Professor Garfield and SparkTop®

Art-Bot

How teachers can get the most from SparkTop.org™

SparkTop.org was developed by Schwab Learning, a service of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation dedicated to helping children who learn differently be successful in learning and life. Since 1988, Schwab Learning has provided support, resources, and information free of charge to parents and families through publications and presentations, and now primarily through our web site for parents, SchwabLearning.org.

SparkTop.org is a free service and carries no advertising.

SparkTop.org can help your students in the classroom and at home. Here are answers to the questions teachers most frequently ask. If you need more information, please email us at webmaster@SparkTop.org.

How can SparkTop.org help my students?

SparkTop.org can help your 8- to 12-year-old students with learning difficulties, including learning disabilities (LD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), feel better about themselves — by giving them information about how they learn, helping them recognize their unique strengths, showcasing their creativity, and connecting them to other kids. Since self-esteem is crucial to a child’s success in school and at home, we hope SparkTop.org will help teachers and parents positively impact the lives of kids who learn differently.

We also have the SparkTop.org Teacher Resource Center. Here you will find:

  • FREE and fun classroom activities.
  • Innovative ways to use SparkTop.org in the classroom.
  • Information about SparkTop.org and how it came to be.
  • Valuable articles and resources on LD and AD/HD.

We encourage teachers to share this resource with colleagues and parents. We’ll be adding NEW classroom activities throughout the year, so please check the SparkTop.org Teacher Resource Center often.

How can SparkTop.org help my child?

SparkTop.org can help 8- to 12-year-old children with learning difficulties, including learning disabilities (LD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), feel better about themselves — by giving them information about how they learn, helping them recognize their unique strengths, showcasing their creativity, and connecting them to other kids. Since self-esteem is crucial to a child’s success in school and at home, we hope SparkTop.org will help parents and teachers positively impact the lives of kids who learn differently. From our experience, we’ve found that kids at these ages can understand and accept issues related to their particular learning struggle, can articulate their feelings, and can navigate a web site.

We are happy to announce that SparkTop.org was named a Parents' Choice 2004 Recommended Award winner by Parents’ Choice Foundation, the nation’s oldest not-for-profit evaluator of books, videos, toys, audios, computer software, television, and magazines. This commendation implies Parents’ Choice Foundation’s approval and thorough recommendation of SparkTop.org as a resource for children.

How did SparkTop.org come about?

SparkTop.org was developed by Schwab Learning, a service of the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation dedicated to helping children who learn differently be successful in learning and life. Since 1988, Schwab Learning has provided support, resources and information free of charge to parents and families through publications and presentations, and now primarily through our website for parents, SchwabLearning.org.

In 2000, Schwab Learning began exploring how to reach kids directly. We conducted formal research and focus groups among kids with LD and AD/HD throughout the country. Our findings, combined with our 14 years of experience in working with parents, helped us identify certain pressing needs of kids who learn differently that are not easily met in their everyday lives. SparkTop.org can help address those needs.

What needs does SparkTop.org address?

SparkTop.org addresses the following needs of kids with LD through a variety of activities:

Understanding and Information

  • We’ve found kids with LD and AD/HD often have a limited understanding of their learning problems, despite how often parents and teachers may explain things to them. Kids have told us that it’s not the actual information that causes their anxiety and worry, but rather not understanding what’s happening to them and why.
  • In SparkTop.org’s Studio 24/7, kids can ask any question they may have about their struggles with learning. They can get answers from teenagers, who know what they’re going through because they’ve been there themselves.
  • Kids can also get answers from Dr. Bart, a character based on Bart Pisha (who received his doctorate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education and is currently Research Director at the Center for Applied Special Technology). Using simple language, Dr. Bart explains how brains work, how kids can maximize their strengths, and how they can manage their challenges with learning.
  • The site’s BrainPOP on SparkTop® movies provide accurate and accessible information on dyslexia, the brain, AD/HD and more.

Support

Our research has shown that kids who learn differently often feel adults, even their parents and teachers, perceive them as less smart than their peers and siblings. We’ve found they also feel ashamed of being different from other kids. That’s a heavy load to bear, especially when you think you’re the only one in the world who feels that way.

On SparkTop.org’s Message Boards, kids can support one another by trading tips and tricks for coping with their learning difficulties, discussing their problems, or just talking about things they enjoy doing.

In Fame Brains, kids can learn about famous people who struggled in school, yet used their unique talents to do incredible things.

Kids can connect with one another in Spark 2 Spark. They can see each other's cool "homepages" of their brains; find friends who share their interests; and leave safe, fun messages for one another.

Success

Like all children, kids with LD and AD/HD have an incredible desire to be acknowledged for what they do well. Their everyday accomplishments and amazing talents need to be recognized and celebrated. All too often it’s the things they don’t do well that get the most attention.

  • Kids can celebrate their hobbies and talents in SparkTop.org’s Last Bell. They can talk about things they like to do and learn what other kids are doing.
  • Since kids who struggle in school need lots of ways to communicate their ideas, they can use the Create Tools to express themselves beyond writing. Kids can paint an idea, record a question, create a music mix, type a poem, or draw a story — and then share it with others!
  • Kids can view their creations (plus those of other SparkTop.org members) in the BrainScan Gallery. They can even show family and friends what they’ve produced by linking their original works to an email from SparkTop.org.

Relief

Kids who learn differently usually spend more time on schoolwork, which takes precious time away from their relaxation and play. They need ways to take a break from their hard work and have fun!

Kids can take a breather by creating a wacky, unique brain with their personal strengths in BrainSpin — and then use their brain as a game-piece in the HeadZipper Game. Both activities emphasize that no two brains are alike and that great things can come from brains that work differently. They can also play 2 Cubed, a multiplayer trivia game, which lets kids showcase how much they know about popular culture, weird facts, and learning difficulties.

For kids who struggle in school, stress relief can come in every tool, game, or area of SparkTop.org. By contributing artwork and stories, getting information, playing games, and connecting with others, kids can learn to recognize their unique strengths and talents, embrace their differences, and feel relief in the fact that everyone’s brain learns and works differently.

For what ages is SparkTop.org most appropriate?

SparkTop.org is designed for kids aged 8-12 years with identified learning disabilities (LD) and/or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). From our experience, we’ve found that kids at these ages can understand and accept issues related to their particular learning struggle, can articulate their feelings, and can navigate a website.

How can I use SparkTop.org in my classroom?

Teachers (General and Special Education alike) can use SparkTop.org to boost the self-esteem of their students. Here are a few ideas:

  • Assign kids a daily project on the site. For instance, they can ask a question in Studio 24/7, submit a comment to a Message Board, research a new hobby in The Last Bell, express themselves using a Create tool, or find a famous person who faced difficulties in learning in Fame Brains.
  • Have kids try out one of the tips in DBTV for a few days and report back if it works or doesn’t work for them. Then have them post their opinions on SparkTop.org!
  • Encourage kids to visit SparkTop.org during their breaks.
  • Hold a group discussion about topics from Studio 24/7 or the Message Boards with your class.

Does Sparktop.org screen kids' submissions before posting them online?

Absolutely. Before posting any original kid submission on our website, we thoroughly check for inappropriate content.

Sparktop.org sounds great! What do I do now?

First you need to register your students. Although registration is optional, your students will need to have completed registration in order to participate fully on the site. SparkTop.org registration is FREE and protects child safety online. To register, click here!

 

Click here to visit SparkTop™ now.