What Really Matters

No matter which reading method you follow, if you keep these 3 BASICS in mind, you’re off to the best start. Drop any one of these three, and you’ll be looking at roadblocks ahead. So here they are:

1. Task Size

If what we’re asking our learner to do is too difficult for them at that particular moment, we’ll get pushback. Verbal learners will give it to us straight: “It’s too hard!” Other learners will pushback with behavior, avoidance, whatever works for them to let you know “I ain’t gonna do that. You can’t make me.”

The solution is simple: reduce the task size. Make it smaller. Make it shorter. Make it easier.

Then go from there. The emotional climate will change as soon as you do that, I promise.

I was reminded of that recently in a teaching session with a teenager. I knew what he was capable of, and I had expectations (oops) that we could resume where we left off last time. As much as I preach the guideline of starting a reading session with easier material (to build confidence and relax the learner), I ignored my own advice. Result? He objected, got in a mood, etc. Then the light dawned in my brain: backtrack. Give him something easier to read.

I pulled out an easier book, and presto! His mood changed. He became cooperative, almost–dare I say it–enthusiastic about what he was reading! Like a light switch had been flipped. Duh. How could I have forgotten something so basic?

Notice also that I initially said, what is “too difficult for them at that particular moment.” This changes like the wind. What was easy for her on Monday morning may be near-impossible for her on Friday afternoon. The “I can do this!” threshold varies as the mood and energy varies. So we go with that flow and don’t worry about it.

2. Repetition

Here’s where we make friends with our learner’s brain. The brain loves repetition, and it likes to see it fast. (Which is where the research behind Fast Flash comes into play.) Repetition gets it across those neural connections again and again until it sticks (literally, thickens that myelin sheath). Then recall is effortless. Until then, it’s not. So we repeat and repeat.

3. Duration

Simply put, we keep at it until it sticks. The duration of that time frame is almost certainly longer than we think it will take. No problem. We actually expect that, and we keep going until she’s got it.

Easy Summary

  1. So we keep the task size manageable and friendly;
  2. we repeat like crazy;
  3. and we keep at it until it’s firmly taken up residence in our learner’s brain.

The beauty of learning something like reading is this: once a child learns to read independently, it’s permanent. You’ve worked yourself out of a job, and that is sweet indeed!




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