I am prompted to write this because yesterday I suddenly found myself in at the deep-end using ideas from one of my earliest blogs and it worked like a dream. While helping the young person concerned I hardly realised it, but afterwards it struck me – almost step for step – I had used what I recommended in a blog about helping your child with a learning task.
A mother, whom I did not know personally, was sitting in my studio waiting for her daughter to finish a drama class next door and helping her older girl, nine years old in Year Five, with her homework. I suddenly became aware that the child was a little upset and I heard the mother say several times ‘You just have to do them EVERY night – keep doing them – until it goes into your head.’
Not wanting to seem intrusive, I was nevertheless unable to stop myself asking what the problem was – ‘Spelling’, was the reply. So I volunteered, saying – ‘I have helped people with spelling before’. Reluctantly, the spelling list was produced and a rather downcast little girl stared at me as if expecting the worst!
It was a list of ‘ie’ words – nine of them. She showed me her book – in a test she had got every single one of them wrong! I cannot recall them all but among them were: view, chief, fierce, mischievous. The first thing I did was to check that she understood the meaning of each word. I don’t know if you could remember how to spell a word you don’t understand but I think it pretty unlikely. Every time she got the meaning right I gave her loads of praise and she started to smile and cheer up!. Of course with that her confidence level rose and therefore her ability level rose as well!
Then I asked her to tell me as soon as she noticed something about the words as I wrote them down – which I did, saying each one really slowly. After the third word she said ‘IE!’. ‘Hooray! You found the link!’ I exclaimed, telling her how clever she was! Her smile became wider and her eyes started to shine. So I wrote the remaining words and got her to put the ‘ie’ in for me. More praise – more smiles!
Next she was asked to pick a word that she would easily be able to spell – she chose ‘view’. I hid the list and she spelled it perfectly! I wrote 100% very large next to her answer and she then picked the word ‘chief’. Again – success! Again lots of praise and lots of rewards. By now she was laughing and really having fun. We were able to almost complete the list in the very few minutes we had and they left: one smiling, confident girl and one mother who told me she felt ‘inspired’ to liven up her homework sessions.
Only then did I realise that I had been using almost exactly, in a slightly different order, the exact procedure I had described in that early blog. Break the task down, concentrate on the successes, ladle on the praise and you will have one very happy, willing student!
Try it next time your child is doing one of the quizzes on this site – forget the answers they get wrong! Just praise and enjoy those that are right!
Guest Blog by Cathy Bird
Since retiring from full-time teaching Art and English and her post as Assistant Head and Sixth Form Tutor, Cathy Bird has concentrated on her painting and now runs art courses and sessions at her own studios in Kent. She also tutors students at all levels in Literacy, Comprehension and Essay-writing. http://cathybirdtuition.co.uk/