Imagine being bombarded with orders, told what to do all the time and with each order received, not having any say in the matter. Most people would not be too happy about living under such conditions. Yet, that is often the way we treat our children. Every action is determined by someone else: Wake up, put this on, don’t wear that, eat your breakfast, put this away, etc. These are just a few of the daily orders a child receives. While having a set routine, responsibilities and direction are helpful for a child, it is also very beneficial to give the child choices. When given a choice, it helps the child to feel like the action or activity was of their own decision.
I remember when my daughter was only three and four years old she insisted on dressing herself. That was fine with me. However, her taste in clothes at that age would definitely not have put her on the cover of a fashion magazine. I remember a red plaid skirt worn with a bright pink, striped sweater and bright green shoes. From that time period I remember that there were plenty of other outfits that were just as – interesting. Some of them were more “interesting” than others, but I definitely wanted her to be able to start making her own choices. So I decided to give her some easy choices. What I did was set out two matching outfits each day and simply asked her which she preferred to wear. She happily chose one outfit. This was a great situation because with this change, I then had a child that had very happily made a decision on what to wear for the day and I then had a child that had a matching and coordinated outfit.
This concept of giving a child a choice can be extended into all areas and activities, even to the field of education. Without a choice, a child is told from Kindergarten through high school what to learn and when to learn it. That may be one of the reasons why students sometimes rebel and say they don’t like school. Sometimes, with some children, it isn’t so much that they don’t like the material or the subject being studied as much as the fact of not having had any say in the matter. So, when working with a child that is learning to read, after a few lessons I usually give the child a choice by asking, “Do you want to practice writing, or practice saying the sounds first?”
At home, when it comes time to practice phonics, I suggest giving the child a choice. This simple gesture communicates to them, that they can choose. It also lets them know that their decision is important. When I do this with my students most of them will think about it for a moment and then tell me which they want to do first. You are still running the lesson, but now your student is willingly participating in the lesson as a team member. Try this and see the difference it can make, not only for practicing phonics but for other tasks and activities as well.
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