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He is seven years old, going on eight years old. He can spell “butterfly”, “caterpillar” and “computer”. By now, he should be able to spell the numbers from one to ten. Although children learn in different ways, but there is a “milestone” to reach for different stages. Unable to spell the numbers from one to ten at the age of seven is perceived as “slow in learning”. That is his school teacher’s perception. My task, as a home tutor, is to make sure he is able to keep up with other students of the same age.
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I gave him a list of 37 numbers and he needed to spell the numbers in words.
“I do not know how to spell.”
“It’s ok. We learn together.”
“It is a long list.”
“It’s ok. We can do up to ten today and continue the rest next time.” (My initial plan was to complete the first fifteen numbers, but I wanted to keep him interested at the same time.)
And he started writing “One” and “Two”. It was a good start. I encouraged him to continue, but the next “number” I saw was “Tree”.
I told myself to hold whatever I wanted to say. It was too early to correct him. I asked him to continue. The next one is “Four”. See? He can do it!
5, 6 and 7. Sensing that the spelling was wrong, he erased the answers for 5 and 7. He stuck at 8. He seemed discouraged. He was waiting for my help. Just three more numbers to go, I wanted him to continue.
“Ten is easy. Why not you try to spell ten, then go to nine, then e-i-g-h-t?”
I spoke e-i-g-h-t in a slow manner, hoping that he was able to get the hints I gave him. Below is the first version of his answers:
Next, we went through the answers. I told him the difference between Tree and Three. I told him se-ven is made up of two syllables…
We proceeded to other lessons. I did not want him to think that he is bad in spelling.
If the boy were your child, what would be your reaction to the above list? Panic? The more panic he sees from your reaction, the more stress he has. For me, it is a good start, he knows he cannot spell, he knows what is the first alphabet for each number. The next step is to reinforce what he has learnt and at the same time build up his confidence.
It will be a long journey for him and me.
When I was younger, my father was my supporter. He supported whatever I did. I was good at baking cakes, but I had never tried to make the icing. Once, I tried but failed, it was too sweet and it did not even look like icing. But my father ate it and said it is a success. Though I never make icing ever since, I still remember my father’s encouragement.
No matter which type of students I encounter, I give them encouragement as and when necessary. There are positive results. For good students, after getting encouragement, they become better. For not-so-good students, after getting encouragement, they try to be better. Of course, there are some who need time because parents have been giving them negative comments and they have lost their confidence.
There is one student whom I would like to mention here. When I first saw him, he was hyperactive, not listening to me after around half an hour. I tried almost everything, flash cards, stories, mobile games, etc. Whenever I gave him a new thing to try, he was interested for the first five minutes and then started his ‘dreaming’ again. Even the white board that he likes so much, he only writes and draws for around ten minutes. Then I have to find something else to get his attention.
Nonetheless, I keep giving him encouragement, when he has done something right. At the fifth session with him, he tried an exercise and he requested to mark his own answers. After making sure that his answers were correct, I let him mark the answers. After marking, he drew a square and wrote 5/5 (it means 5 questions out of 5 questions are correct). He has done a few pages of exercises that day, a success to me because I have been trying to get him to do more than three pages of exercises, but failed. He asked me whether the number of questions is correct (he is P1, just learning to count). If it was correct, I let him go ahead to put in the numbers in the square. If it was wrong, I taught him how to count the questions.
I will keep giving encouragement, after seeing so many encouraging results. I hope parents will give encouragement to their children too. Encouragement will open up more possibilities.