We recently spoke with Tara Chapman and Sharon Marrello at The Written Word Center for Dyslexia and Learning in Wheaton, Illinois. They co-taught NoticeAbility’s Entrepreneurs & Innovators course for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week, for 2 weeks straight! this June with a group of middle school students with dyslexia - some from public schools, some from homeschools - and we wanted to share their story with you (and have you share it with your tutor friends!).
NoticeAbility: Tell us about you, and what led you to offer this course.
The Written Word: We are a dyslexia focused center dedicated to educating and supporting students, parents, and teachers. We decided to offer NoticeAbility to our students, as well as students in surrounding communities, in hopes that we could help them realize that there is more to their dyslexia than remediation. When students are ’finished’ with an Orton-Gillingham based remedial program, and they have learned how to strengthen their literacy skills and compensatory strategies, we believe it is important to build on strengths, and that is a life-long journey. A lot of students we work with have poor self-esteem, and can’t shine in school the way they could if they had the right support. So NoticeAbility’s course was one way to offer an opportunity for kids to shine, to showcase their strengths and talents. We hoped to make that kind of a difference for our families and our students.
NoticeAbility: What did you expect out of the course?
TWW: We work with students 1-on-1 in a therapy situation, so this was a new experience for us and the students to be engaged in a classroom with other dyslexic students, learning about their dyslexia in a positive way, and intervening early. We wanted to assist the parents, and have them also understand a strengths- based program, so we gave each parent a copy of the book, The Dyslexic Advantage. We know that when we intervene for reading at a young age, our dyslexic students will have a better chance of achieving success in a school setting. In middle school, even if their reading skills are on par, because they have to put so much more effort in to keep up with the reading load, they may need an intervention again - this time for social-emotional learning! So this was a good fit for many of our students.
NoticeAbility: Who showed up for the course?
TWW: We had a slightly younger group, mostly 6th graders, some also with other learning differences; not just dyslexia. They enjoyed working together in a classroom environment. They enjoyed the video modules, students were engaged, and Dean’s passion really came through.
NoticeAbility: How did students respond?
TWW: It was fun! They really loved it. This was the kind of school experience they would love to have all the time: hands-on, drawing their ideas out, talking through different creative ideas in a group. We realized pretty quickly that 2 hours went by really fast. There was always a lot of discussion, sharing ideas, respectful questioning and exploring the projects of the other students. It was very different than what they experience in the classroom normally. We talked about their strengths, and for them it was amazing to see that NoticeAbility was a class just for them! They got the message that ‘You are good at certain things’ - they thought that was awesome.
NoticeAbility: How did you add on, or adapt the course to fit your classroom?
TWW: As teachers, we liked the links in each unit to go more in-depth with a topic if we wanted. We did work through many of the worksheets and handouts… but used them more as a platform for discussion and brainstorming ideas instead of going through each prompt. We also designed and included some activities to make the concepts concrete. For the negotiation skill, we added a role playing exercise, with students improvising the parts of the parent and child, negotiating whether there’d be a TV in the bedroom. That kind of exercise helped the class get the concepts.
Each student got materials and supplies to create a tri-fold stand up board to showcase their project and do their ‘Shark Tank’ pitch at the end. Students came up with ideas for a customized plush toy company, a sticker tracker ‘chip’ to keep track of things you lose often, a retrieval system for bowling balls stuck at bowling alleys, and environmental clean up robots to remove plastic from places too dangerous for people to go ;like the deep ocean & highways. Students were enamored with the idea of doing a pitch, and enjoyed watching the clips of Shark Tank. They had lots of practice, so weren’t too nervous when it came time to present to their parents.
NoticeAbility: What do you wish you had known ahead of time? What would you like to see changed?
TWW: It was really helpful to team-teach.
As teachers, we would have liked to receive the curriculum guide several weeks ahead of time to read-through more of the curriculum guide. The unit plan outlines were sufficient, we didn’t really need to lean on the teacher scripts much, but we can see how it would be useful for some people new to teaching.
It would be cool to watch a video of a sample lesson- to see someone else’s version of teaching a unit. And it would be great to have more ideas for hands-on games and role-plays to help make skill-sets tangible, more concrete.
Parents appreciated having the Dyslexic Advantage book so they could become more familiar with the MIND strengths, messages and approaches, and reinforce the ideas at home even after the course. In some ways, that’s where the real benefit will show up for these families; after the course is over and they are back in the real world.
NoticeAbility: Thank you!!