Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Test Taking Tips-Mulitple Choice

At some point in time, we all struggle with the best way to study for and actually take a test.  In order to reduce as much anxiety as you can before a test, try the following.
Multiple Choice Test Taking Tips
1.    Ask the teacher ahead of time if there is a penalty for guessing. It is uncommon for a penalty to be given on a classroom test.  This means that you should guess if you absolutely don't know the answer as you could get it correct.
2.    Read the question completely and carefully and think of an answer before you see your choices. If you see your answer, you are most likely correct in your choice.
3.    If your answer is not one of the choices,  read all the choices carefully and start to eliminate choices. The process of elimination is an incredibly viable method to reach an answer on a test.
4.    Cross out any answers that are obviously wrong. Be especially aware of words such as "always" and "never" as these usually are answers that can be eliminated.
5.    When you narrow your choices to two, try each answer with the question to see if they both make sense. You may find a clue when you input a response into the test question.
6.    If you are confused by "all of the above" and "none of the above" questions and they tend to take up too much time, leave all of those blank and go back to them. These often take longer to answer as they usually require problem solving.
7.    Mark any questions that you leave blank so you don't forget them completely.  Go back and answer them.
8.    If you are stumped about a word, dissect it for clues. Think about the meanings of the prefix or suffix.  For example, the prefix "epi" is found in the word epidermis, which refers to the top layer of the skin.  The suffix "ology" is found in many words such as "biology," and means "the study of."
9.    Unless you are 100% sure your first answer is incorrect, don't change it.  Rarely are first instincts incorrect, especially if the first answer was not just a random guess.
10.  Be sure you watch your time so you an finish any questions you may have left blank.  If you run out of time, and guessing is not penalized, by all means go back and fill in the ovals randomnly.  You don't want to leave anything blank and automatically get it wrong.  Take a chance.
11.  As an extra tip, note that most teacher constructed tests use the letter B or C more than other letters.  If you are totally unsure or out of time, guess B or C.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Knowing FAPE

School districts are responsible for providing a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to all qualified persons within the jurisdiction of the district.  Having a child with special needs means you need to be as familiar with FAPE as any school district administrator to ensure services to your child.  One way a person can qualify for services under FAPE is via a 504 Regulation:  any person with a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.  Life activities includes caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, and working.  Examples of impairments include any student with ADD/ADHD, asthma, allergies, chronic illnesses, obesity, vision or hearing loss, dyslexia, kidney disease, traumatic brain injury, HIV, cancer, or any number of other possibilities.  The key is that the impairment, even if it is temporary (a surgery that keeps someone out of school for a several weeks), impacts a life activity.  In this regard, the district is responsible for collaborating with the parent to develop and implement a 504 plan to serve that child.  The 504 plan is a legal document so it protects the child if the district does not meet the child's needs.

School districts are focused on serving students.  Sometimes even they need help in doing so.  However, before a district can serve a student with an impairment, they must know what the student's needs are, and sometimes needs are not immediately or obviously observed.  Help the district serve your child by identifying any special need as soon as possible.  Once the need is identified, services can begin to support your child.

Another way to qualify for services under FAPE is for a learning disability.  Your local public school district must provide a free evaluation of your child if there is reason to suspect a learning disability. In many cases the evaluation will be initiated at the request of a teacher or school administrator familiar with your child.  The law requires the school to complete an evaluation of your child within a reasonable time after you make the request. Unfortunately, federal law does not specify exactly how much time that is; the time frame may be set by regulations in your state. If not, it is generally assumed that sixty days would be considered reasonable.  If the evaluation shows that your child has a disability, the law requires that the school provide whatever special education services are needed because of the learning disability. You are legally entitled to inspect and review all educational records that the school relies on in making its determination, so you will be able to see the specific results of whatever diagnostic testing is completed by the school. Typically, students are identified for special needs services at a young age (lower elementary school), but it is not out of the question for identification to be made in middle school.  The key is to hold discussions with those who serve your child about concerns they note (even in daycare or preschool).

Why and How to Take Notes

Taking notes is a great way of helping you identify important concepts in class. Even if you have a great memory, creating a permanent record of what the teacher says is a way of taking charge of your own education.  The purposeof a lecture is to impart important information about something that is being studies in a class.  Content from a lecture has a way of showing up on a quiz or test or an in class assignment.  Typically, you will be  asked to draw from your  knowledge that was gained from the lecture in some fashion.  In order to draw from the lecture, it is best to have a written record of what was covered in a respective class because no one can remember everything a teacher says, and, quite honestly, not everything is critical for you to remember.  Some basic points to remember as you prepare to take notes are the following: 1.  Make sure you have done the assigned reading and that you understand the reading.  Notes are hard to take, let alone decipher, if you don't follow the reading material that the lecture will be based upon.
2.  Use the questions about the reading, given to you by the teacher or at the end of the section you read, to help you grasp the basic information in the reading.
3.  Be prepared to take notes when you enter class.  Have writing materials and paper with you. 
4.  Listen carefully to what the teacher says during the lecture.  This is, at times, difficult, as many people "space out."  Taking notes should help you stay engaged.
5.  Pay special attention to "signal" words.  These are words that help you identify something you need to write down.  Such words or phrases may include:  "as an example," "remember that,"  "the important idea here is," "a major development is,"  but there are a number of key phrases that are dependent on the subject area in which you are taking notes.  The main idea is to LISTEN to hints the teacher may give during the lecture that you need to jot something down. 
6.  Ask you teacher if you can record the lecture so you can go back at a later date and listen to the lecture at your leisure and take notes from that.  This is good because you listen to the lecture a second time and also take notes.
7.  Take you time.  Use a highlighter that makes "really" important information stand out for you.  Underline vocabulary terms.  Draw pictures when you can as these often help us "see" concepts we are expected to learn. Review your notes.  Date your notes, and put them in a format that is "user friendly."  You may find rewriting them helps or making flash cards is helpful.  You may discover that you are more inclined to remember and understand material if you type your notes up after a lecture.
8.  Ask questions!  Don't feel embarrassed or awkward about asking questions.  If you don't feel comfortable asking in front of others, jot down your question and get it to the teacher "on the side."  If you have a question, chances are high that another person has the same question.  ASK!

The Search Continues...

Scholarships are gifts of money often awarded on merit:  academic achievement, artistic talent, athletic ability, or intended career field.  As a senior you, if you are intending on continuing your education, the search should have begun already.  It is not too late, though, to begin now.  Sites that are viable for college scholarship searches include the following:

Google searches may be productive as well, however, be specific regarding the type of scholarship ("music scholarship").  Other possible scholarships may come from local organizations, such as Lion's, Rotary, Chamber, local religious groups, and volunteer or service groups (4H for example).  Also, don't forget to ask your parent if his or her employer sponsors any scholarships.

Be sure to protect yourself from scams.  This cannot be emphasized enough as there are many scams to which a person could fall prey.  Don't ever pay for scholarship information.  Any legitimate scholarship will have clear contact information.  Be sure to review any website, however.  Be wary of any scholarship offer that uses a PO Box, does not include a phone number or contact information, lacks professionalism (maybe has errors in spelling or grammar on their materials), or asks for your bank account information, credit card number, or copies of any tax returns.  Be cautious about giving out a social security number.  If it is a legitimate organization it will allow you to apply  without the SSN.  Thoroughly investigate a scholarship even if it claims to be associated with a governmental or official organization. 

There are scholarships available for nearly anyone who wishes to go through the process of locating one.  College is expensive.  The more you search, the more you may find, the less you may have to pay for college, and the happier you (and your parents) will be.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Special Education Support

As a parent of a child with an IEP (individual education plan) I know, first hand, how important it is to be informed about how your child's school district (working through the teachers) will serve your child's individual needs.  As I have participated in special education meetings and worn the hat of the major players (parent, teacher, and administrator) I have seen, first hand, how important a level of trust is between the parent and the school in serving the child with special needs. It is my passion to help educate parents about their rights and how to work with the school district in serving their child.  I have found that most teachers are not purposeful when they fall short of meeting the needs of the child.  What I have experienced is an inability to consider serving a child in a manner that is a bit "outside the box."  What I have experienced is a "us verses them" atmosphere.  Parents are often made to feel they are being "told" how the school can serve their child rather than being seen as an equal member of the IEP team.  The bottom line is that parents know their children better than anyone in the school; therefore, parents should be considered a highly educated resource.  What parents may lack in legal jargon, they more than make up on personal experiences and insights. 
As a parent advocate, I am available to help you as you advocate for your child with special needs.  I am available to assist in any capacity in which you want or need me involved:
* attending IEP meetings
* helping you draft measurable goals that are appropriate and challenging for your child
*drafting appropriate accommodations, helping you understand assessment of goals
*supporting the school in meeting the needs of your child
* looking at the ways to help improve communication between you and your child's teachers
*helping you understand the IEP process and what your rights are as a parent

You can reach me at