February 28th, 2015
Today, I had the opportunity to work with first graders again. One was a boy named Salil who seemed pretty mischievous, almost like he had something up his sleeve (which he literally did, at one point). Kai, on the other hand, was a very sweet girl who wanted to stay on task and get her work done.
In school, both Salil and Kai were working on addition and subtraction facts. I decided to grab a set of flashcards that covered both addition and subtraction.
“I’m not going to do math in my head,” Salil told me as I pulled the flashcards out of their box. “Doing math in your head isn’t cool. I just don’t feel like doing it.”
I sighed, already sensing that Salil would not be the most cooperative student that I’ve ever tutored. Because of this, Kai and I worked on addition and subtraction, while Salil remained generally unwilling to participate.
“Come on, Salil! Why won’t you join us?” I said. “Doing math in your head is really cool. And don’t you want to see if you can do math faster than Kai can?”
“Oh, I definitely know how I can do math faster than Kai can,” Salil said with a smirk. He left the table and came back with a calculator, still smiling triumphantly. He tried to hide the calculator from me in his shirt and then by keeping it under the table, but I quickly caught on. Meanwhile, Kai had already made a lot of progress as far as answering her addition and subtraction problems with speed.
“Alright, well let’s see who’s faster: Kai using her brain or you using your calculator,” I replied.
I then began giving both kids the same math problem, seeing who could answer it first. Almost every time, Kai was able to get the right answer before Salil, who was somewhat slow at using the calculator.
“Awww man…” he said after “losing” to Kai. “I should be faster with this calculator, not slower.”
“Well why don’t you just try doing the math without the calculator and see how fast you are,” I suggested.
Even though he was somewhat reluctant, Salil still took my advice and set the calculator aside. Salil and Kai became very competitive with each other, always trying to outdo one another as far as speed and accuracy. After seeing math more as a game than as an academic subject, Salil had a lot more motivation and was much more excited about learning.
After doing lots of math and going through the pack of flashcards multiple times, Salil and Kai picked out an educational game called BrainQuest. We played this for a while, with me asking them questions. Salil thought he was very cool whenever he answered a question correctly, and this actually encouraged him to continue participating. Kai, on the other hand, seemed more interested in learning for the sake of learning. Maybe Salil actually liked to learn but his school environment made it seem uncool, so he pretended to be disinterested. Either way, both Salil and Kai were very smart.
Soon enough, it was 11:00am, meaning that half of the tutoring session was already over. Kai and Salil were both very excited for juice and doughnut time, but not as much for the writing prompt. The prompt of the week was on reading, with a range of suggested subtopics such as favorite books, reading habits, reading being done at school, and goals for reading.
Kai was very cooperative and wrote about four sentences, which was the goal I set for her. Even though I had to help her fix some spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes, she wrote complete sentences that were related to the topic.
Salil was not too excited about the writing, so I tried to have a conversation with him about the topic first.
“Do you like to read?” I asked.
“No. I don’t read,” he replied, as if not reading was something to be proud of.
Well, great. How was I supposed to get Salil to write about a topic that he hated?
“Look at how much Kai has written. Why don’t you try and just write a little bit about reading, even just three sentences. You can even write about why you don’t like to read, or why reading is challenging for you. If you write three sentences, then we can play a game when you're done.”
Salil reluctantly picked up his pencil and began writing. As he worked on the prompt, Kai picked out the subtraction bingo game, which I played with her. As soon as Salil finished his writing, he joined in on the game, too. For the most part, everyone was really excited about playing bingo, and luckily, it also had an educational component to it.
As the session ended, I was impressed with both Kai and Salil for different reasons. For Kai, I was happy that she stayed on task and seemed very eager to learn. While Salil had a rough start, he eventually became more cooperative and did end up getting a substantial amount of work done and following my directions.