In Part 1 I talked about Interests being our #1 motivators. Engaging in our interests makes us happy, energizes us and wakes up our brains! When we are truly interested in something we will work long and hard and stick with it until we “get it.”
Feeling confident and believing you have gifts is what keeps a person – child or adult – motivated and moving toward goals. If the things you do well are taken away from you until you “get better” at something you don’t understand and cannot learn in the way it’s being presented, then you’re in a no-win situation and out of luck!
So what can be done to help a student improve in an area of difficulty without threatening to take away something he/she loves (e.g. no more dance lessons until your spelling improves)?
I recommend this three-pronged approach, whether you are a teacher in a classroom or a parent homeschool teacher:
- Encourage Interests and treat them as something important in the child’s life.
- Figure out the best way to work with the difficult skill (like spelling or math or ?) – what does the student need – what are the ways he/she learns best?
- Don’t use Interests as punishment.
One of my past students came to me when he was in 2nd grade for reading tutoring. As I worked with him I found out that he was really good at drawing but he said he wasn’t interested in it anymore. His parent reported that he used to draw “all the time.” As I got to know him better I saw that he was so discouraged with school that he wasn’t interested in anything any more, not even drawing.
Years earlier I had discovered from other students who were good at drawing, that the drawing could be used to increase reading comprehension or to organize thoughts for writing. So as we worked on this student’s reading I began asking him to draw a page or a chapter. From the start he drew these “reports” as cartoon strips, showing the chronology of the story. His drawings were amazing, with great detail and accuracy.
The result: his reading comprehension improved as he regained his love of drawing.
In this case the student’s Interest (drawing) became the vehicle for improving the area of difficulty. But what if the Interest is tennis or horseback riding or soccer or animals and the area of difficulty is math? In this case the strategy would be to follow the 3 steps above:
- Encourage the Interest – tennis, horseback riding, soccer, etc.
- Figure out what the student needs to learn the particular math concept – a different program, manipulatives, a video, a game, etc.
- Don’t use the Interest as punishment.
What other benefits are there for children to engage in their interests? Stay tuned for Part 3!