Parents: So many of you lament that your children are not motivated to do well in school. You may even brand your children as lazy. This usually is not true. However as children get older, their passion for learning often seems to shrink. It happens for some because they have failed repeatedly at school tasks and no longer see any sense in trying. And it happens for many young teens because of the distractions of biological changes, emotional concerns, and social and peer pressures. Plus, some unmotivated children may never have learned that school success takes time and effort. The loss of motivation can also be fueled by insufficient support in a new school or by an increased workload and expectations to which students haven’t yet adjusted.
As children get older, it seems to become more difficult to motivate them to do well in school. Of course, part of this job belongs to your children’s teachers. Children are more motivated to learn in classes where the work is challenging, yet achievable and where they see how the skills that they are learning can be applied outside of school. And many schools motivate their students by having an atmosphere that stresses learning.
Parents also play an important role in developing, maintaining, and rekindling their children’s motivation to learn. Because of the importance of children valuing learning for its own sake, our New Year’s resolutions this year deal with ways you can help your children be motivated to learn.
- Resolve to be a good role model. Let your children see that you put forth your best effort in completing work and meeting obligations.
- Resolve to show your children that you are interested in their school work.
- Resolve to help your children succeed in school by contacting teachers whenever your children encounter any difficulties in learning to find out how they can be helped.
- Resolve to offer sincere praise to your children based on their effort and improvement at school.
- Resolve to find tasks in and out of school that your children can succeed in to build an “I can do it” attitude.
- Resolve to use rewards infrequently to encourage your children’s motivation to do school tasks.
- Resolve to find your children’s strengths and to build upon them.
- Resolve to teach your children how to set goals and to work hard to achieve them.
How to Improve Children’s Reading Fluency
Question: What is fluency? My daughter is in eighth grade and her whole class was just tested. The results came home that she was not a fluent reader. How can this be improved? – Needs Fluency
Answer: Reading fluency is the ability to read material quickly and accurately. Children who are fluent readers can focus their attention on understanding what they are reading because they do not have to concentrate on recognizing individual words. The reverse is true for less fluent readers. If your daughter is able to improve her fluency, she will at the same time improve her comprehension.
Until recently, fluency was a neglected reading skill. Now, more and more attention is being focused on it in the classroom. It has been discovered that the best way to improve fluency is for students to read aloud. It is not through more silent reading. Unless your daughter is currently in a reading class, she is not likely to get much help at school to increase her fluency.
Fortunately, you can help your daughter improve her fluency. Read a short bit of text material to her. This gives her a model for how the passage should sound. Then have her reread it aloud to you. Provide assistance, when necessary. Next, have her reread the passage until she can do so quite fluently. Three or four times are usually sufficient.
Also, you can read a passage to your daughter. Then, read it aloud together three to five times. This doesn’t have to be done on the same day. Your daughter will not become a fluent reader overnight. However, she definitely will become a more fluent reader if you and she frequently do repeated oral reading. These same techniques can be used to help beginning readers become more fluent readers. There are more techniques to help struggling readers on our Web site in Resources under “Skill Builders.”
Writing Skills Can Be Improved
Question: Is there a way that I can improve my 9-year-old daughter’s writing skills? She is a brilliant reader, but her writing skills are below average according to the teacher. She never is “in the mood” to write even on my laptop. – No Writer
Answer: The secret for children becoming better writers is for them to write a lot. Unfortunately, writing simply does not appeal to many children. Poor handwriting skills may stop some from writing. Others may not be able to think of anything to write about. Teachers have had great success in getting children to write by having them write briefly in a journal every day. They can even supply the topic.
Your asking or even requiring your daughter to write every day is not too likely to be successful in improving her writing unless she is motivated to do so. Talk to her about how being a good writer leads to future success in school. Plus, when you read to her, talk about such things as how the author describes the characters and the setting as well as begins and ends a story. This will teach her more about writing. Another approach would be to have a relative write a brief e-mail to her every day with the expectation of her responding. Grandmothers can be especially good at this.
Too Much Computer Time for Preschooler
Question: My 3-1/2-year-old son is exceptionally bright. He loves everything electronic. He can use the computer by himself and turn on the television. I’m excited that he’s so bright but worry about how much time he spends playing on the computer. Is an hour every day too much time? He also watches television for at least another hour. – Electronically Inclined
Answer: Using a computer at such an early age has its good and bad points. Your son will definitely learn computer skills faster and may improve his small motor skills. He also will have access to loads of educational material. On the other hand, if your child is using the computer primarily for activities with little educational benefit, it is a waste of his time.
Preschoolers need real-life experiences in manipulating objects and interacting with other children and adults. Your son won’t get this vital educational building block if he spends too much time with computers or TV. Furthermore, the flashing and constantly moving images on computer and television screens make it more difficult for children to develop the longer attention spans that they’ll need in school.
Two hours a day spent with a computer or TV is definitely too much electronic time for a preschooler. You need to limit it to an hour or less a day. Your child needs more real world activities.