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March 15, 2011

Five Ways to Jump-Start Classroom Achievement

Written by Dr. Carosso

Okay, here it goes; whether your child is a typical kiddo or struggles with attention, learning, social, or developmental issues, these strategies will help any child perform at his or her best. These strategies are well-founded in research and over 20 years experience in clinical and educational practice.  

Let’s get to it:

Billboard your child’s strengths
Go overboard to inform teachers, and remind them regularly, of your child’s strengths. Send notes and emails, write in a daily log, leave phone messages, yell if from the roof-top, send smoke signals, and do whatever else it takes to establish and maintain the teacher’s positive impression of your child.  Over 10 years of research is abundantly clear that teacher’s preconceived notions about a student, whether good or bad, even if untrue, tend to come to pass. For example, students who are described as smarter (even if they’re not) subsequently score higher on tests; students who are described as social and cooperative (even if they’re not) later do better socially, and on and on it goes…  I’m not suggesting that you mislead, but simply ‘talk-up’ your child’s strengths:)

Make sure your child is seated in the ‘Attention Zone’ of the classroom (i.e. the triangle-shaped area with the base of the triangle being the front row of the class). Students seated in this triangle area receive more eye contact, oversight, monitoring, and attention than anywhere else in the classroom. These students subsequently tend to score higher, and feel more supported.

The classroom stepping-machine
Look for teachers who wear running shoes (or buy the teacher running shoes). There is an inverse correlation between the number of steps a teacher takes throughout a classroom and the subsequent behavior problems in the class. The more steps, the less behavior problems (and more academic success!). Kids do better when an adult frequently passes by.  

The break that keeps on giving
Okay, we know that kiddos need breaks throughout the day, but these breaks need to involve movement; at least a brisk walk if not vigorous running for at least five minutes; and be offered two or three times per day (sometimes more; e.g. for kids who have ADHD). Thereafter, students are more attentive, cooperative, and interested in learning. Moreover, walking in a green-space area has shown to be far superior than a gray-space for subsequent attention to task and achievement.

Kids want attention. Okay, I know, that’s no revelation.  However, what isn’t so well known are these two points, 1.) kids want their ‘attention-tank’ to be full, but they are not particular with what, or how, it gets full. Students will seek attention negatively if teachers don’t give it positively. So, for every negative redirection, there needs to be at least 10 praises (“catch them being good…”). This way, your child can focus on learning, not getting attention, and feel confident in doing so.  2.) Research shows that kids do better if praised about their hard work, rather than their intelligence. The former can be improved, the latter ends-up being an expectation that increases pressure and stress, and has actually been shown to cause grades to drop.

Your child will be happier, more successful, and confident when these strategies are used (maybe they can be used at home too:)    Each needs to be tailored to your child, but you get the idea. You only have so much control over what the teacher will do in the classroom, but now you know what needs to be done. Stay tuned; I’ll provide some more tips in weeks to come. In the meantime, feel free ask questions, comment, and forward this to a friend (or maybe to a certain teacher…). God bless. 



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