A broad array of proven learning techniques are included in every individually target designed program as a basket of appropriate skills to help our students achieve an excellent learning performance for the rest of their lives.
The skills of how to achieve excellence in the life-long skills of learning is not usually directly addressed in schools at this time. It begins with paying quality attention in a disciplined manner to hear precisely the teacher’s instructions, to pay visual attention to the details of the written word, to sit in such a way as to maximize the efficiency of eye movements of foveal (centre of the eye) vision for reading, etc.
Special techniques in listening effectively, taking notes, planning essays, using word resources, word learning, and spelling are applied as a VLC Signature Learning to Learn package in a way that fits the needs and lives of each learner. It provides advantages to any learner compromised by other factors, and it extends the reach and depth for gifted learners. Further, at the Vancouver Learning Centre learning skills are individually mentored by gifted teachers trained to apply those specialized techniques one-to-one. As a result, VLC alumni emerge with outstanding skills as learners that stand them in good stead the rest of their lives.
At the VLC, we now know the brain is neuroplastic and can improve in skills and function when a different, strategic approach to teaching these learners is undertaken.
The VLC’s individually designed, strategic, targeted program addresses its signature programs and services to the root cause of learning difficulties and developmental delay in each case in 5 ways:
The ability to focus intently long enough to create a cell assembly, a connected group of neurons in the brain strong enough to send their signal to the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for making a long-term memory.
This is critical in all learning and to skill development in every domain, since each step or level of achievement to mastery, creates the platform on which the next, more complex, or larger amount of learned memories must be placed, if the skill is to be usefully applied.
The Living Values Program provides a series of books that focus on stories that teach such principles as respect, one of the 12 key values. The stories are age appropriate from 3 years to adulthood. They are followed by an array of activities that foster positive learning, discussion and dialogue. In the Vancouver Learning Centre one-to-one format, teachers have the perfect opportunity to pick and choose the stories at the appropriate level for the particular teaching and discussion needed at the moment.
The stories are secular and ecumenical and cross-culturally appropriate. Since they were created to celebrate the United Nations 50th anniversary by respected educators around the world, we find them especially useful in the British Columbia multicultural environment for their understanding of cultural issues.
The values chosen are human values that promote and nourish emotional maturity and wisdom useful in the global village in which we live.
The stories are not used only for their own teaching purposes but are woven into the program for double and triple benefit.
We have been using a coaching model at the Vancouver Learning Centre for a number of years and we have numerous success stories. Coaching at the VLC uses the coactive coaching model which focuses on the students’ needs to listen, set goals, work hard, and celebrate. They are encouraged, inspired and motivated. They are challenged to define their values, explore their character, set goals and action plans, do their work with guidance and positive feedback, and achieve exactly what it is they want. Our coaching program consists of regular, consistent conversations which focus on the student’s strengths and build up his/her weaknesses. Topics include: self-esteem, assertiveness, time management and organization, resilience and goal-setting.
This is a goal setting and motivation program created by Olympian Marilyn King and used by athletes to enhance peak performance. At the Vancouver Learning Centre this is used to enhance academic performance and to inspire students to set goals, visualize success and achieve their personal best.
This is a program used to develop auditory processing of information presented orally. This procedure is especially important for students with learning disabilities centred in the auditory modality function. It teaches them to focus, pay attention and improve their memory.
This program is central to Vancouver Learning Centre Signature neurocognitive training that uses targeted and intense drill exercises based on our understanding of neuroplasticity to improve brain function and to enhance the student’s ability to process oral instruction in the classroom.
In addition, at the Vancouver Learning Centre we also teach directly to transfer the skill to practical use. For this reason, prose materials, especially those related to the curriculum, are also used in a structured way to help students pay attention to precise details in classroom teaching.
In all school classrooms and in college and university lecture halls oral instruction is the key method of educational delivery of information and teaching. Students with learning disabilities in auditory processing brain function are particularly disadvantaged when they are not able to absorb and remember details as teachers speak their lessons, give homework instruction orally, or invite students to comment and dialogue. This skill is very amenable to improvement with targeted training.
At the VLC we use a method of teaching reading in a stimulating format combined with writing and drawing. Called EduArt this teaching program was created by Mona Brookes, the creator of the Monart Drawing Program, which has been used at the Vancouver Learning Centre for two decades.
Using the fun of drawing, so successfully developed in her Monart Program, Mona Brookes sets out to teach the lines, patterns and shapes of the letters in a disciplined manner, ensuring the eye's attention is focused on the letters' visual details. Then she teaches the children to attach sound to symbol by combining this with funny and interesting images and information; for example, by attaching the sound of the letter “A” to the image of “Ape” and to “Africa” while teaching interesting facts about both words.
Using a three-level entry system, Brookes provides stencils that cater to different levels of ability, thus producing an approach that is friendly to the multi-skill-level classroom, while at the same time makes it possible to enter the system anywhere from preschool to Grade Three or even beyond. The method anchors what is learned by teaching the children to draw the letters using the lines, patterns and shapes mentioned above. At its very essence, Brookes makes the learning of reading and writing both fun and interesting.
The inclusion of learning to draw the letters using a correct pencil stance is both unique and a bonus in three ways:
The EduArt system is also a special benefit to those teachers whose phonics training was never appropriately anchored in their own schooling, even though to graduate from Teachers' College they had to have learned some system for phonetic decoding (even if they had to teach themselves). In teaching reading through the EduArt system with exciting and colourful graphics and prepared lesson stencils, the teachers will re-learn the phonic code themselves, making them better teachers and better readers for their own purposes.
At the Vancouver Learning Centre, we have been using Mona Brookes’ “Monart” system for more than two decades to teach learning disabled children and youth to pay focused attention to the visual details of lines, shapes and patterns. We have found that in addition to helping these clients learn to draw, their enhanced ability to pay focused attention to visual detail improves their abilities in spelling and reading. New research in how the brain learns to read shows that visual attention to detail depends on the eye’s fovea or central vision, the very same process we use in reading. Thus, in children whose brain systems for reading are inefficient, as they are in dyslexic readers, this method provides extra practice and training in the very area that needs to be strengthened. Furthermore, because creating or drawing the letter slows down the process for all learners, their slower rate of processing is more likely to be accommodated.
As a result, we are excited to consider what benefits children with learning difficulties will derive if we extend their disciplined training directly to the core tasks of learning to read, write and spell. It is likely that children challenged with learning because of auditory processing difficulties but who learn well by seeing and doing, will derive special advantages by using the EduArt system. Further, learners who are challenged by their language delay, especially second language learners, will benefit by the clear imagery that enables them to attach sound to symbol, which allows them to blend words even when they are unfamiliar with the sound of the word or its meaning. Considering that the second parallel process in learning to read is a search in the mental lexicon (the brain’s dictionary) for meaning, the teaching of new vocabulary along with learning to decode is an additional bonus.
From the perspective of Neuroscience, the EduArt method simplifies the learning task by reducing letter complexity to lines, patterns and shapes. Like the Monart System, it creates disciplined and focused attention to the way the letter looks, and supports the sound factor by attaching meaningful visual imagery of easily recognized graphics like “A” is for “Ape,” which does not rely on the auditory processing systems alone. It thus both simplifies and enriches the learning experience.
Further, by adding the writing component in an integrated way, it increases the critical involvement of the visual motor system, sending the signals to different sites through the brain's circuits and pathways involved in learning to read and write.
Children with dyslexia and ADHD who have difficulty learning to focus their attention on the printed word will benefit by the discipline of learning the simplified lines, patterns and shapes of the letters. The interesting graphics and the drawing component will both help focus their attention and encourage the practice they need to create the memory traces in the brain involved in reading and writing.
This is a drawing technique used to enhance visual attention to detail, developed by Mona Brookes. This technique provides confidence in drawing and improves all skills that require focus on visual detail, such as spelling. It is a fun technique and a great confidence-builder in all areas.
This is a procedure for learning about the history, geography and science that underlies successful performance in Social Studies and Science, or that takes the place of these subjects in specially designed programs for youth and young adults. We created this program because we find that many of our students have a very limited understanding of what is going on in the larger world around them. They need to learn to see the big picture and develop an appreciation for the whole story about the world in which they live.
The Worldview program becomes the underlying architecture for general knowledge. Special versions are created for young children and gifted children, as well as children with learning disabilities, who have missed the basic social studies and science curriculum from /Grade 3 to their current grade.
The Worldview program is also then specifically connected to their classroom social studies and science programs so that students learn to make these connections themselves as the grades progress.
Finally, when appropriate, using the Usborne system the Worldview is connected to 800 safe Internet sites for research purposes or to deepen knowledge of a particular topic, thus putting a personal resource library and lessons of how to use it in the hands of each learner. This process enriches the education of each learner in an efficient and exciting manner.
These are a set of special procedures that emerge from a program created by Dr. Geraldine Schwartz to enhance precise learning of word meaning. They include:
This is a learning tool for all learners that enhances attention, memory, understanding, planning and test preparation. It is a study tool that creates a visual display of the content material under consideration. At the Vancouver Learning Centre, we use the method developed by Tony Buzan. All students learn to mind map
The Vancouver Learning Centre (VLC) works in collaboration with schools and the child’s teachers to preview basic vocabulary concepts and procedures in the school curriculum coming in the week ahead. This helps overcome classroom stress and sets the child up to be successful in school.
The “Week-Ahead” program has long been a hallmark of VLC collaborative approaches with schools. In this approach vocabulary concepts and procedures are “frontloaded” or previewed just in time. Students become familiar with the vocabulary of the subject and more primed when the subject is explored in class. The strength of this program is that the students’ confidence is built because when the subject is introduced in school they will be hearing both the language and the concepts for the second time.
The week-ahead program is especially helpful in math and science where the students can learn the new concepts one-to-one at their own pace. The teacher’s new teaching becomes a review for them and helps to consolidate the new knowledge.
Over time, the students build a much more stable hierarchy of skills. When this process is combined with teaching the gaps already present in the student’s skill hierarchy (using the student’s identified strength domains as a teaching strategy), a whole new way of approaching the subject emerges for new learning. This process can, and often does, transform future learning.