If you are worried that your child is falling behind in their learning and you want to help them, here are some handy tips to keep your child engaged and motivated.
Let your child set their own pace
Children who learn more slowly than their peers can struggle to use their knowledge and logic to solve problems, but they can still learn all the necessary skills – just at a slower pace. Every school has a number of children who take longer than their classmates. It's completely normal and they should be allowed to learn at their own pace.
No child is the same
Some children work very slowly and can find it difficult to explain what it is that they have learnt when questioned. This can lead to lots of frustration and disappointment. Times tables and spellings are two areas where slower learners tend to stand out. These students can also find working in a team more difficult than their peers. While it can be worrying for parents and carers, with compassion and encouragement, most children find their way and overcome their difficulties in time.
Confidence is key
It’s important to help children who find it hard to keep up with their classmates as soon as possible so that they can keep progressing academically, but also for their self-esteem. No child wants to be compared negatively to another, and everyone develops at their own rate. As with adults, when confidence is affected, this can lead to a reluctance to learn, which only makes matters worse.
Ideas to help
Slower learners often simply need more time to grasp and practise a concept or skill and may need further resources or assistance from teachers. Here some of the most successful methods educators have found to help children who learn more slowly.
1. Take learning away from the desk to make learning more practical and concrete. The more positive experiences a child has, the more their confidence will build. For example, you could read a short book on bugs, and then go out into the garden and build a bug hotel – or you could practice learning colours by finding an item for each colour of the rainbow.
2. Ensure they spend time doing something that they are good at – such as dance or football. This can help children see that people are naturally good at different things. This is especially useful if they found the activity challenging at first – learning takes practise, just like many other things!
3. Help them to use books and ensure reading is an enjoyable, not intimidating experience. Reading together is an amazing way to encourage literacy skills and if done with patience and humour, can create an environment in which a child feels both loved and safe to try. Read together every day at a time that suits your family, and always make sure it is relaxed and fun. If it’s not going well that day, no problem, try again tomorrow. Try fiction books or fact books to see what they connect with the most.
4. Let them try reading and learning around a topic they particularly like, independently and without pressure. Sometimes you just need to help children find the right thing to read about! It doesn't matter what they read, just that they read.
5. Make sure they have somewhere quiet to read or learn, without distractions. Wherever you child reads or does their homework, make sure they are comfortable, and that the area is peaceful.
6. Give plenty of encouragement and praise. It’s important for any progress and effort to be noticed and validated. Learning new skills and being a beginner is hard!
7. Use audio and visual learning tools and materials as well as written. Children who learn more slowly often take in information better this way.
8. Whenever you ask them questions on what they have read or learnt, give them plenty of time to answer. Keep reading and homework sessions short or with plenty of breaks, so that your child can finish feeling encouraged.
9. Talk to your child’s teacher regularly and let them know how you are supporting your child at home. Your child’s needs will change over time as they grow and develop at their own rate.
10. Remember how hard it is to be a beginner, especially if those around you are speeding ahead. You can help your child find their own way.