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Video: Inside the Dyslexic Brain | What Causes Dyslexia?

via Video: Inside the Dyslexic Brain | What Causes Dyslexia? — S.O.A.R. Tutoring & Advocacy

This is a great, informative, though concise, video about the brain function of dyslexic individuals from TEDEd!  Please share with educators and other individuals in your life!

The Homework Folder

Daily & Semi-Daily Homework

Teaching a student to use a homework folder with pockets labeled “Homework to Do” and “Homework to Turn In” is a vital step in materials management and homework completion.

For students using a three ring binder, a clear homework folder should be purchased and placed in the front of the binder.

I like the clear plastic folders because students can easily see the work inside.  Work that needs to capture their attention can placed facing up in the left pocket for immediate visibility. If the student is using more than one binder for class, he or she should have a homework folder for each binder.

For students using an accordion filer, the first two file pockets in the front of the filer should be designated for homework to do and homework to turn in.

Longer-Term Projects

I like the clear zip or snap pocket filers designed for 3-ring binders for storing rubrics, blank calendars or long-term project planners, handouts, and work pertaining to long term projects.  Keeping this work separated from the daily homework and other handouts will help the student manage the many papers that can be associated with long term projects.

Students using an accordion filer, can use plastic 2-pocket folder, zip pocket filer, or  a manilla file folder  for long-term projects.

When using a manilla folder, I have my students staple the teacher’s rubric to the inside of the manilla folder, and a blank calendar, or one of my long-term project planners  to the outside of the file folder.  The project title should be written on the file tab, and the file folder can be stored in the back of the accordion filer.

Materials Management at Home

At-Home Filing

To maintain organization in the binder or accordion filer, an at-home filing system is vital.  Students should get in the habit of filing old tests, relevant handouts and notes at the end of a unit in an at-home filer.  This could be a file cabinet or portable file box with hanging files for each subject & manilla folders labeled for each unit. Ultimately, it should be easy to access and kept in the area where a student does his/her work.

Developing the habit to clean out the binder after each unit and keeping past unit materials at home will:

  • Help the student stay organized and focused on the most relevant work;
  • Lighten binder load (those binders and books and backpacks are heavy enough!  Students don’t need to drag a whole year’s worth of materials around.)
  • Set the student up for success when he/she has cumulative exams at midterm or end of the year;
  • Reinforce the idea that the student is learning for the long-term, not just for the unit, and that learningis connected.
    •  Many students view learning as disposable and short-term; once the unit is over they are “never going to look at that material again,” so they see no point in holding onto the work.
  • Teach self-reliance and give students greater ownership over their materials.

For some students with major organizational issues where maintaining papers in a binder during the unit is a problem, the filer can be implemented during the course of a chapter or unit so that any homework or quizzes that must be retained are immediately filed on a semi-daily or weekly basis.  This way, the student only maintains daily work and homework to submit in his or her binder.

I have included some options below that many of my students use.  Some of these filers, as the one below shows, have top or bottom storage components for office supplies, which may or may not be necessary, unless the student plans to use the filer as a portable desk system as well.

Filers can be set up multiple ways depending on use and need.


  • Color coding hanging files for each subject.
  • Organizing by quarter or trimester, so the filer would have 3 or 4 sections of individual subject files.
  • Color coding filers for each quarter.
  • Organizing filers by subject or by units within a subject.

Most students will need help incorporating this system and maintaining it.  Decide whether or not your student needs to be organizing his/her work on a semi-daily/weekly basis or if a unit by unit basis will work.  Then make sure to monitor usage until the student is in the habit of managing the filer him/herself.

Students who are accustomed to throwing work away after it is returned, during the course of a unit, or at the end of the unit, will need more assistance in thinking differently about their studies and the benefit of keeping work.  These students may need the help of a parent or tutor to decide what work is worth keeping and may require a check-in on a semi-daily/weekly basis to make sure work is not being tossed or lost!

Mindful of the World

Hook, 2020

“I look at the bird before me and imagine how it senses the world, how it feels breathing cold air, how it feels to have its feathers ruffling in the wind, how it feels to always have an eye out for possible food and possible predators. The bird sees me and is a nanosecond from flying off, but it stays. Why? By imagining the life within, the bird I am seeing is alive, no longer a shape and its parts, but a thinking, sentient being, always on the brink of doing something. By feeling the life within, I am always conscious that all creatures have personalities, and so do trees and clouds and streams. To feel the life within, I now imagine myself as the bird that is looking at me. I imagine its wariness, the many ways it has almost died in its short life. I worry over its comfort and safety, and whether I will see my little companion the next day, the next year. To feel the life within is to also feel grief in the goneness of a single creature or an entire species. Imagination is where compassion grows.”

Amy Tan

What’s in your Pocket?

Here’s hoping it’s a poem that pulls at you all day.  If you’ve not yet found one, take a moment, press pause, and sit with a poem before you rush off to life’s next very important calling.

Here’s my pick:

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back       may you

open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

–Lucille Clifton, from quilting, poems 1987-1990

Find poems at The Poetry Foundation, The Writer’s Almanac

Great Poetry Books for Kids of All Ages

Bookstore Window, Vancouver, BC
Photograph by Kathryn Lorenzini


National Poetry Month

As we are in the midst of National Poetry Month, many students are encountering poetry in the classroom and throughout their communities.  As a poet and literacy teacher, I am always on the lookout for great books of poetry as well as poetically written stories that encourage kids to explore and play with language.  Poetry is the perfect way to teach phonological awareness and word play is beneficial for all students, but especially those who are diagnosed with language learning disorders.

Check out these resources at your local library or bookstore for use at home or in the classroom!  All of these books have been selected for their wonderful poetry and visual art.  Most can be used for teaching broad language skills such as phonological awareness and phonics.  I’ve included target grade levels for each.

Great Poetry Books for Kids (Young & Old!)

I have used this book of poetry for years in my teaching. It’s a delightful collection of all kinds of poems (including some great concrete & personification poems) organized by theme.  Meilo So’s watercolor illustrations are a wonderful accompaniment.  This is a must have for any bookshelf at home or school! 2-12

Snow Sounds A gorgeous book of onomatopoeic words that appear alongside wintry scenes that convey the light and wonder and expansiveness of  winter.  K-12

City Kids Humorous poems for kids who live in the city by renowned poet X.J. Kennedy.  My fourth and fifth graders got a kick out of many of these poems, especially the ones about school.  3-6

Good SportsWonderful rhymes with a sports theme from Jack Prelutsky.  Humor and hijinks meet on and off the field.  A great way to get the sports lover involved (and maybe in love!) with poetry! 2-6

More Pocket Poems Excerpts from poems and shorter poems that can be copied on a piece of paper for handwriting practice and placed in your pocket.  Organized by theme. 2-8

Pablo Neruda A children’s book about renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who wrote many gorgeous poems, and a few funny ones, like his Ode to My Socks!  3-8

Rain Play I love this book for its art and simple rhymes that reinforce long vowel patterns.


My Heart Is like A Zoo Lions and tigers and similes, oh my!  What a fantastic book for learning about similes!  The art is wonderful too–what you can do with the shape of a heart! K-3

Green as A Bean Fabulous book full of similes and alliteration.  Perfect for teaching long vowel teams & rhyme.  K-5

Today and Today This book of haiku is a modern day compilation of  19th century Japanese poet Issa Kobayashi’s work that teaches about the cycle of life.  Each poem is accompanied by lovely illustrations that show the year in a life of one family.

Red Sings from Treetops There is a reason why poet Joyce Sidman’s book won so many awards, notably the 2010 Caldecott Medal.  Each color is personified and does sing from page to page through word and image.  Pamela Zagarensky’s illustrations are whimsical and perfect for each poem.  This is a must read for teachers of poetry, a model of what great poetry for youth can be.

Mouse Mess Not a poetry book, but a fun romp of rhyme and mischief with a little mouse who makes a big mess in someone else’s house!  My student and I turned the lines in this story into a rap.  It has great rhythm and rhyme!  Perfect for repeated readings to build fluency.  K-3

Trains This book is an onomonpoeic pull down the tracks with the rhythm of a train moving clackety-clack!  Consonant blends, inflected and derivation endings, rhyme–this book has it all for the student working on broad language skills.  K-3+

Split! Splat! A simple story perfect for spring puddle stomping! Lots of repetition to practice simple short vowel phonograms like -at, -ip and -op, consonsant blends and rhyme. K-3

Writing Opportunities for Youth

Check out these offerings in the Seattle Area!

826 Seattle

The Richard Hugo House

Teen Ink: Literary Journal for Teens

Stone Soup: Stories, poems and art by children ages 8-13


Goodbye Adrienne Rich

We lost a great poet last month.  Adrienne Rich has been a constant source of inspiration and challenge to me as a writer for almost two decades.  Her poems I turn to time and again, finding there a way to comprehend the world and myself anew.

While I wrestle sometimes with the feeling of poetry’s futility in our complex world, it takes such a reminder–loss–to remember the potential of a poem, the difference a person and her art can make.

What Kind of Times Are These

By Adrienne Rich

There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
“What Kind of Times Are These”. © 2002, 1995 by Adrienne Rich, from The Fact of a Doorframe: Selected Poems 1950-2001 by Adrienne Rich.Used by permission of the author and W.W. Norton, Inc.Source: Dark Fields of the Republic: Poems 1991-1995(W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1995)

Thank you, Adrienne, and all women and men who share their visions and make art possible.

Music for Spring & Educational Resources

What song could be better than jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s “Up Jumped Spring” for this, the first weekend of spring?

This morning, I was reintroduced to an old favorite as a bright blue sky filled my window and I awoke to the Abbey Lincoln and Stan Getz version from 1991.

Here is their version and the classic Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers recording with the giants Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Cedar Walton (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass), and Art Blakey (drums).

Listen while taking in the playful dance of crocus and daffodil, cherry blossom and forsythia, and new green below and high above your feet!

Want to learn more about Jazz?

Check out these sites & books:

PBS Kids GO! Jazz 

Nicky the Jazz Cat: A fabulous book for kids of all ages, but especially K-3, by photographer Carol Friedman.  I recently used this with a student to both reinforce phonological awareness (the book has wonderful rhymes) and introduce him to some pretty cool jazz cats like Abbey Lincoln, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones and more!  Her website enlarges the scope of the book with a history of jazz & the music makers, visual art, CD’s, and more.

A Tisket-A Tasket by Ella Fitzgerald and illustrated by Ora Eitan

Jazz Books for Kids Pre-K-6th Grade: This is a great reference list!

Jazz at Lincoln Center–Education If you can’t make it to New York City, travel virtually to this landmark institution.  Online resources for teachers, parents and students.

Scholastic–Black History & Change: Jazz  This site includes lesson plans, audio clips, and videos!  Easy to use for students and teachers.

Looking for Jazz in Seattle?

The Seattle Jazz Scene 

Keep Swinging!