What’s Up with Kate? (Part 1)

Last week’s blog was our last installment of our book-inspired series. We received quite a few thoughtful and inspiring comments, and we gave away five free copies of Schools for All Kinds of Minds! We hope you enjoyed the sneak peeks into some of the ideas in the book, and we hope the series inspired you to pick up a copy if you hadn’t done so already.

Up Next …

This week we’re trying something a little different – a case study of Kate, a 6th grader with a puzzling array of learning challenges. Read Kate’s story and let us know what you think is going on with her and how you’d approach her challenges. Then, tune in next week for our explanation and recommendations!

Nothing’s Easy for Kate

Kate, a popular 6th grader, earns good grades and participates regularly in class. But Kate always has to work really hard to succeed. Nothing seems to come easy, but once Kate knows something, she appears to know it well and apply it effectively.

Occasionally, Kate’s dad helps her with her homework and studying – but by both accounts, these sessions are painstaking and don’t seem very productive. Kate can go over a list of spelling or vocabulary words repeatedly for more than an hour yet retain only a few of the items. The same goes for reading – she can read a passage easily but remembers only bits and pieces.

What Kate’s Teacher Sees

Kate’s teacher is puzzled by Kate’s constellation of challenges in the classroom. She’s noticed that Kate often needs to have explanations repeated and that she has a lot trouble complying with multi-step instructions of any type. It also takes Kate a long time to copy from the board; her classmates finish when she is barely halfway there!

Kate’s teacher has also observed that Kate does much better in day-to-day class work than she does on tests.

Reading and Math: A Mixed Bag

In the last year, reading has started to be a problem for Kate, especially in social studies and science. She has a particularly hard time summarizing what she’s read, despite her general ability to express herself well verbally.

While Kate is good at understanding math concepts, it’s been hard for her to master math facts, so she needs more time to complete math assignments and quizzes.

What’s Going Right

Kate seems to have a knack for graphic design. She looks forward to her computer class and has talked about being an architect one day. She loves animals and has a very special fondness for cats and has written several very perceptive reports about cats.

What do you think?

What areas are strengths for Kate? Weaknesses? How could you leverage Kate’s strengths to help her improve in other areas? What would you say to Kate?

Share your ideas with us, and next week, we’ll share our thoughts about Kate with you!

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11 thoughts on “What’s Up with Kate? (Part 1)

  1. I suspect working memory/exe. function issues, whether ADHD inattentive type, who knows…but Kate sounds exactly as my daughter…and I can’t wait to get my next email!!!
    Thank You

  2. I am wondering if Kate’s working memory could be part of her problem. She struggles with multi-step instructions (auditory processing?)and working memory, copying from the board (disgraphia?) and remembering things like math facts (long term memory?). She like graphic design! Likes animals and good at day-to-day classwork. Why not use her visual strengths to bypass her memory weaknesses. Have her use graphic organizers when reading social studies and science. Organize the topics from “big picture” to some supporting detail. Have her “visualize” her vocabulary words and when she needs to summarize her readings have her discuss what she has read in a “book club” group of her peers. She could use a graphic organizer to keep track of the story as she goes along; draw a picture with a few details or put post it notes at the end of each chapter. When the book is done, gather the post notes by chapter and post them on a “story board.” Use this to support creating a summary. SHe could try writing her reports in the format of a graphic novel so she uses her strengths. Use visuals to remember her math facts – like the program called Nine Lines. Has a visual support to remember the multiplication facts.

  3. It seems to me that Kate can see the trees but has difficulty seeing the forest. She seems to learn better by small clusters of information rather than summarizing it all in one piece. It sounds llke her learning style is more visual, spatial or kinesthetic.
    I would give her more hands on learning experiences specially in math, would probably use a board at home to help her with vocabulary and spelling, using it in a more interactive way, I would read out loud the words for her to write or she can read the words for the parent to write.
    Maybe writing on the computer what she reads can help her to retain more information, working each paragraph at a time, helping her with word diagrams than can lead her to the main idea…
    I would try to keep her motivation up by working out with her (at home) new ways to learn better according to her style and abilities.

  4. Kate has many of the traits of a dyslexic student. Reading is problematic. Kate may have trouble at both the decoding and comprehension, but she understands things well and remembers them. Kate also has trouble remembering math facts but understands math concepts..a problem I have seen in my dyslexic son.

    Sometimes people attribute this problem to working memory, but I my son’s case it is more a problem with rote memory.

    My son can remember things if he connects them to other things in a kind of gestalt.

    Not doing well on multiple choice tests is probably more an issue of working memory. By the time the test has understood the stem, evaluated the first choice in terms of the stem, s/he may have forgotten the stem since there is only so much room on that “table inside one’s head” that Levine writes about.

    Step by step instructions are problematic both because of working memory and because Kate, like most dyslexics, has problems with sequencing.

    I suspect that she also is having trouble with the calendar and the order of months in the year.

  5. Kate’s areas of strength are her ability to grasp math concepts and to express herself both visually and verbally. As well, Kate has a love of computers, so I am assuming she also has strengths there, as well. Other things that help Kate out are the fact that she has good support from home, has a strong work ethic and she is strong socially.
    Her weaknesses appear to be in the areas of auditory processing and working memory. Because Kate is strong visually, I would use visuals to enhance learning and clarify classroom instructions such as outlines, charts, drawings and graphic organizers. For note taking, she might also benefit from using a laptop in class, as well as having copy notes. Chunking information into smaller parts will also help Kate study and remember things. Visual organizers would help break down information she has read into smaller parts.Memory hooks could also be used in classroom instruction.
    Social studies and science are subjects that cover lots of information ,so there needs to be more visuals and hands on activities to help Kate input the information into her memory. Things like movies, hands on creative projects, field trips, newspapers, atlases, tables, graphs, etc. will help ingrain information into Kate’s Memory. This will also help Kate construct new meaning from her previous knowledge and organize information in a way that makes sense to her , making her learning more memorable.
    I would also consider giving Kate frequent oral quizzes rather than longer written tests.

    I would talk to Kate informally and in a positive manner about how people have different learning styles and talk with her about the learning style she has.I would tell her about some ideas we could use to utilize her strengths to help her to remember and organize the information she is learning.I would let her know that she has my support and understanding.

  6. Kate has several strengths.
    1. Visual spatial ability
    2.facility with verbal language.
    3. hard work and motivation to learn.
    4. sensitivity towards animals
    5. Computation skills
    6. Decoding skills

    Kate seems to need help with reading comprehension. Long term memory seems to be strong but she should be helped with short term and working memory. Teaching her strategies and teaching her in an interactive way through discussions and appropriate questioning would be very helpful to her. Since she has good verbal skills she should be made to talk herself through tasks such as Math facts, analysis of words for spelling, self questioning as she reads, summarising each paragraph as she reads.

  7. First get her eyes and hearing check to make sure there are no problems in those areas. Next, give step by step instructions on the board and a study guide of what is being taugth for the week. Review each day what was done the day before and have members of the class repeat it back to you as they understand it; that will clear up any misconceptions by her as well as other class members. Finally, have them make a note in their diary or notebook of what homework is due, and any other information they may need to write about how it should be done. This will help solve some of the problems she is having as it is broken down into steps and she has notes to remind her of what she needs to do to stay on track.

  8. I believe she has a strength in the creative, kinesthetic area demonstrated by her ability to excel in graphic design. The weakness in spelling, vocabulary, and memorizing math facts I agree could be a wekaness in working memory and short term memory and also has indication that something is going on in the area of executive functioning. Exploring these areas and possibly processing issues may shed more light as to help Kate. Working with her to understand her weakness and heling her with strategies to develop her weaknesses; can help her feel the success she is working so hard to achieve.

  9. It sounds like Kate is a wonderful person. If she has trouble with muliple steps, she should be given simple modifications and accoumadations. Give her one step at a time and she will be more successful.

  10. Kate seems to respond to visuals more than words, using graphic organizers, visuals, diagrams, and charts is a start. Repeated practice of new and acquired skills will be necessary, but again will have to access her strength of responding to visuals, diagrams, etc. The motor act of completing blank graphic organizers should help her learn through her strengths. Other aids to comprehension might include role playing or acting out read material.

    Issues seem to focus on a weak vocabulary, and poor memory abilities.

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