How To Stop Kids from Being Quitters

Dear Teacher

How can I help my third-grade son who gives up at the first sign of difficulty? What can I do to help him stop being a quitter? — Cheerleader Mom

Children usually start giving up after experiencing a cycle of failures at school. Your son is only in the third grade; he more than likely wants to do well in school. Very sadly, not all bright children succeed in school. Some begin tasks very halfheartedly and give up at the first sign of difficulty. Psychiatrists call this “learned helplessness.” It can happen in the early grades because of emotional immaturity, low frustration level, or over-dependency on adults.

It also can happen when children start fourth or sixth grades because these are points when learning requires more effort, and some bright children have no strategies for handling difficult assignments and give up too quickly. It’s not easy for these children to overcome the tendency to give up when the going gets tough, but they can with continued help from teachers and parents.

By modeling how to approach a problem and giving specific instructions at every step along the way, parents can help their children learn how to tackle difficult assignments. They will need to teach them:
•     Effective problem-solving strategies
•     To look for more than one approach when solving a problem
•     To retrace their steps to find errors
•     To use self-talk as a guide for solving problems.


Ways to Improve a Fourth- Grader’s Spelling

My fourth-grader will ace the weekly spelling test; however, he misspells a lot of words when doing his homework. How can he improve his spelling? — Misspeller

Part of the answer lies in how he learns the spelling test words. He may not be working with them enough to really learn them. He needs to write the words on a home spelling pre-test as soon as he gets them, self-correct the misspelled words, and write them correctly and then be tested on the missed words following the same steps until he can write them correctly. If he misses too many words, limit the number of words (five to seven) that he works with in one evening. The night before the test, re-test him on all the words and follow the same correction steps for any missed words.

There is a good possibility that the spelling test words are not the ones that he is misspelling in his everyday work. A good way to deal with this is to look over his work and make a list of the words that he frequently misspells.

Then you can follow the steps above and teach him five of these words along with the weekly spelling list. Review these words frequently in separate spelling tests until you see that he really can spell them.  It could take a month for him to learn as many as ten words.

To reinforce the learning of the misspelled words, play Hangman with your son using the words that he frequently misspells. If he can word process, he could type some of his homework. By using spell check, he’ll immediately see spelling errors and be able to correct them.

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