What to do after school – or summer school - ends? According to Marykate Hoffman, Reconstructive Language teacher and Executive Functions coach at The Gow School, there are good reasons for daily routines that will help maintain skill levels.
Why is it important, especially for LD students, to stay academically active over the summer months?
As with any student, school material is often “lost” over the summer. This is especially true for LD students. Students with learning disabilities often expend a lot of energy and time learning concepts that their non-LD peers learn quickly during the school year. Constant repetition is needed to make sure concepts are ingrained into the LD student’s long term memory. The loss of this repetition can be detrimental, and the LD student can fall even further behind. It is important that they are enrolled in some sort of academic program over the summer to keep their minds active.
How might an academic summer school program benefit an LD student?
An academic summer school program will play an important role in the life of an LD student. Many programs are designed with the LD student in mind and can therefore teach directly to the strengths of the LD student and support the areas of his or her weakness. Many programs have professionals who are experts in their fields, and they know the type of learning strategies that work. The constant repetition and review of school material will benefit the LD student immensely.
How might downtime even a few weeks between a summer program and the regular school year affect LD students academically?
Just a few weeks of downtime can cause the LD student to regress in their understanding of school material. We have to remember that in most cases the LD student is already academically behind their non-LD peers, so any loss of understanding can be harmful. Constant review and repetition is key for the LD student.
Between summer school and the regular school year, what would be your #1 recommendation for LD students?
First of all REVIEW!!!! Review all the material that was covered during the summer program. This can be simply done within 10-15 minutes each day. In order to implement the review piece, a specific time each day should be set aside. I recommend the morning because they will have more energy/focus at this time.
Watch for more tips on Keeping the Academic Advantage from Marykate soon. In addition to teaching at The Gow School, Marykate has served as Vice President and as President of the Western New York Branch of the International Dyslexia Association.
It may not be a matter of selecting one or the other Orton-based phonics programs according to Doug Cotter of the Gow School Admissions Office and PK Sanieski, formerly of Linden Hill School, who recently shared their thoughts about the two programs.
Doug: The targeted population for Reconstructive Language is an older group from the ages thirteen to eighteen.
PK: Yes, and for Orton-Gillingham, it is more along the lines of eight to twelve year-olds. But both programs are based on the teachings of Dr. Samuel Orton and are designed to improve the decoding skills of students with language-based learning disabilities.
Doug: Right. RL is the older of the programs, but the two share many of the same practices and methods. Both use a phonics approach to language, both teach similar vocabulary skills, and both move sequentially building the students’ understanding and their skills.
PK: A main differences in RL and OG would be in the way the phonemes are learned and recited. In Orton Gillingham, a student would work on a particular card or phoneme until they have achieved a strong grasp on the sound and its use. The sound is uniform during the recitation, but guide words can vary for each individual child.
Doug: With RL, phonemes are learned and recited as a member of an RL class and the guide words remain uniform.
PK: Methods of oral reading instruction are similar in both RL and OG. Students in both programs have to use their phonological processing skills which they learn from working with the phonemes in the phonic deck. This is the true goal of both programs: to improve the dyslexic student’s reading skills.
What is a parent to do when the traditional school year is not effective enough in addressing an LD child’s difficulties? When is summer school an answer? Two mothers, Melissa L. and Mary Beth G., recently discussed the issue.
Mary Beth: What challenges did your child face in school, especially before attending the Summer Program?
Melissa: My daughter was entering 3rd grade and reading at a late first grade level before attending the summer program.
Mary Beth: Why did you decide a Summer Program was necessary?
Melissa: We wanted to reinforce what she learned during the school year and build onto her reading foundation using a different teaching method for her coding and decoding fluency. We also wanted her to know that she was not alone and that other students her age struggle just as much, if not more, with reading.
Mary Beth: How did you decide upon an appropriate program / classes?
Melissa: Her public school uses a phonics system to teach reading and Gow uses Reconstructive Language (RL). We wanted to see if the RL style of learning would help improve her reading skills.
Mary Beth: How did your child respond to the idea? How did you sell it?
Melissa: She did not want to take classes in the summer at first. We told her she had to and that it would help with her transition into 3rd grade. But, she liked the classes and the teachers very much.
Mary Beth: What changes did you notice during the summer?
Melissa: She was proud of her work and was really excited about reading a chapter book with her RL class. She also seemed more confident about her ability to read and wasn’t as shy to read out loud at home.
Mary Beth: Do you think there was any lasting value of the Summer Program that carried through to the school year?
Melissa: Oh yes. It was so beneficial for her to see that she could improve her reading with different learning approaches. I noticed a change in her self-acceptance of who she is as a learner. She saw that her reading and writing improved and now understands that when she works hard, she will see positive results. She also understands that she is going to have to ask for help when she needs it. The Gow summer program was a great bridge for my daughter from one school year to the next.
For recently graduated senior Walker ‘12 (pictured with Director of College Counseling Mr. Charles Brown), the lesson he learned in South Wales was the value of hard work.
“And from hard work comes success,” he continued.
That success included acceptance at all of the colleges to which he applied - Michigan State, Indiana, Miami of Ohio, Denver, and Illinois.
He had help in getting there Walker noted, “…from teachers who put each of us in the right situation to succeed to the College Counseling office” which Walker visited each day while applying to schools.
Walker was looking for a business-oriented program at a big name school that had assistance for students with language-based learning differences. Michigan State advised him that students with disabilities often get lost in the crowd in large business classes and that packaging science might be a better alternative.
Walker visited the university to find out for himself. The university’s help center he found provided the academic, physical and housing support he was looking for. A packaging science representative made him aware of the opportunities open to students in that field.
Walker is ready for the transition now including attire. After five years of a coat and tie dress code at Gow, he quipped, “Who knows? I wouldn’t be surprised if I wore Khakis and a polo a few times a week.”
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