Meltdowns at the thought of “school”?
What does a sticky note have to do with meeting the needs of your struggling student?
Oftentimes, when a child resists school work, they often display their hesitation by shutting down, melting down or worse. Parents can easily confuse this outward behavior as a willful act of disobedience or “laziness.” If you are familiar with the mission at A Heart For All Students,you know that I have a different perspective. I believe firmly that a child’s outward “negative” behaviors are a symptom of an internal problem.
If a child repeatedly resists learning, I am convinced that this is an indication of a struggling student. Our kids need us to equip them with what they need in order to learn. Taking the time to seek the root cause of “poor” behavior is crucial. Finding the real issue allows us to equip our kids with what they need to succeed.
Algebra, word problems and two struggling students
Earlier this week, my daughter and I were working through some word problems in her online Algebra course. We had just been introduced to a new concept and were slowly putting the pieces together. As we began to attempt to tackle the problems, she and I both began to feel frustrated and overwhelmed at the screen full of text.
She and I had become, in that moment, two struggling students doing our best to navigate a new concept, read text and then correctly integrate the new material with the element of reading comprehension.
Enter in… a HUGE Post-it note.
Post-it notes & Learning?
Many children and adults struggle with visual discrimination.
In layman’s terms, visual discrimination is the ability of the brain to tease through all of the input that it receives through the eyes.
In any given moment, the brain has to process through and zoom in on that which is most important in the particular scenario.
Every decision takes mental effort
By covering up the majority of text on the screen, we were set up to succeed.
Why? We did not have to tease through unnecessary visual information in order to focus on what was crucial to the goal. The goal at that time was to learn the new math concept. In order to do so, we needed to set ourselves up for success.
In this picture, you see the accommodation that my 14-year-old and I made when having to process and learn a new algebraic concept.
Visual Discrimination & Learning
In the case of our algebra lesson earlier that week, when my girl and I became frustrated and snippy at one another, I took that as my cue that we both were struggling students and needed to pivot in some way.
I grabbed a large post-it and covered the entire screen except for the first line of the first word problem.
“Read it aloud and let’s process what it is saying,”
I took a deep breath and offered this suggestion to my girl. Game changer!!!
Minimalism in Learning
How many blog posts, books and TV shows cater to this concept of minimalism? Decluttering? Organization? The answer? Too many to count!
Why are these concepts so popular with adults, particularly adult women and more specifically moms?
Visual clutter increases the need to tease through all of the information our brain receives from the environment. This is an exercise that requires mental capacity. Every mom knows that mental capacity is a limited resource that must be used wisely.
We must transfer this understanding over to how we equip and support our struggling students.
Remove the barriers
When a child is overwhelmed or feeling even slightly anxious about having to focus on a new or harder concept or skill, the last thing we want is to do is add barriers to learning.
In the case of a child learning a new math concept or skill, having lots of text or math problems on a page can be a huge barrier to learning.
What do we do to help our kids improve their skills, acquire and learn new information? How do we help struggling learners to progress academically?
Take it one step, one line, one problem at a time.
Instead of an entire sheet of 25 math problems, grab a blank piece of paper and write out one math problem in large text. That one math problem on a clean sheet of paper is less threatening and now more accessible to your child. Anxiety lessens and the brain is then more available to learn.
I would rather a child do five math problems and learn for the long-term, than have a student fight through tears and stress to finish twenty-five and get only 70% correct. Small chunks of intentional teaching over time yield fruit, Friends.
Equip your struggling student
The next time your child starts to melt down at the thought of reading or doing math, remember, “Remove the barriers.”
Grab a sticky note and cover up the majority of text on a page and read line by line.
Write multiplication problems one at a time on a small whiteboard in LARGE text.
Open The Doors To Learning By Removing Visual Clutter
Remove the barrier and don’t drain your child’s mental capacity by forcing his brain to wade through a bunch of visual clutter before he even attempts the new concept.
Your child innate fight or flight response will be lessened. Her ability to receive and process new information will be freed up to actually learn and receive the concept.
Before a child can ever do hundreds of math problems they must be given the opportunity to succeed at a few. Slowly over time, you can increase the workload if necessary.
Goals for our Struggling Student
In the end, always remember: What is my goal? What is the most efficient and peaceful way to hequip my child to learn and move onto the next level?
Do you have a struggling student? A child with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia or other learning difference? A child who may need a more outside-the-box approach to education?
Your child can succeed when equipped based on his or her God-given wiring. You will be blown away at how far your child can go when provided with targeted and intentional teaching.
He has a mighty plan for your child. Never forget that. You can do this, Momma!
For extra support as your support your child’s education at home, check out this post of my top teaching tips.
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