Teaching children new and difficult skills can be frustrating for the teacher, the student, and the parent. As an adult we forget that children need practice and repetition to learn. The key to learning is having support, positive guidance and making learning fun. Helping them work through frustration but keeping their interest is a challenge. Here are five strategies to help accomplish this: allowing time and opportunities to practice, providing lessons to guarantee success, allowing for mistakes, verbalizing your support and teamwork.
Supplying opportunities to practice can be integrated into everyday practice. When going to the grocery store you can point out the beginning sounds of the food you choose to buy. This is a bbbbanana. We have one, two, three bbbananas. Providing activities that are fun and feels more like playing can be great practice. Playing hopscotch with numbers, letters or letter sounds depending on what your child is learning is a great interactive technique. Just don’t go bananas with the practice lol. A couple of minutes here and there will do wonders to help your child learn but we don’t want to stress them out to where they don’t want to participate.
Sometimes if you feel like your child is struggling to learn a skill it is important to set them up for success. This way they don’t start to feel that they can’t do it and stop trying. If you are teaching the beginning letter sound of s words and ask what words start with s make all the answers be correct. Does snake, sign, or silly start with s. Emphasize the sound of sssss when you say each word. As you see their confidence grow throw in the challenge word such as snake, sign, and car. I feel this can be difficult. How are they learning when every answer is correct? When you do this remember that you are teaching through repetition and focusing on the process of learning and not the answer.
Allow them to make mistakes. Many times, during writing I encounter children who grow sad and want to quit because they made a mistake in the forming of a letter. You can see the frustration when they are erasing so hard, they put a hole in the paper, then they are mad about the hole. Reinforce the idea that everyone makes mistakes. Help them to try again and make a big deal out of the fact that they are trying. One thing I do is discourage them from erasing the mistake and help them see that they can start over or move on to the next attempt. Explain to them that trying their best is more important than doing it right. Working through these mistakes can be very fulfilling to both you and your child. Often children will go from disliking writing to looking forward to it because they have more confidence in their ability even when they make mistakes.
Working through frustration is an emotional trial for everyone. All parties involved want to quit. The important key to this is to not quit. Take a breath, do jumping jacks or sing a little tune to give you and your child a chance to restart. Sometimes breaking down the expectations of the lesson into smaller parts can help the goal of skill seem more attainable. Take tying shoes as an example. It can be difficult and frustration to learn this skill. If your child is frustrated start with just the first part, crisscrossing the laces then you take over the rest. As that step is meet add the next step. A great way to help defeat frustration in learning a new skill is changing their vocabulary. Change the words I can’t too I’ll try. Encourage their effort more than the results.
You and your child are a team when it comes to learning. A simple three step plan can make a big difference. First model the skill you want to teach. Then practice the skill together and finally let them try on their own. Show them how to dribble a basketball, work with them to do it together, then step back and let them try. You can use this method for any skill. Beginning letter sounds, counting, anything you wish to teach.
The most important thing in being supportive of your child’s learning will always be that you are present. Be active in their learning experience. Learning can be a fun adventure for you both!
Lead Pre-Kindergarten & Kindergarten Teacher