Helping Struggling Learners

Every child is born with a variety of strengths and weaknesses. Some children are in need of extra help to be successful. But just as not all schools have trained personnel to specifically help students with learning needs, so you might not feel you have the ability to help your child in the way he/she needs. So, what can you do to help your child without becoming overwhelmed and slighting your other children, especially when you don’t have someone trained to help with special needs available to you in your location?

The following examples are written for classroom teachers and come from our online orientation course. We think that it can be helpful for you as parents to think through these same scenarios and how you might help this child if he/she was yours.

Learning Difficulties

Below are some very common kinds of situations that could happen in a classroom situation. As you read each scenario, determine what steps you would take to help each of these students.

#1 Sara (age 13) transferred into the school this year, having relocated from another country. Her parents’ jobs required moving every two years or so, but they always tried to find a good quality school for their children. She seemed to listen well in class and to work hard, but often did not understand concepts in science and math. Her teacher offered extra tutoring and she seemed to catch on, but usually did not do well on the exams. Her parents did not understand, because she had done very well at the last school she had attended. She was withdrawing and not making friends at the new school. She often sat alone at lunch time and headed home as soon as her last class ended.

#2 Efraim entered the school at secondary level (age 15) after having been homeschooled since his family moved from their home country. His mother tongue was not the language of the school, but his parents had been teaching him with the school language materials, and he had many friends with whom he also spoke that language. He expressed himself fluently in conversation with no foreign accent. From the first, he struggled to understand and remember material from classroom lectures. He met with a peer tutor who went over the material again, answered his questions, and helped him complete his homework. But, on exams, whether they were presented orally or in written form, he seemed to have forgotten much of what he’d learned. He was quite discouraged because he really did put in a lot of time to study to do well.

#3 Robert (age 9) seemed very smart, but was not doing well academically. He was very involved during classroom discussions and came up with creative ideas relevant to the topics, showing good understanding of academic concepts. However, he hated reading aloud because he stumbled over words and often had to read a passage several times in order to answer questions about it. His handwriting was very sloppy and his written work filled with misspellings and errors in punctuation and capitalization. Homework assignments took him a long time to complete, and he often forgot to turn in the work he’d done. He could talk intelligently about the science and history lessons the class had studied, but did not do well on written exams. Despite spending much time in practice, he just couldn’t seem to memorize the addition and multiplication facts.

Before reading on, have you thought through one or two specific things you might do as a parent to help these children be successful?

For comments on each of these situations see Common Reasons Students Struggle.

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