By The Understood Team
Your child’s teacher may be using innovative tools in class—tools that you’re not even aware of! Here are six apps, websites and approaches our experts use to help kids with learning and attention issues.
“Newsela is a website that offers daily news articles at five different reading levels. I’m excited about it because it gives readers a chance to learn more about current events at a level that works best for them. For example, there are five versions of an LA Times article about why scientists think the biggest dinosaurs steered clear of the tropics. At the end of each article, kids can take a quiz to check their understanding. Many schools use Newsela. And parents are able to open an account on their own.”
—Ginny Osewalt, special education teacher
“Teachers use ClassDojo to encourage participation and good behavior. Using a phone, tablet or computer, they record data on how a student acts in class. (They generally tell parents beforehand.) It’s a secure web application, and the data is kept private.
“Teachers, students and parents can use it to improve behavior. Your child can log in and see a record of her behavior. You can also see snapshots of her class participation. When used thoughtfully, the interactive features can help your child think about her actions. It can also give you a window into how she behaves at school.”
—Brendan R. Hodnett, special education teacher
“I love to add apps to my web browser to make websites more accessible. For instance, I use one called Readability. This free app takes any website and removes all of the distracting components. It allows a student to modify the width, font, size and lighting to make it easier to read. A student can use Readability with text-to-speech software to read websites aloud. It’s available on iOS and Android for download.”
—Jenn Osen-Foss, special education teacher
“RAVE-O is a reading program for struggling readers, grades 1 through 5. It focuses on improving reading fluency and comprehension by teaching vocabulary skills and decoding strategies. RAVE-O is always taught together with a phonological reading approach, such as Orton–Gillingham.
“Like Orton–Gillingham, it uses activities that tap into all the senses (like sight, hearing and touch) to help kids learn. Several large studies have found that it works. And kids really seem to enjoy it. Several states like Florida, Massachusetts and Colorado are using the program widely.”
—Kelli Johnson, school speech-language pathologist
“Working in teams is so important for students. Google has educational products that let them work together. With Google Docs, several students can work on the same presentation at the same time. Teachers can also give real-time feedback on assignments.
“When my students use Google Docs to write a paper, I typically bounce in and out of their files, watching them write and commenting on their work. I can make sure they’re on task and on track, and help them shift back if they’re not. Parents can also sign up for an account.”
—Elizabeth Babbin, reading specialist
“When a student misbehaves, we’re used to the traditional response—blame and punish. Restorative Justice is an approach that focuses on repairing the damage that’s done. Let’s say a student acts out against a classmate. The student, the classmate and the teacher might come together to find a solution.
“Some schools are starting to use this approach with kids who have behavior issues like ADHD. It seems to reduce expulsion and suspension rates. Restorative Justice isn’t going to solve every behavior problem. But it’s a promising new way to promote good behavior.”
—Analisa Smith, educational consultant
Good readers are active readers. When your child has a hard time understanding what she reads, instruction can help. Here are some strategies to try.
Schools offer a range of services to support students with learning and attention issues. Supports can take the form of people, places, things and actions. Use these questions to make the teacher an ally in getting help for your child.
The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.
Social Thinking: What You Need to Know
Multisensory Instruction: What You Need to Know
At a Glance: Classroom Accommodations for Executive Functioning Issues
At a Glance: Classroom Accommodations for Slow Processing Speed
Teaching Teens Who Struggle With Reading: What Can Help
Orton–Gillingham: What You Need to Know
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