Healing Teaching: The Right RX for the “Learning Flu”
by Dianne Craft, MA, CNHP
Note: In this month’s and next month’s newsletter, the HSLDA Special Needs Department is pleased to have two special guest writers, Dianne Craft and Dr. Carol Brown, who will share methods of teaching and interacting with students. Their goal is to encourage, heal, and transform students so that they can become more efficient, effective, and independent thinkers and learners.
In this two-part series, we will explore how below-average, average, and reluctant learners can transform into eager learners by what Dianne Craft terms “healing teaching” and Dr. Reuven Feuerstein, an internationally renowned Israeli psychologist and scholar in the field of child development, termed “mediated learning.” With this kind of interaction, in the right kind of learning environment, a caring and encouraging adult (homeschooling mom, dad, grandma…) works one-on-one with the student to lay a foundation for efficient thinking, communicating, and learning. This helps the student develop into an autonomous and independent learner.
We hope you find this information beneficial as you seek to help your child overcome learning struggles. You can do this, and we are here to help you and your child succeed!
Do you have a student who seems to have given up on learning? A child who only does the bare minimum of schoolwork—or nothing at all?
We’re talking about a child who has shut down. Maybe he isn’t progressing as well as his peers, or he feels stupid, or he has simply lost confidence in his ability to learn. He’s experienced so little success in his schoolwork that he would rather give up and be considered uncooperative than be thought of as dumb.
Working with kids like this often feels like pulling teeth and may seem hopeless. I’ve been there; I’ve felt it. However, I’ve discovered a method of teaching that’s tailored specifically to children facing these exact challenges—and I’ve seen it work wonders. It’s called healing teaching.
Learning How to Learn
Healing teaching is a temporary teaching method used to re-engage these wounded students and help them feel competent again. In it, you and your student work together—not just on the content of the lesson, but more importantly on teaching the student how to use his brain in a different way to easily learn and store information.
This is the powerful part: there is no “getting behind,” because you do the work together in a set amount of time, with a goal of learning how to learn the material rather than doing all the problems or completing all the worksheets. As you gently lead your student to the right answers (ignoring wrong answers rather than pointing them out), the child begins to relax, enjoy learning, and actually become confident in his ability to learn.
When I discovered healing teaching, I began to think of my students as being in my “Intensive Care Unit.” They had a severe case of the “learning flu,” and my job was to help them get better. This revelation, and the resulting change in my teaching methods, turned out to be my most rewarding teaching experience ever.
A Success-Driven Day
1. Reading lesson. Most of my students would come into the reading room with folded arms, very resistant to reading aloud or going through any phonics program. They needed to learn how to decode words, of course, since they were struggling with reading.
So I changed my methodology. We began to “play” with long words. We’d take the most outrageous word we could find and I would write it on the whiteboard. Then we would search for a recognizable small word or sound within that word. Without knowing it, my students were beginning to get the code for learning long, hard words. I finally made my own version of teaching phonics to an older, more recalcitrant learner.
I also found I needed to use different language when working with my students. I’d see parts of the word that they read correctly and say, “I agree with how you read that part of the word, but I wonder about this last part.” Then I could introduce a new decoding unit (or phoneme) that would solve the puzzle for that word. My students became very interested in this process, and they actually became animated learners. I finally had found a way to get them back up to grade level in reading.
2. Writing lesson. For students who had given up on schoolwork, writing paragraphs was the most onerous task of all. But healing teaching got them interested and involved.
As with all tasks, we did writing lessons as a group using the whiteboard; I didn’t use any workbooks, worksheets, or any other curriculum. Together we would come up with an easy topic. We then would draw bubbles to put our ideas in. In each bubble we put a one-word “trigger” to remind us of the sentence we were going to write. Then we added the transition words, which we had written on the side of the board. Using this method, my students found that the paper practically wrote itself.
When we were done, we corrected the papers together using an overhead transparency. In the beginning, students resisted having their papers used for the correction. However, their attitudes changed when they saw what I meant by “correcting.” I began by giving them points for every good thing they had on the paper. For example, if they started a sentence with a capital letter, they got a point; if they had an adjective in the sentence, they got a point; if they ended with a period, they got a point.
I read their paper out loud, ignoring any spelling errors, and just pointing out the good thoughts, words, or grammar, and giving points for all of that. At the end, we added up the points together for little prizes. They loved it. They soon were adding many adjectives to their sentences, and they were writing more sentences—until we were doing multiple paragraphs. I quietly took note of the misspellings and we used them in our next week’s spelling list.
By the end of the year, my students did not need my close interaction at all. They were definitely out of my “Intensive Care Unit.”
3. Spelling lesson. Spelling became the best healing teaching subject. I just showed my students how to use their strong photographic memory for spelling. I would take a long, frequently misspelled word like “Lamborghini,” and I would jazz up letters, giving them funny meaning and color and even coloring “blood” on some of them, as anything with strong emotion helps with memory.
They found that they could remember many words easily using this method. Spelling became a real stepping stone for success, demonstrating to my students, the hardest audience of all, that they had some real skills. Spelling the words backwards to their friends became a daily game for them. They learned to believe in themselves as learners as they used this secret strategy for spelling.
A Paradigm Shift
As with many types of forward progress, healing teaching sometimes requires that we change our way of thinking. One mom told me that she had to do an entire paradigm shift.
At first, she found it difficult to ignore mistakes. However, she saw that pointing out mistakes tended to hurt her already wounded son, Carl. (Of course, we do eventually want to correct mistakes, so that’s why I recommend incorporating them into the next day’s lesson, without pointing out errors at the time they are made. This keeps the healing going.)
Carl’s mother had contacted me because her 12-year-old son was spending a lot of time avoiding schoolwork and many times flat-out refusing to do any work for the day. Carl was frustrated by having to re-do his workbooks, and he had trouble remembering how to do a math problem he had just learned the day before.
We sent Carl’s mom a plan to switch his school day to include the subjects he needed, but with an entirely “healing” way to teach him, which involved leading him to the right answer each time. When Carl’s mother called, Carl got on the phone and told me that he now likes to do school. He is remembering how to do his math problems because his mom made a zany template of each process and kept it on the wall until he memorized it.
Another mom wrote me about her 15-year-old daughter Andrea, who was having such anxiety about schoolwork that they had to stop schooling her because of the tears and frustration. But after switching to healing teaching with each subject, Andrea’s mom says, she is now progressing in all subjects—and enjoying school!
I hope this method of healing teaching will be helpful for you as well. You won’t have to use it forever—in fact, not usually for more than a year. Once the healing has taken place, you and your student can go back to regular teaching methods. No more “getting stuck” for you!
Dianne Craft has a master’s degree in Learning Disabilities and is a Certified Natural Health Professional (CNHP). She provides Personalized Learning Plans (PLP) via telephone/internet consultations through her private practice, Child Diagnostics, which is based in Denver, CO. Her books, The Brain Integration Therapy Manual, The Right Brain Phonics Reading Program, The Craft Right Brain Readers, and her DVDs, such as “Identifying Your Child’s Processing Problem,” have helped hundreds of families remove learning blocks for their struggling children at home. Visit her website for helpful articles and a free download of her “Daily Lesson Plan for the Struggling Reader” or her “Daily Lesson Plan for the Struggling Writer and Speller.”
HSLDA’s Special Needs Consultants hear from many parents who feel ill-equipped to teach their struggling children. Here are a couple of confidence-boosting resources for homeschooling parents: