an exclusive feature by Victoria Waller, Ed.D*
During this strange time we are living in, some grandparents are fortunate enough to be very involved with their grandkids. A perfect time to find out about your grandchildren’s interests is during a sleep-over when you can get the kids off electronics and they’ll talk about a research project they have to do for school.
Every child has strengths and passions. Yes, even more than just Minecraft! Being an elementary school reading teacher and educational therapist for over 40 years I have never met a third grader who would want to learn about strawberries. Yes, that was the topic my student, Ben, was given to research! Do you know any boy in 3rd grade who would want to do that? I knew Ben loved roller coasters so I had him write to his teacher and tell her he loved roller coasters and ask if he could do his report on that. She was such a good teacher and agreed.
Ben knew where the largest roller coaster park was, so we googled the name of the president. He emailed the president asking him all the questions he was interested in and yes, he got an email back answering his questions with a video of the newest coaster. In all of my years of teaching I have never had an important person ignore any student who wrote. Now I’m not saying President Biden will write to every child, but most people are very kind. Hillary Clinton, a Secret Service agent, Robert Ballard (discoverer of the Titanic), and famous children’s book author Kevin Henkes, have all written back.
After writing his report on coasters, incorporating all the CEO’s answers, Ben even made a roller coaster out of used Amazon boxes.
To help a grandchild with a written project, include executive functioning skills: set goals, start tasks, stay focused, remember and follow directions, organize, plan, prioritize, and then stay level-headed during stress. As a grandparent, if you do decide to help with a project, enjoy the process. It isn’t Fortnight, but it can be a very rewarding experience for you and your grandchild.
*As an educator for over 40 years, Dr. Victoria Waller has taught thousands of students to read and write using their passions and strengths: sharks, roller coasters, rocket science, the Titanic and even Pokemon, to name a few. The children learn to read, but more importantly, “love” to read, which lasts a lifetime. Look for her new book, Yes! Your Child Can, Creating Success for Children with Learning Differences, now available on Amazon.