps (e.g. long division or algebra). Writing may be an issue, as this requires retrieval of information as needed. Often memory problems are not noticed or are mistaken for other learning problems. This may be because they are often not identified without formal testing.

Young children may present with memory problems in several ways. They may forget or confuse names (both common or proper nouns, for example, calling Aunt Mary Aunt Sue or calling a dog a cat or a woof). Some youngsters seem to "know" the names of shapes, colors, numbers or letters one day and then the next day they "forgot." For some children, the colors or shapes come easily, but recalling names of numbers or other categories is more difficult. For yet other children they have difficulty finding words. Working memory may affect progress in learning to read, both the decoding stage and the comprehension aspects. This is because memory is required to hold sounds, syllables or words on the work table while the rest of the word, sentence or passage is decoded. For a child who struggles to get past the sound-it-out (/b/ /a/ /t/) stage of reading, comprehension can be slow to come.

Early identification of memory problems is key to improving educational outcomes for students. Teachers can adapt instructional methods and both teachers and parents can teach compensatory strategies that can help students, before they fall too far behind. Visual cues and task analysis check lists are strategies often employed in academic settings. For example, placing the initials "d m s b" (divide, multiply, subtract, bring down) on the top corner of a long division paper can serve as a reminder of the order of steps to employ when doing long division. A task analysis checklist can serve as a sequential and visual reminder of the steps involved in longer projects. Often, mnemonics and rehearsal strategies can be helpful for students with memory problems. Students may develop sentences or words that trigger recall (e.g. Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally as used in the order of operations: parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction). In addition, "chunking" or combining smaller bits of information is helpful. The average person can take in about 7 small bits of information at one time. Less is more for children with memory problems. It is important to be sure to give them only the essential information so they don't have to weed through and discard superficial information. For many children, embedding information within context is important. Whereas abstract, seemingly unconnected information cannot be retained. However, when it is embedded in context (e.g. the dog's name is "red" because of its red color) it is more easily sorted, stored and retrieved. For some children, songs, rhymes or rhythms word well. How many of us can "sing" the phone numbers we have heard repeatedly in TV commercials? This applies to educational learning as well.

Educational consultants and educational psychologists, particularly neuropsychologists, can assist students with memory concerns. As always, it is important to rule out alternate disorders and/or identify co-existing disorders in order to create a proper treatment plan.