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The Learning Strategies Curriculum

Students do not learn at the same rates. Some learn pretty quickly. Others learn more slowly. Generally speaking, however, most students should learn about one year's worth of information and skills for every year they are in school. Unfortunately, this is not the case for all students.

According to research, some students not only learn at a slower rate than their classmates, but by the time they reach seventh grade, they level off in all areas of learning, performing at about the fourth or fifth grade level. As these students grow older, the greater the gap becomes between what they have learned and what they should have learned. At the seventh grade level, the gap is about three grade levels; by twelth grade, the gap is eight grade levels. This discrepancy between what they are expected to do in their classes and what they are able to do usually prevents them from responding in their high school classes.

With intensive instruction in the Learning Strategies Curriculum, however, this gap can not only be reduced but closed. This curriculum was specifically developed to help students who have leveled off in their learning. The instructional programs provide them with specific tools or "strategies" that can help them acquire information, store it, and express it. In essence, the curriculum provides them with specific ways to become better learners and succeed in school. A learning strategy is a sequenced set of skills that students can use to complete a learning task. For example, one strategy is a set of skills students can use to decode a long word. Another strategy is a set of skills students can use to learn the meaning of new vocabulary words.

Instructional programs have been developed for three types of learning strategies: the acquisition, storage, and expression strategies. The primary purpose of the "acquisition" strategies is to help students extract important information from reading materials. They enable students, for example, to break apart and "decode" unknown words, motivate themselves to read by asking themselves questions and making predictions about a reading passage, and translate the most important information in a passage into their own words. Specific instructional programs within the Acquisition Strand include programs for teaching the Word Identification Strategy, a strategy for decoding words; the Visual Imagery Strategy, a strategy for making a movie in one's mind about what is being read; the Self-Questioning Strategy, a strategy for asking questions and making predictions about what is read; the Paraphrasing Strategy, a strategy for translating main ideas and details into one's own words; and the Inference Strategy, a strategy for making inferences and answering inferential questions. In addition, one program is designed for teaching students the Fundamentals of Paraphrasing and Summarizing, prerequisite skills for the Paraphrasing Strategy, including identifying main ideas and details.

The second type of learning strategy is the "storage" strategy. Once students have acquired information, they need to have a way to "store" the information in their brains or on paper to help them remember it. Thus, the "storage" strategies are designed to help students select and remember the most important information they encounter. Specific strategies within this strand include the Vocabulary Strategy, a tool for learning and remembering new vocabulary words; the First-Letter Mnemonic Strategy, a method for learning lists of information like the causes of the Civil War; and the Paired Associates Strategy, a way to remember pairs of information (e.g., capitols and states, people and accomplishments, events and their significance). Additional practice activities for the Vocabulary Strategy are found in Lexicons, which contains 101 words commonly found on state assessments and college entrance exams. Further practice activities for the Vocabulary Strategy, First-Letter Mnemonic Strategy, and Pair Associates Strategy are found in the student workbook, Practicing the Storage Strategies.

Finally, the "expression" strategies enable students to demonstrate or "express" their newly acquired knowledge. Instructional programs in this area help students become good writers (i.e., Fundamentals in the Sentence Writing Strategy, Proficiency in the Sentence Writing Strategy, the Paragraph Writing Strategy, the Theme Writing Strategy), to turn in quality work (i.e., the Error Monitoring Strategy, the InSPECT Strategy, and the Assignment Completion Strategy), and to perform well on tests (i.e., the Test-Taking Strategy and the Essay Test-Taking Strategy). Student material volumes are available for many of the programs in this strand as well as a student planner (the Quality Quest Planner) in which students can record homework assignments.

All of the products in this curriculum have been rigorously field tested in real classrooms and validated by teachers in schools. In addition, all contain step-by-step instructions, black line masters for use as overhead transparencies, and charts for tracking individual progress. As a whole, the curriculum is a true lifesaver for students who struggle in school but who want to complete required courses successfully and graduate from high school.

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The Learning Strategies Curriculum

 

Content Enhancement Routines

Teachers often wish that they could ensure that every student in their classes will learn-- even the student who spends most of the hour doodling. Well, there is a way to do this! The Content Enhancement Series provides teachers with a set of materials that can help them make the content of each course “come alive.”
At the heart of each Content Enhancement program is a special form that allows important information to be displayed in a visually sensible way. Referred to as “graphic organizers” or “visual devices,” these forms improve students’ abilities to organize, understand, and remember critical information. Once the forms are constructed through the use of a routine where teachers and students work together, students can use these forms in a variety of ways: as study guides for upcoming tests, as jumping-off points for further areas of research, as outlines for essays, or simply to figure out how one part of a course relates to another. 
Guidebooks in the series fall within the following general categories: routines that enable teachers to plan and lead student learning; routines for teaching concepts; routines for explaining text, topics, and details; and for increasing student performance.

 


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Content Enhancement Routines

 

Teaming Techniques

 John may be enrolled in 7th grade science, but how is he going to succeed when he can only read at the second grade level? By using the “Teaming Techniques,” educators and other adults can support students like John, both academically and socially within the general education curriculum.

 
For educators working with other educators, one of the first steps is to develop a collaborative relationship. Thus, using the Collaborative Problem Solving program, special education and general education teachers can communicate with one another, solve problems, make decisions, and create plans to help students like John succeed in inclusive classrooms.
 
Family members and educators can also team together to support students by using the Progress Program. In this approach, students carry a modified report card between home and school. At school, teachers check the card and note rules broken, rules obeyed, and academic progress. At home, parents review the card, praise improved performance, and provide home privileges based on the report card.
 
Finally, personal problems that may not even relate to school may affect students like John. “My brother was arrested, and he was helping me study for my tests.” “My dad won’t let me try out for football.” “My family needs money, and I can’t find a job.” Problems like these can interfere with learning. Surface Counseling is a simple procedure educators and other adults can use when students approach them with such problems.

 

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Teaming Techniques

 

Strategic Tutoring

 

The research is crystal clear: traditional tutoring just doesn’t work. Homework may get completed, but students just don’t learn how to do it themselves, and they don’t learn the skills they need to be independent learners.
 
With the new Strategic Tutoring Series, however, you can set up “homework help centers” where students not only can get the help they need, but also learn how to complete similar assignments independently in the future.
 
Central to the formation of these centers is the manual in this series, Strategic Tutoring. This manual provides a simple process that enables tutors to help students complete their immediate assignments, yet at the same time teach them a strategy for completing similar assignments on their own in the future. Also in the series are the Beginner Professional Development Program for Strategic Tutors and the Advanced Professional Development Program for Strategic Tutors. These programs are contained on separate CDs and can be used by tutors-in-training to learn how to be Strategic Tutors.
 
Other items currently being created for this series are a handbook for establishing Strategic Tutoring Centers within your own community and a Professional Development Program for Directors of Strategic Tutoring Centers.

 

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Strategic Tutoring

 

Cooperative Thinking Strategies

 Treat others in the same way you want to be treated. Help each other.” Some people learn these behaviors in kindergarten; others struggle with them for a lifetime. Consequently, “truly” cooperative groups are often hard to find—both in the classroom and the business community. Nevertheless, people are expected to work together well in many life situations. They are expected to work together on sports teams, in classes, in study groups, in online courses, on juries, on committees, on councils, and on boards.

 
The Cooperative Thinking Strategies Series contains five programs that can be used to teach students the skills needed in effective cooperative groups. They are especially useful programs for classes where students are expected to work in cooperative groups and classes in which different kinds of students are enrolled (e.g., high-achieving students, average-achieving students, low-achieving students, students with disabilities, students from different cultures). These programs enable these students to work together productively and successfully with a minimum of bullying, negative remarks, and disruptions.
 
The first program in the series to be taught is the SCORE Skills program, the backbone of the series. This program can be used to teach students five basic social skills that are necessary for developing positive relationships and for interacting in cooperative groups. This program is considered foundational to the other programs in the series. Each of the other programs deals with one specific type of cooperative group activity. For example, the Teamwork Strategy program can be used to teach students how to complete a group assignment or project. The LEARN Strategy program can be used to teach students how to study together cooperatively to learn new information. The THINK Strategy program can be used to teach students to solve a problem cooperatively. The build Strategy program can be used to teach students to resolve controversial issues cooperatively.
 
The instructional format of each book is both teacher and student friendly. Several lessons are included in each book. Every lesson appears both as a one-page summary, which can be copied for easy reference, and as a detailed step-by-step set of instructions. All lessons begin with an “advance organizer” or statement that lets students know what they are about to learn. This is followed by a review of previously learned concepts or skills, new information to be learned about a new skill, a demonstration of the new skill, and an activity in which students can practice the new skill. Lessons conclude with a summary of what has been learned and a brief look at the next lesson. Finally, ideas for extending the instruction appear in every lesson. All lessons are accompanied with student materials and activity sheets that can be copied by instructors and used by the students. Although the programs have been designed primarily for elementary and middle school students, they have been successfully adapted for high school and college students, as well as adults.
 
Professional development programs have been created for three of the Cooperative Thinking Strategy programs. The professional development instruction is provided on a CD, so that instructors can pop the CD into their computers wherever and whenever is convenient to learn about one of the programs. Each CD tells about and demonstrates through the use of narration and videoclips how teachers are to teach each of the lessons in the program.

 

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Cooperative Thinking Strategies

 

Community Building Series

It may take a village to raise a child, but how do you get the members of that village to act like a unified whole, not a warring tribe? In other words, how do you get a group of people who may be part of a physical community to act like anything other than a bunch of selfish individuals?

 
Developed as a part of the “safe schools” movement, the Community Building Series was developed to help students learn important skills that can turn every classroom into a true learning community. Within a learning community, all students and teachers are sincerely interested in one another and actively work to help each other learn. All members feel valued for what they can contribute. They feel safe and protected, and they are able to take risks as learners. In other words, within a learning community, caring and learning go hand in hand. Such characteristics are vitally important in today’s schools where large numbers of students representing different ethnicities, cultures, socio-economic levels, values, and abilities are enrolled together in classrooms. This series is especially useful in classes where students with disabilities and other low achievers are enrolled with average-achieving and high-achieving students because students learn how to help and support each other within the community. As a result, negative interactions and bullying are minimized, and students who need help and support can receive it within the structure of the class.
 
The first program in the Community Building Series is Talking Together. The purpose of this program is to teach children to treat one another with respect, the foundation upon which all learning communities are built. As part of this instruction, children learn to give each other a chance to talk. They learn to listen to what their classmates are saying and to support their oral expression of thoughts and information. Basically, they learn to treat one another with kindness and to establish the communication skills necessary for a learning community to flourish.
 
The purpose of the Following Instructions Together program is to teach students to follow instructions, another skill that’s foundational for a flourishing learning community. As part of this instruction, students learn to follow both simple and complex instructions and to help their partners do so. They also learn to make sure that their classmates have a clear grasp of assignments, and to check the quality and accuracy of each other’s assignments before handing them in.
The purpose of the Organizing Together program is to teach students the organizational skills necessary for any type of learning to take place. Specifically, students learn to set up, maintain, and periodically clean out notebooks, lockers, and backpacks. In addition, they learn how to organize and schedule their time. They work with partners to help each other remember the necessary behaviors associated with being organized.

The purpose of the Taking Notes Together program is to teach students how to take good notes (and help partners take good notes) while listening to a lecture, reading, and watching videotapes. Specifically, students learn the different parts of an outline and how to identify those parts while listening to lectures, reading printed information, and watching videotapes. They also learn how to translate the information they are hearing or reading into concise notes.

 


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Community Building Series

 

Strategic Math Series

 

So you’ve tried everything you could think of, from flash cards to nightly homework, but those basic math facts still aren’t sinking in. Solve this problem now with the Strategic Math Series, the student-approved series that’s been adopted by the Sylvan Learning Center—because it works! The series consists of seven books: Addition Facts 0 to 9, Subtraction Facts 0 to 9, Addition Facts 10 to 18, Subtraction Facts 10 to 18, Place Value: Discovering Tens and Ones, Multiplication Facts 0 to 81, and Division Facts 0 to 81.
 
Each book in this popular series is based on the “concrete-representational- abstract” method of instruction. Basically, this means that students first learn to understand a math fact by using concrete objects, then move to pictures like dots or tallies that represent a certain number of objects, and finally, they work with numbers alone.
 
Within each level of instruction, students also learn to solve the ever-dreaded “word problems,” using a simple strategy. Each book comes with 21 learning sheets for students to practice specific facts and word problems, a pair of cheerful “pig dice” for playing math games in later lessons, and special pages that enable them to practice mixed facts (i.e., addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and increase their speed at coming up with the correct answers. Save more than $16 by ordering the whole set at one time versus individual books. This series can be used either as a basic math curriculum for grades 1-6, or as a remedial program for older students who still need to learn basic facts.

 

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Strategic Math Series

 

Motivation Strategies

 

What is it that makes some kids work harder than others? Is it something in their genes, the water, or perhaps the position of the stars? While researchers around the world continue to study the concept of motivation, one fact remains crystal clear: People who feel that they have some control over their lives are more likely to act in a constructive manner. Thus, one of the critical keys to increasing motivation is giving people more control over their lives and improving their ability to affect what is directly happening to them.
 
Today, one of the best tools available for increasing a student’s ability to control what is happening in his or her life is the Self-Advocacy Strategy. Although designed specifically to help students with disabilities become more active participants in their educational programs, the instructional program associated with this strategy sets the stage for helping all students take charge of their lives to become more effective learners and self-advocates. Instruction associated with this strategy helps students identify their strengths, needs, and goals, and it helps them learn basic skills for effective communication. They learn to use a specific set of behaviors during important meetings with parents and educators so that they can express their goals and make plans for the future. Such meetings as parent-teacher-student conferences, IEP conferences, transition conferences, teacher-student meetings, and court hearings are targeted.
 
Another excellent tool for increasing a student’s ability to control his or her life is the Possible Selves program. The purpose of this program is to help students become aware of their hopes, expectations, fears, strengths, and weaknesses, and what they want in life, and to create actions steps for achieving their goals. As a result of this process, students come to see the value of school and what they’re learning. Although created for use with all students, students with special needs have taken the products they have created during Possible Selves instruction into their IEP meetings to explain their strengths, needs, and goals.

 

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Motivation Strategies

 

Social Skills Programs

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Social Skills Programs