While wafts of pumpkin spice-in-everything-nice fill the air, fall also brings a fresh batch of homework. At Halifax Learning, we know firsthand the importance of momentum. Reading requires practice; to take piano but not play a single key between lessons does little for progress. Reinforcement builds mastery and maintenance has purpose.
We also understand that homework can be daunting for both students and parents alike. A three-pronged approach (your other ESP!) can help learners conquer assignments with less tension and more confidence.
WHAT IS ESP?
At the forefront of our initialism, encouragement fosters an environment of optimism. Although praise is important, it's deeper and different than a simple "you can do it!" If a child isn't feeling capable, being told they are might not successfully motivate. Slight rewording matters, and phrases like "I believe in you" and "I'm here to help" shift the emphasis from expectation to reassurance.
Guide your learner to say, "I would like to finish this task before bed" instead of "I must finish this task within an hour." Alleviating the pressure proffers the likelihood he or she will work harder or longer than intended—or at least feel okay with what has been accomplished.
If your learner craves limits and goals, remember that wording matters here, too. For example, "try writing three sentences in the next 15 minutes" as opposed to "fill a page before supper." The key is realistic objectives followed by self-compassion if the task is not completed.
Similarly, encourage learners to swap phrases like "I should have been able to read by myself" for "I would like to read independently soon." Both sentences stem from the same notion: wanting to achieve. But speaking softer to oneself and others—both in tone and verbiage—allows room for error and empathy.
A tangible record of success, like a reading chart or graph, can also fuel encouragement. Reading Rockets suggests parents or guardians "create a bingo card or passport where each space can be filled in by reading a mystery book, or a piece of non-fiction. Once the goal has been reached, reward your child with something... it doesn't have to be anything elaborate... just something that lets your child know how proud you are of his or her accomplishment."
Sandwiched in the middle of ESP is support, which refers to action-oriented involvement and assistance.
Co-reading, even with older learners, can do wonders for literacy stress. Take turns reading pages and offer prompts when needed for that extra nudge. For longer books, chapters could range from 4-15 pages, so "sharing the load" helps. For shorter books, a page may only contain one sentence, but teamwork still allows text to feel less daunting.
To prompt, a sentence could say: "the string of lights made the street look brighter." Your learner might recognize the, of, made and look as sight words. For string, ask them to place their right pointer finger under the word while dragging it along. Help if needed by saying st, then str, then stri, etc. There's a chance they'll say string or something similar, like stripe (correct to string if they do). The goal is to recognize and apply this word on subsequent pages or in future books, and also understand the makeup of string (str + i + ng).
With mature and more challenging books, learners will likely come across several larger or unknown words. For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the first chapter alone includes "cloaks," "seized," "persuade," "faltered," and "prodded"! Help pronounce or look up the definition together in a physical or online dictionary.
Jean Gross of Oxford Owl notes that "the important thing is to keep the flow going and keep your child interested and enjoying what they are doing." Furthermore, if confidence wavers, "notice what your child has done well and tell them... [also] react positively when your child is struggling or gets things wrong. You can make clear that mistakes are how we learn."
Rounding out the approach is patience. Reading comes easier to those who can read. This may sound obvious, but imagine how challenging and discouraging learning a new language can be (even if the child's native tongue, it's still a language).
Gross also stresses that automaticity takes time: "You [may see] them read a word perfectly well one day, then forget it the next. But this is normal when we are learning a new skill. Our performance is always erratic to start with. We have to repeat something again and again before it sticks... tell your child this, and let them know that you know they are trying their best."
Effort, not perfection, is important. When learning barriers exist, it's common for individuals to hit emotional and mental walls. The adage "practice makes perfect" is dated and potentially detrimental. Instead of placing perfection on a pedestal, try "practice makes progress" and ensure learners know that language wizardry is a marathon, not a sprint. They can become stronger, they will gain self-compassion, and it is worth the effort.
As for total word domination? Leave that to Hermione.
If your learner struggles to summarize what's been read or seems defeated by the task, change it up! Give them a journal or lined stationery to start a running "vocab list." No pressure to write down every unknown word—aim for two every five pages.
Alternatively, if they're truly reluctant and haven't been assigned specific compositions, have them jot down a few fun, detailed sentences about a personal topic (sports, school, best friends, holidays, etc.), so they begin associating writing with joy, not just frustration.
When spelling, students often want to copy directly from the book or ask adults how to write the words. There's a delicate balance to this request. If the child is really frustrated, offer the first or second sound as a start. Similarly, try to keep the book closed during writing so there isn't a temptation to peek. For slightly older students, offer to spell 3-5 words on paper or a whiteboard to jumpstart ideas.
REMIND THEM: "What's better than best? You tried the rest!"
Looking for more personalized insight? Contact us to help gauge your learner's skills: