Transforming Lives by Empowering Students with Learning Differences to Achieve their Full Potential

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer Brain Fitness: Read for 30 Minutes

Goal: Read at least 30 Minutes a Day
minimum of 4 days per week

A Little Focus on Reading

“Read at least 30 minutes a day” is the #1 recommended reading exercise: sustained reading is a skills good readers share. Research has shown that good readers spend time reading and practice makes reading skills stronger. But why? 

When a reader is reading, there are many areas of the brain working together. There are multiple reasons to read 30 minutes a day:

  • sustained focus
  • practice decoding
  • experiencing language (vocabulary, phrasing, conversation)
  • following a story
  • building background knowledge
  • building empathy 
  • mental stimulation
  • enjoyment and relaxation

Each of these reasons relies on a group of skills and a group of areas of the brain working together, so a main goal of reading daily is to exercise multiple areas of the brain. For people who are not natural readers, it is likely that challenges in one or more of these areas are their stumbling blocks. Good readers tend to be working on all of these areas when they are reading. For good readers, like the girl in the photo above, books can come alive and those 30 minutes are not only enjoyable, they're somewhat magical. 

".... but reading is like torture".
For children who are not natural readers, reading for 30 minutes can feel like torture, and rightfully so. It is hard to enjoy or be relaxed when reading if it is hard to decode the words and/or follow the story. It is hard to experience the language when you have to take tons of time to just figure it out in the first place. Following a story requires attending to detail, relating that detail to a bigger picture and a lot of sequencing and memory work. If your brain is consistently thinking of other things you'd rather be doing, or how you just want to be done with this task, it is hard to stay attentive to what you are reading. 
"So, what do we do?"
The traditional definition of "Read for at least 30 minutes a day" is: pick a book and read it at least 30 minutes a day and keep reading the same one until you've finished, but that is not the only definition. Look back at some of the purposes of those 30 minutes:
  • sustained focus
  • practice decoding
  • experiencing language (vocabulary, phrasing, conversation)
  • following a story
  • building background knowledge
  • building empathy 
  • mental stimulation
  • enjoyment and relaxation

The main tasks of reading for 30 minutes are: to engage with text for 30 minutes; to be thinking about words and stories; to experience story and vocabulary; to apply decoding skills and comprehension strategies and to build fluency; in short, to exercise your reading brain. 

This summer, we have created a list of ideas for ways to make reading a little more interactive than the traditional definitions. These activities can be used with most ages and most reading levels. They are adaptable to varied learning styles and skill levels. Our goal is to help parents and caregivers support all kids in maintaining the skills and growth they made during the school year while they are off school for the summer. 

Read a Novel

  • Select a novel for interest
  • Reading level should be at the student's decoding level (Lexile)

A note to readers: give it your best shot for 30 minutes. Have you read this book before? What is something new you noticed this time? 

If the story is no good, read a different book next time. And keep in mind - the time it takes to choose a novel to read does not count in the 30 minute time block. 

Enjoying a novel sometimes requires finding a comfortable spot to read! 

Be sure to keep in mind that it is important to find a place and sit in a position you can sit in for a while without needing a lot of movement or adjustment. Frequent movements can break up concentration and make it hard for your brain to remember all that you have read. 

You also need to find a position where you will not be so comfortable that you will fall asleep!
Another note to readers: if you are a more kinesthetic learner, running your finger or a stylus under the words as you read can provide enough movement to keep your attention. 

Read a Graphic Novel

Graphic novels can support readers who struggle to visualize when they read, which is one strategy good readers use for comprehension. An excellent way to use graphic novels is to pre-read required literature for middle school or high school core classes. 

Listen to an Audio Book

Listening to audio books is a good way to support struggling readers in accessing grade level content. Audio books can also be excellent ways to get used to the language of complex texts like those used in classic literature. 

There are numerous options for audio text in today's world. One of the "tricks" can be finding versions which are engaging for kids. Another can be finding a specific title. A good starting point is to check with your local library. 

Another excellent resource for readers who exhibit characteristics of a learning disability is Learning Ally

There is a fee to belong to Learning Ally, but their library is very large and they now have the option for searching by Lexile level. Selecting books that are just above a child's independent Lexile level and having the child read along in the written text can support growth in word recognition. This also provides a visual "anchor" for their brains when listening to a story. 

Another suggestion for using audio books to reinforce comprehension is to have children sketch pictures of what happened in the story after (or during) their 30 minutes. 

Read a Magazine

Many magazines, like Time for Kids,  are now available in online formats and have the option to be able to listen to the text as well as read it. 

One reminder to readers: "reading" is different than skimming and flipping through the pages. 

A note to parents and caregivers: for children with visual-spatial challenges, magazines can be hard to read because articles do not always take up a whole page so it can be hard to track one's place or find the continued parts of a longer article. Magazine formats may also take some instruction since they tend to use columns on a page and children learn to read left to right all the way across a page. 

Read to a Pet

Pets generally love the sounds of our voices and carry no judgement if you need to read the same word three or four times to get it right or if they can't understand all of the words and sentences for sure. This can be an excellent way for a child to practice certain passages. When he feels he can read it smoothly, he can then read it to a parent, grandparent or teacher. 

In many areas, there are programs where children can read to animals in shelters, such as the Reading Between Friends program at the Kent County Humane Society

Younger children may also enjoy reading to a stuffed animal!

Read to a Sibling

This can be a little tricky when the sibling can read. Often, struggling readers are reluctant to read to siblings because they are embarrassed. Also, siblings can often forget that it's a time for the reader to practice and may become impatient if the reader stumbles or misreads a word or three. A few ways this can work well include: 

  • The reader practices a book or passage until he or she feels comfortable enough to share with sister or brother (practice can be to a pet, a stuffed animal, to a parent, teacher or even on video). 
  • Give the listener a specific job. For example, to listen for a specific detail in the story or to be a timer to see how long it takes the reader to read the entire story. In the directions to the listener, you can include that he is not allowed to interrupt or "help" unless the reader asks for help. 
  • Choose books that require a little interaction to give a younger sibling something to do (and a natural pause time for the reader). A great book for this is Press Here by Herve Tullet.

More Summer Brain Fitness

We passed out a list of our ideas as a Brain Fitness bookmark at the Park Party with Maranda in Wyoming and the one in Kentwood this summer. In case you weren't able to join us there, the list is the Activity Menu in the image below!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Getting Ready to Kick Off Summer with Maranda

This summer, we are excited to be part of the Park Parties with Maranda in Wyoming and Kentwood. As we started planning for these days, we tried to think of something we could take to share with others to help them understand what we do here at LMA. That was a very tall order! How can you plan one activity or order one or two types of giveaways that would really encompass all that we are and all that we do? Well, you can’t really; BUT, we applied a strategy good readers use to help ourselves out. We worked to put things into categories and see if we found any patterns or Big Ideas. Three main pieces emerged:
  • we provide opportunities for all students to exercise their brains on a daily basis;
  • we provide active learning experiences as much as possible;
  • we work to send kids home with ways they can exercise their brains on their own.

 At the same time we had started this planning, we were reflecting on the question that pops up every June:  How can we help students maintain all the growth they’ve made during the summer months when they are not in school”?

We put those two things together and came up with our Park Party “package”: a creative makers-space and a Brain Fitness Menu Bookmark for Summer Learning along with some multi-sensory reading and spelling from Turning Pages

We'll be sharing the bookmarks and examples of activities with the visitors at the Park Parties and we'll be sure to share examples here for those who are looking for additional ways to beat the "learning blues" at home this summer!

Keep an eye on #mylmasummer at our pages on Facebook and on Instagram for all photos of our summer fun!

Sunday, April 22, 2018

2018 Scholarship Benefit Concert

A great big thank you to Kelly Carey, LMA parent and Grand Rapids based singer extraordinaire, for volunteering again for a 2018 Scholarship Benefit Concert.

2017 Rise! Concert

Last year's theme was Rise! and featured songs by artists who overcame challenges just as our students work to overcome their learning and/or attention issues everyday. Artists like John Lennon. We have four segments of last years' concert so, we'll start out our pre-concert series of highlights with the mellow sounds of the Beatles tune Blackbird.

As Kelly states at the end of this gorgeous performance, "enough of this sappy stuff. Let's get funky!". This year's concert is Funkytown: Music of the 70's by The Hip Pocket, the Midwest's Premier Funk/R&B Horn Band, along with special guest Kelly Carey on Tuesday, June 5 at 7 pm at the Wege Center at Aquinas College (cocktail hour at 6 pm).

Stay tuned for more information on tickets, sponsorship and/or volunteer opportunities!

You can view or share Blackbird or the other three segments from last year's concert through the 2017 Rise! Scholarship Fundraiser Playlist on the Lake Michigan Academy YouTube Channel. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Inspiring with Poetry

Mrs. Petty's English classes have been working more with poetry. Students selected a title with meaning to him/her. The first letters of each line spell out their titles. 

Here a few they have shared: 

by Morgan

Notice the future dreams in your life
Explore all the possibilities in your life
Value what you have now and then make it better
Empower someone who needs it
Reach your fullest dreams

Snowfall, rainfall, leaves falling, hail falling
Twinkle the star light in the night sky
Open the wonder
Ponder your day and see what you could have done differently

Draft a plan that involves your goals
Resemble your best dreams
Embrace what life gives you and make it better
Always take care of people less fortunate than you
Make your mark so people remember you that way
Ingredients are your personality
Nurse your mind and body to keep you healthy
Gamble with your dreams, a reward will come out of it

by Colby

Persevere until the very end
Always try your best
Inspirational love from everyone around you
Never give up

Make your parents happy
Accept who you are and move on.
Know and learn from your mistakes
Earn your rewards and be happy
Set up your goals and achieve them.

Prepare for your life ahead of you.
Explain why life is hard
Overall life is hard, but what can you do about it?
Pledge to one who is control of this world.
Live life the way you want to.
Everyday in life, you can change yourself.

Change is difficult but it is part of life.
Hit the difficult roads of life to be a better person.
Appear to the world as a wonderful person.
Nail down the things you want to accomplish in life.
Go down the right path and never leave it.
Everlasting your life will be.

by Christian

Know your power
Enjoy the little things
Expand your knowledge
Perceive the good
Intuitively communicate
Think bigger

Remain in control
Expand your beliefs
Anticipate it right
Love yourself and the world.

by Mason

Clear eye see the truth not distorted
Open your mind
Never give up
Quitting is not an ending
Unnamed victory is still victory
Even in a eclipse there's still light
Rebuilt ready revolt rise revolution

Flourish despite despair
Endure until the time to strike
A time burner will get nowhere
Resist giving in

Engrave bravery into your morning routine
Vanish fear like darkness in the morning sky
Everyone know fear is powerless in a brave heart
Results only happen if you try
Yielding is not an option

Day will pass so make the most of it
A strong will can go anywhere
Yellow can discred your will shining and pure

Thursday, March 22, 2018

LMA Mysteries

Another part of our Reading Month celebrations was celebrating our own LMA Authors!

This week, we're sharing a series of the "teasers" from the mystery stories they crafted as part of their "Art of Investigation" work with Mr. Schaafsma and Officer Gady.

Case of the Missing Lego Guy - by Porter
A lego guy was missing and the only clue was a hat on the floor. What would a real detective do? Can we find another clue in time?

The Pod - a mystery by Joe
The Daily News reported that a pod racer was wrecked by an unknown suspect, but our detective wasn't buying that story - until a man came in and asked for help. Will our detective find the pod racer before someone else gets hurt?
Case of the Missing Lego Car - by Avery
Whose muddy footprints were leading to the basement? Better call the Super Mystery Solver to investigate!

The Copper Mystery - by Matiss
One day, Copper Caburn noticed that half of their copper was missing! Who was the culprit? How could the Sheriff stop war from breaking out between Copper Caburn and Copper Country?

Case of the Missing Cat - by Cassie
Cassie came home one afternoon to find that her precious cat was missing. The only clues are a couple of muddy footprints. Will the Police Chief and Commander Chase be able to help Cassie find her?  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mr. Van Gessel is Reading

We asked our teachers what they're reading. Here's a selection from Mr. Van Gessel for this week's celebration of reading!

What are you reading that you would recommend?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Celebrating Stories for Reading Month

As part of our Reading Month Celebration this year, we asked our Facebook Community and Alumni Group to join in. Thank you to Sarah for sharing!

Have you joined LMA on Facebook yet?