coaching, learning and remembering

Revision is the key

Revise revise revise when learning – the key to remembering Reading, Writing, and Mathematics skills

Children are often not getting enough time to revise the reading, writing, and Mathematics skills they are learning in class. Regularly revising new skills, even when your child seems to have already understood and be able to use the skill, will enable them to make the skill automatic – something they won’t have to think about, and can just apply when necessary. This means that they won’t revert back to less useful but more hardwired habits. It also means that when they are mastering other learning that includes that skill, the new learning will be easier for them. Revision of core skills is important at any age, so don’t wait until your child has lots of bad habits that make reading, writing, and Mathematics difficult for them, create a learning time at home so they revise regularly now.

Old habits die hard. Old hardwired and unhelpful skills take effort and time to break, as you know from your own experience of learning. Revision of new and more useful skills is especially important when your child has used other less useful strategies when reading, spelling, or solving Mathematics problems for a long time. You might have noticed that younger children can often learn and use new skills more easily than older children. This can be because the older children have less useful but well-established strategies that they use automatically and easily, and so they revert to them when faced with a difficult problem or when they are tired.

For example: Children up to the age of about eight can be coached fairly quickly to learn and use number patterns such as 4+5=9 and 7-2=5 and doubles such as 4+4=8. When they automatically use patterns to add and subtract they begin to find Mathematics fun and easier. However older children who have a habit of counting up or back in their heads when adding and subtracting to find answers, seem to take longer to use number families automatically, even when they seem to know them well. This is because the brain patterns of the older strategy of counting up or back and/or guessing are more established in the brain than the new strategy of using number patterns. Older children need lots of regular practice with you until the new strategy is the dominant brain pattern.

Even when your child understands a new strategy, they might not use it when they should. That is why it is important your child keeps practicing the new habit until it has become the default habit they use, even when they are under pressure. It may have seemed logical to you that when a child understands an idea or pattern, and realizes that it is actually more accurate and faster to use, they will remember it and use it from then on. However,far into my article you may have realised that this is often not the case. The new reading, writing or Mathematics skill and knowledge is only sitting in their short-term memory and becomes ‘hard-wired’ into the brain when there is more practice.

Think about how you yourself revert back to tried and true strategies, even if they are slower or less effective, when you are tired, or rushed, or feeling pressured because you are presented with a challenging problem. When you first learnt a more useful strategy than the one you have been using, remember how you had to practise and practise this new strategy for it to become deeply embedded or hard-wired into your brain’s long-term memory, and so become easy for you to use when you were under pressure to perform. Give your child the same chance to practise as you would give yourself.


  1. Keep checking and rechecking which strategies your children are using and be prepared to spend more time practising skills you thought they had mastered.
  2. Respond calmly and without disappointment or any other negative emotion when your child returns to old reading, writing, and Mathematics strategies. Realise that this is part of the learning process and that coaching gives your child the time and feedback necessary to change ineffective old habits.
  3. Be humble and very patient. Keep remembering that when you attempt to master a new and better strategy to do something you commonly do you too are in the same boat as they are. You probably have had several life-lessons on how it can take longer than you initially thought and lots of patient practice to automatically use a better more effective strategy than the old one you are used to using.
  4. Be gentle and firm with your child. Expect, remind, check, and get them to practise again when they return to an old but much less useful strategy to solve Mathematics problems, read and write.

In my personal life I have learnt the importance of practise when hard-wiring new information into the brain through developing my own skills, and those of my students. I have been training myself to breath every two strokes rather than every three strokes when swimming overarm. I had to be very patient and practise overarm regularly without forcing myself or I would have given up learning to breathe every two breaths and returned to the old three stroke breath. I am still not using this strategy the whole time I swim, but my co-ordination is improving, I notice that I can swim longer without panic or breathlessness now, and I have begun to enjoy the stroke.

I am coaching Mathematics to a 14 year old boy whose answers are often slightly wrong. His main strategy is to guess some of his number families when adding and subtracting. We are working on Algebra at his age level as well, but he is currently memorising number facts to add and subtract numbers such as 346+575= . We both have realised that until he has mastered his number facts and related strategies, he will always struggle to understand, enjoy and do well with Mathematics. I will spend more time than seems necessary practising addition and subtracting and I will vigilantly spot- check his knowledge of number families until it is quite clear he uses them automatically. Then we will begin learning the tables!

How your child ‘does it’ is more important than whether they are right. A coach is always checking ‘how’ their student completes their task. Whether they get the right or wrong answer is secondary to ‘how’ they do it. If they consistently use the more useful reading, writing, and Mathematics strategies, they will over time become very good at that task and always be right. I say to my students, whatever their age, that they have to create new memory patterns and allow the old patterns to grow over by not using them. I tell them that regular practice of their reading, writing, and Mathematics skills is the same as regularly walking down a path so that any weeds growing over it are trampled under and the path becomes broad and easy to walk. check out my other Ezine articles and my newsletters and tips on my website for more information on ways to coach your child’s Mathematics, reading, and writing skills.

Contact me if you have any questions. I love sharing ways to coach reading writing and Mathematics skills with families. Families who coach their children to do well at school in reading, writing, and Mathematics make an invaluable investment in their children’s future. In the end you and your child form a closer bond because you regularly spend time coaching them on basic reading, writing and Mathematics skills, rather than spending money sending them to an expert like me when they start failing at school. Making time for them now will often save money and time and worry later.

1 thought on “Revision is the key”

  1. Pingback: To Be Aware

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