Strategies to Support Your Child's Learning
Asking questions is a great way to find out what your child is thinking. Good questioning is a useful skill. On our main site there is an article about questioning Asking Questions to Check Your Child's Understanding that will be of use to you regardless of your experience in or expertise with questioning. When Anne and I are working with a group of children we constantly refer back to this article in order to ensure that we are asking a wide range of questions. This is important regardless of the age of your child. Even young children can answer the higher order style of questions, as long as the questions are phrased appropriately.
This strategy is useful when you are introducing a new topic or when your child is unsure of how to solve a problem or complete a procedure. As the name suggests it involves you acting as a role model for your child and working out a solution or finishing off a procedure. While doing that you must speak a running commentary of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what you expect to happen next, so your child can see the thought processes behind your actions. This strategy helps your child to learn more effectively than just providing him/her with the answer.
Effective use of repetition is not just doing the same thing, the same way over again. The skill is in making the activity look like a different one to your child but knowing yourself that he/she is practising the same skill.
You could use:
Many areas of maths have links with each other and while we, as adults, make links for ourselves, your child, and his/her less developed brains, needs these links to be pointed out to him/her. This will help your child to make connections that will enhance his/her understanding.
Explaining will be second nature to you as you support your child's learning, but this learning strategy is not for you but for your child. Using good quality questions, ask your child to explain what he/she is thinking as they are working on a maths activity. It is through explaining out loud and through answering your deeper questions that learning occurs. Your child does not just learn a fact or a procedure but begins to understand the why and how behind the activity.
In over learning your child will continue to learn about a topic even after you think he/she has mastered it. It is comparable (in physical terms) to muscle memory.
Practical Examples of Over Learning:
A basketball player doesn't go home when he has achieved a nearly perfect record on his free throws; he will spend hours on the court practicing the same shot over and over, so when he is in front of a crowd, he is able to perform the same task without distraction.
A violinist doesn't stop practicing when she has memorized the music. Every time she plays, it takes less energy, allowing her to concentrate on other ways to improve her performance, such as infusing emotion into her music.
A dancer may work on the same move so many times that she feels as if she could do it perfectly while sleeping. This doesn't stop her from repeating that same move. Committing the move to memory is a necessity; she lowers any chance of error with each practice session.
It is during this over learning phase, when the body is operating on 'cruise control,' that the mind and its intuition kicks in and initiates tiny changes that make a performance sing.
The theory behind this strategy is that in over learning a topic your child will need to use less of his/her thinking power to tackle the topic, therefore leaving more capacity for learning the next step. Research has shown that leaving a gap in over learning (coming back to the subject after a break of 2 or 3 weeks) that improvements in understanding were maintained.