How is it possible to take a very unwilling young person, faced with a project to research and write up, and help him to create something which he really enjoys? Even better – he gets high marks, lots of praise and is told the project is the best in the class?
The answer is simple: work to the strengths. Many teachers know that they should always try to work to the strengths of their pupils but perhaps parents are not so aware. In fact, one can go further and say that parents are probably inclined to emphasise the weaknesses in their children’s work!
What do we mean when we speak of strengths and weaknesses? Well, if your child has problems with spelling, one would call that a weakness. If your child loves writing, one would call that a strength. This child loves building and constructing things. He is very good at it! It is definitely a huge strength.
The story goes like this – his mother was in despair because writing was his weakness and he hated it. She was trying to get him to research a period of art and write about it and they were going nowhere very fast. My contribution was to suggest that he built a cardboard computer because the subject was digital art and he could show the project on the screen. I’d hardly stopped speaking when he had a box out and within half an hour had made a laptop with a plastic screen and was enthusiastically planning a keyboard!
From there it was very easy to choose the pictures that he wanted and get him to type in the information about them. In fact he was on such a roll that – instead of the three pages required – he produced five, went into class and discovered he had done more than anybody else!
His mother was trying to work on his weakness: encouraging, persuading and cajoling him into writing a few reluctant lines. By working on the construction, his strength, he was so happy and pleased with his computer and so busy working out ways to show the different window pages of his project, that writing became unimportant and he didn’t really make a fuss about it!
Of course you worry about the areas where your child is not doing well – of course you feel those must be practised! The secret is to find a way to incorporate the strong points in your child’s armoury when tackling any task. You know what he likes. If it is drawing, make sure that he illustrates and the writing will follow. I would adopt the same strategy with quizzes: let them do the ones they enjoy and do well at and they will be much more willing to try those they need!
Is there anything you’d like to know about education? If so, then EQ’s Knowledge Bank is the place to go! It’s a valuable resource for parents, aimed at finding the answers to the questions you want to ask about education and schooling. Not only that, it’s also crammed full of advice and guidance on issues such as bullying, children’s self-confidence and raising happy children. It’s a veritable mine of information waiting to be discovered, just one mouse-click away!
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.