Word Play for Visual Discrimination, An Art-for-Brains Activity

Thank you to everyone who showed an interest in my earlier post, Visual Discrimination Activities for Kids. When I shared why visual discrimination matters and how we can help children strengthen this necessary visual skill, I suggested a few basic activities.


How grateful I am to see that you’ve been sharing my post with great enthusiasm! I’m always thrilled to help fill a need, so today I take it up a notch and bring you a new design.


Word Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity for kids takes visual discrimination practice to the next level.


Help children strengthen visual discrimination skills critical for ease of reading with Word Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity.


Appropriate for first through fourth grades (and beyond), Word Play is a deceptively fun way to boost your students’ ability to recognize similarities and differences so critical for ease of reading. Ease of reading, of course, equals confidence in learning. And confident learners equal happier kids!


While you’ll discover more detail on Word Play’s product page, take a look below at the activities kids will enjoy.


Three Engaging Word Play Activities to Strengthen Visual Discrimination


1) Crack the Pattern Code

Students uncover hidden uplifting messages using the provided patterned alphabet as a key.

2) Crack the Secret Word List Code

Students practice process of elimination, deductive reasoning, and advanced matching skills to reveal four hidden words, all with something in common. They then identify the word list theme.

3) Create-a-Card

Using the patterned alphabet as a guide, students draw the appropriate pattern within each letter on a greeting card (five provided), then color and embellish it however they wish. A DIY envelope template is included.


Whether you’re in need of literacy center activities, homeschool or therapeutic skill-building work, or simply want to give your kids something fun to do besides screen time, check out Word Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity in my TPT store ($4).


While you’re there, check out the categories section (on the left) and click “Visual Discrimination” to find more options right for you.


And again, thanks so much for sharing!


Profile of a Unique Learner: The Troublemaker

When Sam’s teacher met Sam on the first day of class she knew she was in for a tough year.


Sam had only one volume – loud. Whether standing or sitting, the boy was never still. His body was in constant motion. Getting him to stay on task? Forget about it.


What happens when a child with learning disabilities decides to give up and become the bad kid?  Find out in Profile of a Unique Learner: The Troublemaker.


When reading, Sam spoke in a monotone, robotic voice, frequently skipped words, skipped lines and lost his place. If he wasn’t truly forgetting to complete assignments he was avoiding them entirely.


In a previous profile of a unique learner we met Beth, The Excessive Studier, who compensated for her auditory processing challenges by doubling down on her efforts in class.


Sam also experienced auditory processing challenges. Unlike quiet, super studious Beth, Sam’s reaction to his learning difficulties was not extra effort. Instead, the confusion he experienced when listening, learning and reading, combined with his high intelligence and need for mental stimulation, made him easily distractible.


Because of being highly distractible, his former teacher viewed him as disruptive, and told him so, repeatedly. Because Sam had no idea how to stop constantly disappointing his teacher, he fully embraced the role of troublemaker. After all, being “the bad kid” was much easier than the nearly impossible task of controlling his distractibility. Being “the bad kid” is also an all too common coping mechanism for deep feelings of inadequacy.


The Good News About the Troublemaker

First and foremost, no matter how many professionals view him as such, this is not a bad kid. With compassionate teachers, parents, and therapists, kids like Sam do not need to see themselves as troublemakers.


Why does Sam constantly interrupt conversations? He is not trying to be rude. He has weak auditory memory skills. In order to get his thoughts out of his head before he forgets them, he simply blurts them out, loudly.


Why can’t this child sit still? Auditory processing challenges manifest in many ways. One way (in addition to poor volume control) is balance disruption. Have you ever been at a standstill in traffic when the car next to you starts moving? Did you have the brief sensation that you were moving, too? Now imagine if that sensation never stopped.


Poor wiggly Sam here is not being defiant. He is attempting to get his vestibular system back in balance. Oddly, he only “feels” still when his body is in motion.


Reading Help for the Troublemaker

In addition to the suggestions below, kids with auditory processing challenges like Sam benefit from the same interventions found in Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier. These include rhythm repeat, visualization training, auditory memory skill building, and perhaps even nutritional intervention. You’ll find more auditory memory suggestions in this post, Auditory Memory Activities for Kids and this one, Graph Art for Auditory Memory.


Orientation Training

Wiggle worms like Sam may benefit from orientation training as described in the frequently recommended book The Gift of Dyslexia. In very basic terms, orientation training helps students train their mind’s eye to perceive the world from a centered point of view. Students learn to control their perception, and therefore balance, when needed.


Phrasing and Tapping

When students read every word in the same tone at the same speed and without pausing at punctuation marks, is it any wonder the sentences don’t make sense? Teaching students to read in phrases and to pause at commas and periods (by tapping their finger twice at punctuation, for example) can have a huge impact on a child’s comprehension and enjoyment of reading.


If you do have a child like Sam in your class or home, before pulling your hair out completely please learn whatever you can to become the compassionate, knowledgeable educator that he needs.


Want to read the first four unique learner profiles? Start here. And stay tuned for one more. Next up: The Daydreamer.


Courage of the Blue Boy, A Colorful Message for Kids

Courage of the Blue Boy, another inspiring children's book find.Children’s book Courage of the Blue Boy by Robert Neubecker is more than a story of courage. It tackles topics like diversity, individuality and true self-expression, and does so in such a colorful way!


The Story

Blue is a boy who lives in a town where everything is the same color: blue. He and his friend, Polly, decide there must be something more. Together they venture out into the world in hopes of adding a little more color and variety into their lives. Along their journey Blue and Polly encounter disappointment, joy, fear, and ultimately a great place to be themselves.


What I Love About This Children’s Book

Eventually Blue discovers a town that completely embraces diversity and individuality. Yet, when he first realizes he is different than everyone in this magnificent, colorful town, Blue becomes frightened.


Remembering how much safer he felt when he was the same as everyone else, Blue finds the courage to express his true color despite his fear. Blue’s willingness to express his unique qualities not only helps Blue. The entire town becomes better for it as well!


I couldn’t help but giggle whenever Polly the calf (also blue) had something to say. Strange, since she only knows one word: “moo.”


This is a simple, delightful picture book perfect for discussions about courage and about expressing your true self. It is also just as enjoyable for the very young who are learning all about colors.


Age recommendation: 3 and up


For a growing collection if inspiring children’s books like this one, visit Children’s Book Finds.


January Printable Activity Book for Kids

When I first started working with students who experienced learning challenges I was surprised by how many of them struggled with concepts of time. Even my fifth and sixth graders didn’t know the months of the year.


My Little Fun Book of January, a free printable activity book for kids.How was this possible?


Let’s say that you are a visual thinker. This is different from a visual learner, by the way. If you would like a little refresher, check out Profile of a Unique Learner: The Flip-Flopper.


As a visual thinker you are probably extremely gifted in the arts, be it drawing or storytelling or some other medium. You are probably not, however, a linear thinker.


In order to understand the passage of time we must first grasp the concept of sequential order, of first, next, and last. If you don’t naturally think in a linear fashion, learning that Tuesday comes after Monday or that January is the first month of twelve months in a year may not stick. Not right away, at least.


Since your upper grade elementary teachers assume that you know this stuff already, it’s easy to hide the fact that you don’t.


I designed My Little Fun Book of January as a tool for multiple ages. It is just as appropriate for children learning about the months of the year as for those who have trouble retaining the information.


With this free printable, kids in first grade and above practice their knowledge of January. American holidays, the winter season, the number of days and more are woven into a word search, spelling practice, trivia, word art and a simple cut and paste activity.


Note: This printable requires duplex printing (unless you don’t mind cutting each page in two). Fold each of the double sided pages in half, then staple or sew the pages together with string.


Soon you will see January, February and March mini-books popping up in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, both color and black and white. You, my dear subscriber, now get the color version of My Little Fun Book of January for free. Sign in or sign-up in the box to the right.


Quick Quote: Michael J. Fox on Family

Quick Quote: Michael J. Fox's thoughts on family.


Dot Grid Pattern Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity for Kids

Consider Dot Grid Pattern Play the ultimate multitasker. Educational specialists, parents, differentiated classroom teachers and multi-level homeschools will appreciate the versatility of this learning powered printable activity for kids.


Whether you use this fun learning tool for art class, or basic geometry, to practice using a straight edge or even for handwriting practice (without the actual handwriting) sneaky you will help students in grades 2-6 strengthen important learning skills along the way.


Dot Grid Pattern Play, An Art-for-Brains Activity that helps kids build visual figure ground skills, visual tracking, spatial awareness and so much more.  Whether you use it for handwriting skills practice (without the handwriting), basic geometry, pattern recognition, art or other purpose, kids will love finding the hidden shapes in this learning powered printable pack.


I originally designed Dot Grid Pattern Play to target visual figure ground skills. Visual figure ground skills allow us to identify objects or words on a page even within crowded backgrounds.


In the sentence you just read, can you find the word “skills?” Of course you can. Imagine if that were difficult. Would you still enjoy reading? Would you be able to highlight important information?


Students with underdeveloped visual figure ground skills may become overwhelmed with words on a page. While you might become frustrated that your child seems so distractible, often loses his place, or is too slow to copy information from the board, your student is working overtime to locate the information in the first place.


Dot Grid Pattern Play includes 10 dot grids, each with progressively challenging patterns to complete. Some patterns include curves, perfect for strengthening handwriting skills. Other patterns include straight lines, which students may draw with or without a straight edge.


How it Works

Children finish the incomplete pattern on the dot grid, then color the specified shapes. Depending on skill level, children may use the final Hidden Shapes page to find and outline additional shapes within each pattern. I recommend that you find the hidden shapes yourself before giving the challenge to your students. Some shapes may be quite difficult to find!


While visual figure ground skill-building was the original intention for this activity, Dot Grid Pattern Play strengthens a whole host of learning skills.


Skills Strengthened

  • Visual Figure Ground
  • Visual Tracking
  • Visual Closure
  • Visual Discrimination
  • Spatial Awareness
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Fine Motor
  • Attention


You’ll learn more about each skill strengthened with the purchase of Dot Grid Pattern Play, now in my TPT store ($4).


Care to try before you buy? Check out the free sample page here.


Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier

If your students truly enjoy studying and completing increasingly challenging homework assignments, congratulations! The unique learner I call The Excessive Studier, however, is not that student.


Your ultra studious child might be working much harder than necessary.  Learn about auditory processing challenges in this Profile of a Unique Learner: The Excessive Studier.

The Challenge

Let’s meet Beth, a good example of The Excessive Studier. In the early grades, Beth had no trouble learning to read and enjoyed a fair amount of academic success.


That success began to dwindle right around the third grade. Beth, a highly conscientious student, started spending an exceptional amount of time completing homework assignments. She strongly believed in doing well at school, yet despite her extra efforts she barely achieved average grades.


At first Beth’s parents brushed off her excessive studying as a symptom of perfectionism. Nothing to worry about, they thought. They regularly praised their daughter for her diligence and for doing her best.


Then Beth’s parent noticed a disturbing pattern. More often than not, Beth arrived home from school exhausted, irritable and moody. She often required a nap as soon as she came home. Then she hit the books until bedtime, only surfacing long enough for dinner.


Beth’s friends would call to chat or invite her to hang out. Her typical reply? “I can’t. I have to study.”


What was going on with this child? Clearly not everyone worked as hard as Beth just to get by.


Auditory processing challenges show up in a variety of ways. Typically they include trouble understanding or recalling what is heard or read. This is just as true when a teacher gives spoken directions in class as it is when a child reads silently, “listening” to her inner voice.


Expectations for active listening and independent reading typically increase around third grade, which is why Beth’s parents and teachers never noticed her auditory processing challenges before.


Beth’s unique challenges, underdeveloped auditory memory skills and slow processing speed, resulted in below average vocabulary and poor reading comprehension.


Not only did she not understand the words on the page, her eyes would track the words much faster than the language center of her brain could interpret. She constantly found herself reading and rereading for understanding.


Once the words made sense she still had trouble remembering it all. Thus, her hours and hours of studying did not translate to the high achievement in class one might expect.


The Good News About The Excessive Studier

Personally I’m more a proponent of therapeutic interventions than of encouraging unhealthy compensating skills.


That said, one compensating skill that I do not object to develops when Excessive Studiers actually avoid the exhausting work of listening to, interpreting and remembering instructions. Instead they give the instructions as bosses of their own companies.


Individuals with auditory processing challenges tend to use visual cues to help them understand auditory input. Add their strong work plus talent for reading people to the mix and you have a recipe for success as top dog.


Reading Help for The Excessive Studier

Not all auditory processing challenges are due to slow processing speed. In Beth’s case, slow auditory processing improved significantly with the same intervention described in The-On-Again-Off-Again profile. Find a few more suggestions for students like Beth below.


Rhythm Repeat

Understanding the rhythm and flow of language strengthens reading comprehension. Some students with auditory processing challenges may love to sing but can’t keep the beat. They may also read without inflection or without pausing at punctuation marks. Any activity encouraging students to listen to, then repeat a rhythm also enhances reading skills.


Visualization Training

Relating heard information to visual imagery builds understanding and recall. At the basic level simply say any word (avoid non-visual words) and ask your student to describe it to you in detail. Practice with single words, then build up to phrases, then sentences.


Auditory Memory

By third grade most students can recall 6 units of information. Excessive Studiers and those with auditory processing challenges may need extra help in this area. Most activities you’ll find in Building Visual Memory Skills THE BOOK easily adapt to focus on auditory memory development as well.


Want to catch up on the previous profiles? Start here. And stay tuned! More unique learner profiles to come.