Monday, April 3, 2006

April 2006: Andrew Myers, Homework Completion Motivator



Meet Andrew Meyers, EdBoost Learning Center tutor and author of the April 2006 Strategy of the Month.  

image Andrew began tutoring at EdBoost in fall 2005.  A UCLA undergraduate, Andrew decided to become an after school homework assistance tutor at EdBoost to help students achieve during their middle school years.  Andrew is learning a ton along with his students.  "My students have taught me to hold patience and compassion as my pillars for self conduct," he recently wrote.

Andrew's strategy is ideal for working with those students who often refuse to do any work with their tutors or mentors.  Andrew's admirable patience and persistence led him to find a strategy to help his student learn without resorting to endless arguments with the student, to punishment or to simply giving up on the child -- all too common occurrences.

The Strategy


Created by: Andrew Myers, EdBoost Learning Center
Topics: Engagement & Motivation; Behavior
Grade Levels: Sixth - Eighth
Arrangements: One-on-One
Materials: Checkers board and pieces

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Situation: I work with a student who, at times, can be quite obstinate in refusing to do any work during the tutoring session. Sometimes there is an all-out refusal to work and I feel like we waste our entire tutoring session fighting over whether or not we'll do any work.

Important America Learns note:
This strategy is not meant to be used for every student; just for those students who always or almost always refuse to work. Tiffani Chin, the director of the organization from where this strategy comes, explains:

"Andrew [the tutor who created this strategy] is the master of what I like to call 'Plan Z' strategies. Because of his almost infinite calm and patience, I tend to give him our most obstinate students: the ones who don't respond to typical strategies and who can sit through an entire hour refusing to do any work at all. Many of these kids are bright and learn quickly, but we struggle to get them to listen, think, and work. Andrew is excellent at diffusing tension, avoiding arguments, giving these students a stake in their own education, and, finally, coaxing them into learning."
Step 1: After I realized that the tutoring session might spiral into one hour of continual arguing, I asked my student what he would like to do. He suggested playing a game. At first, I refused, but then asked him which game. He said checkers.
Step 2: Trying to work with him, I said that was a great idea and I tried to figure how to incorporate checkers into learning science and pre-algebra. The student had math problems to do and had to learn about the parts and functions of the human heart (he had to answer questions on a worksheet).
Step 3: We decided that we would play checkers, making a move only after the student had answered a question correctly.
Step 4: We continued like this for the entire hour, and actually made progress. Although we did spend some time playing the game, in the end, the student learned a lot about the heart. And, we wasted far less time than we would have if we had engaged in our usual fighting. Moreover, we had fun playing the game and had a much more positive tutoring session than usual!
Important Note: Obviously, the point of any tutoring session is to give the student as much academic help as possible.  Playing games cuts into that time (which is why we don't recommend this strategy for students who are willing to work with you). However, on hard days, when you feel like you and your student aren't going to get anything done (e.g., because the child is too argumentative or to unmotivated) games can be really helpful. But as you build a relationship, and your student starts to see the benefit of working hard and learning, you can begin to stop playing games and focus more and more time on actual tutoring.
Additional Resources for America Learns Network Members: If you begin to build this strategy in your routine, as your student learns to tune out distractions and focus on work for short periods of time, increase the number of problems answered or pages read before taking a turn at the game. To learn how to do this, check out this strategy.

How Have You Addressed this Issue?

Please share your thoughts about this strategy and any messages you have for Andrew below.