opt out of caaspp testing
It's April and that means it's CAASPP season 😖 Even with accommodations, my struggling students with dyslexia tend to find CAASPP testing exhausting, frustrating, and stressful. (NOTE: The most stressful accommodation can actually be extra time, as then the testing stretches on and on and kids have to miss either instructional time or recess/lunch to finish.) Adding insult to injury, CAASPP score reports do not even yield helpful data about dyslexic students' progress. Send this message to your school’s principal to respectfully opt your child out of state testing (adapted from Children’s Dyslexia Center of Georgia):
I am writing to inform the district that my child, (child name), will not be participating in the 2023 CAASPP Testing. This is in no way a reflection on the (school's name) teachers or administration—this testing is just not an informative method of progress monitoring for children like (child name) with dyslexia, who find the testing stressful and exhausting. I would love details of the school’s plan for children who will not be participating in the testing, ex. where they will go during testing time, so I can communicate this to (child name).
new local schools: fusion & Acton
Well, it's official: Greater Sac now officially has more non-traditional school options that my old home, the East Bay Area! This month I got to take private tours of Fusion Academy and Acton Folsom, two newly opened private schools in Folsom. Both are excellent options for students that learn differently.
Fusion Academy Folsom (Grades 6-12) @ Palladio Parkway This school is an amazing option for learners with dyslexia! Located in the Palladio shopping center, the school building features many small tutorial rooms; mini versions of rooms you'd find in a traditional school, like an art room, a science lab, and a dance studio with a barre; and a large atrium area where students can eat lunch and gather for events.
Classes are offered 1:1, via Zoom, and via project-based small groups- whatever students prefer. For 1:1 classes, learners and their parents can request specific curricula. (I asked if dyslexia-specific programs can be used as "English class" curricula- I will update this post when I hear). All aspects of learning are personalized including assignments, pacing, and grading. They also offer internships for high school students (for credit) and the ability to take classes at Folsom Lake College. The school does not have support staff trained in dyslexia however outside therapists/interventionists are welcome to meet with students on campus during the school day and students' needs are easily accommodated in classes because everything is individualized.
The cost of private school is a concern for many local families so I was excited to hear that students can attend Fusion part time. For example, some students attend just for one subject and attend their local public school for all other classes (dual enrollment for credit). Part time enrollment brings the cost of tuition down substantially. They're also offering a Founding Families scholarship and a New Student Grant for families enrolling a student full-time that were referred by a professional in the community-- so mention me!
Note: I asked if they may add elementary grades. No plans to do so yet-- but I highly encouraged it 😝
Acton Academy Folsom (Grades K-5; K-8 for 2023) @ Sibley Street
Acton schools are very popular in the Greater Sac area and now Acton Placer (Roseville) and District Christian Academy (Acton-based school in EDH) are being joined by Acton Folsom. The school is currently inside The Bridge Community Church which borders a public park, so students have access to a large play structure, a grassy area, and tennis courts.
Here's the school's daily schedule. The Acton school day involves self-paced reading instruction on Lexia, self-paced math instruction on Khan Academy and other e-programs, and social studies/science lessons based on student interest. Similar to Montessori and Waldorf, there are no tests or homework, classrooms are mixed-grade, and a large emphasis is placed on critical thinking and hands-on learning. Students attend from 9:00-3:15 Monday through Friday-- because of this, the school is considered an "enrichment" vendor by South Sutter Charter School. Outside interventionists are also welcome to work with students 1:1 during the Acton school day.
march session photos
Feb session photos
Questions about these activities? Email me for a Zoom coaching call!
My year in stats
Many of you enjoyed the 2022 stats in my December newsletter so I am posting them here as well for easy reference.
THEMED Stories: TRANSCRIPTION
Welcome to my "private stories!" These are actual Instagram stories I created just for newsletter subscribers- they can only be viewed here, not on Instagram. The theme of these stories is transcription, otherwise known as handwriting and spelling:
My latest obsession for isolated spelling practice (ie. without handwriting demands) is this $11 embossing label maker from Amazon. I feel like the novelty of an embossing label-maker is similar to that of a typewriter... It's so old-fashioned that students are immediately intrigued and eager to use it, even if that means they'll have to spell words! Then they inevitably fall in love with the satisfying, oh-so-analogue CLICK the machine makes as each letter is punched and the exciting ZZZZ sound of the label being printed.
The machine is also useful beyond securing student engagement. I've noticed that students sometimes remember the individual twisting motions required to spell certain words. For example, they may remember that going from "g" to "a" requires a longer twist than going from "g" to "i," and this helps them recall which vowel is in a red word. Interesting, huh!? I'll have photos of students using this tool in my next newsletter. In the meanwhile, if you end up buying your own, send me photos of how you use it- I'd love to see!
how i teach handwriting
I took two Handwriting Without Tears trainings a couple years ago and found that although some elements of HWT worked well for my students with dyslexia, they were not able to internalize the many verbal directions for start sequences ("frog-jump" etc.) and found it difficult to generalize from the double line HWT paper to the dotted line paper provided in the classroom. I started Googling other handwriting approaches and came across a program called Size Matters. Several elements of that program made a lot of sense to me, such as presenting letters by height. I started blending HWT with Size Matters and also brought in Lively Letters and dyslexia-specific strategies for addressing reversals. And thus, my diagnostic handwriting approach was born! I've used this approach successfully with children with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, eye tracking issues, hypotonia, and various combinations of these, from K through 5th grade.
Key Elements of My Approach:
* Based on illuminating a couple key rules vs. having kids memorize a bunch of verbal formation sequences
* You need few materials, and the ones you do need are cheap and on Amazon
* Gets results faster than using a program due to low working memory demands
* Kids see their progress right away and enjoy the process
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a 1:1 coaching call ($150) to learn about my flexible & intuitive sequence for teaching handwriting. I address sizing, start sequences, line placement, directionality, orientation, and grasp; ways to practice; ways to troubleshoot student errors; and how to help students generalize from dotted line paper to wide ruled paper. You'll be able to start using my approach right away without buying materials or even needing to refer back to any notes you take during the call. It's very intuitive... You'll see!
Natalie Powell, ET, C-SLDS