Parents Education Network e-Newsletter February 2009

In this issue:


Welcome to our February edition. We would first of all like to say a huge thank you to everybody who helped make our Annual Fund Appeal of 2008 such a success - we actually exceeded our goal!

Please check out the latest information about our annual conference, now known as EdRev 2009, and the events coming up in the next month: an evening Speaker Series event and another TEN teacher-training workshop . You can read a report on the recent teacher training with Judy Willis in the TEN section. We also provide descriptions of a few of Judy's books, which you can support PEN by buying at Amazon.

Also here are a review of an exciting new piece of assistive technology for spellchecking, and another excerpt from the SAFE Voices book, Read This When You Can, which is still available through our website.


Ed Rev 2009!

presents its annual conference

The Largest Gathering of Students Who Learn Differently

for Students, Parents and Educators
a conference by students, for students, featuring student panels and student-centered activities.


Date: Saturday, April 25th 2009

Time: 9 am – 4:30 pm

Location: AT&T Park, San Francisco

Register online: Students Free / Adults $50
(Price at door: Students $25 / Adults $75)

This event is designed for college, high school and middle school students.

  Keynote Speaker:
Jonathan Mooney is a dyslexic writer, author, activist, winner of the prestigious Truman Scholarship in creative writing, who did not learn to read until he was 12 years old. He is a graduate of Brown University and holds an honors degree in English Literature. Jonathan is cofounder of Project Eye-To-Eye, a widely duplicated mentoring program for students.

underwritten by Angelo & Yvonne Sangiacomo

Sponsors: AT&T Park, Trinity Properties, J&R Associates

Download this flyer (PDF) and help us promote EdRev 2009! Distribute it to schools, colleagues, friends and family! And don't forget to register!

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Annual Fund Appeal 2008

We raised 104% of our total goal of $45,000!


For their generous support, we would like to acknowledge:

James Adams
Elizabeth Baker
Marti Baroody
Carol Beattie
Carlos Bermudez
Laura Birss
Blauvelt Demarest Foundation
Arlene Borick
Maureen Bruce
Lora Buchler
Matthew Cappiello
Eleni Carter
Maelin Chien
Maureen Costello
Sam Cuddeback
Jo Cummins
Credit Suisse
Betsy Dodd
Tracy Edwards
Karen Ellingboe
Jonathan Erb
Nancy Eslick
Sara Flynn
Myrna & Tom Frankel
Marjorie Fulbright
Loren Gordan
Golden Coast Properties
Julie Goldman
Beth Gorman
Kelly Gorman
John & Patricia Gregg
Lisa Gruber
Mona Harroch
Lori & Chris Headrick
Pat Henery
Gretchen Higbie
Jewish Community Endowment Fund
Tinker Judson
Cynthia Miner Kapelke
Megan Kaplan
Jacqueline Keyser
Dick Kirchner, Kirchner Family Foundation
Marsha & Walter Kortschak
Millicent Lalanne
Mary Kay Leveroni
Lindamood-Bell Learning Process
Ann Linn
Mary A. Crocker Trust
Barbara McGettigan
Alice Mead
Neal & Susan Mielke
Lew Mills
Elena Miraglia
John Nittolo
Rita Nolan
Patricia Vanderlaan Post
Ann Price
Laura Revilock
Virginia Rigo
Marianne Rocca
Jeannie & Sandro Sangiacomo
Marie Santana
Bob Scavullo
Shelly Schaenen
Silicon Valley Community Foundation
Star Academy
Tania Stepanian
Kathleen Sweazey
Phyllis Swindells
Myrna Szeto
Peter Thorpe
Paula Williams
Mary Ellen Wilson
Anne Zerbst

If there is a donor we have failed to acknowledge, please let us know.

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Upcoming Events

Thursday February 26, 2009

SPEAKER SERIES - Evening Event! Living with a Learning Disability – How Does this Affect Families and How Can Families Cope? Michele Saloner, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, and Susan Schmidt, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, will discuss the impact on families when a child has been diagnosed with a learning disability. How does this affect family members and how best can families cope? Their discussion will draw from both research findings and from clinical experience. 7pm - 9pm, Presidio Hill School, San Francisco.

Register now!

Friday March 6, 2009

TEN Teacher Training: Connecting Brain Research with Effective Teaching: The Brain Targeted-Teaching Model. Presenter: Dr. Mariale M. Hardiman. New findings in brain research offer promising possibilities for teachers to improve classroom instruction and for administrators to reform their schools. Translating this research to practice becomes the challenge for educational practitioners. This presentation will offer educators practical application of brain research by linking it with the Brain-Targeted Teaching Model—an instructional model based on the tenets of research-based effective instruction. We will examine ways in which the Brain-Targeted Teaching Model supports the integration of the arts into daily instruction. 9:15am - 3pm, Star Academy, San Rafael.

Register now!

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Teachers' Education Network

Review: TEN Workshop with Judy Willis
Friday January 23, 2009

By Mitch Bostian, TEN co-founder

In January, TEN and PEN once again joined forces to offer Bay Area educators an unparalleled professional development opportunity -- an all-day workshop with internationally-known educator and neuroscientist Judy Willis.  The workshop, Neuro-Logical Strategies to Increase Student Engagement, Motivation, and Memory which took place on Friday, January 23 at Star Academy's beautiful new campus in San Rafael, was attended by nearly 200 teachers, administrators, and educators in private practice from all over the Bay Area.

Central to Dr. Willis' presentation was her "R.A.D." model for teaching. As she described it, human brains are structured to funnel all incoming sensory information into the reticular activation system, which reduces four billion bits of information per second to a more manageable two thousand bits.  This remaining information is sent to the amygdala, which, depending on its state, routes the bits to the reactive parts of the brains (where actions start) or the reflective parts of the brain (the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex, where learning connections take place and memories of all sorts are made, and strengthened).  A major factor in influencing the amygdala to send more information to the reflective parts of the brain -- which should clearly be a goal for teachers -- is the release of dopamine, which "de-stresses" the amygdala.  Dr. Willis discussed strategies for working with each step in this "R.A.D." process.

Dr. Willis, who currently teaches math at Santa Barbara Middle School, is also a neurologist by training, and her presentation was a effective mixture of practical neurological information, brain-friendly curricular concepts, and classroom teaching ideas.  Practicing the same techniques that she described, Dr. Willis interspersed her presentation with visually stimulating slides, intriguing images, and vivid concepts that stuck with attendees long after the conference had drawn to a close. Participants had the opportunity to apply all concepts to particular challenges that they are currently facing in their teaching, and to dialogue with peers as they made connections between theory and practice.


There is a great, chaptered video interview with Judy online here, and you can download two articles she sent us here: How Your Child Learns Best (PDF), and Top 10 Memory Tips (PDF).

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Book Reviews

This issue we are providing short descriptions of a number of books by Judy Willis You can support PEN by following these links and purchasing from Amazon. Thank you!

How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-Friendly Strategies You Can Use to Ignite Your Child's Learning and Increase School Success

How Your Child Learns Best is a groundbreaking guide for parents that combines the latest brain research with the best classroom practices to reveal scientifically savvy ways to improve your child's success in school. By using everyday household items and enjoyable activities, parents of children ages three to twelve can apply targeted strategies in key academic areas. Discover how to help your child increase academic focus and success, lower test stress while increasing test scores, increase class participation, foster creativity, and improve attention span, memory, and higher-level thinking. How Your Child Learns Best shows how to maximize your child's brain potential and offers something for every parent who wants the best for his or her child.


Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher

Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning is the first book for educators written by an author who is both a neurologist and a classroom teacher. Dr. Willis used her neurology expertise to examine the past two decades of learning-centered brain research and employed her training and experience as a classroom teacher to provide strategies for implementing the best of this research in the classroom. She brings this knowledge to life in a comprehensive and accessible style.

Teachers will be introduced to strategies that will work in their own classrooms. These strategies will help teachers improve student memory, learning, and test-taking success. Teachers will also learn how to captivate and hold students' attention.


Brain-Friendly Strategies for the Inclusion Classroom

Many teachers in regular classrooms feel unprepared to teach students with learning disabilities. Fortunately, brain research has confirmed that strategies benefiting learners with special challenges are suited for engaging and stimulating all learners. In this book, neurologist and classroom teacher Judy Willis explains that we can best help students by putting in place strategies, accommodations, and interventions that provide developmentally and academically appropriate challenges to suit the needs, gifts, and goals of each student. Using strategies that align with research on how people's brains function, teachers can engage all students as individuals and help them reach their maximum potential with joy and confidence.

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Assistive Technology Review

Spelling Help for Dyslexics!

Current spell check software detects misspellings, but not contextual spelling errors. For example, a common error for dyslexic learners is the use of “witch” for “which” in written text. A new software solution addresses this challenge.

Ginger Software has launched a free Beta version of Ginger Spell, designed to empower struggling writers of all ages. Ginger Spell automatically corrects spelling mistakes and misused words in a familiar Microsoft Word-based environment. Unlike existing spell checkers that require users to address each error, Ginger Spell corrects multiple mistakes within a sentence simultaneously. If the context is ambiguous, Ginger Spell provides the user with alternatives, with a sample expression for each one so the user can consider the differences and make an informed choice. Ginger Spell also analyzes the context of each sentence to remedy mistakes that existing spell checkers often miss, including correctly spelled words that are used improperly.

The developers’ plans for future releases of Ginger Spell include evaluating grammar and commonly split and merged words, such as “bedroom” or “a lot.” Also in the pipeline is a text-to-speech feature, which will enable users to hear sentences before and after correction. It will furnish progress reports that allow writers to analyze their progress and concentrate on the areas where help and practice are needed most.

Ginger Spell runs within Microsoft Word for Windows, and requires an Internet connection. The current beta version of Ginger Spell is compatible with MS Word 2003 and 2007, and Microsoft Windows. Once the program is downloaded, it is installed as an extension to MS Word, providing an integrated interface that connects to the Ginger Software server over the Internet (the database is too large to store on a home computer!).

We believe this will be an excellent tool for students with language-based learning difficulties and we hope it represents the beginning of a new generation of assistive technology for them. You can find out more or download the free beta version of Ginger Spell at the Ginger Software website.

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SAFE Voices


The SAFE Voices book, Read This When You Can, is still available for purchase on our website!

This month, we have excerpted the foreword to the book by Jonathan Mooney, who will be the keynote speaker at EdRev 2009.

Previously we excerpted:

And if you missed it first time, check out a review of the book (PDF) from the September newsletter. Then go buy it!

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  • There are many upcoming events from other organizations to check out on our website.

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PEN e-Newsletter Febuary 2009

Design & code: Paul Assen / Graphics: Lisa Nowell / Photography: Mike Gunn