Thursday night, I sat with three moms who had boys of different ages and we talked about the challenges of raising and teaching boys. We all had our stories to tell of times when we were perplexed by what our boys said or did. So, what do we do with these normal boys when they want to sit on their heads while doing math, they can’t sit through a worksheet, and add sound effects when they’re supposed to be reading quietly? It’s time to think out of the box, build activity into lessons, be encouraging, and be patient.
These suggestions will probably work best with preschool to grade school children BUT I have used the baseball suggestion in a high school co-op class for review in history! Many or all of these ideas will also be appreciated by girls.
What are his interests? Does he like Legos®, Hot Wheels®, baseball, or playing video games? How can you incorporate those things into the lesson you are teaching?
Math with Toys. Any small toys can be used for simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. Lego dots (or studs – the official word for the bumps on a Lego) and the tires on Hot Wheels cars can also be used for multiplication and division.
Moving Math. If he struggles with completing a math worksheet, get him up and moving. Stand at one end of the room and send him to the other end of the room. Ask him a math question. If he gets it right, he takes one step (or one floor tile, if you have tiled floors) toward you. When he is able to tag you, then the math lesson is done!
Play Baseball! Make a baseball game out of a spelling lesson. Draw a baseball diamond on a piece of paper or white board. Write the words “first base,” “second base,” “third base,” and “home run!” each on a separate slip of paper. Each correctly spelled word allows him to draw one of the slips of paper which determines where that batter goes on the baseball diamond. An incorrectly spelled word is a strike. Play until three batters are out (hopefully, he doesn’t spell nine words wrong!) or until the spelling lesson is done. For extra fun, you can be the other team. Give him a dictionary and let him give you spelling words!
Video Games. There are many educational video games available online and for purchase. My family and I are complete computer geeks so learning by computer has been a constant. But you can also make your own “video game.” Try this: You’re studying the Pilgrims. Ask your son if he was going to create a video game about the Pilgrims what would he include. How would the game start? What would be the game objective(s)? Who would be the characters? What would they do? Have him draw a screenshot of the game. Give him a list of facts or events that have to be included in the game. You may want to consider adding this scenario: “You’re working at a company that makes games. Your boss has asked you to create a game about the Pilgrims. You have 3 days (or whatever you want) to prepare your presentation.” At the end, have him pitch his game to the family, friends, or the class.
There are countless ways to engage children in learning and they generally don’t involve a pencil and worksheet. Go in your son’s room and see what he’s playing with or if you’re a teacher, check out the local toy store. How can you use what you see to teach? Not only will he have more fun, but you will, too!
What do you do to keep your child or student focused?