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Helping Your Learner Learn

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

As we close out this school year, it's important that we help our learners reflect. We can help them consider the strengths and opportunities for growth by zooming out as well as focusing in on their experiences in different classes. Often time academic performance issues are more nuanced than they seem- but that doesn't mean the solutions have to be difficult.

To illustrate, a quick story. My freshman year of college I took an Art History class. The class was held in this huge auditorium and had this huge screen on the stage. I didn’t know much about art, but I liked the idea of me knowing about it, and so I was eager to learn. But then the class started.

The lights were turned off, so that you could see the screen and slides better. And all of a sudden, although it was just nine o’clock in the morning, I became very sleepy. And the slow movement of the slides, combined with the professor’s voice... well, you may have already guessed–before long, I was asleep. This became a pattern. For longer than it should have actually. Until I came to the conclusion that the class basically lulls me to sleep, and if I keep this up I’m totally going to fail. And so one day I got to class a little early and pulled a stool to the back row of the auditorium. With no back to rest against, my body was more alert - just keeping me up on that stool and trying to balance my notebook in my hand for note-taking...well, that kept me awake too. Ta-da! I had solved my problem. Not the most comfortable hour, but I was getting a chance to hear the material. As this school year winds down for many of us, it’s an awesome time for reflection. Many of our learners have been stuck in an unhelpful learning pattern for a while, just like I’d been in that auditorium; they need a moment of reflection to do some problem-solving. You can help.

Just as I recognized how I was feeling in my class, and came up with a way to address a behavior that was not going to help me learn the information being presented, we need to help our young learners address trouble spots for themselves.

Start Wide Let’s say my daughter has been struggling in reading class for a while. Rather than just jumping in and talking about reading, I’d zoom out and start with her daily schedule. I’d have her note how she is feeling at different points of the day. Older learners can write down numerical values, while younger students can write variations of happy faces. For example, let’s say the morning part of my child’s schedule is this: 9:00-10:30–Reading 10:30-10:45–Break 10:45-11:45–Math 11:45-:12:15–Phonics 12:15-12:45–Lunch I’d have her go through this schedule and on a scale of 1-5, 5 meaning “I have the most energy” and 1 meaning “I have no energy,” note how she was feeling through the day. She might write something like: 9:00-10:30- Reading–2 10:30-10:45- Break–3 10:45-11:45- Math–5 11:45-12:15- Phonics–5 12:15-12:45- Lunch–5 From there we can have a conversation. I’d ask her:

  • What do you notice about your energy levels during the day? (They are increasing.)

  • Where do you feel the least amount of energy? (She’s more tired during Reading Time.)

  • How is that impacting your learning? Your day? (It makes it hard to focus on reading; her mind wanders as she reads to herself.)

Now we can problem-solve. Though this is just a step, not the complete picture, it does give your learner some insight into themselves. What may have been treated as a reading class problem might actually be an issue of their daily schedule. Maybe waking up earlier before school, or exercising before school begins, will help her be more alert. Then Zoom In And you don’t just have to stop with mapping energy. You can ask about:

  • Focus. 5–It's easy for me to focus. 1–I can't focus at all.

  • Interest. 5–I love the things we are learning during this time of day. 1–I really don't like the things we are learning.

  • Confidence. 5–I feel like I can do /am doing an awesome job learning in this class. 1–I don’t feel like I can do/am doing an awesome job learning in this class.

An important part of teaching our learners how to learn is helping them self-reflect with curiosity and patience. Click here for two helpful resources to guide dialogue around self-reflection as well as provide learners a space to self-reflect.

The self-awareness I gained from that art class experience not only allowed me to figure out a strategy to stay in the class, but is still paying off (I can write this piece, for example). I came to understand that with a little creative and resourceful thinking (using a stool rather than a chair to keep myself upright and attentive), a challenge can become an opportunity: I have a solution for keeping myself alert in potentially sleep-inducing situations. (Not to mention I can now recognize the difference between a Van Gogh and a Picasso!)

If you’d like specific guidance that will help your family improve at-home learning you can Schedule a free 30-min Co-Teach Consultation today.

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