Saturday, February 4, 2017

How to Accelerate Learning

I have a soft spot for children who want to learn. A BIG soft spot.

I think children who really want to learn and to do their best should be given as many opportunities as possible.

Whenever I meet such children, I just want to squeeze out every ounce of my energy to help them learn, to boost their confidence and abilities as quickly and as much as possible, to equip them with skills and tools so they will be empowered to make progress on a daily basis.

Every step and improvement a child makes will in turn boost his confidence and motivates him to want to learn more.

Student #1
Take a boy in one of my classes who started lesson 1 end of Oct 2016. At first, he did not recognise his letters, struggled with activities that involved even writing a number or drawing any lines. His attention span was very short. He ran away after a few minutes and could not focus past 5 minutes at any table work (activity that required him to sit at table). He also could not follow discussions and struggled to follow instructions. Hence, he was frustrated very often and wanted to stop trying very quickly into an activity.

I worked closely with his mum every week, suggesting what she could do with him to tackle each and every weakness for that week, before the next lesson. Small changes, easy steps that are attainable for a working mum and child who goes to full day childcare.

By lesson 4, he already showed gradual improvement in most areas.

By lesson 6, he could focus through 45 minutes of the lesson. He also showed more willingness to keep trying on tasks that he found difficult. He often looked around at his peers working on the tasks and even told me and his mum that he wanted to try again.

By lesson 9 (just before Xmas), he could recognise many letters of the alphabet, copy-write short words successfully (just 8 weeks ago he could not even recognise any letters and too frustrated to even write or draw anything) and followed 90% instructions independently. Most importantly, he had full focus for the entire 75 min lesson.

When we resumed Term 1 this January, he became one of my star students in the class. Now, he takes such GREAT PRIDE in his work, can copywrite 5 words (approx 30 letters) at one go and already starting to read simple words. He follows and participates in EVERY discussion and can focus 100% in the 1 hr 15 min lesson.

Whenever I think of how FAR he has come in such SHORT time (I saw him once a week since Oct 2016, for just 12 lessons so far), I cannot help but beam with pride.

I just know if he keeps up with this pace of learning, he will be way ahead of his peers. And for as long as he remains in the Bright Minds Lapbookers programme, there is no stopping him from accelerating this pace.

I know, because he is not my first case of accelerated learning. I have seen the same with my 3 kids and many students in the past.

How To Accelerate Learning? 
There is a sensitive period to learning, also known as the windows of opportunity. Once we identify this sensitive period for the child to acquire a particular skill (e.g. writing or reading), that is the best time to step up all effort to assist the child with his acquisition of the skill.

For many parents, there are two main challenges:
1. How to identify the sensitive periods for their children timely; 
2. Even when they managed to identify the sensitive periods, how to effectively coach their children so they will make fastest progress in the shortest time and with the least effort.

Once we overcome both challenges, we WILL accelerate the child's pace of learning.

To me, accelerating learning is not a dirty phrase. It is NOT being 'kiasu' (i.e. scared to lose). It is about learning smart and helping the child stretch his abilities to reach his own potential.

If adults will agree that to advance in careers require us to work smart and not just work hard, then why should it be different with children and their path of learning?

Whether it is learning to read or write or any other literacy skill, I believe there are the conventional ways to teach and learn, which may or may not always be the best or most effective ways, and there are also lesser-known-but-research-backed methods, which may be more effective in a small teacher-students ratio settings.

Look out for a follow-up post for tips to accelerate learning for different age groups.

More about From Tiny Acorns (click HERE), programmes (click HERE) and what parents said about our programmes (click HERE).

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