BACK to school ADD

When Back-to-School Triggers Difficult Emotions

Your child used to begin the school year with such hope — but now feels doses of apprehension, fear, self-doubt, and boredom. These emotions are big, and important to recognize as not only valid but important. Here, learn how to balance the negative with the positive, and make school fun again.


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Many of my pediatric patients did not want to go back to school this Fall. For one, they were reluctant to leave the blissful moments of summer behind, and I couldn’t blame them. But what was heartbreaking to hear, particularly as a mom, was the dread they felt over returning to the classroom and managing the difficult emotions that arise when you can’t focus or sit still for an extended period of time: frustration, boredom, anxiety, and a general sense that something is “wrong” with you.

Parental instincts tell us to shield our children from everything that hurts. We can’t stand to see them suffer or feel bad about themselves. Yet we know that, for kids with ADHD, school presents an emotional minefield. With that in mind, here a few strategies for helping your child cope with the emotional challenges of navigating school with ADHD:

1. Show your child that emotions aren’t inherently “bad.”

A child with ADHD who is prone to outbursts has likely internalized the message that BIG emotions are a pathway to trouble. As a result, they try to avoid “bad” emotions that are, in reality, unavoidable. Rather than trying (and probably failing) to suppress their emotions, your child can change their relationship to them.

The next time they’re upset, ask them what’s happening in their body: Is their heart beating fast? Are they breathing hard? Is their face hot? This simple act of checking in with their body can create some distance between the immediate experience of their feelings and the disruptive behavior that might ensue.

[Free Download: Your Back-to-School Playbook]

2. Remind your child that they have a gift.

Kids with ADHD struggle in school more than their neurotypical peers. Your child intuitively understands this, and you shouldn’t try to pretend otherwise. When your kid laments the fact that their classmates don’t seem to have the same issues, you should validate their feelings. But don’t stop there. Remind them of the areas in which they shine. Artistic gifts and sports skills may not help them pass a math test, but these strengths set them apart from their peers. Further, the skills they’re learning now — namely resilience and self-awareness — will benefit them later in life. After all, lots of famous people struggled in school and went on to lead successful, fascinating lives.

3. Help your child find their joy.

We all need a passion — that one special thing that grabs your attention and makes you feel most like yourself. It could be years before your child discovers their passion, but in the meantime you can help them find something they really enjoy. Maybe it’s playing the flute, or karate, or planting vegetables.

[Free Guide to Activities and Sports for Kids with ADHD]

If your child’s “joy” overlaps with an activity at school, great! If not, don’t sweat it. The goal here is to encourage them to develop their unique interests and discover their innate capabilities. This process will bolster their self-esteem and make it easier to deal with the inevitable disappointments and frustrations that occur at school.

4. Remember that school isn’t everything.

When we start school as kids, we begin a lifelong series of aptitude tests. From the very first day, we are evaluated based on intellect, sociability, creativity, and other measures. We learn that success and failure can be quantified. We begin to judge ourselves based on other people’s standards. What can easily get lost amidst the pressure to conform and excel is this: school, like work, isn’t everything.

So much of life happens outside the classroom. Don’t lose sight of that. Your child may have a hard time staying on task or turning in their homework on time, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a wonderful son or daughter, sibling, and friend.

[Free Webinar: Helping Children with ADHD Overcome Failure, Fear, and Disappointment]

Benefits of Tutoring



There are many reasons parents choose tutoring for their children. Some parents feel unable to help their children with schoolwork. Others may find their children are more receptive to working through school struggles with another person. Tutoring can help strengthen subject comprehension, boost confidence, and build important learning skills.

Tutoring gives students individualized attention that they don’t get in a crowded classroom. This helps children who struggle to keep up, as well as those who aren’t challenged enough. It also keeps students on track during breaks from school, such as during March Break, or during the summer.


Tutoring programs can help your child develop study and learning skills that will help set up your child for success for his or her entire life. There are many advantages of tutoring services:

  1. Individual and unique learning experience

  2. Your child will receive an individualized learning experience he or she can’t always get in a classroom setting. Tutors can customize the lessons and activities just for your child.

  3. One-on-one attention

  4. Tutors get to know your child’s individual learning style and can adapt teaching methods accordingly. They act as your child’s own private teacher.

  5. Improves academic performance

  6. Tutoring will prepare your child for tests and exams, while tutors work with your child on specific problem areas. Your child’s grades and understanding of the subject will significantly improve when working with a tutor.

  7. Improves attitude towards learning and school

  8. Learning will become fun for your child. With constant encouragement and praise, your child will no longer feel overwhelmed or frustrated with school.

  9. Encourages self-paced and self-directed learning

  10. With tutoring, your child will learn to take the initiative his or her school work. Your child will also learn how to control the learning pace.

  11. Improves self-esteem and confidence

  12. Your child’s self-esteem and confidence will increase through tutoring, by providing him or her with the resources and skills he or she needs to excel in school.

  13. Improves work and study habits

  14. Through tutoring, your child will learn work and study habits he or she will use for life. These skills will help prepare your child to successfully achieve his or her goals both inside and outside of school.

  15. Positive work space

  16. Tutoring provides an environment free of distractions, with fewer students and disruptions around so your child is better able to focus on learning.

  17. Encourages independence and responsibility

  18. Your child will gain the ability to do school work on his or her own, without your help. Your child will realize his or her own personal growth and will learn to take responsibilities for his or her studies.

  19. Helps overcome learning obstacles

  20. Your child’s tutor will specifically target whichever aspect of learning he or she is having troubles with, whether it’s writing, math, language, or reading.

  21. Encourages the freedom to ask questions

  22. At school, your child may not always feel comfortable asking questions in front of his or her peers. Tutoring will help teach your child to be comfortable asking questions, big or small, without feeling self-conscious.

  23. Improves social and behavioural skills

  24. Tutoring services will help your child become a better communicator, form better relationships with peers, and make more positive social and behavioural adjustments.

  25. Increases ability to manage one’s learning

  26. Your child will become more competent in his or her learning and more successful in managing his or her school work.

  27. Challenges those who need it

  28. Tutoring helps bored or under-stimulated children reach their full potential.

  29. Prepares your child for college

Students heading off to college will learn how to create study plans, develop advanced study skills, and learn superior time management skills. There are numerous benefits of tutoring in college, including reinforcement of existing knowledge and gaining a better understanding of a field of study.

Dob Labs

‘Dope Labs’ Brings Science, Quippy Humor And Diversity To The Podcast-Verse

It’s finally time for badass women to take the mic.


Picture this: matching lab coats draped across the back of two stiff chairs with one ominous microphone secured on the table. Titi Shodiya and Zakiya Whatley lean into the black microphone, as they begin to spill witty and insightful commentary on the most infamous time of the year: cuffing season. Lucky for us, Spotify recently gave life to this scene with the latest edition to the podcast multiverse, “Dope Labs.”

“Dope Labs” is a brand spankin’ new podcast that combines trashy internet culture with scientific reasoning. But don’t let the s-word frighten you; “Dope Labs” is more than a re-envisioned idea of how science and the real world relate. It is also a ginormous leap forward in diversifying Spotify’s podcast culture. So, grab your safety goggles and have Urban Dictionary opened, because hosts Shodiya and Whatley are crafting a crackly chemical reaction.

BFF hosts Shodiya and Whatley are not just spitting scientific facts out their behind. Shodiya has a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering and materials science and Whatley has a doctorate in genetics & genomics and cellular & molecular biology. The dynamic duo has been inseparable since meeting at Duke University in 2011. They both found similarities between their experiences as black women in America, and their bond is tangible to listeners; it feels like you are at a chill hangout with close friends.

The refreshing and trendy topics on “Dope Labs” include cuffing season, hair restoration, ASMR and the most popular astrological events, such as Mercury’s retrograde, making it such a relatable podcast across all ages.

In an interview with Elle, Shodiya said, “It’s just that a lot of people weren’t given access to science in ways that were acceptable for their brains. We’re going to be showing the intersection between science and pop culture, making it really fun and relatable and accessible to everyone.”

“Dope Labs” is breaking more barriers than just the unanimous distaste of science. Out of 18,000 applicants, Shodiya was chosen as one of three winners in Spotify’s Sound Up Bootcamp. This win earned her $10,000 to fund the proposed podcast: “Dope Labs.”

Spotify’s Sound Up Bootcamp was a successful effort to crank up the volume for female voices of color. Out of the initial 18,000 applicants, 10 were chosen to participate in daily sessions with podcasting veterans Rekha Murthy and her colleague, Graham Griffith, over the course of a week. Imagine a prestigious, challenging and captivating 400-level “Intro to Famous Podcasting” course taught by the pros. From those 10 finalists, three were crowned winners of the nationwide and year-long search, Shodiya being one of them.

These stats are the evidence of the lack of diversity in race and gender in the industry that is beckoning to be on front lines of change. The success of Spotify’s Sound Up Bootcamp has helped bring a new wave of empowerment to women of color. Podcasting is still young and therefore flexible enough to acclimate to fresh voices ready to power on their mics. The fight for a more balanced podcast environment is worth continuing in order to reach that percentage of listeners left untouched.

Being a driving force in the effort to amplify minority voices on the podcast scene, “Dope Labs” is also an inspiring woman in the STEM field. According to Tito, “In the scientific community, the voices of minority women are not amplified as much as they should be. When you think about the most prominent woman of science, within mainstream media, it’s hard to think of anybody.”

There are currently only a handful of science podcasts hosted by women, and the number dwindles when you search: “science podcasts hosted by women of color.” “Dope Labs” is engineering an essential category currently MIA in the podcast community.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE:Confused About Where To Begin In The Podcast World? Enter, ‘Planet Money’

“Dope Labs” runs on a biweekly upload schedule. The format that Shodiya and Whatley follow for their episodes are unlike the typical “chat about whatever for 30 minutes” podcasts. Instead, each episode takes listeners through three different segments: the recitation, dissection and the conclusion in order to formulate a satisfying answer to the initial peculiar query.

Remember the scientific process in middle school? It kinda follows that cycle. Thanks to “remember that time I” stories and exuberant laughter, “Dope Labs” is never intimidating to those who haven’t been involved in the field since their 8th grade science fair.

All in all, the combination of camaraderie, weird scientific explanations and pioneering properties makes “Dope Labs” more than just background noise on your daily commute. Women of color in a gender-centric field are finally getting their voices heard! Dope science class is now officially in-session.

Learning Science Through Everyday Play

How parents can help 5th graders learn science through everyday play

By playing simple games and using things you have at home, you can support the science concepts your child needs to learn this year.

by: Charity Ferreira | May 20, 2019

How does matter cycle through ecosystems? Where does the energy in food come from and what is it used for? How do the lengths of day and night change from day to day?

Fifth grade science explores systems of all kinds. Your child will learn that matter changes, but no matter what change matter undergoes, its weight stays the same. How energy moves through food webs is another core concept this year. Some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Organisms such as fungi and bacteria break down the dead organisms, and some of that decomposed material goes back into the soil where it supplies nutrients for — you guessed it — plants!

Fifth graders also turn their attention skyward and learn how the orbits of Earth around the sun and of the moon around Earth, along with Earth’s rotation, cause day and night, daily changes in the length and direction of shadows, and different positions of the sun, moon, and stars at different times of the day, month, and year. It’s a spectacular year for science, and you can support what your child is learning at home. Try these activities and marvel at their discoveries along with them.

How you can help your child learn 5th grade science

Food web mural

Food webs are big! So give your artist a big canvas — it could be a big sheet of paper taped to a wall, a painted chalkboard wall, an inexpensive canvas drop cloth (available at hardware stores), or cardboard spread outside on the ground. Ask your child to paint, draw, or sketch a food web, in as much detail as she likes, using pencil, chalk, markers, or paint. This is a fun project to do with a friend. If you have an app on your phone that lets you record a time lapse video, film your child while she creates; then play it back and watch the web come to life.

Related 5th grade science worksheets: DecomposingFood chains at seaFood chains in a woodland

Be your own sundial

Your fifth grader may have learned about sundials this year. On a sunny day, find a flat spot on the sidewalk or playground without anything nearby that will cast a shadow. Mark a spot with an X, and then have one child stand there while another outlines her shadow in chalk and notes the time. Return to the same spot every hour and trace the shadow again. At the end of the day, ask your child what she observed about how her shadow changed throughout the day, and why she thinks it happened.

Related 5th grade science worksheet: Drawing shadows

Tasty matter

The kitchen is a great place to explore the properties of matter. Freeze juice in ice pop molds to see if changing the juice’s state from liquid to solid changes its volume. Stir together oil and vinegar to make salad dressing, and milk and chocolate pudding mix to make pudding. Ask whether each is a solution or a mixture, and why? Making s’mores over the barbecue is a great way to explore the physical and chemical changes of matter, as marshmallows become molton and chocolate melts. Assemble a s’more and let it cool to see if it goes back to a solid state. (And if you drop a marshmallow into the fire and it burns, you’re looking at a chemical change. Unfortunately irreversible!)

The upside to dyslexia, even as a journalist

The upside to dyslexia, even as a journalist

By Robyn Curnow, CNN

Updated 4:17 AM ET, Thu June 6, 2019

Branson: I was seen as the dumbest person in school 02:18

(CNN)As a parent, if you were told your child would be a creative, intelligent, big-picture thinker with a strong sense of grit and resilience, you'd be happy, wouldn't you? That sounds like a great set of skills for life success, doesn't it?

Now, what if you were also told that your child would have trouble learning to read and write for the rest of his or her life?

Robyn Curnow

Like two sides of a coin, dyslexia is a gift and a struggle.

I know this because I'm dyslexic. So is my youngest child. It's genetic and extremely common. It's estimated that 1 in 5 people have dyslexia.

Dyslexia is, put simply, a different wiring of the brain. It is not a measure of intelligence. Dyslexic brains find it difficult to recognize how sounds, words and letters match up phonetically. It's an alternative way of thinking.

While dyslexic minds process information differently, in lateral way, it also means we are singing a different tune when it comes to literacy, memory and concentration.

This is what reading is like if you have dyslexia

Then there's the speling (spelling). In fact, just having to spell "dyslexic" is a constant frustruation (frustration). As I've been writing this I've spelt it "dylesic" "dyslexic" and "dsyleix."

During our coverage of special counsel Robert Mueller's report on his investigation, I don't think I ever wrote soepena (subpoena) correctly. Because of our trouble with spelling, if there was shrine or diety (deity) for autocorrect and spellcheck, dyslexics like me would worship at it.

Obvioulsy (obviously), spelling tests, rote learning, reading aloud in class and standardized tests all work against dyslexics in the classroom. Outside of the traditional classroom though, many dyslexics thrive.

More struggle, and more perseverance

My late father was never diagnosed with dyslexia, but probably had it. After all, he misspelled "Granddad" inside his last gift to my eldest daughter, a hardbound copy of "The Velveteen Rabbit."

I also only realized I was dyslexic two years ago, after my youngest daughter was diagnosed. She was lucky her school had picked up red flags in her early learning. Instead of writing "dog" she'd write "bog." She wrote "b" and "d" in inverse directions and got tripped up between "m," "n" and "w."

Reading homework was a nightmare for her, and me. I watched as she learned a word like "C-A-T" and then forget it the next day. Words, letters and sounds became elusive to her, like grasping at bubbles blowing in the wind.

During my child's path to literacy, I relived my own. Her school had a series of parent lectures that explained dyslexia and it all slowly fell into place. The more I educated myself about her "problem" the more I realized I had been surviving, and thriving, with the same one.

Technology opens new world for brothers with dyslexia

My early school days were also a struggle, but unlike my daughter, my issue wasn't identified and remediated because my teachers just did not understand I had a common learning disorder. They just thought I was not very clever.

I was so bad at writing that my second grade teacher created an extra level of failure in one particularly brutal report card. She felt that "Very Poor" just didn't seem to capture my lack of aptitude. So, in neat handwriting inserted into the report, she created an additional "Extremely Weak" category, just for me. The same teacher got so frustrated with my lack of progress with math word problems she threw the textbook at me during class.

My struggles were also blamed on being "too young" for the class. So I repeated second grade. By the time I was 10 years old I'd been to four schools as my parents tried to find a learning environment that suited me.

You never forget that early humiliation of being the last to finish in class or having a teacher throw a book at you.

To make it through school, many dyslexics wrangle and hustle. At some stage you learn, haphazardly, or with the help of a patient and dedicated techer (teacher) or parent to "decode" language. My mother doggedly helped me to learn and, perhaps just as importantly, she constantly boosted my self-esteem.

We also cobble together coping strategies, classroom tricks and alternative ways of thinking to get to the same destination as everyone else.

Many dyslexics learn to play to our individual strengths.

When I got accepted into Cambridge University for a Master's degree in international relations, I remember wishing I could find that book-throwing teacher. I had shown her, and myself, that I was not "Extremely Weak."

Harnessing creativity

It turns out "thinking outside of the box" comes more naturally to the dyslexic brain than the propensity to spell accurately.

It was a relief when I realized as an adult that I am dyslexic. What was even more liberating was realizing that many things I was good at were also because of dyslexia.

Each dyslexic has a different set of skills, and weaknesses, but there's a pattern of commonality that links people like Galileo, Pablo Picasso and Julia Child.

Dyslexics often think in pictures and can see multi-dimensionally which is why architect, gardener, chef and astronomer are careers that dyslexics gravitate toward.

Paradoxically, dyslexics struggle to write, but are often excellent authors, such as Roald Dahl and Agatha Christie. They have "vivid imaginations and are highly creative," according to Made by Dyslexia, which acknowledges, "9 in 10 dyslexics have poor spelling, punctuation and grammar but many are great writers."

Adept problem solving

Entrepreneur, billionaire and dyslexic Richard Branson is so passionate about championing the positive aspects of the dyslexic brain that he launched and supports a charity called Made by Dyslexia.

"Dyslexic people hold a unique set of skills that will be really important to business," Branson tweeted. These include "the ability to think flexibly and creatively and solve really complex problems by thinking different."

'Shark' takes a bite out of dyslexia 01:18

Global accounting giant and professional services firm Ernst & Young released a report in 2018 called the Value of Dyslexia which carefully lays out how "dyslexic strengths match closely to the pressing skill requirements of the changing world."

The report says that dyslexic strengths include creativity, problem solving and communication skills, which are untapped talents within the workforce, "These varied cognitive profiles give dyslexic individuals natural abilities to form alternative views and solve problems creatively." The report urges companies and firms to have a "neuro-diverse talent strategy" because dyslexic employees with "heightened cognitive abilities in certain areas, such as visualization and logical reasoning skills and natural entrepreneurial traits can bring a fresh, often intuitive perspective."

Interestingly, Britain's spy masters came to a similar conclusion. The UK intelligence agency GCHQ announced in 2014 it was actively recruiting and employing more than a hundred dyslexic spies because dyslexic analytical skills are exceptionally useful when analyzing intelligence. Perhaps unsurprisingly, British code-breaker and mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked Nazi Germany's secret encrypted Enigma code, was dyslexic.

Dyslexic, as a journalist

Luckily, I fell into a career that, I think, is a dyslexic dream job. In TV news, it's our job to think in pictures, because television is a visual medium.

And as a TV reporter you write brief, short scripts to pictures. The audience only hears and sees the report so spelling and grammar are not as important as they are for, say, a newspaper article.

Also, television news is about simplifying a lot of facts, analyzing events quickly and interpreting complex information -- live on air. If you read the Value of Dyslexia report, you will see how those skills are hardwired into the dyslexic brain.

My colleague Anderson Cooper told me that as a child he was sent to a "reading doctor" after school in New York and during the summer in Long Island to help him with, what he calls, mild dyslexia. "I still do have trouble confusing some letters and numbers," he told me. I agree with him when he says it's easier to "have stuff printed out to read instead of reading off a computer" as I also rely heavily on the paper copies of scripts and news wires. Anderson said part of his treatment at the time was to learn to type; "so I became a really good typer in 3rd grade."

Like Anderson, sometimes my words and numbers get mixed up, so I make accommodations and create verbal safety nets for when I'm reading the autocue prompter. I edit long, convoluted sentences and remove complicated foreign names that are redundant and could trip me up. I avoid too many numbers. If I start to find words jumping and darting away like fireflies at night, I slow down and concentrate even harder. Or just move on to the next story.

I love it when there's breaking news and we throw out the pre-written scripts and I'm required to ad lib.

What you can do

Actor Orlando Bloom says his dyslexia is like a superpower -- that's a powerful message for any child struggling at school.

Viewing dyslexia as a unique set of abilities with varying patterns of strengths and challenges -- instead of a one-size-fits-all learning disability -- is gaining traction.

What makes a good speller (or a bad one)?

Increasingly, allowances are being made for dyslexic children in the classroom. In the state of Georgia, where I live, a new law makes it mandatory for all children to be screened for dyslexia. Getting expert help early while children are still learning to read, and not reading to learn, is crucial.

Teachers or parents who think a child can "grow out" of dyslexia are wrong. If your child is constantly being told to try harder, write neater, or stop being lazy, then maybe you need to take them to be tested for the world's most common learning disorder. Help is everywhere.

Many schools and universities give extra time on tests. Teachers don't penalize students for bad spelling when they're known to be dyslexic. Some schools even give dyslexic students a pass when it comes to having to learn a second language. Many allow pupils to listen to audiobooks instead of trying to plow through set reading books.

Even big companies such as Microsoft are helping too. Microsoft just released free online dyslexia awareness training for parents and teachers, in co-ordination with Made by Dyslexia. Using teaching experts from two of the oldest specialized dyslexic schools in the United States and UK -- the Schenck school in Atlanta and Millfield School in Somerset, England -- these online videos aim to democratize dyslexic teaching. It's a free hour of expert instruction, available now, and to everyone.

Winston Churchill, as many advocates believe, had dyslexia, pointing out that he dictated, and did not write, his speeches and books. He would have found many of today's voice-to-text tools helpful. Microsoft's learning tools also have incredible options for dyslexics, such as tools which read out text, break-up syllables and increase spaces between lines and letters.

Not every child struggling to read will be as well-known as some famous dyslexics -- John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Henry Ford or Keira Knightley. However, they do not need to be left behind, or relegated to the dunce corner. More teachers need to recognize the familiar signs and be able to help, all the tools to do so are out there, if you just look.

Just don't expect us to ever learn how to spell "dyslexic." (Thanks, spellcheck.)

CNN: The upside to dyslexia, even as a journalist.

Bill Gates Good Reads 2019

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates released his annual summer book liston Monday. The underlying theme is “upheaval,” he writes on his blog, Gates Notes, “whether it’s the Soviet Union right after the Bolshevik revolution, the United States during times of war, or a global reevaluation of our economic system.”

While none of the five books may be “what most people think of as a light read,” he says, they’re all thought-provoking and have uplifting aspects.

“If you’re looking for something that’s more of a typical summer book,” he adds, “I recommend Graeme Simsion’s ‘The Rosie Result,’” which is the final novel in the Rosie trilogy that Gates has recommended before.

Here is Gates’ full summer reading list:

“A Gentleman in Moscow” by Amor Towles

Amor Towles’s novel is “a fun, clever, and surprisingly upbeat look at Russian history through the eyes of one man,” says Gates. It’s technically historical fiction, “but you’d be just as accurate calling it a thriller or a love story.” He even “got teary-eyed” at one point.

“Even if you don’t enjoy reading about Russia as much as I do (I’ve read everything Dostoyevsky wrote),” Gates says, this book is “an amazing story that anyone can enjoy.”

Read Gates’ full review of “A Gentleman in Moscow.”

“Upheaval” by Jared Diamond

Jared Diamond, author of the international bestseller “Guns, Germs, and Steel,” looks at how societies react during times of crisis in his new book, “Upheaval.”

“He uses a series of fascinating case studies to show how nations managed existential challenges like civil war, foreign threats, or general malaise,” writes Gates, noting, “It sounds a bit depressing, but I finished the book even more optimistic about our ability to solve problems than I started.”

Read Gates’ full review of “Upheaval.”

“Nine Pints” by Rose George

“If you get grossed out by blood, this one probably isn’t for you,” says Gates, since Rose George’s book is a deep dive into the topic, from the ancient practice of bloodletting to modern breakthroughs. “But if you’re like me and find it fascinating, you’ll enjoy this book by a British journalist with an especially personal connection to the subject.”

“Nine Pints,” which refers to the average human blood volume, “may not sound like a typical light summer book,” he says. “But George is a great reporter and writer who makes it easy to follow along. And I think everyone wants to know at least a little more about this topic.”

Read Gates’ full review of “Nine Pints.”

“Presidents of War” by Michael Beschloss

In his 2018 book, author Michael Beschloss looks at how presidents have handled nine major conflicts the U.S. has been involved in, from the War of 1812 to the Vietnam War.

“The book’s broad scope lets you draw important cross-cutting lessons about presidential leadership,” says Gates. And it’s full of ”‘what if’ moments,” he adds. “It is hard to read about today’s conflicts without thinking about how they might connect to the past and what impact they might have on the future.”

Read Gates’ full review of “Presidents of War.”

“The Future of Capitalism” by Paul Collier

In “The Future of Capitalism,” Oxford economist Paul Collier “wrestles with a tough problem,” writes Gates. “If you measure by things like GDP growth and lifespan, life is better for more people around the world than it has ever been. And yet many people are questioning the capitalist system that produced those gains. There’s an understandable sense that the system is in crisis.”

Collier outlines three reasons why capitalism is working for some but leaving others behind. He also proposes solutions.

“Although I don’t agree with him about everything ... his background as a development economist gives him a smart perspective on where capitalism is headed,” says Gates.

Adult Learning

4 Things Teachers Shouldn't Be Asking Their Students to Do


By Justin Minkel

April 8, 2019

Spiderman’s Uncle Ben could have been speaking directly to teachers when he said, "With great power comes great responsibility."

As teachers, we can make kids do almost anything we want. They’re smaller than us. We have all kinds of power over them, from getting them in trouble at home to taking away the things that make school tolerable, like going outside for recess or sitting with their friends in class. But just because we can make our students do what we want doesn’t mean we should.

Children aren’t just smaller versions of adults. They are their own kind of being. They need to move, talk, question, and explore more than we do, because they’re in the midst of that mind-boggling explosion of cognitive, physical, and social-emotional growth that marks childhood in our species. When it comes to behaviors like staying quiet or sitting still, it doesn’t make sense to hold young children to norms better suited to adults, because the way they experience the world is fundamentally different from the way grownups do.

In school, we often ask children to do things that are unreasonable given their developmental level. Worse still, we sometimes ask them to do things we would never expect of adults.

Take these four examples.

1. Silence

Many schools expect a monastic code of silence while students are traveling the halls. The rationale makes sense at first glance, and it’s one I’ve explained to my class many times: "Other students are working right now, and we don’t want to disturb them."

Still, if I were a kid, I’d wonder: "If that’s true, why aren’t teachers silent in the hall?"

Every time I run into a colleague in the hallway, we talk together while we walk to wherever we’re going. We chat about anything and everything, from the chances we’ll get a snow day tomorrow to the latest season of "True Detective." This kind of conversation doesn’t seem to bother the kids working in classrooms off the hallway. Why would the voices of kids be any different?

Chatter in the hallways, or even the squeaking of wet shoes on the floor as a class returns from recess or P.E., doesn’t seem to bother most students. In fact, the only occasions when I’ve seen kids completely distracted by what’s happening out in the hall are those times when a teacher is reprimanding his or her class—often at a far greater volume than whatever commotion their students were causing to incur the reprimand.

We should take a close look at the times we expect kids to be silent in school. We need to distinguish between those times it’s truly for the good of the students, and when it has more to do with the appetite for control so deeply inculcated in adults placed in charge of children.

2. Sitting Still for a Long Time

Teacher Alexis Wiggins shadowed high school students for two days, doing whatever the students did, and was shocked at what she experienced.

"I literally sat down the entire day, except for walking to and from classes. We forget as teachers, because we are on our feet a lot—circling around the room to check on student work, kneeling down to chat with a student … we move a lot. But students move almost never. And never is exhausting."

For young kids, sitting still is even harder. There’s a lot we can do to make it easier on them.

• Build in strategies like Total Physical Response for learning vocabulary, so students are moving while they learn.

• Take brain breaks—including dance parties. There are plenty of great videos on websites like GoNoodle, or you can make up motions to classic children’s songs like Raffi’s "Biscuits in the Oven" and "Tingalayo."

• Let students get up—without raising their hand for permission—whenever they need to get a book from the class library, grab a pencil, or just stretch their legs for a minute.

• Above all, keep the teacher talk time to a minimum. A useful guideline is that students should be able to listen attentively for their age in minutes—five minutes for a kindergartner, 15 for a sophomore in high school. Save most of your words for conversations with students one-on-one or in a small group. Children, like adults, learn the most when they’re engaged in meaningful work—not sitting and listening while the teacher does all the talking and thinking.

3. Forced Apologies

I have definitely been guilty of this one. I’ll break up a heated argument, then immediately demand that one or both kids apologize to one another, while their faces are still flushed with emotion from their recent conflict.

The early-childhood program my daughter attended never made the children tell each other, "I’m sorry," because an apology extracted by an authority figure isn’t a true expression of remorse.

Forced apologies don’t seem to offer much satisfaction to the child who receives them, either—seeing the other child mutter "sorry" while glowering at his shoes pretty much never makes the recipient of the apology feel better.

Turbulent emotions take a long time to settle. We need to give kids that time.

4. Zero Tolerance for Forgetfulness

My friend and 1st grade teacher Cameron McCain has a great line when teachers start grumbling about our students: "It’s like we’re dealing with a bunch of 7-year-olds around here!"

His point is well taken. I get frustrated when Josh, who has been in my class for 17 months now, still forgets to check out a book or do his lunch choice when he gets to school. But like most adults I know, I’m a lot like Josh. I once turned on the coffeemaker without putting the coffeepot in first. (I didn’t realize what I’d done until hot, fragrant coffee started splattering onto my kitchen floor.)

I forget sometimes that not only are my students human, they’re really young humans. When they lose their lunch tag for the third day in a row, or ask the exact same questiontwo other kids asked 30 seconds ago, we need to take a deep breath and offer them a sizeable dollop of grace.

Kids Are Kids. That’s Exactly Who They Should Be

We need to think hard about the demands we place on our students. Just because they obey the strictures we lay down doesn’t mean those edicts are fair.

We can’t expect the children in our care to behave like miniature adults. They need to move around more than we do. They need to make more noise than we do. They need to experience new concepts with their fingers, senses, and imaginative ability to consider not just the world as it is, but as it could be. Their curiosity, enthusiasm, and sense of wonder will never lend itself to straight lines and silent deskwork.

We spend so much time bending them to our way of doing things. We should pay more attention to theirs.

Justin Minkel teaches 1st and 2nd grade at Jones Elementary in Springdale, Ark., a high-performing, high-poverty school where 85 percent of the students are English-language learners. A former Teach For America corps member, Minkel was the 2007 Arkansas Teacher of the Year. In his instruction, he is focused on bringing advanced learning opportunities to immigrant and at-risk students. Follow him at @JustinMinkel.


FYI, You Can Watch Astronauts Read Popular Kids Books From Space

If you’re looking for a way to take story time up a notch with the kids in your life, why not turn to astronauts?

That’s the premise of Story Time from Space, a project from the nonprofit Global Space Education Foundation that features astronauts reading beloved children’s books from the International Space Station.


Story Time from Space is a project that features astronauts reading children's books from the International Space Station. 

Patricia Tribe, the former director of education at Space Center Houston who came up with the basis for the project, told HuffPost that the thought of merging space and reading came up after she did some research on literacy and science skills in the United States. She decided to merge STEM and literacy in a way that’s easily accessible for kids.

“What better role models to engage kids in science and to engage them in reading?” she said. “You’re not only looking and listening to the books, you’re looking around the International Space Station.”

Story Time from Space began with a pilot test from astronaut Benjamin Alvin Drew Jr., also known as Alvin Drew, who helped co-found the initiative with Tribe. He read Max Goes to the Moon, a book by astrophysicist and author Jeffrey Bennett, on the final flight of the space shuttle Discovery. Since the project’s official launch, other stories that have been told from space include Next Time You See a Sunset by Emily Morgan and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty. The footage of the reading sessions are available on the Story Time from Space site and YouTube.

Watch astronaut Kate Rubins read Rosie Revere, Engineer below.

The Story Time from Space team, which includes astronauts, scientists, educators and others, has important guidelines when it comes to choosing the books. They have to be “neat” books that can be read in about 15 minutes, involve some sort of concept regarding STEM and, most important, be accurate.

“We don’t want to perpetuate any misinformation,” Tribe said.

The team members sometimes receive books from authors who want to be considered for the reading sessions. They also keep up with various lists and recommendations involving STEM-focused children’s books. When they have a group of books to consider, the team discusses why a title should or shouldn’t be part of a launch. One thing the team keeps in mind is having books that cover a wide range of age groups.


The selected books include Jeffrey Bennett's work about a dog named Max who loves space, among many other titles. 

Once the team selects the reading material and gets the approval for a launch, the books must go through the payload process at NASA and then have to be labeled, cleaned and sent to Florida for launch. An organization called CASIS(Center for the Advancement of Science in Space) helps with arranging the payloads and actually getting the books into orbit, and then once story time is over, there’s the video editing.

It can also take time to find available astronauts to read the books. Some volunteer, while others are requested because of their background in education or a similar specialty. Tribe also said her team strives to be diverse when it comes to who is telling the stories. For instance, she said she felt it was important for Rosie Revere, Engineer, a story about a girl with dreams to be an engineer, to be read by a woman working on the International Space Station. (Kate Rubins read it.) The site also includes two readings of Max Goes to the Space Stationone in English from astronaut Mike Hopkins, and one in Japanese from astronaut Koichi Wakata.

Tribe said the authors of the books selected have all been “fantastic,” just like the astronauts. According to the site, upcoming books include Mousetronaut by astronaut Mark Kelly and The Rhino Who Swallowed a Storm by “Reading Rainbow” host LeVar Burton and author Susan Schaefer Bernardo.

In addition to the reading sessions, the Story Time from Space team is preparing to add to its site footage of kid-friendly science experiments completed on the International Space Station. Its members are also working on a curriculum that coincides with the project and their research to share with educators and librarians.

With each new idea, Story Time from Space is showing kids that learning and literacy can also be entertainment.

“Everybody thinks space is pretty cool, so it’s a nice way to capture the audience and capture the kids so they are enjoying space,” Tribe said.


Why Millions Of Kids Can't Read And What Better Teaching Can Do About It

Jack Silva didn't know anything about how children learn to read. What he did know is that a lot of students in his district were struggling.

Silva is the chief academic officer for Bethlehem, Pa., public schools. In 2015, only 56 percent of third-graders were scoring proficient on the state reading test. That year, he set out to do something about that.

"It was really looking yourself in the mirror and saying, 'Which 4 in 10 students don't deserve to learn to read?' " he recalls.

Bethlehem is not an outlier. Across the country, millions of kids are struggling. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, 32 percent of fourth-graders and 24 percent of eighth-graders aren't reading at a basic level. Fewer than 40 percent are proficient or advanced.

One excuse that educators have long offered to explain poor reading performance is poverty. In Bethlehem, a small city in Eastern Pennsylvania that was once a booming steel town, there are plenty of poor families. But there are fancy homes in Bethlehem, too, and when Silva examined the reading scores he saw that many students at the wealthier schools weren't reading very well either.

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Silva didn't know what to do. To begin with, he didn't know how students in his district were being taught to read. So, he assigned his new director of literacy, Kim Harper, to find out.

The theory is wrong

Harper attended a professional-development day at one of the district's lowest-performing elementary schools. The teachers were talking about how students should attack words in a story. When a child came to a word she didn't know, the teacher would tell her to look at the picture and guess.

The most important thing was for the child to understand the meaning of the story, not the exact words on the page. So, if a kid came to the word "horse" and said "house," the teacher would say, that's wrong. But, Harper recalls, "if the kid said 'pony,' it'd be right because pony and horse mean the same thing."

Harper was shocked. First of all, pony and horse don't mean the same thing. And what does a kid do when there aren't any pictures?

This advice to a beginning reader is based on an influential theory about reading that basically says people use things like context and visual clues to read words. The theory assumes learning to read is a natural process and that with enough exposure to text, kids will figure out how words work.

Yet scientists from around the world have done thousands of studies on how people learn to read and have concluded that theory is wrong.

One big takeaway from all that research is that reading is not natural; we are not wired to read from birth. People become skilled readers by learning that written text is a code for speech sounds. The primary task for a beginning reader is to crack the code. Even skilled readers rely on decoding.


The Gap Between The Science On Kids And Reading, And How It Is Taught

So when a child comes to a word she doesn't know, her teacher should tell her to look at all the letters in the word and decode it, based on what that child has been taught about how letters and combinations of letters represent speech sounds. There should be no guessing, no "getting the gist of it."

And yet, "this ill-conceived contextual guessing approach to word recognition is enshrined in materials and handbooks used by teachers," wrote Louisa Moats, a prominent reading expert, in a 2017 article.

The contextual guessing approach is what a lot of teachers in Bethlehem had learned in their teacher preparation programs. What they hadn't learned is the science that shows how kids actually learn to read.

"We never looked at brain research," said Jodi Frankelli, Bethlehem's supervisor of early learning. "We had never, ever looked at it. Never."

The educators needed education.

Learning the science of reading

Traci Millheim tries out a new lesson with her kindergarten class at Lincoln Elementary in Bethlehem, Pa.

Emily Hanford/APM Reports

On a wintry day in early March 2018, a group of mostly first- and second-grade teachers was sitting in rows in a conference room at the Bethlehem school district headquarters. Mary Doe Donecker, an educational consultant from an organization called Step-by-Step Learning, stood at the front of the room, calling out words:

"Tell me the first sound you hear in 'Eunice'?"

"Youuu ... " the teachers responded.

Nope. "/Y/, /y/, before you get to the /oo/," Donecker explained. "How about "Charlotte?"

This was a class on the science of reading. The Bethlehem district has invested approximately $3 million since 2015 on training, materials and support to help its early elementary teachers and principals learn the science of how reading works and how children should be taught.

In the class, teachers spent a lot of time going over the sound structure of the English language.

Since the starting point for reading is sound, it's critical for teachers to have a deep understanding of this. But research shows they don't. Michelle Bosak, who teaches English as a second language in Bethlehem, said that when she was in college learning to be a teacher, she was taught almost nothing about how kids learn to read.

"It was very broad classes, vague classes and like a children's literature class," she said. "I did not feel prepared to teach children how to read."

Bosak was among the first group of teachers in Bethlehem to attend the new, science-based classes, which were presented as a series over the course of a year. For many teachers, the classes were as much about unlearning old ideas about reading — like that contextual-guessing idea — as they were about learning new things.

First-grade teacher Candy Maldonado thought she was teaching her students what they needed to know about letters and sounds.

"We did a letter a week," she remembers. "So, if the letter was 'A,' we read books about 'A,' we ate things with 'A,' we found things with 'A.' "

But that was pretty much it. She didn't think getting into the details of how words are made up of sounds, and how letters represent those sounds, mattered that much.

The main goal was to expose kids to lots of text and get them excited about reading. She had no idea how kids learn to read. It was just that — somehow — they do: "Almost like it's automatic."

Maldonado had been a teacher for more than a decade. Her first reaction after learning about the reading science was shock: Why wasn't I taught this? Then guilt: What about all the kids I've been teaching all these years?

Bethlehem school leaders adopted a motto to help with those feelings: "When we know better, we do better."

"My kids are successful, and happy, and believe in themselves"

Cristina Scholl, first-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary, uses a curriculum that mixes teacher-directed whole-class phonics lessons with small-group activities.

Emily Hanford/APM Reports

In a kindergarten class at Bethlehem's Calypso Elementary School in March 2018, veteran teacher Lyn Venable gathered a group of six students at a small, U-shaped table.

"We're going to start doing something today that we have not done before," she told the children. "This is brand spanking new."

The children were writing a report about a pet they wanted. They had to write down three things that pet could do.

A little boy named Quinn spelled the word "bark" incorrectly. He wrote "boc." Spelling errors are like a window into what's going on in a child's brain when he is learning to read. Venable prompted him to sound out the entire word.

"What's the first sound?" Venable asked him.

"Buh," said Quinn.

"We got that one. That's 'b.' Now what's the next sound?"

Quinn knew the meaning of "bark." What he needed to figure out was how each sound in the word is represented by letters.

Venable, who has been teaching elementary school for more than two decades, says she used to think reading would just kind of "fall together" for kids if they were exposed to enough print. Now, because of the science of reading training, she knows better.

"My kids are successful, and happy, and believe in themselves," she said. "I don't have a single child in my room that has that look on their face like, 'I can't do this.' "

At the end of each school year, the Bethlehem school district gives kindergartners a test to assess early reading skills.

In 2015, before the new training began, more than half of the kindergartners in the district tested below the benchmark score, meaning most of them were heading into first grade at risk of reading failure. At the end of the 2018 school year, after the science-based training, 84 percent of kindergartners met or exceeded the benchmark score. At three schools, it was 100 percent.

Silva says he is thrilled with the results, but cautious. He is eager to see how the kindergartners do when they get to the state reading test in third grade.

"We may have hit a home run in the first inning. But there's a lot of game left here," he says.

Emily Hanford is a senior correspondent for APM Reports, the documentary and investigative reporting group at American Public Media. She is the producer of the audio documentary Hard Words, from which this story is adapted.

Web Resources

Test and Evaluation

Testing and Evaluation

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When a child is struggling to read, someone will probably suggest that he or she be tested for dyslexia. What does it mean to be tested? You might think that of a test as something you take in an afternoon. Someone scores it and tells you how you did. Evaluation is a more accurate word to describe the process of determining if someone has dyslexia. The word evaluation encompasses identification, screening, testing, diagnosis, and all the other information gathering involved when the student, his or her family, and a team of professionals work together to determine why the student is having difficulty and what can be done to help.

Why is evaluation important?

An evaluation is the process of gathering information to identify the factors contributing to a student’s difficulty with learning to read and spell. First, information is gathered from parents and teachers to understand development and the educational opportunities that have been provided. Then, tests are given to identify strengths and weaknesses that lead to a diagnosis and a tentative road map for intervention. Conclusions and recommendations are developed and reported.

When a student is having difficulties with reading and spelling, an evaluation is important for three reasons.

  1. Diagnosis An effective evaluation identifies the likely source of the problem. It rules out other common causes of reading difficulties and determines if the student profile of strengths and weaknesses fit the definition of dyslexia.

  2. Intervention planning An effective evaluation develops a focused remedial program. Students who have a specific learning disability in reading (dyslexia) need a specialized approach to reading instruction to make progress. It is crucial that this specialized instruction begin at the student’s current level of reading skill development, rather than at the student’s grade level. An effective evaluation helps parents and teachers see which specific skills are weak and where reading and spelling instruction should begin.

  3. Documentation An effective evaluation documents the history of a student’s learning disability. One purpose of this documentation is to determine eligibility for special services, including special education. Documentation is also important for obtaining accommodations on college entrance exams (ACT, SAT), in college, or in the workplace.

When should a child be evaluated?

It is possible to identify potential reading problems in young children even before the problems turn into reading failure. Screening tests, such as Predictive Assessment of Reading (PAR); Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS); Texas Primary Reading Inventory (TPRI); and AIMSweb screening assessments, developed by researchers for those purposes should be used with all children in a school, beginning in kindergarten, to locate those students who are “at risk” for reading difficulty. Preventive intervention should begin immediately, even if dyslexia is suspected. How the child responds to supplementary instruction will help determine if special education services are justified and necessary.

Before second grade, it is more important to focus an evaluation on the precursors of reading development. Measures of language skills, phonological awareness, memory, and rapid naming are more suggestive of being at-risk for dyslexia among young children than are measures of word reading, decoding, and spelling. Therefore, measures of phonological awareness, memory, and rapid naming are typically included in Kindergarten and beginning first grade screening tests that can identify children who need targeted intervention to improve these critical skills so these children can meet grade- level benchmarks. Although there are many tests that may be used early (in Kindergarten and beginning of first grade) to assess beginning skills in reading and spelling, the standards for average achievement are generous. A child in late kindergarten or early first grade may only need to read a few letters and two or three common words to score well enough to reach a score of “average.” Compared to other young learners, students with dyslexia may not seem to be “behind.” Further, even if achievement is found to be low or poor it does not explain why the child may not be learning as expected.

By January or February of first grade, tests of early word reading, decoding, and spelling begin to be useful in providing information about what the student has learned and what gaps in knowledge exist. This information may be used to plan instruction and guide ongoing assessment.

What should be included in the evaluation?

The following areas should be considered when carrying out an evaluation.

Background information

Information from parents and teachers tells us a lot about a student’s overall development and pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Because dyslexia is genetically linked, a family history of dyslexia indicates that a student is more likely to have dyslexia. A history of delayed speech or language also puts a child at-risk for reading difficulties. It is important to know the types and length of time of any interventions the student has

received at school, home, or through tutoring, as well as the student’s response to the intervention. School attendance problems should be ruled out. A history of poor attendance, alone, can explain an identified weakness in skill development.


Until recently, an intelligence test was considered to be a necessary part of the evaluation because the diagnosis of a learning disability was based on finding a significant difference between IQ and reading skill. Poor achievement despite average or better intelligence was considered a key indicator. Current regulations no longer require that such a discrepancy be present when making a diagnosis. This change in the regulations came about because many studies have shown that intelligence is not the best predictor of how easily a student will develop written language (reading and spelling) skills. Instead, oral language abilities (listening and speaking) are considered the best predictors of reading and spelling.

A formal measure of intelligence is not always needed to document average intellectual abilities. For younger children, parent information about language development and teacher information about the child’s ability to learn orally may indicate average intellectual abilities. For older students or adults, past achievement in school or work may indicate at least average intelligence.

Oral language skills

Oral language, simply stated, refers to our ability to listen to and understand speech as well as to express our thoughts through speech. Oral language is made up of low-level skills, such as recognizing and making the sounds within our speech, and higher-level skills, such as getting meaning by listening to someone speak or creating sentences to express thoughts. Students with dyslexia typically have adequate higher- level language skills. Indicators of higher-level oral language skills include being able to understand an age-appropriate story and spoken directions, to carry on a conversation, and to understand and use words that are age appropriate. If a student has average higher-level oral language skills but much difficulty developing written language (reading and spelling) skills, the need for evaluation for dyslexia is recommended.

Although students with dyslexia usually have strong higher-level language skills, they typically have problems (a deficit) in low-level language skills (see following section “Phonological processing”). This deficit limits the ability to learn to read and spell using the sounds of the language. Young children with dyslexia often have delays in language development, but their higher-level language skills are usually age- appropriate by the time they enter school. Difficulties with higher-level language skills suggest a need for a language evaluation by a speech-language pathologist to rule out language impairment.

Word recognition

Word recognition is the ability to read single printed words. It is also called word reading or word identification. Tests of word recognition require that students read individual words printed in a list. The student is not able to use cues, such as the meaning of a sentence, to help them figure out the word. Tests of word recognition that score both accuracy and the time it takes for the student to read the words (fluency) are particularly useful. Students with dyslexia often become accurate but are still very slow when reading words. Both accuracy and the speed of word reading can affect understanding what is read.


Decoding is the ability to read unfamiliar words by using letter-sound knowledge, spelling patterns and chunking the word into smaller parts, such as syllables. Decoding is also called “word attack.” Decoding tests should use nonsense words (words that look like real words but have no meaning, such as frut or crin) to force the student to rely on these decoding skills rather than on memory for a word already learned.


Tests of spelling measure the student’s ability to spell individual words from memory using their knowledge of, for example, letter-sound pairings, patterns of letters that cluster together to spell one sound (igh in high; oa in boat), the way plurals may be spelled (s, es, ies) and so on. Spelling is the opposite of word attack but is even more difficult. It requires separating out the individual sounds in a spoken word, remembering the different ways each sound might be spelled, choosing one way, writing the letter(s) for that sound and doing the same, again, for the next sound in the word. Spelling stresses a child’s short and long-term memory and is complicated by the ease or difficulty the child has in writing the letters, legibly and in the proper order. Spelling is usually the most severe weakness among students with dyslexia and the most difficult to remedy.

Phonological processing

Phonology is one small part of overall language ability. It is a low-level language skill in that it does not involve meaning. Phonology is the “sound system” of our language. Our spoken language is made up of words, word parts (such as syllables), and individual sounds (phonemes). We must be able to think about, remember, and correctly sequence the sounds in words in order to learn to link letters to sounds for reading and spelling. Good readers do this automatically without conscious effort. However, students with dyslexia have difficulty with identifying, pronouncing, or recalling sounds. Tests of phonological processing focus on these skills.

Automaticity/fluency skills

Students with dyslexia often have a slow speed of processing information (visual or auditory). Tasks measure Naming Speed (also called Rapid Automatic Naming). Sets of objects, colors, letters, and numbers are often used. These items are presented in rows on a card, and the student is asked to name each as quickly as possible. Naming speed, particularly letter naming, is one of the best early predictors of reading difficulties. Therefore, it is often used as part of screening measures for young children. Slow naming speed results in problems with developing reading fluency. It also makes it difficult for students to do well on timed tests. Students with both the naming speed deficit and the phonological processing deficit are considered to have a “double deficit.” Students with the double deficit have more severe difficulties than those with only one of the two.

Reading comprehension

Typically, students with dyslexia score lower on tests of reading comprehension than on listening comprehension because they have difficulty with decoding and accurately or fluently reading words. It is important, however, to be aware that students with dyslexia often have strong higher- level oral language skills and are able to get the main idea of a passage despite difficulty with the words. Further, reading comprehension tasks usually require the student to read only a short passage to which they may refer when finding the answers to questions. For these reasons, students with dyslexia may earn an average score on reading comprehension tests but still have much difficulty reading and understanding long reading assignments in their grade-level textbooks.

Vocabulary knowledge

It is important to test vocabulary knowledge, because vocabulary greatly affects understanding when listening or reading. Difficulties students with dyslexia might have had in learning language or with memory can affect the ability to learn the meanings of words (vocabulary). Independent reading is also an important means for developing new vocabulary. Poor readers, who usually read less, are likely to have delays in vocabulary development. It is important to note, however, that students with dyslexia may perform poorly on reading vocabulary tests because of their decoding problems and not because they don’t know the meaning of some words. For this reason, it is best to administer both a reading and listening vocabulary task to get a true measure of vocabulary knowledge.

The profile of strengths and weaknesses of an individual with dyslexia varies with age, educational opportunity and the influence of co-occurring factors such as emotional adjustment, ability to pay attention in learning situations, difficulties with health or motivation. Nevertheless, clusters of distinguishing characteristics are frequently noted.

Family History and Early Development

  • Reports of reading/spelling difficulties across generations in the family

  • Normal prenatal and birth history

  • Delays/difficulties acquiring speech/language

Early Childhood/Primary Grades

  • Difficulty with rhyming, blending sounds, learning the alphabet, linking letters with sounds

  • Difficulty learning rules for spelling–spell words the way they sound (e.g., lik for like); use the letter name to code a sound (lafunt for elephant)

  • Difficulty remembering “little” words–the, of, said–that cannot be “sounded out”

  • Listening comprehension is usually better than reading comprehension–may understand a story when read to him but struggles when reading the story independently.

Middle and Secondary School

  • Reluctant readers

  • Slow, word-by-word readers; great difficulty with words in lists, nonsense words and words not in their listening vocabulary

  • Very poor spellers–miscode sounds, leave out sounds, add or leave out letters or whole syllables

  • Non-fluent writers–slow, poor quality and quantity of the product

  • When speaking, may have a tendency to mispronounce common words (floormat for format); difficulty using or comprehending more complex grammatical structures

  • Listening comprehension is usually superior to performance on timed measures of reading comprehension (may be equivalent when reading comprehension measures are untimed)

  • Weak vocabulary knowledge and use

Outcomes of an evaluation

An evaluation should result in a written report. This report should detail the kinds of information collected. This includes information related to the family literacy history, any significant medical issues the child may have, prenatal and birth conditions, and preschool development, including language learning. The education history should include information on school attendance, tests administered and test scores. These scores should be stated as standard scores. Standard scores compare the learner to others of the same age or grade. This material should provide the framework for the detailed evaluation of relative strengths and weaknesses across the various skill areas assessed as well as the overall fit of all information with the typical profile of dyslexia for the child’s age. This should lead to a tentative diagnosis that states that the child’s ability to learn to read, write and spell does or does not appear to be related to dyslexia. The specific evidence that supports the diagnosis should be explained in the report.


A diagnosis of dyslexia begins with the gathering of information gained from interviews, observations and testing. This information is collected by various members of a team that includes the classroom teacher(s), speech/language pathologist, educational assessment specialist(s), and medical personnel (if co-occurring difficulties related to development, health or attention are suspected).

The task of relating and interpreting the information collected should be the responsibility of a professional who is thoroughly familiar with the important characteristics of dyslexia at different stages in the development of literacy skills. This professional should also have knowledge of the influence of language development and behavior on literacy learning. Often, school psychologists and/or speech- language pathologists are responsible for this task.

CAUTION: An initial diagnosis of dyslexia should be offered only as a tentative conclusion based on the data available. A poor reader may appear to “fit the profile” of dyslexia. However, if the learner responds quickly to appropriate intervention, the source of the reading problem is more likely related to earlier educational opportunity than to problems in the child’s physical makeup that limit the ability to learn from the instruction provided. The ability of the learner to benefit from instruction that is focused on the basic skills that support reading and spelling provides valuable information necessary to support or reject the initial diagnosis.

Intervention planning

Finally, the report should identify instructional programs that appear to be appropriate in meeting the specific skill(s) gaps and weaknesses identified through the evaluation process. Many children have already mastered some beginning reading skills. Thus, it is not always necessary or reasonable for a child to be placed in the very beginning lessons of a program. Although some programs have a placement test which helps the teacher to know where instruction should begin, many do not. For this reason, information about the child’s specific skill needs should be detailed in the report to assist in identifying the starting point for instruction. Recommended programs or intervention strategies should be consistent with the types of content and methods that research has shown to be effective for students with dyslexia and other poor readers. If warranted, a recommendation for further testing–vision, hearing, fine motor control (occupational therapy), attention, emotional adjustment–might also be included.


The evaluation report should provide the documentation necessary to determine eligibility for special services, including special education. The specific guidelines for determining eligibility are based on federal regulations set forth by IDEA. It is important to note, however, that the specific criteria, such as cutoff scores for eligibility vary from state to state.

The parent or guardian of a child with dyslexia must advocate for the best possible educational opportunities for that child. Effective advocacy requires understanding the diagnostic report and knowing the child’s rights under the law. Information on related topics, such as teaching methodologies, accommodations, and instructional modifications are available in other IDA fact sheets.

The International Dyslexia Association (IDA) thanks Diane J. Sawyer, Ph.D., and Karen M. Jones, Ed.S., NCSP, for their assistance in the preparation of this fact sheet.

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Why Smart Kids shouldn't use laptops in class

For the past 15 years, educators have debatedexhaustivelythe perils of laptops in the lecture hall. Professors complain that laptops are distraction machines; defenders say that boring classes are to blame — students have always doodled or daydreamed, so what’s the difference that they’re browsing Facebook instead?

The remarkable thing about all the fuss is that, until now, there hasn’t been really great data on how classroom computing affects learning. There have been some small-scale, short-term experiments. A 2003 study found that laptops make it harder for students to remember what they had just learned in lecture. A 2014 study showed that students are less likely to understand complex ideas when they are forced to take notes by computer instead of by hand. But these were all contrived situations involving immediate recall. It’s less clear how laptop use affects students over the course of a semester.

Now there is an answer, thanks to a big, new experiment from economists at West Point, who randomly banned computers from some sections of a popular economics course this past year at the military academy. One-third of the sections could use laptops or tablets to take notes during lecture; one-third could use tablets, but only to look at class materials; and one-third were prohibited from using any technology.

Unsurprisingly, the students who were allowed to use laptops — and 80 percent of them did — scored worse on the final exam. What’s interesting is that the smartest students seemed to be harmed the most.

Among students with high ACT scores, those in the laptop-friendly sections performed significantly worse than their counterparts in the no-technology sections. In contrast, there wasn’t much of a difference between students with low ACT scores — those who were allowed to use laptops did just as well as those who couldn’t. (The same pattern held true when researchers looked at students with high and low GPAs.)

These results are a bit strange. We might have expected the smartest students to have used their laptops prudently. Instead, they became technology’s biggest victims. Perhaps hubris played a role. The smarter students may have overestimated their ability to multitask. Or the top students might have had the most to gain by paying attention in class.

The size of the laptop disadvantage was modest. The average score on the final was 72 out of 100, and students in sections with laptops scored about 1.7 points lower. But it’s hard to understand what 1.7 points means without knowing how bunched up or far apart people’s test scores were. (For the stats-savvy, the effect size was about 0.2 standard deviations.)

So here’s another way to think about it. The average score on the math section of the SAT last year was 511 out of 800. The difference between exam grades in the laptop-friendly sections and exam grades in the no-laptop sections is equivalent to the difference between scoring a 511 and scoring a 491 on the SAT’s math section. (That’s roughly the same boost a high school studentmight expect from hiring an SAT tutor.)

The researchers — Susan Payne Carter, Kyle Greenberg and Michael Walker — were also surprised to find that the tablet-only sections did just as poorly as the laptop-friendly sections. Even though students were not allowed to check email or play games on the tablets, the technology still seemed to interfere with their learning.

Still, these results are probably on the optimistic side. At West Point, sections are capped at 18 students, so the instructors could easily call out people who were obviously goofing off on their laptops. The problem of computer distraction is probably much more severe at other colleges, where lectures might hold hundreds of students.

The West Point study has lessons even for those whose baccalaureate days are far behind them. This is yet more evidence that multitasking doesn’t work. Beware of people who take laptops into meetings — even “just to take notes.”They’re probably not listening to you.

15 Funny things Over Heard in the Classroom by Jodi Teachers Pay Teachers

When kids have something to say, they say it. Get a load of these hilarious gems, straight from the mouths of the tiniest comedians:

1. “I can’t read right now. I have heartburn.”

2. “It must be really hard to be talking and know that no one is listening to you.”

3. “I’m going to shave my beard when I go home tonight.” (1st grader)

4. “I didn’t know you bought groceries!”

5. “My mom got the fat sucked out of her belly today, so we have to leave her alone in bed for a few days.”

6. “Are pickles made from an alligator’s skin?”

7. “Your hand sanitizer does NOT taste like apples.”

8. “The government should postpone the media shower until next week so more people can watch it.”

9.  “My water broke.”(5-year-old boy)

10. “Ms. S, why aren’t you married? Is it because you’re in high school?”

11. “Do you need to get your zen on?”

12. “So, am I a placenta?”

13. “Sorry I was late to school again. My mom had the runs this morning.”

14. “Mrs. O, what are you gonna be when you grow up?”

15. “I already know Kindergarten. I Googled it.”