Ready, Set, Learn!

By Heidi Rosenholtz

The path to learning is filled with twists and turns. Along the way students are called upon to read, write, listen, complete homework, and study for tests. But the journey actually begins before any of those skills are put to the test. It begins with readiness—the often overlooked step that prepares the mind for everything that follows.

There are five components to readiness, and once activated, they will help a learner stay on track.

  1. Begin with the end in mind: Visualizing the outcome you want from the get-go makes the going easier. If the suggestion to start homework sends your child running from the room, help her visualize the outcome. Have her picture what that worksheet is going to look like when it’s all done. “In a couple of minutes you’ll be looking at all those blanks filled in, and you can put it in your backpack knowing you did it!”
  1. Encourage self-awareness: Help your child understand what skills he’s going to need for the task at hand. Would listening, reading, or note-taking come in handy? Ask which of these learning tasks he thinks he’s good at. Just the act of breaking down the process may make it seem less daunting. It’s equally important to help him find the physical place where he works best. At the kitchen table? The desk in his room? The floor in the hall? The answer may be all of the above, which is fine, too. Moving from one place to another is a great way to take a break and re-energize.
  1. Have the necessary tools available: No big surprise that she’ll need pens, pencils, books, paper, a calculator, etc. to do homework. Keeping these items on a tray or in a large plastic box makes it easy to prepare any study area. A list posted on the outside of the box is a good way to double check that everything is still in there before getting started.
  1. Promote a positive attitude: Children that struggle in school often need a gentle positive push to get started. Is his reluctance just a cover for fear of not doing well, anxiety about something else, or memory of a recent not-so-great test experience? Recognizing where the attitude comes from will allow him to see it for what it is and address it if he chooses. Talk about a time when he was doing anything—even schoolwork—and he was “in the zone.” His focus was clear, and everything fell into place. It isn’t necessary to replicate the time your child last experienced that, but just bringing it to mind can work wonders by reminding him that it’s possible.
  1. Teach self-monitoring: At the beginning of each task and periodically throughout the process, get your child to ask herself, “How am I doing?” If she has the previous readiness steps down, she should be thinking, “Only two more to go! Great job, Me!” Until she gets this skill down, don’t hesitate to check on her progress. External monitoring will catch emerging problems and prevent them from mushrooming into a full-blown meltdown. By checking in you’re not only encouraging her, but you’re also helping her with planning, pacing and most important, staying on the path to learning.

Heidi Rosenholtz is an academic and productivity coach for adolescents and business professionals.

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