December 3, 2015

Multisensory Practice During Winter Break

Of course you want your kids to have time off during Winter Break. But, their brains don’t have to go to mush just because they’re on a break from school. And, you still have to find things for them to do during break to keep them happily occupied.

MultiSensory Learning

Try a few new multisensory practice ideas each day to work on particularly tricky spelling words or math facts with your student. Pick one to three particularly tricky math facts or your child’s personal spelling demons to work on each day. Try lots of different multisensory practice strategies to practice throughout the day. Who knows, you might just find some new practice strategies that work well for your child when they head back to school that will make learning more fun. For all these activities, monitor to make sure your child is practicing with accuracy.

For kinesthetic learners, try practicing spelling words or math facts while jumping on a mini-trampoline, jumping rope, balancing on one foot, or tossing a Koosh ball. Try to keep a balloon aloft and recall one tricky math fact between each time you touch the balloon.

Tap into your child’s craft interests by having them write their spelling word or math fact out in neat large letters on an index card. Then, have them trace over the letters with glue and let it dry to create a smooth raised surface to trace over later. Do it again. But this time, put yarn over the glue for a different surface. Another time, sprinkle on sand or glitter to create a different tactile surface. Once these dry, use them to trace over with their finger for tactile reinforcement on another day.

Tactile learners also do well with tracing the spelling word or math fact on various tactile surfaces with their finger such as carpet, sandpaper, silk, fake fur, corduroy, velvet, their arm or leg, or even the tabletop.

Try building the word or math fact with Wiki Stix. Or, roll ropes of non-air-drying clay, and spell words or build math facts with the clay ropes. Consider modeling the dictionary definition of the word in three dimensions to go along with the clay rope 2D model.

Mental Spelling
For more visual learners, have your child pretend they have a white board just above and in front of their forehead and have them visualize writing their word on their mental white board. Encourage them to use different colors to emphasize particularly tricky parts of the word. Have them spell the word to you reading it off their mental white board. Then have them tell you what specific letters you designate are such as the third letter, or last letter, or middle two letters, or any other part of word by visualizing the spelling on their mental white board. Always end with having them spell through it front to back one final time before they’re done.

Write out the spelling word in large letters and then decorate the word with fun images that provide useful memory hooks.

Create a mini-story that goes along with your math fact and illustrate it.
    In addition to enjoying fun multisensory practice strategies, many online programs such as those offered by Wings to Soar Online Academy in our Custom Path to Success Learning Plans sneak a lot of learning into activities that are actually a lot of fun. Our students enjoy working in programs such as Lexia, Headsprout, and Nessy to build their reading and spelling skills. 

    Sign up for your FREE Just-Right Level Assessments to properly place your student and begin a FREE 2-week trial at


    A very special thanks for this contribution goes to guest blogger, Beth Ellen Nash
    Intervention Specialist with Wings to Soar Online Academy 
    where she helps dyslexics and other 'outside-the-box' learners 
    gain skills and confidence to not just survive 
    but thrive in school and in life.

    December 1, 2015

    Strengthen Skills This Holiday Season

    School breaks are an exciting time for students. Whereas some students end on a high note, others barely survive the semester. The good news: holiday breaks offer low-stakes opportunities to strengthen weak areas and prepare for upcoming challenges.

    Begin with open dialogue.

    To make the most of holiday breaks, begin with open dialogue. Parents find success when they leverage educator knowledge and experience toward improved student achievement. Likewise, educators reap the benefits of sharing performance evaluations and expectations with parents.

    Talking Points for Educators and Parents:
    1. Next semester's big ideas: How will the curriculum unfold in coming months? What are key skills and background knowledge needed to be successful? 
    2. Current semester's challenges: What do progress reports tell us about gaps in knowledge and abilities? How are next semester's learning goals linked to current learning deficits?
    3. Behaviors impacting learning: To a high degree of certainty, behavior effects learners' ability to receive and process information; it also influences assessment results. Take time to explore the how, why, and what that link academic performance and behavior.
    4. Execute a data-driven plan: After gathering information about performance, discuss expectations with learners. Allow them to respond to concerns about academics and behavior; develop a deeper understanding of the challenges your child experiences.
      Don't Practice Until You Get It Right. Practice Until You Can't Get It Wrong.

      Using classroom data to develop and execute a learning plan during school breaks may be a challenge. Jackson Education Support offers customized lessons and assessments based on performance data. When school is out, learning should continue.

      Let us help identify solutions that extend learning during the holiday season. Complete the service form or call 1.601.724.2152 to schedule your free consultation.

      November 3, 2015

      Revving Up Parental Engagement

      When buzzwords like “parental engagement”, “parent and community engagement”, “parental involvement”, and “parent-school partnership” are used in the media or by education professionals, what is your first thought?

      Do you think...
      • I'm already an involved parent?
      • I'm doing the best I can?
      • I’m not sure where to start?
      Photo by Stockimages. Published 10/15/13.
      Stockimages. Published 10/15/13.
      Parent Support: 30Ways to Support Your Child’s Education is a resource that offers strategies to help parents increase engagement in learning processes. The take-home message is that parents get involved – and stay involved. 

      The term "engaged parent" is not synonymous with educated parent, stay-at-home parent, home school parent, or grade school parent.  All parents should persistently and consistently pursue engagement opportunities.

      Not sure where to start?
      1. Begin with the end in mind. If we want to improve achievement, awareness of learning goals is imperative. For parents of public or private school children, attention to graded work and homework assignments is the surest way to discover learning goals. Home school parents are tasked to identify the best curricula for children; typically, learning goals are clearer for this group. Also, educators are tasked to disseminate information timely and invite parents to join efforts early on.
      2. Infuse learning goals into your lifestyle. After identifying learning goals, it’s time to implement your version of Parent Support’s Lesson Twenty, Gardening is Educational. In this lesson, readers learn how to merge an everyday activity for many families, gardening, with science learning objectives to increase student engagement and motivation to learn. The strategy is applicable to other subject areas as well. One suggestion: look for ways that students will implement learning goals in real-world settings. We leverage literacy learning goals to make decisions about voting behaviors. We also leverage math learning goals each time there's a sale in our favorite boutique.
      3. Encourage disciplined innovation. A third strategy offered in Lesson Two of Parent Support, involves establishing a balance between teaching children to follow directions and encouraging innovation. As shared with readers of Parent Support: 30 Ways to Support Your Child’sEducation, creativity and innovation drive our economy. We want to actively prepare children to meet academic standards without sacrificing individuality and ingenuity. For instance, children often rebel when asked to complete tasks a certain way. Observing the child before intervening may reveal a new way to skin the proverbial cat!

      Photo by Stockimages. Published 07/14/14.
      Stockimages. Published 07/14/14.

      Already highly engaged?
      Great! You’re likely aware of the strategies offered to this point.  There’s still more to do. Highly engaged parents are challenged to show others the way. How do you balance family and work life? How are you successfully communicating with education professionals?

      Answers to these questions reveal ways that highly engaged parents can build more vibrant learning communities. We know that sharing wisdom with parents increases student performance. More important, stronger readers, writers, mathematicians, and scientists are better equipped to improve society.

      Facts to consider
      Consider the following facts as you work to develop parent-school partnerships.
      • Engaging with families is not always intuitive for teachers and school leaders... Their comfort and skill levels often need to be developed.
      • Discussing children's readiness skills can open dialogue about strengths and areas of concern for families and educators.
      • Student benefits associated with effective family engagement include improved school readiness, higher student achievement, better social skills and behavior, and increased likelihood of high school graduation.
      As parents embrace their ability to positively influence children’s academic performance, desired outcomes are realized. Explore Parent Support to learn ways leverage parental engagement opportunities.

      Free consultation with a support professional may be scheduled by visiting Specialty subject areas include literacy, math, and science. Learn more about options for individuals and organizations by exploring the website or give us a call (1.601.724.2152).

      October 6, 2015

      Mississippi Initiative 42: Public School Funding is No Small Matter!

      There are many opinions floating around regarding the best approach to funding public, K-12 education in Mississippi. 

      Professional organizations, school district leaders, and parent organizations have made it quite difficult for us to remain in the dark about Initiative 42. Since Initiative 42 will be on the November 3rd ballot, we have less than a month to become informed about the legislation and spread the word. As a consequence, I'd like to share a few resources that explain several aspects of Mississippi Initiative 42. 

      Jillian Smart, #JEsupport
      Jillian Smart, M.Ed., Author & Edupreneur

      A big difference: Initiative Measure #42 vs Alternative Measure #42A
      According to Ballotpedia, Initiative 42 "requires the state to provide for an 'adequate and efficient system of free public schools'" as outlined by a bill passed in 1997 known as Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP). If you're like me, your first thought is: If we already have a law to address public school funding, why not enforce it? Why do I need to vote on November 3rd?

      Here's what I found:

      • Essentially, Initiative 42 gives Mississippi Chancery Courts the power to enforce an existing method for adequately and efficiently funding the free public school system. 
      • Alternative 42A is an option proposed by the Mississippi legislature that seemingly offers no solution to the current crisis in public education funding. 

      Chancery Court Judges Do Not Make Laws
      Image provided by #FedUpWith50th

      What is MAEP?
      As it is written, Section 201 allows the Mississippi legislature to prescribe limitations and conditions on how public schools are funded. Though MAEP "provides a formula designed to ensure an adequate education for every Mississippi child", former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove reports several districts in the state have been underfunded. Over a billion dollars have been withheld since 2010. 

      The MAEP formula dictates adequate and efficient district funding based on average student attendance, base student cost, an at-risk component, local contribution, and other add-on programs (e.g., gifted education, special education, alternative education). It's not a one-size-fits-all approach, in that districts are guaranteed funding based on need.

      What's best for Mississippi?
      As November 3rd comes into focus, understanding the official ballot is essential. On the General Election ballot, voters will be faced with two choices.
      1. Vote for approval of EITHER measure, or vote AGAINST BOTH measures.
      2. Vote for Initiative 42 or Alternative 42A
      If you support lining the pockets of lawyers and big law firms with funds intended to support K-12 learning, inaction is the best option. Those who vote "against both" measures on item one effectively vote to keep things as they are. 

      Districts will have to pursue legal recourse to receive the funding needed to foster adequate and efficient learning environments for K-12 students. In the event that funds are awarded to districts, law firms will collect large portions of settlement funds as payment for litigation expertise.

      If you support Initiative 42, vote for EITHER of the two measures on item one. The same is true if you support Alternative 42A. 

      The next step involves voting for the amendment designed to enforce adequate and efficient public school funding as outlined by MAEP. The decision is yours.

      2015 General Election Ballot: Public Education Funding
      Image from MS Secretary of State's Office on 09/29/15

      Members of the JE Community have inquired about this topic. Many parents are aware of the public education funding options but aren't sure which option is best for children. Bureaucratic language can be confusing, so this is a modest attempt to keep it simple.

      September 1, 2015

      Parents, are you on the Fence About Tutoring?

      Are you  considering tutoring for your child?  Did your child struggle to end last year on a high note?  Has the classroom teacher expressed concern about academic performance? Well, you're not alone...

      Image of Jillian Smart, M.Ed.
      Jillian Smart, M. Ed., launched Jackson Education Support.

      I launched Jackson Education Support (JE) to support the educational goals of learners in literacy, math, and science subjects. If you haven't heard, JE is a Mississippi-based education firm that offers personalized in-person and online services which allows parents like you to enjoy family time.

      While classroom teachers are often expected to provide children with individualized attention during class, the likelihood of this happening decreases as class size increases - not to mention the growing number of assessments that take precedence during lesson planning.  
      Jackson Education Support support learners by providing homework help and study skills support.  Each service is personalized to meet individual need. Clients schedule in-person and virtual tutoring sessions to address gaps in achievement that hinder progress in literacy, math, and science classes.
      Tutoring is the new normal, reports  "When specific, basic skills are not developing as you would expect, or when a child has a diagnosed learning disability, having a tutor can help her build those special skills or compensate for the ones she lacks," says learning specialist Susan J. Schwartz, M.A. Ed., clinical coordinator at the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the New York University Child Study Center. Parents of early elementary students are feeling the pressure to ensure that children meet and exceed rising educational  standards.
      If you think your child struggles in school, I encourage you not to wait for the problem to resolve itself. I say this, because many parents regret hiring a professional at the end of the school year. Children who receive support early on become more independent over time, so working with an educator outside of school times may not have to be a long-term arrangement for your child.
      But, adding an experienced educator to your team is the best way to start the new school year. Let's discuss your child's academic needs in greater detail.  Schedule a free consultation today!

      Be sure to review The JE 411 policies before commenting.

      August 17, 2015


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