What to do When Your Child Has Given Up, Part 1

Let him lead (put him back in charge of his world)

When a child has given up, it is because he has failed frequently enough that he will fight doing anything that might produce another failure. He simply cannot afford to fail again. The resulting behaviors should not be our focus. A child who refuses to face failure again will display various behaviors; an "I don't care" attitude, acting outrageous, attitude of rebellion, "laziness," among them.

Our attempts to correct or punish those secondary behaviors will simply produce new problems. Instead, we must zero in on the underlying sense of discouragement and helplessness and purpose to do anything in our power to help.

We would like to share some activities with you that will help the child feel more in control of his learning. It is all about choices you give him. None of this is rocket science, but hopefully it will give you some more ideas!

Dolch picture cards for visual learners


To help with reading, forget about phonics for a while

Instead, use SnapWords® for their friendly, colorful look and for ease of learning. Many children who struggle to learn to read don't learn from part to whole, so if you focus on whole words and have words with images embedded in them, this will help a whole lot!

1- Ask the child how many words he wants to work on first. Follow his lead as to the number chosen.

2- Ask him to go through the deck and choose the sight words he wants to learn. Again, let him choose.

3- Ask him how long he needs to learn the words. If he is the one choosing, he will be far more likely to follow through. Ask if he has anyone at home that will check him on his words.

4- When you play a game with him using the sight words, let him ask you to give an answer each time you ask him to. For instance, play BINGO with his group of sight words. Let him answer first, but then let him do the calling. If you purposely miss a word now and then, let him correct you. After all, he will be reading the words and that is what counts.

5- If you are doing a one-on-one with a child, offer choices of 2-3 activities, all of which are good and in line with what he needs, but let him choose the one he'd prefer to do. There are many ways to learn/review sight words, and letting the child choose will go a long way towards his active participation.

6- Put the group of words he is learning on the table in front of him. Model for him putting together 3-4 words to make a phrase. Put the cards in order in front of him while you read what you made. For example: "Come play with me." These are all words from List A. Let him have a turn next. If he can put two words together that make sense, praise him. Example: "Jump down," or "Come here."

7- Using snack baggies, put a 3-4 word phrase in a baggie and ask the child to unscramble the phrase. If you think he needs the prompt, point out the first word in the phrase. When he has put the words in order, let him read them to you. Now it is his turn to make a phrase for you. When you are putting the words in order, model for him your thinking process about the order you are choosing so he can learn from you. Talk about what makes sense or what can't make sense in the order of the words.

8- Choose several words from the child's current group and let him write the words on plain note cards (or you do it, depending on ability level of the child and his level of discouragement). The task will be to match the plain words on the note cards with the stylized sight words in a short a time as possible. Let him practice once first to get the hang of the game, and then ask him when he's ready for you to time him. Let him also time you doing the same activity.

Some activities you may offer the child as a means of reviewing sight words:

1- Put together a short phrase with some of his words then illustrate what he "wrote" using his favorite art materials. Let him tell you about what he drew.

2- Have him choose 2-3 of his words to re-stylize in his own design. Encourage him to share his thoughts as he stylized the words.

3- Use plain words and stylized words in a Memory game.

4- Put all his words in an array on the table in front of him (let him make the array) and give him an attractive object to act as marker. Call out a word at a time and have him put the marker on the word you called. (Or use as many markers or chips as there are words). If you call the word "play" and he marks "funny," ask him to give you the first sound of the word he chose. ("ffff") Ask, "Can this word be 'play' if it starts with "fff?" Let him try again, thus prompting him to watch for initial sound.

5- Orally do sentence completion. You will say, for instance, "I want to _____." You want the child to finish the sentence with one of his sight words. If he chooses "play," you will say "great job" and then let him have a turn if he wants one. If his answer is "funny," and he correctly reads the word, let that turn into a chat about comprehension. "Does 'I want to funny' make sense? If not, what other word can we use that might make more sense?"

6- Play a game where you call out a word from the array in front of him and he quickly finds it. Then he will call out a word for you to find. This game should move as quickly as possible. An alternate version is for you to ask the child to point to a word he knows and read it to you.

What to do When Your Child has Given Up, Part 2

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