|Teachers talk about the summer slide all the time. That downhill slope that learning often takes during the summer months. We all lose some level of skill when we don’t keep using it. For students, the summer slide can set them back a month or more having to review what they have already learned.
Now, I am not talking about the facts they have memorized, but the process of being able to figure things out through understanding themselves and problem solving. In other words, thinking about how they think or metacognition. This is the real skill they need when it comes to learning.
So, what you can you do this summer to help minimize that summer slide?
Learning is a process and it takes time. So, start small and scaffold things where you start with lots of help and then less help as they become more capable. Focus on the process of learning and not the outcome. Keep a growth mindset in mind where they are capable with effort even if they can’t do it “yet.” Allow choices it fosters ownership. Reflecting on what they have done leads to metacognition so be sure to use some of their successes to remind them when they are struggling.
Lastly, and most importantly, it is so easy to supply solutions to children’s statements and complaints like: “I’m hungry” or “Where is my bike”, or “I’m bored,” but when you do, you take away the opportunity to develop problem solving skills and encourage independence. (Also developing agency).
Encouraging your children to problem solve with your help and building on their confidence develops agency. Isn’t the goal to raise lifelong, independent learners with the confidence to handle anything? And, it can be fun!
As if the daily struggle with homework was not enough stress, now you are being asked to help your child learn online and complete work via a screen. How are you and your children adjusting to this “online learning?”
There are only a few weeks left, but do you feel that your child has really “learned” how to learn for themselves remotely? It is not necessarily about the content but have they learned to be a self-directed learner or are you guiding them throughout each day?
All brains may struggle with this new way of doing things. However, an ADHD brain may struggle with the new way of learning, and the different “schedule”, the distractions at home, the challenge of not being able to ask the teacher whatever pops into their heads and the sitting in one place for longer periods of time. All this can make 30 minutes of work take 3 hours instead. Parents can become frustrated at the amount of time and coercing this work can take. Please remember your relationship with your child is the number one priority. Don’t let the pressure of getting the work done interfere with your relationship. This is new for them too.
Next Normal: Learning
- Start with making a “work” zone. A place where your child can set up the iPad or laptop and has space to work if needed. Clutter increases distraction and can interrupt their focus. Make it a calm, clear space for work that has the tools they will need within reach. Put a clock or timer nearby so they can see how much time they have to finish. (If you give them all day, it will take all day. Set a limit.) Setting kids up on their beds is NOT recommended, it gives the body the wrong idea but give them the option to stand up while they work may help some kids focus easier. See what works for your child. If they choose to sit, be sure their feet touch the floor or put a box under them so they’re legs are not dangling.
- Remember this is a new way of learning for your kids. They are essentially being asked to teach themselves without the same type of interaction they would have in school. It is pass/fail for this term so let them do their best and leave it at that. It does not help the teacher to know where your child might need more help, if you are making them correct all their errors before turning things in. Find ways to make it fun, and pay attention to what kinds of things seem to be difficult for your child. Work together to find other ways they can learn. The summer will be a great time to reinforce their weaker skills but for now, help them get through this new experience.
- Break up the “work” time into small blocks. If the kids were in school, they would be going to specialists, having snack break or recess. Encourage them to move more and get outside during these breaks. Set a timer so they know when it is time to get back to work. We don’t want them having to work all day. Create a schedule everyone can agree on.
- Kids need time to adjust to transitions, especially if it is from play to work. Set timers for all breaks or give a warning when they have 5 minutes left, 2 minutes or 1-minute left. Then let them know how long they have to work. For younger kids, a time timer works to show the passage of time. It gives kids the knowledge that this “torture” won’t continue for too much longer.
Lastly, take time to connect with your kids throughout the day. Yes, it is difficult to balance the responsibilities of work with family life, but we are all experiencing this together. No one is expecting you to focus 100% on your job throughout the day. Take time for yourself and your family because when this is over – things will not go back to “normal.” However, this “next normal” can be better for you and your family if you put the time in now.
October was ADHD Awareness Month. Each year the media seems to do a bit more to publicize and educate but more can always be done. There is not enough information out there geared to parents and children. So, I would like to help with some information my students find helpful.
First up, the acronym ADHD which stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder really shouldn’t be the category name for the three types of ADHD (impulsive/hyperactive, inattentive and combined). Teens are often in denial because they say they aren’t “hyper” and so feel that it doesn’t apply to them.
ADHD is a neurobiological condition – meaning it is the result of lower levels of neurotransmitter chemicals that are normally in the brain, which results in lower levels of stimulus in the brain. Non-technical definition: it is a chemical imbalance and not a personality/behavior or motivation problem. Just like near sightedness or hearing loss, it cannot be “fixed” at this point in time but it can be helped.
People of all ages with ADHD that I have met are often very smart, they just have difficulty showing it sometimes. That’s often a combination of the lower level of chemicals and the executive function skills that are slower to develop.
School challenges vary by individual but often ADHD can interfere by making it difficult to get started on a task, stay focused long enough to complete a task, remember when they have a task to do or find the task in their disorganization. It’s easy to see why homework and test taking is a challenge for these kids.
10 Strategies to Help with ADHD
- Declutter your work space, set up materials you use often in easily accessible places. Rulers, scissors, pens and pencils fit nicely in a mug on the desk. (Organize it weekly to keep it that way)
- Take everything out of the backpack and pile the “to do” items on the left and as you complete them move them to the right. Then put everything back in the backpack where it belongs.
- Start with the end in mind. Sketch out what it will look like when completed and work backwards to determine the first few steps.
- Write it down! Use a planner, smartphone app (Google Calendar, Color note, Evernote, Remember the Milk, etc.), or notepad to keep track.
- Graphic organizers and mind maps using color, shape, and placement help the brain recall information. Great for study guides.
- Create a 30 minute play list and reward yourself with a break if you work until the music ends.
- Keep a notepad nearby and write down any thoughts that interrupt so that you can deal with them after the work is done.
- Exercise or do something active to increase the dopamine in the brain before beginning (snacks and water help too).
- Use a whiteboard and don’t erase the previous approach
- If your child/teen is still struggling then try to change the environment, change the task or change the expectations.
In coaching, we often start by helping teens become aware of how their ADHD is showing up in school. Once they identify that it is really the way their brain functions that is making “x” or “y” difficult, then they are better able to look at it objectively and figure out a strategy that might help. If they continue to do things the way they have always done them, there can be no change. It is only when they start to think about their thinking, that they can really help themselves.
It’s getting close to the start of school and you can feel the emotions in the air. There is excitement, fear, uncertainty, anticipation, restlessness, and worry and that’s just from the moms! I am guessing that some students are feeling the same emotions. Yes, there is always a bit of fear of the unknown but for kids that have had a “bad experience” going back to school can be scary and demoralizing. As a parent you hope this year will be different and that your son or daughter will get a teacher that understands him/her and can actually help them develop strategies that will get their homework done in a reasonable time and teach them to learn. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Gift 1: First up is to decide whether or not to tell the new teacher all about your child’s struggles and challenges before she even meets him or her? Or do you wait a bit and then provide the teacher with the effective strategies your child developed with last year’s teacher? To tell or not to tell, that is the question. Is it better for your child to have a clean slate and to make their strengths and weaknesses known on their own terms to the new teacher or to provide the teacher with the outside testing, recommendations, and a record of their failings from the past year? Having taught for over 18 years, I just want to say that your child deserves to be recognized for who they are….right at this moment and not who they were last year. As hard as teachers try, they cannot help being overwhelmed by the start of the new year and the many notes and emails from parents tends to “cloud” their perception.
Gift 2: Instead of waiting for the teacher to figure out what your child needs, help your child figure it out. For those students with ADHD and/or Executive Dysfunction challenges it is imperative that they understand that there is nothing “wrong” with them – their brain just thinks differently. They should have a basic understanding of how their ADHD “shows up” and begin to recognize what works and what doesn’t work for them. That way they can advocate for themselves or at least help the teacher figure out a better way to help them. Remember to tell them that it is neurobiological – about the level of the chemicals in their brain and not about them not being smart. ADHD brains are some of the smartest brains around (Richard Branson, Will Smith, Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, Emma Watson, Zoey Deschanel, etc.) they are just wired differently. One caution, the simpler the strategy, the more likely it is ADHD friendly.
Gift 3: Another gift to give your child is that of a growth mindset. A Growth mindset as defined by Dr. Carol Dweck, “is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts….everyone can change and grow through application and experience.” So, if something is hard, it is only because they haven’t learned it…..”YET!” With effort they will be able to get it and that leaves their self-esteem intact. Whereas a fixed mindset, according to Dweck, ““Believing your qualities are carved in stone – the fixed mindset – creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. “ So you strive for the good grades in order to feel good about yourself. Then when you do poorly on something, you feel like a failure. Your motivation dwindles because in this mindset, nothing you can do can improve your grade. You’re stuck in a fixed mindset. (Click here to watch a YouTube video of Dr. Dweck)
With a fixed mindset and a few bad grades, a student will begin to believe that they are not good at a subject. They may carry that perception all through school when in fact they may have missed some key concepts early on, didn’t take the time to memorize their facts or had a teacher they disliked. None of these things should prevent them from succeeding but a fixed mindset may cause them to give up and not try. If they can develop a growth mindset and see failure as an opportunity to put in more work and figure it out, then they can succeed. (Gift 4) They will need to learn how to learn and to develop a toolbox of strategies they can rely on. This puts them in the driver’s seat of their academic life which is ultimately where we want them to be.
Your patience and understanding that ADHD is indeed neurobiological and that all the prodding and why questions will not help them get what needs to be done, done. Gift 5: Your help in getting them to become aware of how their ADHD is showing up and then together….let me repeat that….together figuring out a strategy that can help solve or at least compensate for that weakness is the best way to help them thrive. Set it up as an experiment so that it can be tweaked or tossed depending on its effectiveness. Not judging but evaluating its success helps kids try different strategies until they find what works. An example might be putting a huge sticky on the back door with a list of what they need to bring to school, or having them write test dates on a central calendar and together checking it each day so they build that sense of what’s coming up (help them study at least three days before).
By giving these gifts to your child, you are building their self-esteem while still supplying the support they need without the blame. The biggest problem with ADHD is that the low dopamine level in the brain makes it very difficult to get things done that are boring, difficult or confusing (ie.homework). Kids don’t have the push to just get through it…they need your help.
If you feel that you are too close to the situation and can’t provide your child with the unemotional support or strategies they need and would like to learn how to best support your child then contact us about our “Parenting your Child with ADHD” class or individual coaching services. We are here to help.
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Why did you do that? “I don’t know” is often the response. Sometimes we are on automatic pilot and our actions are the results of a habit. Other times our actions can be the result of a lack of impulse control. What is a habit? A habit is “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary” (Source: Dictionary.com). Think about the things you do every day without having to think about them. What would it feel like if you could change just one “bad” habit or could add one “good” habit?
If you are not sure if a habit serves you or not you may want to look closer at it. Monitoring an action or habit is a great way to figure out what the true impact is on you. You would need to be able to measure it. For example, keeping track of how much TV you watch (hours/day) instead of just deciding to “watch less TV.” See the difference?
Good habit or bad habit they both have three things in common. According to Charles Duhigg in his book, The Power of Habit, a habit consists of a cue, a routine and a reward. Add in a craving for that reward and you’ve got yourself a habit – whether it is good or bad. To change it you would need to interrupt the cycle. Change the cue (ex. ding of a new email), the routine (checking your phone as you pick it up) or the reward (quick dopamine rush that happens in your brain and makes you feel good when on Facebook). You didn’t start out craving it, but after several times your brain started liking the feeling and ta dah! A habit was formed.
Changing just one habit can have a profound effect on your life. Where to start? Gretchen Rubin, in her book, Better Than Before, suggests that starting with habits that will help strengthen our self-control can serve as the “foundation for forming other good habits.” “They are: sleep, move, eat and drink right and unclutter.” Do you need to create a new habit in one of these categories? Start slow and look at the three parts of the habit (cue, routine and reward) and design an experiment to help you figure out the plan that will work best for you and the way your brain works. Tweak it if it doesn’t work but don’t give up – the long term reward will be worth it.
Now for your kids, they need help establishing habits that serve them. Some examples would be a morning and evening habit of what to do in what order. Often those with ADHD don’t have consistent habits and every day is a “new” routine. This puts extra pressure on their working memory and makes it very brain intensive to think through the steps of what to do next. Help your kids figure out a routine and a reward and then link the cue to something they already do automatically. It is easier to start that way. Other options for kids are homework habits; the habit of using an agenda, backpack habits, studying habits….the list goes on. We can help them take a look at their habits and figure out what is and isn’t serving them so they start the new school year off strong. Check out our Academic Coaching Classes for Middle School and High School.
Summer is a great time to help your kids strengthen their learning skills. The more they use them the less they will “lose” them. Summer learning doesn’t have to be pages and pages in a workbook but with a little creativity you can have fun and learn at the same time.
Most schools now expect students to read at least one book over the summer. (Check your school’s website). Whether your child is just learning to read or reading to learn, finding books that interest them is the key. Don’t just send them to their rooms to read but show you are interested in what they are reading. Be curious and ask them about what they are reading, have them summarize, compare or simply talk about what they liked about the book (don’t just accept it was a good book). Reading increases vocabulary, critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, comprehension and increases their knowledge base. I think it is the number one skill for learning. If your child is a strong reader, then they can learn anything. The executive function skills are the other piece of the learning puzzle. These are the skills that enable your child to plan, organize, problem solve and follow through to completion.
In Massachusetts, the standardized testing is undergoing some changes. Schools realized that memorizing facts did not make better learners. Many did poorly on the PARCC test where they had to use their thinking skills to problem solve. You may also hear reference to the “common core” which refers to specific grade level skills that students are expected to achieve at each grade level. The biggest difference is that rather than taking in large chunks of facts, students will be asked to think critically, problem solve and use those higher level thinking skills that they haven’t been using. You may also see more projects. The goal is to prepare students for college and career by developing those skills.
To help your child learn to learn you can develop reading, math and executive functioning skills while “playing” school, planning a vacation or a day trip (give them a budget and have them make a plan), grocery shopping, or making something in the kitchen (with supervision of course). One of my favorite activities was a competition with my Dad and my sister to list the 50 states in five minutes or less. We still talk about those nights at the dinner table racing to see who could list them the fastest. (Fourth grade is all about the states). We also tried the capitals, countries and the presidents (which I did not do well at). The ideas are unlimited.
For outdoor fun, try geocaching. Geocaching is finding hidden “treasures” that other people have hidden in local parks and recreation areas. Google it and you can get coordinates to use with a GPS (or smartphone) or written directions to use for a treasure hunt walk. Take along the digital camera and have the kids photograph plants, bugs and wildlife that they can identify once they get home. Play tourist in your own town, or head into Boston or south to Plymouth and make history come alive. Have your kids send postcards to their friends.
Using math, reading and executive functioning skills throughout the summer will help to strengthen your child’s skills but it will also show them how often we use those skills in the “real world” and not just in school. If you find your child struggling to plan, problem solve, remember, or follow through to completion, the summer is a great time to build those executive functioning skills. Contact us today!
I’d love to hear what you do to make learning fun over the summer on my Facebook page.
Motivation – is what drives us to do something willingly. As Google says, “motivation is the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.” It can be an internal reason or an external one. If you are motivated by internal or intrinsic rewards then the motivation comes from within you; like the feeling of a job well done, pride in yourself for reaching a goal, etc. This is what we would like to foster in our children and ourselves.
However, if you are motivated by external or extrinsic rewards – then things that can be bought or received (games, toys, $) will motivate you. This would be the “carrot” type of motivation. The opposite is the “stick” type of motivation where task completion is based on avoiding a punishment of sorts. There is a time and place for this type of motivation too but it has a downside.
In Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive, he mentions that the carrot and stick type of motivation only works for simple, and/or uncreative type activities. Once a reward or a punishment is introduced it tends to narrow the focus and limits creativity. Pink says, “The drive to do something because it is interesting, challenging and absorbing – is essential for high levels of creativity” (p45). So if we are to become more creative and motivated at work, school or home, then the task/project needs to have three things. Pink refers to them as autonomy, mastery and purpose. The first as Pink calls it is “autonomy.” Autonomy means that you get to decide about the task, the timeframe and/or the method/approach you want to use. When you have this option, you are more willing to keep at something until you master it provided it also has a purpose – which are the other two necessities.
Think about a project or report you need to do for work. When you are given all the specifics and it is just a matter of putting the pieces together, are you inspired to do your best? Or do you just go through the motions in order to meet the deadline without even considering adding some creativity to it?
The more we know about what motivates us, the more opportunity we have to design our own projects and develop that inner creativity. We can also use what we learn to help our kids motivate themselves. Think about how hard it must be for them to do boring, busy work type homework. They have no power over decisions (i.e. no autonomy), are more interested in getting it done, than mastering the content and I am pretty sure they don’t see the big picture (purpose) in the homework either. Without motivation, kids are not developing an interest in learning for the fun of it, nor are they developing their creative problem solving skills. What kind of world will we have without creativity, motivation or a love of learning?
Here’s a strategy written for your child. It is called SQR3. It’s an acronym that stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recall, and Review. They may have learned about it in the third grade but I can almost guarantee that they are no longer using it. This process guides your child to interact with the information instead of just passively reading it and expecting it to stick. Here are the five steps to really reading and remembering what you have read using SQR3 (Survey, Question, Read, Recall and Review).
- Survey means to look through the whole chapter that you need to read and check out all the pictures, graphs, subheadings, words in bold, and questions at the end of the chapter if there are any.
- Question – make up some questions as to what you think is going to be important. Why are you reading this, what is important about this chapter and what do you hope to learn from reading it? You can also turn the subheadings into questions to help.
- Read the first page and then stop.
- Recall – what did you read about? Try to remember as much detail as you can (no peeking). Saying it aloud helps your brain to remember.
- Review – now look at what you have just read and recalled. How well did you do? Did you get all your facts right? What did you miss? Reread it if necessary and try again before going on to the next page of text.
Continue with this process of read, recall, and review all the way through the chapter. Write down key facts in a graphic organizer or on index cards to help you study later. If you don’t like to write, then record your thoughts on a digital recorder and then listen to them until you can predict what comes next.
This is a great way to study for a test. Start on Monday doing the SQR3 and then Tuesday use your graphic organizer (GO), flashcards or notes to review. Wednesday do the SQR3 again (it should be much easier this time) and any notes from class. Thursday review everything (text, notes, GO, flashcards, chapter headings) and if possible have a family member ask you some key questions.
This process gets you more involved in the reading. You will not remember things if you are just passively looking at them. Sometimes when you read for a long period of time, you actually zone out a bit (especially if it is not your favorite subject). This process makes you an active learner. Active learners learn better.
What are the steps for SQR3?
Give it a try this week and especially for finals.
As an Educational Consultant for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students I have the unique opportunity to observe different grade levels, schools and districts. Although I am observing the student’s ability to access the curriculum being presented I also look around to identify those with ADHD and watch how they are accessing the curriculum, communicating with their peers and maintaining their focus.
Here’s what I have noticed:
- Students are asked to focus for anywhere from 45-90 minutes without breaks.
- Many adults cannot focus for that long especially if they are only listening
- Often they don’t know what is important to focus on – so they try to focus on all of it
- Students either do not take any notes or try to write down everything that is said
- They wait for the teacher to say things like, “This is important.”
- They trust that they can remember the information
- They do not try to put the details together to get the bigger picture and end up trying to memorize random facts that don’t go together
- They do not realize that studying for a test begins in class
- Students do not know how to study
- Teachers are providing study guides that have “fill in the blank” answers and students think that if they memorize the sentences they will do well
- Students do not look at their textbooks unless specifically told to
- Often students only get a few days notice of upcoming tests or quizzes
- Students are shocked at how poorly they do on tests that they think they prepared for.
- 90% of my students think that 20 minutes is enough time to study for a test
- Students are not given the chance to learn from their mistakes
- Tests are collected after 2-3 minutes
- If no one raises their hand with a question about the test, nothing will be reviewed
- Students develop an “I can’t” attitude rather than an “I need to do more” attitude
So how can you help your son or daughter learn how to focus?
- Those with ADHD tend to get bored quickly and when that happens the brain shuts down or switches to other off task thoughts. Teach your child how to get themselves back on track by using examples that happen at home. Using a non-judgmental tone you can point out when you see them go off topic before you are finished with it. Ex. “I can see how you might have thought I was done talking about “x” but I really wanted to say two more things ….are you ready to listen to me again?” Then ask them to summarize what you were talking about. Be sure to give them time to share their thoughts without interruption as often their working memory can only hold onto the thought for a short amount of time.
- ADHD brains also shut down when there is too much information to focus on. Skip the details and give them the bottom line first so they don’t miss it.
- Allow them to fidget with things and don’t insist they make eye contact as often that is too much distraction for them especially if they are being reprimanded.
- Ask them how they stay focused in school and offer suggestions like taking notes, doodling related drawings to the topic, counting how many times they get distracted and pull themselves back or fidgeting quietly with something inconspicuous
We’ll combine taking notes and studying together. Here are ways to help:
- Most information for tests comes from class lecture and discussion. Students need to realize that taking notes about the key points can help tremendously when it comes time to study. From 6th grade and up, students should be taking some notes. If they are given a copy of the Powerpoint presentation they should add to it.
- Looking ahead in the text book can often give clues as to what will be presented in class. If the brain already knows what to expect it is better able to make connections and tie new information to old.
- Students can create a study guide by writing questions in the left margin about the topic in the notes. If they can answer those questions without looking at the notes, they probably know the information.
- It takes 4-7 exposures to the information before it can be “learned” so students should review the information (by asking themselves questions) at least three times over several days.
- Reviewing class notes after homework is done especially in their weakest subject is a great way to get extra exposure to the information. Or choose to write the questions in the margins the same day as notes were taken.
- Study guides don’t always have all the necessary information on them. Students should reread their notes and check the text. Turning the statements on a study guide into a question will help them understand the information better.
The biggest mistake teachers are making is to be more concerned about their test questions getting out than in helping students learn the information. Collecting tests 3 minutes after students get them back is a major disservice to students. I have heard about only one town that allows students to take the test home, correct all incorrect answers and receive added points. That motivates students to find the answers rather than just hearing them reviewed in class (which doesn’t seem to happen often unless someone asks a question). Help your student learn better by developing as Carol Dweck says a “growth mindset.”
- Teach kids that their intelligence is not fixed, it is malleable. Push them to roll up their sleeves and try again. Avoid saying things like, “you’re so smart” as it implies that intelligence is fixed and sends a conflicting message to them when they fail.
- Build resiliency. Focus on the positive.
- Level the playing field by helping students learn to use the tools, strategies and technologies that work best for them and not necessarily what the teachers want
- Bottom line – do whatever it takes to keep your child’s self-esteem intact. It’s how they feel about themselves that will determine how well he or she succeeds.