Stuck on Academics? Is It Your Child or Is It You?

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Ellen Doman

As evaluators, we often hear from parents that their children are stuck. They may be stuck in terms of learning their sight words or stuck in terms of learning in math. As you know, we expect your child to make measurable academic gains each time we see them if we have put academic work on the program. We also feel that we give you the tools you need to make that academic progress with your child. So what’s the problem here?

Let’s look at reading first. We generally start the children reading High interest and Dolch words on flashcards. If you are doing this activity with your child, you will notice that it is easy for him or her to learn words such as “pizza” or “ball” but not so easy to learn a word such as “here” or “where.” This comes as no surprise to us. Pizza is not only a thing that the child has seen but also is something that the child may really enjoy. Ball is something the child has seen and also enjoyed. Your child has never seen a “here.” It’s not the least bit interesting. It has no particular relevance. As a result, it is a very low intensity word which makes it harder to learn.

What do we do about these hard-to-learn words? They will land in the review pile and be reviewed with the other words, of course. They will also be reviewed when you read to your child. They will be reviewed again in shared reading with your child. They may be reviewed again if you are doing experience books or directional word cards or easy readers. The point is that it does no good to keep re-inputting these low intensity words on flashcards as new words. Your child will be running into these words constantly as you read with them. They will learn them along the way. My daughter could not seem to remember the word “could” despite lots of input. We read “Danny the Dinosaur” and she knew the word “could” after finishing that book.

The lesson here is that you don’t just keep repeating the same input of the same low intensity words on flashcards because the child did not appear to retain them. It produces a child who dreads doing flashcards making it counter productive. Move on. Your child will pick up these low intensity words through their reading. Move on.

The other issue is your child getting stuck in math. Let’s look at how we divide up teaching math as it will help you understand what to do. We divide math up into parts such as inputting computation strategies, teaching math facts, mental math and functional math. A child may get stuck in one area but does not necessarily stop progressing in other areas.

A common situation involves parents bringing their child back for a re-visit and having the math score remain the same as the previous quarter. When asked, the parents will report that the child could not progress beyond addition, for example, because they had not mastered their addition facts. Math facts are important, of course. We work on math facts using a variety of strategies. We do expect your child to master them. There is no need, however, to stop teaching math computation because the child did not master the facts. Continue to teach computation. You cannot reteach simple addition for three months and expect your child to attend. Move on. Learning is fun if you can keep presenting new information. Your child’s brain is designed to love new information. It is designed to absorb vast amounts of information. Be sure that you are providing new information daily.

If you are stuck or you feel that your child is stuck, review how you are doing what you are doing. Contact your support person with questions. We will be happy to provide answers. Our work, your work is about progress. Let’s work together to make progress happen with your child.


Reprinted from the Journal of The NACD Foundation (formerly The National Academy for Child Development)

Reprinted by permission of The NACD Foundation, Volume 21 No. 15, 2008 ©NACD

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