Meat & Potatoes: adjective (Informal)-  fundamental; down-to-earth; basic (

This week I said to a mom, “We don’t use any fancy methods with our kids – it’s all very ‘meat and potatoes’.”

In this day and age there are all kinds of treatments and approaches to address children who are struggling, usually in the areas of reading, spelling and writing.  Many of the programs are computer based or conducted on iPads.  Minimal involvement or interaction with a teacher or tutor is required..

With these approaches, the kid logs on to a train the brain style program and each session picks up wherever the previous lesson ended.  As he progresses, the child racks up various points with the computer voice calling out “great job” or “You’re number one,” at least 50 times in the session just in case the child had forgotten how great he was.

In the other, “meat and potatoes” approach,   the teacher works with the child on fundamental skills in a more individualized format tailored to meet the child’s needs.  Knowing where the where the child is in his/her level of development, she targets those fundamental skills that are lacking or weak utilizing sensible approaches  that have been shown in research and through experience to work well in developing these skills.

Two essential ingredients in this approach are patience and encouragement.  The child can’t be rushed along.  The skills take time to consolidate and be internalized.  For children with learning disabilities they typically need much more repetition than is usually expected for the skills to take hold and become a part of the child’s automatic repertoire.

The “Meat and Potatoes” approaches target decoding  and reading fluency skills in the early stages of development and then shift into more complex reading activities that include targeting inferences, drawing conclusions and vocabulary.

There is also a layering or scaffolding in these approaches.  One skill is layered on top of another.  Kids who are struggling need this step-by–step mastery much more than the kids who have an easier ride.

Each step builds a little confidence, a little sense of mastery.

Takeaway Point

Pass the gravy.

The meat and potatoes are looking pretty good.