Posted in Learning Styles: Interests

Interests: Our #1 Motivators – Part 3

What other benefits are there when young people engage in their Interests?

  1. When kids are pursuing Interests they are focused, energetic, and enthusiastic.
  2. Pursing Interests provides a counterbalance to daily stress-creating activities. Participating in free-time activities they choose can be restorative and crucial to mental and physical health. Pursuing Interests is a vital part of healthy living.
  3. When young people are acting on behalf of something they love or respect, they feel purposeful. And having a purpose is the surest way to feel connected to life and worthwhile as a person.

“We are meant to work in ways that suit us … This work, when we find it and do it—if only as a hobby at first—is a key to our true happiness and self-expression.” —Marsha Sinetar

Besides providing an outlet for your child’s enthusiasm and helping to build confidence and self-direction, Interests can be used to make school work more interesting and motivating. For example, if your child is crazy about dinosaurs, he could choose a book about dinosaurs for an assigned book report. If she loves creating computer graphics, she could do a history or literature assignment in that format. For someone who loves to perform, suggest demonstrating knowledge through a skit or by composing lyrics to a song. If a student loves games, suggest creating a game for the topic being studied.

And here’s one more benefit:

The more you acknowledge and support students’ interests and follow their areas of delight, the more tolerance they will have for topics and activities that aren’t as interesting to them.

So remember:

  1. Encourage the Interest – tennis, horseback riding, soccer, etc.
  2. Figure out what the student needs to learn the particular area of difficulty – a different program, manipulatives, a video, a game, etc.
  3. Don’t punish or try to motivate by taking away the Interest.

copyright 2020 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis, adapted from “Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Willis and Hodson
contact Mariaemma: m@learningsuccesscoach.com
schoolathomemadeeasier.com, aselfportraitonline.com

Posted in Learning Styles: Interests

Interests: Our #1 Motivators – Part 2

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:

  1. Encourage Interests and treat them as something important in the child’s life.
  2. 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?
  3. 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:

  1. Encourage the Interest – tennis, horseback riding, soccer, etc.
  2. Figure out what the student needs to learn the particular math concept – a different program, manipulatives, a video, a game, etc.
  3. Don’t use the Interest as punishment.

What other benefits are there for children to engage in their interests? Stay tuned for Part 3!

copyright 2020 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis
contact Mariaemma: m@learningsuccesscoach.com
schoolathomemadeeasier.com, aselfportraitonline.com

Posted in Learning Styles: Interests

Interests: Our #1 Motivators – Part 1

Interests are 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.”

This goes for adults as well as kids. In fact, interviews with the families of people who are accomplished in various areas – such as Olympic winners – reveal that very often the “winner” had a sibling who was more talented in that area. But the “winner” had such an interest that he/she worked for hours, practicing and improving his/her skills.

And, yet, how often have we heard comments such as these:

  • No dancing until your spelling improves.
  • Memorize the math facts and you can go back to art classes.
  • Bring your grades up if you want to play tennis.

But we never hear: No spelling until your dancing improves or you can’t do math until you get better at tennis!

I know, you’re probably thinking: But spelling and math are important – dancing, tennis, art are not!

Well, here’s the thing: YES THEY ARE! Actually dancing, tennis, art and other passionate interests ARE more important than spelling and math if those are the things that will help students feel confident and believe that they have gifts to contribute. Especially if spelling and math are not being offered to the student in ways that work for his/her learning needs.

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!

Please note – I am NOT saying that math and spelling (or other academic skills) are not important.

But if you take away Interests as a punishment, or because you think this will motivate the student – think again! You will only succeed in creating resentment, possibly even more dislike or downright hatred for the skill in question, and very often plant the seed that the area of Interest is not important – leading to general discouragement and lower motivation for anything at all.

In this scenario the child loses every time.

So what can you do to help the student improve in the area of difficulty?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

copyright 2020 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis
contact Mariaemma: m@learningsuccesscoach.com
schoolathomemadeeasier.com, aselfportraitonline.com