Thursday, December 20, 2012

How do you eat an elephant? or How do you gently teach a struggling learner?

How do you eat one elephant?  The easy answer is one bite at a time.  The same is true when a learner is struggling to learn and is overwhelmed by the amount of work being taught.  Today, there were 4 pages of words for a 6 year old.  Each page had eight words on it.  Thirty-two words looked like too many to learn.  I took and divided the stack of words to match each page and paperclipped each pages words to the correct page. He was supposed to match each word paper to the word on a bingo type page.  There were 9 spaces with a free one in the middle. 
I knew the child already thought that this was too hard to learn.  I told him all the words before I started working with him.  Then I handed him the word papers and helped him match them to the words.  As we matched each word I made a sentence for the word relating to the ice cream we were going to get at McDonalds.  The first time he tried to sound out a couple of words and quickly gave up.  When we made sentences relating to ice cream, the words had value and he received the information better. 
We managed to do this activity 3 times during the day and each time he was more comfortable and did better.  I wish I could work with this child 2 or 3 times a week.  I will get him everytime I can and hope for the best.  He is also struggling on the balance board so we will try to do this once a week.  All in all a postivie day for learning. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Update on young man I tutored last year

Last year, I tutored a 5 year old that was not happy in school. 
He was so miserable last year he did not attend but 3 weeks.  He began having trouble this year and his writing began to be a struggle.  He came to me to tutor during fall break and we did the balance boards and worked on skills again.
When he went back to school, his grandmother ask him if he wrote
the paper because it was so good.  He looked at her and said of course
he wrote the paper.  It looks like he will start tutoring once a week to
provide the support he needs to succeed in school. How exciting to see him succeed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

What is tutoring? What is reading?

I tutor. What does that mean?  Tutoring to many people means doing the same thing that has been done before just working at the material until it is learned.  This does seem to work for some people.  However, it does not work for too many.  When I do not understand what you are telling me, saying the information many times or in a louder voice does not make me understand.  It can make me feel that I am not really smart.  Some of my students are reading the book The Turkey Walk.  It is about a 15 year old that has been in the third grade for 4 times.  It is fiction and written during the time of walking animals to market.  There was a time that turkeys were walked to market. 
I am using this book to work on reading.  Saying a word without understanding the meaning is not reading.  Understanding a word or meaning and not being able to say the word is not reading either.
Both the ability to sound out the word or say the word and understanding the meaning of the word in the sentence is reading. 
Working with children who would learn regardless is not the way to teach children that struggle to learn.  Usually, as parents or teachers we expect a learner to be able to read a paragraph at a time.  This is the goal. Then we go on to longer reading selections as we succeed.  When a child can say the words but does not understand the meaning of the information, a paragraph is too long. 
When grammer is taught, a sentence is a complete thought.  When reading is taught to a struggling learner, one thought at a time is needed.  This is why I read a sentence and the learner reads a sentence.  We take turns reading a sentence at a time, so the thoughts are separated. This is to help them understand that each sentence is a thought.  Too many are missing this concept.  As the reader reads better, they get to read longer.  Sometimes, I forget and read too long and the learner gets lost.  Then instead of saying you missed the information, I accept the reality that I went too fast and did not teach the material in a way that the learner could learn it.  This can be slow and can take some time.  Using the balance boards again usually helps this.  I have to remember to take the time to use them. Is this my fault or the learners fault? Sometimes it is no one's fault, it is just a reality of working with someone who is learning or teaching.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The mice again

This week I was helping a student with algebra.  She wrote the problem and then the answer.  She was getting them wrong.  I told her she needed to show her work and this was not welcome advice.
When she worked on the balance boards, she struggled.  I realized she was stuck on "This is too hard,"  I realized she needed a mouse story.  I told her about the mice eating the math test and that they must be eating the work she was putting down between the problem and the answer.  This allowed her to laugh and then she could put her work down.  With the help of the balance boards and the ability to laugh, she is able to do the math and get the problems correct.  I have a happy student.
It is so much fun to see someone like math.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The mice ate my math test

I am working with a child who no longer wants to learn.  He has had good teachers but for some reason, he has given up on school.  He had a math text that he thought had too many problems so it did not get done. He refused to do even one problem because he was overwhelmed by the big test. I gave him an F and dismissed the school day.  When I went to write the next math lesson, the test was gone.
Instead of accusing him of trashing the test, I told him I was sorry but I had some really strong and hungry mice.  They had done a terrible thing.  The mice had eaten his math test. He smiled and told me that he had taken the test out and hid it.  When I asked, he volunteered that his friend came over and  he was embarrassed so he hid the test.  He told me where it was and that day he could get the test done.  I was so glad I had not told him I thought he just trashed the test.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Test taking, Teaching test taking skills

One child who was not reading and now makes the honor roll is still struggling with test taking.  This summer she is tutoring for 6 lessons to try to help with test taking.  She still does not read the words fast enough when taking a timed test at formal school.  I noticed she takes a deep breath when the word test is mentioned.  I gave her a word test and she was doing the "take a deep breath" as she said the words.
To correct this, I taught her to take a color test.  She is age 9 or 10 and knows her colors well.
I had her tell me the colors and laughed when she wondered what I was doing.  I told her I was just checking to see if she still knew her colors.  She and I have a trusting enough relationship so even when I ask her to do something that she thinks is silly, she will work with me.
Then I told her that we were going to do something really hard and it was a test.  Her eyes got larger and she took a deep breath.  Then I started holding up a color at a time and asking the color.  She laughed and I told her tests were just this easy and we were going to learn how easy they are.
I next had her read me a list of words and told her it was a test.  We practiced several of these tests so she would understand she did not have to take a deep breath or be afraid.  She was really tired.
The next week, we did the word test and I quickly told her any word she hesitated to say.  The next activity, we did was for me to have her say the words on cards as I turned them over.  She said there were too many to do all at once.  There were about 30 sets of words or 60 cards.  I just kept turning them over and soon we were finished with the stack.  I told her it was never hard to do things when we knew how to do them
She was doing so well, I had her do another test and told her we were going to skip the words she did not know.  I pointed to the word and if she did not say it quickly,  I went on to the next word.  She kept trying, which I did not know if she would give up or keep going.  I was really proud of her. Her mom is afraid of test taking also so we gave mom the color test too to help the child remember tests are easy.  
We have one more week and then a certificate for completion will be given.  I will check on her once school has started to see  how she is doing.  
We also stop and do the balance board when she seems to stumble with confidence.  I noticed yesterday that when she is not as confident she throws the ball at an angle instead of straight.  When I mentioned this, she gained in confidence as we practiced the information she needed when she was on the balance board.
We were counting by 2's and the ball was straight and when we counted by 3's the ball was at an angle. As she felt more confident with her 3's, the ball was straight again.
It is such a joy to see a child smile about learning.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Challenging Day at School

This past week, a young girl came to tutoring in tears.  I could tell she was trying to not cry or let me know she was upset.  She had a rough day at school.  This child has made wonderful progress in tutoring.  It took half the tutoring time for her to be able to function well. She could focus to the side but struggled to focus facing forward. My opinion is that she tried so hard in school to do what she was told she was exhausted. Therefore, her skills to focus forward had been severely taxed. She also could walk better backwards than forwards for the same reason. Mom stayed in the same room where we tutored, as the child needed mom's presence for support. 
As we were struggling for her to be able to learn, I had her take deep breaths to let out her anger, hurt feelings and fustration out. I had her take deep breaths as she lifted her shoulders and let the air out in a noisy whoosh.  Her mom spoke up and said she does this sometimes and Mom did not realize why.
Many people think tutoring is helping a child with their homework.  My tutoring is helping a child have the skills to be able to learn the work rather than helping them with the work.  When the learning skills needed to learn are underdeveloped learning is such a challenge. 
This is a child with ADHD and she had lost recess privileges and two stars for not having her pencils out for the lesson.  This needs to be addressed with an IEP meeting.  An IEP is an individual educational plan for this child.  In my opinion to take recess away from an ADHD child is like punishing someone on crutches for taking too long to open a door for themselves instead to helping them open the door. Have you ever seen anyone act impatient with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches because they slowed them down? Having been on crutches myself for two years and in a wheelchair for a time; I take the time to be thankful I can walk, as I take the time to smile and help. 

How much tutoring is enough

Today, a young lady, who was not reading when we begin tutoring two years ago, returned to tutoring.  Compared to where she was when we began two years ago she reads well.  Mom and I are ready for her to fly educationally.  She will be in the 4th grade next year.  She has an IEP. This is an individual education plan written to help her succeed. However, when she was given a test, the IEP was not used.  She was recommended for summer school to support her learning for next year.
Mom decided to tutor here instead of  summer school.  She has not retained her balance ability as well as I would have thought.  She quickly picked up the balance and tutoring should help.  I will increase the balametrics portion of tutoring. Also, I will modify the go fish word game so she will recognize the words more independently.  Instead of showing her the word as I call it, I will call the word and have her spell the word.  I was surprised how well she can do this. When she gets stuck, I give her the vowel spelling.  An example of this is the ea sound as in eagle.  We will also work more on making sentences with the words to help with understanding the different meanings of each word.
We will only work for one day a week for 6 weeks to see if this is enough support.  If not hopefully, we will work one day a week when school starts to give her the support she needs.  Some students just need more support to maintain their ability to learn efficiently.  People of all ages just have different learning needs and often our society wants everyone to learn like everyone else. When the student does not learn the way the school or teacher wants to teach, the student is blamed instead of the method of teaching.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

calming a learner who is too excited to learn

Today, I worked with a struggling learner.  He is a teen and I have been working with him for months.  We have read a little over half of the second grade McGuffey reader. We are using the Kindle Fire for this because I can enlarge the words. This is still low but exciting.  He had gone with family and friends over the weekend.  He is still excited about the trip.  We did the balance board, and word go fish.  He was too excited to calm down and read well. Finally, I pulled out the skipbo cards and this helped.  We play skipbo because of the pattern training it gives us. It is not my favorite game but patterning is important to teach reading as reading is patterns. Once we played skipbo he did better.  It  amazes me the routine needed sometimes to help this young man focus.  It is so exciting to see  him succeed.  As he has more success, he gets too excited to read the words on the paper and reads what the words mean.  I told him several times that he does not get to read what he wants to unless he writes the story himself.  When someone else writes the story, he has to read their words.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Whisper Day, Calming children enough to teach

Often children who struggle to learn, also struggle to calm down and listen.  Sometimes we as adults have the same struggle when we are short on sleep and/ or have too much going on.  Too many children and adults are on overload because of too much going on.  People need time to be calm to function well.  One thing I have done and plan to do with a new group of children is Whisper Day.  One day a week, I have Whisper Day.  The only problem is everyone in the house or school has to whisper.  Many think this is foolishness.  It is.  It also can help when people are too excited to learn.  Unless on the phone, everyone whispers. For a phone call the person talking, an adult, needs to talk as softly as possible and for as short a time as possible for this to work. If this is made into a fun day, it can be enjoyable to all.
Think of all the places that children attend regularly that are loud.  These are most sporting events, video games,
and even the library when children are not taught to be quiet. The public school lunch room is a good example of  loud. Also compare eating places like Rib Crib(loud) to Ruby Tuesday(quieter). There is a time for loud and a time for quiet. Quiet takes more time and planning.  Quiet takes slowing down and thinking ahead.  I am naturally loud and this is a great effort for me.  It is also benefits me.

Friday, April 20, 2012

help I do not like math, math game, addition help

I tutor several children with math struggles.  One 16 year old can do addition with a number line. In my opinion a number line teaches people that math is hard when used beyond showing why math works. This is slow and he makes a lot of mistakes.  He is working on multiplication.  As he learns multiplication he forgets his addition facts.  Math does not seem to connect to itself.  Good multiplication often builds on good addition.  For him each fact seems to stand alone.
We are playing a war or battle game with cards.  Each face card and the 10 are worth 10 points.  The numbers are worth their number.  Instead of playing one card, we play two and the total of the two is compared to the other players two cards. The highest number wins.   This works well because he can count the hearts or spades on the smaller cards and he is learning to add while playing.
If someone with reading problems is struggling with math, a tutor needs to check to see if it is word problems causing the confusion. If it is word problems, reading may be the problem. If  reading is the problem read the problem aloud to the student to build math confidence as you work to raise the reading level.  As a learner reads better have him read the word problems aloud to you instead of you reading to him. As he gets more confidence have him read part and you read part and then as he reads better have him read to himself while you listen and encourage and help with any words so he does not stumble and lose the meaning of what he is reading.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Success stories from tutoring

Today, I was able to see two children I have worked with in the past.  The oldest will be a senior next year.  She struggled with geometry and my husband worked with her more than I did.  She was putting herself down because her ACT score was not as high as she wants it to be.  I told her that her ACT score qualified her to be a millionaire.  I am reading the Millionaire Mind and many of the millionaires did not have an ACT score as high as hers.  She is planning on going to college.  I was telling her about taking the CLEP tests and she does not have the confidence to think she is smart enough to pass them.  I hope to talk to her parent and encourage the testing.  She is so much smarter than she thinks she is. Her comment today was something about who would have dreamed she would be doing so well. She was comparing her Algebra success with her struggle in geometry.
The other child was really struggling to read and is now reading on grade level.  There are several positive things going on in his life now.  I do not know how much the tutoring helped. It is exciting to see him succeed.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Irlen, Dyslexia, struggling learners, vision problems in learning

I was at soccer practice with my grandson.  This is the only time I have been all season.  Another mother was there with a young child.  She is homeschooling for the first time this year.  We were comparing ideas on schooling and she has a child who is struggling in school.  I told her about my child having Irlen dyslexia.  She and I planned a time for her to come see how I tutor.   When she looked up the Irlen online, her daughter said her words moved like the third example.  She went to an educational store, Mardel's, and allowed the child to pick out a plastic color sheet to place over her school work.  On one of the store end caps there was a magnifying glass with pink and black zebra stripes.  Her daughter asked to have one.  When her daughter put it on her paper to read her comment was, "This cages the letters so they cannot escape."   In three weeks, reading was on level.
Her mom had said many times, "I do not understand why you cannot get this," when she was teaching this child.
How many children would benefit from being able to see correctly?  How many are we labeling learning disabled or teaching ineffectively because they cannot see or cannot see correctly?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Delicious Words

Life is so much fun when you see children or adults learn.  The 15 year old I last posted about is back in school and I am again tutoring him.  We took  December off and tutoring is getting started again.  I do not tutor the week school starts because the kids are tired and often on a sugar high from the Christmas and New Year happenings.  I am having the 15 year old read books to me.  They are simple.  The reason I am having him read them is that he can have success reading a book.  We read millions of cats by wanda ga'g. This is a good read because it allows success.  We began one book that was determined to be boring.  So we quit in the middle.  We do not need anymore boredom with learning.  It is ok to say I do not like a book and go to one we enjoy.
Another 15 year old that does not like to read was introduced to Ransom of Red Chief  by O'Henry.  The next time, he wanted to know if we were going to read anymore of that book, so we chose another story by O'Henry.  We are also working on his fractions and math.  It will be interesting to see what his grades will be.
I introduced a 6th grade girl to the delicious words of Anne of  Green Gables.  Her mom reported that her paper was fuller for school.
A  5 year old that is turned off learning melted when I told him that he was going to read the word cat in milliions of cats.  I told him cat was his word.  I read the rest and when I came to cat that was his word.  I do not know what happened that he is so afraid of  failure that he is afraid to try but we will see how he does.  He is already doing much better than when we started in September. He has had his second art class.  We have a wonderful art teacher in our town named Vada Weaver.  We went once before and he could only stay 40 minutes.  This week he had the confidence to stay an hour.  I had to tell him we had to go as class was over.  Sweet success.
Another young child about 7 liked the Chuck's Truck by Peggy Perry Anderson.  His words were Fat Cat Pat in this book.  He was excited to begin to understand he could learn to read.