How can we help the reluctant learner become a confident learner and boost their abilities and enthusiasm at the same time?

When you’re good at something you attack it with enthusiasm and confidence.
The reverse is true when you doubt your own ability. You put it off as much as possible and when you do finally have to get on with it, it is done with trepidation and reluctance.

This has consequences on a person’s ability to learn. The learner, who is confident and willing to give things ago, is far more likely to make progress than the reluctant learner who implores that their turn will never arise:

Let’s start with the Chinese proverb:

“I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand”.

Loosely translated this means, tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I will remember, but it’s not until I have ago that I will actually understand. This I think is the underlying philosophy for all the points to come.

Make learning fun.

Each week the child brings home a list of, shall we say 10 spellings?

Dutifully they sit at the table and strive to learn them using the read, cover, write, check method promoted by schools.

They run through them the first time and much to their dismay, only a couple are right.

They try again and maybe one or two more are right, but others might be wrong and the “Why am I doing this, I never get them all right anyway?” mentality sets in.

Let’s try a different approach.

Is there a method you could use to make the experience into a fun one? I will use a child’s weekly spellings here as an example, but this can be applied to almost anything.

The parent suggests to the child they have a game of hangman. I tell you what, how about we use your spellings as some inspiration?

Already, the mind-set is different. This sounds like fun and someone is going to be participating in the activity with me. I’m good at hangman and I might win!

Playing hangman helps the child look at the individual letters in the word and the order they go in. It is also creating a different form of memory, so when the child needs to recall the information on how to write a specific word, they are more likely to be able to do so. There is no time consuming preparation in this game, but it is one that can be enjoyed together.

Now hopefully, when the child sits down to do the “read, cover, write, check” they are already familiar with the words and how they are spelt and suddenly it isn’t such an arduous task.

Hangman isn’t the only game that can be played, there are many, if you want some ideas of others, please get in touch and we will be more than happy to help.

Let them win.

Sometimes don’t be in such a hurry to be the best. Yes, you must feel on top of the world, but when someone is struggling and it is your place to try and support them, let them do as well or better than you once in a while.

To beat someone who is their teacher, their parent, or a role model, will boost confidence no end and in the process encourage that person to want to try again. Maybe I will win again, maybe I won’t but it doesn’t matter quite so much because I won last time.

This follows on from above in many respects. If you are the one at school who always gets the lowest results, comes last in every contest or struggles with most things think how low your moral must be.

Use praise and rewards


Praise people when they do well. Even if it’s not a huge achievement in the eyes of others, for them this could be a huge milestone they’ve finally achieved.
Don’t be patronising though, that’s counterproductive…

When working with children use stickers, certificates and let them know you have commented on it to their parents, other teachers, etc. Whatever it takes to help the child recognise how they have succeeded in making progress

We all love to hear when we’ve done well. Some people hear it all the time; others feel that they never hear it and what they do well it goes unrecognised.

Start on the ‘easy’ side of things and progress slowly

Maybe this is one of the most important considerations.

Start at a level that the child is already comfortable with. Ok, you may feel you are wasting time and time is important. But remember the aim here is to boost the child’s confidence and enthusiasm to learn.

Starting with something that is beyond them is simply going to make them feel more of a failure. If the foundations aren’t securely in place, what is to come in the future will only crumble.

If you start with something that you know the child is already fairly confident with, you can reinforce their ability from the outset. Show them what they are capable of and build on this knowledge.

Then once each step is confidently secured, take a step forward. Move too quickly and the child will once again start to flounder as things become too daunting. Having said that, as confidence builds so will a child’s enthusiasm and their desire to progress will increase with it. Before long this child will be as confident as the others in their group.

Remember, once the child’s confidence has increased, their willingness to have ago will dramatically improve as well.

These are just five of the techniques we use to support confidence and willingness to have a go.

I hope this has given you food for thought. If you want more ideas or guidance as a parent or childcare professional, please do subscribe to our blog. Get in touch to receive the emails we send out each week offering techniques to support your child at home.

We would love to help. If you have any feedback, opinions or comments, please do comment below.

If you try these ideas, let us know how you get on!

Leave a Reply

Powered by WishList Member - Membership Software