Monday, December 12, 2011

How We Study

Now that Ty is in third grade, they have tests. Real tests. Over subjects like science and social studies. For a kid with ADHD, this is tough. He actually learns very little during the day at his public school. Most of what he learns is what we study at home.

I like to call it "Home Schooling in an Hour a Day."
(Yeah... don't get me started. That is a topic for another post.)

We use a multisensory approach to learning around here. I thought I would share some of the things we do to assist in learning.

Movies. I make movies and PowerPoint (or KeyNote, since we are a Mac family) presentations that cover the content of the current unit. I usually download images using Google Image Search. I also include narration as well as print. I use text to emphasize the most important words. Sometimes I draw my own diagrams or pictures to illustrate a concept. I use the computer's built in camera or my iPhone camera to snap a photo of the drawing. This simulates a direct teaching session without me actually having to cover the material daily. He can watch the movie on his own, an then we do one of the following activities together.

Little Questions: We do this for all subjects. I leave a little question or math problem written on the bathroom mirror/sliding glass door/window in his room in dry erase marker. The next time Ty passes by, he sees it and solves the problem or answers the question. Then I check it and either write a happy response (if he got it right), or I call him in to discuss the error (if he got it wrong). We also have a small white board that I put questions or problems on and leave in the most peculiar places. He might find it tucked into his underwear drawer, in the refrigerator, rubber banded to the box of cereal, on the shelf where he keeps his Nintendo DS, etc. He writes his answer and brings it to me to check. Usually, when I put it where a leisure or fun item is stored, I have confiscated the fun item so that he must answer the question and bring it to me in order to get that item. He gets it as long as he answers the question to the best of his ability and with a good attitude.

Quiz cards: Ty's teacher sends home a study guide for all science and social studies tests. I make flash cards with a question on one side & the answer on the other. He will look through them on his own and then I quiz him aloud. To make this a more sensory friendly activity, we usually do the quizzing while taking a walk, or while Ty fidgets on his rocker board, etc.

Jokes and Examples: People learn best when learning is fun. People also learn best when concepts can be related back to real life. In all of the materials I make for Ty, I try to include examples that he can easily relate to, and things that make him smile. For example, in a recent science test, he had to name three living things and three nonliving things. The examples I put on the flash card for nonliving things was "rock, paper, scissors."

Games: I make lots of games up for curriculum content. It goes back to that whole "learning should be fun" thing. Currently, we are using a game I call "Jump To" for science. This unit covers carnivores, herbivores, consumers, producers, etc. I took several sheets of scrap paper and wrote the name of one animal on each one. Then I spread them out on the floor of our living room and give instructions like, "Jump to a carnivore," or "Tippytoe to an omnivore." when he starts to learn the information, we play in rounds, where I take turns following his directions, too. He tells me if I'm right or wrong. I purposely get some of them wrong, and when I do, he has to tell me why I'm wrong and what the correct answer would have been in order to "steal" that point from me.

When these aren't enough: I add an extra layer of sensory input. Tyson is what we in the special education community might call a "pressure junkie." He fidgets, jumps, crashes into my [poor] furniture, etc. in an attempt to gain pressure sensations into his nerves. So, adding support objects such as weighted blankets or lap pads, rolling him up tightly in a big blanket, sitting on a big fitness ball, etc. help him stop fidgeting enough to focus. We also do things like "pushes," where we stand facing each other, touch hands in front and he pushes on me. He gets these as a reinforcer for working hard or getting a really tough question right. His goal is to push on my hands with enough force to make me step backwards. He also recently learned to stand on his head (while leaning against a wall) so I will often quiz him or take dictation for a writing assignment while he's upside down. I know it sounds crazy, but he is so calm and still, and he just seems to focus and think better that way.

Of course, sometimes I can do all this and he's still climbing the walls. When this happens, I just go with it. My dad just about had a heart attack when he saw the picture below, but as the mother of a child with ADHD, I have to be

So, this is how Tyson studied for his science test last week. I quizzed him, and he pretty much stayed this way the whole time.

So, how do you help your kids study for tests?

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