How to Spot Early Signs of Learning Struggles and What to Do About Them
I love starting a new year because it gives me a chance to do some things better than I did the year before, and it is a chance to start fresh! One of the things we can count on is having children who struggle with learning in some way. Advance preparation will go a long way towards helping you handle these difficulties with grace and with success.
As parent and teachers, we are always learning from our children as we teach them. We learn what is easy for them and what is hard for them. Because the brain is wired for learning – that is what it DOES – when a child has trouble learning or remembering something, we need to sit up and pay attention.
But first, here is some interesting data about struggling learners:
- There are a LOT of them! Only 25% of children excel with traditional curricula. These children are strongly auditory and sequential.
- 52% of school children struggle when teaching is mostly the teacher talking and explaining and they are mostly listening and paying attention.
- 66% of children prefer or strongly need a visual/tactile approach to learning. Visual is more than a child seeing words on a page and tactile is far more than a child holding a pencil and writing.
- 85% of children are kinesthetic and need movement and hands-on learning. This is because learning happens all over the body, not just in the eyes and ears!
The more strongly visual or kinesthetic a child is, the more he or she will struggle in school because most teaching material is not designed for how these children learn best.
Let’s simplify and identify a guideline to follow:
Struggling students need to have associations made for them so they can understand, use, and remember what we teach them. Over time, they can learn how to make those associations or “hooks” for themselves. But first they have to learn that they need them and they need to see examples of these hooks.
Speak to your strugglers about the particular giftedness they possess. They might be strongly visual. Those children can learn instantly when learning concepts are embedded in visuals! Strongly kinesthetic children can learn quickly with visuals as well, but the magic really happens when you add a movement that they come to associate with what they are learning.
Child1st exists to help struggling learners and their parents. Because each product uses a variety of hooks, all types of learners receive the help they need. One child might have memory triggered by a body movement, another by a visual, another by the story that explained the learning concept. At the first sign of trouble with reading or math, recognize your child will benefit from materials designed to appeal to their particular giftedness. And the best thing is that Child1st resources work well for children who aren’t really struggling to learn, so you can buy curriculum once and use it for all your children.This is where we come in:
Common signs that learning might be hard for the child:
- You go over the material and ten minutes later, the child has no recollection of it.
- The child listens and watches you demonstrate new material but doesn’t seem to understand what you are saying.
- The child spends time trying to memorize material (math facts, spelling of words, phonics rules, etc.) and yet nothing seems to be sticking.
- When reading, the child labors to sound out most of the words.
- Spelling of words seems to be a real problem for him.
- She has to count on her fingers or use object when doing math problems.
- Timed tests shut him down.
- She has a really hard time putting into words her thoughts.
- He starts to solve a problem and forgets the steps.
- She labors to read a passage and when she is finished, she has no clue what she read.
What to do when you begin to notice some of these things:
- Don’t do more of what already is not working.
- Avoid drilling and multiple repetitions as a means of getting the concept into his brain.
- Study the child closely to pick up clues as to her gifts. If she is imaginative, creative, likes to draw, chances are good that she is a visual learner who needs visual hooks for memory.
- Active children need both images and body movement and hands-on learning. If their hands are not engaged, their attention won’t be either. Because visuals can be captured in a glance, they are powerful for these active children.
- Begin to create hooks or associations for learning. Enlist your student to this end. Ask a lot of questions such as, “How can we arrange this so you can remember?” “What kind of motion can we attach to this concept that will help you remember it?” “Can we draw a picture for this that shows what we are trying to learn?”
- Recognize that the struggling child will not successfully learn via memorization, so let’s leave that strategy out of the picture.
- Reach for Child1st materials, all of which have been designed purposefully to include built-in hooks that might be undetectable by the adult, but which will work wonders for the child. Child1st learning resources are designed to pick up and use – so the adult doesn’t have to do extensive training or preparation.
Suggestions for creating hooks for yourself:
Click through to this blog post which will walk you through the process of embedding hooks (I call them right-brain elements) into abstract learning concepts (I call them left-brain learning concepts). The more you practice creating associations and hooks, the easier and more automatic the process will become. And how very rewarding to see the playing field leveled for all your students!
Sarah K Major
Sarah's absolute belief in every child’s ability to learn, and her passion to empower the child by supporting his/her own unique giftedness have fueled her life’s work and provided a new pathway for children to succeed academically.