Thursday, January 13, 2011
Recharging my Batteries
This week I attended the annual Pennsylvania Department of Education Special Education conference. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to recharge, network and learn new things.
Today I went to two sessions. The first was titled, Teaching Word Recognition: Kindergarten through Grade 4, presented by Rollanda E. O'Connor, Ph.D. (All of the power point slides from these presentations are available for download here.) I attended this session in particular to get some ideas for helping EM with some of the reading difficulties he has been encountering. Due to his Auditory Processing Disorder, EM has difficulty with phonics, which leads to difficulty in his reading. Lately, I've been noticing that he seems to take some pretty wild guesses as to what an unfamiliar word might be in his reading. Because he is also gifted, he has done a good job up until now with his guessing technique. When you are reading Kindergarten or 1st grade material you have a pretty good chance at guessing a word if you know the context (usually thanks to pictures) and you know at least one phenome in the word. It was an excellent presentation and I came away with a few new strategies to implement. The one thing I did realize...I haven't been spending enough time allowing him to read aloud to me lately. Once he seemed to be reading successfully, I would often give him a reading assignment and when he had finished, I would ask a few comprehension questions or have a discussion about the passage. Since I discovered the guessing has been allowing him to just 'get by', I will start reading with him on a daily basis. I will also be spending more time reinforcing phonics.
The second session I attended was titled, Motivation and Underachievement, presented by James T. Webb, Ph.D. I came away from this session with two lessons learned. First, I was encouraged to learn that my recent adoption of a more compromising attitude with JT is definitely a step in the right direction. Allowing him to have a say in his education, so that it has more meaning to him, will help reduce the chance that he will lose motivation. Secondly, I discovered that I really need to find a way to orchestrate challenges in the boys' education that will allow them to feel success after hard work. Too often they breeze through things or make elaborate plans for some new project that loses steam when they run up against an unexpected barrier. I hope to incorporate more of that kind of learning into our days.
One of the other benefits of these conferences is that I get the chance to reconnect with friends who live across the state. Sometimes it's easy to feel alone when you are the 'different' one. Today I felt like I was with the other 'Martians' for just a little while. I always come home recharged and ready to put into practice the new ideas I have acquired. I can't wait to get started!