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November 2018

Understanding Cognitive Assessments

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A parent’s guide to cognitive assessments

How do school cognitive assessments actually work?

If your child struggles at school, the school may recommend a cognitive assessment. IQ is the most common measure of intelligence in education and is used to identify and provide funding level for children with special needs in the classroom. It is important to understand what IQ tests can and cannot do to help support your child in the classroom and beyond. Learning Works Geelong has compiled a pdf. cheat sheet to simplify this process for you.

What is intelligence?

  • An ability to adapt to the environment
  • The ability to learn new things
  • The ability to use a range of mental processes such as memory and imagination
  • It uses higher order thinking skills, like problem solving and reasoning
  • It involves the ability to acquire and use knowledge
  • It is dependent on the context and culture

What tests are used?

The most commonly used cognitive assessments in Victorian schools are the:

  • Weschler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI-IV) for children aged 2.6 to 7.7
  • Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V) for children aged 6 to 16.11.

Which children are referred for an assessment?

  • Those who have language or learning difficulties
  • Children who may have an intellectual disability or other developmental behaviour disorders
  • Children who are gifted or have high intellectual potential
  • Children who are recommended an assessment by their primary classroom teacher.

What is the process?

Accessing Support – the school’s role

  • If your child is struggling in one or more areas, or falling behind, your child’s teacher may recommend an assessment.
  • This assessment is carried out by Student Support Services or SSS – A Department of Education Service.
  • Before referring, the school will review previous recommendations and school actions.
  • Your child’s progress and any evidence of learning difficulties will be discussed.
  • The school and SSS will identify strategies to provide support.

What these assessments measure – 5 main ‘areas’ of intelligence

Verbal Comprehension

A child’s ability to understand what is being said, understanding verbal information. This is also their ability to use their vocabulary to express themselves.

Strengths in this area look like:

  • Great writing skills
  • Articulate, and able to express detail in ideas
  • A great vocabulary, using a wide range of words

Weaknesses in this area look like:

  • Struggling to understand instructions
  • Becoming lost in multi-step directions and tasks
  • Having difficulty expressing ideas
  • Poor reading and writing skills
  • Poor auditory memory skills
  • Using black and white language
  • Difficulty understanding abstract concepts or jokes, like sarcasm
  • Struggling to comprehend verbal and language related information.

Fluid Reasoning

A child’s ability to think flexibility to solve a new problem using planning and their problem solving skills.

Strengths in this area look like:

  • Thinking flexibly to solve new problems
  • Drawing on problem solving skills to solve similar problems

Weaknesses in this area look like:

  • Difficulty identifying patterns in relationships
  • Difficulty identifying the ‘moral’ or overarching idea of the story
  • Having a hard time summarising
  • Finds it tough to transfer knowledge from one task to another
  • Apprehensive to start new tasks and becomes frustrated without support

Processing Speed

A child’s speed and accuracy of scanning information, mental processing, motor coordination and visual decision making.

Strengths in this area look like:

  • Quickly able to take in new information presented on the whiteboard at school
  • Finds it relatively easy to keep up with the pace of the classroom

Difficulties in this area look like:

  • Taking much longer than needed to problem solve under pressure, complete work and copy down sentences, recognise visual patterns and scan material

Working Memory

A child’s ability to keep in mind what they need to complete tasks. The ability to take in multiple bits of information, mentally work with it and hold onto it long enough to do some work.

Strengths in this area look like:

  • Can easily take in a large amount of information in the classroom and process it accurately
  • Able to follow complex verbal instructions
  • Good at remembering all steps of directions
  • Able to organise quickly and plan work tasks
  • Great at mental arithmetic and can do large sums

Weaknesses in this area look like:

  • Trouble following through on instructions
  • Will only remember 1/4 of the instructions given
  • Struggling to cope with all of the information presented in class
  • Can only concentrate on one thing at a time
  • Struggles to complete maths problems
  • Struggles with complex problem solving and planning

Visual/Spatial Intelligence

A child’s spatial/non-verbal reasoning abilities. This is your child’s ability to understand better if something is modelled in front of them. They may also be great with puzzles.

Strengths in this area look like:

  • Tackles hands on activities
  • Greater understanding if something is modelled in front of them
  • Good visual-spatial skills
  • Good at analysing mathematical graphs, great with puzzles

Weaknesses in this area look like:

  • Experiencing difficulty learning to read and to identify and remember all of the individual letters
  • Handwriting can be disorganised on the page
  • Experiencing difficulty drawing meaning from a maths problem
  • Can get lost easily, may not find lost objects easily

What do these results mean?

Percentile Ranks

Percentile ranks reflects how a child performed compared to children the same age. Let’s say we lined up 100 girls the same age as Emily in order of ‘ability. The little girl sitting at position 1 would be the worst performing and 100 the best. If I told you that Emily was sitting at the 50th percentile, it means that she is RIGHT in the middle and performing as she should be for his age OR that she is performing better than 50% of children her age. With cognitive assessments, the Average Range falls within the 25th to the 75th percentile.

Standard Scores

Put simply, standard scores are these converted scores used to determine where your child’s cognitive abilities lie in comparison to other children his or her age and what range of ability he or she falls under. You’ll see ranges associated with standard scores for the indexes and Full-Scale IQ. As an example, any standard score between 90 and 109 falls within the Average Range.

Another way of thinking about cognitive test results is by viewing them on a Bell Curve. In a normal distribution of results, most results fall around the centre, which is average. Very few people 2% have IQ scores of 130+, while scores under 70 are also rare – with less than 2% of the population having this score. Therefore, most children and people fall in the average range and cluster around the middle.

Ok, we have had an assessment, what do we do with the results?

The report you are given will make recommendations that teachers can use to develop a personalised learning plan.

The cognitive assessment is just the first step. Teachers, like those we have at Learning Works, who are trained in special education, must now implement a plan and strategy to help your child to overcome their learning challenges and capitalise on their strengths.

How can I help my child?

  • Discuss the assessment with teachers and tutors to ensure the best strategies are being used to support your child with their learning
  • Reduce distractions when asking your child to perform a task that is complex or new
  • Your child’s self-esteem may be at risk. It is very important that your child’s classroom based work and homework is pitched at the right level that takes into account your child’s difficulties so they can experience success.
  • Break down tasks into smaller steps
  • Emphasise and repeat key points
  • Encourage the development of your child’s intellectual strengths and teach them strategies to overcome their weaknesses
  • Be aware of the limitations of the IQ score and the narrow set of abilities the score represents
  • Get regular updates about your child’s progress from their teacher and tutor.

While a psychologist carries out the test, it is the teachers who model and implement the supportive strategies to help your child in and outside of the classroom.

Click the link below to download your copy of our pdf. – Learning Works Geelong parent’s guide to understanding assessments.

Cognitive Assessments

Apps for Kids with Learning and Attention Difficulties

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Children with learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, can really benefit from apps and assistive technology.

These apps make their lives better by simplifying reading and spelling and ironing out mistakes.

Watch the video to learn about the latest apps for learning and attention issues

Top apps

1. Speechify
This is a text to audiobook app. Text is turned into audio files and stored as a digital library to help with reading. Kids can send web articles, books and handouts to the app. It uses speech to text technology to create audio files.

2. Claro ScanPen OCR Reader
Kids can use Claro ScanPen like a standard camera to convert photos of text into electronic media that can be read to them aloud.

3. Grammarly
Grammarly checks to mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation. To fix mistakes, kids tap on the corrections at the top of the keyboard. The app also gives a short explanation for each mistake.

4. Write Ideas
This app helps to plan and organise ideas for different kinds of writing. First, kids choose a writing assignment, like a book review, informative essay or short story. The app then asks a series of questions to help them brainstorm.

5. Otter Voice Meeting Notes
For kids who struggle to take notes and keep up in class. The app records lectures or meetings while creating digital transcripts of the recordings. The app highlights each words as it’s read aloud.

How you can help your child develop better maths skills in primary school using number sense

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Is your child having trouble skip counting, estimating or telling the time?

They may have trouble with number sense. Number sense is the skill that allows kids to understand and work with numbers to complete maths problems. 

Maths skills in primary school focus on the ability to understand numbers and work with them in fluid and flexible ways. Number sense is a key skill which Learning Works helps primary school students develop in maths which allows your child to determine things like how things rank in order and how things compare in size. This is the ability to understand how much a number is “worth,” and using numbers as a way to solve problems.

  • Number sense is the mind’s ability to form mental images of patterns and associate them with a number
  • Kids with maths issues, such as dyscalculia – often have weaknesses in these skills and require plenty of repetition to grasp the concepts
  • Number sense is a skill that can be developed and honed over time – Learning Works emphasises repetition to improve skills in primary maths

These include the ability to:

  • Understand quantities
  • Grasp concepts like more than, and less than, larger and smaller.
  • Understand that symbols represent quantities (e.g. 8 is equivalent to 8)
  • Make number comparisons – 22 is greater than 20, and 6 is half of 12)
  • Understand the order of numbers in a list 7th, 8th, 9th
  • An awareness of number patterns including recognising missing numbers
  • Strong number sense skills come before learning maths operations – such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.
  • Maths operations aren’t the only area impacted by number sense difficulties. Your child may have difficulty with other concepts that use numbers to symbolise amounts, like measurement, distance and time.               

What teaching strategies promote number sense?

By the time children leave primary school, we would like them to have a well-developed understanding of number sense and place value. Children with problems in this area should focus on:

  • Ordering – comparing numbers with each other
  • Practice counting and grouping objects – adding to, subtracting and multiplying the groups to practice maths operations kills.
  • Place value and position – understanding how the place of a digit affects its value
  • Amount – knowing what the symbols in maths represent
  • Get a lot of practice estimating: Building questions into everyday conversations, using phrases like “about how many,” or “about how much.”
  • Match number symbols to quantities
  • Work with manipulatives like blocks and rods to understand the relationship between different amounts 

Multi-sensory techniques for teaching primary students maths

The use of sight, tough, hearing and movement can make it easier for your child to understand what numbers and symbols represent. Multi-sensory instruction activates several neural pathways in the brain, making later retrieval easier. 

Here are some multi-sensory maths activities that may help your child develop number sense

1. Visualising with beads, lollies or cereal

Using objects or manipulatives they can touch and move around can make it easier for children to learn concepts in maths and other subjects. For example, kids might solve a division problem putting lollies into groups and seeing how many lollies are left over. These props can also be used for addition, subtraction and multiplication problems – helping your child to practise their maths operations skills.

By moving these things around and seeing how they can be manipulated and changed, kids have a concrete way of understanding how these operations work.

2. Drawing maths problems

Drawing a maths problem to visualise and interpret it is especially helpful for younger students as they begin to grasp multiplication, division and fraction problems. For example, a teacher may ask a child to solve the multiplication problem 3 x 8 by drawing 3 groups of 8 oranges. They’ll then be able to visualise how adding 3 groups with 8 things in each group, is equivalent to multiplying, helping to solidify this operation.

3. Building with place value blocks

A teacher give the number 125 and ask the child to build it using the blocks. The child would need to create one 100- block, two 10-blocks and 5 ones’ cubes. This helps children with understanding place value.

4. Building with coloured tubes or blocks

Using blocks is an excellent aid when teaching children number patterns and operations between numbers. For example, you may stack the coloured blocks in 2, 4, 6 and 8 and then ask the child to complete the next three stacks in the pattern (adding two each time). This helps the child make a connection between the items and the numbers they represent.

5. Using Pizza Slices

Cutting a paper pizza into slices is an excellent way for children to “see” fractions like a 1/8 or ¼ and visually understand how fractions can be equivalent. It also helps them see how a fraction is an equal share of something and reinforce number sense skills like more than and less than.

6. Creating a number line

Creating a number line and plotting numbers in place along the line is a visual strategy that helps teach concepts of counting and placing numbers in sequences. A number line app can also support solving problems using a number line.

Key Takeaways

  • Number sense refers to the understanding of quantities as a concept

  • Multisensory learning and using physical objects is crucial for primary school children developing number sense skills

  • Number sense develops gradually over time by exploring numbers and visualising them

  • Strong number sense skills come before solving maths operations – such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing

  • Number sense can be supported by giving primary school students opportunities to make sense of, and reason about, number.

How to stop your child from forgetting everything during the summer holidays

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How to stop your child from forgetting everything during the summer holidays

What is summer brain drain or summer slide?

Summer holidays are a wonderful time for kids to explore and enjoy freedom from the busy school year. At Learning Works Geelong, we believe that after a long year of school your child deserves a well- deserved break to re-energise and enjoy time to relax.

While we don’t expect your child to be doing maths sheets or have their heads buried in a textbook learning Pythagoras during this time, it is important they continue to stimulate their brains throughout the long break to ward off learning loss.

Children and teenagers gain momentum and confidence when they are practicing skills on a daily basis and can slide backwards considerably if they have no summer learning routine. The saying ‘use it or lose it’ applies to children over summer when they are out of practice and don’t engage with any educational activities.

In fact, learning loss over summer is so rife that research by Ron Fairchild, executive director of the John Hopkins University Centre for Summer Learning, has found that teachers typically spend 4-6 weeks reteaching material that students have forgotten over the summer months.

We have rounded up our top tips for keeping your child’s mind active during the summer break so they don’t slide backwards in key areas start the new school year on the back foot.

What can you do, personally, to help combat summer learning loss with your own kids?

Tips for keeping your child’s mind active during the summer break

1. Read, read and read some more

Reading is a great activity for children and teenagers to engage in to keep their brains stimulated over summer. Regular readers are more likely to succeed at school, have improved concentration, have wider vocabularies and be confident, self-directed learners.

Reading opens children and teenagers up to new worlds and viewpoints. Through books they learn to make sense of the world around them, learn life lessons about friendship, family and love and expand their general knowledge.

At Learning Works Geelong, we cannot stress the importance of reading for primary school and secondary school children enough.

To encourage your child to read, we recommend you make a wide variety of books accessible. Visit your local library or the book shop and introduce them to different authors and genres. Your child is more likely to foster a lifelong love of reading if the books they are reading are on topics that interest them.

Primary school aged children will benefit from the one-on-one bonding time they get with their parents by reading together. While high school students have a massive head start if they read books that will be covered by their English teachers during the year.

2. MasterChef or My Kitchen Rules episode at home

Just like the TV shows, encourage your primary or high school child to host a dinner party and film them cooking the meal. Make your own “Masterchef or “My Kitchen Rules,” episode.

Not only is this idea wildly entertaining and important for later self-sufficiency, but cooking also activates the neural pathways used in maths and English. Measuring out ¾ cup of flour for a chocolate mud cake is an enjoyable way for your child to understand how fractions and calculations work. It is also great for visual learners to see each ingredient measured out in front of them.

By reading and interpreting a recipe your child is also applying their English comprehension skills. High school students might cook a whole meal for their family or edit the final Masterchef clip on the computer. We guarantee your child will have a lot of fun with this one!

3. Learning happens everywhere

Teach your children that the building blocks for success at school and in life can be found everywhere. From visits to the zoo, ScienceWorks, camping during a beach holiday – there are ample opportunities for kids to build up their information stash about the world during the holidays. These experiences can prove invaluable and what they learn can be used throughout their lives.

As Susan K. Perry, author of Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Enriching, Offbeat Learning Activities for Ages 4-14 says “You don’t want your kids to think that learning is only something that happens in places called schools.” “Rather, you want them to grasp that learning is fun and can go on anytime, anywhere, with handy materials, not only based on the instruction of an actual schoolteacher.”

Craft days, sewing sessions, woodwork and outdoor gardening are other ideas that pro Craft Days– sewing – creating pajamas for older children or a blanket or woodwork,

School holidays are a fantastic time for children to explore their interests and passions. What is your child fascinated by? Encourage them to start a project inspired by their interests.

4. Write a blog

Children and teenagers will love creating their very own blog or webpage over the summer holidays. Some blogging platforms are specifically customised for children, preteens and teens making the set up process simple for your child.

Encourage your child to write a blog on a topic they are passionate about so they maintain their interest. This might involve them writing on topics like photography, the latest fashion hairstyles or their favourite AFL team.

For children, sites like Kidblog Blogger, Weebly, NationalGeographicKids and ClubPenguin are great as they have been designed with children in mind. Site administrators closely monitor activity and parents can also be made administrators to watch what is going on online. Grandparents and friends can be given access codes to see what their children have written on the blogs, so they remain unpublished and limited to a small circle.

By writing a blog, your child will be involved in all aspects of the writing process in a fun, engaging way. From planning their post, drafting the piece, editing and publishing their post – your child or teenager will practice useful writing comprehension and grammar skills! They will also be able to customise their site as their own with different themes, graphics and fonts, and learn basic website management as well.

5. Play boardgames

Make time these school holidays to play board games together as a family. Not only will this provide a great opportunity for you and your children to bond, but with the right game, their minds are also ripe for stimulation and learning.

Younger, primary school aged children will benefit from games like Snakes and Ladders and Trouble where they can practice their counting and calculating skills.

Games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Chess require strategic thinking and money management skills –  perfect for building brain architecture in high school aged students.






Enjoy the school holiday break!

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