Supporting Your Student When They Need to Repeat a Year

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Want to discover more strategies for guiding your child through the ups and downs of K-12 learning? Check out these tips for how to manage stress in school at every grade level.

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  • 4 Tips for Empowering Students to Persevere

    by Valerie Kirk

    A mother helping her son with school work

    "It's not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer."—Albert Einstein

    What does it take to persevere in the face of tough class assignments or even boredom? Is perseverance a trait students are born with, or is it a skill set, an attitude they can develop over time? 

    Online schools help foster student perseverance by empowering them to take greater responsibility for their own learning as they mature. For parents and Learning Coaches new to online school, it’s important to know that your students can develop the power to persevere—and that you can help.   

    It all begins with the right mind-set. 

     

    Mind-Set: Building the Foundations to Persevere 

    Think about it. Does your student believe he or she is simply "bad" at a particular subject, that no amount of effort can make up for a lack of natural talent? From this faulty fixed mind-set, perseverance or persistence is pointless. Giving up in the face of difficulty seems logical. 

    But for students who understand that talent and intelligence can be developed through effort and hard work, persevering just makes sense. From this growth mind-set, perseverance eventually pays off. 

    Fortunately, there are simple strategies you can use to both reinforce the growth mind-set and empower your students to persevere. Here are four tips for teaching perseverance. 

     

    4 Tips for Promoting Perseverance 

     

    1. Encourage positive self-talk and mindfulness. 

    "I'm just no good at this."  
    "This is too hard." 
    "I'm too far behind to catch up."

    Telltale signs of a fixed mind-set, statements such as these can sap your student’s willpower and your patience. Remind your students that they would never say such negative things to a friend who was struggling with a problem.  

    When faced with negative self-assessments, help your student reframe them into more positive ones, such as: 

    “I’m not good at this, YET!” 
    "This is hard, but if I keep trying, I will eventually get it." 
    "I’m behind now, but I can come up with a plan to catch up."

    To help students break the cycle of negative thinking, encourage them to practice mindfulness—the process of observing their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Age-appropriate mindfulness techniques can help calm self-doubts and give students a greater sense of self-control, a prerequisite for persistence. 

     

    2. Praise effort and process, not intelligence.

    We used to believe that telling kids they were smart would boost their self-confidence and academic performance. But studies now show that this kind of praise can discourage student perseverance by suggesting effort is less important to success than intelligence.  

    To help them learn perseverance, praise students for completing difficult assignments and focus on how hard they tried. Be specific in complimenting the process they used to tackle their tasks, such as breaking large goals into smaller tasks. To reinforce the growth mindset, point out how their abilities are growing through their own hard work. 

     

    3. Put failures and mistakes into a growth perspective.

    Some students, especially perfectionists, have an excessive fear of failure. They avoid it by giving up on subjects or activities that don’t come easily. Other students mistakenly equate a failure with a lack of intelligence or talent, taking needless hits to their self-esteem. Your own reaction to failure can make a powerful impact. When your students face setbacks, explain that failure is an expected part of the learning process that actually helps build intelligence and stamina. Taking a matter-of-fact approach, encourage your students to analyze what went wrong, seek help where needed, and try again…and again. 

     

    4. Give your students the chance to struggle.

    As a Learning Coach, you may be tempted to rush in to help when you see your students struggling with an assignment or problem. But struggle is essential to building self-confidence, independence, and perseverance. Resist the urge to intervene immediately, thereby allowing them time to figure it out on their own. (You can always intervene later if you see the struggle is becoming unproductive or too frustrating.) 

    By trying these approaches, you can help your child grow in tenacity and focus—character traits that contribute to success in college and in career. An added bonus is that when students do succeed after struggling, the victory is all theirs. And with virtual school, you can be there to enjoy each success and take pride in seeing your child develop a "can-do" spirit! 

     

    Perseverance Examples 

    Accredited online schools like Connections Academy help develop student perseverance by empowering them to become independent learners as they mature. Perseverance examples (aka stories from our students overcoming education challenges) come in all shapes and sizes.  

    If your student is currently enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school or you are homeschooling and are interested in exploring online school, take a look at these sample school schedules built by families to start exploring the flexibility (and other) benefits of online school.  

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  • Understanding Multiple Intelligences and Learning Preferences

    by Valerie Kirk

    A father helping his son take notes for an online lesson

    Educators and researchers are always looking for ways to improve learning outcomes and keep students engaged with learning. Because of this, the education field is crowded with different theories about learning styles (now learning preferences) teaching styles, and other methods on how students learn.  

    It’s important to understand the different types of learning preferences and prevailing theories when building online school and homeschool lessons, and when helping student’s study effectively to master difficult concepts. While one learning preference or theory won’t work for all students, learning about them can still help you identify your own student’s strengths and weaknesses. Some overtime have been met with criticism, but that’s not to say we can’t test some of their practices out to find out how our students best prefer to learn and study. They’re still popular today for a reason! 

    Here is an overview of some of the popular learning theories and different learning preferences to help every student achieve success.
      

    The Multiple Intelligences Theory 

    Some researchers believe in the Multiple Intelligences Theory, which claims that people have eight independent ways of processing information: 

    • Verbal-linguistic: (Word smart) 
    • Logical-mathematical: (Logic smart) 
    • Visual-spatial: (Picture smart) 
    • Auditory-musical: (Music smart) 
    • Bodily-kinesthetic: (Body smart) 
    • Interpersonal: (People smart) 
    • Intrapersonal: (Self smart) 
    • Naturalistic: (Nature smart) 

    It’s more accurate to think of the eight intelligences as abilities or strengths. The human brain is extremely complex, and all of these types of “smarts” work together. Your student may have several of these strengths. 

    How to use the Multiple Intelligences Theory

    To apply the Multiple Intelligences Theory to online school, teachers and Learning Coaches can use activities based on the intelligences to help students develop all of their learning strengths. Some activities help develop more than one strength at a time, offering a holistic way to support different types of learners. Here are some activities to engage your student:  

    • Taking photos for the online school yearbook to exercise “picture smarts” 
    • Making crystals to build “nature smarts” 
    • Drawing a map to scale to exercise “logic smarts” and “picture smarts” 
    • Spending 10 minutes writing about one of their best attributes to integrate “word smarts” and “intrapersonal smarts” 
       

    Learning Preferences  

    Learning preferences focus on how students process information using their senses to absorb and retain what is being taught. While many people may say they have a “learning style,” they really have learning preferences, or ways they prefer to have lessons delivered to them. Students actually learn and retain more educational content when it is delivered – or taught – to them in a variety of different ways as opposed to only one way, even if that way is their preferred way to learn.  

    Below are three different types of learning preferences to keep in mind when building online school or homeschool lessons. If your student is struggling with a difficult concept, you can also use these preferences as a guide to find a different way to deliver the learning content to them to help make things click.  

    • Visual learners: Those who prefer to learn through images, graphs, maps, and drawings 
    • Auditory learners: Students who prefer to learn by hearing and speaking new information  
    • Tactile/kinesthetic learners: The student who prefers to learn by experiencing, touching, and performing tasks 

    With these learning preferences in mind, here are some examples of delivering learning content in ways to reach all types of learners. 

    • Have your student practice counting money by giving them real coins, which is a tactile/kinesthetic learner approach  
    • When helping young readers, point to each word as you read it aloud, which uses both auditory and visual skills  
    • To learn geography, study a map, which is a visual task  
       

    Physical Activities for Kinesthetic Learners

    While physical activity is particularly important for kids who have a kinesthetic learning preference, taking breaks and staying active is important for all types of learners! Even if your student doesn’t gravitate toward hands-on or physical activities, you can still incorporate them into their online school routine to clear the mind and relieve stress. Try these learning activities to stimulate the body as well as the brain: 

    • Have your student play multiplication catch or leap for measurement to practice skills through activity 
    • Have your student use a stability ball instead of a chair for short periods of time to improve balance, posture, and upper-body strength  
    • Start a family fitness challenge. Get the whole family involved in the new fitness plan, whether it’s by holding indoor scavenger hunts or creating your own unique activities 
    • Do indoor physical education activities between lessons. Fun physical activities for grades K–12 can keep your student busy all year long, no matter what the weather is like outside 
       

    Learning Support at Home  

    Whether labeled as learning styles, preferences or intelligences, none of these strengths or abilities are static or fixed. They change as your student grows and matures. These approaches can be useful tools in a teacher’s or Learning Coach’s toolkit to add variety to your student’s online school experience and support learning at home, especially when helping your student become an independent learner

    There are lots of benefits to an online school model like Connections Academy. One of them is being able to test out these learning theories for yourself with your student, while enjoying the flexibility of a custom schedule and personalized education model. Check out how an online school model really works, and see if it might be a right fit for you and your family. 

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  • 5 Strategies to Inspire Curiosity in Students

    by Valerie Kirk

    A young student is wearing headphones while interacting with his tablet

    This post was originally published in June 2015. It has been updated for accuracy and relevancy in October 2021.

    Think about the last time your student read a book, watched a movie, or engaged in a conversation that sparked their curiosity. Did they perk up? Remain focused and attentive?  

    When something ignites your curiosity, regions of your brain associated with reward, memory, and motivation actually "fire up" with activity. In other words, curiosity can be a great motivator that makes the brain sincerely want to learn. Researchers from the University of California, Davis, found a link between motivation and curiosity when they set out to understand how curiosity affects learning. 

     

    Practical Tips to Inspire Curiosity in Students

    Teachers, parents, and Learning Coaches of online school students know how crucial it is to inspire curiosity every day to keep students engaged with learning. Here are five strategies you can use to ignite curiosity in school and beyond: 

     

    1. Be Curious Yourself

    Model an open, inquisitive attitude to new and familiar activities, ideas, people, and cultures. Curiosity is contagious. Try a new sport, start a new hobby, or take an online course in an unfamiliar subject. Seek out people with different backgrounds and viewpoints, and then actively listen to what they have to say. As you take on these new challenges, share your experience with your student—the excitement, the rewards, and the challenges.  

    In the process, you’ll inspire your student to tackle new subjects, try new extracurricular activities, and persevere through the initial discomfort that often comes with learning something unfamiliar. 

     

    2. Ask Questions and Question Answers 

    You've heard the saying, "It's the journey, not the destination." When it comes to curiosity, it's the question, not the answer, that engages students. The destination has value and will reward a student's hard work. The journey, however, makes that end result more exciting and satisfying. Curiosity starts the journey and motivates a learner to keep going, no matter how rocky the path. 

    In his book Why Don't Students Like School?, cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham argues that focusing on answers first actually dampens a student’s natural curiosity. To keep students engaged and draw them in, you need to ask open-ended questions that encourage them to seek out their own answers—questions that cannot be answered with a yes or a no or a shrug of the shoulders.  

    Open-ended questions can begin with phrases like: 

    • What would happen if … 
    • What would it be like to … 
    • Why did … 
    • How do we know that … 
    • What did you think when … 

     

    Consider the format FQR: Fact, Question, Response. 

    When presenting a new fact, expand with a question. For example, "Beethoven kept composing as his hearing was getting worse. I wonder how he felt about that?" A student’s response might be, "I'd be scared and angry."  

    With you as a model, students will learn to frame their own questions and even go on to question the answers. In the words of the late George Carlin, "Don't just teach your children to read. Teach them to question what they read." 

     

    3. Practice and Encourage Active Listening 

    Of course, great questions are pointless if no one is listening. When you actively listen to your student, you're also demonstrating how he or she can live curiously and communicate effectively. By example, show your student how to listen with full attention, how to play back or paraphrase the speaker's comments, and how to ask questions that generate more information and maybe even more questions. 

     

    4. Look for the Hook 

    Relate "uninteresting" or difficult subjects directly to your student's interests and daily life. One of the advantages of personalized learning found at online schools is the ability to tailor lessons to your student's interests, strengths, and challenges. If your student loves sports, then explore a favorite game through its venue locations (geography), statistics (math), or background on a favorite player (memoir or biography). Team names themselves can have amazing backstories. The Lansing Lugnuts and the Burlington Bumblebees, for example … no, I'll let your curiosity lead you! 

    Find books related to your student's interests. Students who love horses might be curious about how the invention of the automobile diminished the need for horses as everyday transportation. A science lover may relate to the history of inventions or to Clara Barton's impact on modern medicine. With the right hook to your student's interests, you can completely transform almost any subject into a fascinating source of information.  

     

    5. Present New Information in Chunks 

    Now that you've piqued your student's curiosity, don't risk killing it with information overload. Research shows that for every ten minutes of lesson time, online school students need at least two minutes to process what they've learned. A physical and mental break helps the body and the brain refresh themselves. So use the 10/2, or "chunk and chew," strategy. By presenting new information in 10-minute chunks and limiting it to 2–3 main points, you'll keep your student's attention and make the information easier to absorb. 

     

    Resources to Ignite Curiosity for Learning 

    Students are naturally curious! Find ways ignite their curiosity with fun activities including how to build a Rube Goldberg machine on the Connections Academy Resource Hub.

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