Posted in Personalized Learning, Strengths

Focus On Solutions, Part 2: Parents

The last article was about the benefits and effectiveness of focusing on solutions rather than blaming and punishing. Here is an example of how this might work between a parent and child.

Let’s say your child isn’t turning in homework. A blame-focused approach would be to label this as misbehavior, discover what your child did instead of doing homework, make threats, and determine some kind of consequence for the misbehavior. The interchange might go like this: “You are being so irresponsible. What are you doing during the time you say you’re doing homework? You are never going to amount to anything if you don’t learn how to play by the rules. I’m taking away your phone privileges until you take care of this problem.”

A solution-focused approach starts with the situation at hand, does not label or threaten, and invites the child to be part of the solution. The interaction might go like this: “When I heard that you weren’t turning in your homework, I felt disappointed. You must be a little anxious yourself about getting behind in your work. What do you think could be done about the situation?”

Your tone, facial expression, and posture are important; avoid sarcasm and indignation. If you are truly asking for participation in the problem-solving process, regardless of how old the child is, she will have useful ideas about how to do things differently. Sometimes the ideas can be quite silly and far-fetched. Accept those, too. If you collect four or five ideas from your child, add a couple of your own, and maintain a friendly tone throughout, you and your child are likely to come up with something that will work for each of you. A solution determined in this way has a longer lasting effect than a punishment does.

Children who have a Supportive Disposition or Interactive-Others Talent will probably enjoy solution-focused problem solving the most. This kind of working together meets their needs for interaction, for talking things over, and for being part of a team. Organized Disposition children will probably enjoy this process, also, especially if you make lists together of different solutions and check them off as you eliminate them.

Young people with a Spontaneous Disposition can enjoy problem solving if it doesn’t take too long, they are able to joke around, and if it can be fun. If your child has a Humor Talent, joking around is essential. Kids with Spontaneous Disposition or a Humor Talent need to be acknowledged for their cleverness.

Imaginative and Curious Disposition kids as well as those with Spatial Talent are likely to want to draw or scribble during the problem-solving process. The Imaginative and Curious kids might even want time to think things over and make final decisions at another meeting.

Finding solutions together is an effective way to share responsibility for the outcomes of difficult situations. Don’t be trapped into thinking that you must be in charge and know all of the answers for how to do things right. Don’t be tricked into thinking that it is your job to find out who is wrong and who should be punished. As you work together with your child to find solutions, you will be pleasantly surprised at the changes that occur!

In Part 3 we will look at a classroom example.

adapted from Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Willis and Hodson, copyright 1999 – 2017
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Posted in Personalized Learning, Strengths

Focus On Solutions, Part 1

Whether you are a teacher in the classroom, a tutor, or a parent-teacher at home, your basic job is to coach your child or student toward successful learning experiences and nurture the eager, self-directed learner in your child or student.

Athletic coaches understand this principle. They coach their team members to accomplish their personal best and help them get to their next levels of accomplishment. Your role as a learning coach is much the same—advancing one step at a time as the student is ready to take it. To help you do this we offer our F.I.T.T.T. Principles.

The beginning of a new school year is a good time to take stock and review the F.I.T.T.T. Principles:

  • Focus on Solutions
  • Identify Goals
  • Track Successes
  • Take the Pressure Off
  • Teach to Their Strengths (the way they learn best)

Let’s begin with Focus On Solutions.

Solution-focused kids are much more likely to feel capable in a learning situation, while blame-focused kids are often afraid and withdrawn, resistant and/or rebellious.

Solution-focus keeps attention on how a problem can be handled in the present. Blame-focus brings up the past and tries to find out who or what caused the problem and what “should be done to” the person who caused the problem.

Kids who are raised with solution-focused problem solving instead of consequences or punishment develop the ability to keep going in the face of setbacks. Athletes are well trained at solution-focused problem solving. Every roadblock to the basket, the goal, or the finish line is faced positively and energetically to keep momentum going toward the goal. The belief is always that the roadblock is surmountable.

When parents see their kids’ school problems as surmountable— that there can be a positive way to work with them—they can stop negative patterns of interaction and teach their kids how to find win–win outcomes. They also put relationships with their kids on a footing that makes working with them not only more effective, but more fun.

Continued in Part 2

adapted from Discover Your Child’s Learning Style by Willis and Hodson, copyright 1999 – 2017
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Posted in Personalized Learning, Reading

When Students Have Difficulty Learning to Read

If your child is having trouble learning to read, it means that child is either not developmentally ready or is not a print learner or both. Please, don’t jump to labels – like learning disability or dyslexia. And please don’t force it. That will only lead to the student deciding that reading is too hard and “I’ll never get it,” or “I’m too stupid to learn,” or “I hate reading and never want to read.”

These beliefs and feelings can last for years and continue to haunt people as adults.

Also, please note that most reading-spelling programs and curriculum are very poorly put together and too confusing for non-print learners. There is a way to teach reading that works and even makes it fun!

#1: Do not introduce sight words (words that don’t make sense) and ask kids to memorize random words for reading and spelling. Begin with sounds and 3-letter words and stay there until the student is confident.

#2: When kids aren’t ready to learn to read or while they are learning, use audio books. I once had a 2nd grade homeschooled student who was traumatized by the idea of reading so she started listening to audio books. She loved them and she would draw the most amazing pictures of the characters, setting, etc – those was her “book reports.” She had a talent for drawing so this approach also acknowledged this gift and gave value to it. Over the next few years she listened to hundreds of books and had whole sketch books full of her reports. Meanwhile, she became relaxed and gained confidence in herself, and by 7th grade she had become a reader!

#3: Student: “You mean some words just don’t make sense, and it’s not that I’m not smart enough? No one ever told me that before.” I’ve been asked this question by countless students, as well as adults attending my workshops. YES! Many words just don’t make sense – don’t pretend they do. Tell your students right off that English is weird and that a lot of words don’t make sense phonetically. Tell them we need to learn tricks to remember the weird words. Once they can sound out 3 and 4 letter phonetic words, begin introducing sight words (like was, what, come) and make a game of it.

#4: The first time an adult literacy student said to me (many, many years ago!), “Oh, I get it, the letters go together to make a word – you put the sounds together and you get a word – no one ever told me that before,” I couldn’t believe my ears! Didn’t everyone know that words are made from putting letter sounds together? Well, they don’t! So… imagine being a child, not understanding this basic concept, and wondering what the point is of doing all those letter / sound identification worksheets – you already know the alphabet and the sounds – what does that have to do with reading words in a book! If that link hasn’t been made, then all those worksheets are a waste of time and become irrelevant busy work activities.

#5: When students have difficulty with reading, please don’t insist that they must read for a certain period of time each day, unless they are able to “read” by using audio books of their choosing. Another option is to read together – meaning that an adult reads while the student follows along – again this works best with books that are of interest to the student. Sometimes students also like to pick out books at the library or bookstore that might be above their reading abilities but are about topics of interest and have a lot of pictures. This allows them to still interact with books and have the delight of choosing the books, before they are able to actually read them. This helps build a love for books and shows students how valuable books are for gaining knowledge – as long as there is no judgment or reproach from teachers or parents.

As with all other learning that is developmental, respecting a student’s timetable for learning to read is one of the most important gifts a teacher or parent can give a child!

copyright 2020 by Mariaemma Pelullo-Willis
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Posted in Learning Styles, Personalized Learning, Strengths

The Importance of Personalized Learning

Personalized learning allows all students to have a customized learning experience that leverages their strengths and interests, and accommodates their distinct learning needs. All students thrive when their unique aspirations, gifts, and cultural backgrounds are addressed.

The development of a personalized learning approach includes:

  • Aligning curriculum with students’ interests, strengths and aspirations
  • Delivering targeted instruction for all learners including gifted, English language learners, students with learning differences, and those in the “middle of the pack”
  • Identifying areas of struggle for all students and providing the scaffolding needed for all young people to learn challenging academic content
  • Creating flexible learning environments that incorporate a variety of instructional approaches, including the use of technology
  • Developing self-knowledge, meta-cognitive, and self-advocacy skills
  • Connecting learning to real-world experiences

As a result of personalized learning approaches, learners feel understood and safe. When students feel safe, they are better able to learn, to persevere through struggles, and to become lifelong learners.

Discover Your Students’ Power Traits for Learning:

Your students’ power traits are made up of five dimensions – Talents, Interests, Modality, Environment, and Dispositions. These five areas affect how your students learn and behave in the classroom and/or home school. If you have your students’ power trait information you will be more effective in facilitating their learning.

Approach Struggling Students Through Their Strengths:

  • Almost any learning difficulty can be seen through a strengths mindset.
  • Your “A.D.D.” student probably has an Imaginative or Curious Disposition.
  • Your “Dyslexic” student probably has a 3-D Talent and a Picture Modality strength.
  • Your “Hyperactive” student probably has a Spontaneous Disposition and a Movement Modality strength.
  • Your bored and unmotivated student probably has untapped Talents and Interests that need to be encouraged.

Self-Portrait™ Power Traits Assessment:

The Self-Portrait™ assessment gives you the tools you need to truly implement a personalized learning approach that creates confidence and eliminates failure for both students and teachers.

Learn More:

Copyright 2021 by VKHodson & MPelullo-Willis, Reflective Educational Perspectives, LLC / LearningSuccess™ Institute •,