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Helping LD Students Build Healthy Relationships

Healthy Relationships - Picture from Microsoft WordRelationship training is important for all teenagers, according to Catie Winters, Counselor and Health teacher at The Gow School. Although young adults learn from those around them, many aspects of developing healthy relationships are not innate. Students with learning disabilities often are at a greater disadvantage, because they must focus on other areas such as self-confidence. This gives them less time to spend on relationship skills.

Ms. Winters identifies communication skills as one of the more common areas of weakness among teenagers. Young people often limit their conversations to events and superficial questions such as “What did you do this weekend?” In a committed relationship, they need to practice opening up and talking about their deeper feelings.

In Health class, a semester long requirement in both middle and high school, the students complete a unit on healthy relationships. Ms. Winters discusses the four types of relationships: peer to peer, parent to child, student to teacher and romantic. Students listen to lectures, take notes, participate in small group discussions, write in journals, and act out various scenarios. They also create their own individual lists of Eight Points in a Healthy Relationship.

Outside of class, dorm parents and teachers serve as role models, and several of the Headmaster’s Weekly Themes for Success revolve around relationship training. These include Brother/Sisterhood and Being a Good Boy/Girl Friend. In the upcoming years, Ms. Winters would like to establish a more formal school-wide Character Education Program at Gow. Student leaders would assist with assemblies, classes and workshops held on a regular basis. Ms. Winters envisions the future program as ongoing character building for the whole school.

Ms. Catie Winters holds a B.A. in Communication Studies and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego. She has worked as a counselor for 14 years in Los Angeles, San Diego and Hong Kong.

Posted by mbgiallanza in Learning Disabilities, Character Education, Relationship Training on Thursday March 7, 2013 at 10:13AM
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Flipping the English Classroom

Flipped Classroom - Flipped Classroom - Picture by Anonymous from Open Clip Art LibraryGow School English teacher Mr. Ben Duffy will be presenting a TABS 3D Live Webinar on Tuesday, March 5th. Here is a brief preview. Tune in to learn more.

How would you define a flipped classroom?
Students learn new skills on their own using carefully designed lessons and videos created by me. When the students arrive to class, we put that knowledge to use.

How does the flipped classroom work?
I create a short video on a topic. The maximum length is 5 minutes. Students watch the video for homework. It is similar to taking notes in class, but they are working on their own. The next day, I check students’ notes and give points based on the overall quality.

What technology is needed?
I use a Bamboo tablet and microphone to record lessons. Gow has a laptop program and a campus-wide network, so I put all the videos on my shared drive. For teachers that do not have access to a network, YouTube is another great option.

What types of lessons do you teach flipped?
In English class, I teach basic sentence patterns, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, and action words. The videos cover the basic skeletal framework, and then we flush out those ideas into paragraphs while in class.

What are the advantages to this method of teaching?
The slow note-takers might extend lecture time by 5 or 10 minutes. It gives those students the chance to write at their own pace, as well as eliminating the embarrassment of being the last one done. The students like being able to stop or re-watch the videos as needed. In addition, I archive everything, so the students can go back and review past topics. This method works really well for the auditory learners.

The biggest advantage really is time. Instead of taking notes in class, we can actually start writing and applying knowledge. My English classes this year have written more in one semester than my previous classes have written all year!

Posted by mbgiallanza in Learning Styles, Flipped Classroom on Thursday February 28, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Business 101 Comes to Life

Mark & Patrick behind the counter at Little SeniorsWhen The Gow School created a Business Seminar class for seniors in 1990, the students assisted with pizza orders as part of their class requirements. The store name “Little Seniors” was a spin-off on Little Caesars Pizza. Over time, the course evolved into both a classroom element and a student-run business. Today, the Little Seniors store, located in the basement of Main Building, sells candy, drinks, and a variety of snacks.

The senior elective, co-taught by history teachers Mr. Thomas Giallanza and Mr. Neil Howe ’91, covers traditional business topics including owning and operating a business, marketing, business ethics, and banking and finance. Students listen to lectures, participate in discussions and take tests, but that is only a part of their grade. Each student is responsible for managing the store, at least one night per week with a partner. Mr. Howe assigns a store grade based on the accuracy of the cash drawer, organization of the premises, and security. As a group, students assist with choosing what items to sell, shopping at local wholesale clubs, restocking the shelves, conducting inventory, establishing pricing, setting-up marketing campaigns around campus, and deciding how to reinvest funds.

Mr. Giallanza describes Little Seniors as, “a business simulation. Profits and losses are real factors in a controlled setting with real money.” The textbook introduces concepts and presents scenarios, but life often poses unexpected situations. One student, Mark B. said, “I like being in the store. I am learning the proper way to deal with customers, and how to sort change and make quick calculations in my head.” Another student, Thomas added, “I’m gaining business experience before going to college.”

In 2012, the Business Seminar group made $5,900. Students elected to spend the money on store renovations and a special end-of-the-year dinner. They donated all of the remaining funds to their senior class gift. This year’s group is on track to set a new school record with sales of over $9,000 so far!

Posted by mbgiallanza in Hands-On Learning on Thursday February 21, 2013 at 10:21AM
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Dyslexia Explained

A common misconception about dyslexia is that it involves reading backwards.

Reversed words and letters may occur, but might be only a small part of the picture.

Simply put, dyslexia is trouble learning to read and write despite average intelligence and conventional teaching.

Dyslexia affects both males and females.

Characteristics of dyslexia may include:

  • Trouble with reading (silent or aloud)
  • Poor spelling
  • Trouble organizing and writing thoughts and ideas
  • Poor grammar
  • Poor handwriting
  • Weak memory
  • Difficulty sounding out short or long words
  • Weak vocabulary
  • Trouble understanding what is read
  • Family members with similar problems
  • Delayed spoken language as a child
  • Possible trouble pronouncing long words
  • Possible difficulty with mathematics
  • Additional diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in some cases

Dyslexia Explained - Picture altered from lmproulx in the Open Clip Art Library

The accepted definition, adopted by the International Dyslexia Association in 2002 reads as follows:

“Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurological [a difference in the brain] in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding [sounding words out] abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language [matching sound and letters] that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instructions. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede the growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.”

Having dyslexia does not mean one is stupid! In fact, dyslexics often have average to above-average intelligence with high verbal language skills. Individuals may show special talents in areas that involve visual and spatial tasks. Many successful and well-known people have dyslexia including inventor Thomas Edison, actress Whoopi Goldberg, film producer and entrepreneur Walt Disney, baseball pitcher Nolan Ryan, and businessman Charles Schwab.

Posted by mbgiallanza in Learning Disabilities, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia on Thursday January 24, 2013
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A Closer Look at an Executive Functions Coaching (EFC) Program

Executive Functions Coaching - Picture from Microsoft WordEFC Coordinator and veteran teacher PK Sanieski offers insight into The Gow School’s Executive Functions Coaching Program that began in 2008.

How do you choose students for the EFC (Executive Functions Coaching) Program?
We ask teachers, “Who needs extra assistance?” Dorm parent references are very helpful as well. We also look at students’ grades and their performance on exams.

How often does a student meet with his/her EFC coach?
Students usually meet once a week, one-on-one with their assigned coach for 45 minutes to one hour. We may add extra sessions as needed. All EFC coaches are members of the faculty and/or staff.

What skills do students work on?
Students organize their notebooks and backpacks, as well as the files on their computers. They address time management skills and learn how to organize for short and long-term projects. Coaches provide lessons on note taking, essay writing, and outlining. In addition, students complete a learning styles inventory and discuss the importance of self-advocacy.

Is there a way to measure a student’s progress?
There is no test. Usually, executive functioning skills take time to develop. We primarily rely on observations, improved grades, and feedback from teachers, dorm parents, and the students themselves.

Do students generally “graduate” out of the program, or is it ongoing?
In Gow’s current program, students graduate after six weeks. However, we are looking into a second-tier program where students would meet once a month. Executive functioning deficits are life long, so we focus on launching students with strategies to overcome their disability. Our program motto is, “Don’t cue to do – cue to know what to do.”

PK Sanieski taught at Linden Hill School for 24 years and now teaches Reconstructive Language at The Gow School. She is a Fellow of the Orton-Gillingham Academy of Practitioners and Educators.

Posted by mbgiallanza in Learning Disabilities, Self-advocacy, Executive Functioning on Thursday January 17, 2013 at 01:23PM
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