coaching, learning and remembering, reading and writing skills

Small steps climb the mountain: Chunking helps your child learn and remember.

“This is easy, my child should remember it.”

When you first start helping your child learn and remember skills and knowledge they need, you may be impatient that your child quickly masters what you are teaching them, and feel deep disappointment when they don’t. You might notice that you have impatient and judgmental thoughts about the speed they learn, their reluctance to learn, their lack of concentration and that they forget much of what you teach them. The list of behaviours and attitudes you can feel impatient and disappointed about are endless and unhelpful. Having impatient, judgmental, and disappointed thoughts and feelings actually means your child probably learns slower. Your child knows what you are thinking and feeling – however well you think you might be disguising  them.

If you have any of the above reactions to your child, you are probably expecting too much of them and teaching them too much at once. This is the most common error made by beginning coaches. I myself took some time to realise that going slowly step by step so that your student can learn and remember at their own pace, is better than teaching more than they can comfortable digest.

If the learning steps are too big you might notice that your child:

  • Often doesn’t want to do that work
  • Gets easily frustrated and attempts to stop
  • Doesn’t remember the skills and knowledge coached from day to day.

The tortoise always beats the hare in a long race so take small learning and remembering steps and short journeys.

children learning and remembering

Begin by creating smaller learning steps for your child: Make any short-term objectives you set with your child more easily achievable. Teachers call them incremental goals and educational research has shown that when we make learning steps achievable but still a little challenging, children actually learn faster than when we create challenging objectives. We all feel more confident to run up small steps and we all tend to stagger up the big ones.

Definition of INCREMENT

1: the action or process of increasing especially in quantity or value

2:a : something gained or added

b : one of a series of regular consecutive additions

c : a minute increase in quantity

(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Give them the best buzz of all! The ‘I’ve done it!” buzz. As they stand on each small learning and remembering  step, looking down the hill they have climbed, your child feels a pleasant sense of achievement and triumph. We all know how wonderful that feeling is, and that feeling we got after achieving something that challenged us, was when we learnt that effort paid to learn and remember skills and knowledge we wanted to master. In a physical level the brain has made lots of new pathway connections, and as these connections are made, we experience a lift in serotonin levels – so we get a feeling of pleasure – a lovely buzz.

  1. Practise new skills and knowledge little and often. In the end your child will learn and remember more more easily and faster when you walk quickly up small learning steps rather than struggling up large ones. As your child becomes more skilful you will notice that they are less fearful of failure and more confident of success. Then you can make the learning steps a little more challenging and you can give them tasks they can do independently of you.


  1. When they don’t seem to be learning the skills and knowledge you coach them, believe that this is your problem not theirs, and try something different.
  2. Look closely to see what skills and knowledge they don’t actually ‘get’ and
  3. Teach any missing knowledge or skill before carrying on.
  4. Chunk or break the skill and knowledge you are coaching into even smaller steps so they can learn more easily.
  5. If your child has difficulty concentrating when you are coaching, coach in smaller chunks of time so your child can stay fully focused, involve the senses and emotions, and perhaps use a first up to five game.
  6. Deeply believe good things take time. When you work with your child in steady, slow, careful incremental steps, your child can begin to feel safe enough to take risks and make mistakes when learning.
  7. Get more information about how to coach your child to do well at school.

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