Question: Tutoring my 6 year-old student has been really challenging. His attention span is very limited, he does not like to follow instruction, and he has some behavioral issues. It is a learning process for me. Sometimes all he is willing to do is listen to me read him a book. There have also been a couple of occasions when I had to end the session early because of behavioral problems. Whenever that’s the case, I just calmly tell him that because he was choosing not to learn with me, I was going to end early, and I make him shake hands with me that the next week he will be ready and willing to learn – and the next week, he typically has a MUCH improved attitude.
He is definitely an intelligent child, but I worry that he isn’t learning as much from me as he could. Maybe you could give me some tips for guiding his attention/behavior?
-Jennifer, Region 5
Great question! In my past experiences working as a preschool assistant teacher and working in different Kindergarten classrooms, I have seen firsthand the importance of building consistency with my younger students. In my previous experiences, younger students will misbehave because they feel insecure or nervous. When students become accustomed to a schedule, they know what to expect which makes them less likely to misbehave.
First, I always inform my students at the beginning of the session what our schedule will be and what activities we will complete. A sample 1-hour session could be:
3:00-3:05 PM: Sing a song
3:05-3:20 PM: Complete one homework assignment
3:20-3:30 PM: Read a book
3:30-3:50 PM: Complete another homework assignment
3:50-4:00 PM: Color
You could even draw a schedule with pictures that shows the student the order of the activities.
Once the student gets accustomed to the schedule and his behavior improves, you can start making adjustments and become more flexible with it. A possible adjustment is switching an activity out (ex: replacing singing a song with playing a game such as ‘Simon Says’). The challenging part will be getting your student used to the schedule at first, but it will help both of you out in the long run.
Here is a useful article from Aha! Parenting that stresses the importance of building structures and routines for young students.
About the Tutor: Natalie Platon possesses seven years of experience working with K-12th grade students in different capacities and is currently finishing her multiple subjects teaching program with CSU Los Angeles. She has a deep passion for working in diverse and underserved communities and has worked in after-school programs, tutoring organizations, shelters, and schools.
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