If You are among an increasing number of parents/ educators looking to help children learn (including the ones with behavior problems), this article is for you.
The Effect Of Stress On Learning
Many of us experience stress from time to time, and recognize how it can effect every area of our lives..."belly fat", difficulty focusing, difficulty sleeping, health problems and our behavior. Guess what; children have the same issues, but they are less equipped to deal with it.
As a tutor I have seen an increasing number of young children experiencing stress, and how it effects their ability to learn. Allow me to explain by providing two examples and some research to back it up:
Johnny (name changed for his privacy) was able to read much better when I tutored him at home than he was when I tutored him at school, except when we were playing learning games. Games tend to focus a child's attention on the task at hand, and away from distractions and stressful situations.
This little boy showed signs of stress at school that he was not showing at home. That may have been because of the desire to impress other students, lack of confidence, or the academic expectations in today's educational system. What ever the reason, the stress was having a toll on his ability to learn.
While reading books at home he appeared relaxed, and was able to sound out the phonic sounds I had taught, and he was able to decode the words in the book. At school he was excited about playing the game "Ring Around The Phonics", and was able to say the phonic sounds, and blend them to form words. But as soon as we began reading the book his stress returned. Suddenly he couldn't remember the two sounds for A (and other phonic sounds as well). Instead of sounding out the words, Johnny quickly made guesses which were not at all the words he was looking at.
Studies show that the toxic effect of excessive cortisol resulting from stress, has an effect on the brain. Note: The effects can be lasting if stress happens over a long period of time. This hormone was found to be one of the major causes of behavior problems, learning disabilities (ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, hyperactivity, ext), confusion, and impaired thinking in adults and in children. This hormone can effect children's ability to learn.
1. Building confidence: Some children move right from the phonics game to reading books. However others are, like Amanda (name changed), require an extra step used to build confidence:
Half way through the school year, Amanda was failing because she could not read. Using the game she quickly learned the phonic sounds, and how to blend them to form words. But she froze up when I asked her to read the same words in a book.
Using the static cling letters from the game, I placed that word on the game board. On the board, which represented play to her, she was able to read the word she was unable to read in the book. I pointed to the word again in the book, and she was still stuck. I repeated the process one more time, and she was finally able to read the word in the book. I continued this process with other words gradually weaning her from the board until she realized she was able to decode the words from the book itself. Lots of praises are needed with these children as well.
Amanda not only caught up with her class, She began reading so well that the teacher promoted her to the top reading level, and her spelling improved as well. One can read a letter written from this child's teacher at the bottom of our Independent Reviews page
2. However when children are experiencing stress and elevated levels of cortisol, games are only part of the answer. To learn learn about conditions that can create or mimic learning disabilities click Learning Disabilities
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