Some Simple Strategies with Big Benefits

24 09 2013

easy

Are you settling into the new school year (a-h-h-h), or are you THRUSTING into the new school year? Back on the treadmill?

Is this your schedule?

Get the kids up, fed, and dressed. Manage to load them into the van and arrive at school on time. Whew! Rush to work and put in a whole day. Hustle out to your car. Hurry to school to pick up the kids. Have a “meaningful” conversation about their day while speeding to after-school sports practices. Drop them off. Swing by to pick up food for dinner. Dodge slow-moving shoppers in the market. Race your shopping cart through the parking lot. Shove the bags in the van. Shoot back to the field to pick up the kids. Head home.

Instruct the troops, “Wash your hands. Change. Eat your snack. Do your homework.”

Get bombarded with questions about homework while trying to make dinner.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a collection of easy-to-implement strategies? Here’s a collection of my favorite ones.

Math Difficulties: Pre-teach the upcoming chapter. Often parents and tutors devote time to re-teaching concepts and skills a child hasn’t mastered. That’s like playing a catch-up game … a game the child can’t win. Instead, go to the chapter the teacher will be teaching next and introduce the concepts. When your child encounters them in school, s/he will be more confident. Maybe even confident enough to volunteer answers. The lesson will be a review. Your child will be more engaged. The teacher will begin to view your child as successful.

Reading Comprehension Difficulties: Reciprocal Questioning is a strategy that elevates a child’s attention to content while reading. Usually after a child reads a story, the adult asks questions. This is the reverse of what’s done during a typical review. In this case, the child thinks of questions s/he will ask you about the story. While reading the story, the child can write down questions or dictate them to you (stopping as s/he thinks of each question). After the story or a passage is read, the child asks you each question. Its fun to answer some of the incorrectly so the child can correct you (and provide the correct answer).

Homework Completion: Have the child predict how long it will take to complete each assignment. Often students can’t even begin their homework because the assignments loom so large in their minds. The task seems just too monumental to tackle. Why begin? Predicting how long each will take makes the job seem bearable. This seems like a simple strategy. But this approach works even with teens who have a learning disability. Optional: It’s fun to have the child use a timer to see how close s/he came to each prediction.

Behavior Management: A fresh perspective of the child can drastically improve behavior. It’s very motivating to a child when a respected adult believes in them. I once taught a second grader, Billy, who had ADHD. He struggled to pay attention, seemed hopelessly disorganized, interrupted often in class, and got in trouble regularly during recess. Each day numerous students told on the student for an assortment of offenses. Occasionally, his classmates compassionately asked for prayer for him (in our Christian school). Billy’s difficulties were no secret to anyone.

One day, out of desperation, I asked my students, “Has anyone else noticed Billy has improved his behavior?”

Billy’s eyes widened as big as saucers. He wondered how he’d miss such an accomplishment. My students responded with a deafening silence.

My inquiry wasn’t based on evidence of any improvement. I simply wanted to change the students’ expectations of Billy.

“No one? Well, if anyone does notice his improvement please tell me.”

Soon after, students began to report improved behavior. Why? Billy had renewed hope. His classmates began to watch for Billy’s good behavior (instead of studying him for any misbehavior).

Here’s the basis for the strategy:

Use the power to influence through the artful application of positive suggestion.  You can influence (but not control) what your students believe about themselves, you, the topic, learning, etc.  In fact, you already influence them in those areas.  You simply may have underestimated the power of that influence.  You could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is the hardest in the book, so everyone bear down!’ Or, you could say, ‘This upcoming chapter is my favorite, so get ready for a great experience.’  As an authority figure, the teacher carries the potential for vast influence.  It is common to have had a teacher tell us that we were ‘bad’ in math or spelling or writing.  Naturally, that subject became nearly impossible to master.  Such a bias can be carried with a student for the rest of their learning life.

From Brain-Based Learning Revised Edition  –  The New Science of Teaching and Training  by Eric Jensen

“Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) established that positive expectations tend to yield positive results and negative expectations yield negative results. 

They call this the Pygmalion effect or the self-fulfilling prophecy.”

From The Owner’s Manual for the Brain – Everyday Applications from Mind-Brain Research by Pierce J. Howard, Ph. D.

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