Category Archives for Learning

5 Gifts Every Teacher Wants Parents to Give Them at the End of the Year

We are at the end of the year and you’re thinking of the best thing to give your child’s teacher who has been all sorts of amazing and patient all year long. You’re stumped because you really want to show her how much you appreciate her, but you aren’t sure what to get.

As a teacher of 15 years of students with learning differences, I can tell you these are the things that meant the most to me. So much so, that I pay it forward in the same way to my children’s teachers every year.

Gift Cards:

I promise you can’t ever go wrong with a gift card. Teachers are strapped for cash. Many of them budget everything they have and these extra little splurges are awesome. It doesn’t have to be expensive. One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received was a $5 Starbucks card tucked inside a disposable Starbucks cup. The parent added some dollar store green tissue paper and the child wrote a cute little note inside. You can do the same thing with a fast food gift card. No teacher is ever going to be upset at a $5 gift card to Chick-Fil-A inside a nugget box! For $6, your teacher will receive a thoughtful and clever gift and will be sure to be appreciated. You can’t beat that!

Anything Summer Related:

As a teacher, we really enjoy our summers off. We do everything we can to decompress from the previous year, all while hyping ourselves up for the upcoming year. If we can use it in the summer, we love it. This year I gave my kids teachers sunscreen, a bottle of rose, and a pair of nice flip flops. That my friends, sounds like a great summer day to me and I’m sure your teacher will remember how much you appreciated them as they sip on their rose by the ocean or the pool.

Random Cup of Coffee/Breakfast/Lunch:

These last couple of weeks are so hectic. Report cards need to be completed. Last minute grading is stacking up. And there’s preparing for end-of-the-year activities. The last thing we have on our mind is feeding ourselves. You have no idea how happy a random cup of coffee on the last week of school makes us feel. Another amazing gift is a surprise breakfast or lunch. I have never met one teacher whose heart didn’t explode every time they received this amazing token of appreciation.

Something the Teacher Can Use to Pamper Themselves:

The week after the children leave the classroom, teachers have to pack everything and cover it up. They have to pack up their desks, their computers, stack all the desks and chairs. They also have to dust and clean all their closets. Needless to say, teachers get very tired this week. Giving your teacher a gift to some place they can pamper themselves is an amazing and thoughtful gift. A manicure at their favorite spot, a massage maybe, or even a homemade kit with things like bath salts, cooling eye masks and face sheet masks would be something to look forward to after those long days. It will be sure to let her know how much you appreciate her. Nothing says thank you like a trip to the spa!

Handwritten Note:

This one by far is the only one that has to accompany any gift, for it’s the most important of all. As a teacher, I have a box with the letters of appreciation I received throughout my years of teaching. I remember going through a very difficult time in my life and finding joy in re-reading all the notes of appreciation from my students and their parents. When a parent takes the time to write something meaningful to a teacher, it makes all the difference in the world. This gesture shows us that you saw our efforts and that you appreciated all the millions of times when we redirected the child, or made exceptions for incomplete HW, and even gave them a million chances because we knew that impulsivity was something out of their control. No matter what else you decide to give the teacher, nothing will be more valuable than an honest heartfelt note of appreciation.

Check out for a lot more ways to understand and help your child with ADD/ADHD. If you liked this post, or know someone who will benefit from it, please share!

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Why Your Child Ignores Tasks

Oftentimes children with ADHD exhibit avoidant or delayed reactions to certain tasks. As a parent you think a few things. One, they’re not listening on purpose; or two, they have a hearing problem. Well guess what? It’s neither of those.

When a child finds a task very difficult because it seems long, or because it is something they just don’t like, they will exhibit certain behaviors. They will avoid the task, delay the task or escape from the task. These are coping mechanisms because starting the task seems like it’s going to be an impossible feat.

Here are 6 things you can do with your child to help ease these feelings of avoidance, delay or escape.

  1. Break tasks into smaller chunks: Learning is learning, and time frames differ from child to child. A child that avoids a task because it seems too long will probably at least attempt one that is smaller. If it’s a reading assignment with a lot of questions, cut up the questions and tackle one at a time. If its a math page with 50 problems, start with one column. Do something else and then come back to the next column until all problems are done. Dealing with a smaller task is a lot more manageable than fighting over one long giant task.
  2. Praise effort and hard work instead of completion: Children with ADHD hear soooo much negativity throughout their day that when they hear praise, it’s like a pattern interrupt and it will more likely cause the child to stop and listen. It’s like a reset button. When your child is finally working and has remained working for a few minutes, praise them. Say “I am so proud of you for working this hard”.
  3. Set a timer: Oftentimes one of the biggest reasons a child will delay the activity is because they don’t have a clear concept of time and an activity seems like it will take FOREVER!! This causes them to avoid the task. Setting a timer with visual cues to the amount of time it will take will make the task seem less daunting.
  4. Positive reinforcement!!!: Praise your child when they focus, praise them when they work, praise them when they finish, praise them all the time. Praising your child when they have ADHD is the fuel that keeps their motor running. They come across so many NO!’s all day long that a YES! Good Job!! goes a loooooooong way.
  5. Provide many non-verbal cues: Sometimes a tap on the shoulder or a back rub can have a much greater effect than yelling and reprimanding. Especially if you need to redirect your avoidant child back to work. Oftentimes children with ADHD have sensory issues and feeling the pressure of your hand on their back is very soothing. So much so, that it will relax them and coax them to get back to work.

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How Learning Styles Manifest at Home and at School

Something has to give. I’m not sure what it is, but every day more and more kids are falling through the cracks because their brain is built differently. And it’s unfair. Adults are different, and that’s widely accepted. There are millions of careers and groups and ideas in this world to cater to millions of styles of adult thinking, so why can’t education cater to the different types of learners?

Granted, learning comes in so many ways, and it’s unfair to peg all the intricacies of it with just categorizing them into 4 types, but it’s a start! And in no way, am I even insinuating that teachers need to do more, because as it is, what’s on their plate is WAY more than they should have. Factor into that teacher pay, and I’m surprised so many are still working. Teachers deserve to be on a pedestal and showered with gratitude because they try to do the impossible every day.

However, without a doubt, our children also need help. They need help to learn, because long are the days of expecting a child to sit in a desk and copy off the board. I think if parents and teachers worked as a team together, we can at least start there. Therefore, in an effort to bridge that gap I will explain the four different types of learners found in the VARK Model, as well as give examples of what can be done to help those learners better absorb and comprehend the material learned in school.

In 1987 Neil Flemming developed a model to identify a person’s individualized learning preferences called the VARK Model of Learning. The four types of learners are Visual, Auditory, Reading/Writing and Kinesthetic.


In today’s day and age of video game and Youtube, this type of learner is becoming a bigger part of the classroom population. And oftentimes, actually more often than not, they are being misdiagnosed with ADHD. These are the iPad generation kids. These type of children need constant and quick stimulus to engage the senses.Mimicking that of an iPad or the Television. Many educators have a problem with this type of learner because it is very difficult to keep their attention for long periods of time. And although I agree with that, I also understand that exposure to technology is here to stay, and if I don’t adapt, I become a dinosaur.

These children need information presented as maps, spider diagrams, charts, graphs, flow charts, labeled diagrams, and all the symbolic arrows, circles, hierarchies, or  other devices that people use to represent what could have been presented in words.Lots of YouTube and apps, Educational videos and games. Everything can be found on YouTube.
If your child loves to go on YouTube and watch videos about everything, playing games on the iPad is their go-to reward, or they’re glued to their video games, they are visual learners. My suggestion is that before they glue themselves to their devices, block games and have them read a book. Or, play an educational game such as Education Galaxy. There are millions of apps and games out there. For every 30 min of video games, they should do 30 min of educational games. This is what bridging the gap between school and home looks like. And if your child complains, tough cookies! Playing an educational game is not torture. They’re like vegetables. Not your favorite, but good for you!


This type of learner tends to be very capable of handling mainstream education, however they’re the ones that are always on Red for talking! They can’t for the life of them, keep quiet. How do you remedy this in school? Instead of punishing so much for talking, have them teach the class, or pull them aside and listen to them. And if they talk again, remind them that they had their chance and if they want it again, they need to respect the structure of the class. It’s almost like you’re containing the talking. It’s a win-win situation.

They also learn very well from listening to lectures. Oftentimes they prefer to listen to an audiobook than read it. Sometimes they need to close their eyes to listen better. This helps them to hear and process the information at hand. Think of the entire auditory process when it comes to this learner. Not just listening, but speaking as well.

At home, it’s imperative that you allow them to talk to you about their day. Can this be annoying? Absolutely! After 20 minutes of the same thing, thi can feel like torture. But it’s necessary because you gave them the voice they needed to feel satisfied. Give these children a camera and tell them to record a movie about their HW after they finish the HW. Play teacher with them. These children need the opportunity to express themselves because this is how they learn.


This kind of learner is every teacher’s dream, and they tend to be the ones who get rewarded the most. Why? Because they are super independent. They like information displayed in words, text-based input and output. They love manuals, reports essays… a teacher’s dream!!

They also grow up to be over-achievers. Overachievers are good, however, they are also extremely hard on themselves and can burn out. These children are usually quiet and somewhat reserved, and may have a hard time expressing themselves verbally. They love to write and draw. Sometimes they can have Obsessive tendencies making lists.They find comfort in schedules. Reading a book or looking at the pictures in the book is their favorite thing to do.


Kinesthetic Learners are often times also misdiagnosed with ADHD. They are ALWAYS on the move.I’ve taught quite a few Kinesthetic learners who just can’t sit still. Oftentimes they are playing with a pencil and drop it, just so they can pick it up. And they do this because they need a reset to keep learning. Or they stand instead of sit when they are learning. I don’t know about you, but if I’m at a meeting, sometimes I need to stand and I go to the bathroom because if I don’t move I will either fall asleep or zone out. We need to stop punishing these children for needing to move. And if they are disruptive, put them in the back of the room.

Children that are kinesthetic learners gather information through experience and practice, simulated or real, either through concrete personal experiences, examples, practice or simulation.They also learn through demonstrations, simulations, hands-on experience, practice, and manipulatives.

These children sometimes get in trouble both at home and school for poking and prodding things around the house. They break everything and make messes. But they also love building and painting and anything that involves the senses. They love to be in the middle of everything and to be a part of everything.

As I stated previously, I feel that the only way to alleviate our lackluster education system is to stop pointing fingers and come together as a team to bridge the gap between home and school. Children spend more time in school than home sometimes, and as a result teachers should be seen as an extension of a child’s development. In turn, all homes are different and teachers need to stop homogenizing the classroom.

Teachers, we need to change with the times. We should not strive to be fossils who remain unchanging with time. That’s a lazy approach. Instead, we need to embrace this brave new world that is shaping and forming the people of the future. Egos down. You won’t win. To survive, you must change.

And parents, stop seeing the teacher as an enemy and work with them. Advocate for your child but listen to your teacher. Kids are way different in school, I promise. Listen to what the teachers say and work with them instead of against them. They have seen and dealt with way more kids than you have ever seen, and at some point they have dealt with a child similar to yours. Work together. Not against each other. Bridge the gap.

If you are curious about how your child learns, take this quiz to find out more

The Case of the Struggling Summer Babies

Let me begin this article by telling all the moms out there whose children are the youngest and who are very successful and have never struggled that this article is NOT FOR YOU!

However, let me also tell those moms that as a younger child myself, and a teacher (both in the classroom and privately) of many many many younger children who struggle, consider yourself blessed because this doesn’t happen often.

“My child is about to start school and their birthday is in the Summer. Should I hold them back?

You have no idea how many times I had friends and family ask me this question, and almost every time I said YES!!! If you have this doubt, then you should definitely hold them back. I am going to tell you my reasons why, but first I want to tell you my story

My birthday is in September. Which means, I would have been the oldest in my class. When I entered Kindergarten, I was a reader. As in, I already knew how to read mini chapter books. I was evaluated and the results came back that I was gifted.

At the time, the solution my school had for me was to take me out of my Kindergarten class after a little while of being there and move me to a First grade class. Folks, I did not complete Kindergarten. I went straight to first. But now, I was no longer the oldest, I was the youngest in my class. I had the mental capacity to be in First Grade. I was probably even more advanced than some of the kids in my class. But, was I emotionally ready for it? Probably not. I don’t remember many things about my childhood, but I remember vividly the day I was taken out of Mrs. Morales’s class and placed in Mrs. Hobb’s class.

Imagine how much emotion was attached to that day, that I still remember it vividly. I remember the walk to the first grade class, the way it smelled, the lights. And if I really think about it, my memories of my Kindergarten class were bright and colorful, and first grade is yellow and dim. I remember longing to be in Kindergarten and seeing the classroom everyday as it was a separate building adjacent to the PE courts.

Throughout my career as a student, I was somewhere in the middle. Sometimes the higher middle, sometimes the lower middle. I had the capacity to get A’s, but I was getting C’s. A lot of times, I was a discipline problem because I talked too much. I chose not to be in gifted, and frankly thank goodness I did, because I wouldn’t have survived.

Socially, as the years passed I remember being bothered by always being the last one to achieve all the age milestones. And by a lot. Looking back I realize that had I been left in my Kindergarten class, my outcome may have been a different one. Why? Because despite my learning intelligence being above average, my social intelligence was not, and in turn I suffered in my career as a student. Everything I gained in moving up a grade was lost because I was not ready for it.

I have found in my years of teaching that if a parent has a doubt about holding their child back, then they absolutely 100% without a doubt should do it. I have had parents whose child is the youngest and was probably one of the quickest and brightest in the class, and for that child retention is not a good idea. However, I have also had the parent whose child is verbally quite advanced, and who could possibly read before Kindergarten, and yet they struggle every day because emotionally they are not ready.

One of my largest demographics in my tutoring service are boys who are struggling with keeping up in their class and they are being misdiagnosed with ADHD because they are exhibiting the same symptoms. The Washington Post published an article that states that according to a study conducted in States that have a September 1st school cutoff date, children whose birthdays fall in August and therefore are the youngest in the class were 34% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. (You can click and read the article at the end of this one)

Now my question is: Do in fact these children have ADHD or were they just not ready to learn the foundations of reading and math, and are now reaping the consequences of learning gaps in their foundation?

From what I have researched with my own students, I find that do not have ADHD, but are exhibiting very similar symptoms and this is because they are frustrated and anxious that they can’t keep up.Can you for one minute place yourself in a situation where you understood most but not all of a topic. Say you are attending a conference where doctors are discussing the procedures they use to perform a surgery, but you are not a doctor. How would you feel? What would you do? I can probably say that I would take out my phone and find a way to distract myself. Or I would become frustrated to be wasting my time with something I didn’t understand.


Let me give you an example. I have a male who we will call Tom. Tom is in 2nd grade, and has a June birthday. Tom is having a real hard time keeping up in school, especially in Language Arts. He strives beautifully in Math.

Tom’s mom came to me very frustrated because he was not producing any work. He was avoidant of all tasks that involved reading, comprehension, writing and spelling. His teacher is fed up (with reason) because he cannot produce, and she is recommending him to be evaluated for ADHD. He is inattentive, he does not sit still, he cannot produce an assignment, and he gets overwhelmed with his assignments.

When I evaluated Tom, I realized that he does not know how to differentiate his long and short vowels, he doesn’t differentiate his consonant blends (sh, th, wh, ch, sp, sk, st, cr, dr, fl, etc), and he has no idea what an r-controlled vowel (AKA the “bossy vowel” -ar, -or, -er) sound makes. When he gets a reading assignment, it is extremely difficult for him to read it because his fluency is very slow. I have been re-teaching these concepts to him and his fluency has increased. Tom should have been held back in Kindergarten or First Grade because his window of literacy was not open and ready to learn and now he is struggling to keep up.

There is a silver lining. With the proper re-training your child can get back on track. You can help your child fill in those gaps they have and your child will catch up. I know that while you are in the thick of it, it is very frustrating. Yet, I have seen success story after success story when the child’s brain is re-trained to learn the things they missed.

If you are a parent of a younger child in Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade, and you have the doubt of whether or not your child will succeed better if you retain, DO IT!! I promise you won’t lose anything by doing it. On the contrary, you will set your child up for amazing success.

Washington Post Article:

Four things kids need to know before entering kindergarten

Four Things Your Child Needs to Learn Before They Enter Kindergarten

I had lunch with a teacher friend of mine yesterday who teaches children that are struggling to learn how to read. We were trying to figure out  what is happening to today’s generation of children and why they struggle as much as they do. Sure, there are a bunch of theories. One being that young children need to play more. Other theories state that reading needs to happen at a later age.

And while I see truths to all of that, I feel that something else needs to be addressed. And that is parent involvement from ages 1-5. When a reading specialist has to teach a 6-year-old how to assemble a 20 piece puzzle, or how to properly use a scissor, there is a critical problem. Those are skills that parents need to teach their own child before they enter school.

I am a parent. I have 2 children and 2 step children. When my kids were little I exposed them to a plethora of things that helped with their development. When my daughters were 6 months old, I would give them cheerios on their high chair to strengthen their pincer grip. When they were 1, I gave them wooden puzzles to assemble. When they were 2, I took them to the park and let them climb stairs by themselves. When they were 3, they dressed and fed themselves. When they were 4, I began teaching them to use the monkey bars. All of these things play an important role in creating skills children need to be successful learners.

When you’re a teacher in Kindergarten and first grade, there are so many things you need to teach, and so many goals you need to accomplish. There are time frames exhibited by children which we need to take advantage of, to create a solid foundation in learning. We do not have time to teach how to cut or color.

Wasting time teaching the things a parent is supposed to teach hinders my ability as a teacher to teach the important things your child needs to learn in order to be successful. When we do centers in class, we are teaching and playing at the same time. When we dance and sing, we are also teaching through play.

When your child misses those activities because we have to teach them how to cut, or how to hold a pencil or help them finish a coloring assignment they couldn’t complete because they don’t know how, or they got tired, it hinders your child’s ability to learn and participate in all the fun things we have planned for them.

I want to talk about 4 things all children need to know before they enter Kindergarten.


As soon as your child is old enough to hold a pencil and put it to a paper, they’re old enough to learn how to color. Coloring on an iPad is not an option. I’m talking about good ol’ fashioned crayons and paper. As early as 1 year old, a child can doodle on a paper.

Allowing them to do so teaches them how to hold a pencil. When you go to a restaurant, give them paper and a crayon. Show them how to do it. Teach them how to draw a happy face. How to draw a square. How to draw a big line and a little line.

When they’re 4 show them how a coloring page has an outline and explain to them that they should try to stay inside that outline. When you expose your child to coloring for long periods of time, you are creating strength in their hands, so that when they get to Kindergarten, they don’t get tired of coloring after a few minute because their hand hurts and give up or take forever to finish. You’re teaching them to take pride in their work by teaching them how to do it properly. These small things save us the time we could use to teach them what you can’t.


One of my favorite activities to do with my girls when they were little was to take a bunch of department store magazines and circulars and give them to my girls to cut. I taught them that 4 fingers go in the oval part of the scissor, and their thumb goes in the circle part. At first they would just make random cuts, and sometimes they nicked their fingers, and that was ok. Just make sure the scissors are child scissors with blunt edges.

Eventually this activity became a favorite past time. And today, they are 9 and 7 and will cut up a magazine and create either a book or a poster or vision board with them. When my children entered Kindergarten I was confident in their ability to cut, and as a result they had more time to learn the important things.


When my children were about 3 years old, right after they were potty trained, I taught them to put up their pants. If I had a penny for every child I taught that didn’t know how to do this, I would be rich. This is such a simple thing to teach, but it is also so imperative to their development. Children need to learn gross motor skills and fine motor skills BEFORE they enter Kindergarten.

I want you to think of this. How does your child feel when they go to the bathroom at school, and all their life they have had you fixing their clothes. Next time you feel like dressing your Kindergartener, think of that and instead of doing it for them, give them the tools to do it themselves. Your baby will always be your baby even when he knows how to dress himself, even when he’s 16 and driving a car, and when he too is holding his own baby in the future. Don’t stifle your child. Give them the tools to grow.


Reading to your child is so important. It’s a statement you have heard a million times. And a statement you tell yourself you don’t have time for. I think this is one of those things you have to make time for, even if it’s once a week. Yes, reading to your child will help them understand story structure, and it keeps them entertained for a little bit, but it does so much more.

Reading to your child lays the groundwork for how they learn to read. I have taught children that don’t understand how to turn a page in a book. That’s probably the saddest thing I have ever seen. Why? Because that poor child has never been exposed to a book. Reading creates a bond with your child. It helps them understand the basics of language. Storytelling is the most ancient and ingrained form of learning. We are built with it in our DNA. Don’t deprive your child of this. It’s as sad as depriving your child of basics like hugs and kisses.

I am not going to lie to you and tell you I read to my kids every night. Most nights I was tired. But I trekked through the exhaustion and I did it. Because I knew how important it was. You should too. Foster that part of their brain which allows them to understand how to learn from a story.

As I said before, your child will always be your baby, but inevitably that baby will grow. Not giving your child the things they need to do so, stifles them. When you plant a seed, do you try to keep it contained so it stays little forever? Or do you water it and wait for it to grow and bear fruit?

Teach your child to grow, give them the things they need to do so, and revel in the fruit they produce.