Children Learn Differently

~ submitted by Colleen Rooney, summer intern and student at Bridgewater State University

For the last several weeks, I have been tutoring Matt and John, ages 5 and 7. Matt, the younger one, is a very bright child who excels in math and reading and will be entering first grade in September. Unfortunately, his brother John is far behind academically. John is going into third grade, but he is at a first grade level. John is a student who has been “swept under the rug” and continues to go unnoticed, as many children impacted by homelessness do.

Not only is this putting John behind, it also affects his self-esteem. His peers can read and write and he cannot. Being so far behind in school gives you a sense of hopelessness and a poor attitude about continuing to move forward with your education.

During a recent tutoring session with Matt and John, I made a 5-foot number line and wrote addition problems on flashcards as well as spelling out numbers. Not only did this activity include mathematics, it included phonics. For example, one flashcard said “5+10=” and the boys figured out it was “fifteen” and placed the word under “15” on the number line. They then sounded out the numbers I had written on flashcards and placed them on the number line as well. Most children get frustrated and tend to give up when they do not understand something. John gets extremely frustrated and tends to stop paying attention. By using different strategies and doing hands-on activities John was much more attentive and enjoyed the lesson.

Children learn differently. Modifying lessons to best fit their needs makes a profound difference in their attitude towards learning.

At the end of the lesson Matt and John were very excited to show their father what they had done. I told them they could bring the number line home and hang it on their wall. John replied, “We cannot hang it on our wall. We are not allowed to. We live in a hotel.” This made me realize how difficult their circumstances are and what an important role School on Wheels of Massachusetts is playing in their lives. Having a place to go to receive one-on-one tutoring is essential for their academic achievement.