Do something radically different:
When at first we don't succeed with a child, we must NOT try and try again using techniques that have already failed to bring good results! This is like shouting in someone's "good ear" so they will understand you when you are speaking a language they do not understand. Instead, try some radically different approaches, and thus avoid bringing renewed failure to the child. What follows are some ideas on how to approach the same ole' stuff in a radically different way.
If a child cannot decode:
Do it backwards: Teach whole words first and abandon decoding for now. Some children learn best from whole to part instead of from part to whole. IE: learn the whole word, then break it down into its parts rather than having to manage many sounds and then learn how to arrange them into a meaningful word. Some children need to see the point of what they are learning; what all the bits are going to mean in the end, and if they just have to learn what to them seems like myriad sounds and letters, they will feel swamped and lost. If they can learn some words using the stylized cards, they will understand the reason or goal behind learning and manipulating all those sounds and symbols.
If a child cannot order sounds/letters correctly when writing:
Teach him to rely on his visual strengths instead of trying to memorize spellings. Show him the word, preferably using SnapWords® cards which have embedded visuals, have him study it a bit, and then close his eyes and “see” the word in his mind. Once he can see the word in his imagination, have him write on paper what he saw. The more he does this, the stronger this avenue for learning will become.
In addition to seeing the word in his mind, teach him to pay attention to the sounds he hears in the word. If he will sound the word aloud as he writes each letter, this will add another modality which will strengthen the process.
If a child cannot pass a spelling test:
Rather than giving him a set of random words to study, choose words that have something in common, such as a sound spelling (ex: --ay ending). Giving him a pattern that is common to all the words will teach him far better than not. Then go further and try and arrange the spelling words in a sentence that uses them all or most of them. For instance, for "--ay" words, "Say, I may play in the spray all day, Jay." or "The jay may lay in the hay by the bay today." If he colors the "ay" part of each word, you will be adding a visual anchor to that sound spelling that will simplify his task greatly. Let the child illustrate the spelling words sentences. The act of memorization will be submerged under the alacrity with which the brain tunes into the visual and rhythmical elements in the activity. Those pathways to the brain are so much more positive and productive for a child.
If a child is struggling with math facts:
Rather than cutting his required problems in half (so that he has half the misery instead of the whole thing) use pictures and patterns to teach the facts rather than simple memorization or tedious counting up. For instance, when teaching sums, do the sums that equal a particular target number rather than mixing up the sums.
Do it in a radically different way: Let the child learn to compute using visual/kinesthetic patterns. Start out with preschoolers by playing lots of dot games, such as Dominoes. These visual number games will provide an important background in number sense (or the "how many is five" sense we want the kids to have). When it is time to compute, use real, visual tools again. Introduce the basic math facts using finger mapping again. This method is used in Right-Brained Addition & Subtraction. For visual learners or right-brained learners who cannot memorize and do not respond to drilling of facts, visual and kinesthetic approaches are life-savers!
Finally, make a practice of asking your child what helps her remember new facts. She might share something that has to do with visuals, or stories, or body movement. At first, she might say simply, “I don’t know.” But don’t stop asking. Your questions will help her to begin paying attention to the elements that help her the most.