The messy road to learning.

As adults we are increasingly being told that life is not normally a straightforward road to follow.

Learning is the same.

We anticipate that the child is told something – they store the information – they recall the information when needed. Simple…

For most people this doesn’t work.

We are told the information. Forget most of it because it because our mind was elsewhere, we didn’t understand it, the internet was glitchy and we couldn’t tell what they were saying. (I’m writing this during the February lockdown of 2021 when schools are closed to most children and lessons are taking place online).

A few days later we may pick the subject back up and with this repetition we start to understand it. But then we come across a question that is worded differently and our confidence (and we feel our knowledge) takes a backwards step. The explanation is repeated to us as before, but we still feel none-the-wiser.

Our confidence steps back a bit further.

We move on, neat really understanding the foundations but there’s a lot to get through and time is of the essence.

When I started my career in education 20 years ago, one of my main interests was dyslexia. I thought Clara, my oldest daughter, was dyslexic.

Verbally she was amazing, very astute. But if you looked at her written work you would think it was done by a much younger child. Her spellings had no logic, and one word could be written 3 or 4 different ways and she wouldn’t see the difference.

I approached the school she was at and asked if we could get an assessment done.

I think at the time dyslexia was still seen as an excuse for laziness and as she was a quiet child, the idea was instantly dis-guarded.

She didn’t give the teachers any grief and I think it was seen as a problem that could easily be ignored.

(Zoom the clock forward 20 years. We were fairly recently watching a quiz show and they asked for the correct spelling of a word. It was a multiple-choice question. The word was presented four different ways. You just had to choose the right one. She quite casually stated they all looked the same to her…)

At the time I didn’t have the confidence to argue my corner.

So, decided that I would help by learning everything I could so I could try and support her.

One of the key things I have learned over the years is if we do something once, we create a memory. A fairly weak one.

If we repeat that exercise, we strengthen that memory. Our brain still only has one place to go to where it can find the information that it needs.

If we do a second activity to help the learner learn the information, we are creating two memories. Now the brain has more places it can go to where it can recall the information as needed.

Each time we introduce a new activity we are creating the brain with a new opportunity to recall the information.

When we are stressed it is unlikely, we think logically. So, as our brain goes running around our head trying to find the information that it needs, the more memories we have created the more likely it is to find what it needs.

We often use games in our lessons because games can be played multiple times without becoming mundane.

So, for example, if we are learning the times tables we might play

  • a pairs game,
  • bingo game,
  • snakes and ladders game,
  • board game,
  • word searches
  • the list goes on…

These games can easily be adapted for other subjects.

Games also help the child to relax. I am a firm believer that if the child is relaxed, they are in a far better position to absorb the information.

They can focus on what you are doing rather than fear of what might be.

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