As the current “new abnormal” continues, virtually all children are receiving instruction on-line, there are a few old school considerations to keep in mind.
Much of the “instruction” described to me by the parents with whom I consult with (on-line), represents a digital version of worksheets of the “read this and answer the questions,” variety.
This digital type of assignment is fine for those kids I call on the “smooth road.” Assignments are completed without too much fuss, and then they can quickly get back to their iPads and Youtube.
For those on the rougher road (some with IEP’s others not), it’s a very different story.
An “old “school” concept that is a crucial consideration rarely discussed any more is whether the material given is in the child’s zone of competence.
A simple analogy applies.
Let’s say you go into the gym to lift weights. You go over to the barbells and see one that is 15 lbs. The lifting is easy. No sweat. Next you try the 20 lb. weights. While you can lift them, you note a little more effort. You don’t need help, but notice yourself tiring after a number of lifts.
Feeling a bit bold you go over to the 35 lb. barbell. You try and lift it, but they don’t budge. You can’t do it. A gym attendant comes over and offers to lift with you, since the 35 lbs. are clearly out of your zone of competence.
In truth the attendant is doing about 90% of the lifting at this point.
It is no different with the work being given to children, whether live in the classroom or on-line.
Most of the consideration as to whether the child can “lift the weight” is correlated with their functional abilities with reading. (Even with mathematics, so much of the work given is in the form of math word problems (i.e., reading), as opposed to pure calculations.)
Even if your child has not received a diagnosis of some kind, such as a learning disability like dyslexia, there is a simple “gym test” that you can do to determine if the child is in the zone of competence with whatever is being given to them.
Here it is – listen to them read the material being given. How does it sound? Is it relatively smooth and fluent or halting, stumbling ad faltering with lots of trouble in particular with the “big words?”
If it is the latter, then you need to become the gym attendant and do a lot of the heavy lifting. That is, you need to read the material to the child and help them work through it, as it is clearly out of the “zone of competence.”
(Keep in mind that the simple read aloud test is just screening one aspect of reading. With this screening there is no consideration of comprehension, vocabulary or reasoning, but it still gives you insight about whether the child is out of the competence zone.)
Can your child lift the weight or is it too much? Most of the “smooth road” types are breezing along. The rest need much more support.
(Be sure and check out the other blog in this week’s newsletter where we wrote a previous post about what was said about the complexity of reading back in 1964. The renowned psychologist, Dr. Jules Abrams, is quoted. His words are 100% on the money. Sadly, Dr. Abrams recently passed. May his memory be a blessing.)
(Here’s a link to the post: What was said in 1964.)