Lately, I have been doing a lot of work focusing on how to provide help for students by uncovering their strengths to meet their needs.
This can often be a daunting task because in truth their strengths may be hard to take or in some cases truly difficult to see. I thought that you might be having a similar problem. How do you uncover your child’s strengths and then make them the foundation of support in school?
I thought it would help if I give you a very specific example of something that recently happened in my life. I have a grandchild that is very quiet. Unlike her siblings, her language development has been slow. She could obviously understand what was being said yet rarely responded to questions or participated in spontaneous speech.
Last year, in pre-school her teacher asked her mom if she speaks? One of her little classmates was there and said, ‘yes, she does, just not to grown-ups’. This pattern has continued into this year.
I began spending a lot of time with her and her younger brother and was running out of ways to keep them occupied. A dear friend suggested I bring a Mary Poppins bag of things to do. Great idea! What could I bring?
I decided on basic wooden puzzles - you know the ones with the little knobs and pictures on each piece that go into specific places on the board. I had three so we started with them. At first I had to show her what to do. She liked them and would do them over and over again. She rarely spoke while she was doing them.
I began to notice that she was more and more excited and verbal when I came to the house. She asked me for the puzzles. She started talking while she worked on this very simple activity. At first it was how to do the puzzle and then it was about the pictures. She was ‘processing out loud’.
I had a Peppa Pig set of 7 puzzles that I was saving until she was a bit older. She likes Peppa. I decided to bring them believing they were going to be too difficult. Completing these would require a huge jump in skills. It was puzzle pieces with no preformed frame. These pieces locked together - they did not go into specific spaces on a wooden board. The puzzles went from 12 pieces to 24. Here is where the story gets exciting!!!
She did those 7 puzzles with no help and no picture to follow in 15 minutes. Talking the entire time. She spoke to herself - processing out loud. She looked for connections I would have never noticed.
She is a visual/kinesthetic learner - combining visual stimulation with body movement.
She does it her way not mine or most other adults that try to direct her work. She has become the puzzle princess - doing puzzles of all shapes and sizes. During this time her language has taken off. She is more spontaneous. She is speaking in sentences, asking questions, using pronouns correctly and joining in conversation. Is it because she was using her language in a way that drove her learning? I do not know. What I do know is that she used what language she had while working in her gift.
I have spent a significant number of years in education. Uncovering my granddaughters gifts is a highlight of my life. It serves as a reminder that our jobs as adults is to find what our children are good at and grow those skills. They may be different than ours. They may be more challenging. They are there for us to uncover and focus on and provide the best learning opportunities.
As adults we manipulate our lives to work in our strengths. When we uncover our children’s strengths we can manipulate how they are instructed so that their learning is better suited to them.