We’ve all heard the saying “practice makes perfect”, and in life we’ve all seen it’s truth. Neuroscience confirms that regular practice is a crucial component in learning a new skill. Lexercise uses online daily games and table-top activities to reinforce and master skills taught by a child’s clinical educator during their weekly 1 to 1 sessions.
By the time the majority of our students have started working with Lexercise they have experienced great obstacles and frustration in learning how to read. This can lead children to believe that their efforts are hopeless or that they aren’t smart, since their prior work did not give them the results they wanted. Lexercise Clinicians work with parents to re-motivate their child using our unique approach to practice, a critical components in learning how to read and write. Here are a few tips we’ve found in making ongoing practice more successful:
Look at this as brain training, NOT homework! First, the Lexercise program looks and feels different. We are not telling your child to read more, longer, faster…. this won’t work for a child with a language-based learning disability. The Structured Literacy method we use emphasizes mastery of skills where lessons AND practice are delivered systemically and intensively. This approach has been tested by the National Institutes for Health and is proven to work. What we are doing through our explicit instruction and practice is making connections in our brain’s language and literacy centers that were not as activated before. To “rewire” the brain, it takes a lot of deliberate practice, approximately 100 response challenges per day. Our customized online games and table-top activities give a child more than 100 response challenges a day.
Working with your child to set clear goals and expectations for practice help get their “buy in” since they are involved in the process. By setting goals you and your child can work as a team to accomplish the goal, while modeling a very important skill, having a growth mindset. Working towards a jointly-set goal shifts the child’s thinking to a growth mindset where s/he thinks “I am going to practice so I can reach my practice goal which will help me become a stronger reader and writer,” instead of “Someone is making me do this.” Tracking practice using an incentive chart can help the child see his/her progress towards their goal. Plan for shorter, more frequent sessions (minimum of 4 times per week), versus longer sessions. This helps a child maintain attention, and get in the optimal “learning zone” (70%-90% accuracy).
Having a routine helps practice become a habit! Decide what time during the week works best for your child and family. Communicate this to everyone in the family so they are aware and can be supportive. It is important that there be a dedicated space for practice that is conducive to learning (quiet and distraction-free). Also, by having others know this set time, they can help give gentle reminders that it’s practice time when needed. It is also a good idea to figure out a system for table-top activities the parent leads. When will this occur? Who in the family will do the activities? Planning in advance for practice helps to make sure that it becomes a habit.
Having a child complete practice first –before a preferred activity– gives a natural incentive. This could be before something that is regular occurrence such as: a meal, playing outside with friends, etc. Using a “first-then” statement can be helpful when communicating this. For example: “First complete your Lexercise games and 5 minutes of Whiteboard Spelling, then you can go outside and play with your friends.” It is important that immediately after the “first” task is completed they earn their preferred “then” activity. For younger students having a visual and setting a time can help to communicate these expectations.
Verbal praise and specific error correction goes a long way! Motivating with the end goal in mind is always helpful; we want to get to the point where your child is able to read and write with proficiency. Giving specific praise and feedback, helps them understand what it takes to train their brain to get there! When you see your child using the strategies taught in the session let them know by being very specific about what you saw (e.g. “I noticed when you got to that longer word, you broke the word down by its syllable type which made it more manageable.”). This reinforces the fact that looking at the structure of the word is more reliable than guessing. When a mistake is made, it is also important to give specific error correction so that they understand exactly why something is incorrect. During your weekly sessions your clinician will teach you exactly how to do this. Remember, verbal praise and specific and immediate feedback goes a long way!
Make time to review and celebrate the progress your child makes! It is so very important to celebrate your child’s success however large or small it may seem. Each portion of the deliberate practice we assign is one more step towards the goal of becoming and independent lifelong reader and writer. During our sessions you’ll see your clinician give online high-fives, count points for sentence dictation, and more! Our online game practice also tracks progress, through point goals. Each time a child plays they are able to see that progress is being made by watching their points increase. This point system is a means of encouraging repeated practice, with an emphasis on having an increase in accuracy and response time. You also may want to build in a specific individual motivation for your child. It could be a sticker chart for practicing games, rewards for reaching a point goal, etc.
Lexercise clinicians strive to help make each child’s practice as productive as possible. The best incentive to practice is when a child sees the progress he or she is making. This most often occurs when a child feels confident with their newly developed skills to pick up a book and read (without being told to!). Moments like that show us that all of the hard work and practice really is worthwhile.
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In 2004, Jennifer joined Teach for America as a special educator where she taught kindergarten through fifth grade. Her passion for reading instruction led her to be trained in a program based on the Orton-Gillingham method. After achieving significant results with her students, she began conducting trainings to help strengthen other teachers’ reading instruction. “My motivation as a teacher is to share my love of learning, and my gift has been working with struggling readers. There is no better feeling than to help someone become a strong reader and independent learner.” Jennifer earned a B.A. in Global studies University of California Santa Barbara and M.S. in Special Education from Lehman College.