What are the Characteristics of a Slow Learner?
The term “slow learner” is given to a student that has the ability to achieve scholastically, but tends to work below the grade level
average. This type of learner will typically score lower on IQ tests, or national achievement tests, but not so low that a “special education” diagnosis is given. If your homeschooled child has not taken an IQ test or an assessment exam, you may be wondering what the common signs are in identifying a slow learner. If you’re wondering whether or not you are homeschooling a slow learner the list below highlights characteristics researchers have found to be shared by many struggling learners.
- They have trouble doing complex problems that require higher reasoning and many steps.
- These students work slowly on most assignments.
- They are prone to anxiety and low self-esteem.
- They have trouble mastering skills, and if they are moved on too quickly gaps will begin to develop academically.
- They struggle to carry over skills they learned from one subject to another.
- They lose track of time easily.
- They have poor concentration skills and may have poor organizational skills as well.
- They have significant problems with time management.
Tips and Techniques For Helping Slow Learners Improve Academically
Here are some suggestions to help a struggling learner achieve academically.
Minimize distractions by providing a quiet, well organized space to work.
Keep lessons short. Since slow learners struggle with focus, make the times of learning compact, and do several smaller segments of learning rather than one long session.
Teach the lesson in multiple ways. While students working at an average or above-average pace can grasp a concept with one worksheet or a brief explanation, to help a slow learner master their lessons you’ll need to do more than just what is assigned by the curriculum. For example if your child is memorizing multiplication tables he/she may need to see a written chart, practice with a manipulative like cotton balls (counting out four times four by counting out groups of cotton balls), and do a rote exercise of repeating aloud the multiplication table.
Provide short meaningful directions. Once again, because of the short attention spans of slow learners, long drawn-out directions with lots of steps will not be helpful. Where possible provide lists and check-off boxes so a slow learner can grasp what should be done first, next and last. It would be helpful to do a checklist for each subject if there are multiple parts (like a worksheet, oral reading and flashcards for phonics) and also a daily checklist with all the subjects on it.
Accept where your child is academically. You may need to do some assessment tests to see if your child is working at the appropriate grade level. Teaching a slow learner doesn’t mean you need to lower the standards for your child, but it does mean accepting the type of learner your child is, and working to help him/her succeed academically, not just move quickly through age-appropriate work.
Incorporate “up and moving time”. Give your child a chance to stand up, do jumping jacks, or stretch between subjects. For these learners providing physical movement is important, so he/she is not sitting so much.
Find passions and pursue them. It’s important for your child to find talent and self-worth through something. If your child is struggling with academics, but excels in music, pursue that with passion and praise. Self-esteem sky-rockets when a child finds an area where he/she excels.
Use peer tutoring or co-operative learning. Studies show that slow learners are very motivated by peer approval. If you have access to a homeschool learning co-op where a slightly older child than your own could provide tutoring, this could benefit your child.
Use repetition. According to experts, repetition is a key to a slow learner’s success. According to Erin King, a Nationally Certified School Psychologist, “It may feel like you are saying the same thing over and over, but it helps make the concept concrete.”
Praise work well done. Find lots of opportunities to give praise to your child. Rejoice in successes, even the small ones!
Keep the big picture in mind. An ideal goal for most homeschooling parents is that they teach their children to succeed in life. This means there is more being taught through home education that just academics. A slow learner needs to be taught how to process information, how to make a schedule, how to manage their time, and how to work hard even when it’s tough. Keeping in mind that teaching your child these skills are equally important to the academics can encourage you to keep on with teaching your child, even when it’s tough for you as the educator.
The Good News
The good news is that an education at home provides an ideal learning environment for a slow learner. Because homeschooling provides a small student-to-teacher ratio, your child is getting a tutor-like education every day.
Also, at home your child does not have to keep up with the pace the traditional schools set. In a traditional school setting most often the teaching is done toward the median academic level in the classroom. Those working ahead or behind the subject material are essentially not having their needs met. If your child is working behind his/her grade level you can work at your own pace without having to “keep up” with anyone else.
Another positive is that at home you work with your child without the constant comparison of what his/her peers are achieving academically. This alone helps your child’s self-esteem stay protected.
Finally, because you make the daily and weekly schedules for your child’s learning, you can plan for short lessons and exercise breaks between subjects, which fits this learning style the best. A slow learner really benefits from the personal customization that home education provides.
Homeschooling a slow learner will take patience and additional resources, but the benefits can outweigh the extra effort when you see your child’s academic achievement and self-esteem soar because of the approach you’ve taken to help him succeed.
F.A.Q. Parents Ask About Struggling (Slow) Learners by Erin N King, Ed.S, Nationally Certified SchoolPsychologist.
Girl Smiling Image: wikimedia commons, Motivated student.jpg, author: Afoshee 1020
Happy boy Image: wikimedia commons, Felicidade A very happy boy.jpg, author: Luis Miguel Bugallo Sanchez