“I’m bored, it’s boring, who cares.” Welcome to the world of teaching a boring subject, or trying to get children to do a homework that they hate. Boredom accounts for thousands of children giving up on a subject that is key to their long term goals.
Here are a few ideas to try and get the spark back into their learning.
You’ve read all the books, you’ve got the blogs popping up in your feed, and they all agree. Rewards don’t work. According to Dr. Richard Curwin “Bribes are threats in disguise. Withholding rewards can be used as a threat hammer very easily. The truth is that threats and bribes are two sides of the same coin: control.” In this article he points out that a reward (or bribe) leads to the child expecting that reward every time, and will want more.
Except you expect a reward to go to work, if tomorrow your boss announced that instead of being paid they would be letting you get experience for your future career, you’d probably not bother going into work tomorrow, other than to clear out your desk and have choice words with the management. Now is there anything more abstract than telling a five-year-old that wants to be a train driver to learn how to spell words and write neatly.
Rather than just bribing your child to do their homework, or listen in class, think about reward charts and a goal that links to their learning. How about a day out train spotting for that five-year-old, or a day at the science museum for a budding astronaut? Sit down and talk to them about what they want, but steer them down a path that will add value to their learning. A reward chart allows them to see concrete progress at each step. This allows them to see this as a challenge that they are taking part in, rather than a boring thing they just have to do every day.
Take learning out of the abstract and into the concrete. Don’t just teach multiplication and fractions, get out the weighing scales and the flour and bake some cakes. Go and see a play rather than just expecting them to learn it from a book, and science opens a world of chances to bring learning to life.
Link to what they love
Have you got a budding aquarist in the house, well link chemistry, biology, maths and so much more to this. Do they love sports, then try and bring that in, read sporting biographies and magazines, let your imagination run wild and drag the subject they hate and the hobby they love together.
Give them control
Ever feel that you can’t be bothered because it’s nothing really to do with you. Well children do their work because they’re told to, because punishments loom if they don’t complete a task. Yet experiments in student centered learning are showing that giving the students back some control is closing the learning gaps. Emily Richmond from the Education Writers Association explains how it works in schools.
In a student-centered learning environment, students are given choices of how and what they learn, based on the theory that students thrive when they can see a direct connection between the instructional material on the one hand and their own interests and real-world experiences on the other. There are frequent assessments – including self-assessments by the students – to ensure the requisite content is mastered.
At home it’s more difficult to allow students to learn in their own way and pace, but with a bit of thought you can start to allow them to take charge of their own learning.
Most of the time students are getting things wrong. No one gets 100% every single time, and there is almost always someone whose scored higher, or performed better.
Sitting them down and telling them they’ve done well is a key part of getting their interest back in their education as a whole. But make sure that they know you value them whatever their academic achievement. All too often students are in tears after a bad exam performance, because they feel that without a good result they won’t be loved and appreciated. This fear of failure means that the stress and panic switches even the most able student off, before they’ve even begun.
Making learning a fun and positive experience can do so much for your child’s learning, but yes it takes time and effort. Consider a tutor to help students get over specific hurdles or to just breath life back into a subject and provide support.