Languages Department
Learning Differences Conference 2013


The descriptions of the Workshops taking place on Saturday April 20th, 2013.

Keynote Speaker: Annete Sawyer, Director of Education and Enrichment Programs, Museum of Science Boston will talk about,
"Partnerships in Your Community To Support Your Curriculum Goals: Learn to Harness the Affordances of Your Informal Institutions"
(alphabetical by session name)




For several years the concept of a Nonverbal Learning Disability (NLD or NVLD) was primarily used in research settings; however, it has gradually transitioned to the clinical field, and the diagnosis of NLD has been growing in popularity.  Individuals with NLD often have difficulty in multiple domains including visual-spatial skills, executive functioning, academics, and social skills.  In this workshop we will briefly discuss the research that supports this diagnosis and compare and contrast NLD to Autism and Asperger’s Disorder.  Participants will learn early signs of NLD, what symptoms may be observed in the classroom and why NLD is sometimes such a challenge to diagnose.  Additionally, we will review tips and strategies to help these students be successful with regard to specific cognitive skills and academic areas, life skills, and interpersonal relations.  A case study will be examined in order to help participants become more familiar with the characteristics of NLD at school and some of the challenging diagnostic issues associated with this disorder.  Participants are encouraged to bring case studies they would also like to share or would like assistance with developing intervention strategies, as this workshop is designed to be both informative and interactive.


-  Participants will learn how NLD is similar to and different from Autism Spectrum Disorders

-  Participants will be able to identify how symptoms of NLD may manifest in the classroom

-  Participants will learn academic and behavioral strategies to help students who present with characteristics of NLD achieve success



Humanity’s intellect is connected by a common thread, of which art and mathematics are distinct activities.  Thus a growing number of today’s artists and mathematicians are pursuing the common ground, “the bridges of interconnection and mutual inspirations”, by exploring how art and mathematics interact.  This interaction was always, and continues to be, more than obvious in the disciplines of music and architecture, but today it is explored in all forms of art.

According to the modern science of cognitive psychology, art and mathematics jointly underlie the inherent structures on which human understanding and expression are based.  If one is to rationalize the viewing of a work of art based on these cognitive archetypes, an underlying mathematical base becomes more or less apparent at times.  If this mathematical base is sound, then the artist utilizes it either consciously or unconsciously when creating a work of art.

Artistic creations arrange tangible parts into a whole, with a loose and not necessarily apparent deterministic relationship (at least in its modern interpretation).  Mathematics, on the other hand, arranges intangible parts into a whole, with a precise deterministic structure.  The motivation and concern of the artist is the free creation of a subjective form, which does not necessarily convey an unambiguous meaning, while that of the mathematician is the strictly logical creation of an objective structure with an unambiguous meaning.

The freedom of artistic expression showcases structures, which in many instances are then systematized by a mathematical discipline.  Several fields of mathematics have been inspired and are a result, historically, of an examination of works of art.  For example, the theory of proportions was historically a result of the musical arithmetical investigations of the Pythagoreans.  Descriptive geometry set the perspective drawing of the Renaissance on a clear geometric base. Group theory was expanded and enriched by the examination of the structure of tiling and decorative motifs, and in turn gave rise to new artistic creations.  Fractal theory produced aesthetically impressive images, while one recognizes fractal structures in many artistic creations.

Artists such as M.C. Escher and Victor Vasarely, the works of which are shown in this exhibition, utilized, either consciously or unconsciously, mathematical structures and concepts.  The viewer is invited to not only derive pleasure from the aesthetics of these works of art, but also explore the interesting mathematical structure of the image.

In the meeting we will present also a concrete educational activity from project “Art and Mathematics” of museum Herakleidon - Athens, in the spirit of all above.



Collaborative Problem Solving is a method that can be used to implement a response to intervention model in a school.  It is widely known that educators problem solve daily to address the needs of student learning.  This workshop will provide educators the opportunity to establish and/or support the current program their school offers for response to intervention by recognizing the informal problem solving that takes place to include: small adjustments to instructional strategies, seat placement of a student, and/or providing re-teaching or additional practice of a skill and how that information cataloged can provide greater opportunities for student success in all courses.

Workshop participants will also be asked to identify factors that may influence learning and behavior, which are of great use in creating interventions to support student achievement.  Through various activities participants will be provided with an established purpose of identifying methods for having data discussions that allow for revision of an intervention or the opportunity to further anchor the educational experience of a student.


-  Identify the factors that may influence learning and behavior

-  Distinguish ground rules and roles in collaborative problem solving

-  Classify tiers of intervention

-  Develop data discussion methods



English Language Learners (ELLs) are in need of appropriate and effective curriculum in order to meet the grade level learning standards and succeed in school.  Educators are expected to diversify instruction, use best practices, and follow various instructional methods.  Teachers must have an understanding of the basic structures in cooperative learning, know how to incorporate learning strategies across the curriculum, and be able to use standards for language proficiency and the content areas in curriculum design.

The session will focus on how to identify and prioritize students' learning needs, how to develop instructional materials and activities.  The presentation will examine methods and strategies for designing interdisciplinary curriculum and thematic units which integrate language arts and content areas as well as appropriate methods of assessment and evaluation.  It will examine the applicability of a three-step approach: needs assessment, review of the grade level curriculum, evaluation, and selection of instructional materials, and curriculum design and implementation.

During the session, participants will discuss methods on how to prioritize students’ learning needs; develop instructional objectives and activities to enhance students' language functions, and learning strategies; and evaluate instructional materials and assessment tools.



Factors Influencing College Success in Science (FICSS) is a research project following 18000 students at 60 randomly selected colleges, carried out by the Science Education Department of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  FICSS was designed to identify measurable factors in highschool science classes that predict different levels of achievement in introductory college science courses.  The core data comes from a detailed six-page survey completed by college students early in their introductory college science course, together with each student’s final course grade supplied by the professor.

Using the interactive FICSS website, the findings concerning mathematics preparation and hand graphing to predict college science success will be presented.  The participants will hear the website teachers’ predictions, and then give their own predictions of the findings concerning the role of projects, memorization, use of technology, block scheduling, and teacher personality in predicting success in college science.  When the results of the study are revealed, participants will reflect on the meaning of the results for their teaching.


-  Students should have lots of quantitative problems, should be making lots of graphs and interpreting them, and generally reinforcing the basic mathematics that they need to do well in science

-  Taking data, graphing points by hand, and interpreting the data is a key skill that students should have before they get to college

-  The evidence collected by scientific studies sometimes contradicts previously held beliefs and/or intuition; experiencing this will remind teachers to probe for students’ misconceptions that must be overturned when teaching science



The Flipped Classroom "is turning the traditional classroom on its head."  But what IS it?

The Flipped Classroom is the idea of delivering traditional classroom instruction online through the use of videos and podcasts, and using class time to assist students and design interactive activities to solidify their learning.

What does it really look like and does it work?

Come see examples of a flipped classroom and discuss the pros and cons of such a design.


-  Learn what a flipped classroom is

-  What programs to use

-  See examples of the method being used in a classroom

-  Examine the pros and cons of the method



This workshop will review various inclusion models and current best practices to support learning differences with two teachers in the classroom, the homeroom teacher and the learning support teacher.  A focus of this workshop will be on how to implement current best practices for the most effective teaching.  Identifying practical strategies for successful implementation will be addressed in this workshop.  This workshop is suitable for both learning support teachers and homeroom classroom teachers.


-  To identify the key elements of the inclusion model

-  To examine the benefits and limitations of the inclusion model

-  To analyze the challenges that arise with the inclusion model and identify practical strategies for successful implementation of the inclusion model



As teachers, we are not only asked to deliver certain knowledge to our students, but also to inspire them to accomplish great things, not only in our class but in life in general.  This is why it may become discouraging if we have students who cannot remember to bring in appropriate materials necessary for class, do not complete homework, have a hard time keeping up, display low motivational levels or look disoriented in the classroom.  Study and organizational skills are essential for all students, including the aforementioned, as they provide them with structure and the ability to manage their time and workload effectively and efficiently.  It is fundamental, therefore, that teachers are assisted in finding ways to incorporate study and organizational skills in their curriculum in view of catering to the students’ needs.

Initially, through this workshop, attendees will learn about the basis of study and organizational skills.  Further on, participants will have the opportunity to discover which skills and tricks suit their teaching style and subject matter so that they can successfully apply it with their students in the regular classroom setting.  Interesting and creative activities will be employed so that participants can see for themselves how such skills can be embedded in their lessons.  Discussion will ensue!


-  Participants will learn what Study and Organizational Skills are, how vital they are for a child’s learning, in what ways they aid in classroom instruction if applied and finally how they can be incorporated in the regular class curriculum so as to increase students’ academic performance




Let’s inquire!  Come celebrate the diversity of ALL children by exploring a common factor that unites them all: curiosity.  When humans have new experiences, we naturally wonder about them, and strive to make connections between these experiences and our present knowledge.  This is the foundation of learning, which begins with inquiry.

With the 21st century presenting challenges we have yet to realize, it is more important than ever to provide children with inquiry-infused environments that create fun, meaningful, and authentic learning experiences.  These experiences allow children to engage in conceptually driven exploration and set the stage for higher-order learning and student-initiated action.

Because inquiry inherently promotes differentiation and the construction of individualized learning experiences, children with varied needs and abilities have increased opportunities to thrive in inquiry-based environments.  Incorporating inquiry into a special needs curriculum can also help decrease behavioral issues, as it increases students’ interest levels in learning.

Workshop participants will engage in independent and collaborative activities that examine the importance of inquiry and how it can benefit all students.  Participants will also complete an inquiry self-assessment with goals for improvement, an inquiry classroom checklist, and author their own inquiry-based learning unit using a cyclical strategy authored by Dr. Kathy Short.


-  To examine the meaning of inquiry and the many forms it can take

-  Highlight the importance of inquiry in the learning process, particularly for students with special needs

-  Explore how and why inquiry benefits students with special needs

-  Overview a cyclical strategy authored by Dr. Kathy Short, through which inquiry may be implemented in ALL learning environments



The Museum of Science used a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Science to join with the Museum of Fine Arts and Boston Children’s Museum to train Museum professions in educational approaches that are more accessible to children and families with children on the autistic spectrum.

Annette Sawyer from the Museum of Science will share products of this work, including social stories and changes in programs, and discuss using local partnerships to strengthen your educational approach. Annette will also discuss a pilot program that is underway to explore programming in the Museum for autistic inner city classrooms.



Children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders, non-verbal language disorder, or language based learning deficits often exhibit a delay or absence of pretend play.  A child’s ability to engage in pretend play is integral to the development of language, cognition, and social/emotional skills.  Pretend play is regarded as the foundation of symbolic understanding that helps children use both words and gestures to communicate.

This workshop will help teachers and parents from preschool up through primary to understand the role of various forms of play, develop a step-by-step process to improve the symbolic understanding and play skills of children, and to use strategies aimed at facilitating language/communication development through the use of symbolic play.


-  How to identify construction, pre-symbolic, symbolic play

-  To understand the various stages of pretend play development

-  To use typical classroom and home items to support pretend play

-  A variety of practical games and activities to introduce and develop symbolic understanding with students/children

-  How to increase gestural communication through the use of play

-  How to increase language (words and sentence length) through the use of play




Successful inclusion within the mainstream classroom requires an understanding of a student’s overall development on a social, emotional and academic level.  Behaviors and how one acts or responds in given settings influence a person’s ability or inability to learn. People choose behaviors that motivate, decrease conflict, enhance productivity, are fulfilling and socially acceptable.  So with this in mind behavior and the management thereof are of particular importance to parents and educators.

Behavior management provides a starting point on how to decode behaviors, its reinforcements and ways to prevent or deal with unwanted behaviors which may influence the student’s school performance.  Supporting the student’s needs by addressing how they may be reinforcing behaviors is essential for effective learning.  Furthermore a consistent approach where strategies are implemented regularly and with a motivating factor often leads to more productive and positive behaviors.  Similarly managing behavior leads to increasing self esteem and confidence and overall social awareness.  This need has come to light after systematic observation during our work with educators, families and shadow teaching in typical classrooms.

The aim of this workshop will be to describe and discuss the basic principles of behavior management as well as the provision of hands on strategies and techniques that may be used in order to modify, adjust and/or improve a student’s behavior, their social awareness and academic performance.  Keeping in mind that students on all levels may require accommodations that need a flexible approach in teaching; and most importantly collaboration of all educators to provide the necessary support frameworks for these students.  This notion lies on the premise that in the long run the students will be more engaged in the classroom community and empowered to take control of their learning. We would like to hold this workshop voluntarily, in the hope that these strategies outlined will promote effective learning and enrichment for all types of students.

Target Audience

This workshop is mainly aimed towards educators, professionals, therapists and parents as these outlined strategies may be manipulated and used in various environments.  The target group/s which may benefit from such strategies are students of all ages K-Grade 8.


-  Hands on strategies on how to identify triggers in the environment that elicit unwanted behaviors, how to manage them and replace them with positive behaviors

-  Useful techniques that can be accommodated according to individual needs to apply back into the classroom/home

-  Clearer understanding of behavior management and reinforcement

-  Innovative teaching strategies to engage and motivate learning



Today more than ever, we recognize the value of student differences as they enhance our classrooms, and we look for teaching models and practices that will make learning more effective for all of our students.  Differentiation of instruction is a way of thinking about teaching and learning based on sound theory and research.  Planning and assessment play an important role.  When teachers differentiate instruction they plan with a variety of approaches in mind in order to better address the diverse learning needs of their students.  An educationally sound curriculum addresses important themes, concepts, skills with clear learning goals focused on student understanding.  Assessment that is ongoing should be used as a tool that informs about student progress and allows the teacher to provide appropriate learning choices.

In this workshop we will look at strategies and tools that will allow teachers to better address students’ diverse needs by incorporating performance based learning and various ongoing formative assessments.  The development of a strong classroom learning community, which helps each student understand that s/he is responsible for her/his own learning and progress as well as supporting the progress of classmates is essential.


-  Participants will explore ways to plan a lesson that provides for differentiated learning based on the concepts of performance based learning and teaching for understanding



This session will explain what Response to Intervention (RTI) is and why it is a great alternative for identifying, evaluating, and providing for special needs students.  RTI provides the opportunity to understand students with differences, even in schools that have less access to educational psychologists and outside experts. RTI puts more ownership into the hands of the educators working with the students everyday – the true experts.  With minimal training, SEN professionals in your school can support faculty to assess and support all students with diverse learning styles.  Lessons learned from RTI used at other schools will be provided, along with extensive resources.  Likewise, attendees will have a hands-on opportunity to work with the process and receive materials they can build on to fit their own school’s needs.


-  To provide attendees information on what Response to Intervention (RTI) is and how it could work in their school.  The fact that psychologists aren't necessary to implement effective RTI and in-house staff can use it to identify, evaluate, and strategise provision for students makes it a more manageable fit for many schools with fewer resources than large or centrally located schools



This workshop will explain and demonstrate the use of Arthur Lessac’s theatrical theories and how it can be used with EFL students to strengthen their American accents.  This Theatre / EFL hybrid system works with students on their English language suprasegmentals.  Participants will learn the method and then use it to dissect theatre monologues that will be done orally by the participants.  Participants will also learn how to put this method into unique activities that helps with skill integration.


-  The workshop will focus on class games and workshop techniques that help students grasp the techniques to make them their own

-  Participants will get sample lesson plans and activity sheets to use to teach these concepts



We usually equate learning difficulties with academic life.  However, often those same difficulties determine what we will do later in life! Some say that there are no learning difficulties just different ways of learning.

RTI is a beautiful tool that can support those that do learn differently to better assimilate the information and material taught in the school class.

Brain Gym® is a movement based program that helps integrate the bodily skills necessary to academic learning.  Its work is based on the principal that moving with intention leads to optimal learning.

When all your senses work harmoniously together, your reflexes are integrated and you can sit squarely on your chair without any need to move, squiggle, squirm, look outside the window, talk to your friend or chew on your pen (to name but a few of the possible diversions) then you have more available brain power to concentrate on the learning task at hand.

How the body can make or break your child’s efforts to learn?  How it can hinder or stall the progress of many support mechanism?  Why it makes sense to enlist the body as your ally in overcoming or preventing learning difficulties?


-  Introduce participants to the notion of kinesthetic learning, the different learning profiles, how intentional movement can support academic learning and performance

-  Teach them a set of easy-to-do movements that bring about a rapid shift from a negative to a positive attitude, reduce stress and prepare students and educators and/or parents for learning

-  Begin to notice the various messages their bodies are sending in respect to various situations, how these are connected to the way the brain perceives the situations in question and how this perception influences their behavior




Student-centered learning focuses on how students learn, and opens up the classroom to focus on all types of learners.  Some teachers are ready to take the challenge and create a student-centered classroom but they are unsure how to take those first steps.  During this workshop participants will become the student and take their first steps into a student-centered classroom.  Participants will be offered a menu of activities that will allow them to be self-guided through ready-made centers that they can take-away and use in their own classrooms.  The menu of activities will include ideas for teachers who have inclusive classrooms with students with autism, hyperactivity and the emotional-behavioral child.  The workshop will conclude with a Q & A and an opportunity to share as a community about how to troubleshoot some of the behavioral concerns teachers may have.


-  Participants will take away a toolbox of strategies they can readily implement to create their own student-centered classroom



Teaching language through culture studies is a fun and motivating way to work on language skills while learning to become global citizens.  Participants will learn about the challenges involved in intercultural communication, how to identify cultural keywords, and how to analyze cultural artifacts.  Participants will also learn about how these activities develop language and critical thinking skills.


-  The workshop will employ visual materials such as movie excerpts, advertisements, and art.  The use of drama, role play, and culture-bump skits will also be demonstrated.  Participants will get sample lesson plans and activity sheets as resource materials



Executive Function refers to a student’s ability to sustain attention, manage time, process visual and verbal information, organize themselves, and use working memory to accomplish tasks.  Executive Function Delay/Disorder is common in many students exhibiting Autism spectrum disorder, Attention Deficit struggles, and language based learning difficulties.  This workshop focuses on helping learning specialists, classroom teachers, and parents to identify ‘executive dysfunction’ and to implement practical strategies and routines into their work with students from kindergarten through high school.  While particularly useful for RTI Tier 2 and 3 students, strategies can be applied at universal (Tier 1) classrooms to benefit all students.


-  Help students better understand the passage of time towards improved task initiation and task management

-  Set up classrooms and homework areas to enhance student organizational skills and task completion

-  Help students better utilize the memory of past work to improve their thinking and planning skills

-  Use multi-sensory strategies to help students improve self regulation skills and decreasing impulsivity

-  Incorporate a collaborative model of executive function skill support which aligns goals across the classrooms, learning resource rooms, and home



Discover innovative strength based techniques for visual thinkers, which brings together social thinking & visual thinking.  Many people think in pictures or visual terms and not with written words, yet schools have not tapped into this strength as a teaching method.  Learn how to leverage the visual learners strengths as a tool for social learning and note taking in school, university and work.

Learn visual techniques which are effective tools for innovative thinking, retention of ideas, concepts and social thinking.  A video will be shown of the power of this exercise in school and using animals as visual communicators.  Be prepared to practice this exciting technique.


-  These visual social thinking techniques and strategies enable visual thinkers to discover why they think differently and to find learning strategies which work for them.  They have proven successful in helping learners in all levels of education, from pre-school to postgraduate; students who have continually struggled with traditional education have found their ability to learn academic content while also improving their understanding of social thinking transformed through the use of Visual Social Thinking.  For many visual thinkers they have become an essential tool for overcoming day-to-day frustrations in memory and communication, in education and beyond

-  The session will help one to teach non-linear thinkers to translate their thoughts, and also help linear thinkers to unlock more imaginative forms of tapping their creative potential.  This session will give attendees practical ideas of how to incorporate visual learning into teaching methods & daily learning in and out of the classroom enable visual thinkers to discover why they think differently and to find learning strategies which work for them