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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.)