Learning Struggles and Kids

frog-1339897_960_720         In any given classroom, there is as many learning styles as there is students. There is really no silver bullet when it comes to instruction. Some teachers believe in their one method that “pushes” children and gets them to get their work done. They talk about effort and really put all the responsibility of results back on the students. So, if you put in effort and show grit, you will get As. If only that was so easy. If only students can be robots who effort every task and grit through it. We expect more of children than adults. Uh, so frustrating.
I teach smart students who have their areas of struggle (which really defines most students). A large number of my students have special needs. Most students with special needs are not labeled since they show sufficient progress (note that sufficient progress can be ridiculously minuscule). One common thread among all students who struggle in school is the short term memory weakness. I encourage students to take notes of procedures, which later serves as reference point. Often they forget to take notes, which is why they are given printed visual notes to keep in their binders.
To support student procedural memory, providing step-by- step visual models that students can use as a tool until they can complete the procedure on their own has been the most effective learning method across board. Procedural method, visually presented, can be used any time students need to complete more than 4 steps in sequence (long division, long multiplication, fractions, essay writing/editing, etc.)
I also teach a set of procedural questions that students should ask themselves when stuck. By internalizing critical thinking about problem solving, they eventually self-correct and persevere through algorithms and/or writing process.
Still one major element of their confusion is often stress of possible failure. Teaching students to relax, step back, think positive about tackling any problem, does wonders. In class we read “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech How Children (and Frogs) Can Use the Breath to Deal with Anxiety, Anger and Tension”.

Even though, the “Frog’s Breathtaking Speech” is a picture book, students recognized a little bit of themselves in Frog. At the end of the reading, we all picked the breathing technique. Stress alters memories and impedes learning/problem solving.

Teaching students to lessen their anxiety and fear of failure increases focus and content retention.

“Deep practice is built on a paradox: struggling in certain targeted ways- operating at the edges of your ability, where you make mistakes- makes you smarter. Or put it a slightly different way, experiences where, you’re forced to slow down, make errors and correct them – as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go, end up making you swift and graceful without you realizing it.” (Coyle, Daniel, 2009) Talent Code

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