Every parent of more than one kid – and surely every teacher – knows that no two children learn alike. So parents – and teachers – have to re-think how they present information, motivate kids, and facilitate learning.
There are lots of ways to describe kids’ study habits and learning “styles.” Sylvan Learning have identified four basic kinds of behaviors in the kids. See if your child fits into any of these categories.
- The Delayer. You know him right away. He’s the kid who wants to put off homework until the last possible minute. Same with important projects like the English book report or the science fair project. For Delayers, try to keep them to rigorous routines. Teach them to break down large projects into smaller segments so they don’t seem overwhelming. Show that you know assignments’ due-dates, so you can keep Delayers on track. A large calendar, kept in a prominent place, can show when various segments of a project should be done. Many parents have said this works well. (Gentle nagging, when all else fails, is allowed.)
- The Sprinter. She’s just the opposite of the Delayer. She’ll want to “sprint” off the starting block and get everything done pronto. Getting to work quickly is good, but the difficulty is that haste often makes waste. Sprinters frequently don’t pay attention to details or review their work. Done’s done. For Sprinters, show that you’re interested in their assignments and homework. Frequently – not every night, but randomly, which is more effective – ask to review their work. Look for completeness, following directions, careless errors, and neatness. Check for misspellings, awkward sentences, simple addition or subtraction errors, and then make sure they turn in the assignment!
- The Traveler. This is the kid who can’t sit still. He wants to “travel” all over the house, making stops in the kitchen looking for treats, his siblings’ rooms looking for diversions, and his own study area looking for his notebook, planner, and supplies. For Travelers, you may need to sit with them occasionally, especially at the beginning of homework or study time. Some travelers respond well to time segments – I’ve seen egg-timers used effectively – so set up study time in ten- or fifteen-minute chunks (or whatever works with your Traveler). Interrupt with a minute or two of walk-around time. Then, back to work. When it’s time to study for tests, try to find methods that allow for movement – jumping rope to learn spelling words, hop-scotch for adding, jumping jacks for counting, fast flash cards for memorizing, etc.
- The Perfectionist. You know this one. He’s the one who’ll fret over a minor point for hours, forgetting the rest of the assignment. He often has trouble prioritizing or seeing the “whole picture.” Because nothing is good enough, frustration can be his constant companion. For Perfectionists, it’s important for them to get praise for their high standards, but it’s equally important for them to learn about the practical and real-world benefits of compromise. Move on to other goals. Perfection isn’t always possible, so we learn to go after our goals in other ways, maybe in smaller steps. They may take longer to achieve, but the achievement is sweeter.
Help your kids by setting up healthy routines, being a good role model, having high expectations, being positive about learning, and showing them how to learn from their mistakes. Encourage them to have study buddies in order to make learning fun, help them to organize themselves and their study areas, and take an active interest in their schooling.