A Fresh Look at Teaching Children With Learning Challenges

A decade ago when I was in graduate school, I could hardly contain my excitement when the time came for taking remedial reading courses. I just couldn’t wait to find the answers to questions that had plagued me about why seemingly bright children struggled to learn to read. Imagine my chagrin when I found that the class was preparing me to test, detect learning differences, track reading rates, classify text as to reading level, in short to do everything but successfully teach reading to a non-reader.

Over the past ten years, I have learned about a whole array of classifications for disabilities. There are so many! The impression one could get is that children are becoming more and more broken, and we are developing more and more detailed labels for describing them. What I have not seen, however, is more and more evolved solutions to accompany this highly classified collection of labels. The solutions are what have always interested me!

If we continue to scrutinize the child instead of the educational system, we are essentially pitting thousands of children against one educational system. We have one specific educational approach with small variations here and there but also thousands upon thousands of unique children. Which are we going to scrutinize? The children or the method? Which are we going to measure against the other? Imagine taking your five children to shop for clothes. You walk into Kid’s Clothes dragging your children after you. Kid’s Clothes is very organized and research-based to give you the best shopping experience. The store has a long rack of boys’ shirts, another of boys’ pants, a long rack of girls’ dresses, etc. So you take your girls to their area and the boys to theirs. Within a few hours all of you are distressed and upset. You have only one child that fits into the clothes! Oh no! The other four children are all wrong! This illustrates the concept of seeing children as incorrect instead of re-evaluating at the teaching methods when children do not learn.

When we focus on the child and label him using a term that sounds absolute and professional, the child will be encouraged to become that even more! One day that is branded on my memory is a day in which I was subbing for a fourth grade teacher. I entered the room and was accosted by a slender, very articulate boy, who announced assertively that he had ADHD and could not control himself. And he spent the rest of the day proving it. He informed me, very articulately, every few moments what he could not help doing. He was living up so perfectly to what his diagnosis said he was.

The more we focus on the imagined problem with the child, the less effective we will be as teachers. When I was a little girl trying to learn to ride a bike, there were two big things I wanted to not hit as I wobbled across the yard. One was our concrete block house, and the other one was a particularly thorny orange tree. The more I wanted to avoid hitting those obstacles, the more I looked at them, and guess what? The more unerringly my bike steered right into them! If I am teaching my child and in my mind I am focused on her inability to memorize spelling words, my disbelief in her will be transmitted to her and my focus on the problem will become her focus on the problem as well. Nothing good will come of this.

Every adult I have taken the time to talk to can describe what tasks they are gifted at, what they enjoy doing, and how they remember things. Some of us know well that we cannot hear verbal directions and recall them for more than a nano-second, so we look at and rely on maps for navigation. Other people can solve really complex math problems in their heads. Why is it then, that we assume every single child should be able to memorize strings of letters (spelling), memorize math facts, or memorize and apply phonics rules? Does this make sense? I don’t think it does. We are all wonderfully designed to perform exactly what we should in our lifetimes. And none of us should compare ourselves to another person. We don’t tend to as adults, but the minute a child comes along, we often try every way possible to get him to fit into a narrow educational mold.

Let’s take a look at our traditional educational system. It does not work for many children. So the question is, do we change it or try to change our child to make them fit into the system?

Rules of thumb for teaching all children, but especially children with learning challenges:

Get rid of the unnecessary clutter. For instance, in teaching reading, you do not have to learn all the names of the letters first, nor do you have to memorize their related sounds, nor be able to put the letters in ABC order, etc. Those traditional steps, including sounding out and memorizing blends, are so familiar that we feel if we do not teach them, we will fail our children. The best way to teach a child to read is to get to the point immediately! I can attest to the amount of clutter that exists in our teaching day. One really foreign concept to many adults is the fact that some children learn whole words more readily than they do the little pieces of words.

Learn to distinguish between effective lessons and busy work. Much of what filled our day in the classroom when I was teaching was busy work with minimal gains made by the child. You can tell which activities fall into this category because the child is simply not enjoying it and is not engaged. For instance, copying is usually a waste of time for most children. It will make the child’s hand tired and put the brain to sleep. Try it yourself. Put on a TV program that interests you a whole lot, and then sit down and copy a whole page out of the dictionary while you watch the program. Did you get much out of the copying? Any activity that is effective, useful and engages the child is going to be one in which he has to figure something out, invent something, or has to think! If he is engaged, he is learning!

Use images everywhere you can. Images are magical for many, many children who do not memorize well. Try it for yourself. Ask someone to do you a favor. Have them drive to a street not too far from you and snap a picture of something distinctive such as an interesting house, or a weird building, or anything that is out of the ordinary. Then have them come back to you and first describe verbally, orally, what they saw. When they have finished, have them show you the picture they took of that very interesting object. Which is most effective at getting across the reality of the object? The oral description or the photo?

Use a body motion to help remember. When I have trouble remembering a phone number (which is always), I know to pretend to dial it on a key pad. While I am doing that, I notice the shape of what I dialed and I also am storing up that visual pattern in the muscles of my body. Every child who is good with some physical activity is going to benefit from a physical movement to accompany learning. And I do not just mean bouncing; I mean a movement that reflects what they are learning. When counting by two’s, for instance, have the children march in a line but lean over heavily on each even number. Their bodies will remember the even numbers as they hear their mouths say the even numbers at the same time.

Relate the learning to a real-life experience. When learning to tell time or count money, do it throughout the day, not at a desk with pencil and paper. Measurement is best learned when the child is creating something very interesting to her.

Have the child figure out some things for himself. With any science lesson, the more hands-on and real the lessons, the better. Anything a child can just cut out and paste is marginal at best. It might just be a time filler. Anything a child investigates and then makes or writes or puts into action (that he has to figure out) is going to be valuable.

Find patterns and likenesses in all you teach because that is what the brain loves. There is beauty in patterns, and nature is full of them. Music is made of patterns; math is as well. I have seen a child come to life when she saw the patterns in learning. Unrelated details are hard to do anything with.

Don’t just tell; show. I would love to have a nickel for every time I’ve heard a teacher complain: I already told you that more than once. Hmmm. Could it be that telling is not effective? Show them. Show them examples; show them how you do it (modeling); show them what a good outcome is. Remember: Don’t tell me… show me!

Keep lessons as short as you can. Stop the minute the child is tired or restless. Of course I don’t mean ten minutes into the school day! I mean, however, that when your children begin to wiggle or be restless, check the activity or lesson you are doing for interest level. If you can inject some mystery into it, some novelty, by all means do it! But if you follow step one and get rid of the clutter and stick to the meat and potatoes of school work, you might just find that your daily work, the meaningful part, can be accomplished in a couple of hours in the day or three.

Do not, please do not, keep on doing what you see does not work. What the child needs is not more drill, but a radically different approach. Remember, we are going to abandon the notion that the child is broken! We need to change what we are doing when the child at first doesn’t respond.

Tips for Imbibing Ethics and Moral Values in Children

Going to school, listening to teachers, going home with a heavy head and finally end up with the roll of a mark sheet. Is that all? Are we among the ones in the rat race, chasing the rolls of certificates without realizing the responsibility that we owe towards the society at large? Certainly not.

We can always contribute our share towards the betterment of the society. Lending a helping hand can be imbibed at home through moral values as they lay a strong foundation in the child’s life. Children usually have the tendency of imitating their elders ( parents, teachers).This will also help you to mould your child as an ideal citizen.

These moral values serve as a magical potion to children as most of the times their parents are their first teachers. Herein, the parents need to have very strong morals in life to be a role model to their child. They need to help the child in figuring out the moral philosophies, moral and immoral nature of deeds, practices and the like kinds. This helps the child to have his/ her opinion based on the moral education imparted to him/her.

Using real life examples becomes an informal way of helping the child understand these ethical issues clearly.

Schools should also share an equal responsibility of inculcating these values in children as schools serve to be the child’s second home. These teachings in school are enforced through formal education that leaves an everlasting impression on the child.

Children absorb all the moral values and ethical issues irrespective of the type of education imparted to them. This helps them to contribute their share in the mere future towards the society.

Parenting Tip – How To Teaching Sharing To Children

How to teach sharing to your children:-

“The miracle is this; the more we share, the more we have”- Leonard Nimoy.

We share the earth with human and other species. Sharing is a vital life lesson we should teach our children. It’s our duty to imbibe values that egg on co-operation and giving out since childhood. Don’t force them, demonstrate them model sharing. Kids are possessive about their bags, clothes, colours, accessories, food even parents. When the second child is born, kids dislike sharing their parents with their siblings. If it’s difficult for you, seek help from teachers, schools, classes and various educational centers. Teach by examples the benefits of sharing through bedtime stories, examples, poems, your thoughts on givers, group activities, positive reinforcements, playing sharing games, positive reinforcements, songs, etc. Out of all, my favorite way is through narrating stories about sharing and co-operation. Narrating stories will help them to imagine the characters and boost their resourcefulness and listening skills.

Here are two rousing stories:-

1. Once a young girl Tanishka went to a small town with a priest. At the town people were quarrelsome and angry; when they asked for some proposals he immediately suggested them to stay together forever. When they reached another village, the environment was exactly the opposite. People loved, caring, joyful and cooperative. The priest blessed them and advised them to leave their town and spread out across. The surprised girl Tanishka asked the priest why he gave different advice to them. The priest said, “My girl, a few days ago, I read great words of Buddha which said, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared”, he further added, and “Agrumentive people can never share happiness only joyful people can do that”. He concluded that sharing not just belongings and possessions but also cheerfulness multiples long-term satisfaction.

2. Here is a story of the greedy prince which I am sure we all must have read in our childhood. A little greedy prince had every toy he wanted but was never satisfied. He even wanted children of a poor family to share their toys with him. Once a toymaker came too his palace and promised to invent wonderful toys for him, in fact, a new toy every day. The prince was thrilled and excited but the toymaker asked the prince to promise that he will play with each toy every day to which he spontaneously agreed. For the first few weeks, the prince was super happy as he had a new toy each day and played with the older ones as well. But after a few months, the collection went on increasing and he had too many toys to play with. He had little time to sleep, eat, talk, bath, play outdoor games. In fact, he couldn’t get sufficient time to play with many toys which made the toy maker angry. One day, he noticed a few poor children happily playing with their toys. He called them to his palace and decided to share his toys with the needy ones, he even asked them to take each them home. The kids were delighted and so was the price. The prince enjoyed his few toys now and concentrated on other things.

Moral of the stories: – “Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”- Norman Mac Ewan.

Tips to Teach Your Children to Save Water

Water is a necessity for survival.

Considering the rapidly growing population and the fact that water is a limited resource on this planet, it has become more important than ever that children understand the significance of water conservation from an early age.

Teaching children to save water at a young age will not only help you save on your utility bills but it will also foster an interest and concern in your children towards the planet.

That said, here are some tips to teach and practise water conservation at home with your children.

Get kids acquainted with interesting facts about water

Water conservation is a serious concern, but that doesn’t mean teaching children to save water can’t be fun.

There is a wide range of interesting facts about water you can tell your child, to emphasise on the necessity of water, such as:

• Water makes up to 70% of the earth’s surface. 90% of it is salt water, which is found in oceans and is not suitable for drinking.

• Only 2.5% of earth’s water is fresh water and 70% of the earth’s fresh water is frozen in glaciers and ice caps.

• The total amount of water on earth is the same amount as it was when earth was created, millions of years ago.

• 70% of human brain is composed of water and the average adult body is about 60% water.

• Water is available in three forms on this planet: solid, liquid and gas.

These were just a few facts and you can discover more such information about water on the web. Children are more likely to remember what they have been taught when they learn it through small pointers and factoids instead of long boring sessions.

Moving on to “dos” & “don’ts”

Education begins at home. Before your child gets to the chapter in their textbook that talks about water conversation at school, you can inculcate water-saving habits in your child by teaching them the following dos and don’ts;

• Do turn off the faucets tightly.

• Don’t leave the tap running while brushing or washing hands.

• Do take a shower instead of a bath as it uses less water. If you must take a bath, fill the tub with just enough water to cover the knees and not more than that.

• Don’t throw tissues, paper or candy wrappers in the toilet as it will use more water to flush those materials off.

• Do let parents know if you spot a leaky faucet, bathtub, water cooler or any other appliance that uses water.

• Do use water from leftover bottles, ice cubes, bathroom buckets and half-drank glasses, to hydrate the grass and plants.

• When not using sprinklers, do move the hoses to the grassy areas.

• When unable to finish the whole glass of water, save the remaining water in the refrigerator instead of pouring down the sink.

• Do use a mug and bucket of water to clean your bicycle instead of a hose.

Additional tips to encourage water conservation in children

• Whenever your child takes a water-saving action, reward them to make them feel positive about their deed and encourage them to keep doing it.

• Earth day and water day are great opportunities to teach your little ones to care for their planet and the importance of preserving the earth’s resources. So, keep an eye out for events being organised in your local region on these days and get your child involve in the celebrations.

• Suggest teachers and school’s management to organise educational camps and programs to teach children about water conservation.

• Encourage your tech-savvy children to look up for videos, tips and resources related to water conservation online. By allowing your children to search for water saving tips on the internet on their own, you will provide them a fun way to learn about importance of saving water.

• Involve children in your water management routine and practises like when you are searching for water leaks around your house, ask your children to join in and help you spot leaky areas.

Children are never too young to learn about the importance of water as a natural resource that humans need for survival. With these tips and practises, you will not only teach your child to use water wisely and prevent waste but also build a foundation of love and care for their planet.

Tips for Teaching Young Children

How do we teach in a way that hooks into a child’s natural desire to learn?

Children are naturally curious. They explore, experiment, touch, ask questions, and are motivated to learn. To them it’s all play, and they don’t need adults praising them for their efforts.

Wondering how you can help children succeed? Consider the following characteristics of how they learn to help you teach in ways that improve their ability to make sense of new concepts.

1. Young children learn when subject areas are integrated

Offer children thematic units rich with content and they will be interested and motivated, especially if you can bring real things to touch and explore that relate to the theme.

Basic literacy and math concepts can be taught and reviewed as the theme content is shared. A “winter” theme offers many opportunities to teach the letter W, to count and record the number of mittens on snowmen constructed in an art lesson, or to create patterns for paper scarfs.

A child learning about the life cycle of a butterfly may act it out with creative movement and poetry, paint the process with a large paper and paint, illustrate and label the stages in science and literacy lessons and listen to related stories and songs. Avoid pursuing a theme if the children have lost interest. Ask yourself if you are presenting enough “real objects”. New themes get everyone motivated and enthusiastic.

2. Children learn in lots of different ways

Visual learners watch closely when you demonstrate an activity and like to draw and play with shapes and puzzles. Auditory learners understand ideas and concepts because they remember information they have heard, follow spoken directions well and remember songs easily.

Although all children learn through touch, some learn best combining touch and movement (tactile/kinetic learners). Some children like structure while others learn more easily in an unstructured environment.

If you want busy, happy and on task children, give them a variety of lessons that meet the needs of different learning styles.

3. Children often do not have the vocabulary to express themselves

Inexperienced teachers sometimes misinterpret a child’s unwillingness to participate as stubbornness or bad behavior when in reality, the child may lack the skills to explain himself. Use reflective listening to help children communicate why they are upset.

Sometimes children work well in groups, learning to share and develop ideas. At other times they just need to be alone with ample time to figure things out for themselves.

Do not expect perfection. Relax and have fun with your students!

4. Children progress when concepts are taught in a structured, step-by-step way

When concepts are presented in a structured step-by-step process with each step building on previous knowledge, children learn with less effort.

For example, expecting a young child to understand the concept of a food chain without previous experiences with, and vocabulary about, chains and links is assuming too much.

5. Children’s abilities to observe and process information develop at varying rates

Some four-year old children have superb small motor coordination and draw and cut beautifully, but have delayed speech patterns. Other children may be verbally eloquent but be physically uncoordinated or be at a scribbling stage in drawing.

Just as children develop physically at different rates, they also progress academically, socially, emotionally, and artistically at varying speeds. Effective teaching happens when teachers remember that learning is developmental.

Offer open-ended activities to meet the developmental stages of all students. An open-ended activity involves children at a wide range of developmental levels. Children are less frustrated working at their own level and they do not have to compare their results to a set of identical worksheets.

6. Children learn best when given things, objects, and stuff to explore

When teaching young children, always use concrete materials, as children need sensory experiences when learning new ideas and concepts.

Take advantage of the many educational learning materials available to teach geometry, number sense, pattern skills, symmetry, classification and other math concepts.

Use science materials like magnets, light paddles, scales, weights, and collections of birds’ nests, as well as book character toys and puppets to enhance literacy.

7. Children need instruction, practice and time to learn new skills and concepts

A child doesn’t learn to ride a bike by only looking at the bike and exploring its properties, he/she also needs time to practice and guided instruction.

Practicing concepts and skills does not need to be dull and repetitive. Do not automatically think “worksheet” when you think of skills practice. There are lots of ways to practice skills using puzzles, games, diagrams, art and more.

8. Children won’t learn if they are over tired, hungry, upset or worried

Be flexible and understanding with young children. Check to see if kids are hungry. It’s easier to let a child eat part of her lunch early, than attempt to make a hungry child concentrate on a task.

Sometimes a child needs to be left alone and creating a small retreat space in the classroom can help students who are too overwhelmed by home or other circumstances to cope with their peers or teacher.

9. Motivated children pay attention

Young children are generally motivated to learn about everything. Unless they have often been made fun of when investigating or presenting their knowledge, they have a strong desire to find out and share information.

Reinforce thinking processes rather than praising the child. Saying “That’s an interesting way you sorted your blocks. Tell me what you were thinking” rather than, “Samuel is so smart” will focus the children’s attention on exploring the blocks. Making too much fuss of any one child can result in a competitive atmosphere.

10. Children learn by teaching others

When children have an opportunity to communicate their new knowledge to adults or other children it helps solidify concepts. Some children need extra time to find the correct words to explain what they are thinking so patience is necessary.

To help children share their knowledge, use descriptive words as they play or work and they will copy your vocabulary.

11. Children Need to be Active

If children have been sitting still too long, they will let you know it’s time to move. Even the best, well planned, interesting lessons fail if the children need a break.

Take plenty of movement breaks, go for walks around the school, march around the classroom or jump up and down! You will have more alert and focused students.

Summary

As children experience your love and acceptance and realize that you are willing to help them, they relax and learn. Keep a sense of enthusiasm, wonder and curiosity about the world around you, and your students will imitate your behavior. Your classroom may be one of the few places where their opinions and ideas are valued.