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A TechChat on Learning Strategies With Educator, CEO and Author Barbara Dianis

Barbara Dianis, author of “Grade Transformer for the Modern Student,” had to help herself learn with dyslexia at a time when there weren’t many resources for those with learning disabilities. During her education, she developed and honed systematic strategies to not only help students with additional challenges, but anyone experiencing obstacles when learning. 


Some of Dianis’ solutions include planning out designated homework and study times for the school year, keeping track of grades, and incorporating more time for schoolwork with each grade level of school completed, amongst other strategies. Dianis is CEO and founder of Dianis Educational Systems, LLC, a counseling and tutoring service for students with learning difficulties, specifically those with dyslexia, ADD, and ADHD, at the K-12 levels. In 2010, she was the recipient of The Biltmore Who’s Who VIP in Education and the Executive of the Year award, and in 2011 she received the Remington Registry of Outstanding Professionals for her work in education. 


Dianis recently chatted with Education World about how educators and parents can adopt successful schedules to help enhance learning, ways to make studying fun, and inspiring students to stay motivated while learning. 



Describe the kid, parent, and educator-tested tips that you’re using to propel struggling students to success. How can they be implemented in the field? Please give an example or two. 


The fall semester is currently approaching the mid-way point. Many students and their parents are now faced with the realization that a transformation or bolster in grades is needed in one or more subject areas and may be confused about how to turn their academics around in order to improve their grades. Once the dreaded downward slide of grades begins, students are generally not equipped with systematic step-by-step methods to help them achieve academic success. 


Initially, when a struggling student begins their grade transformation, they are placed on a more effective homework and study system. All too often students need a significant upgrade in their study and organizational techniques, and students and parents will benefit from keeping a close watch on graded assignments, test and quiz scores. Perusing graded work helps parents and students determine what key concepts are not being fully mastered or understood. The concepts that are revealed to need further instruction should be readdressed and re-taught in order to avoid learning gaps from occurring. 


To begin, set aside a minimum of twenty minutes daily for the student to go back over un-mastered material. Utilize the Internet for this! The Internet can provide students of all grade levels with additional learning tools such as interactive sites to aid in grasping concepts. The visual learner, especially, can easily locate charts, graphs and pictures to help him or her learn. The additional time spent re-learning key concepts will help struggling students gain a higher level of understanding of the subject area they are experiencing difficulty in. Students also benefit from re-learning key vocabulary terms they are encountering in the unit of study. The student should go over the key vocabulary terms three or four times a day until they master it. 


Struggling students can also be propelled into success by rereading assigned material three times through when it is assigned. The initial read should be for the student to learn the basic information being presented. The second read should be dedicated to concentrating and focusing on information that may have been missed or overlooked during the initial read. The third reading should serve the purpose of solidifying key concepts and flagging ones not fully understood.   


The student’s teacher can readdress the concepts that require additional instruction during their class the next day. When students learn to pinpoint the concepts that they have the most trouble with and ask for further instruction, they learn to reach their full academic potential. 


What techniques are you using to make homework and practice exercises fun for ASD students? Why are these techniques successful? Does technology play a factor? 


Students who fall within the range of high-functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder may respond positively to more structured homework and study practices. A daily homework session that is implemented at the same time each day can help ASD students reach their academic potential. ASD students, like other students, should have an organized homework area with all of their supplies stored in a study crate for safekeeping. The study supply crate can save hours of time because the student won’t need to go on a search for the tools they need (such as colored pencils, a calculator, etc.) to complete their homework. Additionally, ASD students benefit from having an extra copy of long term assignment instructions, test, quiz and exam review sheets, spelling lists, etc., in a folder kept at home. This all helps to ease the stress of searching for missing items, which in turn helps students stay focused on the task at hand.


High-functioning ASD students can also benefit from highlighting important words when reading directions to help them focus on the “do” words in the instructions. Next, they or their parent should number the necessary steps involved to complete the assignment. As the student completes each step of the assignment, they should check them off. Self-checking can help ensure the student has completed all of the steps and catch any step that may have been overlooked. 


Gantt Charts for mapping out assignments can be an effective technology tool to help ASD students organize, sequence and plan homework assignments. Gantt Charts can also help students make visual learning review guides to help them prepare for tests and quizzes. 


Story Builder app is designed to help ASD students create paragraphs and stories. It helps students by teaching them to integrate ideas and improve their inference skills.


Math Board app can help teach ASD students fundamental to advanced addition, subtraction, multiplication and division functions. It also includes multiple-choice questions to help reinforce basic math concepts.


Choice Words app is designed to help ASD students learn how to make schedules. It helps give students control over their schedules and provides templates for the student to make visual schedules. The Choice Words app can help to make schedules more predictable while helping to alleviate difficulty in time management skills.


Tell our readers about some of the students that have strived and succeeded with your help. Why were they able to achieve more after your tips were applied to their education?


Several of my students were high school level and were making very low grades in one or more subject areas when they were referred to me for academic help. They each had a documented learning difference, such as ADD, and needed to learn better ways to study and organize their work. By the time these students graduated high school they were making high grades and had gained acceptance into the university of their choice. They had learned how to use step-by-step learning methods to transform their grades.


Middle school students who were earning below average grades were able to learn new ways to study, process information from their classroom instruction, and transform their test taking skills. After consistent application of the educational solutions that were taught to them, they were able to reach their full academic potential. 


Elementary students who were struggling in one or more subject areas were able to significantly improve their reading, reading comprehension, written language skills, math, science, and history. They also became better test and quiz takers. In addition, they improved their organizational skills. 


The reason students were able to achieve more after my tips were applied is because they are step-by-step educational solutions, which help take the frustration and confusion out of learning.


How can students with learning difficulties improve grades and test scores without taking on the stress associated with standardized testing? How do results vary across K-12?


Taking standardized tests can be a very stressful experience, no matter the grade level of the student. Students who struggle with their test-taking skills can learn how to be better test takers and, therefore, to improve their scores. One of the ways to improve test taking is to prepare for tests one week in advance. Students who begin preparing a week ahead, learning the material in smaller parts, generally score better on the tests. Giving the brain the time to learn the information typically helps test-takers to retrieve the information during tests. 


Another way to help improve test-taking skills is to review the material both in oral and written form. Students benefit from reviewing testable information on a small white board; even if they only write partial answers during their review, the written reviews help improve their skills. 


The results vary across K-12 in the complexity of the way questions are asked and the sophistication of answers required. In the lower grades, test information is asked closer to the exact wording of the information the child is presented with. As students journey up the grade levels they will find the need to use reasoning and inference skills to help them identify and apply the information in testing situations.



To learn more about Dianis and her work, including some of her step-by-step strategies, visit her website



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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