Teachers and Tutors on the same side?

Dear Teacher in a brick and mortar school,

I can be your first line of defense! I can be your back up! I can be the echo that keeps on repeating. I can be the honest voice that tells the parent what next steps they can do to support their child.

When I see our student once a week, I get the most intensive and best opportunity to deliver high quality and individualized instruction. Please understand that I’m not just some kid who wants to make a few extra dollars on the side. This is my business and my livelihood.  I’m a licensed teacher who keeps up with professional development. I’m a teacher who takes 30 minutes to plan for EACH and EVERY one of my students. I’m a teacher who progress monitors, writes reports, and has to work hard to keep families engaged.

When you learn that one of your students has the privilege of working with a tutor, take the time to collaborate! Here’s a list of just a few ways to share information:

  1. Share your graphic organizers especially if they’re specific and/or required by your district.
  2. If a tutor shares a graphic organizer with you, be open to using it. The graphic organizer may work better for your student because it may have more scaffolding, more prompting questions, more visuals, increased spacing, highlighted lines for writing, or more.
  3. Keep your student’s tutor up to date on his reading level. We like to use our own assessments but don’t want to skew your data by using the same tests (ie…DRA, Dibbles, etc…). Just a quick email on his progress is greatly appreciated.
  4. We should be emailing you strategies that are effective with our student. As we get that precious 1:1 time, we get to really know the kiddo and see a variety of ways to reach the child. Let us share this knowledge with you to increase the student’s success in the classroom!
  5. Include us on your weekly or monthly newsletter and let us know the areas of study. We’ll be happy to find texts on the Mayans, Colorado History, or cells!
  6. Verbiage! Is there specific language that you use in your classroom to help with writing? Decoding? Comprehension? Share this information to keep continuity for our student.
  7. Check your worksheets and share what type of paper that you use in your class. Do you use Learning Without Tears paper, highlighted paper, college ruled, dashed paper, paper that has space for illustrations, or something else? Share this with your child’s tutor.
  8. Collaborate on how to support a child with an I.E.P. What accommodations are used daily that the tutor needs to create in her learning environment?
  9. Are there special considerations with the child or family that need to be discussed in order for the child to be successful in the classroom? Let’s share these needs!
  10. Resources! Why reinvent the wheel? Ask and share with each other on different tools to enhance learning! This can include: apps, reading materials, organizers, blogs, curriculum, online textbooks, and so much more!

As the school year has started, let’s remember that we’re all here for the education of children!


August 17, 2018 at 8:53 pm Leave a comment

Praise process over product

My youngest son is three and hates to color. In fact, he gets so frustrated when I try and help him hold his crayon beyond the palmar grip that he’ll just storms off if I say anything. He’s the type of kid that the perfectionist and if he can’t do something right away the first time, it’s not worth doing.

Maybe you have a kiddo like this or maybe you’re child is so frustrated at being corrected all the time, that he knows if he tries and read one more time he’ll be corrected for the three hundred twenty five thousand, one hundred seventy-ninth time. But whose counting?

How are you, the teacher, the paraprofessional, the parent, who only want the best for this child, give him the confidence to keep persevering? And how do you correct him so he doesn’t learn the wrong way either without damaging the fragile ego?

It’s a mindset shift. Praise the process and not the product.

When my son wants to paint or use stickers, I’ll sneak in coloring at the same time. I’ll ask him, “What was your favorite part to make?” This line was given to me by his art teacher from Abrakadoodle. You can check them out here and I highly recommend them: http://www.abrakadoodle.com/

Other things I might say as he’s coloring (that can be used for any resistant writer):

-You really took your time with that _____ (letter, word, sentence, project)

-How did you come up with that idea? That’s so ______ (unique, creative, inspiring, etc…)

-You should be very proud of yourself for finishing that ____ (picture, essay, sentence).

-What are you thinking of creating next? (be wary of using this one as the first process might have been exhausting).

The idea is to look at the effort and the process that went into the final product and have the child be acknowledged for overcoming something that was difficult by themselves.

Likewise, with readers it’s the same thing. The concept that I’m using here is from Orton-Gillingham approach. Praise the student for the sound that he made correctly, given him an opportunity to independently fix his mistake, and then give him the information in a factual way and move on.

This looks like:

Child looks at the word CAT.

Child: C-U-T. Cut.

Adult: A does make the sound of /u/. What’s another sound that A makes?

Child: /A/

Adult: You’re right again. A can have three sounds. What’s the third sound A makes, like in the word apple?

Child: /a/

Adult: Using /a/ sound, try that word again.

Child: C-A-T. Cat.

Adult: Great job hearing the sound of /a/. Let’s keep going.

Notice that the adult acknowledged the child’s effort. Notice that the adult also gave more information and exposure to the English language. Lastly, notice that the adult only gave key words (or prompts) and gave the child the opportunity to figure out the sound for himself. These successes and opportunities to learn and internalize information go a long way to increasing your child’s confidence.


August 16, 2018 at 1:43 pm Leave a comment

5 steps to get your child ready for school

Summer is in full swing but whenever I walk into a store, I’m reminded that there are only 24 days left before kids go to school (but whose counting). How am I supposed to get the kids ready for school?

  1. School supplies is a must. Go to your school’s website and find what are the teachers asking for. However, if you need support with school supplies, please contact A Precious Child at https://apreciouschild.org/contact-us/ to utilize their Fill A Backpack program.
  2. Ensure that your child has a study place all ready to go. Desks are the best but if your child is like mine, he’ll be playing on his phone while sitting at his desk or will have Roblox open on his computer when he’s supposed to be doing reading. The kitchen table is always a good choice or a family room table. Either way, having your child within line of eye sight is a good idea for your child to know that you care about their education and your presence is a great support. Additionally, make the location consistent so that they know when I’m sitting here, I’m working.
  3. Send your child’s teacher an email introducing him/her. Let them know all the great things about your child and what he/she is excited about learning this year. Additionally, if your child has an IEP or 504 make sure that the teacher is aware of this document and the accommodations that are in place to give your child all the success he/she needs during the school year. Set up a meeting before school starts if your child has more intensive needs to meet the teacher in a more casual setting.
  4. Find a way to help your child with executive functions: goal setting, organization, and time management are all skills that your child needs in school life and everyday adult world. If your child looses binders and notebook all the time consider using one big binder! If your child likes to stuff his paper all in one folder or at the bottom of his backpack consider using an accordion folder. If your child doesn’t have a lot of papers consider using a crate with folders that’s left at home for the random papers that he does need to keep. If your child has a hard time organizing all of his materials consider getting matching colored folder, notebook, and binder.
  5. Lastly, get apps that will help your child. Here are some of my favorite:
    1. Math resources to help with fractions, decimals, shapes, money, number lines, counting, and patterns. https://www.mathlearningcenter.org/resources/apps
    2. Google calendar to help with all things timely. This is a great video that shows how to effeciently use Google calendars: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3O1Sype_U2A
      1. Here’s the Google calendar website: https://calendar.google.com/
    3. Mercury Reader allows the website to only pull up the text https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/mercury-reader/oknpjjbmpnndlpmnhmekjpocelpnlfdi?hl=en
    4. Co writer also on the chrome store allows students to dictate and use word predictive software.

Have a great school year knowing that you’ve prepared your child for success!

July 23, 2018 at 8:19 pm Leave a comment

The most important 5 minutes of my day

I attended a training today that’s geared toward student’s with Dyslexia. The program is called Orton Gillingham (OG). There were about 28 teachers in the room that will meet everyday for the next five days for 8 hours each day. These were veteran teachers as well as a few first time teachers who will be meeting their very first class this Fall. The training started out like every other, with lengthy introductions that you forgot within five minutes. The speaker talks about the program and it’s successes and gets us imagining how we can each make this kind of impact on our students.

Then, she talks about Dyslexia. She starts to taut how most of these students are gifted but feel dumb because they have a difficult time reading. I’ve been teaching for fifteen years and I knew what she was talking about. These are the students who hate being corrected. The idea of reading a book is infuriating. Words on the page don’t make sense and they don’t know why! I thought I understood and could empathize with my students. I thought I was being supportive when they struggled. I was wrong.

The group was given a passage to read. Each of us got a copy of the seven sentence paragraph on DNA. I looked at my table mate and said, “Oh, this’ll be one of those empathy exercises. This is so silly.” We were instructed to wait until everyone had their paper and the teacher would call on us to read a loud.

I turned the paper over and I saw letters. I saw black letters on white paper. There were q’s and lots of them! There were a’s and t’s and m’s and many other letters that I recognized. But there were very few words that I could decipher! The teacher called on a student and she read the first two sentences with proficiency. Her voice rang out reading each word perfectly like the bells for Sunday church. My brain went into overdrive. Sweat beads started forming under my arm. I searched and searched and tried to find the pattern. Was each /q/ really a /t/? Were the letters flipped? Were the vowels taken out of this indecipherable text? I started to worry. I looked at the woman who had just read the text perfectly and wondered, how did she do that? Does she have this innate ability to read anything? Was she a Kindergarten teacher who can read even the most obscure writing?

Nope. She was a middle school teacher who had just read the first two sentences perfectly. Then, another teacher read her passage. She struggled and I thought, “Thank goodness I’m not the only one who’s having a hard time here!” But the instructor started to give prompts that didn’t make sense. She said, “Find a chunk that you know,” or “Just sound it out,” or ” Get your mouth ready and say the first word.” These were things that I say to my students all the time but they weren’t helping me! Why was this instructor saying these things and they weren’t helping? More important, was this how my student’s felt when I uttered these same “supporting” statements?

While my peer was reading I was frantically trying to catch up and figure out how to read about DNA. I was in fear of her calling on me and putting me in the hot seat because I knew there was no way that I’d be able to read as fluently as two of my peers.

To my horror and dismay, the instructor called on me next. I had lost my place in my distress. I wanted to crumple up the paper. I wanted to push the paper away and say, “This is just a stupid exercise.” But everyone was looking at me.  I took a breath and tried to remember my reading tools. What makes senses? What patterns did I see? Here I was, in the hot seat trying to remember what the teacher had said. I looked at the words and just didn’t get it.

I read one sentence. One lousy sentence. I completely skipped over three words. I read at least four nonsense words in a jumbled up fashion. I guessed at three words. I couldn’t read fast enough and wished that the sentence wasn’t so long. I felt that all eyes were on me and no one wanted to continue to hear me stutter. When I finished, the teacher looked at the group of stunned teachers and asked,  “What did you learn about DNA?”

I couldn’t say a thing. I had no idea that we read anything about DNA. I was so focused on the words that no images came to my mind. If I was instructed to draw what I had learned my page would have been as black as a turned off screen.

My empathy for my students shot up 100 fold. They have to deal with this day in and day out. They continue to persevere and push through all the hard text that don’t make sense. They listen to our meaningless strategies to get your lips ready or look at the picture and try and try and try. This was the reason that I came today-to make sure that my students never feel like this again. To give them the tools that will not only make them successful but confident!

Today was the most important five minutes of my life because I got to walk in their shoes for five minutes and now will respect their path for the rest of my life!

July 9, 2018 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

To Organize or Not?

To write in complete sentences or use bullet point ideas? That is the question! This question has plagued me for years. Do I ask students write in complete sentences to then transfer their ideas to a formal format or do I ask that they jot their ideas down and turn it into a rough draft?

As a young writer, I became bogged down and frustrated at having to plan my writing! Why should I write everything down before I write everything down? I find that students, especially those who struggle with writing, don’t want to write down their ideas in complete sentences. In addition, ideas start to develop as the writing unfolds and being held captive to one graphic organizer can stunt a more well rounded paper.

This begs the question, should graphic organizers even be used? Unequivocally and with a resounding answer, I believe, YES! Students need to be able to hone the what, when, who, and purpose for the their text. This requires planning. But maybe the planning process doesn’t have to be so cumbersome.  I have found rehearsal, simple graphic organizers,  illustrating, and free writing lends a hand to a solid rough draft.

When a student rehearses his idea to a teacher (or mentor student) then all the crooks and nannies get ironed out. The listener gets to asks probing questions like, “Where are your characters?” or “What are you trying to tell your audience?” or “Why do you think that?”. The writer gets to hear himself think out loud and find the missing pieces of information that they’ll need to include. Additionally, as the listener probes and listens, she can reiterate what was just said. This allows the story teller to hear his story which creates imagery in his head and facilitates memory in order to write it all down.

Simple graphic organizer are a great tool for having students really organize their thinking. Putting his thoughts into categories helps him develop this category on a deeper level.  For example, if a student is writing a paper on bats, he’ll need to siphon his topic down to three main points: eating, habitat, and behaviors. Putting bullets points underneath each main topic ensures that all the ideas are used in an organized fashion. While this method requires writing, it’s not so cumbersome that the writer is exhausted when asked to put pencil to paper using lengthy sentences.

Illustrations allows students to express their ideas in words. The tricky part of using this tool is to make sure that the text matches their picture. If a student wants to draw a snowy day but then starts writing about hot chocolate, the hot chocolate needs to be in the picture. This can be done using multiple pieces of paper for different scenes, or comic strip boxes, or just a free for all drawing. In any case, the picture needs to have a who, a what, a where, and if possible, the why, illustrated to drive the text.

Lastly, if a student is given a focal point then free writing may be the way to approach ideas. For instance, a student may be looking at a Japanese Internment Camp and already has a vast knowledge on the subject OR  can just use his descriptive writing to free write all that comes to him. I find that setting a timer and giving a limit to how long a student is asked to write for a helpful tool for both resistant as well as prolific writers.  Free writes can be a great way to open the flood gate of ideas and just enjoy the process of writing. While this takes initiative, I find that most students enjoy this freedom.

After all is said and done, it’s important to get your ideas out on paper (or computer). We’ll worry about the editing process next week!

July 9, 2018 at 8:40 pm Leave a comment

Remedial Handwriting

Can students who are older really change their handwriting? Why should they learn a new way to write?

YES! Students who are older (7 years +) can change their handwriting and should start to focus on the importance of their penmanship. As students get older, they will begin to learn typing, internet navigation and report writing. However, the bulk of their communication and evaluations still rely on pencil and paper tasks! Students are required these days to not only solve math problems but to write (in sentences) about their thinking and problem solving. A formalized reading assessment, called the DRA (Developmental Reading Assessment) that most districts use, requires that students write a written response to demonstrate their comprehension of text that will give an indication of their reading level. Spelling tests, science journals, journal writing and poster creations are still a huge every day part of our children’s educational lives.

Now, what if your child’s teacher cannot read your son/daughter’s handwriting? Does your child still struggle with written fluency? Does your child want to give up writing after 5 minutes because it hurts his/her hand? Research has shown that if an instructor struggles to read a written response, the student’s grade will be lowered.

ProgressivEducation can help! We use Handwriting Without Tears program to teach penmanship, grammar/punctuation and narrative story writing to older students in an engaging, hands on and multi-sensory experience.  

   There are a few other tips and tricks of the trade that you can do to help your child start having better handwriting today!

1. Sit with your feet on the floor and back against the chair. 



This allows kids to have proper posture and ensures that they won’t get physical tired as easily. 


2. Slant your child’s page toward the left or the right



This technique ensures quality control for spacing, organization and fluency. 


3. Use a slant board to create a more upright position if your child struggles with positioning



This tool will help your child with positioning and control. 


4. Make sure they are using a comfortable grasp with their pencil. There are three grasp patterns that are effective in keeping his/her writing movements small, with a firm pencil grip and the pencil at an angle. If you child is using one method, there is no reason to change his/her strategy if it fits the previous criteria. 



This helps children with their fine motor control. When kids have a proper pencil grip, they will be able to have correct letter formation, letter size, spacing and fluency. 

Lastly, if you have any questions about your child’s penmanship, please feel free to contact http://www.progressiveducation.com for your child’s writing evaluation and opportunity to become more successful in the classroom. 


Images courtesy of http://teachers.henrico.k12.va.us/exed/ExEdHCPS/OTPT/HandwritingStrategies.pdf

December 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm Leave a comment

Left Handedness

I have started working with a few small groups of children with the handwriting classes and I’m finding more left handed children in my care than I had come across in my teaching at public schools. This brought me to ask myself, ” What do I know about individuals who prefer to use their left hand (especially in writing)?”  The answer was, “Not enough!” So I took on the challenge and started reading all about left handers! The first text I read was, “Loving Lefties” by Jane M. Healey, Ph.D, 2001. The second text I read was, “Children and Handedness: Making the Right Choice” by Geoffrey K Platt, 2012.

I will be posting different tips and tools that I have learned from these great resources over the next few weeks. 

One of the most helpful tools that I was reading in Loving Lefties was how to first identify if a child is left handed or not. It is critical to understand that children who are left handed are more prone to using BOTH hands for different tasks; whereas individuals who are right handed, primarily use their right hand for everything (eating, dressing, creating, writing, ext…). Dr. Healey states, ” Some children prefer to use their left hands for fine motor skills such as writing and brushing their teeth and their right hands for skills such as throwing batting a baseball. In fact, about half of all left-handers have mixed preferences. As long as the child consistently uses the same hand for a given activity, such as writing, this is not a problem” (Loving Lefties, Jane M Healey, 2001, pg 46). In order, then to identify if your child is left or right hand just takes a few observations. A parent can start observing his/her child at the time of 3 months (and even birth) because handedness is primarily genetically inherited. Dr. Healey reviews a few hand/brain studies and states the following facts, “Having one left-handed parent increases your chance of being left handed [20-25%]….Having two left-handed parents increases your chances further [50%]” (Loving Lefties, Jane M Healey, 2001, pg 15). For this article, I will focus on identifying lefties after the age of 4 years of age.

Dr. Healey states in her book that her diagnosis is a cumulative review of how the child uses his/her hands when given a variety of tasks to perform. These tasks range from sensorimotor, perceptual and language tasks. The reasoning for her whole child approach is due to the fact that children who are left handed may have a dominant right side of their brain OR a dominate left side of their brain; either way, observations become more telling of how a child perceives his/her world.

Say to the child, “Show me how you….”

Look through a hole in a paper L/R/Both              (this gives the observer the indication of which eye is dominant)

Kick a ball L/R/both                                              (handedness and footness go…well, hand in hand and is telling of lateral preference)

Step on a bug L/R/Both                                       (handedness and foot preference)

Write L/R/Both                                                   (fine motor skill)

Comb your hair L/R/Both                                   (fine motor skill)

Brush Teeth L/R/Both                                        (fine motor skill)

Cut with Scissors L/R/Both                               (child may talk about which is more comfortable)

Throw a ball L/R/Both                                       (gross/large motor skill)

Hit a ball with a bat L/R/Both                             (gross/large motor skill)

Use a racket L/R/Both                                       (gross/large motor skill)

Hammer a nail L/R/Both                                   (coordination)

Use a screwdriver L/R/Both                             (coordination)

Cut food with a knife L/R/Both                          (coordination)

Flip a coin L/R/Both                                           (coordination)

Open a door with a key L/R/Both                     (coordination)


If your child prefers fine motor activities with his/her left hand and gross motor activities with his/her right hand, that’s ok! Let them do what is natural for them and their bodies. What do you, then, if your child has a preference for writing/fine motor activities with his/her left hand? How, as a right handered, can you teach your own child?

A few tips:

1. Let the child know that it’s ok to use the hand that is more comfortable 

2. Become a mirror. When teaching your child how to tie a shoe, how to write his/her name, sit across from the child so that he/she sees everything “backward” in your eyes but frontward to him/her. 


3. Use your left hand and become a model on how to use the left hand

4. MOST  IMPORTANT: get tools that are designed for individuals that use their left hand. Kids would benefit from: left handed notebooks, left handed rulers, left handed scissors, etc…

Here’s a few resources that sell left handed products




November 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm Leave a comment

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