rohdes asks:

What can I do to help my son stay on task in class?

He gets wonderful grades - top in his 5th grade class, but the teacher insists that he doesn't stay on task during class.  The reading teacher says he will simply sit and not write anything when given an assignment.
In Topics: Motivation and achievement at school
> 60 days ago



Oct 28, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Good question.  Before I give some suggestions, I think you need to gather a little more information from your son and his teacher.  

Here are some questions you can ask your son.
Why don't you start or complete your assignments in class?
Do you like working on assignments at home?  If so, why?
Are there distractions in class that prevent you from doing your work?
Do you only do this with reading assignments?
What subject(s) do you like best?
How do you feel you are doing compared to the others in your class?
Do you like reading?
What do you like or dislike about reading?
What can either me or your teacher do to help you with completing your assignments?
Do you like to write?
Are you afraid you might get the answer wrong or do the assignment incorrectly?
What does the teacher say or do when you don't do the assignment?

Once you've talked to your son, ask to speak to the teacher.  Here are some questions you can ask her.
Is it only reading assignments that aren't being completed?
Do you see that he is distracted during this time?
How is it that he gets good grades and at the top of his class, but doesn't complete his assignments?
Do you see him having any learning disabilities in reading?
What type of assignments do you give him that he does stay on task?
How are those assignments similar or different than the reading assignments?
Do you think his problem is more with writing than with reading?
Is he not answering comprehension questions?
How are my son's spelling skills?
Do you see my son as a critical thinker?

Here are few questions to ask yourself.
Do you see your son not finishing other tasks at home?
What types of activities do he like to do?
Does he read for pleasure?
Do you talk about books?
Do you often help him in order to complete a task he might not like doing?
Does it take him a long time to get started?
Do you have to explain things to him or remind him several time to do something before he does it?
Are you a good role model for him, showing him how you have a task and work through it to complete it even if you don't like it?

I think you will have a better understand once you get some additional information.

I'm sure your son is a good boy and doesn't want to disappoint you.  It might just take some more guidance and modeling to get him back on track.  Since you can't control what goes on in the classroom, these suggestions are gear for the home.

Set time limits.  No matter what the task is (especially the ones he doesn't like) establish how long it should take him to complete and give him a reasonable amount of extra time.  Using a timer, explain to him that he will have X amount of time to complete the task.  If he doesn't complete it, there will be a reasonable consequence.  For example, if he needs to sort out the recycling and take out the trash it might take 10 minutes.  Tell him he has 15 minutes to complete it.  Discuss consequences that are within reason.  It might be that he only gets to watch half of his favorite TV show or he losses 15 minutes of playing a video game.  (Please do not make reading or writing part of consequence unless it is necessary.) You can either tell him when his time starts or ask him for the start time.  At the end of the 15  minutes check to see if he has done it.  If he has, great.  Praise him for using his time wisely and completed the task in the time limit.  If he didn't then tell him that the consequence will go into place.  At the end, no matter which way it goes, talk about what happened.  How did if make you both feel?  What would you do differently?  What would you do the same?

Explain how you do it.  Point out how you manage your time.  For example, say it is 5:00 and you have to get dinner on the table by 6:00 so you can get cleaned up and out the door at 7:00 in order to take him to baseball practice.  Have him sit and watch you.  Explain what you are doing, when you are doing what, and why in that order.  While going through the process, discuss what happens when thing don't get done - what are the consequences?  Dinner gets on the table late, kitchen doesn't get cleaned up, late for the game, can't play?

Repeat.  He won't learn how to manage time properly if he doesn't get enough practice.  Try it with all different types of task.  Have him observe others to see how they manage time.  Have him try out different approaches.  Talk about which ways worked best for him.

By keeping the lines of communication open, you will be on your way in helping your son.  If there is something you learned from the questions that might give us more information about why your son is having trouble, please pose another question.

Good luck!

Barb K

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