Oct 24

Ask a Tutor Tuesday – 10/24/2017

Question: “My student doesn’t want to do anything but homework. I try to bring in other things like books or worksheets but he doesn’t put in any effort even though he is behind in his reading skills. He is in fifth grade.”

Thanks for this question; I think it’s a relatively common behavior for students to resist what they see as ‘extra’ work when they have homework to do instead, especially as they get older. I would suggest making the connection for your student about why this work is important for him to do. Since he is in fifth grade, he is getting to be mature enough to recognize where he might need improvement with certain skills.

Engage him in a conversation about what he wants to work on and be sure to give him choices, so he feels he has some say in the matter. This will, in turn, give him a sense of ownership and might strengthen his dedication. You might start a conversation with: “I know you have homework, and we will prioritize that during our sessions, but I am also here to help you strengthen skills and become a more fluent reader. What things could work on together in addition to homework that would help you in school?” Then, let him answer and see if you can agree on a schedule; maybe 30-40 minutes on homework and 20 minutes on skill-building activities. Over time, you can adjust as needed.

Last, make sure the extra materials you bring in are interesting to him. Some students are reluctant to do worksheets but eager to read a book about a subject they enjoy. Try to incorporate student interests whenever possible. Perhaps using a digital learning tool like Khan Academy might be beneficial. Also, it is possible that some of the materials you have presented are too advanced given his skill level. He may be resisting to avoid embarrassment over acknowledging what he doesn’t know. You could do an assessment with him to determine appropriate grade level materials. Also helpful: admitting when you don’t know something and modelling how to find out the answer. If you can show your student how to tackle the unknown as a fun learning challenge, rather than as something to dread, it will help develop his grit and determination, two important qualities for success in school.

Good luck!

Amanda Carr joined School on Wheels in early 2015. As engagement specialist at School on Wheels, she is dedicated to providing volunteers with resources to help them succeed.

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