By Dawn Spence

Over my years of teaching, I found one thing to be true, my students learned better if I could keep their attention and make learning fun at the same time. I have also found this to be true in homeschooling my own children.

One way of accomplishing this goal of keeping lessons fun and motivating is to combine learning with games or activities.

Here are 4 Examples:

Motivation Piece by Piece
Chutes and Ladders, puzzles, playdough, and building games such as Jenga work well to motivate the learner to complete a task. For instance, if you are using a puzzle, have your learner answer 1-3 questions. After completing the questions, allow him/her to have some pieces of the puzzle. Therefore, when the child has completed the lesson, the puzzle will also be completed.

This activity is a great way to use those games and puzzles that have been hiding in your closet. You can use any game your child is interested in such as Battleship, UNO, Kerplunk, Sorry, Connect 4, Perfection, building circuits, and LEGOS.

Build Focus Through Interest-Based Activities
It is best to use this technique when your student is confronted with a challenging activity. Not only do we use this technique at home, but my daughter’s therapists also use this technique to keep my daughter focused during her therapy sessions.

One way my daughter’s focus can be enhanced is if she is allowed to build a Jenga tower. She actually eagerly completes any difficult activities she is given so she can, in turn, build her tower. While in therapy, my daughter completes her articulation exercises at the same time she is completing a pattern with her Jenga blocks. In the teaching world, this is a win-win because the child’s focus causes learning to happen quicker and overall the learning process is seen as fun and engaging.

Motivators Matter
I can’t stress enough how important it is to use things that motivate your child while instructing him/her. If your learner loves to roll playdough, use that. If he likes to build towers and then knock them over, then use that. If she wants a sticker every time her work in done, use that.

When you use motivators you are not bribing your child to do school, you are instead giving them an incentive. Some children are very incentive driven, so if that is your child use that bend to motivate learning.

Set Clear Expectations
When you set your expectations out front with a clear directive, using “if/then” statements, your child will be less likely to expect any rewards before his/her tasks are completed. For instance, if you are using blocks as your motivator, tell your child that “if” he answers three questions “then” he will earn three blocks.

Depending upon the age of your child, his/her cognitive understanding, the motivation tool you are using, and the type of task you are asking your child to complete, you can change the rules and rewards to make learning more fun and motivational. Break down the puzzle or game into little chunks you are teaching your learner delayed gratification.

An Added Bonus
As you practice these techniques your student will also be developing two very important life skills, delayed gratification and the desire to be a lifelong learner. These bigger picture goals for any child are always worth the work, but isn’t it great that along the way they actually work to increase day to day learning as well?

 


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By Kimberly A Vogel

 

I opened the door and stepped into a winter wonderland. White, blue, and silver Christmas decorations adorned the house. After days of rushing around and overwhelming holiday stress, I finally felt like I could breathe. 

 

Something was comforting in the white. It brought a sense of calm and peace. The term white space repeated in my thoughts and synced to the white lights blinking.

 

I need white space in my life, especially around the holidays.

 

White space, a term writers use, refers to the white space on a page so the reader isn’t bombarded by words. I need a place where I’m not bombarded. I need extra room to move and breathe. Instead of cramming more activities into an already filled schedule, I should plan less and leave room for more spur of the moment activities.

 

My thoughts started to create priorities on how I just might be able incorporate white space into my life to lower my holiday stress. 

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love.

 

These were the reminders I needed to tell myself. 

 

Keep your calendar handy so you don’t overbook

Do you have a planner? Do you use your phone or paper? What you use isn’t important, using it is what’s important. Overbooking isn’t just having two activities at the same time, it’s having too many activities in a day or week.

 

Say yes sparingly

In Volunteering: Pray about every opportunity. Only commit to what you have time to do well. It’s better to focus on one or two opportunities, than saying yes to five things and only following through with a few.

With Activities: There’s an abundance of fun family events only available during the holidays and you should never feel obligated to go to them all. It seems like every group has a party this time of year. Make sure whatever you do commit to fits into your plan and isn’t too taxing. Also, consider your family’s special circumstances: If you have small kids, parties during nap time make the day difficult. If you have special needs kids, there are so many things to think through… sensory issues, behavior issues due to excess sugar, dietary restrictions, over-stimulation.

 

Don’t operate out of guilt, expectations, or ideals

Expectations run high during the holidays. As moms, we often set the pace for our family. As women, guilt plays a role into our decision making. I’ll never forget the year I ran myself ragged to make sure an event happened, all to find out I was the only one who wanted it. In this instance, the event’s importance had been heightened by a childhood memory, an ideal I eventually had to let go for the sake of my family’s sanity.

 

Back in the lovely decorated home, I walked into another room where a huge Fontini display decorated the corner. A village scene centered around the nativity. Then it hit me, THAT is the who of my white space. Jesus came to bring…peace, love and salvation. If He’s not at the center of my white space then I am just creating voids that attract fillers.

 

My holiday did not have peace and my short temper overshadowed my love. White space is only beneficial if it is filled with Jesus because He perfectly fills the void. Jesus space, as the center of our white space, brings me back to what this holiday season is all about.

 

What can you do to create white space and Jesus space into your life?

 

 

 

 


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