Durban – A new school year has just begun and your child, hopefully, is beginning to settle down. To benefit optimally, pupils need a safe and nurturing learning environment both at school and at home.

Parents today can no longer afford to take a hands-off approach to their children’s education.

Helping your child develop good organisational skills in the foundation years, for example, is essential for success in later life.

Similarly, helping him to prioritise his homework, or break up larger assignments into smaller (more manageable) pieces, lessens the possibility of procrastination on his part.

And when he sees the relevance between what he learns in class and his life outside school, he’ll likely become a more motivated pupil.

It’s never too early (or too late) to help a pupil develop the skills for academic success. This is best done by integrating study skills in both daily lessons and homework sessions.

In my practice, I come across far too many pupils who study for hours, but achieve very little. Well-designed empirical studies show that children learn most effectively by being actively involved in the learning process through writing, speaking and experiencing the material they are required to master.

Learning based on understanding enables a pupil to remember material much longer and to recall it more easily.

Some suggestions for parents and teachers:

* Have a regular study routine after school.

* Help him get his time management right.

* Teach him to become better organised. Make his environment study friendly.

* Ensure that he is not over-involved in extracurricular activities, TV or video games.

* Provide incentives for improved school performance and withdraw privileges when test and exam marks drop significantly.

* Improve reading comprehension by teaching him to underline key words, using mind maps, spidergrams, flowcharts and other illustrations.

* Discourage your child from copying “chunks” when doing research tasks. Talk about the information together, highlight key facts and help your child to write these as brief notes.

* Determine whether he is mainly a visual or an auditory learner. Get him to use his stronger modality to his advantage.

* Protect his self-esteem. Avoid humiliating him when he performs poorly.

Some possible roadblocks to optimal learning that require attention:

* Subject material is too difficult.

* Doesn’t like the subject.

* Has poor foundational knowledge.

* Pace of teaching is too fast.

* Skips classes.

* Doesn’t like school.

* Can’t understand what the teacher says.

* Pupil doesn’t like teacher, or vice versa.

* Freezes under test conditions.

* Has homework-related problems.

* Wants to punish parents.

Some problems which may require professional help include the following:

* A lack of motivation to do well.

* Problems at home, at school or with peers (eg bullying).

* Emotional/behavioural problems.

* Learning disabilities.

* Below average intelligence.

* Anxiety.

* Depression and/or inadequate sleep.

Ramphal is an uMhlanga-based educational psychologist/career counsellor

Article from Daily News