Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches,
My son is a shy, 12-year-old bookworm and a loner. He doesn’t even try to make friends.
He is bored with schoolwork most of the time. There are only a few science-related things that he wants to learn about, and that’s all. He is clumsy and awkward and wants no part of sports or physical activities. I worry that he won’t be a well-rounded person, that he will have huge gaps in his knowledge, skills, and experiences. He doesn’t want to hear anything that I have to say. I would love to hear what you have to say.
You are focusing on your son’s shortcomings, and you are discouraged by what you see. Your son might be feeling discouraged also, since the way you see him is the way he is likely to see himself. Fortunately you are in control of what you choose to "see" about your son.
Our suggestion is that you refocus your attention by making a list of 20 things that you appreciate about your son. Among the things you can appreciate about him are his wonderful learning style characteristics: Using labels such as "shy", "bookworm", and "loner" is a negative way of saying that your son has a Thinking/Creating learning disposition. This is the Einstein disposition. Like Einstein, your son is a very independent learner. He understands himself well enough to stick up for his interests. He has the ability to become completely absorbed in the things he’s passionate about, so we could say that he is not easily distracted -- a very important skill for life. He probably spends hours and hours alone thinking, wondering, imagining, and seeing connections between ideas and things. He is an innovative thinker and has the ability to come up with new ways to think about old issues and problems. Instead of labeling your son shy and a loner, recognize his ability to "self-start" and his need to be alone to prime the pump of his creative thinking processes. You could say that he has an ability to be self-sufficient.
In short, we would like to encourage you to "see with the eyes that you would like to have others use when they look at you." When your son realizes that you see him as competent and capable, he will feel more confident about trying things that are difficult for him, and he will be on his way to rounding out his learning experience.
Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches,
I wish that my 9-year-old daughter were as good at reading comprehension as she is at drawing. She has no trouble reading the words, but when she’s finished reading she can’t tell me anything about what she has read. As a result, she hates to read. What can I do to improve her comprehension and open up the world of reading to her?
I’m looking forward to your response, -- Donna
Your daughter probably isn’t a visual-print learner. It doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong, it just means that she doesn’t connect with the words on the page and translate them into a meaningful story line. The first thing that you need to do is to take the pressure off and stop asking her comprehension questions after she reads. Sometimes we don’t need to do anything new; we need to stop doing something that is creating stress and/or isn’t working. So, we are asking you to do a "not doing".
To help her through these early years of reading-skill development, provide your daughter with books that have lots of pictures. Encourage her to select her own books from the library or the bookstore. She may choose books that are very easy for her. That’s okay. Just let her read whenever, wherever, however she wants to read. Allow her have her own experience with a book.
Encourage her to tell stories about pictures she draws. You or she can write the words under the pictures. These pages can be compiled into small books to become reading activities for another day. Her own pictures will be cues to assure more successful reading experiences.
When reading more difficult material, she may need to take picture notes -- draw the setting as it is being described, make stick figures to represent the characters, group the characters to show their relationships to one another, etc.
If your daughter enjoys it, you can also read aloud to her often. While you are reading, encourage her to doodle or draw pictures -- not necessarily about the story. The doodling can help her stay connected to the listening process. Encourage her to ask questions when she is confused. Stop once in a while and ask what she thinks is going to happen next. Discuss the issues that come up in the stories. The emphasis here is on discussing rather than testing her. This means that you would share your own feelings and thoughts about what you are reading. Listening to stories is a great way for young people to learn comprehension skills that can later be transferred to print reading. The beauty of the Learning-Success™ approach is that we are always looking for what works!
Dear Learning-Success™ Coaches,
It takes a lot for my 14-year old son to memorize anything. Fox example, as we are going through his vocabulary word flashcards, he will get one wrong, and I will correct him. Then, I’ll go back three words later, and he has forgotten the first word. It’s frustrating for me and for him. Any suggestions? -- Mike
Let’s step back and look at the big picture. Notice that you have one strategy that you use over and over again to teach the vocabulary words, and it isn’t working. Worse yet, it is causing the learning process to be unpleasant, even painful. When you feel this kind of frustration, it is important to put on your detective hat or your coaching cap.
With this cap on, you are likely to read this situation as a clue that you are doing something that does not match your son’s learning style. You could repeat something a million times, and if it doesn’t fit his learning style, he won’t get it. You could offer him a million dollars to remember something, and if it doesn’t fit his learning style, he won’t be able to remember it.
Getting back to memorizing -- first make sure that you are expecting him to learn a reasonable number of words. Twenty words a week is not reasonable. Secondly, teach him the skill of "how to" memorize. We teach our children all kinds of skills, however, we don’t teach memorization. Have your son choose five words and practice with them in several different ways, Become a researcher and find out which ways help him remember the words the longest. These will be the ways to use to coach him to learning success You can try jumping on a mini-trampoline or bouncing a ball while memorizing, or use songs, rhymes, cards with cartoons or his own symbols and pictures cues. All of these ways are perfectly useful and appropriate ways to memorize information.
Victoria and Mariaemma each has more than 20 years’ experience as teachers, trainers, and consultants. Victoria holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Mariaemma in Special Education. Together they have developed materials and programs that help ensure successful learning experiences for every child. Their innovative way of viewing all children as gifted and their methods for building on kids’ strengths and interests, and tracking successes rather than failures, has earned them the title, America’s Learning-Success(tm) Coaches. They are the co-authors of the bestselling book, Discover Your Child’s Learning Style, and co-founders of the Learning-Success™ Institute.
Copyright 2004 by Victoria Kindle Hodson & Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis
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