Did you know that your child’s academic performance may actually have more to do with their learning environment, their teacher and how they feel about learning, than their ability? After talking to countless families at the Fastbraiin center, I realize that it is easy to miss what is often the real problem in learning.
Here are four suggestions to get your child on the right path to learning.
1. Give your child achievable tasks.
Research indicates that cognitive thought and emotions are profoundly intertwined. In 1994, Antonio Damasio was studying this connection, and he ended up coining the term "somatic markers". This term is used to represent the physical emotions which result from cognitive experiences. In a nutshell, this means that thought, feelings and emotions are deeply connected. [clickToTweet tweet="Learning experiences that are associated with positive feelings actually increase the size of neurons in the brain." quote="Learning experiences that are associated with the positive feelings of pleasure and success actually increase the size and extension of neurons and increase the release of neurotransmitters in the brain."] On the flip side, however, negative emotion, frustration, and failure, do not increase neuronal connections, but instead lead to feelings of intimidation and fear in future learning.
In order for students to maximize their “somatic markers” they need assignments which promote accomplishment and skill acquisition. They need subjects which generate interest and positive feelings. Given this research and the significant benefit to the school-age child, a student-centered learning environment is critical.
2. Teach to your child's strengths.
Every child is different. And every child has different ways that they best learn. Some are more visual and some are more auditory, or even kinesthetic. Do you know how your child best learns? For more information on this topic, see the blog "Do you know your ADHD child’s learning style?". Once you understand how your child learns, you can then present material in a way that they will best understand and digest it.
Knowing your child’s preferred learning method and sharing this information with his or her teacher is very helpful. Request the opportunity to correct assignments, even if additional credit isn’t offered. Remember, it’s not about the grade but about the knowledge gained.
3. Create a good learning environment for your child.
A good learning environment is an environment that is particularly suited to help your child learn. Parents, its your responsibility to lead the charge in flipping a poor learning environment on its head.
The first thing you need to do is become aware of your child's environment. What is their environment like? At school and at home? How is material presented to them? Are there distractions in the environment? TV? Siblings? Other conversations? What in their environment promotes focus and what causes distraction? Don't forget about other factors, like their diet or health. What foods help and what foods hurt (see this blog on focus foods)? Are they getting enough exercise? All this contributes to your child's learning environment.
Secondly, begin arranging that environment to best fit your child. This may require some effort on your part, but some simple adjustments can go a long way. Student-centered learning environments simultaneously utilize multiple learning methods, including: visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Try putting on some music at a soft volume. Decrease major distractions. Let them take short breaks. Find out what works and work hard at creating that environment for your child.
4. Review content covered with your child each evening and on weekends.
Content repetition is implemented to attain mastery and thereby increase somatic markers. Repetition solidifies the neural networks the make up memories. It is better to review in short bursts over consecutive days than it is to spend a lot of time going over all the material in one sitting. For example, if your child is learning long division, make up 2 or 3 problems every evening for them to complete. The repetition will increase their confidence and move them closer to their goal for mastery. If the teacher doesn’t provide rewards for academic successes, you should. As you work with your child and they master long division, provide them a reward which increases the positive emotions and feelings of success. Remember these techniques are developing neurons, connections, and increasing self-esteem and a love of learning. If students are unsuccessful, they are given opportunities to make corrections and achieve mastery. Remember, grades are not the goal, knowledge is.
Be a hero who leads your child to clear learning and thinking. Help them clear a path to success.