October 4, 2022
In every classroom, and in many homes, is a child that needs a great deal of attention in completing tasks. There are many reasons for this. Some of these are children that have medical reasons for having been extremely dependent, but some have simply always gotten help when asked without obstacles. Whatever the reason, it is a habit that needs to change so they can find success in upper grades and in life.
What they need most is a transition into empowerment. Here are some techniques to try.
ANSWER A QUESTION WITH A QUESTION This is one my students quickly learn that I do and even began doing it to each other. By asking a question to their question, it trains their brains to redirect from a road block to a speed bump, so to speak. What am I supposed to do? Which step are you stuck on? How do I do this? Where are you at on the directions? What does this word mean? What do you think it means from the context clues? By redirecting the question, it helps them to narrow down what the actual issue is, then they can either solve it or ask a more specific question that shows their commitment to the outcome and truly creates a learning opportunity.
ASK THEM TO SHOW YOU WHERE THEY GOT STUCK Looking at the directions or activity with them will help you decide if it is a decoding of directions issue or a lack of skill issue and you can address the actual issue. If it is decoding, you can quickly show them about context clues or teach them new words. If it is a skill issue, you can back up your instruction and scaffold it based on their ability.
ASK THEM TO READ YOU THE DIRECTIONS Often, they skip this part and want to verbally be told, but learning to read written directions is very important (especially multi-step directions, which was last week’s blog, read it here!) By having them read it aloud, it empowers them and shows that they can make it audible and may help make sense of it. This also allows you to check for decoding and pronunciation skills. From there, you can address the issue and redirect.
ASK THEM TO EXPLAIN THE DIRECTIONS IN THEIR OWN WORDS If they read the directions but still didn’t have the AHA! moment, this is the next step. Break it down one step at a time and ask them what to do first, what to do next, how they should do it, where they should start, what materials they need–specifics about the directions. This will reinforce their confidence in what needs done. Some children are afraid to start at step one until they completely understand all the steps.
APPRECIATE THEIR EFFORT, NOT OUTCOME I cannot stress this one enough–learning to work hard and see a task through, even if they fail at the outcome is such an important life skill. A learning environment should be a safe space to make mistakes, learn from them, and correct them, unless they are at the assessment level–but they shouldn’t be struggling at the assessment level if we scaffold the learning properly. So many adults are afraid to try new things because they learned at an early age that only outcomes are worth celebrating. If we focus on the effort put into it as being their best, they will learn to make their best effort and then be able to follow paths they are good at or enjoy, not just what they can do well.
These may not work right away with them, but you will start to see changes over time as they gain confidence in their own ability and developing the way of problem solving and analyzing. Whatever you do, resist two urges–one is to continue to enable them because it is quicker and easier and two is to refuse to do anything and send them away. Both of these can backfire, especially if you have been trying the techniques. If you don’t have time to support them, simply delay them until you do, whether a few minutes or more, depending on the situation. With my own child, it may be saying “I am not available to you right now” and then checking on him later–sometimes he still needs help, sometimes he figured it out (or found someone else). With students, it may be a response of “I am helping someone else/doing something else right now, but I am happy to schedule a time to help you later, how is after school? I can check with your parent to see what day is good for you to stay.” Often, the delay will result in figuring it out, especially if they don’t want to stay after school, but if they do, it gives you time to prepare and to focus on truly helping them.
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